Hermann, Freiherr von Soden

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Hermann von Soden

Baron Hermann von Soden (16 August 1852 – 15 January 1914) was a German Biblical scholar, minister, professor of divinity, and textual theorist.


Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 16, 1852, Soden was educated at the University of Tübingen. In 1881 he was appointed as the minister at Dresden-Striesen and in 1887 he became minister of the Jerusalem Church in Berlin.In 1885 he was governer of "Kamerun" modern day Cameroon. He stripped away the culture and heritage most of these tribes had because they were forced to conform to western standards. In 1889 he also became a privatdozent, a form of tutor, in the University of Berlin, and four years later was appointed as an extraordinary professor of divinity. He fought for a more presbyterian and democratic constitution in the congregations of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia's older Provinces. His grave is preserved in the Protestant Friedhof II der Jerusalems- und Neuen Kirchengemeinde (Cemetery No. II of the congregations of the Jerusalem's Church and the New Church) in Berlin-Kreuzberg, south of the Hallesches Tor.

Soden introduced a new notation of manuscripts and also developed a new theory of textual history. He believed that in the 4th century there were in existence three recensions of the text, which he distinguished as K, H and I. After establishing the text of I, H and K, Soden reconstructed a hypothetical text, I-H-K, which he believed to have been their ancestor. He then tried to show that this text was known to all the writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries

Soden died in a railway accident in Berlin on January 15, 1914. His descendant Wolfram von Soden became a noted Assyriologist.


His most important book is Die Schriften des neuen Testaments, in ihrer ältesten erreichbaren Textgestalt / hergestellt auf Grund ihrer Textgeschichte (4 vols., Berlin: Glaue, 1902-1910); certainly the most important work on the text of the New Testament which had been published since Westcott and Hort's The New Testament in the Original Greek. Other works include:

  • Philipperbrief (1890)
  • “Untersuchungen über neutestamentliche Schriften” in Protestantisches Jahrbuch für theologische Studien und Schriftkommentar (1895-1897)
  • Und was thut die evangelische Kirche? Erwogen angesichts der Reichstagswahlen, zumal in unseren Großstädten, 3rd. ed., Berlin: Nauck, 1890 (a pamphlet written during the campaign for the Reichstag election)
  • Reisebriefe aus Palästina (2nd ed, 1901); Palästina und seine Geschichte: sechs volkstümliche Vorträge,* Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments in ihrer ältesten erreichbaren Textgestalt, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht 1902.
  • Palästina und seine Geschichte, sechs volkstümliche Vorträge, Leipzig 1899; 2nd improved edition, Leipzig and Berlin: Teubner, 1904 (From Natur und Geisteswelt, No. 6); 3rd improved edition 1911.
  • Die Briefe an die Kolosser, Epheser, Philemon; die Pastoralbriefe, 2nd improved and expanded edition, edited by H. von Soden. Freiburg i. Br. 1893.
  • Die wichtigsten Fragen im Leben Jesu, Ferienkurs-Vorträge Berlin 1904, 2nd improved edition, Berlin 1909.
  • Hebräerbrief, Briefe des Petrus, Jakobus, Judas, 3rd improved and expanded edition, Freiburg i. Br. 1899.
  • Hat Jesus gelebt? aus den geschichtlichen Urkunden beantwortet von Hermann von Soden, Berlin 1910.
  • Urchristliche Literaturgeschichte, die Schriften des Neuen Testaments, Berlin: Duncker, 1905.

He contributed to the 1903 Encyclopaedia Biblica.


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainKirsopp Lake (1911). "Soden, Hermann, Freiherr von". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

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