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.

Ancient (before AD 500)

See culture hero for legendary founders of doubtful historicity. If you intend to add figures that fall into this category, please add them in the allotted section.
Name Religious tradition founded Ethnicity Life of founder
AkhenatenAtenismEgyptianc. 1353 BC – 1336 BC[1]
ZoroasterZoroastrianismAvestanc. 1000 BC[2]
ParshvanathaThe penultimate (23rd) Tirthankara in JainismIndian877 BC – 777 BC[3][4][5][6][7]
Nebuchadnezzar IIbuilt the Etemenanki, established Marduk as the patron deity of BabylonAmoritec. 634 BC – 562 BC
Ajita KesakambaliCharvakaIndian6th century BC[8][9][10]
MahaviraThe final (24th) tirthankara in JainismIndian599 BC – 527 BC[11][12][13]
Siddhartha GautamaBuddhismIndian563 BC – 483 BC[14][15]
ConfuciusConfucianismChinese551 BC – 479 BC[16][17]
PythagorasPythagoreanismSamianfl. 520 BC
MoziMohismChinese470 BC – 390 BC
Makkhali GosalaĀjīvikaIndian5th century BC[18]
EzraSecond Temple Judaism[19]Levite Judean, Kohenfl. 459 BC[n 1]
EpicurusEpicureanismSamianfl. 307 BC
Zeno of CitiumStoicismpossibly Phoenician,[20]
albeit a Greek national
333 BC – 264 BC
Pharnavaz I of IberiaArmaziGeorgian326 BC – 234 BC
PatanjaliRāja yogaIndian2nd century BC
Jesus (and the Twelve Apostles)ChristianityGalilean-Judeanc. 4 BC – c. 30/33 AD
Paul the ApostlePauline ChristianityJudean, albeit a Roman citizenc. 33 AD
James the JustJewish ChristianityJudeanc. 33 AD
Judah the PrinceRabbinic JudaismJudean, Davidic line2nd century AD
MontanusMontanismPhrygian2nd century AD
Marcion of SinopeMarcionismPontic Greek110–160
NagarjunaMadhyamakaIndian150–250
PlotinusNeoplatonismmay have been of Roman,[21]
Greek,[22] or Hellenized Egyptian[23]
ancestry; Roman citizen
205–270
ManiManichaeismPersian Western Iranian/Airya216–274
Arius[n 2]Arianism[n 3]possibly Berber,
born in Libya; hellenophone
250–336
Pelagius[n 2]Pelagianism[n 4]British,[24] possibly Irish[25]354–430
Nestorius[n 2]Nestorianism[n 5]Romaniote (Byzantine hellenophone)386–451
EutychesMonophysitism[n 6]born in Constantinople380–456

Medieval to Early Modern (500–1800 AD)

