PFAFF, pfâf, CHRISTOPH MATTHAEUS: German Lutheran; b. at Stuttgart Dec. 24, 1686; d. at Giessen Nov. 19, 1760. He was educated at the University of Tübingen (1699-1702), and became lecturer in 1705, but in the following year, at the command of the duke of Wurttemberg, traveled extensively in Germany, Denmark, Holland, and England, with special attention to the study of Semitic languages. Almost immediately on his return he was directed to proceed to Italy with the heir apparent, with whom he spent three years in Turin. Here, as elsewhere, he was unwearied in searching through libraries, and was rewarded by the discovery of many fragments hitherto unknown, as of sermons of Chrysostom and portions of Hippolytus. In this way he also found the epitome of the "Institutes" of Lactantius, which he edited at Paris in 1712; and he aroused wide interest by the alleged discovery of four fragments of Ignatius which he published, with voluminous dissertations, at The Hague in 1715. Over these fragments an animated controversy was long waged. It is now generally held that they are not to be ascribed to Ignatius; though the question remains whether they were a forgery of Pfaff's, or whether they were cut out of some Turin catena manuscript. Both contingencies were possible in the case of Pfaff, who is known to have mutilated a Turin manuscript of Hippolytus, and to have forged a document to establish the claim of the house of Savoy to the titular kingdom of Cyprus.
In 1712 Pfaff returned to Germany and remained a year at Stuttgart, after which he visited Holland and France with the heir apparent, returning permanently to Germany in 1716. Despite his youth, Pfaff was then appointed professor of theology at Tübingen, where he rose steadily, becoming chancellor of the university at the age of thirty-four, and retaining this dignity for thirty-six years. He was a man of great versatility and of encyclopedic learning, and at the same time was indefatigable as an author. He wrote a large number of dissertations, of which the De originibus juris ecclesiastici ejusdem indole (Tübingen, 1719) marked the beginning of a new epoch in its field, for in it, and in the Akademische Reden über das sowohl allgemeine als auch teutsche protestantische Kirchenrecht (1742), he for the first time carried to its logical results the doctrine of Collegialism (q.v.). In the sphere of theology he wrote Constitutiones theologi dogmatic et moralis (Tübingen, 1719); Introductio in historiam theologi literariam (1720);Institutiones histori ecclesiastic (1721); and Not exegetic in evangelium Matthi (1721); while his pietistic sympathies found expression in such works as his Kurtzer Abriss vom wahren Christentum (Tübingen, 1720) and Hertzens-Katechismus (1720), and his general Biblical scholarship was evinced by his collaboration with Johann Christian Klemm in the preparation of the "Tübingen Bible" of 1730 (see BIBLES, ANNOTATED, I., § 1).
Pfaff was chiefly active, however, in endeavoring to unite the Protestant churches, and to this end he composed a long series of monographs which were collected in German translation under the title of Gesammelte Schrifften, so zur Vereinigung der Protestierenden abzielen (Halle, 1723). Here again he was no innovator, and though his proposals attracted wide attention, Lutheran opposition rendered them fruitless.
Henceforth Pfaff frittered away his energies, producing work more remarkable for quantity than quality, and plunging into countless trivial literary controversies. He lost his popularity and influence in the university, forfeited the interest of the students, and in 1756 resigned from the chancellorship. His departure from Tübingen was unmourned, but his intention of spending the remainder of his life in retirement at Frankfort was frustrated by a call to Giessen, where he became chancellor, superintendent, and director of the theological faculty. Here he remained until his death, four years later, though here, too, the faults which dimmed his great talents gained him general enmity.