List of founders of religious traditions
This article lists historical figures credited with founding religions or religious philosophies or people who first codified older known religious traditions. It also lists those who have founded a specific major denomination within a larger religion.
In many cases, one can regard a religion as a continuous tradition extending to prehistoric times without a specific founder (Hinduism, which is a synthesis of the Historical Vedic religion, the śramaṇa movement, folk religion and animism), or with legendary founding-figures whose historicity has been widely questioned (such Rishabhanatha). This notwithstanding, many historical expressions of such religions will still have founders. Religion often develops by means of schism and reform (motivated by theological speculation), and it becomes a matter of judgement at what point such a schism or reform should be considered the "foundation" of a new religious tradition. For example, Martin Luther and John Wesley worked for reforms but their efforts failed to influence the whole Catholic Church, and the end result was a new tradition within Christianity.
Chronologically, foundations of religious traditions may sub-divide into:
- The Axial Age, with foundations to Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism and with the earliest known major founding figures such as the Patriarchs, Zoroaster, Confucius, and Gautama Buddha.
- Hellenism to Late Antiquity, with foundations of classical religious traditions and schools such as various sects of Early Christianity, Stoicism, Gnosticism.
- The medieval to early modern period, with the rise of Islam, the Bhakti movement, Zen, and the Protestant Reformation.
- New religious movements, since c. 1800.
Ancient (before AD 500)
- See culture hero for legendary founders of doubtful historicity.
|Name||Religious tradition founded||Ethnicity||Life of founder|
|Naram-Sin of Akkad||first known ruler to impose an imperial cult||Akkadian||22nd century BC (short chronology)|
|Ur-Nammu||built the Ziggurat of Ur to Nanna||Sumerian||21st century BC (short chronology)|
|Akhenaten||Atenism||Egyptian||14th century BC (conventional Egyptian chronology)|
|Yahwists||Judaism||Judahite||c. 13th to 8th century BC|
|Parshvanatha||The penultimate (23rd) Tirthankara in Jainism||Indian||877–777 BC|
|Zoroaster||Zoroastrianism||Central Iranian/Airya||c. 10th to 6th century BC|
|Laozi||Taoism||Chinese||6th century BC|
|Nebuchadnezzar II||built the Etemenanki, established Marduk as the patron deity of Babylon|| Babylonian|
(the southern dialect of Akkadian)
|6th century BC|
|Mahavira||The final (24th) tirthankara in Jainism||Indian||599–527 BC|
|Siddhartha Gautama||Buddhism||Indian/Nepali||c. 5th century BC|
|Confucius||Confucianism||Chinese||551 BC – 479 BC|
|Pythagoras||Pythagoreanism||Samian||fl. 520 BC|
|Mozi||Mohism||Chinese||470 BC – 390 BC|
|Ezra||Second Temple Judaism|| Levite Judean, |
|fl. 459 BC|
|Epicurus||Epicureanism||Samian||fl. 307 BC|
|Zeno of Citium||Stoicism|| possibly Phoenician,|
albeit a Greek national
|333 BC – 264 BC|
|Pharnavaz I of Iberia||Armazi||Georgian||326 BC - 234 BC|
|Patanjali||Rāja yoga||Indian||2nd century BC|
|Jesus and the Twelve Apostles||Christianity||Judean||c. 4 BC - c. 33 AD|
|Paul the Apostle||Pauline Christianity||Judean, albeit a Roman citizen||c. 33 AD|
|James the Just||Jewish Christianity||Judean||c. 33 AD|
|Judah the Prince||Rabbinic Judaism||Judean, Davidic line||2nd century AD|
|Marcion of Sinope||Marcionism||Pontic Greek||110–160|
|Plotinus||Neoplatonism|| may have been of Roman,|
Greek, or Hellenized Egyptian
ancestry; Roman citizen
|Mani||Manichaeism||Persian Western Iranian/Airya||216–274|
|Arius||Arianism|| possibly Berber,|
born in Libya; hellenophone
|Pelagius||Pelagianism||British, possibly Irish;||354–430|
|Nestorius||Nestorianism||Romaniote (Byzantine hellenophone)||386–451|
|Eutyches||Monophysitism||born in Constantinople||380–456|
Medieval to Early Modern (500–1800 AD)
New religious movements (post-1800)
- The religion of the Israelites of Iron Age I was based on a cult of ancestors and worship of family gods, the "gods of the fathers". With the emergence of the monarchy at the beginning of Iron Age II the kings promoted their family god, YHWH (Yahweh), as the god of the kingdom, but beyond the royal court, religion continued to be both polytheistic and family-centered. As such, this founding group is referred to as "Yahwists" as they were neither truly Israelites or truly Jews.
- Israel emerges into the historical record in the last decades of the 13th century BCE, at the very end of the Late Bronze Age, as the Canaanite city-state system was ending. In the words of archaeologist William Dever, "most of those who came to call themselves Israelites … were or had been indigenous Canaanites". The worship of YHWH (Yahweh) alone began at the earliest with Elijah in the 9th century BCE, but more likely with the prophet Hosea in the 8th; even then it remained the concern of a small party before gaining ascendancy in the exilic and early post-exilic period.
