Johannes Andreas Quenstedt

by Caleb Bassett

Johannes Andreas QuenstedtMany historians agree that after Martin Chemnitz and Johann Gerhard, Johannes Quenstedt is probably the most influential leader and theologian of the post-Reformation Lutheran church. He was a quintessential member of the period of Lutheran orthodoxy. We profit still today because of his work in the church.

Quenstedt was born in Quedlinburg, Germany (now in modern Bundesland Saxony-Anhalt) on August 13, 1617. It is interesting to note that his mother was the sister of Johann Gerhard. Thus, Quenstedt was the nephew of the great theologian Johann Gerhard.

Throughout Quenstedt’s school days, he was hoping to study theology under his uncle at the university at Jena. Unfortunately, Gerhard died before Quenstedt could matriculate at the university. As a result, Quenstedt’s mother sent him to the university at Helmstedt. Many people had misgivings about the doctrinal stance of the school, but Quenstedt’s mother desired her son to attend school relatively close to home. The university was approximately 50 miles away from Quedlinburg. Thus, Quenstedt studied at Helmstedt.

After six years of study at Helmstedt, he arrived at the university at Wittenberg in 1644 to continue his work as a student. The Lord blessed Quenstedt with great success at Wittenberg, despite the cool reception by the other members of the university caused by Quenstedt’s history with the university at Helmstedt. Members of the faculty took him under their wing and through their encouragement, and more importantly through the study of the Word, he began to champion the truths of Lutheran orthodoxy. It is important to note this, since the solid convictions he sets forth in his systematic volumes of theology are based on study in the Word, not because he was “born and bred” that way, or as we might say today, was “in a bubble.”

Quenstedt was appointed as a university lecturer as early as October 19, 1644. Throughout his years at Wittenberg, he became professor of several subjects. They included, logic, metaphysics and of course, theology. While he served as a lecturer, he continued his theological studies and was granted his doctorate in 1650.

Quenstedt had no easy life. He was stressed from childhood on by perpetual physical ailments. Not only this, he was twice widowed. His first wife died in 1651 during their first year of marriage. He married his second wife in 1653, but unfortunately she died after a three-year marriage. Quenstedt was joined in marriage in 1656 with Anna Sabina Scharf. The Lord blessed the marriage with 12 children.

Quenstedt is often referred to as the “archivist, recorder, and bookkeeper” of the Lutheran orthodoxy. But this description does not give him justice. He was much more than a mere archivist and bookkeeper, he was a well-read and learned man with a firm grasp of the Word, and it showed in his devout and pious character, as well as in his theology.

Quenstedt’s greatest contribution to the church was his Theologia Didactio-Polemica Sive Systema Theologicum. (Didactic-Polemic Theology or Systematic Theology) His Systema is a massive volume of systematic theology, the majority of which has not been translated into English. The huge volume would have cost several weeks of a pastor’s salary, yet the book went through multiple printings, which was a testament to the demand for the book despite its cost.

The book set out to systematically outline and expound on nearly every doctrinal point under debate at Quenstedt’s time. Each section has a didactic and polemic portion. However, do not be fooled by the word “polemic” in regard to Quenstedt’s Systema. His polemics were not hotly contested wars of words, but were instead well-considered, well-written, calm answers to some of the attacks and judgments made against the Lutheran church by her enemies at the time. And as we know by our review of history, the issues faced by Lutherans in the past are often no different than the problems we face today. Thus a study of Quenstedt’s Systema would benefit contemporary Lutherans as well.

Bibliography
  • Kunze, Johannes. “Quenstedt.” Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche. Ed. Albert Haude. 3rd ed. Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1905.
  • Piepkorn, Arthur Carl. “Quenstedt.” The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church. Ed. Julius Bodensiech. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965.
  • Poellot, Luther. The Nature and Character of Theology. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986.
  • Preus, Robert D. The Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1970.