Skip to main content

Vatke, Wilhelm°


VATKE, WILHELM ° (1806–1882), German theologian and biblical scholar. Vatke taught biblical studies at the University of Berlin from 1830. His scholarly work was profoundly affected by G.W.F. *Hegel, whom Vatke considered as a "philosophical messiah." He published only a few books and of these the most important was the first, Die biblische Theologie wissenschaftlich dargestellt (vol. 1, pt. 1 only, 1835), a critical description of the biblical religion. This was the first attempt to approach the Bible from the viewpoint of historical evolution based on the philosophy of Hegel. Thus, he was the first to argue that the priestly sections in the Pentateuch originated in the final phase of biblical history, i.e., the Babylonian exile. The scholar E. Reuss of Strasbourg reached a similar conclusion the previous year, but did not publish his theory until 1881 (in his Die Geschichte der heiligen Schriften des Allen Testaments). Vatke's book was also overlooked for about 30 years, and it was not until the 1860s, with the publication of the works of K.H. *Graf and A. *Kuenen, that it was recognized. Vatke divided the history of biblical religion and cult into three main phases; the primitive phase, which is reflected in the books of Former Prophets and the earliest layers of the Pentateuch; the phase of moral consciousness, as expressed in the prophetic writings and in Deuteronomy; and the institutionalized-ritual phase, as reflected in the priestly sections of the Pentateuch. This conception became widely accepted toward the end of the 19th century, and was especially developed by J. *Wellhausen, and through his work became axiomatic in biblical studies for a long time. Wellhausen himself admitted that he was indebted to Vatke for "the most and the best" of his own work.


H. Benecke, W. Vatke in seinem Leben und seinen Schriften (1883); T.K. Cheyne, Founders of Old Testament Criticism (1893), 131–42; R.C. Dentan, Preface to Old Testament Theology (1950), 16–18, 27; H.J. Kraus, Geschichte der historisch-kritischen Erforschung des Allen Testaments (1956), 178–82; L. Perlitt, Vatke und Wellhausen (1965).

[Menahem Haran]

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

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Vatke, Wilhelm°." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . 10 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Vatke, Wilhelm°." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . (February 10, 2019).

"Vatke, Wilhelm°." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved February 10, 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.