IVP - Addenda & Errata - "L" is for Lohmeyer, "M" is for Moule

October 18, 2007

"L" is for Lohmeyer, "M" is for Moule

The New Testament scholar C. F. D. (“Charlie”) Moule died September 30, 2007. There have been a number of obituaries that have come to our attention over the past few weeks, and one of them with some interesting anecdotes. Moule’s name has been a familiar one for students of the New Testament in recent generations. Anyone who has read his books has been impressed by his careful scholarship. Take, for example, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek (Cambridge University Press, first edition 1953). What an impressive piece of linguistic scholarship! Or his compact commentary on The Epistles to the Colossians and Philemon in The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary series—only 170 pages but densely packed with insights into the Greek text. We don’t publish little commentaries like that anymore! Then too there is the classic The Birth of the New Testament, as well as other studies. Over the years we’ve heard bits about the man behind the books, but it took his death to shake loose more details. Take a look and thank God for an extraordinary Christian man and scholar:

Times obit:

Daily Telegraph obit:

Independent obit:

Guardian obit:


And for the anecdotal:

All of which leads us to comment on a forthcoming IVP book, the Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters (DMBI), edited by Donald K. McKim. Though we include very few living figures, we do have an article on Moule since his work was all “submitted,” so to speak. And just before the printing press started to run, we were able to stick in Moule’s date of death. He was ninety-eight when he died.

For those of you who know your IVP books, the DMBI is a revision and expansion (about 100 more articles) of the Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, now organized A to Z rather than by historical periods. One of us (Dan Reid) helped the HHMBI into being and the other (Joel Scandrett) made it into the DMBI. While most of the articles do not have the anecdotal or personal element, some of them do. Check out the article on C. H. Dodd for a limerick about Dodd, or the G. B. Caird article for some personal color recorded by one of his students. Plus there are inspiring and poignant glimpses of history that reveal the remarkable character of many of these great interpreters of Scripture.

One that stands out in particular (and one of Joel's favorites) comes from the life of Ernst Lohmeyer, who in 1920 succeeded Rudolf Bultmann as professor of New Testament at Breslau (modern Wroclaw, Poland). What follows is an extended excerpt from the Lohmeyer article (written by Jim Edwards) in the DMBI:

Lohmeyer was one of the few German professors who from the outset opposed National Socialism at its most brutal and essential point, its fanatical anti-Semitism. As early as January 1934 the rector of Breslau reported to Nazi authorities that “Lohmeyer’s anti-Nazi activities and anti-Nazi convictions are a matter of common knowledge.” Lohmeyer confronted Brown Shirt students in the library and prevented them from throwing theological books to the flames; he called in police when students shouted down Jewish professors; and his personal solidarity with Jewish professors Cohn, Rosenstock-Huessy, Strauss and Koebner was unique at Breslau. In an “Open Letter in Support of Martin Buber,” Lohmeyer decried “the sham of theological colleagues [a reference to Gerhard Kittel’s attack on Buber] and the silence of the Protestant Church in the midst of a führerloses (!) ship driven by a political storm.”

Lohmeyer was stripped of his professorship at Breslau in the fall of 1935 because of anti-Nazi conduct. The Prussian Ministry of Education in Berlin succeeded in arranging a Strafversetzung (“punitive transfer”) for him to the smaller and less prestigious University of Greifswald, where he succeed Joachim Jeremias as professor of New Testament. The only member of the Confessing Church on the Greifswald faculty, Lohmeyer withdrew from the political and ecclesiastical fray and concentrated on writing Galiläa und Jerusalem (1936) and his magisterial Das Evangelium des Markus (1937).

Drafted into the army in August 1939, Lohmeyer served in Poland, Holland and Belgium; and for the final ten months until his release in April 1943 as commandant of a region as large as the state of West Virginia south of Stalingrad, Russia. Written testimonies from soldiers and prisoners on the Eastern front attest to his efforts to spare civilians, prisoners of war and Jews from deportations and atrocities by the Germany army. During the war Lohmeyer wrote monographs on Gottesknecht und Davidsohn (1945) and The Lord’s Prayer (ET, 1965) and began a commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (uncompleted at his death). Suffering from intestinal disease, gastritis and loss of his teeth, he returned to Greifswald in the spring of 1943 to learn that his elder son had fallen at Leningrad and that the younger lay critically wounded.

Defying Hitler’s “scorched earth” orders, Lohmeyer and the mayor of Greifswald surrendered the city peacefully to the Red Army on May 1, 1945. Because of his anti-Nazism and experience as rector of Breslau, Lohmeyer was named rector of the University of Greifswald in May 1945. The next nine months were a web of hazardous negotiations and maneuvers as Lohmeyer sought to reopen the university in the face of economic devastation and inexorable communist domination. An impasse was reached over “denazification”: following directives from Soviet headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst, Lohmeyer wished to dismiss faculty who were active party members; local communist officials, however, wanted nominal party members dismissed as well (which would have eliminated nearly all faculty members and closed the university).

The night before Lohmeyer’s installation ceremony as rector (February 15, 1946), Soviet NKVD agents stormed his house and arrested him. Imprisoned for nine months within a stone’s throw of the university, Lohmeyer was never again seen by family or friends. Secret trials in June and August accused him of crimes against the Russian people, including mockery, forced labor, arrests and shooting of civilians. Lohmeyer was tried without a jury and not permitted legal counsel. The trial record recovered from the Soviet Union adduces no witnesses or documentation in support of allegations against him, and evidence in support of Lohmeyer’s innocence is suppressed. In a written appeal for his life (which was not translated into Russian and evidently not read by the military tribunal), Lohmeyer declared himself a Christian incapable of such alleged crimes. “I wish to repeat, I never participated in shootings of Soviet citizens and I never ordered such shootings. On the contrary, I made every endeavor to alleviate the consequences of the war for the Soviet people, regardless whether they were German soldiers or Soviet communists.” Lohmeyer’s possessions were confiscated, and he was condemned to be shot to death, a sentence that was executed on September 19, 1946, either in the prison courtyard or outside Greifswald near Hanshagen.

Apart from a one-sentence death notification to the family in 1957, there was a blackout on Lohmeyer’s fate (as on all victims of Stalinism) until the fall of the Soviet Union. On August 15, 1996, the Russian government posthumously exonerated Lohmeyer as “a victim of repression . . . [who] was arrested and condemned to death without sufficient grounds and from political motives alone.” There can be little doubt that once Lohmeyer was arrested, false military allegations were concocted by the Soviets in order to eliminate his leadership of the university and his perceived opposition to the Communist Party of Germany. On the fiftieth anniversary of his execution (September 19, 1996), the University of Greifswald held a posthumous memorial service for Lohmeyer in the Aula of the university where he was to have been installed as rector. The theological faculty at Greifswald is now housed in the newly constructed (2002) Ernst-Lohmeyer-Haus.

Posted by Dan Reid at October 18, 2007 2:58 PM Bookmark and Share


That's amazing, Dan. Beautiful story. I love story.

Comment by: Taryn at October 23, 2007 8:25 AM

Thank you for sharing that...ok, I'll buy it.

Comment by: mike aubrey at October 29, 2007 7:46 PM

Comments are closed for this entry.

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