John L. Thompson

Professor of Historical Theology and Gaylen and Susan Byker Professor of Reformed TheologySchool of Theology

Contact Information
BA, University of Washington
MDiv, Fuller Theological Seminary
PhD, Duke University

John Thompson has taught at Fuller since 1989, and serves as professor of Historical Theology and Gaylen and Susan Byker Professor of Reformed Theology. He has taken an active role in the life of the seminary, providing leadership in the School of Theology by chairing the Theology Division as well as the Academic Affairs Committee. He has taught at several Fuller extension sites, including Orange County, Menlo Park, Colorado Springs, Tacoma, Seattle, Phoenix, and Houston, as well as in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Thompson’s research and writing interests address exegetical history and gender issues, as well as the question of how the history of interpretation can serve as a resource for the proclamation of the gospel. Among his many essays and reviews, he has contributed to A Companion to Paul in the Reformation and The Cambridge Companion to John Calvin, and has written popular essays for Sacred History magazine and Modern Reformation. His study of the “texts of terror” in the history of exegesis appeared as Writing the Wrongs: Women of the Old Testament among Biblical Commentators from Philo through the Reformation in 2001, and he continued this line of inquiry in a more popular vein in Reading the Bible with the Dead: What You Can Learn from the History of Exegesis That You Can’t Learn from Exegesis Alone (2007). Most recently, he completed translating and editing the initial volume of The Reformation Commentary on Scripture (InterVarsity Press), on Genesis 1–11.

Thompson was a research fellow with the Pew Evangelical Scholars Program in 1994–1995 and has twice received a Lilly Faculty Fellowship, in 1997 and in 2003. In 1994 his essay, “Patriarchs, Polygamy, and Private Resistance,” was awarded the Harold J. Grimm prize by the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference. He was a Pew Christian Scholars Lecturer in 2003, and in 2007 his colleagues at Fuller Theological Seminary selected him to receive the C. Davis Weyerhaeuser Award for Faculty Excellence.

Thompson is a member of the American Society of Church History, the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, and the Calvin Studies Society, and participates in the International Congress for Calvin Research. He served for six years on the governing board of the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Research and is a member of the editorial boards of several series, including Texts in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought (Baker), Studies in Early Modern Religious Reforms (Springer), and The Reformation Commentary on Scripture (InterVarsity Press). Prior to beginning his graduate studies, Thompson spent seven years on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Washington and California. An ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA), he enjoys working closely with students preparing for ordination.

Courses Taught

  • CH501: Patristic Theology
  • CH503: Medieval and Reformation Theology
  • CH505: Post-Reformation and Modern Theology
  • CH549: Presbyterian Creeds
  • CH575: Women in Church History and Theology
  • CH808/508: Historiography
  • TH832/522: Seminar in Reformed Theology
  • CH853/553: Calvin and Calvinism Seminar

Areas of Expertise, Research, Writing, and Teaching

Church history through the Reformation, gender issues, historical theology, John Calvin



  • Reception History: Why Should We Care What Earlier Christians Thought about the Bible? Cambridge, UK: Grove Books, 2013.
  • Genesis 1–11. Volume 1 of The Reformation Commentary on Scripture. IVP Academic, 2012.
  • An English-Language Finding Guide to John Calvin, “Opera Quae Supersunt Omnia.” First private publication, 1995. Third edition, 2010. Published online at
  • Reading the Bible with the Dead: What You Can Learn from the History of Exegesis That You Can’t Learn from Exegesis Alone. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.
  • Writing the Wrongs: Women of the Old Testament Among Biblical Commentators from Philo Through the Reformation. Oxford Studies in Historical Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Also published by Oxford Scholarship Online:
  • Consulting editor (with David F. Wright). Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary. George Thomas Kurian, general editor. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001.
  • Biblical Interpretation in the Era of the Reformation. Co-editor (with Richard A. Muller). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.
  • John Calvin and the Daughters of Sarah: Women in Regular and Exceptional Roles in the Exegesis of Calvin, His Predecessors, and His Contemporaries. Travaux d’Humanisme et Renaissance 259. Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1992.

