EICHHORN, JOHANN GOTTFRIED: Biblical scholar; b. at Dörrenzimmern (near Künzelsau, 24 m. n.e. of Heilbronn) in the principality of Hohenlohe-Oehringen, Oct. 16, 1752; d. at Göttingen June 14, 1827. His father was pastor at Dörrenzimmern. After preparatory studies in the town school at Weikersheim and the gymnasium at Heilbronn, he studied at Göttingen, 1770-74, under Michaelis, Walch, Miller, Schlözer, and Heyne. He became rector of the gymnasium at Ohrdruff, near Gotha, in 1774. The next year he was appointed ordinary professor of Oriental languages at Jena. In this period he published a number of treatises on the history and literature of the Orient, as well as of particular Mohammedan dominions. In the main, however, he devoted himself to the Biblical sciences. In the Repertorium für biblische und morgenländische Litteratur (Leipsic, 1777 86), edited by himself, he did much which was preliminary work to his Einleitung ins Alte Testament (3 vols., Leipsic, 1780 83). This work, which is distinguished alike by youthful enthusiasm, synoptical arrangement, comprehensive scholarship, and solid investigation, gained universal acceptance, and appeared in the fourth edition (5 vols., 1823 26). In it Eichhorn made Introduction a literary-historic science. A proof of the lively interest with which he pursued the study of Biblical literature is furnished by Allgemeine Bibliothek der biblischen Litteratur (10 vols., Leipsic, 1787 1803).
In 1788 he went to Göttingen as ordinary professor of philosophy; and here he exhibited until shortly before his death an exceedingly diversified activity, combined with rare powers of labor and indefatigable industry. His numerous lectures embraced not only the Biblical sciences, but also the history and literary life of ancient and modern times. At the same time he embodied the material of his lectures in extensive works issued in rapid succession (cf. Hauck-Herzog, RE, v. 235 for list of his historical works). Nevertheless, the principal part of his activity was directed to Biblical science. Of his additional theological writings may be mentioned: Commentarius in Apocalypsin Joannis (2 vols., Göttingen, 1791); Einleitung in die apokryphischen Schriften des Alten Testaments (Leipsic, 1795); Einleitung in das Neue Testament (2 vols., Leipsic, 1804-12), containing detailed researches with reference to the origin of the Gospels; Die hebräischen Propheten (3 vols., Göttingen, 1816 19); and a metrical translation of the Book of Job (Leipsic, 1800; 2d ed., 1824). His lectures in the Göttingen Society of Sciences are also noteworthy. After Heyne's death (1812) he edited the Göttinger gelehrten Anzeigen, for which he wrote many literary notices.
The verdict upon Eichhorn and his works became less favorable not long after his death; his historical writings, which were really mere sketches, were found wanting in thorough investigation and painstaking conscientiousness. Still more sharply were his theological works censured, because the more accurate knowledge of the characteristics of this or that particular composition was lacking; and his research was not sufficiently free from prejudice. It may likewise be said against his exegesis that it neglected the psychologic element, and frequently explained away the profound content of the Biblical records by means of so called "natural" elucidation. His merit remains, however, in the fact that he not only vindicated the Bible against the ridicule of its enemies, but that far and wide he awakened love for the Biblical writings, especially the Old-Testament Scriptures, and the zeal to examine them carefully.
Bibliography: F. Saalfeld, Geschichte der Universität Göttingen, pp. 332 sqq., Hanover, 1820; H. Doering, Die gelehrten Theologen Deutschlands, i. 356 sqq., Neustadt, 1831; H. Ewald, Jahrbücher der biblischen Wissenschaft, i. 26 sqq., Göttingen, 1849; ADB, v. 731 sqq.; C. H. H. Wright, Introduction to O. T., London, 1890; C. A. Briggs, Study of Holy Scripture, passim, New York, 1899.