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John Ernest Grabe (1666–1711): Lutheran Syncretist and Anglican Patristic Scholar

  • Günther Thomann (a1)

The subject of this article claims attention for two special reasons. Firstly, and without any doubt, Grabe was one of the greatest atristic scholars of his age and lent lustre to the scholarly tradition at Oxford where his later years were spent. Secondly, his phenomenal patristic scholarship was inspired by a religious motive, which derived from his attachment to Lutheran Syncretism, a movement begun by the Helmstedt theologian Georg Calixtus (1586-1656). The problem of Grabe's neglect by historians is compounded by the confusion created by a contemporary account of the vital episode which brought him from Germany to Oxford and from Lutheranism to the Church of England. This article will therefore, draw together the scattered information which exists on Grabe's career and thereby remedy the neglect of historians, and dispel some of the confusion surrounding him.

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1 Green, V. H. H., The Young Mr Wesley, London 1961, 28, 273f.

2 Grabe, M. S. Jr, ‘D. J. E.Graben Leben Tod und Schrifften’, Acta Borussica 1 (1730), 127;anon, . ‘Einige, Zweifel gegen die Erzählung’, Bremische und Verdische Bibliothek, 2 (1756), 4356;Grabe, J. E., Abgenöthigte Ehren-Rettung [Stargard–Pomerania] 1696;von Sanden, B., Beantwortung der Dubiorum Graben, M. J. E., Königsberg 1695; anonymous review of pamphlets by Philipp Jacob Spener,Baier, J. W. and Sanden, von, in Ada Eruditorum 15 (1696), 30319;Grabe, J. E., Some Instances of the Defects and Omissions in Mr Whiston's Collection, ed. C.E.Hickes, London 1712, preface, 377;Reliquiae Hemianae: the remains of Thomas Hearne, ed. P.Bliss, Oxford 1857;Remarks and Collections of Thomas Hearne, ed. C. E.Doble (Oxford Historical Society 18851889), 1–3 (until 1712);Pfaff, C. M., De successione episcopali, Tübingen 1720, 3;Schelwig, G., Dissertatio in memoriam J. E. Grabii, Königsberg c. 1712 (this title could not be consulted);Nelson, R., ‘Life of Bull’, prefixed to The Works of George Bull, ed.E. Burton, Oxford 1846, p. 1;Secretan, C. F., Memoirs of the Life and Times of the Pious Robert Nelson, London 1860, 21925;Abbey, C. and Overton, J., The English Church in the Eighteenth Century, London 1902, 47f., 67;‘Grabe’, in AGL 2. 1108f;Hooper, R., s.v. ‘Grabe’, DNB 22. 306f;Erdmann, J., s.v. ‘Grabe’, RE 7. 56f.;Erbkam, J., s.v. ‘Grabe’, ADB 9. 5368.

3 Unfortunately most of Grabe's work are only extant as MS. See Bodleian Quarto Catalogue, I: MS, Greek, ed. H. O.Coxe, Oxford 1853, repr. 1969, cols. 85176 (vols 1–42) and Summary Catalogue of Western MSS, ed. F.Madan, Oxford 1895, 53, nos. 9755–65 (vols 43–53).

4 Particularly valuable for his biography are Grabe's Abgenöthigte Ehren–Rettung and M. S.Grabe, ‘D. J. E.Graben’.

5 Erler, G., Die Matrikel der Albertus Universität zu Känigsberg, Leipzig 19111912, p. 2, 11. 1682,stipendiatus;Hedio, A., Strena, Königsberg 1685 (COPY in Bodleian Library, Grabe MS 21, no. 3, fos 18f). At this time Hedio was Grabe's philosophy teacher and also dean of the arts faculty.

