Encyclopedia of Christianity Online

Get access Subject: Religious Studies
Editors: Erwin Fahlbusch, Jan Milič Lochman, John Mbiti, Jaroslav Pelikan and Lukas Vischer

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The Encyclopedia of Christianity Online describes modern-day Christian beliefs and communities in the context of 2000 years of apostolic tradition and Christian history. Based on the third, revised edition of the critically acclaimed German work Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon. The Encyclopedia of Christianity Online includes all 5 volumes of the print edition of 1999-2008 which has become a standard reference work for the study of Christianity past and present. Comprehensive, reflecting the highest standards in scholarship yet intended for a wide range of readers, the The Encyclopedia of Christianity Online also looks outward beyond Christianity, considering other world religions and philosophies as it paints the overall religious and socio-cultural picture in which the Christianity finds itself.

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Abbot, Abbess

(208 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
The words “abbot” and “abbess” come from Aram. abba (father). Abbots and abbesses are the heads of independent cloisters, especially Benedictine; an abbot may also be the head of an abbey church. Many abbots and abbesses, who are often esteemed as highly as bishops, have made their mark as missionaries, pioneers, preachers, poets, scientists, and territorial rulers. They typically receive an oath of obedience from those under them. The abbot general, or abbot president, is the head of a group of monasteries. The head of the confederated Benedictines, elected fo…


(4,415 words)

Author(s): Publishers, The
Abbreviations generally follow those given in the Journal of Biblical Literature “Instructions for Contributors.” For those not listed there, the abbreviations in the second edition of S. M. Schwertner’s Internationales Abkürzungsverzeichnis für Theologie und Grenzgebiete (Berlin, 1992) are used; for works of theology or related fields not listed in either source, new abbreviations have been formed. Writings listed below under the section “Early Church Writings” include those of writers through Augustine. Biblical Books, with the Apocrypha Gen.Genesis Add. Est.Additions t…


(1,840 words)

Author(s): Lee-Linke, Sung-Hee | Koschorke, Martin
1. Medical, Biblical, and Historical Survey 1.1. The term “abortion” refers to the intervention, usually in the first three months, in the process of the development of human life in a mother’s body, with the intention of ending the pregnancy prematurely. 1.2. Abortion, as far as we know, has been practiced in all ages and almost all places for different reasons. Over the centuries, the methods used, which vary across countries and cultures, have included physical force, medicine, and magic, applied both internally and externally. Modern medicine is concerned to avoid risk in pe…

Abortion Counseling

(1,081 words)

Author(s): Koschorke, Martin
1. Definition Abortion counseling is the counseling of women who contemplate or have decided upon having an abortion, with a view to making sure that they are aware of all the options and consequences. Some places insist that counseling must occur before an abortion is in fact performed. Social workers may offer advice on the possibilities of assistance or adoption, should the final decision be not to have the abortion. Physicians can give information on what precisely the procedure involves. Psyc…


(1,064 words)

Author(s): McKane, William
1. Biblical Tradition The biblical stories of Abraham occur only in Genesis, chaps. 11 (origins and call) through 25 (death). Together, they are the source of the figure of Abraham that is referred to elsewhere in the biblical tradition and in the thought of the church—namely, the ancestor of the people of Israel who received God’s promises and lived in faithful obedience to God. As Abram, he responded to God’s command and moved to a distant country, where God promised that he would become the ancestor of a great…

Absoluteness of Christianity

(8 words)

See Theology of Religions

Absolute, The

(562 words)

Author(s): Veldhuis, Ruurd
The word “absolute” comes from the Lat. absolutus (loosed, completed). Taken negatively, it means the unconditioned—in metaphysics, as distinct from the finite and conditioned; in epistemology, as distinct from the indefinite and relative; and in ethics, as distinct from the provisional and only partly valid. ¶ Taken positively, in metaphysics it represents the complete and perfect being on which all that exists depends, the ground that sustains all things, the final goal toward which all reality strives. It may also be understood immanent…


(6 words)

See Confession of Sins


(161 words)

Author(s): Plank, Peter
The Acathistus (from Greek, meaning “not [sung] sitting”), a Byzantine hymn to the Virgin Mary sung while standing, takes the form of an alphabetic acrostic and is thought to have been first composed by Romanus Melodus (6th cent.). The original served as a model for many similar hymns, especially in Russia. At times having considerable influence in the West, the Acathistus has been illustrated in picture-cycles since the 14th century. See Mariology; Mary, Devotion to Peter PlankBibliography A. Chadzinikolau, “Akathistos Hymnos,” RBK  1.94–96 G. Dévai, “Akathistos–Prooemia in …


