Religious Studies

Early Theologians

St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian Dominican theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas was one of the most influential medieval thinkers of Scholasticism and the father of the Thomistic school of theology.

St. Augustine of Hippo
His numerous written works, the most important of which are Confessions (c. 400) and The City of God (c. 413–426), shaped the practice of biblical exegesis and helped lay the foundation for much of medieval and modern Christian thought. In Roman Catholicism he is formally recognized as a doctor of the church.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria
He was the chief defender of Christian orthodoxy in the 4th-century battle against Arianism, the heresy that the Son of God was a creature of like, but not of the same, substance as God the Father. His important works include The Life of St. AntonyOn the Incarnation, and Four Orations Against the Arians.

Moses Maimonides
Moses Maimonides, also known as the Rambam, was among the greatest Jewish scholars of all time. He made enduring contributions as a philosopher, legal codifier, physician, political adviser and local legal authority. Throughout his life, Maimonides deftly navigated parallel yet disparate worlds, serving both the Jewish and broader communities.

Reformation Theologians

Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German monk who forever changed Christianity when he nailed his '95 Theses' to a church door in 1517, sparking the Protestant Reformation.

John Calvin
John Calvin, Martin Luther's successor as the preeminent Protestant theologian, made a powerful impact on the fundamental doctrines of Protestantism.

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) is widely acknowledged to be America's most important and original philosophical theologian. His work as a whole is an expression of two themes — the absolute sovereignty of God and the beauty of God's holiness.

Karl Barth
Karl Barth (1886-1968) was the most important Swiss theologian of the twentieth century, with an influence far beyond Switzerland. He is considered alongside Thomas Aquinas, Jean Calvin, and Friedrich Schleiermacher to be one of the greatest thinkers within the history of the Christian tradition.

Friedrich Schleiermacher
Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768–1834) was an influential philosopher who paved the way for modern theological liberalism.

Charles Wesley
English clergyman, poet, and hymn writer, who, with his elder brother John, started the Methodist movement in the Church of England.

John Wesley
Anglican clergyman, evangelist, and founder, with his brother Charles, of the Methodist movement in the Church of England.

Modern Theologians

Elaine Pagels
Perhaps best known as the author of The Gnostic Gospels, The Origin of Satan, and Adam, Eve and the Serpent, she has published widely on Gnosticism and early Christianity, and continues to pursue research interests in late antiquity.

Karen Armstrong
English author of books on religion who was widely regarded as one of the leading commentators on the subject.

Dietrich Bonhœffer
A protestant German pastor and theologian, and also the co-founder of the confessing Church. He was opposed to the growing Nazi influence on protestant German churches. He died a martyr of faith and political rebel to the Hitler regime.

Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965) was an Alsatian (German) theologian, musician, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary. 

Reinhold Niebuhr
American Protestant theologian who had extensive influence on political thought and whose criticism of the prevailing theological liberalism of the 1920s significantly affected the intellectual climate within American Protestantism.

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a scholar and minister who led the civil rights movement. After his assassination, he was memorialized by Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Paul Tillich
German-born U.S. theologian and philosopher whose discussions of God and faith illuminated and bound together the realms of traditional Christianity and modern culture.

Adam Kotsko

Jewish Theologians

Abraham Joshua Heschel
Jewish theologian and philosopher, noted for his presentation of the prophetic and mystical aspects of Judaism and for his attempt to construct a modern philosophy of religion on the basis of the ancient and medieval Jewish tradition.

Martin Buber
A prominent twentieth century philosopher, religious thinker, political activist and educator. Born in Austria, he spent most of his life in Germany and Israel, writing in German and Hebrew. He is best known for his 1923 book, Ich und Du (I and Thou), which distinguishes between “I-Thou” and “I-It” modes of existence.

Rachel Adler
The writings of Rachel Adler on Jewish law and ritual have catapulted her into the center of modern Jewish religious discourse, and she is unquestionably among the leading constructive Jewish theologians, translators and liturgists of the modern era, garnering attention from Jewish and non-Jewish scholars, women and men alike.

