Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion

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Title page of the first edition, 1832.
Title page of the 1840 German edition.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (LPR; German: Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion, VPR) outlines his ideas on Christianity as a form of self-consciousness. They represent the final and in some ways the decisive element of his philosophical system. In light of his distinctive philosophical approach, using a method that is dialectical and historical, Hegel offers a radical reinterpretation of the meaning of Christianity and its characteristic doctrines. The approach taken in these lectures is to some extent prefigured in Hegel's first published book, The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807).

Publication history[edit]

Hegel's conception and execution of the lectures differed significantly on each of the occasions he delivered them, in 1821, 1824, 1827, and 1831.[1][citation needed]

The first German edition was published at Berlin in 1832, the year after Hegel's death, as part of the posthumous Werke series. The book was rather hastily put together by Philip Marheineke, mainly from students' copies of the lectures delivered during different sessions, though it also contained matter taken from notes and outlines in Hegel's own handwriting.[2]

In 1840, two of the Young Hegelians, Bruno Bauer and Karl Marx, began work on a second edition,[3] which appeared under Marheineke's name. In the preparation of this second edition, the editors drew largely on several important papers found amongst Hegel's manuscripts, in which his ideas were developed in much greater detail than in any of the sketches previously used, including the "Lectures on the Proofs of the Existence of God," which Hegel was revising for the press when he died. Marheineke had also fresh and very complete copies of the lectures made by some of Hegel's most distinguished pupils.[4]

Yet, the book in the form in which we have it, remains an editorial compilation. No part of it, not even the part which is Hegel's actual composition, was intended for publication, and the informal and discursive character of the Lectures is apparent.[5]

In the 1920s, Georg Lasson published a new edition within the Sämtliche Werke series. It used special types to differentiate the text of Hegel's manuscripts, from his students' notes, but stitched lectures from different session together, and cut out what Lasson viewed as repetitions. Although the result is not always praised today, his edition is useful to researches as he had access to manuscripts that have since been lost.[6]

In 1990, Oxford University Press published a critical edition, separating the series of lectures and presenting them as independent units on the basis of a complete re-editing of the sources by Walter Jaeschke. This English translation was prepared by a team consisting of Robert F. Brown, Peter C. Hodgson, and J. Michael Stewart, with the assistance of H. S. Harris. The three volumes include editorial introductions, critical annotations on the text, textual variants, and tables, bibliography, and glossary.[7]


"The Consummate [or Absolute] Religion" is Hegel's name for Christianity, which he also designates "the Revelatory [or Revealed] Religion."[8] In these lectures, he offers a speculative reinterpretation of major Christian doctrines: the Trinity, the Creation, humanity, estrangement and evil, Christ, the Spirit, the spiritual community, church and world. These interpretations have had a powerful and controversial impact on modern theology.[citation needed]

Hegel expanded on Luther's idea of Christian liberty. He touches on pantheism, and discusses religions of India, China, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome. It is the only work where he examines Islam. In the last of three volumes based on these lectures, Hegel discusses at length many different philosophical arguments for the existence of God.


The social anthropologist Sir James George Frazer wrote in a 1910 preface to The Golden Bough, originally published in 1890, that while he had never studied Hegel, his friend James Ward, and the philosopher J. M. E. McTaggart, had both suggested to him that Hegel had anticipated his view of "the nature and historical relations of magic and religion". Frazer saw the resemblance as being that "we both hold that in the mental evolution of humanity an age of magic preceded an age of religion, and that the characteristic difference between magic and religion is that, whereas magic aims at controlling nature directly, religion aims at controlling it indirectly through the mediation of a powerful supernatural being or beings to whom man appeals for help and protection."[9]



  1. ^ Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (2012). Hodgson, Peter C. (ed.). Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion: One-Volume Edition, The Lectures of 1827. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-0-19-928352-1.
  2. ^ Spiers (ed), 1895. Editor's preface, p. v.
  3. ^ McLellan 2006. pp. 32–33.
  4. ^ Spiers (ed), 1895. Editor's preface, p. v.
  5. ^ Spiers (ed), 1895. Editor's preface, p. vi.
  6. ^ Hegel 1988. pp. 8-9.
  7. ^ Hegel 1990.
  8. ^ Hodgson 2005. p. 85.
  9. ^ Frazer 1976. pp. ix, 423.


  • Frazer, James George (1976). The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. Part 1: The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings. Vol 1. London: The Macmillan Press. ISBN 0 333 01282 8.
  • Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Peter Crafts Hodgson; Robert F Brown (1988). Lectures on the philosophy of religion. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520061268 – via Google books.
  • Hegel, G.W.F. (1990). Peter C. Hodgson (ed.). Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199283538.
  • Hodgson, Peter C. (2005). Hegel and Christian Theology : A Reading of the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191534300.

External links[edit]