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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Aid

(8 words)

See Christian Development Services; Development 14

AIDS

(5 words)

See Public Health

Albania

(696 words)

Author(s): Tönnes, Bernhard
In 1967 Albania declared itself officially an atheistic state, the first such in the world. It closed all of its 2,169 mosques and churches and even prohibited the use of private religious symbols (e.g., crosses and icons). Not until 1990 was the prohibition on religious activities revoked; legislation in April 1991 stated that Albania was a secular state that observes “freedom of religious belief and creates conditions in which to exercise it.” Of the approximately 1.4 million Muslims, approximately 80 percent are Sunnites, a…

Albigenses

(4 words)

See Cathari

Alchemy

(669 words)

Author(s): Hoheisel, Karl
Since the ninth and tenth centuries the Gk.-Arab. word alchēmeia has denoted the attempt to change base metals into silver and gold. This effort has been more than a mere curiosity in the history of science and technology, however, for in alchemy the smelting, alloying, and tinting of metals have been linked with the belief that one can help what is thought of as living nature achieve its quickest possible development and fulfillment. It was probably in Alexandria in the second century b.c. that popul…

Alcoholism

(5 words)

See Substance Abuse

Alexandria

(766 words)

Author(s): Wickert, Ulrich
1. Alexander the Great (336–323 b.c.) founded this city in 331 b.c. as a port on the west coast of the Nile Delta. Its position guaranteed its importance as a center of trade and commerce. The Ptolemies (323–30 b.c.) moved the site of government from Memphis to Alexandria. The Egyptian queen Cleopatra (51–30 b.c.) received support first from Caesar (100–44 b.c.) and then from Antony (d. 30 b.c.), in what was Alexandria’s most prominent period politically. During the Roman Empire, Alexandria was the seat of a provincial governor. The Islamic Arabs conquered Alexandria in a.d. 642. There…

Alexandrian Theology

(800 words)

Author(s): Wickert, Ulrich
1. We can distinguish two phases in the theology of Alexandria. The older phase was one of free experimentation; later, in spite of its basic significance for all theology, it came under the suspicion of heresy and official condemnation. The later phase was one of orthodox maturity; it provided a rigid framework for the legacy of the earlier period, thus ensuring the steady course of dogmatic history. 2.1. The real merit of the first phase is that, after the tentative beginnings of the early apologists and Irenaeus (ca. 130–ca. 200), it succeeded in harmonizing the primitive Chri…

Algeria

(761 words)

Author(s): Vöcking, Hans
The modern state of Algeria forms the central section of Maghreb, the Arabic term for North Africa. It is bordered by Tunisia on the east, Morocco on the west, and the Mediterranean on the north. To the south it borders Libya, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania. With 2.4 million sq. km. (920,000 sq. mi.), Algeria is the second largest country in Africa, after Sudan. Since 1962, when the country achieved its independence, the population has increased by roughly three and a half times. Some 96 percent of the people are Sunni Muslims in the Malikite tradition. About 0.4 percent of …

Aliens

(4 words)

See Foreigners

All Africa Conference of Churches

(603 words)

Author(s): Mbiti, John
The 380 million African Christians (2000 est.) constitute 46.4 percent of the total population (as compared with only 9.2 percent in 1900). Statistically the southern two-thirds of Africa is predominantly Christian, while the northern third is predominantly Islamic (Islam). The proportion of the population practicing traditional African religion is declining. The rapid growth of Christianity since 1900 rests on the ministry in the 19th century of overseas missionaries (Mission), the work of African Christians as evangelists and missionaries (E…

Allegory

(334 words)

Author(s): Schwartz, Werner
Allegory is an artistic or linguistic form that expresses something different (Gk. allēgoreō) from what it states directly. In art it represents that which cannot be represented directly, usually in a complex picture that carries individual features (personification). In literature it is a story in which a second complex of meaning may be discerned behind the literal one. In interpretation one decodes the individual elements, which have the character of metaphors, and reconstructs the whole on the level …

All Saints’ Day

(323 words)

