Encyclopedia of Christianity Online

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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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(842 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
1. Term Cabala (also spelled cabbala, cabbalah, kabala, kabbala, and kabbalah) means “tradition”—more specifically, “esoteric, mystical tradition.” It is the common name for the most important school of Jewish mysticism, which flourished from the late 12th century to the 19th, mainly in Christian Europe and the Middle East. The early cabalists in medieval Europe relied on ancient Jewish (Judaism) mystical traditions known as Hekhalot (heavenly palaces) and Merkabah (chariot) mysticism and on the traditions of the ancient cosmological work Sefer Yetzirah (Book of creation). T…


(6 words)

See Empire and Papacy


(5 words)

See Church Year


(2,276 words)

Author(s): Heron, Alasdair I. C.
1. Term Calvinism is not to be equated either with John Calvin’s theology or with that of the Reformed churches in general, though the latter are especially influenced by it. In the narrower sense the term denotes the main forms of classic Calvinism as they arose in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the broader sense it stands for the outworking of Calvinistic impulses that, in spite of many changes, may still be detected in the Reformed tradition and in other communions like the Anglican, in the Me…

Calvin, John

(1,439 words)

Author(s): Kaufmann, Thomas
Born July 10, 1509, at Noyon in northern France, John Calvin became one of the most influential of the second generation of Reformers. His work was of significance throughout Europe and beyond. His theological development, confessional importance, ecclesiastical consolidation, and international training of reformers were lasting impulses throughout his life and for ages to come. The son of a notary in the bishop’s secretarial service who was excommunicated for financial conflicts with the church in 1528, Calvin was at first destined for a career in …

Calvin’s Theology

(4,064 words)

Author(s): Neuser, Wilhelm H.
1. The Institutes John Calvin’s main work, Institutio Christianae religionis, ultimately appearing in English as Institutes of the Christian Religion, is the most significant dogmatics of the Reformation period. It is more systematic and comprehensive than either the Loci (1521ff.) of P. Melanchthon (1497–1560) or the True and False Religion (1525) of U. Zwingli (1484–1531; Zwingli’s Theology). It was intended as “a necessary aid to study” (1539 preface), as “a key and door” to Holy Scripture (1541 preface). 1.1. 1536 Edition In 1536, at the age of 27, Calvin gained sudden f…


(1,081 words)

Author(s): Gern, Wolfgang
1. General Cambodia, formerly known as the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, is located in Southeast Asia, on the Indochina Peninsula. Some 85 percent of its population are Theravada Buddhists. Ethnically, approximately 85 percent of the people are Khmer, 6–10 percent are Vietnamese, 3 percent Chinese, 2 percent Cham, plus much smaller percentages of several other groups. 2. Missionary History 2.1. The Roman Catholic mission was initiated from Malacca in 1555 by the Dominicans Gaspar da Cruz (d. 1570) and Sylvester Azevedo (d. 1576). Only in the 17th century, however, were m…


(1,675 words)

Author(s): Dah, Jonas N.
1. General Situation Cameroon is at the crossroads of Central and West Africa. Historically it has experienced the rule of Germans (Kamerun), French (Cameroun), and British (Cameroon). It took its name from the 15th-century Portuguese naming of the mouth of the Wouri River in Duala as Rio dos Camerões (Shrimp River). Cameroon is an ethnic and linguistic hodgepodge, with more than 100 different ethnic groups (some would distinguish 500 separate groups) speaking a total of over 250 languages. The lar…

Campus Crusade for Christ

(10 words)

See Student Work; Youth Work


(2,477 words)

Author(s): Grant, John Webster
1. Christian Churches 1.1. The Roman Catholic Church (over 12 million adherents in 1994) is almost equally divided ¶ between Canada’s two chief linguistic components. Roughly 6 million, mainly in the province of Quebec, descend from French settlers who were already in what is now Canada before cessions to Britain in 1713 and 1763. In English-speaking areas the Irish have traditionally been the dominant group, but the tendency of immigrants from Italy, Poland, Portugal, and the Philippines to choose English as thei…


