Theology and philosophy of religion in Richard Wagner’s parsifal

Andrew LOKE*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Summary: The interpretation of Richard Wagner’s music drama Parsifal has been one of the most philosophically and theologically controversial. Over the years various interpretations have been given, among them Buddhist, Schopenhauerian, anti-semite, and Christian. In this paper, I argue that this music drama is fundamentally a Christian work. I begin by discussing some methodological and background historical issues. I consider difficulties concerning bias in interpretation and the complicated intellectual life of Wagner, and propose to overcome these difficulties by testing various interpretations by their consistency with various parts of the music drama, and to interpret the statements of this music drama within that context. I then argue that Parsifal reflects the soteriological concepts of sola gratia, sola fide and solus Christus that are unique to Christianity but inconsistent with other interpretations. Finally, I address various objections to my Christian interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-388
Number of pages17
JournalNeue Zeitschrift fur Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy

User-Defined Keywords

  • Buddhism
  • Christian Theology
  • Parsifal
  • Sola fide
  • Sola gratia
  • Solus Christus
  • Wagner


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