Otto Pfleiderer

Professor of Theology, University of Berlin

Philosophy and Development of Religion

Pfleiderer’s two series of ten lectures examine natural religion and historical developments within Christianity. In the first series of lectures, his argument is rooted in the belief that, ‘in obedience to God man finds his true freedom; out of the humility which overcomes itself grows the courage which overcomes the world’. In the second series of lectures, he explores the historical development of Christianity, and the difficulties of creating such an account.


Otto Pfleiderer was born on 1 September 1839 in Stetten im Remstel, Germany.  A New Testament scholar and theologian, he was one of the most influential representatives of liberal theology. After training in Germany between 1857 and 1861, with brief stints in Scotland and England, he became a pastor at Heilbronn in Tübingen in 1868. After the publication of his Der Paulinismus (1873), Pfleiderer was appointed as Chair of Systematic Theology at the University of Berlin.

In 1885, he delivered the Hibbert Lectures in London on ‘The Influence of the Apostle Paul on the Development of Christianity’. His Gifford Lectures were dubbed by their critics as an ‘attack upon Christianity as a Supernatural religion’; however, they proved to be stimuli for discourse. Pfleiderer’s publications include Paulinism: A Contribution to the History of Primitive Christian Theology (1877), The Philosophy of Religion on the Basis of its History (1886–1888), Primitive Christianity (1906), The Early Christian Conception of Christ (1905), Christian Origins (1906), Religion and Historic Faiths (1907), and The Development of Christianity (1910, posthumously).