(266 words)

Author(s): Greschat, Hans-Jürgen
When he was in Cuba, Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) heard of some “Canibales” (cf. Lat. canis, “dog”) who ate human flesh. In fact these were Caribs (Columbus mistook the r for n), ancient inhabitants of the Caribbean, but “cannibalism” became the common term for eating human flesh. Cannibalism was common in primitive times, and it has occurred in tribal cultures, in World War II prison camps, and in many places where victors have triumphantly eaten the livers of their enemies in front of clicking cameras. Friends as well as foes have b…


(3,641 words)

Author(s): Smend, Rudolf | Merk, Otto | Heron, Alasdair I. C.
1. The OT Canon 1.1. Presuppositions and Preparatory Stages Long before the OT writings became canonical in any strict sense (measuring up to a kanōn, i.e., a standard or rule), many of them claimed and received an authority that was already related to canonicity and that logically prepared the way for it. Priests, prophets, and wise men spoke with great, if not final, authority. Many of their sayings were remembered and gave instruction and direction to later generations, even if in changed or supplemented form. The …

Canonical Hours

(6 words)

See Hours, Canonical

Canon Law

(794 words)

Author(s): Heinemann, Heribert
1. The term “canon law” refers to the study of church law (“canon” is a ruling by the church). It is a theological discipline using the methods of jurisprudence to ensure the orderly life of the church as an institution based on the will of Jesus Christ. It has the task of inquiring critically into prevailing church law (Codex Iuris Canonici [CIC]), analyzing and presenting the meaning and purpose of the statutes, warning against potentially harmful directions, and promoting legal development (Law). It has a dogmatic branch (the exposition of existing la…

Canon Law, Code of

(9 words)

See Codex Iuris Canonici

Canon Law, Corpus of

(9 words)

See Corpus Iuris Canonici


(189 words)

Author(s): Albrecht, Christoph
The cantata (It. cantata, choral piece with several movements, as distinct from the purely instrumental sonata), which was developed in Italy in the 17th century, involves an alternation of arias and recitatives. It achieved central importance in Protestant church music in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in combination with biblical passages and hymns (also songs), though after 1700 increasingly with free texts as well. As an exposition of texts with musical figures, symbols, impressions, and stimuli, the cantata has a place in worship alongside prea…


(333 words)

Author(s): Albrecht, Christoph
In ancient tragedy the canticum was a monologue with flute accompaniment. In later Latin, canticum became a general term for a song. In the church the term at first came into use for very different kinds of songs, but later it was limited to OT and NT canticles used for the most part in the hours of prayer. In particular, three NT canticles came into liturgical use: the Magnificat, or Song of Mary (Luke 1:46–55); the Benedictus, or Song of Zacharias (Luke 1:68–79); and the Nunc Dimittis, or Song of Simeon (Luke 2:29–32). From the early days of the monastic hours of prayer in the fourth …


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See Song of Solomon


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See Church Musicians

Cao Dai

(755 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
Cao Dai is the religion of the Vietnamese god Cao Dai, whose name means “great palace.” The full self-designation is (Dai-Dao) Tam-Ky Pho-Do, or “(Great Way of) the Third Forgiveness of God.” Along this way, the unity of all religions is to be recovered, a unity that had already been divided in a “first forgiveness” under the forerunners of Confucius, Lao-tzu, and Buddha Sakyamuni, and then in a “second forgiveness” under these founders themselves plus Jesus Christ. Around this focus, many in th…

Cape Verde

(500 words)

Author(s): Jenkins, Paul
1. General Situation Cape Verde is a volcanic archipelago of 15 islands, lying 620 km. (385 mi.) from the West African mainland. The first Portuguese discoverers (ca. 1460) found the islands uninhabited. The present mestizo, Creole-speaking population is descended from Portuguese settlers and African slaves, the first of whom were brought to Cape Verde about 1500. Climatically, Cape Verde is almost continuously under the influence of the northeast trade winds and thus belongs to the Sahel zone. Repeated periods of catastrophic drought can be docum…