- "Controversy over Zoroaster's date has been an embarrassment of long standing to Zoroastrian studies. If anything approaching a consensus exists, it is that he lived ca. 1000 BCE give or take a century or so, though reputable scholars have proposed dates as widely apart as ca. 1750 BCE and '258 years before Alexander.'" (Encyclopædia Iranica)
- historicity disputed but widely considered plausible. Gosta W. Ahlstrom argues the inconsistencies of the biblical tradition are insufficient to say that Ezra, with his central position as the 'father of Judaism' in the Jewish tradition, has been a later literary invention. (The History of Ancient Palestine, Fortress Press, p.888)
- The teaching of the traditional "founding father" of a "heresy" is may well have differed greatly from the contents of the heresy as generally understood. For references see following notes.
- Acc. to Rowan Williams, 'Arianism' was essentially a polemical creation of Athanasius in an attempt to show that the different alternatives to the Nicene Creed collapsed back into some form of Arius' teaching. (Arius, SCM (2001) p.247)
- Pelagius' thought was one sided and an inadequate interpretation of Christianity, but his disciples, Celestius and, to a greater extent, Julian of Eclanum pushed his ideas to extremes.(Kelly, J.N.D. Early Christian Doctrines A & C. Black (1965) p.361) Pelagius himself was declared orthodox by the synod of Diospolis in 415, after repudiating some of Celestius' opinions. (Frend, W.H.C. Saints and Sinners in the Early Church DLT (1985) p.133)
- Nestorius specifically endorsed the repudiation of "Nestorianism" reached at Chalcedon in 451 (Prestige, G.L. Fathers and Heretics SPCK (1963) p.130)
- Monophysitism represents an advanced type of Alexandrian Theology; it emerged in a distinctive form in 433 as a result of the agreement between John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria. The exaggerated form held by Eutyches was condemned in 451 by the Council of Chalcedon. In its moderate forms the divergence from orthodoxy may be simply terminological. Alexandrian Theology stressed both divine transcendence and a marked dualism between the material and the spiritual and so tended to nullify the humanity of Christ.(Cross & Livingstone. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1974) arts. Monophysitism, Alexandrian Theology)
- The Old Catholic Churches are a grouping of national churches which have broken from Rome at different times: The Church of Utrecht in 1724; German Austrian and Swiss Christians who refused to accept the dogma of papal infallibility as defined in 1870 and received the apostolic succession from Utrecht; these two groups were later some small groups of Slav origin living in the USA (Cross & Livingstone. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1974) arts. Old Catholics; Holland, Christianity in)
- List of Buddha claimants
- List of people who have been considered deities
- List of religions and spiritual traditions
- List of messiah claimants
- Lists of religious leaders by century
- Timeline of religion
- Albertz 1994, p. 61.
- Grabbe 2008, pp. 225–6.
- Killebrew, Ann E. (2005). Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Early Israel, 1300–1100 B.C.E. Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 978-1-58983-097-4.
- Zimmer 1953, p. 183.
- Fisher, Mary Pat (1997). Living Religions: An Encyclopedia of the World's Faiths. London: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 1-86064-148-2. p. 115
- "Parshvanatha". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-22.
- Bowker, John (2000). "Parsva". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2007-10-22.
- Charpentier, Jarl (1922). "The History of the Jains". The Cambridge History of India. 1. Cambridge. p. 153.
- Melton 2003, p. 191.
- Upinder Singh 2016, p. 313.
- Zimmer 1953, p. 222.
- "Mahavira." Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2006. Answers.com 28 Nov. 2009. http://www.answers.com/topic/mahavira
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- Bevan, Edwyn (1 January 1999). Stoics and Sceptics: Four Lectures Delivered in Oxford During Hilary Term 1913 for the Common University Fund. Adegi Graphics LLC. ISBN 978-0-543-98288-9.
- "Plotinus." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press, 2003.
- "Plotinus." The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Oxford University Press, 1993, 2003.
- Bilolo, M.: La notion de « l’Un » dans les Ennéades de Plotin et dans les Hymnes thébains. Contribution à l’étude des sources égyptiennes du néo-platonisme. In: D. Kessler, R. Schulz (Eds.), "Gedenkschrift für Winfried Barta ḥtp dj n ḥzj" (Münchner Ägyptologische Untersuchungen, Bd. 4), Frankfurt; Berlin; Bern; New York; Paris; Wien: Peter Lang, 1995, pp. 67–91.
- , Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
- Daibhi O Croinin, Early Medieval Ireland 400-1200 (2013), p. 206.
- Melton 2003, p. 67.
- Melton 2003, p. 128.
- Melton 2003, p. 69.
- Melton 2003, p. 102.
- Melton 2003, p. 95.
- Melton 2003, p. 73.
- Melton 2003, p. 183.
- Melton 2003, p. 75.
- Melton 2003, p. 724.
- Melton 2003, p. 992.
- Melton 2003, p. 741.
- Melton 2003, p. 621.
- Melton 2003, p. 637.
- Chryssides 2001, p. 330.
- Melton 2003, p. 451.
- Smith and Prokopy 2003, p. 279-280.
- "Discussion of why Juche is classified as a major world religion". Adherents.com. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
Its promoters describe Juche as simply a secular, ethical philosophy and not a religion. But, from a sociological viewpoint Juche is clearly a religion;
- Baker, Donald L. (2008). Korean Spirituality. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-8248-3257-5.;
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- Beit-Hallahmi 1998, p. 365.
- Melton 2003, p. 1051.
- Beit-Hallahmi 1998, p. 97.
- Melton 2003, p. 1004.
- Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin (1998). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Active New Religions, Sects, and Cults (Revised Edition). Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8239-2586-5.
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- Smith, Christian; Joshua Prokopy (1999). Latin American Religion in Motion. New York, New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-92106-0.
- Singh, Upinder (2016), A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, Pearson Education, ISBN 978-93-325-6996-6
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