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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Nag Hammadi

(825 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Peter
1. Discovery and General Features Nag Hammadi (Arab. Najʿ Ḥammādı̄, near the site of the ancient town of Chenoboskion) is a town in Upper Egypt about 80 km. (50 mi.) northwest of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. In 1945 some Coptic MSS were discovered nearby, at the base of a boulder near the foot of a mountain called the Jabal al-Tarif. The corpus contains 12 codices, plus leaves from a 13th, with 52 tractates in all (including six doublets). The collection dates anywhere from early to late fourth century a.d. All the works were translated from earlier Greek versions. The Cop…

Nahum, Book of

(261 words)

Author(s): Thiel, Winfried
The prophet Nahum came from Elkosh (site unknown). He was active between the capture of Thebes (or No-Amon, see 3:8) by the Assyrians in 664/663 b.c. and the fall of Nineveh in 612. The essential content of his book is intimation of the collapse of Assyria and of future salvation for Israel (§1). These themes and the liturgical forms used are generally taken to suggest that Nahum was a Jerusalem cult prophet. The work begins with a fragmentary acrostic psalm (1:2–8) that Nahum himself, it is widely thought, did not perhaps formulate. After a word of comfort for Juda…


(1,321 words)

Author(s): !Nôabeb, Engelhard
1. General Situation The Republic of Namibia, in Southwest Africa on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, has been independent only since 1990. In 1968 the United Nations gave the area its present name, from the Namib Desert, which extends about 1,300 km. (800 mi.) along the coast. Namibia is the fourth largest African exporter of nonfuel minerals. It is a major source of the world’s uranium and of gem-quality diamonds. Germany annexed the Namibian area in 1885, naming it German Southwest Africa (Colonialism). South Africa seized the territory during World War I, ren…


(542 words)

Author(s): Scharfenberg, Joachim
H. Ellis (1859–1939) first coined the term “narcissism” in psychiatry to denote homosexuality, then regarded only as sexual perversion (Sexuality). The idea was that of people loving their own reflection, like Narcissus in the Greek myth (Love). S. Freud (1856–1939) distinguished between primary narcissism as a general stage in psychological ¶ development (§2), in which subject and object are symbolically united, and secondary narcissism, by which psychological energies (Libido) are deflected from the object and possess the self, as is often observed in psychosis (e.g., in Fre…

Narrative Theology

(2,873 words)

Author(s): Robinson, Robert B.
1. The Nature of Narrative Narratives are stories. Stories become theological when they involve God, that is, when one of the characters active in them, implicated in their plots, whose character and nature are revealed by the actions recounted in the story, is God. Stories involving God are of different orders. The first instance is the stories of the Bible in which God is depicted directly as a character in the persons of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Other stories recount individual lives in their fullness, including the interaction betwee…

National Association of Evangelicals

(1,752 words)

Author(s): Eskridge, Larry
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is a voluntary association founded in 1942 that represents U.S. evangelical denominations, organizations, institutions, congregations, and individuals. In 2001 it represented an estimated 43,000 congregations from 51 member denominations (totaling nearly 5 million members), individual congregations from 27 additional denominations, and hundreds of independent churches. Including over ¶ 250 schools and parachurch organizations in its membership, the NAE calculates that its core constituency numbers abo…

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.

(807 words)

Author(s): Kinnamon, Michael
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCCC) is the largest ecumenical organization in the United States. In 2002 its 36 member churches—Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican—had a combined membership of more than 50 million Christians. 1. Origins The most obvious predecessor to the current NCCC was the Federal Council of Churches, formed in 1908 as a forum for consultation among its 33 member denominations and as an instrument for cooperative social service. The Federal Council also assisted, over the next four dec…

National Councils of Churches

(1,973 words)

Author(s): Kinnamon, Michael
1. Definition A council of churches is a voluntary association of separated Christian churches through which its members seek to manifest their fellowship with one another (Koinonia), to engage in common activities of witness and service, and to advance toward the ecumenical goal of greater visible unity. A council of churches can be distinguished from a temporary church coalition in that its members make a long-term commitment to one another. It can be distinguished from a clergy association or C…

Nation, Nationalism

(2,738 words)