Capital and Labor

(7 words)

See Social Partnership


(2,210 words)

Author(s): Müller, Rudolf Wolfgang
1. Term 1.1. The word “capitalism” has often been a highly controversial one, not only in political contexts but ¶ also in sociology and academia generally, though much less so in English, Italian, and Japanese circles than, for example, in Germany. The word has often been used to make accusations, and thus it has become regarded as an ideological term. Nazism demagogically equated it with Western countries (“capitalist plutocracy”) or with the Jewish population ( jüdisches Wucherkapital, “Jewish usury capital”). After the fall of the Soviet empire and state socialism, t…

Capital Punishment

(6 words)

See Death Penalty

Cappadocian Fathers

(936 words)

Author(s): Wendebourg, Dorothea
The term “the three great Cappadocian Fathers” refers collectively to the three Eastern church fathers (all from the region of Cappadocia in central Asia Minor) who completed the development of the early doctrine of the Trinity and also provided decisive initiatives for the theology and practice at least of the Eastern church: Basil the Great of Caesarea (d. 379), his brother Gregory of Nyssa (d. ca. 395), and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 389/90). Amphilochius of Iconium (d. 395) is sometimes included in this group. The Trinitarian teaching of the Cappadocian Father…


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See Franciscans


(323 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
“Cardinal” is the title of the highest dignitaries below the pope in the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinals were originally priests of the principal churches (sing. cardo) in or near Rome, from whom the pope sought help in leading the whole church. The beginnings of the College of Cardinals date back to the 12th century. The ranks of cardinal bishops, cardinal priests, and cardinal deacons reflect this origin. In the last few centuries the patriarchs of the Uniate churches of the East have also become cardinal bishops. The number of cardinals was fixed at 70 by Sixtus V in 1586. John XXIII (d. …

Cargo Cult

(540 words)

Author(s): Greschat, Hans-Jürgen
1. “Cargo cult” refers to a religious group that believes that material wealth can be gained through the exercise of proper ritual worship. The word “cargo” in this phrase refers to various goods of European origin (e.g., dishes, knives, rice, canned food, glass beads, razor blades, hydrogen peroxide, rifles, axes, and cotton goods) and the money with which to buy such items. Believers in the cult typically have no access to such goods but expect that they will soon acquire them supernaturally. 2. The cults belong to Melanesia, though there are similar phenomena in other cultures (e.g., …


(8 words)

See Latin America and the Caribbean

Caribbean Conference of Churches

(603 words)

Author(s): Payne, Clifford
1. Origin The Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) was inaugurated in November 1973 in Kingston, Jamaica. Its roots can be traced directly back to a consultation of mainline Protestant churches in Puerto Rico in 1957 on future ecumenical cooperation within Caribbean countries, which led to the establishment of the Caribbean Committee on Joint Christian Action (CCJCA) in 1959. CCJCA served as a catalyst for much ecumenical activity, including Christian education, family life education, youth work…


(6 words)

See Orders and Congregations


(711 words)

Author(s): Moser, Dietz-Rüdiger | Kutter, Uli
1. Terminology “Carnival” refers to pre-Lenten celebrations in Catholic countries. Signifying the abolition of fleshly pleasures, it derives from the equivalent terms carnislevamen, carnisprivium, carnetollendas, carnelevale, and carnevale (lit. “Farewell, flesh!”). In the Catholic mission areas of Japan, the word for carnival is shanikusai (or, “rejection of the flesh”). Only the Latin term “bacchanalia,” referring to the Roman feast of Bacchus (the wine god), clearly reflects the character of the modern carnival. 2. Theological Context and Debate The beginning of the …


(1,137 words)

Author(s): Nikolaus, Wolfgang
1. Term “Cartesianism” is the term for the philosophical and scientific teaching of Dutch, French, and German thinkers in the 17th century who adopted and developed the thinking of René Descartes. The main features of Cartesianism were Descartes’s rationalistic method, his axiomatic sum cogitans, his mechanistic explanation of the world, and his metaphysical dualism (see 2.2). 2. René Descartes 2.1. Life Descartes was born into a wealthy aristocratic French family in 1596 at La Haye, Touraine. After a scholastically shaped education at the Jesuit college …


