Christian Renatus Von Zinzendorf - Historical Perspective

Historical Perspective

For more than 200 years after his death, Christel was looked upon as a failure by Moravian historians and scholars, who saw him as weak, effeminate, ineffectual and a grave disappointment to his father whose trust he had betrayed. The only way most Moravians of the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries knew him was by the inclusion of several of his hymns in various Moravian hymnals, the most famous being “My Redeemer, overwhelmed with anguish, went to Olivet for me.”

Indeed, the entire period (approximately 1747-1749) became known disparagingly as the Sifting Time from Luke 22:31: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat.” Nicholas Zinzendorf called the ensuing scandal an “unbridled freedom of the flesh.” His representative told the residents at Herrnhaag and its nearby sister community of Marienborn that it was impossible to be "truly unified with our Husband" while living on earth. He further added that the residents had mistaken metaphor for reality and wrongly believed that the brothers were actually sisters.

Historians for the next two-hundred years accepted this view of events and wrote off what happened as a time of embarrassing excess from which the church was saved only by the timely intervention of Nicholas.

Determining exactly what happened was made exceedingly difficult due to extensive destruction of documents amounting to official censorship that began in the eighteenth-century by church officials and even archivists. There was a general shunning of the period that lasted well into the twentieth-century and almost no pertinent documents remain in either in the major Moravian archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania or Herrnhut, Germany.

Fortunately a new generation of scholars and historians interested in determining exactly what happened have been able to locate documents in private collections and other sources. An indication of renewed interest in Christian Renatus and what he meant to his time was shown in September, 2008 when a birthday festival was held in his honor in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, based on eighteenth-century sources and sponsored by the Historic Bethlehem Partnership, the Moravian Music Foundation and the Moravian Archives.

Read more about this topic:  Christian Renatus Von Zinzendorf

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