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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 is Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at the University of Oxford. He studied theology in Rostock, Berlin, and Oxford, receiving an M.A. in 1995 and a Ph.D. in 1997 with a thesis on the philosophical background of fourth-century Christian thought, especially in Gregory of Nyssa. From 1997 to 2005 he held several positions at the Humboldt University of Berlin, including Junior Professor of Philosophical Theology. Since 2005 he has been affiliated with the University of Oxford, where he is Fellow in Theology at Trinity College and Professor in the Faculty of Theology and Religion. Johannes received his Habilitation in Systematic Theology from Humboldt University in 2011, was invited as a visiting researcher to the CNRS Paris (2011), and was a Senior Research Fellow of the British Academy (2017/18). He has given notable lectures, including the Leszek Kołakowski Lecture in Warsaw and the Père Marquette Lecture at Marquette University.

Project Abstract

Chronology and the Reinvention of Antiquity in Early Modernity. The reception of Patristic texts from the fifteenth century onwards required new ways to organise this newly acquired knowledge. One key method by which early modern scholars responded to this challenge was the chronological rearrangement of the information they now possessed. This research project aims to demonstrate the importance of chronology in this context. Antiquity was historicised by projecting onto it a temporal framework based on synchronisation. Focusing on the work of Denys Pétau, the project will explore the link between the study of historical time and the emergence of historical thought.

Past Project

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


Habilitation in Theology (2011), Humboldt University of Berlin

Ph.D. in Theology (1997), Humboldt University of Berlin

MSt in Theology (1995), University of Oxford

Undergraduate Studies in Theology (1989-94), University of Rostock and Humboldt University of Berlin


Academic Positions


Since 2014  

Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, University of Oxford 

(Previously, since 2005, University Lecturer and Reader)

Since 2005

Fellow and Tutor in Theology, Trinity College, University of Oxford


Junior Professor in Philosophical Theology, Faculty of Theology, Humboldt University of Berlin


Assistant in Systematic Theology/Philosophy, Faculty of Theology, Humboldt University of Berlin


Fellowships and Academic Activities


Fellow at the Einstein Center ‘Chronoi’, Berlin


Senior Research Fellow, British Academy



Chair of Working Group ‘Theology and Religious Studies’ for the League of European Research Universities (LERU)


Faculty Board Chair of the Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford 


Research Director of the Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford


Director Humanitas Interfaith Lectures, University of Oxford

Since 2010

AHRC Peer Review College

Selected Publications

2022. Time and Soul: From Aristotle to St Augustine. Berlin: de Gruyter.

2020. The Rise of Christian Theology and the End of Ancient Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

2017, ed. with J. Rasmussen und J. Wolfe. The Oxford Handbook of Nineteenth Century Christian Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2014, ed. with A. Torrance. Individuality in Late Antiquity. Farnham: Ashgate.

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

1999. Human Nature in Gregory of Nyssa. Philosophical Background and Theological Significance. Leiden: Brill.

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February 23, 2023

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