Herman Schaalman

Islamic Theologians

Muhammad was the prophet and founder of Islam. Most of his early life was spent as a merchant. At age 40, he began to have revelations from Allah that became the basis for the Koran and the foundation of Islam. By 630 he had unified most of Arabia under a single religion. As of 2015, there are over 1.8 billion Muslims in the world who profess, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

Abu Nasr al-Farabi is widely regarded as the founder of philosophy within the Islamic world. Although he had some noteworthy predecessors, such as al-Kindi and al-Razi, he was the first philosopher of his epoch to command the unqualified respect of future generations.

Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn ibn Sina is better known in Europe by the Latinized name “Avicenna.” He is probably the most significant philosopher in the Islamic tradition and arguably the most influential philosopher of the pre-modern era

A Muslim theologian and jurist, known as Algazel to the western medieval world. Al-Ghazali was one of the greatest jurists, theologians and mystical thinkers in the Islamic tradition. He is credited with reconciling legalistic and mystical Islam, and gained a reputation within Christian as well as Muslim circles for his piety and godliness. . 

Eastern Religious Thinkers

Buddha was a spiritual teacher in Nepal during the 6th century B.C. Born Siddhartha Gautama, his teachings serve as the foundation of the Buddhist religion.

Bahá'u'lláh (Persian بهاء الله : meaning "Glory of God") (November 12, 1817 - May 29, 1892), was the founder of the Bahá'í Faith who claimed to fulfill the eschatological expectations of the Abrahamic religions, as well as Zoroastrianism, the Indian religions, and all other religions. Bahá'ís see Bahá'u'lláh as the initiator of a new world order, as well as the "supreme Manifestation of God"

Confucius was an influential Chinese philosopher, teacher and political figure known for his popular aphorisms and for his models of social interaction.

Comparative Religionists Thinkers

Abu Rayhan al-Biruni
Muslim astronomer, mathematician, ethnographist, anthropologist, historian, and geographer.

Ibn Hazm
Abu Muhammad Ali ibn Hazm (994-1064) was a Spanish-born Arab theologian, philosopher, and jurist whose most important work was a book on comparative religious history.

Max Müller
German scholar of comparative language, religion, and mythology. Müller’s special areas of interest were Sanskrit philology and the religions of India.

Mircea Eliade
Historian of religions, phenomenologist of religion, and author of novels, novellas, and short stories. Eliade was one of the most influential scholars of religion of the 20th century and one of the world’s foremost interpreters of religious symbolism and myth.

Emile Durkheim
French social scientist who developed a vigorous methodology combining empirical research with sociological theory. He is widely regarded as the founder of the French school of sociology.

Max Weber
Max Weber was a 19th-century German sociologist and one of the founders of modern sociology. He wrote 'The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism' in 1905.

Edmund Husserl
Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), is the “father” of the philosophical movement known as phenomenology.  Phenomenology can be roughly described as the sustained attempt to describe experiences (and the “things themselves”) without metaphysical and theoretical speculations.

Rudolf Otto
Rudolf Otto (1869–1937) was a German systematic theologian who contributed especially to the philosophy and history of religion. As a liberal theologian or, more accurately, a Vermittlungstheologe (theologian of mediation), Otto conceived of systematic theology as a science of religion, whose components were the philosophy, psychology, and history of religions. 

Sir James George Frazer
British anthropologist, folklorist, and classical scholar, best remembered as the author of The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion.

Clifford Geertz
An American cultural anthropologist, famous for his work on cultural symbols and meaning. During thirty years at Princeton University, he studied the cultures of Southeast Asia and North Africa, investigating a wide variety of social structures including economic development, political structures, family life, and religion. His emphasis has been on the symbolism that reveals the frames of meaning through which each culture views the world. His work has contributed greatly to the understanding of how various peoples have interpreted the world of external, physical reality. However, although he studied religious symbolism, he has viewed religion as another frame of meaning through which to interpret the physical world, rather than recognizing the spiritual realm as a different dimension of life.