John Christopher Kunze

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John Christopher Kunze
John Christopher Kunze.jpg

John Christopher Kunze (August 4, 1744 – July 24, 1807) was an American Lutheran minister, educator, author and theologian.


Kunze was born in Artern, a town in the Kyffhäuserkreis district of Prussian Saxony. In 1758, when his parents died, he began studying at the orphanage in Halle, Germany. He received his classical training in the gymnasia at Rossleben and Merseburg, and then attended the University of Leipzig where he studied history, philosophy and theology. He worked as a teacher and an orphanage inspector before becoming ordained as a Lutheran minister.[1]

In 1770, Kunze emigrated to Colonial America to serve as second pastor at St. Michael's and Zion Lutheran churches in Philadelphia. In 1771 he married Margaretta Henrietta (1751–1831), daughter of Rev. Henry Muhlenberg . In 1779 he succeeded Muhlenberg as pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, becoming the senior Lutheran minister in Philadelphia and an ex officio member of the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1780 he stepped down from the Board to become Professor of German and Hebrew languages. While teaching, he and fellow German Lutheran pastor, Justus Henry Christian Helmuth, tried unsuccessfully to establish a German language College within the University.[2]

In 1784, Kunze was elected a Member of the American Philosophical Society, accepted a position at Trinity and Christ Church in New York City, and also became Professor of Oriental languages at Columbia College. In 1785, Kunze served as an official translator for the United States Congress. Kunze was fluent in five languages and had also studied medicine, astronomy and numismatics.[3]

With the death of John Christopher Hartwick during 1796, Kunze became the founding director of Hartwick Seminary. As a steward of the estate of John Christopher Hartwick, Kunze worked to establish a Lutheran seminary in America. Kunze had been Hartwick's personal choice as director of the seminary. Prominent political and religious leaders Jeremiah Van Rensselaer and Frederick Muhlenberg convinced Dr. Kunze to direct the seminary and teach theology at his home in New York City. In 1816, the New York State Legislature would incorporated the new school—the first Lutheran seminary in America—as a classical academy and theological seminary, in the Town of Hartwick, New York.[4]


  • Hymn and Prayer Book: For the use of such Lutheran Churches as use the English Language (Publisher: Hurtin and Commardinger, 1795)
  • Six Sermons (with Lawrence Van Buskirk, Publisher: T. Kirk, 112, Chatham-Street. 1797)
  • King Solomon's Great Sacrifice at the Dedication of His Temple( Publisher: L. Nichols & Co., 1801)


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1892). "Kunze, John Christopher". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 
  2. ^ John Christopher Kunze (1744-1807) ( University of Pennsylvania Archives)[1]
  3. ^ Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791: Correspondence: First Session, June - August 1789, Volume 16 (by Charlene Bangs Bickford, Kenneth R. Bowling, Helen E. Veit, and William DiGiacomantonio. (The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2004)
  4. ^ Hartwick College: A Bicentennial History : 1797-1997 (by Ronald H Bailey Hartwick College. 1997)

Other sources[edit]

  • Hess, Stephen America's Political Dynasties (Transaction Publishers. 1997)
  • Lagerquist, L. DeAne The Lutherans (Praeger Paperback; 2nd edition. 1999)

External links[edit]