He received his education at the Universities of Heidelberg, Berlin and Göttingen. At Heidelberg, he was a student of Richard Rothe (1799-1867). After completion of studies he served as a pastor in Stolberg, and in 1864 relocated to the Protestant Reformed Church at Frankfurt am Main. In 1868 he was appointed Konsistorialrat.
In 1879 he became co-editor of the journal "Zeitschrift fur praktische Theologie", and in 1884 was co-founder and vice-president of the Allgemeinen evangelisch-protestantischen Missionsvereins, today known as Deutschen Ostasienmission (German East Asia Mission). In 1889 he was awarded with an honorary doctorate from the University of Jena.
- Evangelische Predigten (Evangelical sermons), 1873.
- Das alte Gesetz und die neue Zeit (The old law and the new life), 1877.
- Bilder aus dem Leben des Apostels Paulus (Pictures from the life of the Apostle Paul), 1886.
- Richard Rothe, 1906.
- Friedrich Wilhelm Bautz (1975). "Ehlers, Rudolph". In Bautz, Friedrich Wilhelm. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 1. Hamm: Bautz. col. 1470. ISBN 3-88309-013-1. English translation
- The Encyclopedia Americana (biography)
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