Articles and Chapters

  • “Second Thoughts about Conscience: Nature, the Law, and the Law of Nature in Calvin’s Pentateuchal Exegesis,” in Calvinus Pastor Ecclesiae: Papers of the Eleventh International Congress on Calvin Research, edited by Herman J. Selderhuis and Arnold Huijgen Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016.
  • “Piety, Theology, Exegesis, and Tradition: Anna Maria van Schurman’s ‘Elaboration’ of Genesis 1–3 and its Relationship to the Commentary Tradition.” In Church and School in Early Modern Protestantism, ed. Jordan J. Ballor, David S. Sytsma, and Jason Zuidema, pp. 613-28. (Fs. Richard A. Muller.) Leiden: Brill, 2013.
  • “At the Margins of the Rule of Faith: Reflections on the Reception History of Problematic Texts and Themes.” Journal of Theological Interpretation 7.2 (2013): 35–46.
  • “The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent: Myths, Realities, and Ambiguities in Calvin’s Teachings about Women.” In John Calvin, Myth and Reality: Images and Impact of Geneva’s Reformer: Papers of the 2009 Calvin Studies Society Colloquium, edited by Amy Nelson Burnett, pp. 37-52. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011.
  • “Night at the Museum: The Secret Life of an Old Confession.” In Theology Matters 16/5 (Nov/Dec 2010): 1-12.
  • “Reformer of Exegesis? Calvin’s Unpaid Debt to Origen.” In Calvin — Saint or Sinner?, ed. Herman J. Selderhuis, pp.113–41. Tuübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010.
  • “Rules Proved by Exceptions: The Exegesis of Paul and Women in the Sixteenth Century.” In A Companion to Paul in the Reformation, ed. Ward Holder. pp. 501-40. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2009.
  • “Do You Really Want to Be Saved Sola Gratia?” Modern Reformation 16/4 (July/August 2007): 27–31.
  • “Reformation.” In the IVP Global Dictionary of Theology, ed. William Dyrness and Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, pp. 730-33. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008.
  • “History Without Footnotes: On the Road with The Da Vinci Code,” Sacred History Magazine 2/3 (May/June 2006): 42–46.
  • “Calvin, John.” In the Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of Scripture, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, pp. 96–97. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic Press, 2005.
  • “A Conversation with the Reformation Confessions.” In Conversations with the Confessions: Dialogue in the Reformed Tradition, ed. Joseph D. Small, pp. 33–50. Louisville: Geneva Press, 2005.
  • “Patriarchy and Prophetesses: Tradition and Innovation in Vermigli’s Doctrine of Woman.” In Peter Martyr Vermigli and the European Reformations: Semper Reformanda, ed. Frank A. James III, pp. 139–158. Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2004.
  • “Calvin as a Biblical Interpreter.” In The Cambridge Companion to John Calvin, ed. Donald A. McKim, pp. 58–73. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • “Scripture, Tradition, and the Formation of Christian Culture: The Theological and Pastoral Function of the History of Interpretation.” Ex Auditu (2004): 22–41.
  • “John Calvin’s Understanding of What is Essential in Christianity.” Nanjing Theological Review 57 (December 2003): 90–103 (Chinese), 104–118 (English).
  • “The Reformation as a Living Tradition.” In Theology, News and Notes (January 2003).
  • “Preaching Texts of Terror in the Book of Judges: How Does the History of Interpretation Help?” In Calvin Theological Journal 37 (2002): 49–61.
  • “Calvin’s Exegetical Legacy: His Reception and Transmission of Text and Tradition.” In The Legacy of John Calvin: Calvin Studies Society Papers 1999, ed. David L. Foxgrover, pp. 31–56. Grand Rapids: Calvin Studies Society, 2000.
  • “Teaching the Bible to Your Children: The Risks and the Rewards” (with Marianne Meye Thompson). Word and World 17/3 (Summer 1997): 295–300. Abridgement reprinted as “Teaching the Bible to Children,” Theology, News and Notes 44/4 (December 1997): 20–21.
  • “The Future of Evangelicalism: An Interview with . . .” Theology, News and Notes 44/3 (October 1997): 20–21.
  • “Hagar, Victim or Villain? Three Sixteenth-Century Views.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 59 (April 1997): 213–33. Abridgement reprinted in Luther Digest 8 (2000): 46–50.
  • “The Survival of Allegorical Argumentation in Peter Martyr Vermigli’s Old Testament Exegesis.” In Biblical Interpretation in the Era of the Reformation, pp. 255–71. Ed. Richard A. Muller and John L. Thompson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.
  • “The Significance of Precritical Exegesis: Retrospect and Prospect” (with Richard A. Muller). In Biblical Interpretation in the Era of the Reformation, pp. 335–45. Ed. Richard A. Muller and John L. Thompson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.
  • “Help from the History of Interpretation.” Theology, News and Notes 42/3 (October 1995): 9–11.
  • “Hagar: Text, Terror, and Tradition.” Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought 10/4 (April 1995): 16–19.
  • “‘So Ridiculous a Sign’: Men, Women, and the Lessons of Circumcision in Sixteenth-Century Exegesis.” Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 86 (1995): 236–56.
  • An English-Language Finding Guide to John Calvin, “Opera Quae Supersunt Omnia.” Privately published, 1995.
  • “Patriarchs, Polygamy, and Private Resistance: John Calvin and Others on Breaking God’s Rules.” Sixteenth Century Journal 25 (1994): 3–27.
  • De doctrina Reformata PERSPICUITATIS Sancti Richardi secundum scripturam, EXPOSITIONES . . .” In “Suffering Fools Gladly”: A Latter-Day “Moriae Encomium”, pp. 19–22. Fs. Richard Alfred Muller. [Pasadena: Fuller Theological Seminary], 1992.
  • “The Immoralities of the Patriarchs in the History of Exegesis: A Reassessment of Calvin’s Position.” Calvin Theological Journal 26 (1991): 9–46.
  • “Creata ad imaginem Dei, licet secundo gradu: Woman as the Image of God According to John Calvin.” Harvard Theological Review 81 (1988): 125–43.
  • The Church at a Glance through Twenty Centuries (chart). Published by author, 1983.
  • “Preaching as a Means of Grace in the Theology of Martin Luther.” Studia Biblica et Theologica 12/1 (1982): 43–71.
  • “History and Reason in Albert Schweitzer’s World-View.” Duke Divinity School Review 45 (Fall 1980): 3–30.
  • “The Last Judgment: Looking Forward to It?” His 40 (May 1980): 26–29; and “The Last Judgment: Getting Ready Now.” His 40 (June 1980): 32–35.

Additional Information

Dr. Thompson’s courses and resources page

In this interview, Liz Klassen, Academic Sales Manager for InterVarsity Press, sits down with Dr. Thompson to ask him about how he ended up working on Genesis 1-11 of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS), the things that surprised him the most and his hope for the users of the RCS.

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