Name Religious tradition founded Ethnicity Life of founder
MazdakMazdakismCentral Iranian/Airyadied c. 526
BodhidharmaZen, more specifically Ch'anIndian5th or 6th century
MuhammadIslamArabianc. 570–632
Songtsen GampoTibetan BuddhismTibetan7th century
En no GyōjaShugendōJapaneselate 7th century
HuinengEast Asian Zen BuddhismChinese (Tang dynasty)638–713
PadmasambhavaNyingmaIndian8th century
Han YuNeo-ConfucianismChinese8th or 9th century
SaichōTendai (descended from Tiantai)Japanese767–822
KūkaiShingon BuddhismJapanese774–835
Adi ShankaraAdvaita VedantaIndian788–820
Ibn NusayrNusayrismPersianlate 9th century
MatsyendranathNathIndian10th century
RamanujaVishishtadvaitaIndian1017–1137
Great PeacemakerGreat Law of PeaceHuronBetween the 10th and 15th centuries
Hamza ibn ‘Alī ibn AḥmadDruzePersian11th century
Sheikh Adi ibn MusafirYazidismYazidi12th century
BasavaLingayatismKannada (Indian)12th century
HōnenJōdo-shū (descended from Pure Land Buddhism)Japanese1131–1212
EisaiRinzai Zen (descended from the Linji school)Japanese1141–1215
ShinranJōdo Shinshū (descended from Jōdo-shū)Japanese1173–1263
DōgenSōtō Zen (descended from the Caodong school)Japanese1200–1253
Haji Bektash VeliBektashi Order of SufismTurkish (Ottoman) or Persian1209–1271
NichirenNichiren BuddhismJapanese1222–1282
DyaneshwarVarkariIndian1275–1296
MadhvacharyaDvaitaIndian1238–1317
Sant MatBhakti movementNumerous groups in India[n 7]13th to 15th centuries
John WycliffeLollardyBritish (English)1320s–1384
Nāimī - Fażlu l-Lāh Astar-ĀbādīHurufismIranian14th century
Mahmoud PasikhaniNuqṭawismIranian (Persian)late 14th century
Jan HusHussitismFrankish (Czech)1372–1415
TlacaelelCult of HuitzilopochtliAztec1397–1487
RamanandaVaishnavismIndian15th century
PachacutiCult of IntiIncan1418–1472
SankardevEkasarana DharmaAssamese (Indian)1449–1568
Guru NanakSikhismPunjabi (Indian)1469–1539
Sri ChandUdasiPunjabi (Indian)1494–1629
Vallabha AcharyaShuddhadvaitaTelugu (Indian)1479–1531
Martin LutherLutheranism and Protestantism in generalFrankish (Saxon)1483–1546
Chaitanya MahaprabhuGaudiya Vaishnavism, Achintya Bheda AbhedaBengali (Indian)1486–1534
Thomas CranmerAnglicanism (Church of England)British (English)1489–1556
Menno SimonsMennoniteDutch1496–1561
Conrad GrebelSwiss Brethren, AnabaptistsSwiss1498–1526
Jacob HutterHutteriteTyrolean (Bavarian)1500–1536
Sultan SahakYarsanismKurdishearly 15th century
John CalvinCalvinism[26]French1509–1564
Michael Servetus[27]UnitarianismAragonese1511?–1553
John Knox[28]PresbyterianismScottish1510–1572
AkbarDin-i IlahiIndian (Mughal)1542–1605
Jacobus ArminiusArminianismDutch1560–1609
John Smyth[29]BaptistsEnglish1570–1612
AvvakumOld Believers of Russian Orthodox ChurchRussian1620–1682
George Fox[30]QuakersEnglish1624–1691
Philipp Spener[31]PietismAlsatian (German)1635–1705
Jakob AmmannAmishSwiss1656–1730
Emanuel SwedenborgThe New ChurchSwedish1688–1772
Yisroel ben Eliezer "Baal Shem Tov"[32]Hasidic JudaismPolish (Ukrainian)1698–1760
John Wesley,[33] Charles Wesley, George WhitefieldMethodismEnglish1703–1791
Ann Lee[34]ShakersEnglish1736–1784

New religious movements (post-1800)

