Having studied theology at the University of Göttingen under Georg Heinrich August Ewald, he established himself there in 1870 as Privatdozent for Old Testament history. In 1872 he was appointed professor ordinarius of theology at Greifswald. Resigning in 1882 for reasons of conscience, he became professor extraordinarius of oriental languages in the faculty of philology at Halle, was elected professor ordinarius at Marburg in 1885, and was transferred to Göttingen in 1892 where he stayed until his death.
Wellhausen was famous for his critical investigations into Old Testament history and the composition of the Hexateuch, the uncompromising scientific attitude he adopted in testing its problems bringing him into antagonism with the older school of biblical interpreters. The best known of his works are:
- De gentibus et familiis Judaeis (Göttingen, 1870)
- Der Text der Bücher Samuelis untersucht (Göttingen, 1871)
- Die Phariseer und Sadducäer (Greifswald, 1874)
- Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels (Berlin, 1882; Eng. trans., 1885; 5th German edition, 1899; first published in 1878 as Geschichte Israels)
- Muhammed in Medina (Berlin, 1882)
- Die Komposition des Hexateuchs und der historischen Bücher des Alten Testaments (1889, 3rd ed. 1899)
- Israelitische und jüdische Geschichte (1894, 4th ed. 1901)
- Reste arabischen Heidentums (1897)
- Das arabische Reich und sein Sturz (1902)
- Skizzen und Vorarbeiten (1884-1899)
- new and revised editions of F Bleek's Einleitung in das Alte Testament (4-6, 1878-1893).
In 1906 appeared Die christliche Religion, mit Einschluss der israelitisch-jüdischen Religion, in collaboration with A Jülicher, Adolf Harnack and others. He also did useful and interesting work as a New Testament commentator. He published Das Evangelium Marci, übersetzt und erklärt in 1903. Das Evangelium Matthäi and Das Evangelium Lucae in 1904 and Einleitung in die drei ersten Evangelien in 1905.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.