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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(492 words)

Author(s): Spieckermann, Hermann
The term “Hebrews”—in Hebrew ʿibrı̂ (pl. ʿibrı̂m), in Ugaritic ʿpr (pl. ʿprm), in Egyptian ʿpr (pl. ʿpr.w), in Akkadian ḫab/piru (pl. ḫab/pirū, ideogram lúSA.GAZ, with the broader reading ḫabbātu = robbers), in Greek Hebraios—common in the ancient Near East from the late third millennium b.c., designated people who had lost their position in society through war, debt, criminal acts, and so forth, who were organized in loose bands, and who offered their labor to foreign masters in return for recompense. Not by accident …

Hebrews, Epistle to the

(625 words)

Author(s): Weiss, Hans-Friedrich
1. Structure and Contents The Epistle to the Hebrews, which begins like a theological tractate (1:1–4) and ends like a Pauline congregational letter (13:22–25), is an artistic construct that uses many literary and rhetorical devices. A constant interchange of teaching and admonition marks its structure. At its heart, as an address to the mature (5:11–6:20), is the development of a high-priestly Christology (7:1–10:18). The preceding section leads up by several detours (2:5–18; 4:14–5:10; 6:19–20) to this main Christological theme but also shows that the development o…


(352 words)

Author(s): Schwartz, Werner
Deriving from Gk. hēdonē (pleasure, joy), hedonism is an ethical theory that is close to utilitarianism. It regards happiness as the goal of human action (so generally eudaemonism; Ethics), equating this happiness positively with the achieving of the greatest possible pleasure and negatively with the ¶ avoiding of unhappiness or pain. The term has been used since the 19th century to describe the ethical theories of the Cyrenaics (Aristippus, Euhemerus), the Epicureans, the philosophers of the Renaissance (L. Valla), those of the Enlighte…


(2,246 words)

Author(s): Zimmerli, Walther C.
A definition of Hegelianism is hardly possible. Various positions in modern thought appeal to the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), both those of his direct and indirect followers, as well as those of thinkers who had nothing directly to do with the Hegel school. We can achieve an adequate concept of Hegelianism only by reconstructing its development. 1. The Hegel School Hegel’s philosophy took up an idea that influenced modern thought from the time of R. Descartes (1596–1650; Cartesianism); namely, it tried to present the totality of secular though…

Heidelberg Catechism

(975 words)

Author(s): Goeters, J. F. Gerhard
The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), which was originally the catechism of the Palatinate (Catechismus oder christlicher Unterricht, wie der in Kirchen und Schulen der kurfürstlichen Pfalz getrieben wird), took its name from the city in which it was first printed. Its wide dispersal finally made it the Reformed equivalent of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. 1. Occasion The Palatinate, though it went over only late to the Reformation under Elector Ottheinrich (1556–59), achieved no stability. When Frederick III (1559–76) became ruler, forces devoted to M…


(5 words)

See Salvation History


(330 words)

Author(s): Kartschoke, Dieter
Heliand (from an Old English word meaning “Savior”; Ger. Heiland) is an Anglo-Saxon poem in various related sections, consisting originally of more than 6,000 alliterative verses. Combining the tradition of later Latin Bible poetry and the Anglo-Saxon Christian epic, it is by an unknown author and dates to the second half of the ninth century. Using Tatian’s Diatessaron and various contemporary commentaries (by the Venerable Bede, Alcuin, Rabanus Maurus, and others), it narrates the life, teaching, suffering, death, and resurrection of the Savior. The distinctive use of the l…


(1,543 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten | Heron, Alasdair I. C.
1. Religious History The word “hell” comes from Old Ice. hel, the term in Nordic mythology for the place of the dead in the underworld and for its female ruler. All the dead are there or under her rule except for those killed in battle. The idea was not negative from the outset, as the etymology also shows, for the meaning of the root is “hide, conceal.” The concept became a negative one only with the demonization of virtually all pre-Christian material by the repressive methods of missionaries and by those who after conversion engaged in committing German myt…


(1,674 words)

Author(s): Merkel, Helmut
1. Problems In the days of J. G. Droysen (1808–84), “Hellenism” was a term used for Greek culture and thought, and more specifically for nonclassical biblical Greek. Droysen, however, applied it to the epoch of the fusion of Greek and Near Eastern patterns, which began with Alexander the Great (336–323 b.c.). For him the postclassical age was no longer one of decay but a time of transition from Greek to Christian culture. He also saw a development in the Greek world itself to a rational view of th…

Hellenistic-Roman Religion

(2,841 words)

Author(s): Elsas, Christoph
1. Basis in Hellenism after Alexander The Hellenistic-Roman period embraces many centuries. “Hellenistic” is used for the time from the conquests and alliances of Alexander the Great (336–323 b.c.) to the incorporating of the last great Hellenistic state into the Roman empire, namely, the seizure of Egypt by Augustus in 31 b.c. “Roman” is used for the time when Rome, Italy, and the western provinces adopted Greek and Near Eastern ideas and practices, and on to the final stages of antiquity. For all th…

