Theology of Wagner’s Ring Cycle II: Theological and Ethical Issues

By Richard H. Bell

The second volume in a two-part analysis of Wagner’s most famous work and its theological message.

ISBN: 9780227177488


Wagner’s Ring addresses fundamental concerns that have faced humanity down the centuries, such as power and violence, love and death, freedom and fate. Further, the work seems particularly relevant today, addressing as it does the fresh debates around the created order, politics, gender, and sexuality. In this second of two volumes on the theology of the Ring, Richard Bell argues that Wagner’s approach to these issues may open up new ways forward and offer a fresh perspective on some of the traditional questions of theology, such as sacrifice, redemption, and fundamental questions about God. A linchpin for Bell’s approach is viewing the Ring in the light of the Jesus of Nazareth sketches, which, he argues, confirms that the artwork does indeed address questions of Christian theology, for those inside and outside the church.

Additional information

Dimensions254 × 178 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Richard H. Bell is Professor of Theology at the University of Nottingham, UK. He studied theoretical physics at University College London and theology at Oxford and Tübingen. He is author of Provoked to Jealousy (1994), No one seeks for God (1998), The Irrevocable Call of God (2005), Deliver Us from Evil (2007), and Wagner’s Parsifal (2013).


List of Musical Examples
List of Figures

1. Introduction to the Theology of the Ring
2. Jesus of Nazareth Sketches
3. God and the Gods
4. Nature
5. Fall, Power, Desecration of Nature, and Capitalism
6. Love
7. Sexual Ethics and Law
8. Death and Immortality
9. Freedom, Necessity, and Providence
10. Siegfried and Brünnhilde
11. Redemption
12. Aesthetics, Allegory, and Myth

Index of Authors
Index of Biblical Texts
Index of Wagner’s Works
Index of Subjects and Names


Endorsements and Reviews

In his two previous volumes on the music of Richard Wagner, Richard Bell demonstrated his grasp of his subject and the importance of his project not only for students of music but also for those in the humanities more generally. This volume continues the task of opening up for readers the importance of Wagner’s towering presence in Western music. This book especially shows why embracing music, art, and literature is such a necessary broadening of the intellectual horizons of contemporary theological study. This original and pioneering study is required reading for all those seeking to understand better the challenges facing contemporary life and the contribution that Wagner’s music can make to that task.
Christopher Rowland, Emeritus Dean Ireland’s Professor of Exegesis of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford

Richard H. Bell’s new book argues that we can interpret Wagner’s Ring cycle as a Christian allegory. Bell’s meticulous scholarship dismantles the prejudice that Wagner’s worldview was essentially non- or even anti-Christian, exploring the composer’s relation to contemporary German philosophy, to Lutheran teaching, and to notes for a planned five-act opera on the life of Jesus. Clearly written and thoroughly researched, this is a book that will illumine, provoke, and even edify its readers.
George Pattison, Professor of Theology & Modern European Thought, University of Glasgow

Applying a theological lens to familiar ground, Richard Bell argues in these volumes that Wagner’s Ring cycle can be seen as a Christian allegory. Through a rich account of the composer’s intellectual world, the author unpacks such classic theological concerns as nature and the fall; love, death, and immortality; freedom, necessity, and providence; and redemption – to the great benefit of both Wagnerians and theologians.
Stephen McClatchie, Professor of Theology & the Arts, Huron University College, London, Ontario