Wilhelmus Johannes Kühler was a Dutch Mennonite church historian and a professor at the Mennonite Seminary of Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam. He was born at Amsterdam on 8 December 1874. Like his cousin Karel Vos he was descended on his mother's side from the Wybrands family, which had already produced two Mennonite church historians (Aemilius Willem and Christiaan Nicolaas). His father, Paulus Frans Kühler, a businessman in Amsterdam, was a member of the Walloon Reformed Church. W. J. Kühler was educated at the Amsterdam seminary and university, studying under Samuel Cramer and I. J. de Bussy in 1892-1897.
In 1897 W. J. Kühler entered his first position as a minister, serving the Terschelling congregation until 1902, when he accepted a call to the congregation of Meppel-Assen in the province of Drente, and in 1905 to the Leiden congregation. He made use of the facilities of the University of Leiden for research into history, and in 1906 published in the Doopsgezinde Bijdragen an article on Het Offer des Heeren, the oldest Dutch martyrbook, which had just been republished. He had previously published studies in the Theologisch Tijdschrift on the Confessio Tetrapolitana and on D. R. Camphuyzen.
Then Kühler turned his attention to the Middle Ages, especially G. Groote and his following. He published an article, "De prediking van Geert Groote," in Teyler's Theologisch Tijdschrijt. Then he made himself responsible for the publication of Horn's Vita Gerardi Magni (Archief voor Kerkgeschiendenis) and the Biographien van devote zusters te Deventer (Archief voor de geschiedenis van het Aartsbisdom Utrecht). In further research he discovered that the Vita Gerardi Magni was not an original work by Thomas à Kempis, but was a propagandists excerpt from an older work, which was then intentionally destroyed. His chief contribution in this field was his dissertation, Johannes Brinckerinck en zijn hlooster te Diepenveen (Rotterdam, 1908). This study was very favorably received, also by Catholic scholars. Hensen, who later became the director of the Dutch Historical Institute at Rome, wrote, "I know of no Protestant writer who has penetrated so deeply into delicately developed Catholic religious life." Kuhler's next important work was Het Socinianisme in Nederland (1912), which includes the relations between Socinianism and the Dutch Mennonites in the 16th-18th centuries.
When Samuel Cramer retired from his professorship at the Mennonite Seminary, W. J. Kühler succeeded him on 1 September 1912 in Mennonitica and practical theology and on 10 February 1913 in church history at the University of Amsterdam. His installation lecture was on "De beteekenis der Dissenters in de Kerkgeschiedenis van Nederland." In 1913 he also became the librarian of the [[Amsterdam Mennonite Library (Bibliotheek en Archief van de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Amsterdam)|Mennonite Library of Amsterdam]]; with great care he had many of the old unbound books bound in bindings suited to the age of the book. In 1916 he became the editor of the Doopsgezinde Bijdragen, which he was unfortunately unable to publish beyond 1919.
In addition to several minor studies, Kühler now devoted more and more interest to the history of the Dutch Mennonites. The church history written by Blaupot ten Gate having become antiquated, Kühler published the first volume of his painstaking history, based on the sources, Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden in de zestiende eeuw (Amsterdam, 1932).
In 1940 Kühler published at Haarlem the first part of the second volume of his lifework, entitled Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden in Nederland, Tweede helft 1600-1735, eerste helft. When he died only one chapter of the sequel was ready. This was printed under the title Gemeentelijk Leven (Haarlem, 1950), followed by a biography of Kühler by Chr. P. van Eeghen. In the Doopsgezinde Bijdragen Kühler published the following papers: "Gesprek met Menno" (1905), Het Offer des Heeren (1906), "Het vrouwtje van Gouda," a short story (1907), "S. Cramer," a biography (1916), "De strijd om de belijdenis in de vereenigde Vlaamsche, Friesche en Hoogduitsche gemeente te Utrecht" (1916), "De vier tijdvakken van de geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Nederland" (1917), "De oprichting der Amsterdamsche Kweekschool in 1735" (1918), and "Het Nederlandsche Anabaptisme en de revolutionnaire woelingen der zestiende eeuw" (1919). Mention should be made besides of a large number of articles in the field of Mennonite history published in De Zondagsbode, and also of his important paper, "Het Anabaptisme in Nederland" in De Gids (1921), in which he defended the peaceful character of Anabaptism in the Netherlands against the views of Karel Vos.
W. J. Kühler's son, Paulus F. Kühler, was treasurer of the Algemene Doopsgezinde Sociëteit (Dutch Mennonite General Conference) in the mid-20th century.
Algemeen Doopsgezind Weekblad (1946): Nos.7 and 8.
Biographical sketch of W. J. Kühler by Chr. P. van Eeghen, in Kühler's Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinde in Nederland.
Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1912): 201.
Doopsgezind Jaarboekje (1949): 38 f.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 582.
Verslag A.D.S. (1944): 16.
Cite This Article
Krahn, Cornelius. "Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes (1874-1946)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1958. Web. 24 Oct 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=K%C3%BChler,_Wilhelmus_Johannes_(1874-1946)&oldid=92356.
Krahn, Cornelius. (1958). Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes (1874-1946). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 October 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=K%C3%BChler,_Wilhelmus_Johannes_(1874-1946)&oldid=92356.
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