Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

On this date in 1729, dramatist and critic Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was born in Saxony, Germany. Although pressured by his family to go into the ministry, Lessing studied medicine and philosophy at Leipzig University instead. By 1750, he had become a rationalist. He wrote the play "Miss Sara Sampson" in 1755. "Minna von Barnhelm" (1767) is considered a classic comedy. "Nathan der Weise" [Nathan the Wise] (1779) "embodies his ripe Rationalism," according to Joseph McCabe (A Dictionary of Modern Rationalists, 1920). A deist and admirer of Spinoza, Lessing is credited with initiating biblical criticism in the journal he edited, Wolfenbuttel Fragments. D. 1781.

“ . . . [the Crusades], which in their origin were a political stratagem of the popes, developed into the most inhuman persecutions of which Christian superstition has ever made itself guilty: the true religion had then the most and the bloodiest Ismenors. ”

—Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Hamburgische Dramaturgie (1767-1769), cited in Who's Who in Hell edited by Warren Allen Smith

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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