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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(852 words)

Author(s): Mbiti, John
1. General Situation Gabon straddles the equator on the west coast of central Africa. It is bounded on the north by Cameroon, on the east and south by Congo (Brazzaville), and on the north and west by Equatorial Guinea. Its population includes about 68 distinct ethnic groups, the largest being the Bantu family (esp. the Fang, Eshira, Bapounou, and Bateke peoples). French is the official language, with 40 other languages also spoken in the country. In 1995 the literacy rate of Gabon was 63 percent. Gabon’s per capita income is four times that of most other nations in Africa. Ext…

Galatians, Epistle to the

(783 words)

Author(s): Lührmann, Dieter
1. Contents After an introduction (Gal. 1:1–5), Paul omits the usual thanksgiving and refers at once to the reason for writing, which is the appearance of those who preach “a different gospel” (vv. 6–10). He then develops the theme of the letter (1:11–5:12): the gospel—faith or the law? In accordance with the thesis of 1:11–12, he describes to his readers his own path from Damascus to Galatia as the path of the gospel (1:13–2:21). He then presents the gospel in 3:1–5:12, especially in its relation to the law. In 5:13–6:10 comes the parenesis, in which he shows what it means ethicall…


(429 words)

Author(s): Schneider, Hans
Since the debate about papal infallibility in the 19th century, the term “Gallicanism” has been used for the theological doctrines and political practice of the state church in France (Church and State). In the late Middle Ages national and ecclesiastical interests (Conciliarism), joining forces in opposition to the universal claims of the papacy and curial centralism, had secured a wide measure of autonomy for the French church. Les libertés de l’Église gallicane (The freedoms of the Gallican church; 1594), compiled by P. Pithou, and the Preuves (Evidences; 1639) of P. Dupuy gai…


(973 words)

Author(s): Jenkins, Paul | Sanneh, Lamin
The West African Republic of Gambia was a British colony until 1965, when it gained its independence (Colonialism). As a country, it is one of the smallest in population, one of the most artificial colonial creations, and among the least developed countries in Africa. It consists of a strip of land on both sides of the Gambia River, 320 km. (200 mi.) long but never more than 45 km. (30 mi.) wide. As a political entity, Gambia has roots going back to the medieval empire of Mali, of which it formed the extreme western point. Records attesting to its history reach …

Genesis, Book of

(621 words)

Author(s): Gunneweg, Antonius H. J.
1. Name In the Hebrew Bible the first book of the Pentateuch is named for its first word: bĕrēʾšı̂t, “in the beginning.” “Genesis” is a Latinized form of Gk. genesis, “origin,” which is the title in the LXX. This word describes the contents, whereas “First Book of Moses” has reference to the early traditional author. 2. Contents and Structure Genesis forms part of the longer Pentateuchal narrative, but it is also a relatively self-contained whole. It tells the story from the beginning of the world to the Egyptian sojourn of the sons of Jacob, the ancestors of the 12 tribes of Israel. Genesi…

Genetic Counseling

(551 words)

Author(s): Hübner, Jürgen
Many thousands of hereditary human ailments and characteristics are now known to be due to changes in specific genes. Human genetics studies their causes and transmission. Prognosis is possible on the basis of diagnosis and family histories. Under certain conditions the probability of gene and chromosome distribution and thus of genetic sickness in the next generation may be calculated. During pregnancy prenatal diagnosis (e.g., by amniocentesis in the 16th to the 17th week, by analysis of the chorionic villi during the 8th to 11th weeks, or by other proce…

Genetic Engineering

(6 words)

See Medical Ethics


(329 words)

Author(s): Butts, James R.
From the Heb. verb gnz, “keep, enclose,” the genizah is a side room in a synagogue (usually a cellar or attic) in which to keep old, discarded, damaged, or in some way unserviceable MSS. Because these writings contain the name of God, they are not to be destroyed. Older Judaism also placed heretical texts in the genizah. Most of the older synagogues had a genizah. The most famous genizah was found in Old Cairo, on the second floor of the Ezra Synagogue, built in a.d. 882. Discovered as early as 1753 by Simon of Geldern, it was made famous by Solomon Schechter, who in May 1896…


(1,281 words)

