Christian Friedrich Knorr

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Christian Friedrich
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Christian Friedrich Knorr was a Lutheran minister (Generalsuperintendent) in the principality of Grubenhagen (from 1677 onward) and Osterode. Knorr authored many books and he also wrote under the pseudonyms Democritus Christianus and Nathanael Philadelphus (cf. Zenker, 2012, p. 114). For Knorr’s position in the debate on Spinoza and TTP: ibid., pp. 112–9.

Knorr denounced the ‘Theological-Political Treatise’ in an ordinary disputation held exercitii gratia in an academic sitting on May 12, 1674. In the early 1670s, Knorr had made a Grand Tour to France, England and the Netherlands in the early 1670s and it was presumably during his travels that he first took notice of the irreligious, disconcerting naturalist contents of Spinoza’s treatise. The preface of the printed disputation pamphlet (96 pages), equally entitled Tractatus theologico-politicus (Jena, 1674), was signed on 13/23 April. On the first page of the disputation pamphlet, Knorr unambiguously declares that the concealed author of the ‘Theological-Political Treatise’ was named ‘Benedictus Spinosa’, an apostate, miscreant Jew who was excommunicated for his reviled stands. The incendiary book of this dangerous ‘impostor’, the Jena theology student upholds, was published in Amsterdam and not at Hamburg as is deceivingly suggested on the bogus title-page of the booklet. In his dissertation, Knorr gives an abstract of the main notions of Tractatus theologico-politicus and cogently dogs Spinoza’s radical biblical criticism, his rejection of prophecies and miracles, his notion of substance and his strong support of the freedom of judgement. Chiefly, he reverses Spinoza’s tenets by defending the natural authority of the state and his divinely inspired princes to correct and constrain the freedom of its inhabitants in order to preserve religious unity and peace and he argues that at all times liberty of expression was subject to state regulation and ecclesiastical authority by definition. Furthermore, Knorr stresses that interpretation of Scripture was only reserved for shepherding theologians who followed proper academic training. He denounces Spinoza’s confronting plea for the liberty to philosophise by arguing that this liberal stand not only undermines theology in stating that ‘Holy Scripture is not the word God’, but will cause the collapse of the Christian society and the peace in the worldly state.

It is generally assumed, that the propositions in this lengthy tome were drawn up by the noted professor Musaeus (Grunwald, 1897, p. 25; Israel, 2002, pp. 631–2; id., 2010, p. 90), the praeses of the Jena sitting of May 12, but the title-page of the disputation explicitly declares Knorr both its ‘author and respondent’. More perplexity was created by the fact that Knorr’s 1674 disputation was reprinted in 1708 only under the name of Johannes Musaeus. Colerus in his biography of Spinoza also mentions Musaeus as the author of the disputation. He lauds the eminent qualities of the Lutheran theologian and further claims that Spinoza owned a copy of the book: ‘Spinoza himself must have read this work by mr. Musaeus, since it is found among his remaining books’ (Walther and Czelinski, vol. 1, p. 150).