Nathan Soderblom

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Nathan Söderblom around 1905
Nathan Söderblom 1930
Söderblom monument by Paul Birr (1933) on the Eisenacher Hainstein

Lars Olof Jonathan "Nathan" Söderblom (born January 15, 1866 in Trönö , †  July 12, 1931 in Uppsala ) was a Swedish Lutheran theologian and Archbishop of Uppsala. He also gained importance as a religious scholar . In 1930 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to ecumenism and world peace .

life and work

Nathan Söderblom was born in 1866 as the son of pastor Jonas Söderblom and was taught by his father for a long time. The child had to learn Latin at the age of five . It was only when he was nine years old that he first started middle school, then high school in Hudiksvall , which he graduated in 1883. He then studied Protestant theology at Uppsala University and acquired the candidate exam in 1892. His most important teacher was Waldemar Rudin . In 1890 he took part in the international Christian student conference in Northfield, Massachusetts . This conference and the encounter with people from other nations and denominations awakened his passion for ecumenism; the friendships made here with, among others, John Raleigh Mott and Wilfred Monod lasted throughout his life. A year later he was a participant in the congress of the Christian Young Men's Association in Amsterdam .

After the exam, Söderblom began with a dissertation on the ancient Persian religious history, which he postponed in 1893 in favor of ordination and work as a pastor in a psychiatric clinic in Uppsala. A year later he became the Swedish minister in Paris . Before leaving, he married Anna Forsell (1870–1955), the daughter of a captain from Stockholm, who had studied history in Uppsala and now worked as a teacher. The marriage had thirteen children, including the actor and journalist Helge Söderblom (1897–1932), the diplomat Staffan Söderblom (1900–1985) and the politician Jon Olof Söderblom (1906–1981). The daughters Brita (1896–1989), Lucie (1902–2002) and Yvonne (1903–1990) were married to the bishops Yngve Brilioth , Arvid Runestam and Algot Anderberg .

In Paris, Söderblom dealt intensively with the social question and joined the Evangelical Social Congress . He also studied at the Sorbonne , especially with the reformed systematist and religious scholar Auguste Sabatier (1839-1901). In January 1901 he earned a doctorate in theology with a thesis on Mazdaism . In July of the same year he was appointed to a professorship for the history of religion at Uppsala University, connected to the parish in Helga Trefaldighets kyrka . Due to his rather liberal attitude, he was initially largely isolated at the faculty. In 1909, on the basis of a generous donation, he was able to found the Olaus Petristiftelsen , which organized the annual Olaus Petri lectures at the university. As a valued academic teacher, he was a major influence on the Young Church movement . From October 1912, thanks to the mediation of Albert Hauck , in addition to his professorship in Uppsala, he also held the first German chair for religious studies at the University of Leipzig . As a religious scholar, he wrote both fundamental studies on individual questions and the scientific-theoretical foundations of the subject as well as overview presentations (his revision of the Compendium of the History of Religions by Cornelis Petrus Tiele was particularly influential ) and collections of sources that became standard works. With his comparative studies on eschatology and belief in God , among other things, is considered one of the founders of the phenomenology of religion . Rudolf Otto's emphasis on the sacred as a fundamental category of religion influenced . Tor Andræ was one of his students .

In May 1914, Söderblom was surprisingly appointed Archbishop of Uppsala and thus the spiritual head of the Swedish State Church . The ceremonial introduction took place on November 8, 1914. Söderblom worked primarily through his sermons and visitations. Although he sympathized with most of the political goals of the Swedish Social Democrats , he successfully fought the efforts of the radical wing to achieve a separation of church and state .

Internationally, Söderblom worked primarily through his commitment to Christian unity and world peace. Immediately after the outbreak of World War I , he tried to appeal for reconciliation between the belligerent nations. He initially concentrated his efforts on the World Association for Church Friendship, founded in 1914 , whose Swedish committee he set up in 1916. For 1917, together with the leading bishops from Denmark and Norway, he called a church conference in Uppsala, which, however, was not attended by the warring countries. At an international conference in the autumn of 1919 in Oud Wassenaar near The Hague, he reorganized the World Federation and also successfully promoted an international church conference that was also to address social problems. This is how the Movement for Practical Christianity ( Life and Work ), which held the Stockholm World Conference of Churches in 1925, was born . The conference, which came about primarily thanks to Söderblom's intensive commitment, in which the Anglican Archbishop Randall Thomas Davidson , representatives of the Orthodox and Protestant churches took part, is considered a milestone in the ecumenical movement. Söderblom also took part as one of four vice-presidents at the World Conference on Faith and Order in Lausanne in 1927, the second milestone on the way to founding the World Council of Churches .

