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Balthasar Bekker by J. Hilarides (1691)

Balthasar Bekker (March 20 1634 - June 11 1698), Dutch divine and author of philosophical and theological works. Opposing superstition, he was a key figure in the end of the witchcraft persecutions in early modern Europe.

Contents

Life

Bekker was born in Metslawier (Dongeradeel) as the son of a German pastor from Bielefeld. He was educated at Groningen, under Jacob Alting, and at Franeker. Becoming the rector of the local Latin school, he was appointed to his satisfaction in 1657 as a pastor in Oosterlittens (Littenseradiel), and started as one of the first to preach on Sunday afternoon. An enthusiastic disciple of Descartes, he wrote several works in philosophy and theology, which by their freedom of thought aroused considerable hostility. In his book De Philosophia Cartesiana Bekker argued that theology and philosophy each had their separate terrain and that Nature can no more be explained through Scripture than can theological truth be deduced from Nature.[1] From 1679 he worked in Amsterdam, after being driven from Friesland. In 1683 he traveled to England and France. In two months time Bekker visited London, Cambridge, Oxford, Paris and Leuven, with a great interest in the art of fortification.[2]

His best known work was Die Betooverde Wereld (1691), or The World Bewitched (1695), in which he examined critically the phenomena generally ascribed to spiritual agency. He attacked the belief in sorcery and "possession" by the devil. Indeed he questioned the devil's very existence. The book had a sensational effect and was one of the key works of the Early Enlightenment in Europe. It was almost certainly the most controversial.[3] Bekker became a heroic figure defying an army of obscurantists.[4]

The World Bewitched is interesting as an early study in comparative religion, [5] but its publication in 1691 led to Bekker's deposition from the ministry. He was tried for blasphemy, maligning the public Church, and spreading atheistic ideas about Scripture. Some towns banned the book, but Amsterdam and the States of Holland never did, continuing his salary, without formally stripping him of his post.[6] He died in Amsterdam.

Works

  • De philosophia Cartesiana admonitio candida & sincera. Bekker, Balth. / Vesaliae / 1668
  • The world bewitch'd; or, An examination of the common opinions concerning spirits: their nature, power, administration, and operations. As also, the effects men are able to produce by their communication. Divided into IV parts; Bekker, Balthasar / Translated from a French copy, approved of and subscribed by the author's own hand / printed for R. Baldwin in Warwick-lane / 1695

References

  1. ^ Jonathan I. Israel (1995) The Dutch Republic. Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806, p. 895.
  2. ^ Bekker, Balthasar (1998) Beschrijving van de reis door de Verenigde Nederlanden, Engeland en Frankrijk in het jaar 1683. Fryske Akademy.
  3. ^ Jonathan I. Israel (1995) The Dutch Republic. p. 925.
  4. ^ Jonathan I. Israel (1995) The Dutch Republic. p. 928.
  5. ^ Nooijen, Annemarie (2009) "Unserm grossen Bekker ein Denkmal?" Balthasar Bekkers 'Betoverde Weereld' in den deutschen Landen zwischen Orthodoxie und Aufklärung
  6. ^ Jonathan I. Israel (1995) The Dutch Republic, p. 930

Source

  • Evenhuis, R.B. (1971) Ook dat was Amsterdam, deel III. De kerk der hervorming in de tweede helft van de zeventiende eeuw: nabloei en inzinking, p. 258-305.
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BALTHASAR BEKKER (1634-1698), Dutch divine, was born in Friesland in 1634, and educated at Groningen, under Jacob Alting, and at Franeker. He was pastor at Franeker, and from 1679, at Amsterdam. An enthusiastic disciple of Descartes, he wrote several works in philosophy and theology, which by their freedom of thought aroused considerable hostility. His best known work was Die Betooverde Wereld (1691), or The World Bewitched (1695; one volume of an English translation from a French copy), in which he examined critically the phenomena generally ascribed to spiritual agency, and attacked the belief in sorcery and "possession" by the devil, whose very existence he questioned. The book is interesting as an early study in comparative religion, but its publication in 1692 led to Bekker's deposition from the ministry. He died at Amsterdam.


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