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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(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…

Catholic Apostolic Church

(7 words)

See Apostolic Churches

Catholic, Catholicity

(2,292 words)

Author(s): Fahlbusch, Erwin
1. Term and Usage The word “catholic” (Gk. katholikos, “relating to the whole, comprehensive,” from katholou, “on the whole, generally”) has appeared often in philosophy from the time of Plato and Aristotle (Greek Philosophy). Theology adopted it in the lexical sense and developed its basic meaning with reference to the church, its teaching, and its members. 1.1. Though it does not occur in the NT, “catholic” as a predicate used of the church is found in Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 35-ca. 107), who distinguishes between the whole church, where Christ is, and the partial or …

Catholic Epistles

(190 words)

Author(s): Roloff, Jürgen
Since the third century the term “Catholic Epistles” has been used for the seven NT letters other than Hebrews that are not part of the Pauline collection (Eusebius Hist. eccl.  2.23.24–25). Originally the term seems to have been coined for 1 John (Dionysius of Alexandria; Eusebius 7.25.7), which, because it was not addressed to any church in particular, was thought to be directed to the whole church and thus universally binding (i.e., “Catholic”; Catholic, Catholicity). The description was then transferred to the whole seven, although in some cases (e.g., 2–3 John), the basic c…

Catholicism, Popular

(6 words)

See Popular Catholicism

Catholicism (Roman)

(5,529 words)

Author(s): Fahlbusch, Erwin
1. Term and Phenomenon 1.1. Whereas the phrase “Roman Catholic Church” denotes a specific Christian organization (Church 3.2; Hierarchy; Church Government), we may use the word “Catholicism” for a historical form of Christianity that culturally and socially transcends any single ecclesiastical form. In both personnel and substance, it is still closely related to the Roman Catholic Church. It embodies expressions of the church’s life, work, and organization. We may consider Catholicism the range of f…

Catholic Missions

(1,852 words)

Author(s): Metzler O.M.I, Josef
1. Theological Basis The Roman Catholic Church regards the fulfillment of its commission from Christ—namely, the completion of his work on earth, through the aid of the Holy Spirit, of making all people his disciples (Matt. 28:19)—to be not just one activity among others but its true nature, just as burning is the essential quality of fire (E. Brunner). The church (§3.2) actualizes itself by engaging in mission. In the words of John Paul II, mission is the proper name of the church. This thought occurs repeatedly in the documents of Vatican II, for example, in Lumen gentium and Ad gentes. The w…


(202 words)

Author(s): Plank, Peter
Of Antiochian origin, “catholicos” is the title of some Orthodox or ancient Eastern archbishops (Bishop, Episcopate) who have supervision over scattered and relatively independent areas. Among the Jacobites in Persia, the term “maphrian” is also found. Where full autonomy is achieved or claimed, the title is associated with that of patriarch in the Orthodox Church of Georgia and the Assyrian Church of the East. It is used alone for the leaders of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Among the …

Catholic Reform and Counterreformation

(1,812 words)

Author(s): Smolinsky, Heribert
1. Terms 1.1. The Göttingen jurist J. S. Pütter (1725–1807) seems to have been the first to use the term “counterreforms” for the recatholicizing of territories by force on the basis of the principle cuius regio eius religio (Augsburg, Peace of). L. von Ranke (1795–1886), M. Ritter (1840–1923), and E. Gothein (1853–1923) then gave the term a more comprehensive significance. Since it might still suggest the suppression of Protestantism by force and a purely defensive movement, it could hardly commend itself for adoption among Roman …


(1,313 words)

Author(s): Rudolph, Enno
1. Classic Definition The term “causality” is used to identify a natural event or action as the effect of a cause. In conflict with the skepticism of D. Hume (1711–76), the principle that all that happens has a cause has been a basic epistemological formula from the time of I. Kant (1724–1804). Strictly speaking, its general validity became possible and meaningful only with Kant’s epistemology. According to Kant, causality is one of the necessary conditions of the possibility of experience (Kantianism). As a pure concept a priori, it precedes experience. We interpret an event ¶ as causall…
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