Michael Birkel
Professor of Religion

Michael Birkel teaches courses related to all of the Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. He is widely published, particularly on topics related to Quaker thought. Michael has collaborated on several research projects with students.

He describes Earlham students as, “inquisitive, interested in knowing things because knowing things is interesting, concerned to make the world better, ethically engaged, bright, cooperative.”

Contact Info

Campus Mail
Drawer 43



333 Carpenter Hall

Office Hours
by appointment


  • Religion
  • Jewish Studies
  • Medieval Studies
  • Quaker Studies
  • Middle East Studies


  • Ph.D., Harvard University
  • M.A., Earlham School of Religion
  • B.A., Wilmington College

Selected Courses:

  • Hebrew Scriptures: the text and context of the Jewish Bible (the Christian Old Testament)
  • Friends Colloquium: readings in Quaker topics (theme varies from year to year)
  • Islam
  • Islam and Film 
  • Spiritual But Not Religious
  • Torah, Gospel, and Qur’an

I often lead Ford/Knight projects. Recent topics include:

  • Contemporary Issues in Muslim Thought
  • Quaker Mystic Rufus Jones
  • Religion and Humor

My Ford/Knight Project for 2014-15 is Religion and Doctor Who.

Quaker spirituality; Quaker interpretation of the Song of Songs; Early Quakers and Kabbalah; Interreligious understanding.


The Lamb's War: Quaker Essays to Honor Hugh Barbour, 1992).

The Inward Teacher: Essays to Honor Paul A. Lacey, 2002.

“A Near Sympathy”: The Timeless Quaker Wisdom of John Woolman, 2003.    

Silence and Witness: Quaker Spirituality, in Traditions in Christian Spirituality, 2004.

Engaging Scripture: Encountering the Bible with Early Friends, 2005. Spanish edition, Encuentro con las Escrituras, 2007 (co-translated with Dinora Uvalle-Vazquez).

Genius of the Transcendent: Mystical Writings of Jakob Boehme, 2010 (co-authored with Jeff Bach).

Qur’an in Conversation, 2014.

Chapters in Books

"Rufus Jones and Mystical Quakerism" in Quaker Crosscurrents: Three Hundred Years of New York Yearly Meeting, edited by Hugh Barbour, Christopher Densmore, Elizabeth Moger, et al. (Syracuse, NY, 1995), 221-226.

"John Woolman" in Mark G. Toulouse and James A. Duke, editors, Makers of Christian Theology in America, Nashville: Abingdon, 1997, pp. 79-81.

“The Early Desert Fathers and Mothers,” in Ask Me How I Know: Quakers Speak on the Bible, Ministry, and Their Spiritual Guides, Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Publications, 2000, pp. 80-85.

"Preparing the Heart for Sympathy: John Woolman Reading Scripture," in The Tendering Presence: Essays on John Woolman, edited by Michael Heller, Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Publications, 2003, pp. 88-104.

“Toward a Deeper Dialogue,” a chapter in Quakers and the Interfaith Movement, edited by Anthony Manousos (Quaker  Univeralist Fellowship and Friends General Conference, 2011), 33-48.

“Leadings and Discernment,” a chapter in Oxford Handbook of Quaker Studies, edited by Ben Pink Dandelion and Stephen W. Angell, Oxford University Press: 2013.

“A Guide to True Peace,” a chapter in Contemplative Literature: A Comparative Sourcebook, edited by Louis Komjathy, SUNY Press, (forthcoming).

“George Keith,” a chapter in The Theological Thought of Early Quaker Leaders, 1650 – 1700, Cambridge University Press (forthcoming).

“Richard Farnwoth,” a chapter in The Theological Thought of Early Quaker Leaders, 1650 – 1700, co-authored with Stephen W. Angell, Cambridge University Press (forthcoming).

Selected Journal Articles 

"A Meditation on the Magnificat Attributable to Guigo II" (introduction and translation from Latin), Magistra: A Journal of Women’s Spirituality in History  1/2 (Winter 1996), 249-265.

“Reading Scripture with Dorothy White,” Quaker Religious Thought #97 (Vol. 30, no. 3), September 2001, pp. 55-62.

“Dean Freiday, Robert Barclay, and John Cassian,” Quaker Religious Thought Issue 110 (Dec. 2007): 47-51.

“Silence in Heaven: John Woolman and Revelation,” Quaker Theology 15:97-105 (2008).   

“Robert Barclay’s Observations,” A translation from Latin and introduction of Robert Barclay’s Christianae quaedam animadversiones in Nicolai Arnoldi: (qui S.S. theol. doct. & profess. se praedicat) exercitationem theologicam de Quakerismo, ejusque brevis refutatio, Rotterdam, 1675. In Quaker Theology 11/1 (Winter-Spring 2012), 41-59 (Introduction in print version, translation in online supplement, 1-35).

“Quakers, Slavery, and Racial Justice” (Review essay on Brycchan Carey, From Peace to Freedom: Quaker Rhetoric and the Birth of American Antislavery, 1657-1761. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012, and Allan W. Austin.  Quaker Brotherhood: Interracial Activism and the American Friends Service Committee, 1917-1950. University of Illinois Press, 2012) for Reviews in American History (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 41/4 (Dec. 2013), 592-99.

Reviews in the Journal of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, Quaker History, Cistercian Studies Quarterly, and Review in American History.

Brief articles in references works such as the Dictionary of Christianity in America (1990), Encyclopedia of Protestantism (2004), Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers (2005), The New Westminster Dictionary of Spirituality (2005), American History through Literature, 1820-1870 (2006), Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (2011), Encyclopedia of African American History (forthcoming).


Mysticism and Activism: Learning from John Woolman, The Thirty-second Michener Annual Quaker Lecture in Florida, Southeastern Yearly Meeting, 2003. Also published by Wider Quaker Fellowship, Friends World Committee for Consultation, a 2003 selection for worldwide distribution.

Sing and Rejoice: Encountering Scripture with George Fox. Quaker Lecture, Western Yearly Meeting, Plainfield, IN, 2004.

The Messenger that Goes Before: Margaret Fell as Spiritual Nurturer, Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Publications, 2008.

The Mind of Christ: Bill Taber On Meeting For Business, Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Publications, 2010.

American Academy of Religion
Friends Historical Association

Because it is a Quaker college.

Inquisitive, interested in knowing things because knowing things is interesting, concerned to make the world better, ethically engaged, bright, cooperative.

Recent topics of Collaborative Research Seminars include:

  • Religion and Humor
  • Religion and Doctor Who
  • Pneuma: Spirit, Breath, Meditation, and Flute
  • Next year: Quakers and Post-Theism
  • Next year: Buddhism and Film

Attending Earlham events, interfaith dialogue, research and writing on Quaker topics, going to students' performances, and singing in a college/community choir under Bill Culverhouse. I also enjoy music, cooking and hiking.

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