Paracelsus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541)

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Paracelsus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541). As a roving physician ("a doctor should be a wayfarer"), a man of the people, twined about with legend even during his lifetime, characterized by a strong vital personality and an awareness of himself and of his calling, Paracelsus practiced his profession all over Central Europe, not without violent collisions with medical learning, patients, and authorities.

As a writer on medicine, botany, and natural philosophy Paracelsus was amazingly prolific in spite of his roving. His numerous Biblical-theological works, of which 123 are known, have not yet been adequately examined. The Complete Works of Paracelsus, edited by Karl Sudhoff and Wilhelm Matthiessen, has published (1922-23) the medical, scientific, and philosophical writings as the first division in 14 volumes in Munich. Of the second division, the theological and religious-philosophical works, only the first volume has been published (Munich, 1923). Of the Bible commentaries, the one on Matthew and the one on the Psalms (1530) should be mentioned here, and of the dogmatic writings, the one on communion addressed to Pope Clement VII (1530). In this book Paracelsus denies the claim of the Catholics, Lutherans, Zwinglians, and Anabaptists that they are the possessors of the Holy Spirit, as Sebastian Franck had done in his song about the four dissentious churches. The two men met at least twice—in 1529 at Nürnberg, in 1531 at Strasbourg. That Paracelsus cured Sebastian Franck of a mental breakdown is mere legend. Franck himself described the doctor as a second Lucianus (i.e., a mocker) and as much more of a mystic than the rationalistic doctor. Nor do the casual meetings with Caspar von Schwenckfeld denote a spiritual relatedness. The peaceable, pious Silesian nobleman and the quarrelsome man of the people had little in common. The Schwenckfeld biography by Mrs. Schultz demonstrates the spiritual independence of Schwenckfeld in his relations with Paracelsus. Only ignorance can equate these two opposite spirits with each other or with the Anabaptists.

The fact that Paracelsus had nothing in common with the Anabaptists—except the criticism of the sacrament of communion—in spite of occasional contacts, is seen in the fanatical, unrealistic hope of the doctor for the ultimate restoration of the church by the pope: "In the pope there will be a blessed spirit and thus a blessed spirit in the sheep." No Anabaptist and no convinced Spiritualist thought in such terms in the 16th century. Paracelsus remained a Catholic in life and death.

His retirement to religious literary work probably was due to the Peasants' War. After 1532 he frequently signed himself with a title of doctor of the Holy Scriptures to which he had no right. Much will remain a mystery until more of his theological works appear. The most reliable biography is Georg Sticker's.

The fourth centennial of the death of Paracelsus in 1941 produced a considerable body of literature, which must, however, be used with a critical mind. In addition there are some older works of a biographical and interpretative content.


Englert, Ludwig. Paracelsus, Mensch und Arzt. Bücher deutscher Kultur, Berlin, 1941.

Hartmann, R. J. Theophrast von Hohenheim. Stuttgart, 1904.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 334.

Jager, Fr. Theophrastus Paracelsus 1491-1541. Salzburg, 1941.

Matthiessen, Wilhelm. "Theophrast von Hohenheim." in Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte XIV and XV (1917-18).

Peuckert, W.-E. Paracelsus, Die Geheimnisse, ein Lesebuch aus seinen Schriften. Leipzig, 1941.

Peuckert, W.-E. Theophrastus Paracelsus. Stuttgart, 1941.

Reklam, E. H. Die Gestalt des Paracelsus in der Dichtung, Studien zu Kolbenheyers Trilogie. Leipzig, 1938.

Sticker, G. Paracelsus, ein Lebensbild. Halle, 1941.

Author(s) Eberhard Teufel
Date Published 1959

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Teufel, Eberhard. "Paracelsus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 26 Sep 2020.

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Teufel, Eberhard. (1959). Paracelsus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 September 2020, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 116. All rights reserved.

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