He was born at Balestrand in Sogn og Fjordane, Norway to Karoline Metella Suur and Harald Ulrik Sverdrup, a member of the Norwegian Parliament, whose brother Johan Sverdrup was Prime Minister of Norway between 1884 and 1889.
He attended the Hartvig Nissens skole in Christiania and later graduated from the University of Christiania in theology in the year of 1871. Moving to France, he was educated in Semitics at the University of Paris and befriended Sven Oftedal before traveling to Germany to study at several other universities.
Georg Sverdrup, together with Sven Oftedal, were two scholars from prominent Haugean families in Norway who were recruited to the United States by August Weenaas, founding president of Augsburg Seminary. They both brought with them a genuinely radical view of Christian education, centered on Scripture and the simple doctrines of Christianity. In 1874, they became professors at Augsburg. Two years later, Sverdrup was appointed as the president of the Seminary.
Emphasizing the freedom of the local congregation, together with Sven Oftedal, he founded the Lutheran Free Church in 1897. He also served as the President of Augsburg until his death in 1907. Apart from his teachings, Sverdrup became joint editor to the Theologisk Kvartalskrift (1875–1877; sole editor until 1881), of the weekly church magazine Lutheraneren (1885–1890), later renamed as Luthersk Kirkeblad (1890–1894) and editor of the monthly magazine Gasseren (1900–1907). Many of his writings are published in a six-volume set edited by Andreas Helland.
Sverdrup was raised in the Norwegian State Church and educated in Lutheran theology. However, he declined to become a minister, serving rather as a Professor at Augsburg Seminary. He was member of the Norwegian Lutheran Conference which existed between 1869 and 1890. Sverdrup believed that the congregation was "the right form of the kingdom of God on earth". He had become concerned with the role and influence of the hierarchy within the church as well as their understanding of the Bible. He believed that, according to the New Testament of the Bible, the local congregation was the correct form of God's kingdom on earth. He believed in a "free church in a free land". His beliefs resulted in his participation in the formation of the Lutheran Free Church in 1897.
Sverdrup married Katherine Elisabet Heiberg in 1874, with whom he had five children. Three years after her death, Sverdrup married Katherine's sister, with whom he had two children. His son George Sverdrup later also served as President of Augsburg College.
- Georg Sverdrup (Store norske leksikon)
- "Augsburg Seminary". Wilmar Tribune. June 8, 1901. p. 2. Retrieved January 10, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- Georg Sverdrup. Dictionary of American Biography Base Set (American Council of Learned Societies, 1928–1936)
- Hallgeir Elstad. "haugianere". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
- Standing Fast in Freedom (The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations)
- James S. Hamre Georg Sverdrup and the Augsburg Plan of Education (Norwegian-American Historical Association. Volume 26: Page 160)
- James S. Hamre Georg Sverdrup / utdypning (Store norske leksikon)
- Hamre, James S. (1986) Georg Sverdrup: Educator, Theologian, Churchman (Northfield, Minn: Norwegian-American Historical Association)
- Helland, Andreas (1947) Georg Sverdrup, the Man and His Message 1848–1907 : A Biographical Sketch (Minneapolis, MN)
- Tavuchis, Nicholas (2013) Pastors and Immigrants: The Role of a Religious Elite in the Absorption of Norwegian Immigrants (Springer Publishing Company) ISBN 9789401760560