(164 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
“Acclamation,” from the Lat. acclamo (applaud, cheer, shout), denotes shouts, often intensified by repetition, that express the cheers, praises, thanks, ¶ demands, or devotion of individuals or crowds. Examples occur in the NT ( amēn, allēlouïa, marana tha, hōsanna, and also Kyrios Iēsous). They occur also in connection with the election of bishops and popes ( ad [per] multos annos, axios), and there are examples at councils and synods ( anathema). In antiquity and in the Middle Ages rulers received acclamations on special occasions. All Eastern and most Wes…


(778 words)

Author(s): Balz, Heinrich
1. Concept In 1935 American anthropologists first used “acculturation” as a technical term to denote a basic shift in one or more cultures that have experienced direct and long-term contact with each other. In contrast to the diffusion of individual cultural traits over time, acculturation is a subject of strictly empirical description. It is also to be differentiated from socialization, in German sometimes called Enkulturation, and from inculturation, which, in recent Catholic missiology, has the much wider meaning of incarnating Christianity in a given culture. Sometimes assimi…

Achievement and Competition

(1,307 words)

Author(s): Haferkamp, Hans | Schade, Angelika
1. An essential feature of modern industrial societies is the principle of achievement, toward which the organization of both social relations and individuals is oriented. Such a society is characterized primarily by the fact that its basic organizational goal is the maximizing of production and therefore of the gross national product. A second feature is that the members of this type of society themselves desire and seek achievement. Third, material and social opportunities should be distribute…


(182 words)

Author(s): Staats, Reinhart
“Acoemetae,” meaning “those who do not sleep,” designates certain monks in and around Constantinople who, divided into two choirs and using various languages (Greek, Latin, and Syriac), sang God’s praises without ceasing. Long before the Benedictines, they observed the seven hours of prayer. Their founder was Alexander (d. ca. 430), who began his work in Mesopotamia and Antioch and who in 426 was driven out of Constantinople on account of Messalianism. In 428 the group founded the monastery of Gomon, then Irenaeon. The history of the famous…


(248 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
The term “act” figures in the philosophical analysis of becoming, of the phenomenon of change. Parmenides (d. after 480 b.c.) regarded all change as appearance, while Heraclitus (ca. 500 b.c.) considered all that is unchanged as appearance. Aristotle (384–322 b.c.) made an extensive analysis of becoming in his doctrines of substance and accident, dynamis and energeia, potency and act. These doctrines were greatly refined in medieval metaphysics, especially by Thomas Aquinas (1224/25–74), who related them to the doctrines of God and creation. A potency seems to precede every act (e…

Acta Sanctorum

(8 words)

See Lives of the Saints

Action Theory

(1,790 words)

Author(s): Middendorf, Manfred
The term “action theory” denotes various philosophical and scientific attempts to analyze and interpret human action. In a narrower sense it refers to the present intensive conceptual and empirical effort to clarify the supposedly necessary components of any action as a complex event. A key question is whether and to what extent human action can be distinguished from behavior (Behaviorism). In a broader sense the term applies to traditional positions in philosophy and science, insofar as they im…

Acts of the Apostles

(1,481 words)

Author(s): Jervell, Jacob
1. Author Acts is the second part of the Lukan document, with the Gospel of John separating the two in the canon. According to ancient Christian tradition, the author is the physician Luke, a coworker of Paul (Col. 4:14). The author’s interest focuses on Paul, his mission, and his fate (Acts 9; 11; 13–28). Arguments against authorship by a coworker are the biographical defects and the lack of specific features of Pauline theology. Nevertheless, the author shows a good knowledge of the nonpolemical, “catholic” Paul whom we know from marginal obse…


(544 words)

Author(s): Jervell, Jacob
In the OT ’ ādām is a collective term for humanity, a term for the individual, and finally a proper name (Genesis 1–11). Adam stands in a special relation to God, created by him and bearing his image. Adam is the crown of creation (§2) and has almost divine rank (e.g., 1:26–27; 5:3). He is a social being, and God gives him dominion over the rest of creation (1:26–28; 2:18–20). Yet limits are set for him as a creature. He is fully dependent on God and is mortal. The story of the fall (chap. 3) elucidates the essential limitation. Transgression of God’s command brings guilt and punishme…


(5 words)

See Substance Abuse


(830 words)

Author(s): Ulrich, Hans G.
1. “Adiaphora,” from the Gk. pl. adiaphora (cf. Lat. sing. indifferens), denotes things that are indifferent. A broad range of usage for what is permitted or what is between permission and proscription has helped to determine its historical significance. The term occurs in the ethics of antiquity, especially in Stoicism. The Stoics tried to see how things that encounter us or acts that we perform have a moral significance that is not intrinsic to them. Christian ethics adopted the term but used it in many different ways as it fa…
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