Department of Church history

The department of Church History In Göttingen is represented by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Thomas Kaufmann, Prof. Dr. Peter Gemeinhardt, Prof. Dr. Tobias Georges and Prof. Dr. Jennifer Wasmuth. In their teaching, Prof. Dr. Thomas Kaufmann and Prof. Dr. Peter Gemeinhardt cover all aspects of church history; temporal and thematic priorities arise in departmental research, in research-related courses, such as e.g. special seminars, and, of course, in the supervision of academic work.

History of the Department

With Johann Lorenz von Mosheim (1747-1755) the chair of Church History goes back to the founding of the Georg-August University. For more than a century Church History was represented by a single church historian (C.W.F. Walch 1757-1784; Gottlieb Jakob Planck 1784-1830; J.K.L. Gieseler 1831-1854; J.G.L. Duncker 1854-1875). In 1861 the department of was permanently split into two; one department with focus on the Early Church (Patristic), the other with focus on the Reformation.

Since that time, the chairs of the department of Early Church history have been held by: Hermann Reuter (1876-1889); Nathanael Bonwetsch (1891-1921); Carl Mirbt (1912-1928); Hermann Dörries (1929-1963); Carl Andresen (1961-1977); Ekkehard Mühlenberg (1978-2006), and Peter Gemeinhardt (since 2007). The chairs of Reformation and Modern Church History have been occupied by: J.A. Wagenmann (1861-1890); P. Tschackert (1890-1911); Emanuel Hirsch (1921-1936); M. Gerhardt (1937-1945); Ernst Wolf (1947-1957); Bernd Moeller (1964-1999) and Thomas Kaufmann (since 2000).

Oriental Church History, with a focus on Syrian Church History, has long been a Göttingen tradition which is mainly connected with the names of Johann David Michaelis (1717–1791) und Paul de Lagarde (1827-1891). Chairs have been held by Werner Strothmann (1958-1972), Wolfgang Hage (1975-1981) and Jouko Martikainen (since 1984). In 2001 Martin Tamcke took over the administration and the institute was affiliated to the Institute of Ecumenical Theology.

In the recent past, Church History was distinguished by additional professorships, such as in Lower Saxony Church History (Hans-Walter Krumwiede, Inge Mager) and in the History of Ecclesiastical Law (Anneliese Sprengler-Ruppenthal).

Research Area: Ancient and Medieval Christianity

The research of Prof. Peter Gemeinhardt (b. 1970) focuses on the History of Christianity in Late Antiquity and in the Early and High Middle Ages, as well as in denominational studies. In addition to intra-theological discussions on exegetical and practical-theological subjects, emphasis is also placed on collaboration with disciplines in the Faculty of Humanities (Classical Philology, Ancient and Medieval History, Islamic Studies, Religious Studies). Research lies in the field of the history of education, in particular through the directorship of the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre 1136 “Education and Religion in Cultures of the Mediterranean and Its Environment from Ancient to Medieval Times and to the Classical Islam”. Moreover, Peter Gemeinhardt investigates issues of the History of Dogma (Trinitarian Theology), of Ecclesiology (institutional and organizational aspects of churches and communities) and of Hagiography (Monasticism in Late Antiquity, perceptions of holiness in historical and comparative perspective). He is also preparing a textbook on the history of Christianity in Late Antiquity, to appear in the book series "Neue Theologische Grundrisse".

The department is connected with the department for Patristic Theology; close co-operation continues with the Göttingen Centre for the Patristic Commission of the Union of Academies (Prof. Dr. Ekkehard Mühlenberg) .

Tobias Georges (* 1972) focuses his research on the history of the church in antiquity and in the Middle Ages. His research is characterized by its comprehensive perspective on different religions and cultures. Topics of special interest are Higher Education and Schools in Early Christianity as well as Theology and Education in the Middle Ages, in the context of contemporary relations between Christians, Jews and Muslims. Another research focus is the history of western monasticism. Georges is leading a sub-project in the Collaborative Research Centre 1136 “Education and Religion in Cultures of the Mediterranean and Its Environment from Ancient to Medieval Times and to the Classical Islam”.

Research Areas: Reformation and Early Modern Times

Professor Kaufmann (b. 1962) focuses his research on the church history of the Reformation and early modern period. At the centre of his work are the theological, educational and social history of Protestantism and the cultural and political effects of the Reformation in the confessional age and in more modern times, which are analysed in a European context. Special attention is paid to the journalistic mass media of the age (sermons, pamphlets, and broadsheets, etc.).

A further research area is the history of Protestantism scholarship in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The department is also concerned with French-German research projects on the use of religious books, Early Reformation leaflet/pamphlet journalism and on the history of Protestantism in the 19th and 20th centuries. Prof. Kaufmann co-operates closely with the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Research (ZMF), the Commission for investigations into the culture of the late Middle Ages (Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Göttingen) and the post-graduate programme “Expert Cultures”. He also heads the Commission for the text analysis of scholarly journals in the Age of Enlightenment (Union of the German Academies of Science and Humanities).

Research Area: Ecumenical Theology and Orthodox Christianity

The research of Jennifer Wasmuth (*1969) focuses on the history and present of the Ecumenical Movement as well as the Russian Orthodox Church. In addition, the entire spectrum of Orthodox Christianity is considered in teaching, the Byzantine Orthodox Churches as well as the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Current political and social issues (especially Christian-Islamic coexistence and migration) also play an important role. The combination of ecumenical and specific confessional issues makes this thematic focus unique in Germany.