6 See n. 9 below; von Selle, G., Geschichte der Albertus Universitdt zu Königsberg in Preussen, Würzburg 1956, 103–6;Gass, W., s.v. ‘Dreier’, ADB 5. 392ff.; also for Dreier see Wundt, M., Die deutsche Schulmetaphysik des siebzehnten Jahrhunderts, Tubingen 1939, 1379. Syncretism was brought to Königsberg by Calixtus’ disciple Latermann. Dreier was a Syncretist and as a philosopher a strict Aristotelian.

7 Some of Grabe's earliest works do not seem to have survived: AGL ii. 1108ff., and Arnold, D. H., Ausführliche Historie der Königsbergischen Universität, 2, Theil, Königsberg 1746, 450. Except for a small commentary on Ps. ii, which perhaps has been lost, he does not seem to have had them printed: Abgenöthigte Ehren–Retlung. His Historia ecclesiastica survives in Bodl. Lib., Grabe MS 14, no. 2, fos 15204.

8 Anon, . ‘Historie des Samländischen Consistorii’, Erläutertes Preussen 22 (1725), 73746;Heinrich, G., ‘Brandenburg ii’, in TRE 7. 11128, at pp. 11417.

9 Anon, . ‘Dritte Forsetzung der Kurtzgefassten Historie der Königsbergischen Universität’, §25, Erläutertes Preussen, 45 (1727), 66986;, Arnold, Ausführliche Historie. See also Moldaenke, T., Christian Dreier und der synkretistische Streit im Herzogtum. Preussen, Königsberg 1909;von Selle, G., Geschichte der Albertus Universilat zu Königsberg in Preussen, Würzburg 1956, 64110;Hubatsch, W., Geschichte der evangelischen Kirche Ostpreussens, Göttingen 1968, 1. 14353.

10 Anon, . ‘D. J. Ph.Pfeiffers Leben und Schrifften’, Erläutertes Preussen xxxiv (1726), 695759; anon.‘ D. B. von Sanden sen. Leben und Schrifften’, ibid, 42 (1727), 435–53; Erbkam, J., s.v. ‘Grabe, Martin Sylvester (d.Ä)’, ADB ix. 538: Grabe owned a copy of Pfeiffer's doctoral thesis, Disputatio quod in coeto Lutheranorum eliam [sic] sit vera ecclesia: Bodl. Lib., Grabe MS 8, no. 11.

11 Anon, . ‘Der Reformirten Prediger in Berlin Bedencken vom Syncretistischen Streit’, Erläutertes Preussen 12 (1723), 552–68;Spener, P. J. und Lütken, W. A., ‘Schreiben an das Königsbergische Ministerium wegen des Preussischen Synkretismus und Papismus (7 05 1694)’, Ada Borussica 1 (1730), 2840.

12 Pfaff, C. M., De successione episcopali, Tübingen 1720, 3. The story was given greater currency by J. G.Walch, Historische Einleitung in die Religionsstreitigkeiten ausser der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche, Jena 17336, repr. Stuttgart–Bad Canstatt 1972, ii. 734–6; for Pfaff see my ‘Christoph Matthäus Pfaff und die Anfange der dogmengeschichtlichen Disziplin’, Blätter fur wärttembergische Kirchengeschichte 85 (1985), 83133.

13 An anonymous eighteenth-century scholar was the first to cast doubts on PfafTs assertion: ‘Einige Zweifel gegen die Erzählung’, 43–56.

14 Abgenöthigte Ehren–Rettung, §15. A copy is preserved at the City Library, Soest, Westphalia.

15 Geheimes Staatsarchiv Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, MS Etatsministerium 38: Geistliche Sachen Königsberg, EM 38e no. 35 fos 26r–35r; EM 38e no. 25 fos 156r, 165r–166r, 1791, 220r–221r, 235r–240v; Etatsministerium, 139: Universität Königsberg; EM 139c 1 no. 21; Abgenothigte Ehren-Rettung, §9.

