SCHAFF, PHILIP (1819-1893), American theologian and church historian, was born in Chur, Switzerland, on the 1st of January 1819. He was educated at the gymnasium of Stuttgart, and at the universities of Tübingen, Halle and Berlin, where he was successively influenced by Baur and Schmid, by Tholuck and Julius Müller, by Strauss and, above all, Neander. In 1842 he was Privatdozent in the university of Berlin, and in 1843 he was called to become professor of church history and Biblical literature in the German Reformed Theological Seminary of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, then the only seminary of that church in America. On his journey he stayed six months in England and met Pusey and other Tractarians. His inaugural address on The Principle of Protestantism, delivered in German at Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1844, and published in German with an English version by J. W. Nevin (q.v.), by its Neander-like view that Romanism and Protestantism were only stages in the divinely appointed development of the Christian Church, aroused fierce opposition in the Reformed Church and Schaff was characterized as “Puseyistic” and “semi-papistical”; in 1845 he was tried for heresy and found not guilty by the Synod. Opposition to him soon died out within his own denomination: it was more particularly directed against his polemic champion, Nevin, and it had its source more in the Dutch (than in the German) Reformed Church, and even there was confined more to the New Brunswick school (i.e. the churchmen of the Dutch Reformed Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, New Jersey) and its English and Scottish members, — as late as 1856 J. J. Janeway of New Brunswick published his Antidote to the Poison of Popery in the Writings and Conduct of Professors Nevin and Schaff. Schaff's broad views strongly influenced the German Reformed Church, through his teaching at Mercersburg, through his championship of English in German Reformed churches and schools in America, through his hymnal (1859), through his labours as chairman of the committee which prepared a new liturgy, and by his edition (1863) of the Heidelberg Catechism. His History of the Apostolic Church (in German, 1851; in English, 1853) and his History of the Christian Church (7 vols., 1858-1890), opened a new period in American study of ecclesiastical history. After 1864 his home was in New York City, where he was until 1869 secretary of the New York Sabbath Committee (which fought the “continental Sunday”), and was corresponding secretary of the American Evangelical Alliance, of which he was in 1866 a founder. In 1865 he founded the first German Sunday School in Stuttgart. In 1862-1867 he lectured on church history at Andover, and after 1869 taught at the Union Theological Seminary — as instructor in church history in 1869-1870, and professor of theological cyclopaedia and Christian symbolism in 1870-1873, of Hebrew and cognate languages in 1873-1874, of sacred literature in 1874-1887, and of church history in 1887-1893. The English Bible Revision Committee in 1870 requested him to form a co-operating American Committee, of which he became president in 1871. He died in New York City on the 20th of October 1893. Working with the Evangelical Alliance and the Chicago (1893) World's Parliament of Religions, and in Germany, through the monthly Kirchenfreund, he strove earnestly to promote Christian unity and union; and it was his hope that the pope would abandon the doctrine of infallibility and undertake the reunion of Christianity. He recognized that he was a “mediator between German and Anglo-American theology and Christianity”; his theology was broad rather than definite, though he sharply dissented from Nevin's mystical doctrine of the union in the eucharist of the believer with Christ's glorified body as well as His glorified soul. He edited (1864-1880) the American translation and revision of Lange's Bibelwerk, the great Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge (1884, 3rd ed. 1891); the first seven volumes of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers in English (1886-1894); and the International Illustrated Commentary on the New Testament (4 vols., 1879-1883) and the International Revision Commentary (5 vols. 1881-1884), as far as the Epistle to Romans. His Bibliotheca symbolica ecclesiae universalis: the Creeds of Christendom (3 vols. 1877, 6th ed. 1893) was a pioneer work in English in the field of symbolics. His History of the Christian Church, already mentioned, resembled Neander's work, though less biographical, and was pictorial rather than philosophical. He wrote, besides, biographies, catechisms and hymnals for children, manuals of religious verse, lectures and essays on Dante, &c.
His son, David Schley Schaff (1852-), was professor of church history in Lane Theological Seminary in 1897-1903, and after 1903 in Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny, Pa. He wrote a Commentary on the Book of Acts (1882) and a Life of Philip Schaff (New York, 1897).