Author(s): Turcotte, Paul-André
1. Concept and Development 1.1. Concept Underlying the concept of the nation is the idea of differences. Various notions are presupposed that confirm the existence and solidarity of a given human group in distinction from all that is alien to it (Foreigners, Aliens). Consent thus arises as to what a nation is. It carries with it the thought of a future, the guarantee for which seems to be power. In other words, it is a component of social reproduction as a continuation of the past, as well as a form o…

Natural Law

(4,631 words)

Author(s): Weiler, Rudolf | Porter, Jean
1. Term The term “natural law” is used for the ethical theory of what is truly right (Ethics). The discipline differs from that of positive (i.e., prescribed) law by positing an order of what is right that is inherent in our human nature and that is known to us intrinsically. Natural law is thus the epitome of that order. It denotes that which is right by nature (Gk. physei dikaion, Lat. ius/lex naturae) rather than by statute (Gk. nomikon diakaion). In consequence of the modern empirical restriction in the use of the term “nature,” however, “natural law” and “law of n…

Natural Theology

(1,602 words)

Author(s): Link, Christian
1. Term What is called natural theology is not an independent theme but an ongoing, urgent problem in Christian theology relating to the question of truth. Natural theology wants to show that God is self-evident and that he does not serve merely as a deus ex machina in the world. It thus claims the adjective “natural” in two ways. The first reference is to the natural sphere in the concrete world order (Nature) as the natural horizon against which God appears. It is as natural beings that humans are under God’s impact and summoned to know him. The world itself has a…


(1,705 words)

Author(s): Schoberth, Wolfgang
1. History of the Term The term “nature” clearly is used in many different ways, in both everyday speech and technical language. This imprecision makes its meaning versatile but problematic in relation to such concepts as life, experience, and reality. The flexibility and imprecision mark its whole history (Philosophy of Nature), in which we find all the meanings that it has in common parlance. Common to them all is the idea that “nature” stands for the sphere of the given. 1.1. Greek Philosophy Physis in Greek philosophy is more a forerunner than an equivalent of “nature.” In…

Nature, Philosophy of

(8 words)

See Philosophy of Nature

Nature Religion

(661 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
The term “nature religion” has been used in a great variety of senses, of which seven are distinguished here. Philosophical. In the second and first centuries b.c. (later, the Stoics), and also in the 18th century (D. Hume), early doctrines of human nature came to completion with the observation or postulation of a disposition that in the modern period would be called religious. Theological. In the light of the revelation of the true knowledge of God, such a religious disposition became a problem for the second-century Christian apologists. Various terms wer…


(581 words)

Author(s): Merkel, Helmut
1. The term ho Nazarēnos occurs in the NT in apposition to the name “Jesus” to show that the Jesus meant is the man of Nazareth (Mark 1:24; 10:47; 14:67; 16:6). Matthew does not have the term but replaces it by ho Nazōraios in 26:71, also using that term in 2:23. We find both terms in Luke (the former in 4:34; 24:19; the latter in 18:37), but only the latter in Acts (6 times). John uses the latter term, but only in the passion story (18:5, 7; 19:19). The idea that this form of the name derived from a supposedly pre-Christian sect (the Nazaraioi) is mistaken, as is the idea that …


(7 words)

See Church of the Nazarene


(271 words)

Author(s): Hultgren, Arland J.
The term “Nazirite” is from Heb. nāzı̂r, “one who is consecrated, devoted [to the Lord].” The laws regarding Nazirites (Num. 6:1–21) include abstinence from wine (or any other product of the grapevine) and other strong drinks (Dietary Laws; Asceticism), from cutting one’s hair or beard, and from touching a corpse. Both men and women could become Nazirites. One could be a Nazirite for a specified period of time, during which, if the vow was broken, there was a means for purification and restoration (vv. 9–12). There was also a ritual for leaving at the end of the time of conse…


(67 words)

Author(s): Mauder, Albert
A necrology is a list of people’s names arranged according to date of death for the use of members of parishes, religious orders, and spiritual communities in intercession or remembrance. We also find necrologies in secular societies. In monasteries the names may often be read out on the appropriate day. Older necrologies are often primary historical sources. Albert Mauder†Bibliography M. M. Sheehan, “Necrology,” NCE  10.296–97.