16 Abgenöthigte Ehren-Rettung, §10. Grabe, J. E., Dubia, n.p., part 1. 148, part ii. 4965. A copy is preserved at the University Library, Tübingen, another at Soest; Grabe MS 3, no. 11, fos. 10634.

17 RE vii. 56.

18 Abgenöthigte Ehren–Rettung, §5, p. 11. The elector asked these three theologians to reply: Baier, J. W., Gründliche Erweisung, Jena 1695;Von, Sanden, Beantwortung (a copy is preserved at Soest; see preface pp. 18f. for the elector's request);Spener, P. J., Rettung der Evangelischen Kirchen von falscher Beschuldigung, Frankfurt–am–Main 1695. Review of pamphlets by Baier, von Sanden and Spener in Acta Eruditorum 15 (1696) 30319.

19 Abnegöthigte Ehren–Rettung, §6.

20 Geheimes Staatsarchiv Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, MS EM 38e no. 25 fo. 23r–v.

21 Abgenöthigte Ehren–Rettung. §§13, 17.

22 ibid. §§5) 9.

23 ibid. §17, p. 39.

24 The electoral rescript is quoted by von Sanden, Beantwortung, 18. See Spener's letter on Baier's refutation of Grabe, 19 01. 1695, letter cxxxix, in Spener, Letzte theologische Bedenken, 3, ed. D.Blaufuss and P.Schicketanz, Hildesheim 1987, 686ff.

25 This apparently refers to Bellarmine, R., De conlroversiis Christianae fidei, Ingolstadt 1586–93, 2.However, a reading of Bellarmine indicates that Grabe did not take most of his arguments from him.

26 Spener, Rettung, §71, 293. See Bodl. Lib., Grabe MS 10, no. 9, fos 131–80, Controversiae de justifications et sacra coma, an unprinted work against Spener.

27 Abgenöthigte Ehren–Rettung, §17; Spener, Rettung, cap. i. 96. On Spener's millenarian sympathies see Blaufuss, D., ‘Zu Speners, P. J.Chiliasmus und seinen Kritikern’, Pietismus und Neuzeil 14 (1988), 85108.

28 See Hickes's, preface to Some Instances, lof. Grabe apparently shared Spener's view of Rome and the AntiChrist.An anonymous author [Hildrop, J.], God's Judgement upon the Gentile Apostatized Church, London 1713, also made use of Bodl. Lib., Grabe MS 29.

29 Abgenöthigte Ehren–Rettung, §8.

30 Grabe, M. S., ‘Graben, D. J. E.’, 12.This contention is the most plausible one. For Spener's activities in Berlin see Wallmann, J., ‘Spener, P. J. in Berlin 1691–1705’, Zeilschrift fur Theologie und Kirche 84 (1987), 5885.

31 Kleinert, P., s.v. ‘Jablonski’, RE 8. 51014;Schwarze, R., s.v. ‘Jablonski’, ADB 13. 5236;Meyer, D., s.v. ‘Jablonski (1660–1741)’, TRE 25. 4324.

32 Sion College London, MS ARC L 40. 2. L 29, Grabe to Gordon, 29 06 1697, fos 36r–37v.

33 ibid. Jablonski to Gordon, 14 Kal. Dec. 1696, fo. 12r; idem. 7 Kal. Dec. 1696, fo. gv.

34 idem 18 01. 1697, fo. 14V.

35 idem 29 03. 1697, fo. 17V.

36 ibid. Grabe to Gordon, 29 June 1697, fos 36r–37v.; idem Oxford, 30 04. 1698, fos 38r–3gr; idem 27 12. [probably 1698], fos. 40r–41v.

37 Anon, . [Stephens, E.], A Good and Necessary Proposal, n.p. [?] 1705. This pamphlet is held in the Bodl. Lib., 40 Rawl. 564 (23). Edward, Stephens (?1633–1729), originally a barrister, later took orders in the Church of England. For further literature on the Greek College see A Bibliography of Printed Works relating to the University of Oxford, ed. E. H.Cordeaux and D. H.Merry, Oxford 1968, nos 7359–64. Grabe's literary remains prove his keen interest in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

38 Reliquiae Hemianae, 38ff., 357,709.

39 Grisbrooke, W.J., Anglican Liturgies of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, London 1958, 50–2.For Stevens see Remarks and Collections, 1. 25.