(6 words)

See Orders and Congregations


(8 words)

See History, Auxiliary Sciences to, 8


(483 words)

Author(s): von Brück, Michael
Caste (Port. casta, “race, lineage”), which is fundamental to Hinduism, rests on the idea of ritual purity (Cultic Purity). It is also a socially and historically conditioned way of organizing society with a religious sanction. 1. Caste is based on racial distinction (the Sanskrit word for caste, varṇa, means “color”), which resulted from centuries-long struggles between the light-skinned ¶ Aryan conquerors and the dark-skinned original inhabitants. It is also based on a class and guild system that, through regional, economic, and religious differenti…


(661 words)

Author(s): Schwartz, Werner
1. The term “casuistry” denotes the methodical process of bringing individual, real-life cases under the established norms of a discipline or worldview or ethics. It has its roots in law. As in Roman and English law, general rules are developed on the basis of individual cases; these general rules in turn are applied to individual cases. The same procedure may then be adopted in other spheres in which human conduct is evaluated according to fixed norms. We find it in almost all religions in connection with ideas of sin and purification, as well as in broad ethical traditions. 2. Rabbinic Jewi…


(810 words)

Author(s): Brandenburg, Hugo
1. “Catacomb” refers to the underground Christian cemeteries (§4) in Rome, as well as in Naples and Syracuse, which consist mainly of a network of passages, the walls along which contain hundreds of simple tombs (loci), with chambers (cubicula) for more lavish interment (including vaulted tombs, or arcosolia) or as family burial plots. The wall tombs are shut off with brick or marble, on which there might be inscriptions, often with only the names of the dead. Light shafts (lucernaria) provided air and illumination and also served to mark important graves (e.g., of martyrs). The anci…


(1,827 words)

Author(s): Wegenast, Klaus
1. Term and History 1.1. “Catechesis” is the term for the instruction in the Christian faith that is connected with baptismal preparation or administration (Baptism). The underlying Greek word katēcheō, “teach by word of mouth” (originally used in drama), acquired in primitive Christianity the sense of communicating the content of the faith by instruction (1 Cor. 14:19; Gal. 6:6; Acts 18:25, etc.). In Heb. 6:1–2 the content is listed: “repentance from dead works and faith toward God … baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal j…


(2,122 words)

Author(s): Wegenast, Klaus
1. Term The term “catechism” comes from the Greek by way of the Late Lat. catechizo. It refers to the process of oral instruction for baptism (Catechesis). When infant baptism replaced adult baptism, the term came to be used for Christian education in general. From the time of the Reformation it has also been a term for published works summarizing Christian faith and Christian life. Today there is uncertainty as to whether a catechism is meant for teaching or for learning, for children or for adults, for memorizing or as an argumentative introduction to the …

Catechismus Romanus

(409 words)

Author(s): Schilling, Johannes
The Catechismus Romanus is the authoritative catechetical response of the Council of Trent (1545–63) to the main catechisms of the Reformers (G. J. Bellinger). It was planned in the first sessions of Trent but could not be completed while the council was meeting. The council thus gave the task, along with its preparatory labors, to Pope Pius IV (1559–65), who entrusted the work in 1564 to a commission of former council members under the presidency of his nephew Carlo Borromeo (1538–84). After various revisions the first edition came out in September/October 1566 in Rome. It bore the title Ca…


(667 words)

Author(s): Schwerin, Eckart
1. Term The term “catechist” (from Gk. katēcheō, “instruct”) occurs in the NT only in Gal. 6:6. It means the same as didaskaloi, “teachers,” who in 1 Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:11 are grouped by Paul among charismatics and who had the task of instructing those who sought baptism in the fundamentals of the faith. In the course of proclamation the catechist was responsible especially for instructing and accompanying (Catechesis) baptized and unbaptized children (Baptism). 2. History The spread of Christianity called for a catechumenate and the office of catechist. As the c…

