This year we celebrated the 200th anniversary of Carl Paul Caspari after whom the Caspari Center was named. So…who was Carl Paul Caspari?
Carl Paul Caspari was born into a devout Jewish family in Dassau, Germany, in 1814. His father was a merchant. Caspari received a good education first in a Jewish School and later in a secular school. He left home in 1834 to study Hebrew and Arabic at the University of Leipzig, where he composed an Arabic grammar book which was for many years the standard work in its field.
Whilst at the university, he was confronted with claims of Jesus as both Lord and Messiah. His Christian schoolmate, Granel, managed to persuade Caspari to read the New Testament. Thus began a time of spiritual struggle. Franz Delitzsch, translator of the New Testament into Hebrew, counselled him during this time, together with Granel. The story of Paul, especially, made a great impression on Caspari. He found the evidence irrefutable and during Pentecost of 1838, he was baptised, taking on the baptismal name of Paul.
Caspari completed further studies and research on Old Testament Theology in Berlin until 1847. He was then urged by Gisle Johnson, a visiting young scholar from Norway, to apply for the position of lecturer at the University of Christiania in Norway. He was appointed, and spent the rest of his life as a lecturer and professor of the Old Testament.
Caspari’s linguistic ability enabled him to speedily master the Norwegian language, so that he was able to begin lectures in less than a year. He was made full professor in 1857. His lectures were inspiring, thorough, earnest, and bore the evidence of a Christian life. Caspari’s work as a scholar and a believing Jew served to enrich three generations of Norwegian pastors, bringing the Psalms and the Prophets to light in a fresh and dynamic way. Under the auspices of the Norwegian Bible Society, he assisted in making a new translation of the Old Testament, which was completed in 1891. At the time of his death in 1892, he was working on a translation of the New Testament.
Although Caspari had officially changed his religion from Judaism to Christianity, he never forgot he was Jewish, nor did he forget his own people. In 1861, Carl Paul Caspari became the first chairman of the Committee for the Mission among the Jews, which had been established in Oslo that year. The Committee later became known as the Norwegian Church Ministry to Israel. Caspari served as a chairman of the Committee until his death. His last public speech outside the university was at the instalment of Rev. Ragnvald Gjessing, the first Norwegian missionary among the Jews, on October 13th 1891.
Carl Paul Caspari died on April 18th 1892. He is remembered as an outstanding scholar, a tireless defender of the Scriptures, an advocate for the Jewish mission and a strong believer in Jesus. The Caspari Center was named in his honour and we hope that our ongoing work will be a fitting tribute to a man who truly loved his God, his Bible, and his people.