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Johann Jakob Griesbach

Johann Jakob Griesbach (January 4, 1745 - March 24, 1812), German biblical critic, was born at Butzbach, a small town in the state of Hesse, where his father, Konrad Kaspar (1705-1777), was pastor.

He was educated at Frankfurt, and at the universities of Tübingen, Leipzig and Halle, where he became one of JS Semler's most ardent disciples. It was Semler who induced him to turn his attention to the textual criticism of the New Testament. At the close of his undergraduate career he undertook a literary tour through Germany, the Netherlands, France and England.

On his return to Halle, he acted for some time as Privatdozent, but in 1773 was appointed to a professorial chair; in 1775 he was translated to Jena, where the rest of his life was spent (though he received calls to other universities). He died on the 24th of March 1812. Griesbach's fame rests upon. his work in New Testament criticism, in which he inaugurated a new epoch.

His critical edition of the New Testament first appeared at Halle, in three volumes, in 1774-1775. The first volume contained the first three Gospels, synoptically arranged; the second, the Epistles and the book of Revelation. All the historical books were reprinted in one volume in 1777, the synoptical arrangement of the Gospels having been abandoned as inconvenient. Of the second edition, considerably enlarged and improved, the first volume appeared in 1796 and the second in 1806 (Halle and London). Of a third edition, edited by David Schulz, only the first volume, containing the four Gospels, appeared (1827).

For the construction of his critical text Griesbach took as his basis the Elzevir edition. Where he differed from it he placed the Elzevir reading on the inner margin along with other readings lie thought worthy of special consideration (these last, however, being printed in smaller type). To all the readings on this margin he attached special marks indicating the precise degree of probability in his opinion attaching to each. In weighing these probabilities he proceeded upon a particular theory which in its leading features he had derived from JA Bengel and JS Semler, dividing all the manuscripts into three main groups--the Alexandrian, the Western and the Byzantine.

A reading supported by only one recension he considered as having only one witness in its favour; those readings which were supported by all the three recensions, or even by two of them, especially if these two were the Alexandrian and the Western, he unhesitatingly accepted as genuine. Only when each of the three recensions gives a different reading does he proceed to discuss the question on other grounds.

See his Symbolae criticae ad supplendas et corrigendas variarum N.T. lectionum collectiones (Halle, 1785, 1793), and his Commentarius criticus in textum Graecum N. T., which extends to the end of Mark, and discusses the more important various readings with great care and thoroughness (Jena, 1794 if.). Among the other works of Griesbach (which are comparatively unimportant) may be mentioned his university thesis De codicibus quatuor evangelislarum Origenianis (Halle, 1771) and a work upon systematic theology (Anleitung zur Kenntniss der populären Dogmatik, Jena, 1779). His Opuscula, consisting chiefly of university “Programs” and addresses, were edited by Gabler (2 vols., Jena, 1824).

See the article in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie, and the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.