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 

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: currently researching Quaker interpretation of the Biblical book the Song of Songs; also exploring how and why Quakers read the German mystic Jakob Boehme; Interreligious understanding: my manuscript on Qur'anic interpretation among contemporary Muslims is in production at Baylor University Press.


Chief editor of The Lamb's War: Quaker Essays to Honor Hugh Barbour (Richmond, IN, 1992) and author of "An Appreciation of Hugh Barbour as Quaker Historian," (pp. 11-17) and of "John Woolman on the Cross" (pp. 91-100, 279-283).

Also co-compiled with James Kennedy, "A Select Bibliography of the Works of Hugh Barbour" (pp. 31-37).   

Editor of The Inward Teacher: Essays to Honor Paul A. Lacey, Richmond, IN: Earlham College Press, 2002.

Author of the Introduction to the volume (pp. ix-xii), co-compiler of a bibliography of writings of Paul Lacey (pp. 19-24), and author of an essay entitled “Meditations for Teachers,” a translation from Greek and commentary on a short monastic text from the early fifth century by Nilus of Ancyra (pp. 92-96).   

“A Near Sympathy”: The Timeless Quaker Wisdom of John Woolman, Richmond, IN: Friends United Press, 2003.    

Silence and Witness: Quaker Spirituality, in Traditions in Christian Spirituality, series edited by Philip Sheldrake, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Press, published in Great Britain by Darton Longman and Todd , 2004

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

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

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. <http://www.pendlehill.org/e_publishing.htm (part 3.pdf).

"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)

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).    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), to be published in Dec. 2013.

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.

I co-led, with Chris Swafford, the first May Term on the Camino de Santiago, walking 500 kilometers across northern Spain.

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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