Claassen, Johannes (1835-1898)

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Johannes Claassen, an eccentric scholar, of a strict Mennonite family in Königsberg, began the study of agriculture, and when he found this subject unsuited to him he turned to business. He remained in business for several years, devoting his spare time to literature and art. His employer in Danzig, recognizing and appreciating his pursuit of knowledge, made it possible for him to study at the University of Berlin, where he enthusiastically studied theology under Hengstenberg and Steinmeyer, as well as philosophy and other subjects of interest to him.

After one and one-half years at the university he concluded his studies by traveling through almost all of Germany, paying particular attention to church architecture. Then he was supposed to become a Mennonite preacher, and delivered several sermons in Ibersheim, where his cousin Neufeld had charge of the congregation. For five years he taught in the Mennonite school at Bröskerfeide near Marienburg, which was to have developed into a Mennonite theological seminary; this project however failed. In 1869 he accepted a teaching position in the noted Zahnsche Erziehungsanstalt near Mors, and remained here too for five years. He now became connected with theosophists who called themselves "Friends of God," whose system seemed to satisfy his seeking spirit. He maintained this contact with the theosophists at Elberfeld for eight years. In 1882 he went to Münster, where he was kindly received by friends and relatives of the poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff. Besides his literary activity he conducted Bible classes in the Evangelical hospital there. In 1890 he was called to Calw to prepare a revision of the Calwer Bibelkonkordanz. He remained in Calw the rest of his life, lecturing in Tübingen, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, and other places. He also visited Mennonite churches like Weierhof, conducting Bible classes. He refused to hold any office; nor did he accept a chair of theosophy, which friends had planned to create for him. He was a prolific writer on literary and philosophical subjects.  As a contributor to the Mennonitische Blätter he wrote the articles, "Unser Bekenntnis," 1863, p. 44; "Nehmet, leset," 1865, p. 63; "Unser Bekenntnis—mein Bekenntnis," 1866, pp. 5-7; "Zwei erste Worte—zum letzten," 1866, p. 30 (see also Menn. Bl., 1898, 45, 83).


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 347 f.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Date Published 1953

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MLA style

Neff, Christian. "Claassen, Johannes (1835-1898)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 23 Sep 2021.,_Johannes_(1835-1898)&oldid=144953.

APA style

Neff, Christian. (1953). Claassen, Johannes (1835-1898). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 September 2021, from,_Johannes_(1835-1898)&oldid=144953.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 613. All rights reserved.

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