Negative Theology (Western)

(750 words)

Author(s): Davies, Oliver
“If we cannot say what God is, we can at least say what he is not” (Athanasius Ep. mon.  2). As an attempt conceptually to show forth the transcendence (Immanence and Transcendence) of the divine essence by means of human reason, Christian negative theology rests on the premise of God’s absolute unknowability in himself, together with God’s full self-communication to humanity in the incarnation. The resulting unity of concealedness and revelation stands at the heart of Christian negative theology, which seeks to …


(8 words)

See Ezra and Nehemiah, Books of


(996 words)

Author(s): Ulrich, Hans G.
1. Biblical Teaching In the biblical tradition the Christian concept of the neighbor finds its chief place in the twofold commandment of love (Matt. 22:35–40; Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25–37), which brings together two OT commandments (Deut. 6:4–5 and Lev. 19:18). The concept of the neighbor overlaps and impinges on that of the brother. In OT ethics it includes special protection for aliens. The aim of the so-called second table of the Decalogue is to secure the rights of the neighbor. Prophetic proclamation (Prophet, Prophecy, 1) also …


(4 words)

See Kantianism


(1,047 words)

Author(s): Sparn, Walter
1. Term Originally coined to denote linguistic and literary innovation, “neology” came to be used from about 1770 as a term of reproach against theologians who were viewed as proposing new doctrines. The orthodox who were critical of the Enlightenment adopted it, but so too did many supporters (e.g., G. E. Lessing). The reference today is to the middle phase of Enlightenment Protestant theology after 1740. Advocates used it of themselves only rarely and with reservations, preferring “Enlightenment.” Nor is the meaning always uniform. It is i…


(4 words)

See Pietism


(4 words)

See Platonism


(785 words)

Author(s): Scheffczyk, Leo
1. Neoscholasticism is a movement in philosophical theology that sought to revive Roman Catholic theology—after the shocks of rationalism, the Enlightenment, and revolution—by the adoption of Scholasticism, particularly as taught by Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225–74; Thomism). Often the term carries a polemical undertone, referring to its Ultramontanism (esp. in F. Michelis) and Jesuitism (Jesuits). Its rise in the 19th century may be understood against the background of the decline of romantic (e.g., the Tübingen school) and idealistic (G. Hermes, A. Günther) attempt…


(4 words)

See Thomism


(796 words)

Author(s): Locke, S.J. John K.
1. General Situation The Kingdom of Nepal, lying along the slopes of the Himalayas, is bordered on the north by China (Tibet) and on the other three sides by India. Altitudes range from a few meters above sea level to the highest point on earth. The variety of elevations gives the country a range of climatic zones from the subtropical jungle to the arctic conditions of the high Himalayas and the arid zone of the Tibetan plateau. The political unit known as modern Nepal has existed since the latter part of the 18th century, when the first king of the present dynasty, star…


(1,289 words)

Author(s): Müller, C. D. G. | Hage, Wolfgang
1. Founding and Expansion The so-called Nestorians, who also called themselves the East Syrians or, from a political standpoint, the Persian church, derived primarily from Christianity on the Tigris. After a treaty with Emperor Jovian (363–64), the final loss to the Romans of the city of Nisibis (modern Nusaybin, Turk.), and the flight of refugees to Edessa, the church continued its development outside the Roman Empire. ¶ There were Christians in the Adiabene by the second century, with an early mission (§3) penetrating southern Mesopotamia and then the Persia…


(7,050 words)

Author(s): Blei, Karel
1. Religious and Social Trends In the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) the Dutch rebelled against their Spanish masters, struggling not just for national independence but also for (Protestant) religious liberty. Because the Reformed were protagonists in that struggle, the Reformed Church became the privileged church of the new state and remained so for over two centuries. Only Reformed could hold official positions. Only they could worship in official church buildings; members of other denominations could worship only in buildings that did not look like churches (the schuilkerken, “h…


(1,067 words)

Author(s): Wahl, Heribert
1. Definitions The term “neurosis” really means nervous sickness, but from the days of S. Freud (1856–1939) it has taken on the sense of psychoneurosis. Disturbances in development (§2) at specific phases, as well as unconscious anxieties and their defense, result in a conflict between the claims of impulse (Libido) and a constitutionally and biographically weakened ego that manifests itself in certain symptoms and character distortions. More importance is now attached to the role of early pathology of the self. In behavior therapy neurosis is seen as the result of emotiona…

New Age

(808 words)

