The Brill Dictionary of Religion

Get access 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.

Subscriptions: see


(1,045 words)

Author(s): Ute, Kollies-Cummings
1. The word ‘apartheid’ was introduced in political terminology following the Second World War. It should be translated ‘apartness’ (etymologically), ‘separation,’ ‘telling apart,’ or ‘distinguishing,’ and expresses the thought of a divided development among various ‘races’ living in areas of geographical or social division. ‘Apartheid’ comes from the Afrikaans, the language of South Africa's Boers—immigrants of Dutch extraction and their descendants—and denoted, at the very latest since the sig…


(1,395 words)

Author(s): Senkel, Christian W.
General The Apocalypse as a text, and apocalyptic as prophetic symbolic disclosure of the ultimate destruction of evil and triumph of good, are elements of a religious bestowal of meaning upon (interpretation of) time. Every complex religion presents the origin and end of the time of human or cosmic life in mythical images. The original meaning of ‘apocalypse’ (Gr., ‘revelation,’ from apokalýptein, ‘unwrap,’ ‘bare’) is a terrible and/or joyful uncovering, in the course of an act of Greek-Hellenistic worship, of a picture of the gods. The concept of ‘apoca…


(107 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
In order that theologians might be provided with arguments for the ‘defense’ of church teaching in discussions with ‘unbelievers,’ apologetics was taught as part of their education. First, in the debate with ‘scientific atheism,’ and then, in Germany, in that against National Socialism, apologetics experts gathered reports and distributed them to the pastoral clergy. Here it was, and is, necessary, first, to know the objections of opponents, and then the apposite responses to them. This process …


(953 words)

Author(s): Grübel, Nils
General 1. Originally, ‘apostasy’ (Gk. apostasía, ‘defection’) was a political concept for a rebellion against the established order. In Hellenistic Jewish literature, it was charged with religious connotations, and since then has denoted a defection from the faith. Thus, an apostate is someone who abandons her or his religion to embrace another religion or worldview. But apostasy also denotes a failure to acknowledge certain dogmas, or means the rejection or alteration of actions prescribed for wors…


(281 words)

Author(s): Remus, Babett
In antiquity, ‘apostle’ (Gr. Apóstolos, ‘emissary,’ ‘messenger’) denoted the act or agent of a mission. Herodotus occasionally used the word in the sense of a ‘courier.’ Traditionally, with reference to the twelve ‘Apostles,’ the word denotes any of Jesus's twelve closest disciples. As witnesses of the Resurrection, they are regarded as the plenipotentiary proclaimers of the Gospel. The gospels also name other apostles, however, such as Paul, who has not been one of the ‘twelve Apostles,’ but who has been called to be an Apostle through a vision of the risen Jesus. A univocal understan…


(148 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
With the crisis of the belief in progress, in the 1880s, came a change in the models of history. Instead of an evaluation of the progress of the ages as a progress from primitive beginnings to ever loftier rungs on the ladder of humanity, one encounters a complete reversal of the conceptualization of this development. First, archaeologists came to understand that pre-classical art is more than a ‘not yet’—the incapability, so to speak, of presenting anything worthwhile at this early stage—which …

Architecture, Sacred

(194 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
If religion is to be a vital institution in society, buildings are needed: from a walled approach or entranceway to a cave, to pieces of architecture reserved exclusively for religious use. Buildings for worship are places where gods are thought of as dwelling, where their images are displayed, and where persons show their reverence through gifts. The altar is not always the central point. The Greek temple is rather a treasure house for votive gifts, while the sacrifice is offered on the altar i…


(378 words)

Author(s): Hartmann, Stefan
As a comprehensive concept, Aristotelianism designates the reception of the Greek philosopher Aristotle (383–322 BCE) in the medieval theology and philosophy of scholasticism. The authoritative Church Father Augustine having clearly preferred Plato's competing philosophy ( Platonism), the course of Aristotle's reception in the West was very slow prior to the work of Albertus Magnus (1200–1280) and his pupil Thomas Aquinas (1525–1570). The writings of Aristotle were discovered and used in Chris…

Ars Moriendi

(400 words)

Author(s): Hartmann, Stefan
Ars moriendi (Lat., ‘the art of dying’) denotes a genre of edifying literature come down from ancient times (Cicero), and intended to prepare persons for ‘right’ or ‘correct’ dying. It has its high point from the late Middle Ages (fifteenth century) to the Baroque period (seventeenth century). In the thoughts and feelings of the Middle Ages, the hour of death was the moment of the struggle of the powers of good ( Angel) with those of evil ( Devil) for the soul of a dying person. Ars moriendi, in this mythic representation, means the soul's readiness for this final battle. Accordin…


(4,056 words)

Author(s): Lanwerd, Susanne
Art 1. Art, in both its general and its special meanings, is a compound concept. First, it refers to any capacity of a person that presupposes a special knowledge and formative practice. The Latin word ars comprehensively denotes skills, crafts, arts, sciences. Only since the eighteenth century has ‘art’ more restrictively denoted the totality of only and all works created by formed or trained specialists called artists—although certain ideas moving in this more specific direction can indeed be found in the ancients and in the Re…

Art Religion

(1,083 words)

