Hans Urs von Balthasar

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hans Urs von Balthasar (born August 12, 1905 in Lucerne ; † June 26, 1988 in Basel ) was a Swiss Roman Catholic priest , theologian and cultural philosopher .

Balthasar came from an old patrician family in Lucerne . Although he has never worked in the academic business of a university, he is counted among the most important Catholic theological authors of the 20th century. Balthasar is also one of the preparers of the Second Vatican Council , to which he "as the only one among the great Central European theologians" was not invited as a consultant. He was later appointed to the International Theological Commission, which was founded after the Council and is assigned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith .

His theology was shaped by meetings with Jesuit philosophers and theologians such as Erich Przywara , Jean Daniélou and Henri de Lubac , which he also translated into German. He was also influenced by the philosophers Gustav Siewerth and Ferdinand Ulrich and through his longstanding collaboration with the mystic Adrienne von Speyr . Through his publications he opened up the patristic legacy anew for theology and Christian faith. Because of his services, Pope John Paul II intended to appoint him cardinal with the title diaconia of San Nicola in Carcere , but he died two days before he was accepted into the college of cardinals . He was buried at the court church in Lucerne without any time limit.


Hans Urs von Balthasar attended the Stella Matutina Jesuit College in Feldkirch and from 1923 studied German and philosophy in Zurich , Berlin and Vienna . In 1928 he received his doctorate in Zurich with the history of the eschatological problem in modern German literature . On October 31, 1929 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Feldkirch. After the novitiate he worked in Pullach from 1931 to 1932 . From 1932 to 1936 he studied theology in Lyon -Fourvière . He completed his tertiary education in Pullach after his ordination in Munich in 1936. From 1937 to 1939 he was editor of the religious magazine Voices of the Time . In 1950 he left the Jesuit order again. From 1940, Balthasar was a student and academic chaplain in Basel.

Together with Adrienne von Speyr , he founded the secular institute of the Johannesgemeinschaft on December 8, 1944 . In Zurich and Basel he then worked as a writer and director of the Johannesverlag. A conflict with the Jesuit order made Balthasar appear as a theological outsider in the 1950s. At times he was even a priest without a canonical assignment .

Balthasar presented an extensive theological work. As one of the most educated theological writers of the 20th century, Balthasar stayed away from a professorship. In 1960, he turned down an offer as professor of fundamental theology at the Catholic-Theological Faculty of the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen as successor to Heinrich Fries , and Hans Küng took over the chair instead . As the founder of secular institutes, he remained unknown compared to his theological acceptance.



Balthasars's literary work has the following scope: around 90 books of his own, 100 translations, 550 essays, 15 selected editions by classical authors. To this end, he was in charge of 13 series as editor.

The Johannes-Verlag offers a complete overview: Works by and about Hans Urs von Balthasar

A selection of earlier works:

  • History of the eschatological problem in modern German literature , self-published , [Zurich] 1930, DNB 572120885 2nd edition (= study edition , volume 2), Johannes, Freiburg im Breisgau 1998, ISBN 3-89411-347-2 (dissertation University of Zurich 1930 , 219 pages, 8 °, book edition: 270 pages, 23 cm).
  • Apocalypse of the German soul . 3 volumes. Pustet, Salzburg / Leipzig 1937–39
  • The heart of the world . Arche, Zurich 1945
  • Therese of Lisieux . History of a broadcast . Hegner, Cologne 1950
  • Karl Barth . Presentation and interpretation of his theology . Hegner, Cologne 1951
  • Reinhold Schneider . His way and his work . Hegner, Cologne 1953
  • Bernanos . Hegner, Cologne 1954
  • Lonely dialogue. Martin Buber and Christianity . Hegner, Cologne 1958; Johannes, Einsiedeln 2nd A. 1993, ISBN 3-89411-314-6 .
  • Augustine, The Citizenship. Frankfurt 1961
  • Cordula or the emergency . Johannes Verlag, Einsiedeln 1966
  • Apokatastasis (= New Criteria ; Volume 1), Johannes, Freiburg im Breisgau 1999, ISBN 3-89411-354-5

His great theological trilogy consists of:

  • Glory. A theological aesthetic . 3 volumes. Johannes, Einsiedeln 1961–69
  • Theodramatics . 4 volumes. Johannes, Einsiedeln 1971–83
  • Theology . 3 volumes. Johannes, Einsiedeln 1985-87
  • Epilogue . Johannes, Einsiedeln 1987

A selection of other works:

  • Sketches for theology . 5 volumes. Johannes, Einsiedeln 1960–86
  • First look at Adrienne von Speyr . Johannes, Einsiedeln 1968

Communio magazine

In 1972 v. Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger (2005–2013 Pope Benedict XVI.), Karl Lehmann , Franz Greiner , Otto B. Roegele , Albert Görres and Hans Maier the international Catholic magazine Communio . It appears (as of 2017) in 17 issues for different countries and is one of the most important Catholic theological magazines.


