PLANCK, GOTTLIEB JAKOB: German Lutheran and church historian; b. at Nürtingen (13 m. s.s.e. of Stuttgart), Württemberg, Nov. 15, 1751; d. at Göttingen Aug. 31, 1833. He was educated at the University of Tübingen (1769-74), where he was a lecturer in 1775-80, after which he went to Stuttgart as vicar, being preacher and associate professor at the Karlsschule in the same city, 17811784. Here he completed the first two volumes of his Geschichte der Entstehung, der Veränderungen und der Bildung unseres protestantischen Lehrbegriffs von Anfang der Reformation bis zur Einführung der Konkordienformel (6 vols., Leipsic, 1781-1800). So favorable was the reception accorded these volumes that, on the death of Christian Wilhelm Franz Walch in 1784, Planck was chosen to succeed him as professor of church history at Göttingen. He became a member of the consistory in 1791; ephor of the Hanover theologians in 1800; general superintendent of the principality of Göttingen in 1805; abbot of Bursfelde in 1828; and supreme consistorial councilor in 1830.
Planck himself described his theological standpoint as "rational supernaturalism." He held to the divinity as well as to the reasonableness of Christianity, to the necessity as well as to the comprehensibility of a direct divine revelation. He was essentially a historian, and the historical point of view and method colored his whole personality. The first of his two most important works, the Geschichte . . . unseres protestantischen Lehrbegriffs, has already been mentioned. His second great work was his Geschichte der christlich-kirchlichen Gesellschaftsverfassung (5 vols., Hanover, 1803-09). The first of these two works was undoubtedly Planck's masterpiece, and marked an epoch in the writing of Protestant church history, since it was the earliest attempt at an unpartizan account of the Reformation and of the rise of Lutheranism. Planck has been criticized for emphasizing too strongly the subjective, personal part in the development of ideas. He paid too little attention to general influences and currents of thought that prevailed throughout entire historic periods, though he went deeply and carefully into his sources, and used the knowledge of details thus obtained in presenting extremely graphic delineations of character and motives.
Among the numerous writings of Planck, in addition to those already mentioned, special mention may be made of the following; continuations of the Neueste Religions-Geschichte of Christian Wilhelm Franz Walch (q.v.; 3 vols., Lemgo, 1787-93) and the Bibliothek der Kirchenversammlungen des vierten und fünften Jahrhunderts of Georg Daniel Fuchs (Leipsic, 1784), as well as a new edition of the Grundriss der Kirchengeschichte of Ludwig Timotheus Spittler (q.v.; Göttingen, 1812); Grundriss einer Geschichte der kirchlichen Verfassung, kirchlichen Regierung und des kanonischen Rechts (1790); Einleitung in die theologischen Wissenschaften (2 parts, Leipsic, 1794-95; Eng. transl., Introduction to Sacred Philology and Interpretation, Edinburgh, 1834); Ueber Trennung und Vereinigung der getrennten christlichen Hauptpartheyen (Tübingen, 1803); Betrachtungen über die neuesten Veränderungen in dem Zustand der deutschen katholischen Kirche (Hanover, 1808); Worte des Friedens mit der katholischen Kirche (Göttingen, 1809); Grundriss der theologischen Encyklopädie (1813); Geschichte des Christenthums in der Periode seiner ersten Einführung in die Welt durch Jesum und die Apostel (2 vols., 1818); Ueber die Behandlung, die Haltbarkeit und den Werth des historischen Beweises für die Göttlichkeit des Christenthums (1821); and Geschichte der protestantischen Theologie von der Konkordienformel an bis in die Mitte des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts (1831).
He was, throughout, judicial and conciliatory, refraining as much as possible from taking sides, and preferring painstaking investigation of facts to passing judgment.
Besides his historical works, Planck also wrote three quasi-romances, the first two anonymously: Tagebuch eines neuen Ehemannes (Leipsic, 1779); Jonathan Ashley's Briefe (Bern, 1782); and the fragmentary Das erste Amtsjahr des Pfarrers von S. in Auszügen aus seinem Tagebuch, eine Pastoraltheologie in Form einer Geschichte (Göttingen, 1823).