Balthasar Bekker - Encyclopedia


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BALTHASAR BEKKER (1634-1698), Dutch divine, was born in Friesland in 1634, and educated at Groningen, under Jacob Alting, and at Franeker. He was pastor at Franeker, and from 1679, at Amsterdam. An enthusiastic disciple of Descartes, he wrote several works in philosophy and theology, which by their freedom of thought aroused considerable hostility. His best known work was Die Betooverde Wereld (1691), or The World Bewitched (1695; one volume of an English translation from a French copy), in which he examined critically the phenomena generally ascribed to spiritual agency, and attacked the belief in sorcery and "possession" by the devil, whose very existence he questioned. The book is interesting as an early study in comparative religion, but its publication in 1692 led to Bekker's deposition from the ministry. He died at Amsterdam.

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