Dr Nicholas James Thompson

BAHons (Otago) , DipGrad (Otago) , DipLib (Victoria) , MA (British Columbia) , MTheol (Otago) , PhD (Glasgow)


  • 2001-2009: Lecturer in Church History, School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen, UK

Research | Current

  • The thought of the Strasbourg reformer Martin Bucer (1491-1551)
  • Sebastian Castellio (d1563) and his defence of religious tolerance
  • Anti-Catholicism in 19th century New Zealand and the English-speaking world, and, in particular, the career of Edith O'Gorman (1842-1929) "the Escaped Nun"
  • The Reformations in Scotland, France and Rhineland Germany

I'm currently working on a biography of Edith O'Gorman (1842-1929) an anti-Catholic lecturer who toured the English-speaking world between 1871 and 1929 as the "Escaped Nun." In fact O'Gorman was one of many escaped nuns catering to 19th century Anglo-Protestantism's fascination with convent life, and its anxieties about the Romish "other" in its midst. O'Gorman's biography is particularly interesting both because of its breadth (she toured the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) and its length (almost sixty years). This allows us to compare and contrast anti-Catholicism across the English-speaking world, and its rise and fall over half a century. There are also striking parallels between the nineteenth-century's anxieties about nuns, and contemporary discussion of veiled Muslim women as a visible marker of Islam's alleged divergence from the values of liberal democracy.

I'm also translating Sebastian Castellio's previously untranslated tract, Contra libellum Calvini in quo ostendere conatur haereticos jure gladii coercendos esse ["Against the pamphlet in which Calvin tries to show that heretics should be coerced through judicial violence"] (1554). In this pamphlet Castellio attacks Calvin's defence of the execution of Michael Servetus for heresy at Geneva in 1553. He excerpts the arguments found in Calvin's Defensio orthodoxae fidei de sacra trinitate ["Defence of the orthodox faith in the sacred Trinity"] (1554) and rebuts them one by one. This is not merely an attack on the judicial killing of heretics (which would be unusual enough in the 16th century). It calls into question the traditional understanding of "heresy" by arguing that Christians can't be sure enough about central doctrines, like the Trinity, to invoke that charge against each other. Although Castellio's "art of doubting" was rooted in medieval mysticism, it is an early contribution to Early Modern discussions of religious doubt. 

Teaching | Current

THEOREL 200 A Major Religious Thinker

THEOREL 201 Religions in New Zealand

THEOREL 300 A Major Religious Thinker

Postgraduate supervision

Current and recent PhD students have worked on the following topics:

  • Women in Tonga and the Methodist Missionaries
  • The Methodist Church of Samoa in New Zealand
  • The spirituality of Margaret Fell (1614-1704)
  • Ambrogio Catarino (1484-1553) and covenant theology
  • Andrew Melville (1545-1622) and Humanism
  • Jean Raulin (1443-1515) and monastic reform in France
  • Martin Bucer's (1491-1551) doctrine of justification
  • Thomas Chalmers and Christian giving in the Free Church of Scotland
  • Federalism and baptism in the thought of Benjamin Keach (1640-1704)
  • History of the British military chaplaincy
  • John Owen (1616-1683) and the analogy of faith


Postgraduate advisor

Areas of expertise

  • Editing of Early Modern Latin texts
  • Intellectual history of the Reformation era
  • Christian art and worship
  • Religion in New Zealand

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Thompson, N. J. (2015). Where Was Your Church Before Luther? History and Catholicity in Early Seventeenth-Century Aberdonian Theology. In A. Denlinger (Ed.) Reformed Orthodoxy in Scotland: Essays on Scottish Theology 1560-1775 (pp. 67-82). London: Bloomsbury. Related URL.
  • Thompson, N. J. (Ed.) (2014). Martin Bucer, De vera et falsa caenae dominicae administratione (1546). Boston: Brill.
  • Thompson, N. (2013). Martin Bucer. In L. P. Wandel (Ed.) A Companion to the Eucharist in the Reformation (pp. 75-95). Leiden: Brill. Related URL.
  • Thompson, N. J. (2011). Going Public: Catholic Calls for the Abolition of the Private Mass in the Sixteenth Century. Reformation and Renaissance Review, 13 (1), 63-92. 10.1558/rrr.v13il.63
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/18424
  • Thompson, N. J. (2010). Martin Bucer and Early Seventeenth-Century Scottish Irenicism. In P. Collinson, P. Ha (Eds.) The Reception of Continental Reformation in Britain (pp. 167-191). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/13975
  • Thompson, N. J. (2008). A Reformed Papacy? Martin Bucer and the Treatment of Papal Primacy in the Worms Book (1540). In C. Asprey, F. Murphy (Eds.) Ecumenism Today: the Universal Church in the 21st Century (pp. 151-171). Aldershot: Ashgate.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/13973
  • Thompson, N. J. (2007). Three Versions of 'Syllabus aliquot synodorum et colloquiorum': an Early Modern Reading List of Irenical Literature. Reformation and Renaissance Review, 9 (3), 303-340. 10.1558/rrr.v9i3.303
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/10572
  • Thompson, N. J. (2005). Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Patristic Tradition in the Theology of Martin Bucer. Leiden: Brill. Pages: 315. Related URL.


Contact details

Office hours

Wednesdays 3-5pm (semester 2, 2015) or email me about an appointment at another time

Primary office location

Level 4, Room 403
New Zealand

Social links

Web links