Categorical Imperative

(507 words)

Author(s): Hofmeister, Heimo
1. Term I. Kant (1724–1804) used the term “categorical imperative” to designate the absolute character of the moral law. The law must be stated in terms of an imperative, for the human will is not “holy,” that is, not fully in accord with reason (Kantianism). In practical morality the categorical imperative is necessarily and universally valid (i.e., it is an a priori); it is stronger than the “hypothetical imperative” (e.g., the rules of what is apt or the precepts of cleverness), which describes the more limited relation between end and means. 2. Formulations The most important form…


(519 words)

Author(s): Husslik, Heinz
1. Aristotle (384–322 b.c.) introduced the Greek word katēgoria into philosophy (Aristotelianism). Aristotle’s categories, used in analysis of the parts of a sentence, had the aim of distinguishing between sense and nonsense ( Cat.  1b25ff.; Top.  103b20ff.). Aristotle distinguished ten fundamental predicates, or “categories”: substance, quality, quantity, relation, space, time, position, state, activity, and passivity. ¶ Since, as the Greeks understood it, being manifests itself in the Logos, the logical types of predication are also ontological …


(160 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
The Latin word catena, “chain,” designates a form of Bible commentary that lists extracts from older commentaries for each verse. The catena first developed in the sixth century and became very common in Byzantium. Its purpose was to give a handy summary of biblical tradition. Much of the Greek exposition of the early church has come down to us only in catenas. The catena is related to the florilegium, which assembled quotations from the Fathers on dogmatic topics. In the Middle Ages the Latin chur…


(942 words)

Author(s): Patschovsky, Alexander
1. Name The name “Cathari,” from Gk. katharos (pure), in popular etymology derives from “cat” as a symbol of the devil. At first applying only to German members, it became more widely used until the beginning of ¶ the 13th century. Till that time, other names were in use, such as “Albigenses” in France, “Patarines” in Italy, as well as “Manichees.” In both geographic spread and political status, the Cathari were the most important Western sect. They appeared in Cologne as early as 1143 and moved quickly into southern France and upper and middle Italy. Th…


(211 words)

Author(s): Volp, Rainer | Metzinger, Jörg | Maser, Peter
Since the tenth century, the ecclesia cathedralis has been the bishop’s church, as it still is in France, Spain, England, and Sweden. The term “cathedral” (Gk. kathedra; Lat. cathedra) originally meant “seat,” then “teaching chair [of the bishop].” In the Eastern Orthodox Church the cathedral is the main church of a city, though the term is not used in the Russian Orthodox Church. In Germany, Dom (from Lat. domus ecclesiae, “house of the Christian community”) or Mu¬nster (cf. Eng. “minster”) is often used instead of the cognate Kathedrale. In the Roman Catholic Church the appr…

Catherine of Siena

(898 words)

Author(s): Roggenkamp-Kaufmann, Antje
The Italian mystic Caterina di Benincasa was born in humble circumstances in Siena, Italy, in 1347. Early in life, visionary experiences led her to take a vow of virginity. Around 1364/65 she became a Dominican tertiary. She received a spiritual education and became the center of a circle comprising both religious and laity. Highly cultured Tuscan men and women supported Catherine, who was unskilled in writing and who, in 1370, began expressing her “political” thinking. In light of her experiences, she offered insightful criticism of the monastic life. After an invitation to see th…

Catholic Action

(700 words)

Author(s): Schöpsdau, Walter
1. Task Catholic Action, an organized religious activity in which ordinary church members (Clergy and Laity) participate in the church’s mission on the basis of a special commissioning by the hierarchy, is the official lay apostolate of the Roman Catholic Church (so declared by a speech of Pius XII on October 5, 1957). The commissioning is viewed as making their action (actio catholicorum) that of the church itself (actio catholica). According to the deeper understanding of the church at Vatican II, the content of the lay apostolate is everything that members cont…
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