Famous German Theologians

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Find out more about the greatest German Theologians, including Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, Paul Tillich, Pope Adrian VI and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.
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 1 
Martin Luther
(German Theologian, Religious Reformer and Key Figure in Protestant Reformation)
Martin Luther
7
Birthdate: November 10, 1483
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Eisleben, Germany
Died: February 18, 1546

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.

 2 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
(Theologian Known for His Staunch Resistance to the Nazi Dictatorship)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
7
Birthdate: February 4, 1906
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: April 9, 1945
Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer is remembered for his anti-Nazi stance, for establishing the Confessing Church, and for authoring the book The Cost of Discipleship. He was sent to the Flossenbürg concentration camp after being imprisoned for a year. He was eventually hanged after being charged of plotting to assassinate Hitler.
 3 
Albert Schweitzer
(Physician and Founder of the “Albert Schweitzer Hospital” in Lambaréné,)
Albert Schweitzer
7
Birthdate: January 14, 1875
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kaysersberg-Vignoble, France
Died: September 4, 1965

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.

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 4 
Albertus Magnus
(One of the Greatest German Philosophers and Theologians of the Middle Ages)
Albertus Magnus
4
Birthdate: 1200 AD
Birthplace: Lauingen, Germany
Died: November 15, 1280

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.

 5 
Johann Gottfried Herder
(Philosopher, Theologian, Poet, and Literary Critic)
Johann Gottfried Herder
4
Birthdate: August 25, 1744
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Morąg, Poland
Died: December 18, 1803

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.

 6 
Martin Niemöller
(German Theologian and Pastor Known for His Most Famous Poem 'First They Came...')
Martin Niemöller
4
Birthdate: January 14, 1892
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lippstadt, Germany
Died: March 6, 1984
Best remembered for the quote “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out...,” Martin Niemöller was a German pastor who tried to counter discrimination against Christian converts with Jewish heritage. His Confessing Church was perhaps his apology for initially being a Nazi sympathizer.
 7 
Edith Stein
(Philosopher, Christian Nun and One of the Six 'Patron Saints of Europe')
Edith Stein
4
Birthdate: October 12, 1891
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: August 9, 1942

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.

 8 
Meister Eckhart
(German Catholic Theologian, Philosopher and Mystic)
Meister Eckhart
4
Birthdate: 1260 AD
Birthplace: Gotha, Germany
Died: 1328 AD

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.

 9 
Rudolf Otto
(German Theologian and One of the Most Influential Scholars of Religion in the Early Twentieth Century)
Rudolf Otto
5
Birthdate: September 25, 1869
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Peine, Germany
Died: March 6, 1937

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.

 10 
Athanasius Kircher
(German Jesuit Scholar and Polymath Known for His Work in the Fields of Comparative Religion, Geology, and Medicine)
Athanasius Kircher
3
Birthdate: May 2, 1602
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Geisa, Germany
Died: November 28, 1680

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.

 11 
Martin Adolf Bormann
(German Theologian and Roman Catholic Priest)
Martin Adolf Bormann
4
Birthdate: April 14, 1930
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Grünwald, Bavaria, Germany
Died: March 11, 2013

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.

 12 
Jakob Böhme
(German Philosopher and Theologian)
Jakob Böhme
4
Birthdate: April 24, 1575
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Stary Zawidów, Poland
Died: November 17, 1624

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.

 13 
Friedrich Schleiermacher
(German Theologian, Philosopher and an Early Leader in Liberal Christianity)
Friedrich Schleiermacher
5
Birthdate: November 21, 1768
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: February 12, 1834

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.

 14 
Philip Melanchthon
(German Lutheran Reformer and the First Systematic Theologian of the Protestant Reformation)
Philip Melanchthon
3
Birthdate: February 16, 1497
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bretten, Germany
Died: April 19, 1560

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.

 15 
Jürgen Moltmann
(German Reformed Theologian)
Jürgen Moltmann
3
Birthdate: April 8, 1926
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hamburg, Germany

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

 16 
Rudolf Bultmann
(German Lutheran Theologian and One of the Major Figures of Early-20th-Century Biblical Studies)
Rudolf Bultmann
5
Birthdate: August 20, 1884
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Wiefelstede, Germany
Died: July 30, 1976

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.

 17 
Leo Baeck
(German Rabbi, Scholar and Theologian)
Leo Baeck
2
Birthdate: May 23, 1873
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Leszno, Poland
Died: November 2, 1956

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.

 18 
Horst Kasner
(German Protestant Theologian and Father of Former German Chancellor 'Angela Merkel')
Horst Kasner
5
Birthdate: August 6, 1926
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Pankow, Berlin, Germany
Died: September 2, 2011

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.

 19 
Bruno Bauer
(German Philosopher and Theologian Known for His Association and Sharp Break With ‘Karl Marx’ and ‘Friedrich Engels')
Bruno Bauer
3
Birthdate: September 6, 1809
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Eisenberg, Germany
Died: April 13, 1882

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.

 20 
Thomas Müntzer
(German Preacher and Theologian of the Early Reformation)
Thomas Müntzer
3
Birthdate: 1489 AD
Birthplace: Stolberg, Südharz, Germany
Died: May 27, 1525

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.

 21 
Karl Rahner
(One of the Most Influential Roman Catholic Theologians of the 20th Century)
Karl Rahner
4
Birthdate: March 5, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
Died: March 30, 1984

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.

 22 
Martin Bucer
(German Protestant Reformer and Theologian)
Martin Bucer
3
Birthdate: November 11, 1491
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Sélestat, France
Died: February 28, 1551

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.