Author(s): Lanwerd, Susanne
1. The concept ‘art religion’ was developed by G. W. F. Hegel, in his Phänomenologie des Geistes (1807; “Phenomenology of Mind”), where he presents, in his system of the three realms of absolute Mind—Art, Religion, and Philosophy—a specific form from the past: “The Greek Religion is the religion of art itself.”1 Furthermore, the concept of art religion includes the reflections of the relation between art and religion. These reflections, around 1800, with the division between artists and clients that followed, constitute a contribution to the re…


(945 words)

Author(s): Fuchs, Markus E.
Concept 1. a) By ‘asceticism’ (from Gr., áskesis, ‘exercise’) is understood, in today's usage, a conscious, prolonged, systematic diminution in the quality of one's life wherein the religious element continues to be involved only peripherally. A life of asceticism is distinguished by the exercise of renunciation in one's everyday life, and the subordination of all daily living to the dictates of that renunciation. Transitory restrictions, such as those customary in Muslim Ramadan, or in the Catholic …

Ascona/Monte Verità

(1,443 words)

Author(s): Mohr, Hubert
1. Monte Verità (Ital., “Mount of Truth”) was a cultic site frequented by devotees of the European, especially the German-speaking, alternative culture of the first third of the twentieth century. The level elevation overlooking the village of Tessino and today's tourist center of Ascona, on the Swiss northern bank of Lago Maggiore, received its name from the homonymous sanatorium at the same location. From 1900 to 1920, Belgian industrial heir Henri Oedenkoven (1875–1935) and pianist Ida Hofman…


(271 words)

Author(s): Gietz, Karl-Peter
1. The Sanskrit word asrama, ‘hermitage,’ ‘residence of an ascetic,’ ‘monastery,’ may be derived from sram, ‘exert oneself,’ ‘make an effort,’ ‘perform religious exercises.’ The ashram is also, in ancient Indian literature and religious praxis, the secluded place where ascetics or hermits can perform their exercises undisturbed. Such ascetics received disciples who performed all necessary services (Sanskrit, seva), and remained for some years. Such small ashrams exist even today, both those of hermits and those of teachers ( Guru), with a small number of disciples ( shishyas). 2. …

Astrology (Western)

(1,885 words)

Author(s): von Stuckrad, Kocku
The Concept 1. a) Astrology (from Gk., ‘science of the stars’) belongs to the oldest cultural phenomena of humankind. Its persistence from antiquity to modernity—despite many transformations and various developments—is remarkable. Most generally, astrology engages the suspected correspondences between the heavenly realm (the stars, planets, zodiacal signs, etc.) and the earthly realm. To interpret these correspondences, astrological discourse developed different, and often conflicting, strategies. On the one hand, scholars construed a causal influence of heavenly b…


(1,033 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Human Right? 1. Asylum, the assuring of protection to strangers, has religious roots. Church asylum, and the sanctuary movement (in the United States), plead this ancient religious tradition. In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany committed itself to the following human right: “Political refugees have a right to asylum” (Art. 16.2). This formulation goes much further than the (non-binding) United Nations Convention on Human Rights of December 12, 1948: “States may grant asylum to political refugees.” Nevertheless, even the German exp…


(1,007 words)

Author(s): Nanko, Ulrich
1. Atheism (‘godlessness’), linguistically derived from the Greek átheos, is so named only since the sixteenth century. Atheism means the denial of the existence of God or of the gods, as well as of a life after death. It is a radical form of criticism of religion, and depends on contingent historical and societal conceptualizations of God. Thus, a timelessly valid definition that would specify anything beyond the negation of the existence of God is impossible. Behind the imputation of atheism lurk confrontations concerning the religious tradition of a society. A prerequisite for ath…


(1,186 words)

Author(s): Brentjes, Burchard
Plato's Myth 1. Atlantis is the literary fiction of a great empire that sank in the Atlantic. It harks back to the Greek Philosopher Plato (427/8–347/8 BCE), and is said to have served the rescue of the declining state of Athens in the political struggle over that city's future. Plato was from an old aristocratic family and had sought in vain to receive some political office in his home city. He battled the democrats, who were hateful to him, with philosophical teachings. The legend of Atlantis is…


(1,275 words)

Author(s): Brachtendorf, Johannes
Biographical Data 1. Augustine was born in 354 in Thagaste (today's Souk-Ahras, Algeria), and died in 430 in Hippo Regius (Northern Africa). Reared as a Christian by his mother, Monica, he lived at first (373–384) as a teacher of rhetoric in Thagaste, Carthage, Rome, and at the Western Roman Imperial Court at Milan. After a conversion experience, he had himself baptized (387), and in 391 was ordained a priest. From 396 until his death Augustine was Bishop of the provincial city of Hippo Regius. Intellectual and Religious Development 2. Augustine's intellectual career was no less tu…


(1,156 words)

Author(s): Pilger-Strohl, Matthias
Concept: Personal and Formal Authority 1. The concept of ‘authority’ comes from Roman antiquity and essentially designates a relationship of voluntary subordination without direct application of force. The word derives from the Latin auctoritas (‘prestige,’ ‘influence’), embodied in the ancient Roman Senate. The latter was composed of prestigious former officials who stood at the side of the magistrates in office in an advisory capacity. By way of distinction from potestas (‘power,’ ‘control’), which can be imposed by violence or compulsion, auctoritas is a voluntarily attr…