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Karl Cornely

German Biblical scholar and Jesuit, b. April 19, 1830, at Breyell in Germany; d. at Treves, March 3, 1908

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Cornely, KARL, JOSEF RUDOLF, German Biblical scholar and Jesuit, b. April 19, 1830, at Breyell in Germany; d. at Treves, March 3, 1908. On the completion of his classical studies he matriculated at Munster in Westphalia to study philology and theology. In 1852 he joined the Society of Jesus. Recognizing his abilities, his superiors determined to give him the best possible training both practical and theoretical. Consequently, his novitiate finished, he took a two years’ course of Scholastic philosophy at Paderborn and Bonn and another year of sacred and profane oratory. Then he was sent to Feldkirch to teach Latin, Greek, and German, and to preside at the disputations of the students of philosophy from 1857 to 1859. After this practical experience he returned to Paderborn to go through the necessary course of dogmatic and moral theology previous to his ordination in 1860. The next years he devoted to special study of the Scriptural sciences and languages in Germany, at Ghazir near Beirut, in Egypt, and in Paris, and by dint of hard labor acquired an extensive knowledge of Syriac, Arabic, Samaritan, and Aramaic. After five years thus spent in special work, he was recalled to Maria-Laach, the theologate of the Society, to review his varied acquirements in the light of dogmatic theology and to prepare his theses for the final examination and the degree of Doctor in the Society. After the customary third year of probation spent in study and practice of the exercises and the Institute of St. Ignatius, he was appointed professor of Scripture and Oriental languages at Maria-Laach.

When the Jesuits founded the periodical “Stimmen aus Maria-Laach“, Father Cornely became at first a regular contributor and then its editor from 1872 to 1879. His style is remarkable for clearness and vigour and compares favorably with the great German classics. The ring of indignation and irony in his articles against the Old Catholics, on the Protestant Association, and on political hypocrisy finds its explanation in the unwarranted attacks and in the relentless persecution of the Church and of the order to which he belonged. The expulsion of the Jesuits from Germany in 1872 interrupted his career as a professor and rendered the task of the editor extremely difficult. With three or four of his brethren he took up his residence at Tervueren near Brussels, and though many of his collaborators and the rich library of Maria-Laach were scattered about in different places, he succeeded not only in maintaining the periodical on its former level but also in strengthening and widening its influence on Catholic Germany. Most of the men who from that time on contributed to the “Stimmen” were won and trained by the magnetic personality of Cornely, who frequently inspired and always carefully revised their papers, thus securing uniformity of tone and tendency. An important stage in the development of the “Stimmen” was marked by the appearance of the first supplements (Erganzungshefte), in 1876. This new departure was occasioned by the numerous philosophic writings of Father Tilmann Pesch. They could not all be published in the “Stimmen” without altering the general character of the periodical and sacrificing the interest of some classes of readers. They might, of course, have been separately published in book form. But Cornely was of opinion that a series of supplements to a widely read review would reach larger numbers and would in a manner offset the numerous non-Catholic publications of a similar character. The supplements embody the most varied scholarship: theology, philosophy, literature, and science.

To quicken the interest of his countrymen in the missionary work of the Church, Father Cornely founded in 1873 “Die katholischen Missionen”. Intended for German readers this magazine was above all to describe the labors and successes of the German missionary and to give the history, the geography, and the ethnographic features of the German missions in foreign countries. In the beginning Cornely took the lion’s share of the work upon himself. Soon, however, the labor was thus divided: Cornely wrote the reports on Europe and Australia; Baumgartner reported on Asia; Kreiten on Africa; and von Hummelauer on America. In 1879 Comely was appointed professor of exegesis at the Gregorian University in Rome. Here he planned and wrote the first volumes of the “Cursus Scripturm Sacrae”, a complete Biblical encyclopedia, the largest publication of its kind in modern Catholic literature. To carry out a plan so vast required the combined efforts of many scholars. Comely himself undertook to write the general and special introductions and the commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul. Even this task he could not complete, although he discontinued lecturing in 1889 to devote all his energies to the greatest work of his laborious life. Among his writings are: “Introductio generalis in U. T. libros sacros” (Paris, 1893); “Introductio specialis in historicos V. T. libros” (Paris, 1897); “Introductio specialis in didacticos et propheticos V. T. libros” (Paris, 1897); “Introductio specialis in singulos N. T. libros” (Paris, 1897); “Historic et criticae Introductionis in U. T. libros Compendium” (Paris, 1900); “Synopses omnium librorum sacrorum” (Paris, 1899); “Psal:morum synopses” (Paris, 1899); “Analyses librorum sacrorum N. T.” (Paris, 1888); “Commentarius in priorem ep. ad Corinthios” (Paris, 1890); “Commentarius in epistolas ad Cor. alteram et ad Galatas” (Paris, 1892); “Commentarius in ep. ad Romanos” (Paris, 1896); “Leben des sel. Petrus Faber” (Freiburg, 1900); “Leben des sel. Spinola” (Mainz, 1868).


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