40 Porter, B., s.v. ‘Mill, John’, DNB 37. 38890. For the Nonjurors, see Overton, J. H., The Non–Jurors, London 1902;Broxap, H., The Later Non-Jurors, Cambridge, 1924;Wand, J. W. C., The High Church Schism, London, 1951.

41 Grabe, J. E., Spicilegium SS Patrum, 2 vols, Oxford 1698–9; vol. 3 was never published.

42 Spicilegium, i, preface. The preface to vol. ii contains information on his supporters in Oxford.

43 Calixtus, G., De auctoritate antiquitatis ecclesiasticae, Helmstedt 1639, 1658 etc.On Calixtus’ theology see Engel, P., Die eine Wahrheit in der gaspaltenen Christenheit, Göottingen 1976; for Calixtus’ influence on Grabe see Seeberg, E., Gottfried Arnold, Meerane, Saxony 1923, 476.Nelson, R., Catalogue of Grabe's Remains, BL, MS Harl. 3985, fo. 18 lists a Brevis delineatio Cassandri, M.A. de Dominis, Calixti…; sententia de modema Ecclesia Catholica (probably corresponding to MS Grabe 4, no. 14). For de Dominis see Malcolm, N., De Dominis (1560–1624): Venetian, Anglican, Ecumenist and relapsed heretic, London 1984.

44 St Justini …; Apologia prima, together with Lang's, J. Latin version, ed.J. E.Grabe, Oxford 1700, 1720, dedication to Aldrich; for Aldrich see Hiscock, W. G., Henry Aldrich of Christ Church (1648–1710), Oxford 1960.

45 St Irenaei … contra omnes haereses libri quinque, ed. J. E.Grabe, Oxford 1702, preface. This work was revised by Massuet, who included some of Grabe's notes in his edition. Massuet's edition was reprinted in PG 7.

46 Grabe also composed liturgies in the spirit of the ancient Church: ‘ Liturgia Graeca a J. E. Grabio’, in C. M.Pfaff (ed.), St Irenaei episcopi Lugdunensis Fragmenta anecdota, The Hague 1715, repr. Leyden 1743.Grabe explained his liturgical principles in De Forma Consecrationis Eucharistiae, London 1721. For Grabe's liturgies see G.Thomann (ed.), J. E. Grabe's Liturgies: two unknown Anglican liturgies of the seventeenth century, Nuremberg 1989.

47 Bull, G., Opera omnia, ed. J. E.Grabe, London 1703.

48 Whiston, W., An Essay on the Apostolic Constitutions, London 1711 Primitive Christianity Revived, London 1711, no. 4. Grabe replied with An Essay upon Two Arabic MSS, London 1711. Whiston countered with Remarks on Dr Grabe's Essay, London ?1711], repr. in Whiston, A Collection of Small Tracts, London 1712.Hickes, G. published Grabe's Some Instances, London 1712.See also Ockley, S., An Account of the Authority of the Arabick MSS, London 1712.Grabe's, Latin translation of the Apostolic Constitutions was posthumously published in St Hippolytus, Opera, 1716. Whiston, on the other hand, upheld his position throughout his life. See his St Clement's and St Irenaeus's Vindication of the Apostolical Constitutions, 1716. Bodl. Lib., Grabe MSS 11, 12, 21, 22 contain a number of works against Whiston and on the relation between reason and revelation. For Whiston see Stephen, L., s.v.Whiston, , William, ’, DNB 61. 1014;Grisbrooke, , Anglican Liturgies, 5670, 247–61;Colligan, J. H., The Arian Movement in England, Manchester 1913;Farrell, M., William Whiston, New York 1981;Force, J. E., William Whiston, Honest Newtonian, Cambridge 1985, 106–13; and Ferguson, J. P., Dr. Samuel Clarke: an eighteenth-century heretic, Kineton–Warwick 1976.

