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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(1,156 words)

Author(s): Davies, J. G.
1. History of Religion Dance, the rhythmic movement of the body to the accompaniment of music (G. van der Leeuw, “the oldest of the arts”), has been considered a sacred activity from the dawn of time. Spanish cave paintings of the late Paleolithic age depict hunting dances, indicating their connection with sympathetic magic (i.e., the imitation of a chase in dance is believed to ensure its success). A similar understanding is discernible in the war dances of the Greeks and Romans. 1.1. Classical Period From Plato onward many writers refer to dance as instituted by the deities,…

Dance Macabre

(644 words)

Author(s): Haustein, Jens
Dance macabre (or “dance of death”; Ger. Totentanz) is an allegorical theme in European art of the late Middle Ages. Typically involving the juxtaposed portrayal of either a clergyman or a layperson (Clergy and Laity) shown dancing with a dead person or with death itself, personified as a skeleton, it consists ideally of a picture and text (at first monologic, later dialogic) and is widespread throughout Europe both inside and outside of churches and also in MSS and books. We do not know the origin of the dance macabre (Spain, France, or Germany?), nor do we know the time it began (ca. 1350? …

Daniel, Book of

(1,269 words)

Author(s): Hanhart, Robert
The Book of Daniel was the first apocalypse—and the only one to find its way into the OT canon. Other apocalypses exist but belong to the pseudepigrapha. Earlier forms in the OT prophets (Ezekiel, Zechariah, Isaiah 24–27) share with true apocalyptic (§2) only the means of presentation. Hence the origin of apocalyptic must be sought in terms of the theological and historical subject matter of the Book of Daniel, namely, the status confessionis of the religious persecutions under the Seleucid Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 b.c.). This setting explains the statements …

Darmstadt Declaration

(305 words)

Author(s): Busch, Eberhard
The Darmstadt Declaration was issued on August 8, 1947, by the Bruderrat (leaders of the Confessing Church), concerning “the political path of our people.” It was based on drafts by H. J. Iwand (1899–1960), M. Niemöller (1892–1984), and K. Barth (1886–1968). It followed up on the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt (1945) but dealt with the causes of the guilt of church and people in the time of National Socialist rule (Fascism; Church Struggle). It found these in the older political mistakes of acce…


(4 words)

See Evolution

Daughter Church

(5 words)

See Filiation


(875 words)

Author(s): Veijola, Timo
1.1. The historical traditions about David (whose name means “beloved”), Israel’s most important king, appear in the Deuteronomistic history, whose author incorporated into the work the earlier stories of David’s rise (1 Sam. 16:14–2 Sam. 5:10) and of his reign and succession (2 Samuel 9–20 and 1 Kings 1–2). Further material about David—lists, anecdotes, annals, stories, and poems (see 2 Sam. 5:11–8:18 and chaps. 21–24)—also entered the work in the course of redaction. ¶ 1.2. The story of David’s rise is composite. It developed over a long and indefinite period in Juda…

Days of Prayer and Repentance

(301 words)

Author(s): Schmidt-Lauber, Hans-Christoph
Israel has its yearly Yom Kippur (day of atonement), with sacrifices for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16). In times of crisis a fast or day of prayer and repentance might also be proclaimed (Judg. 20:26; 1 Sam. 7:5–6; 31:13; Joel 1:13–14, etc.). The Western church developed weekly fasts on Wednesday and Friday, the Lenten fast before Easter, and in a limited sense the Advent fast and seasonal Ember Days based on pagan models. The authorities might also order fasts for special occasions. In Europe and America the Protestant churches followed this tradition. New England Pur…

Deacon, Deaconess

(1,959 words)

Author(s): McKee, Elsie Anne
Over the centuries, the definitions of deacon and deaconess have changed and developed, producing the present complex situation in which varied (sometimes overlapping) forms exist simultaneously in different (or occasionally the same) Christian bodies. Although there are some indications of convergence, the evolution also continues today in the worldwide ecumenical church. 1. Definition Defining “deacon” is often very confusing because the word is used for a number of different concepts that are usually not clearly distinguished, and in some cases…

Dead, Cult of the

(1,522 words)

Author(s): Zinser, Hartmut
Death is part of the order of this world. Almost without exception, however, people have protested against its dominion, refused to acknowledge it, and even denied it. Accounts like that in Gen. 25:8, according to which people die contentedly after becoming sated with life, or the idea of a “good death” after a fulfilled life (Confucianism), are the exception. The protest against death underlies the cult of the dead, and at the same time these cults aid in coming to terms with the psychological and social conflicts among the s…


(6 words)

See Rural Dean; Superintendent


(1,850 words)

Author(s): Schoberth, Wolfgang
1. State of the Problem All societies share the basic experience of death, yet they respond to it in different ways in their thinking and customs (Dead, Cult of the). We find ideas ranging from self-evident certainty of the presence of the dead (Ancestor Worship; Demons) to preparation for the journey of the dead to their new home and hope of redemption in a new life beyond the present course. The various theories of the relation to death that are also found in society and religion do not allow of sy…

Death, Dance of

(7 words)

See Dance Macabre

Death of God Movement

(10 words)

See God Is Dead Theology

Death Penalty

(2,174 words)

Author(s): Bondolfi, Alberto
Many peoples and civilizations have had punishments involving the death penalty. They usually leave it to a judicial court made up of competent persons who judge publicly according to fair and well-regulated procedures. 1. Biblical Data Whereas the OT bears witness to the death penalty as an accepted judicial institution, there is little mention of it in the NT. 1.1. Gen. 4:10b–14 tells the relatives of a murdered person to avenge the blood of the dead, which cries out to God for vengeance. They can evade this duty if the slayer flees, but only if the kil…


(1,191 words)

Author(s): Boecker, Hans Jochen
1. The Decalogue (Greek for “ten words”) has come down to us in the OT in two places: Exod. 20:2–17 and Deut. 5:6–21. It has often been called the classic Decalogue, as distinct from the ethical, or Elohistic, Decalogue in Exod. 34:10–26. In both books the Decalogue shows itself to be an independent entity. This is especially clear in exodus, for the preceding verses in Exodus 19 do not prepare the ground for it, nor do the succeeding verses in 20:18–21 relate to it. They form a transition instead to the Book of the Covenant that follows. In virtue of the location of the Decalogue in Exodus 20, it is…


(6 words)

See Calvin’s Theology; Predestination


(6 words)

See Corpus Iuris Canonici


(4 words)

See Theosis


(672 words)

Author(s): Veldhuis, Ruurd
Until the 18th century, the term “deism” (from Lat. deus, a god, God) was interchangeable with “theism.” It was used for the first time by the Swiss theologian P. Viret (Geneva, 1564), who spoke with abhorrence of people who called themselves deists to emphasize that, in contrast to atheists, they believed in God, even though they accepted nothing of Christ and his teaching. Some writers (e.g., C. Blount and M. Tindal) explicitly confessed deism, but many deists avoided the term because of its negative connotation for their orthodox opponents. Later, deism increasingly became a ph…
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