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Johann Heinrich Callenberg (January 12, 1694 – July 11, 1760) was a German Orientalist, Lutheran professor of theology and philology, and promoter of conversion attempts among Jews and Muslims.


Callenberg was born in Molschleben of peasant parents. Beginning in 1715 he studied philology and theology at the University of Halle. Sometime before 1720 Salomon Negri, professor of Syriac and Arabic at Rome, stayed in Halle for six months. Callenberg studied Arabic under him. Besides Arabic, Callenberg also studied Persian and Turkish.[1]

From his youth he cherished the idea of working for the conversion of the Muslims in the Middle East, Russia and Tartary, but later he devoted himself to missionary work among the Jews. In 1728 he established the Institutum Judaicum, the first German Protestant mission to the Jews, to which he attached a printing-office. In this office he printed the Gospel and other Christian books in the Judæo-German dialect, and distributed them among the Jews, with the assistance of the Jewish physician Dr. Heinrich Christian Immanuel Frommann. Frommann translated the Gospel of Luke with commentary which was revised and reprinted by Raphael Biesenthal in the 19th century.

Callenberg also sent missionaries to other European countries, and was a patron of converted Jews. His plans for the conversion of Muslims were resumed somewhat later, but in these he utterly failed.

From 1730 onwards, the Institutum Judaicum sent out more than 20 missionaries[2] and existed until 1791.

In 1727 Callenberg was appointed extraordinary professor of theology at the University of Halle, and in 1735 professor of philology. He died, aged 66, at Halle.


Among the works Callenberg published are the following:


Further reading


  1. ^ Mark A. Noll. Turning Points p. 277.
  2. ^ Various travel reports and conversations with Jewish citizens (1730–1736, 1749), in: Werner Raupp (Ed.), 1990 (Sources), p. 222-227.