Name Religious tradition founded Ethnicity Life of founder
Ram Mohan RoyBrahmo SamajIndian, Bengali1772–1833
SwaminarayanSwaminarayan SampradayIndian1781–1830
Auguste ComteReligion of HumanityFrench1798–1857
Nakayama MikiTenrikyoJapanese1798–1887
Ignaz von DöllingerOld Catholic ChurchGerman1799–1890
Phineas QuimbyNew ThoughtAmerican1802–1866
Allan KardecSpiritismFrench1804–1869
Joseph SmithMormonism, also known as the Latter Day Saint movementAnglo-American1805–1844
John ThomasChristadelphiansBritish1805–1871
Abraham GeigerReform JudaismAshkenazi Jewish1810–1874
Jamgon KongtrulRimé movementTibetan1813–1899
Hong XiuquanTaiping ChristianityHan Chinese (Hakka)1814–1864
Bahá'u'lláh[35]Bahá'í FaithPersian (Ottoman Turk)1817–1892
BábBábism, precursor of the Bahá'í FaithPersian (Ottoman Turk)1819–1850
James Springer WhiteSeventh-day Adventist ChurchAmerican1821–1881
Wang JueyiYiguandaoChinese (Qing dynasty)1821–1884
Mary Baker Eddy[36]Christian ScienceAmerican1821–1910
Ramalinga SwamigalSamarasa Sutha Sanmarga SangamTamil (Indian)1823–1874
Dayananda SaraswatiArya SamajGujarati (Indian)1824–1883
Ellen G. White[37]Seventh-day Adventist ChurchAmerican1827–1915
John Ballou NewbroughFaithismAmerican1828–1891
Subh-i-AzalAzali BábismPersian1831–1912
Helena BlavatskyTheosophyRussian (Ukrainian)1831–1891
Ayya VaikundarAyyavazhiIndian1833–1851
Mirza Ghulam AhmadAhmadiyyaIndian (Mughal)1835–1908
Guido von ListArmanism (Germanic mysticism)Austrian1848–1919
Charles Taze Russell[38]Bible Student movementAmerican1852–1916
WovokaGhost DancePaiute (Native American)1856–1932
Rudolf SteinerAnthroposophyAustrian1861–1925
Swami VivekanandaRamakrishna MissionIndian1863–1902
William Irvine[39]Two by Twos and CooneyitesScottish1863–1947
Max HeindelThe Rosicrucian FellowshipDanish1865–1919
Tsunesaburo MakiguchiSoka GakkaiJapanese1871–1944
Sri AurobindoIntegral yogaIndian1872–1950
Mason RemeyOrthodox Bahá'í FaithAmerican1874–1974
Aleister CrowleyThelemaEnglish1875–1947
Charles Fox ParhamPentecostalismAmerican1873–1929
"Father Divine"International Peace Mission movementAmericanc. 1876–1965
Edgar CayceAssociation for Research and EnlightenmentAmerican1877–1945
Ngô Văn ChiêuCaodaismViet1878–1926
Guy Ballard"I AM" ActivityAmerican1878–1939
Frank BuchmanOxford Group/Moral Re-ArmamentAmerican1878–1961
Alfred G. MosesJewish ScienceAmerican1878–1956
John Slocum Indian Shaker Church Squaxin Island Tribe, Coast Salish, (Native American) 1881
Mordecai KaplanReconstructionist JudaismRussian (Lithuanian)1881–1983
Gerald GardnerWiccaBritish1884–1964
Felix ManaloIglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ)Filipino1886–1963
Frank B. RobinsonPsychianaAmerican1886–1948
Noble Drew AliMoorish Science Temple of AmericaAmerican, possibly Cherokee or Moroccan1886–1929
Marcus GarveyRastafariJamaican1887–1940
Ernest HolmesReligious ScienceAmerican1887–1960
SadafaldeoVihangamyogaIndian1888–1954
Aimee Semple McPherson[40]Foursquare ChurchCanadian1890–1944
Zélio Fernandino de Moraes[41]UmbandaBrazilian1891–1975
Ida B. RobinsonMount Sinai Holy Church of AmericaAmerican1891–1946
B. R. AmbedkarNavayana BuddhismIndian1891 – 1956
Wallace Fard MuhammadNation of IslamAmerican1891 – 1934 (absentia)
Paramahansa YoganandaYogoda Satsanga Society of India, Self-Realization FellowshipIndian1893–1952
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami PrabhupadaInternational Society for Krishna ConsciousnessIndian1896–1977
Ruth NormanUnariusAmerican1900–1993
Swami MuktanandaSiddha YogaIndian1908–1982
Paul TwitchellEckankarAmerican1908–1971
Ikurō TeshimaMakuyaJapanese1910–1973
L. Ron HubbardDianetics and later ScientologyAmerican1911–1986
Kim Il-sungJuche[42](North) Korean1912–1994
Chinmayananda SaraswatiChinmaya MissionIndian1916–1993
Maharishi Mahesh YogiTranscendental MeditationIndian1918–2008
Samael Aun WeorUniversal Christian Gnostic MovementColombian1917–1977
Mark L. ProphetThe Summit LighthouseAmerican1918–1973
Ben KlassenCreativityUkrainian1918–1993
Ahn Sahng-hongWorld Mission Society Church of GodKorean1918-1985
Huỳnh Phú SổHòa HảoViet1919–1947
Yong (Sun) Myung Moon[43]Unification ChurchKorean1920–2012
Prabhat Ranjan SarkarAnanda MargaIndian1921–1990
Clarence 13XFive-Percent NationAmerican1922–1969
Mestre GabrielUnião do VegetalBrazilian1922–1971
Nirmala SrivastavaSahaja YogaIndian1923–2011
Sveinbjörn BeinteinssonÁsatrúIcelander1924–1993
Sathya Sai BabaSathya Sai OrganizationIndian1926–2011
Anton LaVeyChurch of Satan (LaVeyan Satanism)American1930–1997
Rajneesh[44]Rajneesh movementIndian1931–1990
Mark L. Prophet;
Elizabeth Clare Prophet[45]
Church Universal and TriumphantAmerican1918–1973;
1939–2009
Adi DaAdidamAmerican1939–2008
Claude VorilhonRaëlismFrench1946–
Marshall Vian SummersNew Message from GodAmerican1949–
Li HongzhiFalun GongChinese1951–
Ryuho OkawaHappy ScienceJapanese1956-
VissarionChurch of the Last TestamentRussian1961–
Chris KordaChurch of EuthanasiaAmerican1962-
Tamara SiudaKemetic OrthodoxyAmerican1969–
Olumba Olumba ObuBrotherhood of the Cross and StarNigerian1918–
Isak GersonMissionary Church of KopimismSwedish1993-
Erdoğan ÇınarIshikismTurkish21st century

