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,[4] 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]


  • Psychological Aspects of Pauline theology, T. & T. Clark Publishers, Ltd.; 1st Ed. edition (May 1999), ISBN 0-567-09479-0
  • The Shadow of the Galilean: The Quest of the Historical Jesus in Narrative Form (1987),Fortress Press; Updated edition (2007),ISBN 0-8006-3900-6.
  • The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, by Gerd Theissen, Annette Merz, Augsburg Fortress Publishers (1998), ISBN 0-8006-3122-6
  • 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 miracle stories of the early Christian tradition, Fortress Pr (1983), ISBN 0-8006-6205-9
  • The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth, Wipf & Stock Publishers (2004), ISBN 1-59244-871-2
  • Biblical Faith: An Evolutionary Approach, Fortress Press; 1 edition (2000), ISBN 0-8006-1842-4
  • The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria, by Gerd Theissen, et al. Westminster John Knox Press (2002), ISBN 0-664-22537-3
  • The Religion of the Earliest Churches: Creating a Symbolic World, Fortress Press (1999), ISBN 0-8006-3179-X
  • Fortress Introduction to the New Testament, FORTRESS PRESS (2003), ISBN 0-8006-3622-8
  • Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity, Fortress Pr (1978), ISBN 0-8006-1330-9
  • The Gospels in Context: Social and Political History in the Synoptic Tradition, T. & T. Clark Publishers (1999), ISBN 0-567-29602-4
  • Social Reality and the Early Christians: Theology, Ethics and the World of the New Testamen, T. & T. Clark Publishers (1999), ISBN 0-567-09618-1
  • The Bible and Contemporary Culture, Fortress Press (2007), ISBN 0-8006-3863-8
  • The first followers of Jesus: A sociological analysis of the earliest Christianity, S.C.M. Press (1978), ISBN 0-334-00479-9
  • The Open Door: Variations on Biblical Theme, Fortress Pr; 1st Fortress Press ed edition (1991), ISBN 0-8006-2561-7
  • A Critical Faith: A Case for Religion, Augsburg Fortress Publishers (1979), ISBN 0-8006-1373-2
  • The Social Setting of Jesus and the Gospels, by Gerd Theissen and others, Fortress Press (2002), ISBN 978-0-8006-3452-0
  • A Theory of Primitive Christian Religion, SCM press (1999), ISBN 0-334-02913-9
  • The Sign Language of Faith, SCM press (1995), ISBN 978-0-334-02598-6
  • Traces of Light, Presbyterian Pub Corp (1996), ISBN 0-334-02629-6
  • Signs of Life, SCM Press (1998), ISBN 978-0-334-02757-7
  • The New Testament : history, literature, religion, T & T Clark (2003), ISBN 0-567-08949-5
  • New Testament (Understanding the Bible and Its World), T & T Clark International (2003), ISBN 0-567-08191-5


  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). Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  2. ^ "BURKITT MEDAL FOR BIBLICAL STUDIES 2002". Prizes and medals. British Academy. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. p. 251.
  4. ^ Read online.