Theodor Nöldeke (2 March 1836 – 25 December 1930) was a German orientalist, who was born in Harburg and studied in Göttingen, Vienna, Leiden and Berlin.


In 1859 his history of the Qur'an won for him the prize of the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, and in the following year he rewrote it in German (Geschichte des Qorâns) and published it with additions at Göttingen. In 1861 he began to lecture at the university of this town, where three years later he was appointed extraordinary professor. In 1868 he became ordinary professor at Kiel, and in 1872 was appointed to the chair of Oriental Languages at Strassburg, which he resigned in 1906.

Nöldeke’s range of studies were wide and varied, but the main focus of his work has followed the two lines indicated by his prize essay, Semitic languages, and the history and civilization of Islam. While a great deal of his work (e.g. his Grammatik der neusyrischen Sprache, 1868, his Mandäische Grammatik, 1874, and his translations from the Arabic of Tabari, 1881–1882) is meant for specialists, many of his books are of interest to the general reader.

Some of Nöldeke's studies are included in The Origins of The Koran: Classic Essays on Islam’s Holy Book edited by Ibn Warraq.

Several of his essays first appeared in the Encyclopædia Britannica, and his article on the Qur'an, with some others, was republished in a volume called Oriental Sketches. The articles dealing with Persia were republished in a German volume, Aufsätze zur persischen Geschichte (Leipzig, 1887).

Nöldeke died in Karlsruhe. Charles Cutler Torrey and Friedrich Zacharias Schwally were his students.

Nöldeke Chronology

The Nöldeke Chronology is a modern application of Qur'anic organization. Presented by Theodor Nöldeke in the middle of the nineteenth century, this perspective considers the sequence of revelation with the development of content and the origination of new linguistic styles. Using this approach, the suras can be more closely ordered to match their true historical occurrence. For example, Sura 21: “The Prophets,” although it is featured as the 21st chapter of a total 114 in the text of the Qur'an, is number 65 according to the Nöldeke Chronology. From here, Nöldeke then divided the suras into two periods: The Meccan, broken into three phases, and the Medinan.

    According to the Nöldeke Chronology, the 114 Suras of the Qur'an are divided into four groupings:

    48 Suras under the First Meccan Period

    21 Suras under the Second Meccan Period

    21 Suras under the Third Meccan Period

    24 Suras under the Medinan Period

The Egyptian Edition, which was crafted 1924, is an adaptation of Nöldeke's work.

The Nöldeke Chronology institutes a sort of "canonical order" that comes to systematize the sequence of revelation in a more coherent and comprehensive arrangement, thus aiding in the scholarly (theological, literary, and historical) interpretation of the Qur'an.[1] Although it does not have universal acceptance, the Nöldeke Chronology is used as a general guide within current scholarship.[2]

Organization of the Suras

First Meccan Period

96, 74, 111, 106, 108, 104, 107, 102, 105, 92,

90, 94, 93, 97, 86, 91, 80, 68, 87, 95,

103, 85, 73, 101, 99, 82, 81, 53, 84, 100,

79, 77, 78, 88, 89, 75, 83, 69, 51, 52,

56, 70, 55, 112, 109, 113, 114, 1

Second Meccan Period

54, 37, 71, 76, 44, 50, 20, 26, 15, 19,

38, 36, 43, 72, 67, 23, 21, 25, 17, 27, 18

Third Meccan Period

32, 41, 45, 16, 30, 11, 14, 12, 40, 28,

39, 29, 31, 42, 10, 34, 35, 7, 46, 6, 13

Medinan Period

2, 98, 64, 62, 8, 47, 3, 61, 57, 4, 65, 59, 33,

63, 24, 58, 22, 48, 66, 60, 110, 49, 9, 5

Selected bibliography

    Geschichte des Qorâns (1860)

    Das Leben Mohammeds (1863)

    Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Poesie der alten Araber (1864)

    Die alttestamentliche Literatur (1868)

    Untersuchungen zur Kritik des Alten Testaments (1869)

    Geschichte der Perser und Araber zur Zeit der Sasaniden. Aus der arabischen Chronik des Tabari übersetzt (1879)

    Reste Arabischen Heidentums (1887)

    Zur Grammatik des klassischen Arabisch (1896)

    Fünf Mo'allaqat, übersetzt und erklärt (1899–1901)

    Articles in the Encyclopaedia Biblica (1903)

    Beiträge zur semitischen Sprachwissenschaft (1904)

    Compendious Syriac Grammar (1880, 1888, 1904 [translation])

He contributed frequently to the Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft, the Göttingische gelehrte Anzeigen and the Expositor.


Ernst 2011, p. 43.

Böwering 2008, p. 73.


    Böwering, Gerhard (2008). "Recent research on the construction of the Qur’ān". In Reynolds, Gabriel Said. The Qur’ān in Its Historical Context. Routledge. pp. 70–87. ISBN 9780203939604.

    Ernst, Carl W. (2011). How to Read the Qur'an: A New Guide, with Select Translations. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807869079.

    Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.