EBRARD, ê'brārt, JOHANN HEINRICH AUGUST.
Student Life and Early Lectures (§ 1),
Professor at Zurich and Erlangen (§ 2).
Councilor of the Consistory (§ 3).
The New Catechism and Hymn-book (§ 4),
Victory of Ebrard's Opponents (§ 5).
His Return to Erlangen (§ 6).
Estimate of his Work (§ 7).
1. Student Life and Early Lectures. This Reformed theologian was born at Erlangen Jan. 18, 1818; d. there July 23, 1888. His father came of a family of French refugees and was preacher of the French Reformed Church in Erlangen. At an early age August revealed extraordinary endowments and vivacity of mind He attended the gymnasium of his native city, and began the study of theology at the university in 1835 under Olshausen, Höfling, Krafft, Hofmann and Harless. His great mental vivacity induced him to study almost all branches of human science and art, not, however, neglecting the pleasures and attractions of the student life.
From 1838 to 1839 he studied at Berlin, where he was private tutor and subsequently established himself in the philosophical faculty at Erlangen, lecturing in 1842 on the relation of philosophy to theology. In the same year he went over to the theological faculty and lectured on the Old and the New Testament and on the Reformation in Switzerland. At the same time he wrote a comprehensive work on the criticism of the history of the Gospels (Frankfort, 1842; Eng. transl. from the 2d ed., The Gospel History, Edinburgh,1863) which made his name famous and put him in the front rank of opponents of D. F. Strauss.
2. Professor at Zurich and Erlangen. In 1844 he accepted a call to the University of Zurich where he defended positive and Biblical Christianity against the radicalism of Strauss, and founded a weekly paper for that purpose, Die Zukunft der Kirche, which, however, was discontinued in 1847. His lectures were successful, but his relations with his radical colleagues and the educational authorities became so strained that he returned to Erlangen in 1847 after an independent chair for Reformed theology had been established. His native soil seemed to develop his many-sided powers into full maturity. He devoted himself to his lectures, attracting large circles of students, and treating chiefly of dogmatics, but also of the Old and the New Testament and practical theology. He founded the Reformierte Kirchenzeitung and took an active part in all movements of the ecclesiastical and political life, in home missions and charitable work.
3. Councilor of the Consistory. From this stimulating work he was suddenly called away by an appointment as councilor of the consistory and chief preacher in Speyer (1853).
4. The New Catechism and the Hymnbook. Ebrard considered it now his task to restore for the Church of the Palatinate the old Presbyterian government, which had been overthrown in 1848 "by a democratic subversion and by an ecclesiastical ochlocracy," and to give this Church a catechism and hymn-book in accordance with its faith. The question of the catechism was brought up at the general synod of 1853, and Ebrard succeeded in replacing the old catechism of 1818 by a compilation of the Heidelberg catechism and the smaller catechism of Luther. and in establishing the Augustana variata of 1540 as the confession of the Church in the Palatinate. The constitution of the Church was also discussed at the synod. The aristocratic constitution of 1818 was restored, but it was conceded to the liberals that the number of the secular members of the diocesan synods should be made nearly equal to the number of pastors. The introduction of a new hymn-book, however, was much more difficult to effect. The opposition in the Church proceeded chiefly from the old rationalists. The people, who were filled with the liberal ideas of 1848, connected the introduction of the new orthodox hymn-book with hierarchism, but the general synod of 1857 took the part of the consistory and decided that the book should be accepted. The presbyteries, however, were not forced to accept it until another synod, to be held in 1861, should fix a definite time at which the introduction should be obligatory. Most of the congregations accepted the new hymn-book and peace might have ensued if the consistory had not committed the serious mistake of ordering the introduction of the book into all schools.
5. Victory of Ebrard’s Opponents. In this the liberal opposition found opportunity to incite the people against the supposed violence to conscience. Meetings were held and petitions were sent to the government, the ministry and the king, but the king did not think as yet of a retreat, considering the resolutions of the general synods and consistories as binding. The final victory of the opposition was achieved by the legal expositions of Umbscheiden, a democratic jurist, in his treatise Kirchengesetz und Kirchengewalt in der bayerischen Pfalz (Munich, 1860). He showed that the mode of election instituted at the general synod of 1857 was illegal, that the government of the State had no power to sanction a changed constitution, and that therefore the democratic order of 1848 was still in force. Thereupon the ministry retreated and King Max issued a rescript in 1861 ordering the consistory to reestablish at the coming general synod the democratic order of election with an equal representation of the ecclesiastical and secular elements and the presbyteries and to permit the introduction of the new hymn-book only where the majority of the congregation gave consent.
6. His Return to Erlangen. Ebrard remained true to his convictions, and thus had to resign his position in 1861. He was forty-three years old and had spent the best part of his life in a vain cause. He returned to Erlangen and resumed his lectures, in 1862 in the presbyterial hall of the French Reformed congregation and after 1863 at the university, in his activity manifesting the spirit of his former years and retaining his vivacity, sociability, and many-sidedness until the end of his life. In theology he devoted himself to historical studies and somewhat later gathered material for an extensive work on Apologetics (2 parts, Gütersloh, 1874-75; Eng. transl., 3 vols., Edinburgh, 1886-1887). In 1875 he undertook the French Reformed pastorate. From 1876 to 1886 he was also president of the moderamen of the Reformed synod, continuing all the while his lectures and literary work.
7. Estimate of His Work. Ebrard's scientific labor was devoted first to the defense of the fundamental facts of history and next to the eternal truths of Christianity. The mastery of almost all sciences revealed in his Apologetik is astonishing. His convictions centered in the Reformed Church, but he was not so narrow-minded as to deny the importance of Evangelical Christianity in general. His theology and devotional life may be characterized as a happy mean between orthodoxy and Pietism. His study of history saved him from a superficial radicalism and made him emphasize the peculiarities of the Reformed Church, especially in its organization and worship. In spite of his marked industry and the fertility of his thought and writings, Ebrard made little impress upon the study of theology. While his many-sided activity had no creative effect in any individual sphere, the beneficent influences which proceeded from his engaging personality are immeasurable.
His works not already mentioned include Das Dogma vom heiligen Abendmahl und seiner Geschichte (2 vols., Frankfort, 1845-46); Christliche Dogmatik (2 vols., Königsberg, 1851); Vorlesungen über praktische Theologie (1854); Das Buch Hiob als poetisches Kunstwerk übersetzt und erklärt (Landau, 1858); Handbuch der christlichen Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte (4 vols., Erlangen, 1865-66); Die iroschottische Missionskirche des sechsten, siebenten, und achten Jahrhunderts (Gütersloh, 1873); Bonifatius (1882). He edited and completed Olshausen's commentary by writing on the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Apocalypse, and the Epistles of John, published many sermons, and, under various pseudonyms, issued a long series of Christian belletristic productions.
(E. F. KARL MÜLLER.)
Bibliography: The first part of his autobiography, Lebensführungen, in jungen Jahren, was published at Gütersloh, 1888; the rest of it, in MS., remains unprinted. Consult: P. Schaff, Germany, Its Universities, Theology, and Religion, pp. 389-397, New York, 1857; G. A. Scartazzini, in Beilage zur Allgemeinen Kirchenzeitung, no. 219-220, 1888.