100 theologians before the 20th century

Earlier this summer I set myself the task of creating a list of 100 theologians before the 20th century. Partly for myself, since I'm an inveterate list-maker and lists help me organize my reading habits; in this case, I would see where my training had left gaps and blind spots that I needed to fill in. But partly, also, for my students, who regularly ask me who they should read from the tradition—not only where to start, but a kind of curriculum or "who's who." So I set out to answer that very question: who's who?

The current list has 153 entries on it. I still want to cull it down to a clean 100, but I figured I would share it here in its unfinished, bloated form. I covet your corrections: Who am I missing? Who have I misnamed? Who is or is not a saint? Whose dates are mistaken? If you had to cull the list down to 100, which dozen (or more) figures would you nix?

I've separated the list into four groups, ranging from 32 to 50 theologians per period: patristic, medieval, reformation, and modern. The cut-offs, naturally, are bound to be arbitrary, but they're roughly accurate, I think. I'm a Westerner making a list in the West, so the Protestant Reformation is a meaningful period in a way that it isn't for the East—but then, I conclude that "age" with Dositheus II, who is a fitting representative of the East's encounter with reformed faith.

As for my goals and criteria:

First, the list is ecumenical; Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestants of every stripe are included.

Second, influence is important; I want the "relevant" names who decisively drove events, doctrines, controversies, etc.

Third, substance is important, too; indeed, on the final list I'm willing to opt for quality over legacy, if it comes down to that.

Fourth, I want epochs, traditions, regions, cultures, and languages to be disparate and representative of the church catholic at any one slice of time in history.

Fifth, orthodoxy is preferable but not required. Partly that's the nature of an ecumenical list (plenty of folks here have anathematized one another!), but even in terms of loose small-o orthodoxy, there a few whose credentials are questionable. So be it—if their thought is significant and worth engaging.

Sixth, candidates for the list have to have left substantial theological writings: St. Benedict, St. Lawrence, and St. Francis are all left off for that reason.

Seventh, I've included a few poets, but only those whose theological imaginaries have decisively informed the church's grammar and devotional practices, such as Dante and Milton; doubtless Herbert, Donne, and Hopkins, among others, could also be included, but I've left them off for now.

Eighth, the cut-off for the 20th century is difficult. What if your someone's straddles both sides of the dividing line? One criterion I used was whether a theologian's writing was equally distributed, or weighted toward the 19th century; another was whether a theologian's major work came before the year 1900. In the end, though, since (a) World War I ended in 1918, (b) Barth's Römerbrief came out in 1919, and (c) the current year is 2020, I used the "hard" cap of 1920.

Finally: Why theologians before the 20th century? First, because almost to a person, these are figures my students have never heard of and certainly have never read. Second, because duh, these are the fathers and mothers of the faith, who handed it down for 19 centuries to the present; they are worth attending to for their own sake. But third, because if I were to make a list of theologians worth reading from the last 100 years, I'd come up with at least as many names, and probably more. That's the job most seminaries and classrooms presuppose as the relevant task, apart from the stray history class or two. But that ends up sidelining the thinkers below. Imagine instead a graduate program in theology that ensured that students would read 2-4 major works by each of the theologians below (or at least by 100 of them). Imagine the theological range and depth, indeed the spiritual formation, that students would receive. Some programs are in fact trying that out. May their tribe increase.

In any case: to the list. Again, I welcome feedback. Leave a comment or drop me a line directly (brad DOT east AT acu DOT edu). Enjoy. [Update: suggested additions follow the list.]