Author(s): Melson, Robert
1. Definition During the Second World War, the eminent jurist Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide,” by which he meant “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.” By “destruction” he meant to include not only the biological aspects of a group’s existence but also its cultural and social institutions. In 1948, in the wake of the Nazi genocide, the United Nations f…

Gentiles, Gentile Christianity

(1,436 words)

Author(s): Berger, Klaus
1. Usage Gentile Christianity takes on its meaning in antithesis to Jewish Christianity. The reference is to all non-Jewish Christians. Another term often used for non-Jews before Christian conversion is “heathen,” as in “missions to the heathen.” In the modern understanding of mission, however, this terminology is usually regarded as either too militant or too patronizing, and it is thus thought better to speak of non-Christians and to describe heathen religions as non-Christian religions, though…


(8 words)

See History, Auxiliary Sciences to, 8

Geography of Religion

(1,015 words)

Author(s): Henkel, Reinhard
1. The geography of religion may be variously viewed as a department in religious studies (G. Lanczkowski), a branch of cultural geography (H.-G. Zimpel; Culture), or an interdisciplinary field involving geography and religious studies (M. Büttner). Most broadly, its concern is with the relations between religions and space, or landscapes. 2. Up to the Enlightenment, geography (like most other disciplines) was put in the service of theology and had the task of giving academic support to God’s world sovereignty. Theologian B. Keckermann (1571–160…


(2,095 words)

Author(s): Sawatsky, Walter
Situated at the crossroads of empires on the plateau south of the Caucasian mountain range, eastern and western Georgia, as well as Armenia, has experienced a long and dramatic Christian history. Having managed to maintain, over against the Roman and Persian empires, a distinctive identity since the 5th century, Georgian culture after the 11th century was further shaped by the influence of Byzantium and the Arab caliphates. Then, as the united Georgian kingdom at its apogee in the 12th and 13th …

German Christians

(1,525 words)

Author(s): Pierard, Richard V.
1. Definition The German Christians (GCs) were clergy and laypeople in the Protestant church of Nazi Germany who believed that the National Socialist revolution would restore the church to its rightful place at the heart of German culture and society. Distinguishing between the “invisible” and the “visible” church, they argued that the church on earth was based on divinely ordained distinctions of race and ethnicity (Racism). The GCs set out to build a heroic, manly, doctrinally free “people’s chu…

Germanic Mission

(2,478 words)

Author(s): Haendler, Gert
The Germanic Mission was a complex process extending over almost a millennium. In about 180 Irenaeus of Lyons mentions churches in Germania ( Adv. haer.  1.10.2); in the 12th century, the Germanic mission ended in Sweden. Geographically, too, the overall process was extremely broad and encompassed quite varied phenomena. 1. Individual Witnesses in Southeastern Europe (3d-4th Centuries) In the beginning of the great migration of peoples in Europe (the Völkerwanderung), Goths in about a.d. 264 carried off Christians from Asia Minor into slavery in Dacia, north of the…

German Missions

(2,596 words)

Author(s): Pierard, Richard V.
Although spreading the gospel message to all peoples has been a hallmark of the Christian faith from the very beginning, the identification of missionary work with individuals from a specific nationality is a post-Reformation and primarily Protestant phenomenon. Because the Roman Catholic Church was an international body, individuals who served in religious or missionary orders were theoretically part of the larger community, although many of these bodies actually had a national basis. Examples …


(7,956 words)

Author(s): Conway, John S.
1. Political Background The political history of Germany in the 20th century has seen a series of revolutionary, traumatic changes that have profoundly affected the lives of its citizens and their social institutions. In 1918, on Germany’s defeat in the First World War, the Hohenzollern Empire was overthrown and a new parliamentary democracy established, commonly called the Weimar Republic. Because of strong opposition from many leading circles in the nation, however, this unprecedented experiment …


(5 words)

See Old Age

Gestalt Psychology

(546 words)

Author(s): Bosse, Susanne
The term “Gestalt psychology” denotes a movement in psychology that began at the turn of the 20th century as the Berlin School. Christian von Ehrenfels, who in 1890 introduced the term “Gestalt” into psychology, was its founder; Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Koffka were its chief representatives (all of whom emigrated after 1933). Wolfgang Metzger summarized its teachings in Germany. Gestalt psychology arose in opposition to the mechanistic views of association psychology and psychophysics. Its main thesis was the old one that the whole is gre…