Arnold was born in Königsberg, East Prussia, Germany, the third child of Carl Franklin and Elizabeth (Voight) Arnold. His father was a doctor of theology and philosophy, and his paternal grandfather was a pastor and missionary of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia's older Provinces. Eberhard Arnold's life as a youth was unconventional. In 1899 at age 16, Arnold experienced an inner change, which he acknowledged as God's acceptance and the forgiveness of sins, and felt a calling to "go and witness to my truth." After he finished school, Arnold studied education, philosophy, and theology in Breslau, Halle, and Erlangen. He engaged in Christian youth work and in evangelism among the poor through the Salvation Army. While in Halle, he became part of the German Student Christian Movement, and its General Secretary, in 1907 he and his wife von Hollander seceded from the state church. His work with the Salvation Army increased his sympathy for the oppressed classes of people and strengthened his stand for preaching conversion and salvation. Here in Halle, he also met Emmy von Hollander and married her in 1909.
Arnold was a sought-after speaker in early 20th century Germany. He became troubled by the church's connection to the state, and in 1908, at age 25, Arnold was baptized and left the Protestant state church. In 1915 he became editor of Die Furche (The Furrow), the periodical of the Student Christian Movement, and editor of the Das Neue Werk (New Venture) Publishing House in Schlüchtern, Germany in 1919. At age 37, he abandoned middle-class life. It was then, in 1920, that he moved with his wife and children to the village of Sannerz in central Germany, and founded a community with seven adult members and five children. Here they would attempt to put into practice what Eberhard Arnold believed the Holy Spirit had revealed to him. The community ethic was based on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The community experienced both trouble and growth, but by the mid-1920s the Sannerz farm was too small. In 1926, they bought a farm in the Fulda district and established the Rhön Bruderhof. When Arnold discovered that Hutterite communities still existed in North America, he contacted them and engaged in a long period of correspondence. In 1930 he traveled to America and stayed for about a year, visiting all the communities of Hutterian brethren in the United States and Canada. In December of that year, he was commissioned by them as a missionary to Europe.
In November 1933, the Bruderhof community was raided by the Gestapo, who searched for arms and anti-Nazi literature, and closed the community's school. The Bruderhof sent their school children to Switzerland, and began to search for another place to establish their community. When the teacher sent by the government arrived in 1934, he found no children to teach. Property was acquired in the Alps in Liechtenstein, and in March 1934, the Alm Bruderhof was founded. Arnold spent the last two years of his life suffering from a leg injury that would lead to his death, while attempting to shepherd his flock to safety. Nevertheless, he remained active in traveling, lecturing and writing until his death in Darmstadt on November 22, 1935.
Emmy von Hollander Arnold outlived her husband by 45 years, following the Bruderhof to England, Paraguay, and eventually the United States. She died in New York on January 15, 1980, at the age of ninety-five.
The vision of Arnold continues today in Bruderhof communities in the United States, England, Germany, and Australia. Arnold's son and grandson both followed in his footsteps leading the Bruderhof. Eberhard's son, Johann Heinrich Arnold (1913–1982) led from 1962 through 1982, and Heinrich's son Johann Christoph Arnold from 1983 through 2001. Arnold has gained a wide following beyond the Bruderhof who respect his teachings, while believing the community lifestyle is not necessary.
- Eberhard Arnold - Writings Selected
- God's Revolution: Justice, Community and the Coming Kingdom
- Innerland (1935)
- Poems and Rhymed Prayers
- Salt and Light: Living the Sermon on the Mount
- The Early Christians After the Death of the Apostles (1926)
- The Individual and World Need
- The Prayer God Answers (1913)
- Why We Live in Community
- Against the Wind - A journalist's biography of Eberhard Arnold, available as a free e-book.
- www.eberhardarnold.com - The official website of Eberhard Arnold's writings and essays maintained by the Bruderhof. Includes a short biography.
- www.heiniarnold.com - The official website of Johann Heinrich Arnold's writings and essays maintained by the Bruderhof. Includes a short biography.