Werner Elert

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Werner August Friedrich Immanuel Elert (19 August 1885 — 21 November 1954[1]) was a German Lutheran theologian and professor of both church history and systematic theology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. His writings in the fields of Christian dogmatics, ethics, and history have had great influence on modern Christianity in general and modern Lutheranism in particular.


Elert was born on 19 August 1885 in the town of Heldrungen[2] in the Prussian Province of Saxony (present-day Thuringia), but he grew up in northern Germany. His parents were August Elert and Friederike, née Graf, Elert.[3] After attending the Realgymnasium in Harburg and the Gymnasium in Husum, he studied theology, philosophy, history, German literature, psychology and law in Breslau, Erlangen, and Leipzig. He earned doctorates in philosophy and theology at Erlangen.[4]

After working as a tutor for a short time in Livonia, he served as a pastor from 1912 to 1919 in Seefeld, Pomerania. During World War I he served as a field preacher on several fronts.

In 1919 Elert became Director of the Old Lutheran Theological Seminary in Breslau. In 1923 he was appointed to the Chair of Church History at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen, now University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. With the death of Philip Bachman in 1932 he was appointed to the chair of Systematic Theology. In the academic year 1926/27 he was rector of the University and in 1928-29 and 1935-43 Dean of the Theological Faculty.

Elert retired in 1953. He died in Erlangen on November 19, 1954 in his 70th year due to complications following an operation.


  • Abendmahl und Kirchengemeinschaft in der alten Kirche Hauptsächliche des Ostens [Lord's Supper and Church Fellowship in the Early Church Mainly of the East], (Berlin: Lutherisches Verlagshaus, 1954): translated by Dr. Norman E. Nagel: Werner Elert, Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries, Norman E. Nagel, trans., (St. Louis: CPH, 1966).
  • Der Ausgang der altkirchlichen Christologie: Eine Untersuchung über Theodor von Pharan und seine Zeit als Einführung in die alte Dogmengeschichte [The Outcome of the Christology of the Early Church: An Investigation of Theodore of Pharan and His Times as an Introduction to Early History of Dogma], (Berlin: Lutherisches Verlagshaus, 1957): edited and published posthumously.
  • Das christliche Ethos [The Christian Ethos], (Tübingen: Furche-Verlag, 1949): translated by Carl J. Schindler: Werner Elert, The Christian Ethos, Carl J. Schindler, trans., (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1957).
  • Der christliche Glaube [The Christian Faith], (Hamburg: Furche-Verlag, 1940; 2d ed., 1941; 3rd ed., 1955): the chapters on the Lord's Supper and the Last Things were published as monographs in "The Contemporary Theology Series": Werner Elert, The Lord's Supper Today, Martin Bertram and Rudolph F. Norden, trans., (St. Louis: CPH, 1973) and Werner Elert, Last Things, Martin Bertram and Rudolph F. Norden, trans., (St. Louis: CPH, 1974). The remainder of the work was translated by Martin Bertram and Walter R. Bouman in 1974 but remains unpublished.
  • "Gesetz und Evangelium" in Zwischen Gnade und Ungnade: Abwandlungen des Themas Gesetz und Evangelium. Munich: Evangelischer Presseverband für Bayern, 1948: translated by Edward H. Schroeder as Law and Gospel. Facet Books: Social Ethics Series—16. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967.
  • Der Kampf um das Christentum. Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen dem evangelischen Christentum in Deutschland und dem allgemeinen Denken seit Schleiermacher und Hegel [The Struggle for Christianity: History of the Relation between Evangelical Christianity in Germany and General Thought Since Schleiermacher and Hegel], (Munich, 1921).
  • Morphologie des Luthertums [The Shaping of Lutheranism], (Munich: C.H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1931–32):
    • Volume 1: Theologie und Weltanschauung des Luthertums hauptsächlich im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert [The Theology and World View of Lutheranism Mainly in the 16th and 17th Centuries]: translated by Walter A. Hansen: Werner Elert, The Structure of Lutheranism: The Theology and Philosophy of Life of Lutheranism Especially in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Walter R. Hansen, (St. Louis: CPH, 1962).
    • Volume 2: Soziallehren und Sozialwirkungen des Luthertums [Social Doctrine and Social Effects of Lutheranism]


  1. ^ Becker, Matthew (14 August 2013). "Werner Elert (1885-1954)". In Mattes, Mark (ed.). Twentieth-Century Lutheran Theologians. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p. 101. ISBN 978-3-525-55045-8. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  2. ^ Werner Elert, The Structure of Lutheranism, Walter A. Hansen, trans., (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1962), ix.
  3. ^ Werner Elert, Rudolf Rocholls Philosophie der Geschichte, Abhandlungen zur Philosophie und ihrer Geschichte, no. 12, (Leipzig: Verlag von Quelle & Meyer, 1910), 139.
  4. ^ As a source for his early and student years, see "Elerts Eintrag in das Goldene Buch der Universität Erlangen vom 5. Januar 1927," published in Thomas Kaufmann, "Werner Elert als Kirchenhistoriker," Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 93 (1996), 236–238.
  • Bayer, Joachim, Werner Elerts apologetisches Frühwerk (Berlin, de Gruyter, 2007) (Theologische Bibliothek Töpelmann, 142).

Further reading[edit]

Matthew L. Becker, "Werner Elert in Retrospect," Lutheran Quarterly 20 (Autumn 2006), 249-302.