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Prof. Dr. Johannes Zachhuber

Research Interests:

Philosophy and theology in late antiquity and their reception; History of theology in the 19th century; Religion and modernity; Theories of secularization


Johannes Zachhuber studied theology in Rostock, Berlin, and Oxford. He graduated with a Master of Studies degree in 1995 and obtained his doctorate in 1997 with a thesis on the philosophical background of fourth-century Christian thought, in particular in Gregory of Nyssa.

From 1997 until 2005 he held positions at Berlin’s Humboldt University. From 2002–2005, he was Junior Professor of Philosophical Theology.

Since 2005, he has worked at the University of Oxford. He is Fellow in Theology at Trinity College and, since 2014, Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology in the Faculty of Theology and Religion.

In 2011, he was awarded the Habilitation in Systematic Theology by Humboldt University, Berlin.

Prof Zachhuber was invited to be a guest researcher at the CNRS, Paris in 2011. In the academic year 2017/18, he was Senior Research Fellow of the British Academy.

In 2015, he delivered the first Leszek Kołakowski Lecture in Warsaw. In 2017, he gave the annual Père Marquette Lecture at Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI.

Project Abstract

Cosmic time and cosmic soul in late antiquity


The notion of the world soul is a well-known element encountered in cosmologies throughout antiquity. Its main function is to explain the coherence and inter-dependence of the various parts of the cosmos. It is closely related to the notion of the world’s intelligibility too (Plato, Timaeus 37 a-c). The presence of this notion in Plato’s Timaeus alone guaranteed for it a considerable level of continuing attention among the largely Platonic thinkers of late antiquity. Nonetheless, the precise role the world soul played in late ancient thought is still insufficiently understood. Elucidating it is complicated by the fact that influences beyond Plato’s philosophy have to be taken into account including Stoic accounts of the world soul but also Aristotelian physics which for many Neoplatonists became an important resource.


Against this backdrop, my project proposes to study evidence for a connection between the notion of a cosmic soul and late ancient theories of time. This link is evident above all in late ancient commentaries on a puzzling passage in Aristotle’s Physics (IV 14) in which the Stagirite claimed that time cannot exist without a soul. This passage is understood as referring to the world soul by Aristotle’s mostly Neoplatonic readers in late antiquity.

Starting from relevant texts in those commentaries, my project will seek to establish as full as possible a collection of late ancient texts on the relationship between time and the world soul. 

I will demonstrate how these texts add to our understanding of the world soul during this period; how they relate to other ancient theories of time; and what they betray about the fusion of Aristotelian and Platonic cosmologies in late antiquity. I will also address Christian debates about creation and time in order to ascertain what traces the notion of a world soul has left in these sources.

Curriculum vitae

Academic Employment


2014- Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, University of Oxford (previously, since 2005, University Lecturer and Reader)

2005- Fellow and Tutor in Theology, Trinity College

2002-5 Junior Professor in Philosophical Theology, Humboldt Universität, Berlin, Faculty of Theology

1997-2002 Assistant in Systematic Theology/Philosophy, Humboldt Universität, Berlin, Faculty of Theology




2011 Habilitation in Theology, Humboldt Universität, Berlin

1997 DPhil in Theology, University of Oxford

1995 MSt in Theology, University of Oxford

1989-94 Undergraduate study in Theology, University of Rostock; Humboldt-Universität, Berlin


Academic Leadership and outside activity


2015-17: Chair of Working Group ‘Theology and Religious Studies’ for the League of European Research Universities (LERU).

2014-17: Faculty Board Chair (= Head of Department) of the Faculty of Theology and Religion

2011-14: Research Director of the Faculty of Theology and Religion.

2013-15 Director Humanitas Interfaith Lectures (Oxford).

2010- AHRC Peer Review College

Selected Publications

Luther’s Christological Legacy: Christocentrism and the Chalcedonian Tradition, Milwaukee (Marquette University Press) 2017

The Oxford Handbook of Nineteenth Century Christian Thought, Oxford (OUP) 2017 (mit J. Rasmussen und J. Wolfe)

Individuality in Late Antiquity, Farnham (Ashgate) 2014 (with A. Torrance)

Theology as Science in Nineteenth-Century Germany: From F C Baur to Ernst Troeltsch, Oxford (Oxford University Press) 2013

Human Nature in Gregory of Nyssa. Philosophical Background and Theological Significance, Leiden (Brill) 1999 (paperback 2014)

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