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…


(4 words)

See Parenesis


(4 words)

See Trinity

Adult Education

(6 words)

See Continuing Education


(551 words)

Author(s): Steinkamp, Hermann
Legally, psychologically, philosophically, and theologically, “adulthood” is the term for those who have reached a stage or time in the development of the subjectivity of the human person. In law adulthood confers such rights as the right to vote or to enter into contracts, but it also exposes one to penalties, since coming of age carries with it responsibility and expectation of a certain type of conduct. Basic here is the psychological premise and observation that in the process of socialization, we become increasingly c…


(5 words)

See Relief Organizations


(5 words)

See Church Year


(1,739 words)

Author(s): Pöhler, Rolf J. | Reimer, Hans-Diether | Land, Gary
Adventism began as a 19th-century apocalyptic movement (Apocalypticism 3) in the United States. It led directly to the development of the Advent Christian Church, the Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith, and, the largest of the Adventist denominations, the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA). Other groups influenced by, but less directly connected with, Adventism include the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Worldwide Church of God. 1. History During the first half of the 19th century the United States experienced an evangelical religious revival known as the Second…


(1,312 words)

Author(s): Hubbeling, Hubertus G.
1. Concept Traditionally “aesthetics” has been defined as the science of the beautiful. The word comes from the Gk. adjective aisthētikē (from the verb aisthanomai, meaning “perceive, experience”), with which a noun is understood such as technē (art) or epistēmē (knowledge). Aisthētikē epistēmē was thus originally the science of perception. Then the adjective took on the sense of giving direct pleasure in contemplation or imagination—that is, beautiful, charming, and so forth. A. Baumgarten (1714–62) first used the term “aesthetics” to denote the science …


(554 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
Afghanistan became a separate kingdom under Aḥmad Shāh Durrāni (ruled 1747–73), who, as an officer of Nāder Shāh of Persia, left the army and was able to build his small Pashtuni state on the subjection of various ethnic groups in northeast Iran and central Asia. About 90 percent of the present-day population are rural peasants or nomads. Approximately 78 percent belong to the Sunni branch of Islam, 20 percent are Shiites, and 1 percent are Ismailis. The rest consist primarily of Hindus, Si…


(2,868 words)

Author(s): Dammann, Ernst
1. General Survey 1.1. Population and Economic Potential With an area of 30.4 million sq. km. (11.7 million sq. mi.) and a population estimated to reach 820 million in 2000, Africa is the second largest continent (after Asia) and is less densely populated than either Asia or Europe. The continent may be roughly divided into (1) the Arab and Islamic countries in the northern one-third and (2) the African countries in the other two-thirds. The various countries manifest pronounced variations in density and area. Burundi and Rwanda, for example, each have over 600 people per sq. km., wh…

African Independent Churches

(7 words)

See Independent Churches

African Theology

(1,040 words)

Author(s): Evers, Georg
1.1. In view of the geographic, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of Africa, the idea of a single African theology has been long debated. Setting aside the great theologians of North Africa (Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine), we note that concern for an independent African theology is only a few decades old. Geographically this sphere of an African theology embraces the territory south of the Sahara; in content it embraces the theological work of the Christian churches of Africa. It is not a theology that has arisen within the traditional African religions. 1.2. With J. Mbiti, we may…

Afro-American Cults

(837 words)

Author(s): Greschat, Hans-Jürgen
1. At the heart of African American cults stands the experience of a superhuman presence. A deity or spirit or God’s Spirit seizes believers, through whom he speaks and acts. This seizure is introduced and ritually directed by rhythms, drums, songs, dances, and offerings, for there is a fear of uncontrolled possession (Dance; Sacrifice 1; Ecstasy). 2. African American cults arose through 350 years of slavery. 2.1. The slaves wanted from their religion what their memory preserved. They used it in their burial rites, hoping for rebirth in Africa. They used it in …


(1,071 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
1. Concept No single, comprehensive psychological theory of aggression can encompass the various phenomena covered by the term “aggression.” Three theories or groups of theories are most commonly cited, namely, impulse theory, frustration theory, and learning theories. But even this division is finally imprecise and not very helpful because of the overlapping of some features and many unanswered questions. The theories rest on deductions from questions put to empirically perceptible attitudes of a…


(465 words)

Author(s): July, Frank Otfried
The word “agnosticism” (related to Gk. agnōsia, “not knowing”) was coined as a technical term by the English scientist T. H. Huxley (1825–95). It denotes an attitude that refuses to recognize knowledge that is not logical or empirical. In particular, agnosticism ¶ denies the claim that God is knowable. In general, it might be called metaphysical abstention. The problem raised by agnosticism was present even before Huxley coined the term. The earlier tradition of skeptical thinking includes positions that since Huxley’s day we might call agnosticism.…


(327 words)

Author(s): Butts, James R.
“Agrapha” is a term used for sayings of Jesus not recorded in the NT Gospels. The word means “unwritten things” and presupposes that such sayings come from oral tradition that is independent of the canonical writings. 1. The following ancient sources contain agrapha: (1) some textual variants of the NT Bible MSS (e.g., D after Luke 6:5); (2) NT writings outside the Gospels (e.g., Acts 20:35); (3) early apostolic and patristic works up to the third century (e.g., Clement of Alexandria Strom.  1.24.158); (4) papyrus fragments outside the NT (e.g., OxyPap  1224); and (5) later Jew…
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