Johann Melchior Goeze

Johann Melchior Goeze
St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg in 1930. The church was damaged by the bombing in World War II and rebuilt afterwards.

Johann Melchior Goeze (born October 16, 1717 in Halberstadt, †May 19, 1786 in Hamburg, epithet: Zionswächter, i.e. Zion's Guardian) was a Lutheran pastor and theologian during the period of Late Orthodoxy. From 1760 to 1770 he served as senior of Hamburg presiding as spiritual leader over the Lutheran state church of the city-state.


Goeze studied in the universities of Jena and Halle, writing a doctoral dissertation on early Christian apologetics. In 1741, he became the pastor in Aschersleben, Principality of Halberstadt. In 1750, he took his ministry to Magdeburg, Duchy of Magdeburg, and from 1755 onwards he served as the pastor at St. Catherine's in Hamburg. The pastors of the five principal or head churches (Hauptkirchen) of Hamburg formed a college, the Spiritual Ministerium, and elected from their midst the spiritual leader of the Lutheran state church. In 1760 his colleagues elected Goeze senior of Hamburg.

Goeze was familiar with literature and took up writing histories and apologetics. The latter led him to write against various proponents of the Enlightenment. In 1764, he wrote against Johann Bernhard Basedow, in 1769, against Johann Georg Schlosser, in 1771 against Johann Salomo Semler, the founder of the historical critical method, in 1773, against Karl Friedrich Bahrdt, and in 1769 against Julius Gustav Alberti, the first Rationalist pastor in Hamburg. The next year, in 1770, he published his best work, The True Nature of Religious Zeal.

Goeze became well known chiefly for his debate with Gotthold Ephraim Lessing from 1777-1781. Goeze urged him to repentance, but little came out of the debate. Lessing responded with a number of rather polemical texts, finally resulting in Lessing being prohibited from writing on religious matters. Privately, Lessing showed respect for Goeze by always making sure to visit him when he came to Hamburg.



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Johann Melchior Goeze
Born: 16 October 1717 in Halberstadt Died: 19 May 1786 in Hamburg
Religious titles
Preceded by
Friedrich Wagner
Senior of Hamburg
for the Lutheran State Church

Succeeded by
Georg Ludwig Herrnschmidt
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