Lehmann, Edvard

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LEHMANN, EDVARD (18621930), was a Danish historian of religions. Born in Copenhagen, Edvard Johannes Lehmann began studying theology at the university there in 1880. Frants Buhl, in Old Testament, and Karl Kroman, in philosophy, exercised the greatest influence on the young scholar. In 1886 he obtained his theological degree, and until 1892 he earned his living as a schoolteacher while continuing his theological and philosophical studies.

In 1890 he received the gold medal of the University of Copenhagen for his treatise Den religiøse Følelses Natur og psychologiske Oprindelse og dens etiske Betydning (The nature and psychological origin of the religious feeling and its ethical importance). He had already conceived an interest in the history of religions and felt the need to acquire knowledge of Near Eastern languages. The gold medal provided a scholarship that enabled him to study in Germany, Holland, England, and France.

In Holland, Lehmann became closely acquainted with scholars in the comparative study of religion and the history of religions, including C. P. Tiele and P. D. Chantepie de la Saussaye. Lehmann was invited by Chantepie to write on Greek, Indian, and Persian religion in the second edition of Chantepie's Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschichte, which appeared in 1897. (Lehmann later became the coeditor, with Alfred Bertholet, of the fourth edition of the Lehrbuch, 1925.) The immediate result of Lehmann's studies abroad was his doctoral thesis of 1896, "Om Foroldet mellem Religion og Kultur i Avesta" (On the relationship between religion and culture in the Avesta). In this work, Lehmann addressed the problem of the animosity toward culture that he found characteristic of religion in general. According to Lehmann himself, however, this little work is to be considered only a preliminary study to his magnum opus, Zarathustra: En Bog om Persernes ganmle Tro (Zarathustra: A book on the ancient faith of the Persians), 2 vols. (18991902).

The first volume of this work made such an impression on the academic authorities that Lehmann in 1900 was made docent at the University of Copenhagen. In 1904 he published Mystik i Hedenskab og Kristendom, which was translated into a number of languages, including English, and in 1907 Buddha: Hans lære og dens gærning (Buddha: His teaching and work), dedicated to Nathan Söderblom. Both works, though widely read and of no small influence, reveal a weak point in Lehmann's scholarship: his profound attachment to the ideals of Protestantism and his conviction of its superiority, which he thought was confirmed by the study of other religions.

In 1910 Lehmann was invited by the theological faculty of the University of Berlin to take the post of professor ordinarius of the history and the philosophy of religion, but only three years later he left Berlin to accept to a similar invitation from the University of Lund in Sweden. He held the latter chair until his retirement in 1927; from then on he lived in Copenhagen until his death in 1930.

With the passage of time, Lehmann's interest in strictly religio-historical studies gradually receded into the background. In 1914 he published (with Johannes Pedersen) the treatise "Der Beweis für die Auferstehung im Koran" (The proof of the resurrection in the Qurʾān) in Der Islam, vol. 5, pp. 5461; but his Stället och vägen: Ett religionshistorisk perspektiv (1917), on the static and dynamic elements in the history of religions, marks a turning point in his activity. He now felt his most important role to be that of a folk-educator who was to rouse interest in general cultural (including religio-historical) matters and problems; to this end he wrote a number of books on cultural themes and current social issues.


Only one of Lehmann's books is available in English: Mysticism in Heathendom and Christendom (London, 1910) is the English version of Mystik i Hedenskab og Kristendom (Copenhagen, 1904). Lehmann's contributions to a number of encyclopedias and other collective works are important in that they call attention to his inspired style, breadth of view, and strong endeavors to promote the study of world religions. These include "Die Religion der primitiven Völker," in Die Kultur der Gegenwart, part 1, section 3 (Leipzig, 1906), pp. 829; several articles on Iranian religion and one on Christmas customs in the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings, vol. 3 (Edinburgh, 1910); "Erscheinungswelt der Religion," in Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tübingen, 1910); and articles in Textbuch zur Religionsgeschichte (Leipzig, 1912). Lehmann also edited and was a contributor to Illustreret Religionshistorie (Copenhagen, 1924).

A bibliography of Lehmann's works can be found in Festskrift udgivet af Københavns Universitet i anledning af universitetets aarsfest, November 1930 (Copenhagen, 1930), pp. 148ff. A biography, written by Arild Hvidtfeldt and Johannes Pedersen, appears in Dansk biografisk leksikon, vol. 8 (Copenhagen, 1981), pp. 657659.

Jes P. Asmussen (1987)

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