49 Spicilegium, 1. 40–55.

50 Die Englische Liturgie, Frankfurt-ander-Oder 1704; Sharp, T., The Life of John Sharp, London 1825;Nocolovius, A., Die bischöfliche Würde in Preussens evangelischer Kirche, Königsberg 1834, 327f.;anon, . Darlegung der im vorigen Jahrhundert wegen Einführung der englischen Kirchenverfassung in Preussengepflogenen Unterhandlungen (with letters), Leipzig 1842; E.Berner (ed.) Aus dem Briefwechsel Kb'nig Friedrichs I von Preussen wad seiner Familie, Berlin 1901, 26, 33f., 435–7; Dalton, H., D. E. Jablonski, Berlin 1903;Kiefl, F. X., Leibuit und die religiöse Wiedervereinigung Deulschlands, Ratisbon 1925;Hart, A. T., The Life and Times of John Sharp, Archbishop of York, London 1949;Sykes, N., D. E. Jablonski and the Church of England, London 1950;Benz, E., Bischofsamt und apostolische Sukzession im deutschen Protestantismus, Stuttgart 1953;Sykes, N., William Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury 1637–1737, Cambridge 1957, 2. 6080;, From Sheldon to Seeker, Cambridge 1959;von Thadden, R., Die brandenburgisch-preussischen Hofprediger im siebzehnten und achtzehnten Jahrhundert, Berlin 1959;Levis, R. B., ‘The failure of the Anglican-Prussian ecumenical effort of 1710–1714’, Church History 67 (1978), 381–99;Grabe, J. E. to Dean Atterbury, 22 01. 1705, The Manuscripts of … the Duke of Portland, 4, Historical Manuscripts Commission, Fifteenth Report 1897, appendix, 157–8; Gibson Papers, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 935/32, 942/103; Sion College Library, MS ARC L 40. 2. L 29. In general see, The Church of England and Non-Episcopal Churches in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, London 1948.

51 Epistola ad Millium, J., Oxford 1705, defends the importance of the Alexandrian Codex. J. E. Grabii Epistola ad J. Mill, Bodl. Lib., MS Rawl. C 851 no. 5f., 3gr–v, is a different letter.

52 Septuaginta Interpretum, 1, Oxfor 1707, prologue. Hering, G., Ökumenischer Patriarchat und europäische Politik 1620–1638, Wiesbaden 1968, does not mention the donation of the Alexandrian Codex.

53 Grabe, J. E., Dissertatio de variis vitiis LXX. Interpretum, Oxford 1710, dedication to Harley.

54 Swete, H. B., An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, 2nd ed., Cambridge 1902, 125f 182–4; reprints of Grabe's edition: Vetus Testamentum ex versione Septuaginta, ed. Breitinger, J. J., Züurich 17301731; Biblia Sacra quadrilingua, ed. M. C. Reineck, Leipzig 1750;Collatio Codicis Cottoniani Ceneseos cum editione Romana, ed. H. Owen, London 1778. In Russia Grabe's edition remained the standard version of the LXX in the nineteenth century. Critical treatment by J. H. Schulze, Dissertatio academica qua antiquitas Codicis Alexandrini vindicatur, Halle 1739 and J. L. Schulze, Dissertatio qua mutationes in texlu Codicis Alexandrini …ad examen revocanlur, Halle 1768. For Lee see Porter, B., s.v. ‘Lee, Francis’, DNB 23. 351f.; Overton, The Non-Jurors, 250–4; Broxap, The Later Non-Jurors, 317; Hutin, S., Les disciples anglais de Jacob Boehme, Paris 1960, 90103.

