Köhler, Walther (1870-1946)

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Walther Kohler was a Lutheran church historian, b. 27 December 1870, at Elberfeld, Germany, d. 18 February 1946, at Heidelberg. He was professor of church history at the universities of Giessen (1904-1909), Zürich (1909-1929), and Heidelberg (1929-1946). He was an outstanding research scholar in the history of the Reformation. His works on Luther and Zwingli are of superior importance, especially Luther und die Kirchengeschichte (1900), Luther bis 1521 (1921), Luther und die deutsche Reformation (1917), Zwingli als Theologe (1919), Ulrich Zwingli und die Reformation in der Schweiz (1919); Huldrych Zwingli (1923), Zwingli und Luther; ihr Streit über das Abendmahl (1924 and 1953), Das Buch der Reformation H. Zwinglis (1926).

In the field of Anabaptist history he was an authority. His unprejudiced, objective presentation deserves special mention. Some of his works in this field were Reformation und Ketzerprozess (1901); article "Menno und die Mennoniten" in Die Religion in Geschichte and Gegenwart (RGG), first edition (1908); edition of the Schleitheim Brüderliche Vereinigung (1908); "Die Züricher Täufer," in Gedenkschrift zum 400-jährigen Jubiläum der Taufgesinnten oder Mennoniten (1925); "Zur Geschichte des Täufertums in Kempten," in Beiträge zur Geschichte der Mennoniten, Festgabe fur D. Christian Neff (1938). In the second edition of RGG (1927-32) he wrote among others the articles "Denk," "Grebel," "Hofmann," "Hubmaier," "Hut," "Joris," "Manz," and "Sattler." He published an extensive annotated Anabaptist bibliography in the Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte (1940-1948) under the title, "Das Täufertum in der neueren kirchenhistorischen Forschung."

His contributions in the Mennonitische Geschichts-Blätter include "Das Täufertum in Calvins Institutio" (1937, pp. 1-4); "Der Verfasser des Libellus confutationis" (1938, pp. 1-10); "Die Verantwortung im Täufertum des 16. Jahrhunderts" (1940, pp. 10-19). His Dogmengeschichte (Volume II, Zürich, 1951) is the first work of its kind to give due recognition to the Anabaptists. For the Mennonitisches Lexikon he wrote the articles "Luther" and "Catholicism."

Köhler was a close friend of Christian Hege and Christian Neff, a member of the executive committee of the Mennonitischer Geschichtsverein, and chiefly responsible for the bestowal of the honorary doctor’s degree upon Neff in 1925 by the University of Zürich. Three Mennonite historians took their doctor’s degrees in church history under him at Heidelberg in 1935-36 – Horst Quiring, Harold Bender, and Cornelius Krahn. On his deathbed he is reported to have said, "Ich mochte am liebsten als Mennonit sterben" ("I would like best to die as a Mennonite").


Crous, Ernst. "Walther Köhler." Mennonitische Geschichtsblätter (1949): 31-33.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 518.

Wihr, Rudolf, Die Rehhütter Chronik. Ludwigshafen, 1937.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Harold S. Bender
Date Published 1957

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MLA style

Neff, Christian and Harold S. Bender. "Köhler, Walther (1870-1946)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 16 Feb 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=K%C3%B6hler,_Walther_(1870-1946)&oldid=146530.

APA style

Neff, Christian and Harold S. Bender. (1957). Köhler, Walther (1870-1946). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 February 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=K%C3%B6hler,_Walther_(1870-1946)&oldid=146530.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 212. All rights reserved.

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