Theodor Nöldeke

Theodor Nöldeke (German: [ˈteːodoːɐ̯ ˈnœldəkə]; born 2 March 1836 – 25 December 1930) was a German orientalist and scholar. His research interests ranged over Old Testament studies, Semitic languages and Arabic, Persian and Syriac literature. Nöldeke translated several important works of oriental literature and during his lifetime was considered an important orientalist. He wrote numerous studies (including on the Qur’ān) and contributed articles to the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Theodor Nöldeke
Born2 March 1836
Hamburg, Free City of Hamburg, German Confederation
Died25 December 1930 (aged 94)
Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Weimar Germany
OccupationGerman Orientalist
Notable worksGeschichte Qorâns, Das Leben Mohammeds

Among the projects Nöldeke collaborated on was Michael Jan de Goeje’s published edition of al-Tabari's Tarikh ("Universal History"), for which he translated the Sassanid-era section. This translation remains of great value, particularly for the extensive supplementary commentary. His numerous students included Charles Cutler Torrey, Louis Ginzberg and Friedrich Zacharias Schwally. He entrusted Schwally with the continuation of his standard work "The History of the Qur’ān".


Nöldeke was born in Harburg, (Hamburg today). In 1853 he graduated from the Gymnasium Georgianum Lingen, Emsland, and went on to study at the University of Göttingen under Heinrich Ewald, and later at the University of Vienna, the University of Leiden and the Humboldt University of Berlin. In 1864 he became a professor at the University of Kiel and from 1872 at the University of Strasbourg until he retired aged 70. Nöldeke had ten children, six of whom predeceased him. His son Arnold Nöldeke became a judge and was a Hamburg senator during the Weimar period. He died in Karlsruhe.


Selected works

He contributed frequently to the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, the Göttingische gelehrte Anzeigen and the Expositor.

Nöldeke Chronology

The Nöldeke Chronology is a "canonical ordering" of the 114 suras of the Qur'an according to the sequence of revelation. Intended to aid theological, literary, and historical scholarship of Qur'anic exegesis by enhancing structural coherence.[2] The Nöldeke Chronology has been adopted for general guidance by some schools of current scholarship. The Egyptian Edition, crafted 1924, is an adaptation of Nöldeke's work.[3] Nöldeke considered the suras from the perspective of content and stylistic development and linguistic origination to rearrange them in historical sequence of revelation. According to his system Sura 21: “The Prophets,” – 21st of 114 suras in the Qur'an – is renumbered '65'. His chronology further divided the suras into two periods: The Meccan (in three phases), and the Medina.

The Nöldeke Chronology of the Qur'an: Four groups of the 114 Suras:



  1. "Th. Nöldeke (1836–1930)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  2. Ernst 2011, p. 43.
  3. Böwering 2008, p. 73.


  • Böwering, Gerhard (2008). "Recent research on the construction of the Qur'ān". In Reynolds, Gabriel Said (ed.). The Qur'ān in Its Historical Context. Routledge. pp. 70–87. ISBN 978-0-203-93960-4.
  • Ernst, Carl W. (2011). How to Read the Qur'an: A New Guide, with Select Translations. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-6907-9.
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Nöldeke, Theodor". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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