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Prof Christoph Schwöbel (1955-2021)

A tribute on behalf of the St Andrews Encyclopaedia of Theology

In March 2018, as I was preparing the first proposal for the St Andrews Encyclopaedia of Theology, I discussed the planned Encyclopaedia with my then-colleague Alan Torrance. Alan remarked that it was all very well to have his and others’ advice and support, but the person whom I really needed on board was Christoph Schwöbel. Christoph was then finishing his last year at Tübingen, having accepted the 1643 Chair in Divinity at St Mary’s.

Christoph and I discussed the project as part of our conversations about his move to Scotland. From the beginning, the Encyclopaedia’s significance for research and potential for education were clear to him. Despite his modest disclaimers, it was equally clear that in joining us as a Senior Editor he would have much to offer.

For not only was Christoph a leading theologian, his experience of encyclopaedias was vast. He had contributed to the volumes of the Theologische Realenzyklopaedie, as well as the Theologen Lexicon and The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Modern Christian Thought. More to the point, however, he had played a key role in the massive 4th edition of Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart and its English-language edition Religion Past and Present, where he was subject editor of four central areas (fundamental theology, dogmatics, philosophy of religion and ecumenical theology) and author of important articles.

Christoph assisted in all the planning stages of the Encyclopaedia project, but his contribution was felt most strongly in our regular editorial meetings with fellow Senior Editors Steve Holmes, Judith Wolfe, and N.T. Wright, along with the team of academic editors. These discussions were models of the kind of conversation Christoph understood to be the heart of theology and indeed reality. With wisdom, self-effacement, and mirth, Christoph would share his ideas about which articles the St Andrews Encyclopaedia of Theology required, whom to approach to write them, and how they should relate to each other. Christoph’s letters of invitation to potential authors of his acquaintance deserve someday to be published for their eloquence and insight; his work reviewing and editing articles as they arrived was deft and exemplary.

On behalf of all the Encyclopaedia’s editors and team members, I would like to acknowledge our debt of gratitude to Christoph and our dedication to continuing our work on the foundations we laid together.

Brendan Wolfe (Principal Editor)