Author(s): Langgärtner, Georg
The Christian veneration of saints began with the honoring of martyrs. All Saints’ Day thus began as the Feast of All Holy Martyrs. This feast is first mentioned in a.d. 359 by Ephraem Syrus (ca. 306–73) in one of his hymns for May 13. In Antioch about the year 380, Chrysostom (ca. 347–407) preached a sermon in honor of “all the saints who anywhere on earth have suffered martyrdom.” He did so on the Sunday after Pentecost, which the Greek Orthodox Church has retained as the Sunday of All Saints. In Rome May 13 took on special significance whe…

All Souls’ Day

(8 words)

See All Saints’ Day

Alpha and Omega

(157 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (Α and Ω, or in art mostly Α and ω). ¶ They are a title for God in Rev. 1:8; 21:6 (cf. Isa. 41:4; 44:6) and for Christ in Rev. 22:13 (cf. 1:17; 2:8). They symbolize the fact that God, or Christ, embraces all things. Α and Ω found their greatest use during the 3d to the 6th centuries in patristics and Christian art. With few exceptions, they referred to Christ and bore witness to his consubstantiality with the Father in opposition to Arianism. They usually occur with a cross or Chris…

Altar

(1,218 words)

Author(s): Davies, J. G.
1. The word “altar” derives from Lat. altare or altaria, which come from altus, meaning “high.” Lat. ara (from Gk. airō, “raise”) has the same connotation; it is the Vg word for bōmos (from bainō, “lift up”). In the LXX bōmos is used of heathen altars precisely because they were on high places, whereas thysiastērion, “place of sacrifice,” is used of the OT tabernacle (§1) and temple altars. This distinction corresponds respectively to the Heb. bāmâ versus mizbēaḥ. 2.1. The etymology points to two fundamental aspects of the altar: (1) it is a structure raised abov…

Altötting

(142 words)

Author(s): Schilling, Johannes
Altötting, Bavaria, is an important site of pilgrimage in honor of Mary. The town, which has a chapel going back to the eighth century, has long been a favorite resort of the nobility. After reports of miracles in about 1489, the pilgrimage developed under the patronage of the dukes of Bavaria, attracting travelers from Bohemia, South Tirol, and Italy as well as Bavaria. The Reformation and Enlightenment, however, threatened to end it. P. Canisius (1521–97), M. Eisengrein (1535–78), and, later, J. M. Sailer gave it fresh impetus. Albert V (1550–79) did much to promo…

Amen

(159 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
The word “amen” (Gk. amēn, from Heb. ’ āmēn) means “so it is.” Except in sayings of Jesus, “amen” is a response to something that has just been said. Expressing his supreme authority, Jesus introduces his teachings with “(very) truly [ amēn ( amēn)] I tell you.…” In Rev. 3:14 “Amen” is a self-designation of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20). In both Judaism and Christianity “amen” is one of the most important words in the congregation’s participation in worship. The eucharistic prayer ends with “Amen,” and the believer responds with “Amen” after receiving…

Amnesty International

(453 words)

Author(s): Frenz, Helmut
Amnesty International (AI), an international organization that is independent of governments, political parties, ideologies, economic interests, and religions, plays a special role in the worldwide struggle for human rights. It does this particularly in cases of political imprisonment, working for the release of men, women, and children who are detained because of their political convictions, color, sex, race, culture, or religion, or who for these reasons are subjected to other physical restric…

Amos, Book of

(648 words)

Author(s): Thiel, Winfried
1. Amos, the first of the writing prophets, came from Tekoa in Judah. Although a herdsman and a grower of figs, not a professional prophet, Amos was a man of broad outlook who did not lack means or education. A call from God took him out of his daily round and sent him to do prophetic work in the northern kingdom. He came there about 760 b.c. and in Bethel and Samaria, perhaps also Gilgal, proclaimed the inevitable fall of Israel. Denounced and expelled, he seems to have gone back to Judah after hardly a year of activity. Amos’s coming occurred at the time of Israel’s final prosperity. The w…
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