Gerd Theissen

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Gerd Theißen (or Theissen; born 24 April 1943) is a German Protestant theologian and New Testament scholar. He is Professor of New Testament Theology at the University of Heidelberg.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Theissen obtained his doctorate in theology in Protestant theology from the University of Bonn in 1968. He then took a position studying Evangelical Theology at the University of Bonn. He obtained his habilitation in 1972 in Bonn, with a form-critical work on early Christian miracle stories.[1]

Academic career[edit]

He was a lecturer at the University of Bonn from 1973 to 1978. In 1978, he became professor at the University of Copenhagen. Since 1980 he has been a professor at the University of Heidelberg. From 2007 to September 2009 he was secretary of the Philosophical class of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences.

In 2002, he was awarded the Burkitt Medal by the British Academy. It is granted 'in recognition of special service to Biblical Studies'.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Theissen is married to psychotherapist Dr. Christa Schaible. They have two children.[1]


His Sociology of early Palestinian Christianity (1978) is useful for interpreting intertestamental literature.[3]

Theissen received the Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies in 2002 from The British Academy. According to the British Academy's citation, Theissen is:

"... one of the earliest pioneers in the application of the principles and methods of sociology to the study of the New Testament. Notable works in this field are The First Followers of Jesus: A Sociological Analysis of the Earliest Christians (which concentrated on conditions in Palestine) and The Social Setting of Primitive Christianity (a Pauline study dealing mainly with Corinth)."

the citation goes on to say that

"... Prof. Theissen is not simply a sociologist. He has never ceased to be a theologian, who has always emphasised the theological as well as the historical significance of his sociological studies and has written specifically on the meaning of faith. A Critical Faith and Biblical Faith: an Evolutionary Approach are particularly important in this respect. But his recent publications also include The Religion of the Earliest Churches, Gospel Writing and Church Politics: a Socio-rhetorical Approach, and The Shadow of the Galilean. This last is a most unusual life of Jesus, accessible to any intelligent reader, but based on the strictest critical discipline."

His works are translated into more than ten languages, both European and Asian languages.[1]


Books translated in English
  • The Miracle Stories of the Early Christian Tradition (1974), Fortress Press, 1983, ISBN 0-8006-6205-9
  • Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity (1977), Fortress Press, 1978, ISBN 0-8006-1330-9
  • The First Followers of Jesus: A Sociological Analysis of the Earliest Christianity (1977), SCM Press, 1978, ISBN 0-334-00479-9
  • A Critical Faith: A Case for Religion (1978), Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979, ISBN 0-8006-1373-2
  • Social Reality and the Early Christians: Theology, Ethics and the World of the New Testament (1979), Minneapolis: Fortress 1992 (reprint T. & T. Clark, 1999), ISBN 0-567-09618-1
    • also published as: The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth (1979), Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1982 (reprint: Wipf & Stock, 2004), ISBN 1-59244-871-2
  • Psychological Aspects of Pauline Theology (1983), Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1987 (reprint: T. & T. Clark, 1999, ISBN 0-567-09479-0
  • Biblical Faith: An Evolutionary Approach (1984), Fortress Press, 1985, ISBN 0-8006-1842-4
  • The Shadow of the Galilean: The Quest of the Historical Jesus in Narrative Form (1986), Fortress Press, 1987; Updated edition 2007,ISBN 0-8006-3900-6.
  • The Gospels in Context: Social and Political History in the Synoptic Tradition (1989), Minneapolis: Fortress 1991 (reprint: T. & T. Clark, 1999), ISBN 0-567-29602-4
  • The Open Door: Variations on Biblical Theme (1990), Fortress Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8006-2561-7
  • The Sign Language of Faith. Opportunities for Preaching Today (1994), SCM Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0-334-02598-6
  • Traces of Light: Sermons and Bible Studies (1994), SCM Press, 1996, ISBN 0-334-02629-6
  • Gerd Theissen, Annette Merz, The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide (1996), Augsburg Fortress, 1998, ISBN 0-8006-3122-6
  • Gerd Theissen, Dagmar Winter, The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria (1997), Westminster John Knox Press, 2002, ISBN 0-664-22537-3
  • Signs of Life (1998), SCM Press, 1998, ISBN 978-0-334-02757-7
  • The Religion of the Earliest Churches: Creating a Symbolic World (1999), Fortress Press, 1999), ISBN 0-8006-3179-X
  • A Theory of Primitive Christian Religion (2000), SCM Press, 1999, ISBN 0-334-02913-9
  • Gospel Writing and Church Politics: A Socio-rhetorical Approach (Chuen King Lecture Series - CKLS 3 Chung Chi College: The Chinese University of Hong Kong), 2001 ISBN 962-7137-29-4
  • The New Testament: History, Literature, Religion (2002), T & T Clark, 2003, ISBN 0-567-08949-5
  • Wolfgang Stegemann, Bruce J. Malina, Gerd Theissen (eds.), The Social Setting of Jesus and the Gospels, Fortress Press, 2002, ISBN 978-0-8006-3452-0
  • The Bible and Contemporary Culture (2003), Fortress Press, 2007, ISBN 0-8006-3863-8
  • The New Testament: A Literary History (2007), Fortress Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-8006-9785-3
Books not transtaled
  • Untersuchungen zum Hebräerbrief, Gütersloh: Mohn, 1969
  • Jesus als historische Gestalt. Beiträge zur Jesusforschung, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck, 2003
  • Gerd Theissen, P.v. Gemünden, M. Konradt, Der Jakobusbrief. Beiträge zur Rehabilitierung der „strohernen Epistel“ , Münster: LIT, 2003
  • Die Jesusbewegung. Sozialgeschichte einer Revolution der Werte, Gütersloh: Kaiser, 2004
  • Erleben und Verhalten der ersten Christen. Eine Psychologie des Urchristentums, Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2007
  • "Regards psychologiques et sociologiques sur le christianisme primitif: cinq études de Gerd Theissen", Études théologiques et religieuses 83 (2008)
  • "Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft vor und nach 1945: Karl Georg Kuhn und Günther Bornkamm", Schriften der Philosophisch-historischen Klasse der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften 47, Heidelberg: Winter, 2009
  • "Von Jesus zur urchristlichen Zeichenwelt", “Neutestamentliche Grenzgänge“ im Dialog, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck, 2011
  • Die Ritualdynamik urchristlicher Sakramente. Von prophetischen Zeichenhandlungen zu geheimnisvollen Riten, = La dinamica rituale dei sacramenti nel cristianesimo primitivo. Da azioni simbolico profetiche a riti misterici, Lectiones Vagagginianae IV, Rom: Cittadella Editrice e Pontificio Ateneo Sant'Anselmo, 2013
  • Polyphones Verstehen. Entwürfe zur Bibelhermeneutik, Münster: LIT, 2014


  1. ^ a b c d Balla, Prof. Dr. Peter. "Laudatio for Professor Gerd Theissen, on the occasion of awarding him the title of doctor honoris causa" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  2. ^ "BURKITT MEDAL FOR BIBLICAL STUDIES 2002". Prizes and medals. British Academy. Archived from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  3. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. p. 251.

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