Skip to main content

Böhme, Jakob


German Lutheran mystic and writer (known also as Boehmme, Behmen); b. Alt-Seidenber near Görlitz, 1575; d. Görlitz, Nov. 17, 1624. Böhme's parents were poor peasants who apprenticed him to a shoemaker at Görlitz. Jakob became a master in 1599 and married the daughter of a master butcher. They had four sons and two daughters, and he prospered as a shoemaker. As he grew older, his tendency toward mystical experiences, already apparent in his youth, became more pronounced. He finally gave up his business and began to write.

About 1612 he published his first work, Aurora oder die Morgenröthe im Anfang. In it he attempted to clarify certain knowledge of God and the universe hitherto unknown causing his Lutheran pastor, Gregorius Richter, to declare him heretical and have him banished from town. However, the town fathers reversed the decision on condition that Böhme cease his writing. In the years that immediately followed, he suffered much from the criticisms of his more orthodox fellow religionists. Five years later, he again published his ideas, only to meet with renewed persecution. In 1624 he went to Dresden where he lived peacefully for a short while, then returned to Görlitz where he died. Though he was given Christian burial by the protesting clergy, the ornate cross placed on his tomb by friends was torn down by one of his enemies.

Böhme was, in spirit, a devout Lutheran who, throughout his religious experiences, clung to the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. It was in attempting to explain the doctrine of the Trinity that he went astray. When he identified God with heaven, hell, and the material world he was approaching pantheism. When he tried to explain the problem of good and evil, he posited a sort of dualism in the divine nature. He continued to attend church services, although he put much emphasis on the church as it existed in the hearts of men. He believed that by self-renunciation, prayer, and contemplation man can hasten the time of his union with God. Böhme had little formal education, and this deficiency as well as the nature of his writings produced a "dazzling chaos" that to the present day has confused even his admirers. Nevertheless, he had an impact not only on religious thinkers, such as George Fox, Antoinette Bourgignon, and Philip Spener, but also on philosophers, such as Hegel and Schelling.

Bibliography: j. bÖhme, Sämtliche Werke, ed. k. w. schiebler, 7 v. (Leipzig 183260). j. j. stoudt, Sunrise to Eternity: A Study in J. Boehme's Life and Thought (Philadelphia 1957). h. a. grunsky, Jakob Böhme (Stuttgart 1956). p. hankamer, Jakob Böhme (Hildesheim, Ger. 1960). a. koyrÉ, La Philosophie de Jacob Boehme (Paris 1929). l. loevenbruck, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique. 2.1:924926. f. w. debelius, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, ed. s. m. jackson et al., 13 v. (Grand Rapids 195154) 2:209211.

[h. j. muller]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Böhme, Jakob." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 17 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Böhme, Jakob." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (January 17, 2019).

"Böhme, Jakob." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved January 17, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.