Author(s): Schiwy, Günther
New Age thinking began in the 1960s, especially in the United States in California. A product of the global social and ecological crisis, it involves new thought and action in every sphere of life, from diet to science and politics. It also involves a commensurate new awareness of self and the world. It calls itself holistic and spiritual, though not religious (in contrast to traditional religions like Christianity; Spirituality). It opposes the dualistic, rationalistic, and mechanistic worldvie…

New Apostolic Church

(7 words)

See Apostolic Churches

Newbigin, J. E. Lesslie

(983 words)

Author(s): Wainwright, Geoffrey
By his personal stature and the range of his activities, Lesslie Newbigin (1909–98) stands out as a father of the ecumenical church in the 20th century. Raised an English Presbyterian, he was ordained by the Church of Scotland in 1936 for missionary service in India, where he represented his denomination in the final rounds of negotiation toward the organic union of Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, ¶ and Congregationalists in the Church of South India (1947). Consecrated as one of the first bishops in the CSI, Newbigin presided over the Diocese of Madura…

New Church

(5 words)

See Swedenborgianism

Newman, John Henry

(889 words)

Author(s): Fahlbusch, Erwin
John Henry Newman (1801–90), leading theologian of the Oxford Movement, was initially an Anglican but in midlife joined the Roman Catholic Church, becoming a priest and, in 1879, a cardinal. Newman grew up with five siblings in a bourgeois London family in which he often felt misunderstood and lonely, finding solace in the Bible and other religious and theological works. In the autumn of 1816 he experienced an “inner conversion,” convincing him he was one of the chosen and was destined for a lif…

New Media

(6 words)

See Mass Media

New Religions

(1,333 words)

Author(s): Stentzler, Friedrich
1. The term “new religions” refers to religious movements of fellowship, faith, or salvation, whether of a Christian or a non-Christian slant, that for the most part arose as a result of the global changes and upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries. Partly on the basis of older religions, partly on that of apparently still-powerful precolonial traditions and tribal religions, these new religions feed on an irrationalism that the reason of the ¶ European Enlightenment had once decisively combated but that the unparalleled process of secularization that it unleashed, …

New Self

(1,521 words)

Author(s): Frey, Christopher
1. Presuppositions To speak about the new self presupposes that we are people of time. Time, however, is experienced not in individual, separated moments but in the nexus of past, present, and future. It is the future and its relation to the past that defines the new self. A further premise is that we are not to be understood merely as we are in ourselves—that is, as substances (see Aristotle’s doctrine of categories)—but in relations that determine our existence. 2. Biblical and Theological Bases 2.1. Biblically, a new time is granted that resists death, both in the midst of l…

New Testament Era, History of

(3,142 words)

Author(s): von der Osten-Sacken, Peter
1. Term, Tasks, Limits As a historical discipline or literary genre, the history of the NT era is linked to the name of Matthias Schneckenburger (1804–48), though in many respects it existed earlier. In his lectures on the subject, which appeared posthumously in 1862, Schneckenburger formulated the tasks and intentions of this branch of research in a way that is still influential. He also drew attention implicitly to the problems in historical theology that still call for attention. In studying the NT era or background, the national, cultural, and religious relations must…

New Theology

(6 words)

See Nouvelle théologie

New Thought

(591 words)

Author(s): Mynarek, Hubertus
1. The New Thought movement began with the American healer Phineas P. Quimby (1802–66), who laid the foundations for its spread with his great success in spiritual healing. His “science of health and life” and “mental science” were attractive because they allowed of direct practical application in treating the sick, and they quickly gained followers. In his Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), William James called it “the religion of healthy-mindedness.” 2. Helping the rapid spread of the movement was the work of early writers like W. F. Evans (1817–89), H. Wo…

New Zealand

(1,810 words)

Author(s): Walls, Andrew F.
1. Pre-Christian The peoples now called Maori came to New Zealand from eastern Polynesia, perhaps in the late 14th century. Long isolation produced a distinctive culture with developed hierarchies, arts, technology, and oral literature. The Maori universe was full of spirits, divided into complementary spheres of light (Te Rangi) and darkness (Te Po). Adepts in the highest spiritual and mythical knowledge (Myth, Mythology, 1) formed a class of experts (tohunga) who had access to the higher spirit beings (atua) and delivered prophetic oracles (karakia). If a pre-Christian cult o…
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