55 Foster, J., Alumni Oxonienses, Oxford 1891, 2. 592;Smalridge, G., Two Speeches made in the Theatre at Oxford, London 1714, repr. in Ada Borussica i (1730), 1420. In 1705 the Lady Margaret Professorship of Divinity had been offered to Grabe, but he declined it: Remarks and Collections, i. 134.

56 Reliquiae Hernianae, 88f, 623; Remarks and Collections, i. 170f.

57 Ibid. 709, 623. This is confirmed by Whiston's account: Grisbrooke, Anglican Liturgies, 64.

58 Secretan, The Pious Robert Nelson, 71. For the meetings at Shottesbrook House see Overton, s.v. ‘Dodwell, Henry, the elder’, DNB xv. 179–81.

59 Grabe, M. S., ‘Graben, D. J. E.’, 21. In a letter to Harley shortly before his death, Grabe complained about ill health and lack of money: BL, Add. MS 4253, fo. 44, copy, 22 08. 1711.

60 Grisbrooke, Anglican Liturgies, 88.

61 Hickes's preface to Some Instances, 76.

62 Secretan, The Pious Robert Nelson, 221–3; Grabe, M. S., ‘Graben, D. J. E.’, 23–7;Stanley, A. P., Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey, London 1868, 292.

63 Reliquiae Hernianae, 624f.; 623f.: ‘In short, I could never understand otherwise, but that Dr Grabe was very unsettled, and was setting up a religion of his own framing.’ Secretan's estimation is entirely positive: The Pious Robert Nelson, 345.

64 Abbey and Overton, The English Church in the Eighteenth Century, 67 is certainly mistaken. The ‘Greek Church’ rather refers to Stephen's domestic oratory. In 1703 Grabe was made a ‘Correspondent for the King of Prussia's Dominions’ by the SPCK: McClure, E., A Chapter in English Church History: being the Minutes of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge for the Years 1698–1704, London 1888, 221. We do not hear of Grabe's activities on behalf of the SPCK, but in 1700 August Hermann Francke, the leader of the Halle Pietists, became a more active corresponding member: ibid. 318. Once again it was Jablonski who encouraged the foundation of charities after the English pattern.

65 Grabe contributed to other works, e.g. Novum Testamentum, ed. J. Gregory, Oxford 1703, completed by H. Aldrich with Grabe's assistance; Daubuz, C., Pro testimonio Flavii Josephi de Jesu Christ, London 1706. Others made use of Grabe's MS, e.g. G. Hickes, An Answer to some Things contained in Dr Hick's Christian Priesthood Asserted, 1709; The History of the Seventy-Two Interpreters [Letter to Aristeas], Engl. trans. Lewis, 1715; ‘Testamenta duodecim Patriarcharum’, Greek text with Grabe's notes and R. Grosseteste 's Latin version, in Codex pseudepigraphicus Veteris Testamenti, ed. J. A. Fabricius, Hamburg 1713, 1. 496748 (repr. from Spicilegium, i); ‘Constitutions eorundem SS Apostolorum, J. F. Grabe interprete’, in St Hippolytus, Opera, ed. J. A. Fabricius, Hamburg 1716, 248–59 (repr. from Spicilegium, i); St Justin, Cum Tryphone Judaeo Dialogus, ed. S. Jebb, with J. Lang's Latin version, London 1719, This was edited from Grabe's literary remains. See also Sykes, William Wake, i. 68.

66 Remarks and Collections, iii. 384.

67 Broxap, The Later Non-Jurors, 65 n. 34.

68 There is no study of the survival of High Church doctrines and practices in the Established Church between 1714 and 1830. For some aspects see J. Hoyles, The Edges of Augustanism: the aesthetics of spirituality in Thomas Ken, John Byrom and William Law, The Hague 1972, and Broxap, The Later Non-Jurors, 291–308.

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