Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses

The Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses (Danish: Opbyggelige Taler), sometimes called the Eighteen Edifying Discourses, is a collection of discourses produced by Søren Kierkegaard during the years of 1843 and 1844.[1] Although he published some of his works using pseudonyms, these discourses were signed his own name as author. His discourses stress love, joy, faith, gratitude, thanksgiving, peace, adversity, impartiality, and equality before God and recommends them to the single individual.

These discourses are not the same as a sermon because a sermon is preached to a congregation while a discourse can be carried on between several people or even with oneself. These discourses or conversations should be "upbuilding", which means one would build up the other person, or oneself, rather than tear down in order to build up. Kierkegaard said: "Although this little book (which is called 'discourses,' not sermons, because its author does not have authority to 'preach',[2] "upbuilding discourses," not discourses for upbuilding, because the speaker by no means claims to be a 'teacher') wishes to be only what it is, a superfluity, and desires only to remain in hiding".[3]

He also wrote that he was without authority and he explained what he meant in his Journals

The reason I have always spoken of myself as being without authority is that I personally have felt that there was too much of the poetic in me, furthermore that I feel aided by something higher, and also that I am put together backwards, but then, too, because I perceive that the profound suffering of my life and also my guilt make me need an enormous measure of Christianity, while at the same time I am fearful of making it too heavy for someone who may not need so great a measure. Of course neither the God-man nor an apostle can have such a concern-but then I am just a poor human being.
  • Soren Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers VI 289 n. 6587 (1850)

Titling and translation

David F. Swenson first translated the works in the 1940s and titled them the Edifying Discourses;[4] however, in 1990, Howard V. and Edna H. Hong translated the works again but called them the Upbuilding Discourses. The word "upbuilding" was more in line with Kierkegaard's thought after 1846, when he wrote Christian discourses about suffering[5] and later Christian deliberations about works of love.[6] He was not a preacher or a teacher at the beginning of his discourses but by the end of his discourses he removed the word teacher. Thus he had progressed.[7] Later in Practice in Christianity he states the problem he has with the modern sermon. "The Christian sermon today has become mainly observations. “to observe” can mean in one sense to come very close to something, namely, to what one wishes to observe; in another sense, it signifies keeping very distant, infinitely distant, that is, personally." Practice in Christianity, Hong p. 233

Two Upbuilding Discourses, 1843

Three Upbuilding Discourses, 1843

Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1843

Two Upbuilding Discourses, 1844

Three Upbuilding Discourses, 1844

Four Upbuilding Discourses, 1844


  1. The Danish text is available online Atten opbyggelige Taler (1862) reprinting
  2. Kierkegaard does find someone who was a preacher in his 1847 book. Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, Hong He says "The penitent robber is preaching" p. 271-273
  3. Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Søren Kierkegaard 1843-1844, 1990 ed. by Howard V. Hong, Princeton University Press, p. 5
  4. Edifying Discourses by Søren Kierkegaard ... translated from the Danish by David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson
  5. Soren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, 1847 p. 213-341
  6. Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, p. 3 (Hong 1990)
  7. These Christian discourses (which in more than one respect are not, and thus for more than one reason are not called, sermons) are not intended “to fill an idle moment for inquisitiveness.” If, however, just one single sufferer, who perhaps is also going astray in many thoughts, should by means of them find a heavy moment lighter, should find in them a trail leading through the many thoughts, then the author will not regret his intention with them. It is “The Gospel of Sufferings,” not as though the subject were exhausted by these discourses but because each discourse is a draught of this, praise God, inexhaustible supply, not as though the particular discourse were exhaustive but because each discourse still drinks deeply enough to find the joy. Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, S.K. p. 215
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