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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(3,953 words)

Author(s): Ricca, Paolo | Bouchard, Giorgio
1. Description From the Middle Ages the Waldenses have been a unique historical movement of evangelical protest that has had a changing and painful history right up to our own period (see 4). The movement has been called “a body with two souls.” The medieval history of the Waldenses up to 1532 continues to influence the thinking of the group. For 350 years the Waldenses formed a widespread if scattered community in southern, central, and eastern Europe. Its survival is remarkable when we consider …

Wandering Jew

(334 words)

Author(s): Röhl, Wolfgang G.
Legend has it that when Jesus was exhausted on his way to the cross, a certain Jew refused him rest and has thus been condemned to wander forever until the last judgment. The legend occurs for the first time in a Bologna chronicle of the 13th century. In the centuries that followed, not least under the influence of growing anti-Semitism in the Middle Ages, it spread in various forms to southern and western Europe. In these forms the Jew was called Buttadeus, Boutedieu, and similar names. He then became “Ahasuerus” in a historically significant Brief Description and Account of the Wandering Jew


(8,758 words)

Author(s): Carlson, John D.
Few issues have spurred Christian reflection and concern with such recurring intensity as the problem of war. From early Christians who pondered whether it was permissible to take up arms under Roman authority, to Christians in the 21st century vexed by problems associated with humanitarian interventions and the use of force in the global “war on terrorism,” Christianity presents no united front in its support of, or opposition to, war in general or any particular war. War has played a prominent…

Watchtower Society

(6 words)

See Jehovah’s Witnesses

Water, Holy

(387 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
1. All religious cultures have regarded water as both alive and cleansing (Sacred and Profane). From the outset, Christianity used this natural element as a symbol for basic salvation. In John 3:5 water is the means by which, in baptism, God imparts the grace of regeneration. 2. Early in the third century, Tertullian (d. ca. 225) referred to the consecration of baptismal water (De bapt. 4.4). In both East and West, prayers of consecration had a threefold character. They included exorcism, asking that the evil spirits who dwelled in the water might be expelled; anamnesis, recalling what G…

Way of the Cross

(10 words)

See Stations of the Cross

Weapons of Mass Destruction

(4,289 words)

Author(s): Stiltner, Brian
1. Terminology “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (WMD) is a term coined at the beginning of the atomic era that soon came to refer to nuclear, biological, and chemical (or “NBC”) weapons. The term has a history of usage in U.N. documents and arms-control debates. Yet because “WMD” was used by politicians and the media to describe Saddam Hussein’s purported weapons programs and to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, some people argue that the term clouds ethical and political deliberation. Rather, nuclear weapons should be held in a sep…

Weber, Max

(866 words)

Author(s): Laeyendecker, Leo
Max Weber (1864–1920), born on April 21 in Erfurt, was a legal scholar, historian, and sociologist. His father was a lawyer and politician, and early in his life Weber already had a wide array of intellectual and political interests. Through his deeply religious mother he came under the influence of the Puritan tradition, which showed itself in his strong orientation to achievement. By the age of 13 he had already written two historical treatises. He studied law, along with history, economics, a…

Wedding Ceremony

(2,106 words)

Author(s): Jordahn, Ottfried | Thilo, Hans Joachim
1. Liturgical Aspects 1.1. History 1.1.1. In all cultures marriage has a cultic side. State regulations, tradition, and custom—in all their variety—determine how the wedding ceremony is to be performed. In the early church the bishop had to know when a marriage was taking place (Ignatius Pol. 5.2). The oblatio (bread and wine) that the bridal pair gave for the Eucharist served as confirmatio matrimonii (confirmation of marriage; Tertullian Ad. uxor. 2.8). Two rites were used in the fourth and fifth centuries: velatio (the vow) and benedictio (the blessing). Both took place in the…

Wesley, John

(1,572 words)

Author(s): Collins, Kenneth J.
John Wesley (1703–91), the principal founder of the Methodist movement within the Church of England, was born at the Epworth rectory on June 17, 1703 (Julian calendar). He was the 15th of the 18 or 19 children of Samuel and Susanna Wesley. Nominated for the Charterhouse School in London by the Duke of Buckingham, Wesley studied at this institution from 1714 to 1720, at which point he matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, where he received his baccalaureate degree in 1724. The next year Wesley’s religious interests grew more serious, an…

Western Sahara

(1,182 words)

Author(s): Mitchell, Joel
1. General Situation 1.1. The Western Sahara is a territory in northwestern Africa inhabited by the Saharawi people. It comprises the Saqīyat al-Ḥamrāʾ and Wādi al-Dhahab regions (known as ¶ Saguía el Hamra and Río de Oro by the Spanish colonial regime). Western Sahara is administered primarily by Morocco, whose claim to the territory is disputed by the Polisario front (from Sp. [Frente] Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y o de Oro, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguía el Hamra and Río de Oro), which declared the independence of the Saharawi Arab …

Westminster Assembly and Confession of Faith

(1,557 words)

Author(s): Sell, Alan P. F.
1. The Westminster divines were summoned to meet by the Long (English) Parliament on June 12, 1643. In November 1640, following the Bishops’ Wars between England and Scotland, King Charles I (1625–49) had recalled Parliament. In 1641 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland had appealed for greater uniformity of doctrine and worship, and now the English Parliament took up the theme, requiring a defense and clarification of the worship and order of the Church of England and urging closer relations between the English, Scots, and Continental Reformed churches. Despite the king’s …

Westphalia, Peace of

(8 words)

See Thirty Years’ War