EDELMANN, ê'del-m ā n, JOHANN CHRISTIAN: German rationalist; b. at Weissenfels (20 m. s.w. of Leipsic) July 9, 1698; d. at Berlin Feb. 15, 1767. In 1720 he began the study of theology at Kiel, but even before his examination at Eisenach in 1724 he had secretly determined to renounce the ministry. His personal experiences among Roman Catholics and Pietists enlarged his views but turned him more and more from Christianity. Wherever he went he antagonized those whom he had hoped to win, and he successively abandoned the Moravians, the mystic separatists of Berleburg, and the Huguenot Inspired at Homburghausen, finally living as an individualistic separatist. His interpretation of the Johannine "The Word was God" as "God is reason" made his way clear before him. Henceforth, financially aided by his friends, he began to write in propaganda of his convictions, his works including Moses mit aufgedecktem Angesicht (Berleburg, 1740); Die Göttlichkeit der Vernunft (1741); Die Begierde nach der vernünftigen lautern Milch (Hachenburg, 1744); Glaubensbekenntnis (Neuwied, 1746), and Das Evangelium St. Harenbergs (Altona, 1748). Edelmann met with opposition everywhere, until Frederic II. allowed him to live at Berlin on condition that he publish nothing more. He accordingly engaged in private literary work, which he continued until his death. Denying the validity of the Bible as a source of religious knowledge, Edelmann sought to base religion on nature and human thought, claiming that the world is a copy of the supramundane deity. This divinity is not actually transcendental, but the "living God is simply the uninterrupted existence and essence of all things themselves." He regarded all positive religions as imperfect forms of man's concept of his relation to the universe and consequently to God.
Bibliography: Edelmann's autobiography was edited by C. R. W. Klose, Berlin, 1849. Consult: K. Guden, Johann Christian Edelmann, Hanover, 1870; J. H. Pratje, Historische Nachrichten von J. C. Edelmann ... Leben, Hamburg, 1755; F. Mönckeberg, Reimarus und Edelmann, ib. 1867; B. Bauer, Einfluss des englischen Quäkertums auf die deutsche Kultur, Berlin, 1878; ADB, v. 639-640.