Kähler, Martin (1835-1912)

German theologian and champion of mission

Kähler, a famous representative of “biblical realism” in nineteenth-century German systematic theology, has not always been recognized as a missiologist. Yet as a contemporary, colleague, and close friend of Gustav Warneck at Halle University, he made a significant contribution to scholarly theological reinforcement of the Christian mission. In 1971 H. Frohnes collected and published Kähler’s writing on Christology and mission, which demonstrate that for Kähler the Christian world mission, both as a privilege and an obligation of the church, has its roots in the atoning work of Christ and is therefore to be regarded as an integral element of the Christian faith. Kähler expressed and promoted this conviction not only in several exegetical and theological essays but also in a number of sermons, meditations, and book reviews, all of them accessible in the 1971 volume. There exists also a draft of an unpublished memorandum by Kähler, solicited by John R. Mott, on the question “In what respects does the state of the Home Church affect the expansion of Christianity?” Kähler’s distinctly critical reply was not used by Mott during the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 1910, but it remains a significant statement of Kähler’s convictions.

Hans-Werner Gensichen, “Kähler, Martin,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 351.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.



Kähler, Martin. Die wissenschaft der christlichen lehre von dem evangelischen grundartikel aus, im abrisse dargestellt von d. Martin Kähler. Erlangen: A. Deichert, 1883.

_____. Dogmatische Zeitfragen: Alte und neue Ausführungen zur Wissen schaft der christlichen Lehre. Leipzig: A. Deichert, 1907-1913.

_____. Der sogenannte historische Jesus und der geschichtliche, biblische Christus. Leipzig: A. Dreichertsche Verlagsbuchhandlung D. Werner Scholl, 1913.

_____. The So-called Historical Jesus and the Historic, Biblical Christ. Translated, edited, and with an introduction by Carl E. Braaten. Foreword by Paul J. Tillich. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press [1964].

_____. Schriften zu Christologie und Mission: Gesmtausgabe der Schriften zur Mission Mit einer Bibliographie. Edited by H. Frohnes. Munich: Kaiser, 1971.


Braaten, Carl. Christ, Faith, and History: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Martin Kähler’s Distinction between the Historical Jesus and the Biblical Christ Developed in its Past and Present Contexts: A Thesis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Divinity School, 1990.

_____. That All May Believe: A Theology of the Gospel and the Mission of the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

Braaten, C. E. and R. A. Harrisville (editors and translators). The Historical Jesus and the Kerygmatic Christ: Essays on the New Quest of the Historical Jesus. New York: Abingdon Press, 1964, pp. 79-105.

McGrath, Alister E. The Making of Modern German Christology, 1750-1990. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.

McKim, Donald K. Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.