German monk Martin Luther challenged the dogmas of Roman Catholicism and the authority of the pope, in his Ninety-five Theses, and was thus excommunicated. His German translation of the Bible enriched the German culture, and his marriage set an example for clerical marriage. His teachings are now known as Lutherans.
Albertus Magnus was a friar, bishop, and philosopher. Regarded by some as the greatest German theologian and philosopher of the Middle Ages, Albertus' writings have inspired the iconography of the archivolts and tympanum of the 13th-century portal of Strasbourg Cathedral. Remembered for his contribution to academics, several education institutions have been named after Albertus Magnus.
Albert Schweitzer was an Alsatian polymath who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his philosophical work, Reverence for Life. He is credited with founding the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, which was a direct result of his philosophical expression. Schweitzer is also credited with influencing the Organ reform movement, which began in the mid-20th-century.
German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is best remembered as a significant figure of the Sturm und Drang literary movement. Born into poverty and largely self-educated till 17, he later became a disciple of Immanuel Kant and was associated with Enlightenment and Weimar Classicism. He was eventually ennobled.
Edith Stein was a German Jewish philosopher who studied at the University of Freiburg and completed her dissertation on empathy. Always interested in Catholicism, she read the autobiography of the mystic Teresa of Ávila and converted to Christianity, and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She was killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp and is canonized as a martyr.
German philosopher Meister Eckhart is remembered for his Latin and German transcripts that stress on the relationship between God and man. His treatises include Talks of Instruction and the Book of Divine Consolation. His innovative vocabulary also contributed to the German language. However, he was accused of heresy later.
Initially a professor of theology, philosopher Rudolf Otto later contributed to some of the most significant works of theology, such as The Idea of the Holy. He was also a member of the Prussian Parliament and is remembered for his services to Christianity and his idea of numinous.
Known as the last Renaissance man, Athanasius Kircher was a German Jesuit priest who taught at the Roman College for 4 decades. He was also obsessed with Sinology and Egyptology, and studied everything from fossils to microbes. He was also interested in medicine and invented machines such as the magnetic clock.
Son of a top Nazi official, laicized Roman Catholic priest Martin Adolf Bormann found shelter in a church after Germany lost the war. Ordained as a priest, he later served in Congo before leaving the ministry to become a teacher of theology. After retirement, he began traveling across Germany and Austria, talking about the horrors of Nazi rule in schools.
German mystic and philosopher Jakob Böhme is best remembered for his works such as On the Election of Grace and Mysterium Magnum. While he was initially a shoemaker’s apprentice, he later focused on studies on mysticism and free will. He inspired both German idealism and romanticism greatly.
Hailed as an early leader of liberal Christianity, Lutheran philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher was also an eminent biblical scholar and theologian. Best remembered for his works on hermeneutics and theory of translation, he also had a great impact on the evolution of higher criticism and became known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant Christianity.
One of the most significant theologians of the 20th century, Karl Rahner was a disciple of Martin Heidegger at the University of Freiburg. His works such as Spirit in the World and Hearers of the Word showcase the Roman Catholic doctrine and its many interpretations.
German theologian Philip Melanchthon had a major role in establishing public schools in Germany. A friend of Protestant Reformation theologian Martin Luther, he is remembered for penning the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, a significant confession of Lutheranism. He had also served as a professor at the University of Wittenberg.
German rabbi and spiritual leader Leo Baeck remains a symbol of liberal Jewish thinking of the Nazi era. He is best remembered for The Essence of Judaism and This People Israel, the latter of which was penned by him while in a Nazi concentration camp.
A professor of New Testament at the University of Marburg, Rudolf Bultmann was a German theologian, known for his work on demythologization, a process that separates cosmological and historic claims from philosophical, ethical and theological teachings. An influential theologian of the post-war era, he undertook pioneering research in historical Jesus, attempting to reconcile faith and reason in a modern context.
Horst Kasner is best remembered as the father of German chancellor Angela Merkel. Part of Hitler Youth, he had served Hitler’s army during World War II and was held prisoner at 19. He later became a Protestant theologian and pastor in the town of Templin.
German philosopher Bruno Bauer is best remembered as a student of legendary German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel. Part of the group of intellectuals known as Young Hegelians, he was also a staunch Rationalist. He not only questioned the origin of Christ but was also accused of anti-semitism.
Remembered as a radical reformer, Thomas Müntzer was a major force in the German Peasants' War of 1525. Initially a priest and a linguistic specialist, he gradually began representing the middle class and worked toward church reforms. He was eventually executed, and his head wad displayed as a warning.
