Christian Kortholt

First name
Last name
Date of Birth
Date of Death
Born in
Died in

Christian Kortholt studied theology in Rostock and Jena. He was a lecturer in Greek (from 1660 onwards) at Rostock University, and took out his doctoral degree (12 November 1663). He accepted (1665) the chair of theology at the new Christiana Albertina University in Kiel. He was a zealous adversary of Roman Catholicism and a productive author who primarily wrote books on church history and the history of theology, like De origine et natura christianismi, … (Kiel, 1672) and Historia ecclesiastica Novi Testamenti, … (Leipzig, 1697).

Kortholt was an early critic of Spinoza. His De tribus impostoribus is a reinvention of a longstanding tradition concerning a widespread literary hoax that was grounded on what has become known as the ‘three impostors thesis’ (cf. Popkin, 1990; Berti, 1999; Heterodoxy, Spinozism and Free Thought, 1996). This hoax dates back to the tenth and eleventh centuries and refers to the existence of a manuscript exposing as cheats Moses, Christ and Muhammad. In his book, professor Kortholt marshalled this sceptical libertine thesis afresh to ruin and demonise the philosophy of. among others, Spinoza, who according to him was ‘the greatest impostor of all’ (impostor omnium maximus).

Von Greiffencrantz's, refering to an encounter with Spinoza in The Hague in 1672 that is unaccounted for (Grunwald, 1897, pp. 29–30), wrote to Christian Kortholt on that meeting:

About Spinoza I was amazed, and quite painfully so. When I spent six months in The Hague in 1672, with the venerable emissaries of the King of Sweden, I once saw this man, who has been exalted with praise on account of his extraordinary philosophy, and my estimation was that, in his solitude (for he seemed to live for himself only, being always alone and as it were buried in his study), he had conceived opinions that were altogether absurd and averse to his own and our salvation. From this I certainly came to know, if I hadn’t found out yet otherwise, that this verse from Ecclesiastes is most true: Lean not upon thy own prudence; that our Reason, insofar as we have it, is often deceived and deceptive; according to that trite saw, that has so often been proclaimed from platforms; …

Source: Kiel, UL, Cod. ms. SH 406 A-2, ‘Epistolae ad Christianum Kortholtum’, fol. 2r).


Christoph Joachim Nicolai Greiffencrantz, von


Sebastian Kortholt