“…But let him who glories, glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:24). Throughout church history there have been hundreds of great scholars who have devoted their lives to teach and preserve the theology of the Christian faith. It is no easy task to refine such an important and extensive list down to just ten. But in attempt to narrow the great catalog, I’ve decided it is less about the most popular and even inspirational candidates, and more about scholarly discipline, honest pursuit of truth, and about remaining indispensably relevant and standing firm even after years of scrutiny and debate. I started with the fifth century and worked my way to modern day, so the numbers are not a ranking. Admittedly, this list is influenced by and limited to my own experience and may not make everyone’s “top 10”, but I am sure we can at least agree that these biblical scholars deserve very special commendation.

Top 10 Theologians of All Time – Top Theologians Whose Doctrine have Stood the Test of Time

1. St Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
It became quiet clear early on that Augustine was a bright child so his parents did all they could to get him the best education. His father was a pagan but his mother a true follower of Jesus Christ. While in school, Augustine leapt from one worldview to another, seeking answers to the questions plaguing his soul. He could not reconcile the problem of sin and existence of evil with the righteous God of whom his mother spoke. After some tragic turns in his life, and when many of his intellectually based “isms” failed, he turned to God wholeheartedly. His first writings were to refute the teachings that earlier influenced him during his lost years. Perhaps his most important works were those refuting the erroneous teachings of Pelagius, who contended that man has inherent goodness and could accomplish his own salvation apart from the grace of God. John Calvin would later be heavily influenced by the works of Augustine.

 

2. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
Thomas Aquinas was not only a great theologian but a philosopher of the highest degree. Among his most notable works are Summa Theologica and Summa contra Gentiles. The Summa contra Gentiles is his complete summary of Christian doctrine in which he takes an apologetic approach to intelligently answering various philosophies of the day. The Summa Theologica is a summary on God and man’s relationship to Him and consists of tracts, questions and articles all dealing with hundreds of different topics. There are areas in his teaching where conflict is evident or certain biblical teachings are ignored but his influence today, in both philosophy and theology is considerable.

 

3. John Calvin (1509-1564)
In conference with other great theologians of the day, he was referred to as “The Theologian”. Even if he lived a contradiction in his teaching on unconditional election and his agreement with the concept of a state church that required belief from all, whether elected or not (and all you staunch “Calvinists” don’t condemn me to the same fate as Michael Servetus for saying that), John Calvin’s influence cannot be ignored. He is responsible for volumes of works in theology and contributed a great deal in the area of soteriology that are worthy of debate and intellectual commitment. And whether or not the proper exegesis confirms the entire TULIP of his soteriological platform, as a student of the Word you would do well to be familiar with his work and the work of those who most influenced him.

 

4. Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
Matthew Henry was an English Presbyterian minister. His most notable work is the Matthew Henry commentary on the Whole Bible. It is definitely a must have commentary, if only for a reference, as it provides an exhaustive look at every single verse. I have read numerous testimonies of many who have read through the entire series and found it life changing. His work is insightful, practical in application and overall thought provoking.

 

5. John Wesley (1703-1791)
Here’s one for those of you who are more in the Arminian camp, doctrinally speaking. John Wesley along with his brother and a handful of other college students were responsible for founding the Methodist movement. Along with being an evangelist, organizer, and social reformer, he was a practical theologian. Because of his lack of systematic approach there are many who regard his work as doctrinally deficient, however, it is not until you realize his theological positions and active practice were inseparable, that you can fully appreciate his contribution. His beliefs may have been shaped more by his own experience than I am comfortable with, but I appreciate his motivation –a deep abiding love for Christ. And perhaps his greatest contributions are the beautiful hymns he penned, so rich in theological content. His attempt to balance the two soteriological extremes of “Calvinism” and “Arminianism” is at least provoking. George Whitfield (a staunch Calvinist) and John Wesley maintained a close lifelong friendship despite their opposing beliefs.

 

6. C.I. Scofield (1843-1921)
Following a broken past of drunkenness, corruption, and divorce, Dr. Cyrus Ingerson Scofield dedicated much of the second half of his life to study and to the ministry. He is most well-known for his Scofield Reference Bible, the basis of which came out of his bible correspondence course. And although well-known, and often typecast, for his promotion of premillennial dispensationalism, he had a clear and systematic approach to the study of God’s Word that is worth referencing no matter what your doctrinal position.

 

7. Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Known as the “Prince of Preachers” Charles Haddon Spurgeon contributed thousands of sermons and various writing, several of which were translated into many languages even within his own lifetime. His weekly sermons, packaged together into 63 volumes, remain one of the best selling series in history. There is very little dispute that his “Treasury of David” is one of the most complete and useful commentaries ever written on the book of Psalms.

 

8. Carl Friedrich Keil (1807-1888) | 9. Franz Delitzsch (1819-1890)
I put these two gentlemen together because their partnership in scholarship yielded one of the most comprehensive and engaging set of commentaries on the Old Testament. In my own grappling with the origin of sin combined with the “free” will of man there was not one other resource that helped my understanding as much as these two scholars. There are great theological riches to mine in their scholarly work.