As Archbishop Söderblom was also Vice Chancellor of Uppsala University and made Uppsala an international center of ecumenism. Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze , Friedrich Heiler , Albert Schweitzer , Adolf Deißmann and Sundar Singh are among those he has invited to Sweden . An intense friendship during his time as archbishop linked him to the family of the later UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld .

In addition to his scholarly and ecclesiastical writings, Söderblom composed several hymns, some of which are still in the current Swedish hymn book from 1986. In 1916 Söderblom composed a melody for the Swedish text of Paul Gerhardt's summer song Geh aus, mein Herz, und sucht Freud ( I denna ljuva sommartid ), which is very popular in Sweden instead of August Harder's melody known in Germany and also for other hymn book songs is used. Because of the great importance of Johann Sebastian Bach's music for Protestantism, Söderblom called the composer Bach in 1929 the “fifth evangelist”.

Söderblom died in 1931 as a result of an operation, a year after he was allowed to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He is buried with his wife in Uppsala Cathedral.


Memorial plaque in Wittenberg
1966 postage stamp

Remembrance day

Fonts (selection)

Individual works

  • Lutherska reformationens uppkomst. Stockholm 1893.
  • Religion and social development (= collection of generally understandable lectures and writings from the field of theology and the history of religion . 10). JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1898.
  • La vie future d'après le mazdéisme à la lumière des croyances parallèles dans les autres religions. Étude d'eschatologie comparée. E. Leroux, Paris 1901.
  • Cornelis Petrus Tiele : Compendium of the history of religion. Third German edition reviewed and revised by D. Nathan Söderblom. Biller, Breslau 1903 (digitized version) ; 6th edition 1931.
  • Uppenbarelsereligion. Stockholm 1903; expanded second edition 1930.
    • Revelation religion. In: Selected Works. Volume 1, Göttingen 2011, pp. 55-164.
  • The religions of the earth (= religious history folk books . Series 3, no.3). JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1906; 2nd edition 1919.
  • Ett Bidrag till den kristna uppenbarelsetrons tolkning. E. Berling, Upsala 1911.
  • Natural theology and general history of religion . Bonnier, Stockholm / Hinrichs, Leipzig 1913.
  • Gudstrons uppkomst. Study. Geber, Stockholm 1914.
  • Svenska kyrkans kropp och själ. Stockholm 1916.
    • Body and soul of the Swedish Church. In: Selected Works. Volume 2. Göttingen 2012, pp. 27–126.
  • The becoming of belief in God. Research on the beginnings of religion . Hinrichs, Leipzig 1916; 2nd edition 1926, Reprint Hildesheim 1979.
  • Humor och melankoli och andra lutherstudier. Stockholm 1919 (digitized)
    • Humor and Melancholy and Other Luther Studies. In: Selected Works. Volume 4, Göttingen 2015, pp. 23-318.
  • Introduction to the history of religion . Quelle & Meyer, Leipzig 1920. (2nd edition 1928)
  • Unification of Christianity - community of action of the churches from the spirit of working love . Müller's publishing house, Halle 1925.
  • Christian unity! Ev. Press association for Germany, Berlin-Steglitz 1928.
  • The levande guden. Basic form of personal religion. Svenska Kyrkans Diakonistyrelses Bokförlag, Stockholm 1932.
    • The living God in the testimony of religious history. ed. v. Friedrich Heiler. Reinhardt, Munich 1942. (2nd edition 1966)

Editions of works and edited volumes


Web links

Commons : Nathan Söderblom  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. entry .
  2. entry .
  3. Holger Krahnke: The members of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen 1751-2001 (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 3, Volume 246 = Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Mathematical-Physical Class. Series 3rd volume 50). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-82516-1 , p. 228.
  4. ^ Entry at .
  5. entry .
  6. ↑ Register of estates .
  7. Nathan Söderblom in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
predecessor Office successor
Johan August Ekman Archbishop of Uppsala
Erling Eidem