Martin Bucer was a German Protestant reformer in the Reformed tradition who was active in the 16th century. He is credited to have deeply influenced Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican doctrines and practices. His work resulted in his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church, and he was exiled to England. He is considered an early pioneer of ecumenism.
Considered one of the most significant of German scholars, Johannes Trithemius made a major contribution to German Renaissance and was a cryptographer, a magician, and a lexicographer at the same time. He ran away from home at 17 and took shelter at a Benedictine abbey, where he began the life of an abbot.
Protestant theologian David Strauss was 12 when he joined a seminary to study theology. Known for his works such as Das Leben Jesu, or The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, he criticized the Gospels and the miracles associated with Christ, thus inspiring future studies on the historical Jesus.
Currently Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, German Reformed theologian, Jürgen Moltmann, is especially known for developing a form of social trinitarianism. Describing his views as Post-Barthian, he has penned down numerous works including Theology of Hope, The Crucified God, God in Creation etc. He is of the view that God suffers with humanity, while also promising a better future through the hope of the Resurrection
Named the 20th Century Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII, Dietrich von Hildebrand was a well-known Catholic philosopher who criticized the Second Vatican Council’s church reforms. Known for works such as Transformation in Christ: On the Christian Attitude, he was part of the phenomenological and continental philosophical school.
Though he had once seriously thought of converting to Christianity, German Jewish Franz Rosenzweig later devoted his life to the study and development of Judaism. Known for his iconic work The Star of Redemption, he explained the relationship among God, humans, and the world, with a star-like diagram.
Apart from being a Benedictine monk, Rabanus Maurus was also a talented author and is remembered for his 22-volume encyclopaedia On the Natures of Things. He enriched German language and literature and this gained the nickname Teacher of Germany. His works also include translations and commentaries.
Best remembered for establishing the tradition of mysticism at Saint-Victor Abbey in Paris, Hugh of Saint Victor was an eminent twelfth century philosopher, theologian and mystical writer. Author of several renowned works including The Sacraments of the Christian Faith; he was an ardent upholder of secular learning, writing a comprehensive early encyclopedia, holding that art and philosophy can serve theology.
Protestant theologian Andreas Karlstadt was known for his association with Martin Luther and was one of his early supporters. A professor at the University of Wittenberg, he later came to be known as a church reformer. His numerous tracts private masses and celibacy include Shall We Go Slowly?
Although best remembered for his discovery of the world's oldest handwritten Bible, known as Codex Sinaiticus or Sinai Bible, Konstantin Von Tischendorf, a renowned Biblical scholar, worked chiefly on recension of the New Testament text. A prolific writer making extensive contributions to biblical textual criticism, he is today best known for his magnum opus, Critical Edition of the New Testament.
One of the greatest theologians of our era, Wolfhart Pannenberg was also a renowned academic, who taught at different German universities for more than three decades. An expert on systematic theology, he mostly worked on Christology and philosophy of history, publishing numerous books and scholarly articles including Jesus: God and Man, Systematic Theology etc, thus contributing greatly to modern theology.
Born to a farmer, Peter Binsfeld grew up to be a bishop. He was also a witch hunter and was known for his classification of demons, which paired each of the seven deadly sins with a particular demon. He was one of the main figures behind the Trier witch trials.
Johann Eck was a German theologian and Catholic counter-reformer who was one of Martin Luther's most prominent theological opponents. He also contributed as an educator, working at the University of Ingolstadt as a professor of theology.
Currently the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Reinhard Marx is a leading figure in Germany’s Roman Catholic Church and a member of the Pope’s advisory council. Known for his strong views on several contemporary topics including abortion and migration, he came to international limelight when he offered his resignation, taking responsibility for sexual abuses by priests over the past decades.
Ernst Troeltsch was one of the first German theologians to insist that the Christian church should reconsider its version of absolute truth. The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches remains his best-known work. The son of a physician, he was skeptical of religious absolutism from the very beginning.
Adolf von Harnack was a Baltic German Lutheran theologian. Also an important Church historian, Harnack is credited with producing numerous religious publications between 1873 and 1912. Adolf von Harnack also played a prominent role in the establishment of The Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Advancement of Science, where he served as the first president.
Remembered as the “mad scientist,” Johann Konrad Dippel is considered by many as the person who had inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein. He used the pseudonym Christianus Democritus to write various scientific texts and claimed his concoction Dippel's oil was the "elixir of life" that promised immortality.