Legendary/semi-historical

Traditional founder Religious tradition founded Historical founder(s) Ethnicity Life of historical founder
SaptarishiHinduismVedic RishisIndian16th to 11th century BC[46]
AbrahamJudaismYahwists[n 8]Levantinec. 13th[47][48][49] to 8th century BC[n 9]
LaoziTaoismZhuang ZhouChinese369 BC – 286 BC
EthiopiansHaymanotEzana of AxumEthiopian320 AD – 360 AD

See also

Notes

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. Nestorius specifically endorsed the repudiation of "Nestorianism" reached at Chalcedon in 451 (Prestige, G.L. Fathers and Heretics SPCK (1963) p.130)
  6. 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)
  7. Includes the Punjabis, Rajasthanis, Marathis
  8. 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 nor truly Jews.
  9. 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.

References

  1. Hornung, Erik (1999). Akhenaten and the Religion of Light. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-8725-5.
  2. Melton 2003, p. 191.
  3. Zimmer 1953, p. 183.
  4. Fisher, Mary Pat (1997). Living Religions: An Encyclopedia of the World's Faiths. London: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-86064-148-0. p. 115
  5. "Parshvanatha". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-22.
  6. Bowker, John (2000). "Parsva". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192800947. Retrieved 2007-10-22.
  7. Charpentier, Jarl (1922). "The History of the Jains". The Cambridge History of India. 1. Cambridge. p. 153.
  8. Radhakrishnan & Moore 1957, pp. 227–249
  9. John M. Koller (1977), Skepticism in Early Indian Thought, Philosophy East and West, 27(2): 155-164
  10. Dale Riepe (1996), Naturalistic Tradition in Indian Thought, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120812932, pages 53-58
  11. Upinder Singh 2016, p. 313.
  12. Zimmer 1953, p. 222.
  13. "Mahavira." Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2006. Answers.com 28 Nov. 2009. http://www.answers.com/topic/mahavira
  14. Cousins 1996, pp. 57–63.
  15. Schumann 2003, pp. 10–13.
  16. Hugan, Yong (2013). Confucius: A Guide for the Perplexed. A&C Black. p. 3. ISBN 9781441196538. Archived from the original on 2017-04-16.
  17. Riegel 2002.
  18. James Lochtefeld, "Ajivika", The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A–M, Rosen Publishing. ISBN 978-0823931798, page 22
  19. Brueggemann 2002, pp. 75, 144.
  20. 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.
  21. "Plotinus." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press, 2003.
  22. "Plotinus." The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Oxford University Press, 1993, 2003.
  23. 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.
  24. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  25. Daibhi O Croinin, Early Medieval Ireland 400-1200 (2013), p. 206.
  26. Melton 2003, p. 67.
  27. Melton 2003, p. 128.
  28. Melton 2003, p. 69.
  29. Melton 2003, p. 102.
  30. Melton 2003, p. 95.
  31. Melton 2003, p. 73.
  32. Melton 2003, p. 183.
  33. Melton 2003, p. 75.
  34. Melton 2003, p. 724.
  35. Melton 2003, p. 992.
  36. Melton 2003, p. 741.
  37. Melton 2003, p. 621.
  38. Melton 2003, p. 637.
  39. Chryssides 2001, p. 330.
  40. Melton 2003, p. 451.
  41. Smith and Prokopy 2003, p. 279-280.
  42. See:
    • "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.;
    • Temperman, Jeroen (2005). State-Religion Relationships and Human Rights Law: Towards a Right to Religiously Neutral Governance. 8. Leiden: BRILL. p. 145. ISBN 978-90-04-18148-9..
  43. Beit-Hallahmi 1998, p. 365.
  44. Melton 2003, p. 1051.
  45. Beit-Hallahmi 1998, p. 97.
  46. Barbara A. Holdrege (2012). Veda and Torah: Transcending the Textuality of Scripture. State University of New York Press. pp. 229–230. ISBN 978-1-4384-0695-4.
  47. Albertz 1994, p. 61.
  48. Grabbe 2008, pp. 225–6.
  49. 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.

Bibliography

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