In my Advanced Hermeneutics seminar last October I found myself researching Friedrich Schleiermacher, the father of modern hermeneutics. I researched his early years, Kantian influence, and the hermeneutical circle that he, and subsequently others, used frequently. His impression upon the discipline of biblical hermeneutics is far-reaching and is even seen behind the veils of interpretative methods today.
Schleiermacher was born on November 21, 1768 in Breslau, Prussia where his father served as a chaplain of the Reformed Church to a regiment in Silesia. A very bright individual who was the product of a Moravian Brethren upbringing, he desired to receive a broader education than he was receiving at the time. At fourteen he began to doubt aspects of the Scripture. As a student at a boarding school in Pless there arose within him a strange skepticism towards the genuineness of the ancient authors of the Bible and they, as a result, began to seem disjointed and unreal to the young scholar.
After his promotion to Barby in 1785 to study philosophy his doubting eventually lead him to turn to liberal Protestantism to acquire the answers he desired. He wrote to his father that he could no longer believe the Son of Man was the true eternal God, his death a vicarious atonement, and an eternal punishment for those who could not attain faith in Jesus. After receiving permission from his father, Schleiermacher transferred to the University of Halle where he immersed himself in Kant, Greek philosophy, and the famous writers of the early church to the period of the Reformation. After he passed his theological exams in 1796 he spent six years preaching at a hospital in Berlin and two years as the court preacher at Stople. Eventually he traveled back to Halle and accepted a position as professor of theology at the University of Halle, only to leave and return to Berlin to preach at Trinity Church and lecture at the University. Continue reading