The Brill Dictionary of Religion

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Subject: Religious Studies

Edited by: Kocku von Stuckrad

The impressively comprehensive Brill Dictionary of Religion (BDR) Online addresses religion as an element of daily life and public discourse, is richly illustrated and with more than 500 entries, the Brill Dictionary of Religion Online is a multi-media reference source on the many and various forms of religious commitment. The Brill Dictionary of Religion Online addresses the different theologies and doctrinal declarations of the official institutionalized religions and gives equal weight and consideration to a multiplicity of other religious phenomena. The Brill Dictionary of Religion Online helps map out and define the networks and connections created by various religions in contemporary societies, and provides models for understanding these complex phenomena.

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(1,132 words)

Author(s): Naacke, Claudia
1. Regarded physiologically, hair is one of the derivatives of skin. Being without a nerve, it cannot directly communicate sensory impressions. Nevertheless, it is the material basis of the metaphorical description of experiences, in linguistic applications like ‘hairsbreadth,’ or even ‘hairy [situation].’ In its quality of being bound to the body, and yet separable from it, hair is everywhere to be found as a component of the symbolism of the body. Coiffure as Characteristic of a Group 2. The various symbolical meanings communicated by ‘headscarf’ can in general be seen…


(1,157 words)

Author(s): Gerke, Hanno
1. Human life is always accompanied and endangered by the impairment of health. One speaks of a handicap rather than of an illness when the impairment cannot be overcome by therapeutic measures, and a person's life is permanently marked by it. In this sense, handicap is an umbrella concept for physical, mental, and spiritual impairments. The World Health Organization (WHO) distinguishes three levels on which a handicap affects a person's life: first, directly, as an organic damage (impairment), …


(1,307 words)

Author(s): Grözinger, Karl E.
Hasidism—a Jewish Awakening Movement


(316 words)

Author(s): Mohr, Hubert
Heathen are always the ‘others’: Muslims, freethinkers and atheists, cannibals—even Catholics or Protestants, as you prefer. ‘Heathen’ is a collective, ‘exclusive’ (excluding) concept: in the Hebrew Bible, the ‘others’ are the


(1,966 words)

Author(s): Thomas, Günter
Dimensions of the Concept 1. The conception of heaven, together with its possible antitheses (earth, hell) and overlaps (paradise, the beyond), belongs to the most important group of influential religious symbols in the history of ideas and piety. Adapted in depth by the folk culture, it permeates many religions, and is further developed even outside explicitly religious traditions. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, this conception combines several dimensions of meaning. (a) First of all, in terms of daily human experience of the world, even today heaven or the sky is an expanse reaching over the earth, the space marked off by sunrise and sunset, the air space in which clouds and winged animals move, the expanse lit by the stars. Supported by this obvious experience, early notions of cosmology and science managed to conceptualize the sky as a hemisphere ranged over the earth, with the stars mounted (‘firmament’) and the heavenly waters being above it; or as a platter standing on props. (b) Attached to this conception of space, heaven or the sky is the place of emergence of the reality of inescapable natural, historical, and social forces. Human b…


(1,595 words)

Author(s): Herzog, Markwart
1. The word ‘hell’ (from Old English hel, in turn from helan, ‘to cover,’ ‘to conceal’) in Germanic languages denotes a ‘hidden’ realm of the dead. The corresponding words in romance languages mean, more precisely, a ‘subterranean realm’ (Lat., infernum, akin to Eng. ‘infernal’; Fr., enfers). In the earliest traditions, the underworld is the region where all of the dead continue their existence—where earthly existence endures in reduced format (Heb., sheol; ancient Gk., hades [Homer]). Punishment and retribution are not yet the foremost connotations. A further basic …


(323 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
A hereafter, in the raw sense of ‘the other side,’ necessarily corresponds to the fact that a boundary is traced when a dead person must be withdrawn from the world of the living, to be buried beyond a boundary, …


(795 words)

Author(s): Grübel, Nils
The concept of heresy (Gk., haíresis, ‘choice’) originally denotes the opportunity of a selection to be made among various ancient philosophical schools. With the appearance of the Christian → Church and its orthodoxy, the word receives the polemical meaning of ‘false teaching,’ along with that of ‘particular direction’ or ‘tack.’ The struggle with the heresies (Arianism, Donatism, → Gnosticism) helped a Christianity in the process of formation, itself a particular direction of Judaism, to produce an…


(227 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The expression “hermeneutics” (from Gk., hermeneuein, ‘to translate,’ ‘to interpret’) denotes the methods of interpretation of a text (→ Text/Textual Criticism) when seen as part of its exposition. Hermeneutics is of key importance especially for religion, when the latter is no longer temporally and locally embedded…


(1,380 words)

Author(s): Burns, Dylan
The Term “Hermetism” “Hermetism” is a term used today to describe the authors of Late Antique instructional texts which feature the personage of Hermes Trismegistus (“thrice-great Hermes”) as instructor or interlocutor. In these texts, Hermes discusses and describes magical, astrological, alchemical, philosophical, and mystical ideas and practices. The variety of Hermetic subjects testifies to the absolute dominion of Hermes over every sort of learning: he was a personification of knowledge itself.…


(1,919 words)

Author(s): Behrenbeck, Sabine
Leading Figure 1. A hero (Gk., heros, ‘hero,’ originally ‘free man’) is an individual who stands out from the …