In 2005 his 100th birthday was commemorated.

There is the Hans Urs von Balthasar Foundation , a Swiss foundation. The purpose of the foundation is to maintain and disseminate the philosophical, theological and literary works of Hans Urs von Balthasar, in particular through

  • Support for all activities that - in cooperation with the Johannesgemeinschaft - serve the collection, organization, evaluation and - as far as possible - the public access to his estate,
  • Promotion of the literature by and about Hans Urs von Balthasar; Study grants, publication grants.
  • Establishment of an international circle of correspondents and friends also in ecumenical matters.


Collection of secondary literature on Hans Urs von Balthasar

in order of appearance

  • Otmar Meuffels: encircling people in the mystery of triune love. A Trinitarian anthropology based on Hans Urs von Balthasar. Echter, Würzburg 1991, ISBN 3-429-01391-7 .
  • Elio Guerriero: Hans Urs von Balthasar. A monograph. Johannes, Einsiedeln 1993, ISBN 3-89411-317-0 .
  • Manfred Lochbrunner : Hans Urs von Balthasar as author, editor and publisher. Five studies on his collections (1942–1967) Echter, Würzburg 2002, ISBN 3-429-02440-4 .
  • Manfred Lochbrunner: Hans Urs von Balthasar and his philosopher friends. Five double portraits. Echter, Würzburg 2005, ISBN 3-429-02740-3 .
  • Werner Löser: A short introduction to Hans Urs von Balthasar. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2005, ISBN 3-451-28781-1 .
  • Hans Urs von Balthasar: Bibliography 1925–2005 , revised and supplemented by Cornelia Capol and Claudia Müller. Johannes, Einsiedeln 2005, ISBN 3-89411-029-5 .
  • Special issue of the magazine Communio about Hans Urs von Balthasar. Schwabenverlag, Ostfildern 2005 (issue 2), ISSN  1439-6165 .
  • Walter Kasper (ed.): Logic of love and glory of God. An interview with Hans Urs von Balthasar. Ceremony for Karl Cardinal Lehmann on his 70th birthday. Matthias-Grünewald, Ostfildern 2006, ISBN 3-7867-2601-9 .
  • Manfred Lochbrunner: Hans Urs von Balthasar and his literary friends. Nine correspondence. Echter, Würzburg 2007, ISBN 3-429-02913-9 .
  • Ioan Moga: Hans Urs von Balthasar: an ecclesiological alternative program. In: Cornelius Keppeler, Justinus C. Pech (ed.): Contemporary understanding of the church. Eight ecclesiological portraits. Heiligenkreuz 2014, ISBN 978-3-902694-64-5 , pp. 26–58.
  • Paul Silas Peterson: The early Hans Urs von Balthasar. Historical contexts and intellectual formation . De Gruyter, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-11-037430-8 .
  • Stefanie Völkl: Perception of God in beauty and suffering. Theological aesthetics as a reading of the logic of love in Simone Weil and Hans Urs von Balthasar . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2016, ISBN 978-3-451-37608-5 (dissertation University of Lucerne 2015).
  • Manfred Lochbrunner: Hans Urs von Balthasar 1905–1988. The biography of a theologian of the century . Echter, Würzburg 2020, ISBN 978-3-429-05457-1 .


  1. Guerriero, p. 11
  2. According to Stephan Pauly (ed.): Theologians of our time. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1997, p. 38
  3. Daniel Deckers : The Cardinal. Karl Lehmann. A biography . Pattloch, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-629-01637-5 , p. 218.
  4. ^ International editions of Communio. Retrieved January 24, 2017 .
  5. www.communio-icr.com ( Memento from April 30, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  6. Stefan Hartmann: Appreciation (2005)
  7. www.balthasar-stiftung.org

Web links