BENGEL, JOHANN ALBRECHT: German Lutheran; b. at Winnenden (12 m. n.e. of Stuttgart), Württemberg, June 24, 1687; d. at Stuttgart Nov. 2, 1752. He studied at Tübingen, and devoted himself especially to the sacred text; he was also intent upon philosophy, paying particular attention to Spinoza. After a year in the ministry as vicar at Metzingen, he became theological repetent at Tübingen in 1708; and in 1713 was appointed professor at the cloister-school at Denkendorf, a seminary for the early training of candidates for the ministry. During this year he traveled through Germany, visiting the schools, including those of the Jesuits, to learn their methods. At Denkendorf he published in 1719 his first work, an edition of the Eptstolae Ciceroni ad familiares, with notes; then Gregorii panegyricus graece et latine (1722), and Chrysostomi libri vi de sacerdotio (1725), to which he added Prodromus Novi Testamenti recte cauteque ordinandi. His chief work, however, was upon the New Testament. While a student, he was much perplexed by the various readings in the text, and with characteristic energy and perseverance he immediately began to investigate the subject. He procured all the editions, manuscripts, and translations possible, and in 1734 published his text and an Apparatus criticus which became the starting-point for modem text-criticism of the New Testament. His famous canon was: "The more difficult reading is to be preferred." This critical work was followed by an exegetical one, Gnomon Novi Testamenti (Tübingen, 1742), which has often been reprinted in Latin, and was translated into German by C. F. Werner (1853, 3d ed., 1876) and into English in Clark's Library (5 vols., Edinburgh, 1857-58) and in an improved edition by Lewis and Vincent (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1860-1861). As a brief and suggestive commentary on the New Testament, the Gnomon is still of use.
Bengel's chief principle of interpretation, briefly stated, is to read nothing into the Scriptures, but draw everything from them, and suffer nothing to remain hidden that is really in them. His Gnomon exerted considerable influence on exegesis in Germany, and John Wesley translated most of its notes and incorporated them into his Annotatory Notes upon the New Testament (London, 1755). In 1740 appeared Bengel's Erkärte Offenbarung Johannis, often reprinted (Eng. transl. by John Robertson, London, 1757); in 1741 his Ortio temporum, and in 1745 his Cyclus sive de anno magno consideratio. In these chronological works he endeavored to fix the "number of the beast" and the date of the "millennium," which he placed in the year 1836. In 1741 he was made prelate of Herbrechtingen; in 1749 member of consistory and prelate of Alpirspach, with residence at Stuttgart; and two years later Tübingen honored him with the doctorate.