 23 
Johannes Trithemius
(Cryptographer)
Johannes Trithemius
3
Birthdate: February 1, 1462
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Trittenheim, Germany
Died: December 13, 1516

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.

 24 
David Strauss
(German Theologian)
David Strauss
4
Birthdate: January 27, 1808
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ludwigsburg, Germany
Died: February 8, 1874

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.

 25 
Franz Rosenzweig
(German Theologian, Philosopher and Translator)
Franz Rosenzweig
4
Birthdate: December 25, 1886
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kassel, Germany
Died: December 10, 1929

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.

 26 
Dietrich von Hildebrand
(German Roman Catholic Philosopher and Religious Writer)
Dietrich von Hildebrand
3
Birthdate: October 12, 1889
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: January 26, 1977

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.

 27 
Hugh of Saint Victor
(12th Century French Theologian Who Began the Tradition of Mysticism)
Hugh of Saint Victor
3
Birthdate: 1096 AD
Birthplace: Saxony, Germany
Died: February 11, 1141

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.  

 28 
Andreas Karlstadt
(Theologian)
Andreas Karlstadt
4
Birthdate: 1486 AD
Birthplace: Karlstadt am Main, Germany
Died: December 24, 1541

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?

 29 
Constantin von Tischendorf
(German Biblical Scholar Known for Discovering World's Oldest and Most Complete Bible)
Constantin von Tischendorf
3
Birthdate: January 18, 1815
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Saxony, Germany
Died: December 7, 1874

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.

 30 
Rabanus Maurus
(Frankish Benedictine Monk, Theologian and Author of Encyclopaedia 'De rerum naturis')
Rabanus Maurus
5
Birthdate: 0780 AD
Birthplace: Mainz, Germany
Died: February 4, 0856

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.

 31 
Wolfhart Pannenberg
3
Birthdate: October 2, 1928
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Szczecin, Poland
Died: September 4, 2014

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.

 32 
Johann Eck
(Theologian)
Johann Eck
3
Birthdate: November 13, 1486
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Egg an der Günz, Germany
Died: February 10, 1543

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.

 33 
Peter Binsfeld
(Theologian)
Peter Binsfeld
2
Birthdate: 1545 AD
Birthplace: Binsfeld, Germany
Died: November 24, 1598

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.

 34 
Reinhard Marx
(Catholic priest, Writer, Theologian, University teacher)
Reinhard Marx
5
Birthdate: September 21, 1953
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Geseke

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.

 35 
Ernst Troeltsch
(Politician, Theologian, University teacher, Sociologist)
Ernst Troeltsch
3
Birthdate: February 17, 1865
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Augsburg-Haunstetten
Died: February 1, 1923

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.

 36 
Adolf von Harnack
(Baltic German Lutheran Theologian and Church Historian)
Adolf von Harnack
5
Birthdate: May 7, 1851
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tartu, Estonia
Died: June 10, 1930

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.

 37 
Paul Gerhardt
(Theologian)
Paul Gerhardt
2
Birthdate: March 12, 1607
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Gräfenhainichen, Germany
Died: May 27, 1676
 38 
Johannes Tauler
2
Birthdate: 1300 AD
Birthplace: Strasbourg, France
Died: June 16, 1361
 39 
Dorothee Sölle
(Theologian)
Dorothee Sölle
3
Birthdate: September 30, 1929
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cologne, Germany
Died: April 27, 2003
 40 
Ferdinand Christian Baur
2
Birthdate: June 21, 1792
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Schmiden, Germany
Died: December 2, 1860
 41 
Philipp Spener
2
Birthdate: January 13, 1635
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ribeauvillé, France
Died: February 5, 1705
 42 
Andreas Osiander
(Theologian)
Andreas Osiander
2
Birthdate: December 19, 1498
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Gunzenhausen, Germany
Died: October 27, 1552
 43 
Hermann Gunkel
(Biblical scholar)
Hermann Gunkel
2
Birthdate: May 23, 1862
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Springe, Germany
Died: March 11, 1932
 44 
Martin Chemnitz
(Theologian, University teacher, Astrologer)
Martin Chemnitz
2
Birthdate: November 9, 1522
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Treuenbrietzen
Died: April 8, 1586
 45 
Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst
(Writer, Theologian, University teacher, Catholic priest)
Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst
2
Birthdate: November 20, 1959
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Geldern

Known to the media as the Bishop of Bling for his extravagant expenses, German bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst made headlines when he spent around $43 million on renovating his home in Limburg, which also had a $300,000 fish tank. He eventually resigned amid a huge controversy.

 46 
C. F. W. Walther
(Theologian)
C. F. W. Walther
2
Birthdate: October 25, 1811
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Langenchursdorf, Germany
Died: May 7, 1887
 47 
Albrecht Ritschl
(Theologian)
Albrecht Ritschl
2
Birthdate: March 25, 1822
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: March 20, 1889
 48 
Balthasar Hubmaier
(Theologian)
Balthasar Hubmaier
2
Birthdate: 1480 AD
Birthplace: Friedberg, Germany
Died: March 10, 1528
 49 
Johann Oecolampadius
(Protestant Reformer)
Johann Oecolampadius
2
Birthdate: 1482 AD
Birthplace: Weinsberg, Germany
Died: November 24, 1531
 50 
August Hermann Francke
(German Theologian)
August Hermann Francke
2
Birthdate: March 22, 1663
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lübeck, Germany
Died: June 8, 1727

Remembered as one of the chief figures of German Pietism, August Hermann Francke had also been a professor of theology at the University of Halle. Though criticized by radical Lutherans, his social activism saw him providing education and essentials for the poor at his Francke Foundations.