 

10. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)
Martyn Lloyd-Jones started out as a medical doctor, but believed he could do more as a minister of the gospel. Well known for his expository preaching style and famous commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, his contributions are invaluable. His son-in-law, Sir Fred Catherwood, said of him in a tribute, “His expository preaching aimed both to let God speak as directly as possible to the man in the pew with the full weight of divine authority and also to minimize the intervention of the preacher and the watering-down of the direct and authoritative message by human intrusion and diversion.”

 

There are many many other notables, but these are among my favorites and preferred also by a great number of other students and scholars. Let us know who YOU think should make the list in the comments. In closing, I quote another great theologian:

 

“He that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of religion.”
― Jonathan Edwards

 

About The Author

Kristi Winkler

Kristi Winkler is a contributing writer for Sharefaith, a veteran eLearning developer, writer/editor, and business software analyst. Her writing gives a voice to the ministry experts she consults with and interviews.

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11 Responses

    • Kristi

      I left a lot of good guys out, Luther was one…Thanks for your comment.

    • George Amonoo

      Where are J I Packer and C. S. Lewis?
      George

  1. Steve

    Really? Scofield and Spurgeon but not Karl Barth, Jonathon Edwards, or Reinhold Neibuhr? Highly selective…

    • Kristi

      Jonathan Edwards almost made this all-to-short list.Thanks for your comment and contribution.

  2. Pat Rossi

    Just wondering who the ninth person was suppose to have been. Sorry, it just caught my eye and I thought I would tell you that somehow #9 didn’t make it.

    Thank you for your article

    Pat

    • Kristi

      Hi Pat, #8 and #9 were joined together on the same line. These two scholars made extraordinary contributions as a team. Thanks so much for your comment.

  3. GEORGE IRHIAYE

    Hi kristi, Great & impeccable selection But please how can i get these great theologians articles to build & increase my knowledge in the word;including your too.
    GEORGE, From Nigeria.
    Thanks.

  4. Steve Finnell

    FAULTY HERMENEUTICS BY STEVE FINNELL

    Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation of the Scriptures. What are the causes of faulty hermeneutics? Things that contribute to faulty hermeneutics are proof-texting, lack of prayerful study, pride, exalting men as infallible teachers, man made tradition doctrinal influences, self-imposed ignorance and dishonesty.

    FAULTY HERMENEUTICS dictates that Jesus was a sinner!

    Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    Does this prove that Jesus was a sinner? Absolutely not.

    Hebrews 4:14-15 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet is without sin.

    Jesus was not guilty of sin.—-PROPER HERMENEUTICS IS THE ANSWER.

    FAULTY HERMENEUTICS dictates that John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elijah.

    Matthew 11:14 And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.

    Does that Scripture prove that John the Baptist was Elijah reincarnated? No, it does not.

    John 1:19-23 This is the testimony of John….21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.”…
    Luke 1:5-17…It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah….

    FAULTY HERMENEUTIC dictates that men are saved by simply believing that Jesus is the Son of God.

    Acts 16:31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.

    Does Acts 16:31 prove that men are save by faith only. No, it does not.

    The Scriptures teach that Faith John 3:16, Repentance Acts 3:16, Confession Romans 10:9,10 and Water Baptism Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21 are all essential in order to be saved.

    John the Baptist was not the reincarnation of Elijah.—–PROPER HERMENEUTICS IS THE ANSWER.

    FAULTY HERMENEUTICS dictates that Jesus was God the Father.

    Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

    Would this Scripture prove that Jesus is God the Father? No, it would not.

    Mark 13:31-32 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father alone.

    Jesus will not know the end of time until God the Father tells Him. Jesus is not God the Father.

    1 Corinthians 15:20-28….23 who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father…..28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

    Is Jesus God? Yes, Jesus is God, but Jesus is not God the Father.—–PROPER HERMENEUTICS IS THE ANSWER.

    FAULTY HERMENEUTICS dictates that men can be saved without being baptized because the thief on the cross was saved without being immersed in water. Can men today be saved without baptism. No, they cannot.

    Luke 23:39-43 ….42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come into your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

    Was the thief saved? Yes, the thief was saved, however, the thief was saved before the New Covenant was in force. Under the New Covenant men have to be baptized in water in order to have their sins forgiven.

    Hebrews 9:16-17 For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be a death of the one who made it. 17 For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.

    The New Covenant, the New Testament, the New Agreement was only in effect after the death of Jesus. When Jesus was alive He forgave men of their sins for various and sundry reasons; the thief was one of those He forgave.

    The terms of pardon under the New Covenant are :
    FAITH (John 3:16)
    REPENTANCE (Acts 2:38)
    CONFESSION (Romans 10:9-10)
    BAPTISM (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16)

    Can men today be saved like the thief on the cross? No.—PROPER HERMENEUTICS IS THE ANSWER.

    FAULTY HERMENEUTICS=30,000 different denominations and religious groups all claiming the absolute truth? PROPER HERMENEUTICS IS THE ANSWER!

    (All Scripture quotes from: NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http//:steve-finnell.blogspot.com

  5. Mark

    You forgot Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards- definitely in the top five

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