Patristic Period
  1. St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 108)
  2. St. Justin Martyr (100-165)
  3. St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-202)
  4. St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215)
  5. Tertullian (c. 155-240)
  6. Origen (c. 184-253)
  7. St. Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258)
  8. Eusebius of Caesarea (265-339)
  9. St. Athanasius (c. 297-373) 10.
  10. St. Ephrem the Syrian (c. 306-373)
  11. St. Hilary of Poitiers (c. 315-368)
  12. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386)
  13. St. Basil the Great (c. 329-379)
  14. St. Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 330-390)
  15. St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395)
  16. St. Ambrose (c. 340-397)
  17. St. Jerome (c. 343-420)
  18. St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407)
  19. St. Augustine of Hippo (c. 354-430)
  20. St. John Cassian (c. 360-435)
  21. St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444)
  22. St. Peter Chrysologus (c. 400-450)
  23. Pope St. Leo the Great (c. 400-461)
  24. St. Severinus Boethius (477-524)
  25. St. Gregory the Great (c. 540-604)
  26. St. Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636)
  27. Dionysius the Areopagite (c. 565-625)
  28. St. John Climacus (c. 579-649)
  29. St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662)
  30. St. Isaac of Nineveh (c. 613-700)
  31. St. Bede the Venerable (c. 673-735)
  32. St. John Damascene (c. 675-749)
Medieval Period
  1. Theodore Abu Qurrah (c. 750-820)
  2. St. Theodore of Studium (c. 759-826)
  3. St. Photius the Great (c. 810-893)
  4. John Scotus Eriugena (c. 815-877)
  5. St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022)
  6. St. Gregory of Narek (951-1003)
  7. St. Peter Damian (1007-1072)
  8. Michael Psellos (1017-1078)
  9. St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)
  10. Peter Abelard (c. 1079-1142)
  11. St. Bernard of Clairvaux (c. 1090-1153)
  12. Peter Lombard (c. 1096-1160)
  13. Hugh of St. Victor (c. 1096-1141)
  14. St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
  15. Nicholas of Methone (1100-1165)
  16. Richard of St. Victor (1110-1173)
  17. Joachim of Fiore (c. 1135-1202)
  18. Alexander of Hales (1185-1245)
  19. St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231)
  20. St. Albert the Great (c. 1200-1280)
  21. St. Bonaventure (c. 1217-1274)
  22. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
  23. Meister Eckhart (c. 1260-1328)
  24. Dante Alighieri (c. 1265-1321)
  25. Bl. John Duns Scotus (1265-1308)
  26. William of Ockham (c. 1287-1347)
  27. Bl. John van Ruysbroeck (c. 1293-1381)
  28. Bl. Henry Suso (1295-1366)
  29. St. Gregory Palamas (c. 1296-1357)
  30. Johannes Tauler (1300-1361)
  31. St. Nicholas Kabasilas (1319-1392)
  32. John Wycliffe (c. 1320-1384)
  33. Julian of Norwich (c. 1343-1420)
  34. St. Catherine of Siena (c. 1347-1380)
  35. Jan Hus (c. 1372-1415)
  36. St. Symeon of Thessaloniki (c. 1381-1429)
  37. St. Mark of Ephesus (1392-1444)
  38. Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464)
  39. Denys the Carthusian (1402-1471)
Reformation Period
  1. Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)
  2. Thomas Cajetan (1469-1534)
  3. St. Thomas More (1478-1535)
  4. Balthasar Hubmaier (1480-1528)
  5. Martin Luther (1483-1546)
  6. Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531)
  7. Bartolomé de las Casas (1484-1566)
  8. Thomas Müntzer (1489-1525)
  9. Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)
  10. St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)
  11. Martin Bucer (1491-1551)
  12. Menno Simmons (1496-1561)
  13. Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560)
  14. Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562)
  15. St. John of Ávila (1500-1569)
  16. Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575)
  17. John Calvin (1509-1564)
  18. John Knox (1514-1572)
  19. St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582)
  20. Theodore Beza (1519-1605)
  21. St. Peter Canisius (1521-1597)
  22. Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586)
  23. Domingo Báñez (1528-1604)
  24. Zacharias Ursinus (1534-1583)
  25. Luis de Molina (1535-1600)
  26. St. John of the Cross (1542-1591)
  27. St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621)
  28. Francisco Suárez (1548-1617)
  29. Richard Hooker (1554-1600)
  30. Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)
  31. Johann Arndt (1555-1621)
  32. Johannes Althusius (1557-1638)
  33. William Perkins (1558-1602)
  34. St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619)
  35. Jacob Arminius (1560-1609)
  36. Amandus Polanus (1561-1610)
  37. St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
  38. Jakob Böhme (1575-1624)
  39. William Ames (1576-1633)
  40. Johann Gerhard (1582-1637)
  41. Meletios Syrigos (1585-1664)
  42. John of St Thomas (1589-1644)
  43. Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661)
  44. John Milton (1608-1674)
  45. John Owen (1616-1683)
  46. Francis Turretin (1623-1687)
  47. Petrus van Mastricht (1630-1706)
  48. Philipp Spener (1635-1705)
  49. Thomas Traherne (c. 1636-1674)
  50. Patriarch Dositheos II of Jerusalem (1641-1707)
Modern Period
  1. August Hermann Francke (1663-1727)
  2. St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)
  3. Nicolaus Zinzendorf (1700-1760)
  4. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
  5. John Wesley (1703-1791)
  6. St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain (1749-1809)
  7. St. Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833)
  8. Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834)
  9. St. Philaret of Moscow (1782-1867)
  10. Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792-1860)
  11. Johann Adam Möhler (1796-1838)
  12. Charles Hodge (1797-1878)
  13. St. John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
  14. John Williamson Nevin (1803-1886)
  15. Alexei Khomiakov (1804-1860)
  16. F. D. Maurice (1805-1872)
  17. David Friedrich Strauss (1808-1874)
  18. Isaak August Dorner (1809-1884)
  19. Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903)
  20. Heinrich Schmid (1811-1885)
  21. St. Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894)
  22. J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)
  23. Philip Schaff (1819-1893)
  24. Heinrich Heppe (1820-1879)
  25. Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889)
  26. John of Kronstadt (1829-1909)
  27. Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920)
  28. B. B. Warfield (1851-1921)
  29. Vladimir Solovyov (1853-1900)
  30. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921)
  31. Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923)
  32. St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897)
Suggested additions [last updated 24 July 2020]:
  1. Evagrius Ponticus
  2. The Cloud of Unknowing
  3. Theologia Germanica
  4. Francisco de Vitoria
  5. Jose de Acosta
  6. Gerard Winstanley
  7. Blaise Pascal
  8. Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
  9. David Walker
  10. Søren Kierkegaard
  11. Rauschenbusch
  12. Alcuin of York
  13. Rabanus Maurus
  14. Paschasius Radbertus
  15. Cassiodorus
  16. G. W. F. Hegel
  17. George MacDonald
  18. Ignaz von Döllinger
  19. Tobias Beck
  20. Adolf von Harnack
  21. Giovanni Perrone
  22. Franz Overbeck
  23. August Vilmar
  24. Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
  25. Léon Bloy

Comments

  1. This is great, Brad. I've been trying to read one pre-20th century work of Christian theology at a time since graduating from seminary. Thanks for the ample fodder!

    ReplyDelete

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