Helvetic Confession

(738 words)

Author(s): Goeters, J. F. Gerhard
With the Confessio et expositio simplex orthodoxae fidei of 1566, the so-called Second Helvetic Confession, the Reformed churches in German-speaking Switzerland achieved a definitive, common, and lasting confession (Confessions and Creeds). The original principle of the sole authority of Scripture, which had been argued against the Roman Catholic Church, contained no spur to the formulation of a confession. The impulse came with the introduction of the Reformation to individual cities. Thus we have the …


(381 words)

Author(s): Elsas, Christoph
“Henotheism” (or “kathenotheism”) refers to veneration of a single god as the true deity (God). It is a relative monotheism that does not rule out the existence of other gods (Polytheism) and that finds cultic expression in the subjective monolatry of individual deities, which in turn may emerge as supreme. Inspired by the distinction made by F. W. J. von Schelling (1775–1854) between henotheism (Gk. heis, henos, “one”) and monotheism (Gk. monos, “only”), Orientalist Max Müller (1823–1900) developed the concept, pointing out that the singer of the Vedas, invoking…

Herder, Johann Gottfried

(841 words)

Author(s): Steiger, Johann Anselm
Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803), Lutheran theologian and philosopher, was born in Mohrungen in East Prussia. He began his study of theology and philosophy in 1762 in Königsberg, being strongly influenced there by the pre-Critique I. Kant and by J. G. Hamann, with the latter of whom Herder developed a lifelong friendship. Herder’s studies included historical-critical biblical scholarship, the philosophy of G. W. Leibniz and C. Wolff, and so-called rational orthodoxy (e.g., S. J. Baumgarten). In 1764 Herder became a teacher at the cathedral school in Riga, serv…

Heresies and Schisms

(3,950 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
1. Dogmatic Aspects Heresy is the opposite of pure doctrine (Orthodoxy). As schismatic deviation from the unity of faith, it belongs to the doctrine of the church. It presupposes (1) the idea of a pure doctrine that, at least in demarcation, formulates truth in doctrinal statements and thus defines the church’s unity. A verdict of heresy, however, also points to (2) criteria by which to distinguish redeeming faith in Jesus Christ from sinful falsification. Finally, to establish heresy there is need…

Heretical Baptism

(785 words)

Author(s): Rordorf, Willy
1. In the third century the question arose for the first time how to treat believers returning to the church from dissident groups. Was the baptism that they had received outside the church valid or not? In North Africa (perhaps under the influence of Tertullian’s De bapt.  15) and also in Asia Minor, synods were held between a.d. 220 and 230 that ruled that heretical baptism was invalid and hence that believers who came over to the church had to receive the church’s baptism (as their first baptism; see Cyprian Ep.  73.3.1, 75.7.5; Eusebius Hist. eccl.  7.5.5, 7.7.5). As regards Rome, t…


(6,781 words)

Author(s): Boraas, Roger S. | Stuhlmacher, Peter | Phillips, Craig A. | Sauter, Gerhard
The original meaning of “hermeneutics” is “translation” in the broadest sense: the authoritative communication of a message (e.g., from God) that needs a mediator, the rendering of a text from one language into another, and the exposition of something said or written with a view to bringing out its meaning. The term is derived from the Greek hermēneuō, “interpret, explain, translate.” The root derives from the name of the Greek god Hermes, the mediator of meaning between the realm of gods and that of human beings. In the NT the term (including its use with the prefixes dia. and meta-) is t…


(4 words)

See Anchorites

Herod, Herodians

(598 words)

Author(s): Schaller, Berndt
1. Herod the Great (“the Elder,” according to Josephus Ant.  18.130), the founder of the last Jewish dynasty, derived on his father’s side from Idumeans, who had been forcibly Judaized, and on his mother’s side from Nabateans. He was born in 73 b.c. Already in his youth he was given political appointments by his father Antipater, one of the highest officials in the Hasmonaean kingdom. In 47 b.c. he became military commander in Judea. Like his father, he exploited power struggles between the Hasmonaean br…


(449 words)

Author(s): Albrecht, Ruth
In the Orthodox Church, Hesychasm (from Gk. hēsychia, “quietness, stillness”) is the tradition of quiet, inner, prayerful contemplation of God. The early monks (Monasticism) of the 3d and 4th centuries sought this stillness in their ascetic program by outward flight from the world and the combating of inner unrest (Anchorites). Simeon the New Theologian (949–1022), who described his encounters with God as visions of light, must be regarded as the pioneer of Hesychasm. Tractates of the 12th to the 14th centuries (esp. by Nicephorus of Athos and Gregory of Sinai) show that …


(64 words)

Author(s): Editors, The
“Heterodoxy” (Gk. heterodoxia, “other opinion”), in a theological and ecclesiastical context, denotes teaching that diverges from official church doctrine. In the early church it meant the same as heresy (Ignatius). Today, however, especially for Roman Catholics, it means formal divergence from orthodoxy, with “heresy” used for outright denial of the truths of the faith (see 1983 CIC 1364). See Dogma The Editors
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