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If you had to…

A while back I asked folks who they would study if they had to be a scholar of just one modern theologian.  The key word there was ‘modern’.  Now I want to open it up more.  Out of all premodern theologians, (lets say up until the 19th century) who would you most want to study?  I suppose I’d have to go with Augustine, with Luther being a close second.  Other runners-up would be Aquinas, Irenaeus, and Jonathan Edwards.  What say you?


  1. I think it would have to be Origen. Who else has comparable erudition, while also taking us as close as possible to the origins of Christianity itself?

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 9:58 am | Permalink
  2. In chronologiocal order, my choice would be Irenaeus, Calvin, Bach, Goodwin, Hegel, Edwards or Baldwin Brown. In order of preference, Calvin, Hegel, Bach … whoever.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  3. Hill wrote:

    Augustine and Aquinas tied for first with the Areopagite or the Cappodocians up there as well.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 10:22 am | Permalink
  4. Meister Eckhart, for sure.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 11:40 am | Permalink
  5. Ben wrote:

    Not all of these are theologians, strictly speaking: Irenaeus, Maximos, Origen, Jan van Ruusbroec, Hildegard von Bingen.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 12:28 pm | Permalink
  6. Brian wrote:

    Basil the Great or Maximus the Confessor (if only because the later sounds so cool to say!).

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  7. Dave wrote:

    I think I would say Augustine, but if Kierkegaard counts, maybe him.

    I’m actually going to have the chance to study Augustine in a little depth in the fall, in a tutorial system at Oxford (I’m doing a study abroad program there). Nowhere near a lifetime of study, but it will be my first “class” that I spend a focused period of time on one individual.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 2:09 pm | Permalink
  8. James wrote:

    Maximus the Confessor or Johnny Calvin

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 3:40 pm | Permalink
  9. Freder1ck wrote:

    Jonathan Edwards!

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 3:42 pm | Permalink
  10. Halden wrote:

    Serioulsy Fred? That’s a bit of a shocker for me, honestly.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 3:43 pm | Permalink
  11. Ben Myers wrote:

    In order of priority: St Paul, Augustine, Origen, Aquinas.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 4:02 pm | Permalink
  12. Freder1ck wrote:

    Seriously, Halden.

    In 2003, I read this article about Edwards, which spurred me to read Phillip Gura’s biography – which I found fascinating. Here you have an American genius engaging Locke and continental philosophy at a pivotal time in American history. Since then, I’ve only had a chance to read his “Sinners” (I also listened to a bit of Billy Graham’s version). I appreciate the theme of “Their foot will slide in due time.” The only thing I reject in that sermon is the bit that compares God to an arbitrary child with a “loathsome spider.”

    From Gura’s bio, I got the sense that there’s an incredible dynamism in Edwards’s theology that reminds me of Gregory of Nyssa (drawing ever nearer to God who is ever greater) – and yes, I’d like to read more of G.of N. too. Sure, I disagree with Edwards’s idea that creation emanated from God, with his violent passion against Arminianism, and with his delight in sometimes insisting on God as arbitrary and unreasonable. But his Christianity is robust, luminous: it’s real and unmistakable despite a mistaken idea here or there. You don’t throw away a Caravaggio painting just because it has a scratch on it!

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 6:34 pm | Permalink
  13. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    I’m surprised Ben was the only one who mentioned any one who has been canonized as scripture. I’d say Paul and the gospel of John. Zizioulas certainly makes the Cappadocians seem like a wild bunch, so they’d be up there for me. Of course, Augustine’s gotta be right behind Paul.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 7:28 pm | Permalink
  14. Rachel VZ wrote:

    Gregory of Nyssa.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  15. Saint Egregious wrote:


    Friday, March 28, 2008 at 6:19 am | Permalink
  16. Macrina wrote:

    Either the Cappadocians (is it cheating to include them as one?) or Maximus.

    Friday, March 28, 2008 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  17. Bobby Grow wrote:

    Jesus, Luther, Calvin, Richard Sibbes

    Friday, March 28, 2008 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  18. Drew wrote:

    Athanasius. I would also love to get into the preaching of Chrysostom much more.

    Friday, March 28, 2008 at 6:25 pm | Permalink
  19. axegrinder wrote:

    John of Damascus
    The Cappadocians
    Richard St. Victor

    Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 3:47 am | Permalink
  20. Nathan Smith wrote:

    Gregory of Nazianzus

    Sunday, March 30, 2008 at 10:33 pm | Permalink
  21. Layne wrote:

    Luther or Erasmus….

    Monday, March 31, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

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