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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See Racism


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Author(s): Kippenberg, Hans G. | Koch, Klaus | Deppermann, Klaus | Boyer, Paul
1. Scope 1.1. Definition Apocalypticism, which was forged within the Judeo-Christian tradition, comprises a literary genre, a set of eschatological concepts, and a world-renouncing lifestyle. Apocalypticism differs from eschatology, millenarianism, and messianism. Eschatology reflects on the end of the old aeon, apocalypticism on the way to the new aeon. Millenarianism appeals to the vision of a millennium without work or government, apocalypticism to an otherworldly lifestyle. Messianism counts on …


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Author(s): Lochman, Jan Milič
The term “apocatastasis” (Greek for “restitution, recovery”; = Lat. restitutio, the restoration of all things, universal reconciliation) was coined in ancient philosophy. It occurs in the NT only in Acts 3:21, and there not in a technical sense. Church tradition quickly adopted it to sum up the thrust of such NT passages as Col. 1:20; 1 Cor. 15:21–28; Rom. 5:18; 11:32, namely, that the saving will of God, eschatologically realized in Jesus Christ, will finally reach even the last of sinners. All will be reconciled; all will be saved. When developed …


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Author(s): Hanhart, Robert | Lichtenberger, Hermann
1. OT Apocrypha 1.1. Concept In common parlance, the term “Apocrypha” is used for the books or parts of books that appear in the Alexandrian canon of the LXX translation but are not found in the Masoretic canon. On the basis of the former tradition the Roman Catholic Church recognized these books as canonical from the Third Council of Carthage (397) and today ranks them as deuterocanonical. The designation of these books as Apocrypha in the churches of the Reformation goes back to 1520 to Carlstadt (ca. 1480–1541). When M. Luther included the books (apart from 1 Esdras, 3 Macca…


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Author(s): Pöhlmann, Horst G.
1. Definition Apologetics, the teaching of defense (apology) or defensive scholarship, is the thoughtful interaction of Christian faith with contemporary teachings and ideologies that are opposed to the gospel. Since misuse has led to the discrediting of the term in Roman Catholic neoscholasticism and neo-Protestantism (Protestantism 1.3), other terms have replaced it, such as “missionary theology,” “eristics,” and “fundamental theology”. The last term is current especially in Roman Catholic theol…


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Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
The early Christian writers who defended the Christian faith became known as apologists. The first apologies were legal defenses directed to the Roman emperors in the second century. Many of the names of the authors are known, and we have full copies of the apology addressed by Aristides to Hadrian (117–38) and of that of Justin Martyr to Antoninus Pius (138–61). The plea of Athenagoras to Marcus Aurelius (161–80) is similar. The literary form, which was influenced by the current persecutions, reached its height in the North African Tertullian (ca. 160-ca. 225). It then faded out, …


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See Augsburg Confession

Apophatic Theology

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Author(s): Yannaras, Christos
1. Basis A theology is “apophatic” if it recognizes that a knowledge of the truth rightfully goes beyond a given linguistic formulation or a detailed conceptual account. Even atheists may know that the God of the church is a triune God (Trinity), and they may have studied the appropriate chapter in Christian dogmatics. But such knowledge itself does not mean that they know the triune God of the church in person. 1.1. Apophatic theology does not equate knowledge with individual experience, with subjective apprehension, or with individual mystical discovery; rather, k…


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Author(s): Hubbeling, Hubertus G.
Gk. aporia literally denotes the absence of a way. In a figurative sense it stands for a difficulty, principally one in philosophy. An aporia arises when in a philosophical argument a material or conceptual contradiction appears. According to Plato (427–347 b.c.), the fundamental aporia of human knowledge is that we cannot possibly engage in the search for truth ( Meno 80D-81E), for either we know the truth and do not need to seek it, or we do not know it and do not know where or how to seek it (Platonism). For many thinkers (e.g., S. Kierkegaard and M. Polanyi), this Platonic aporia h…


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Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
The early church distinguished between apostates and the weak who gave way under pressure. Until the Decian persecution (250/51), apostasy, like murder and adultery, ranked as an unforgivable sin. Then (against Novatian protests) penances were introduced (Penitence), and in later canon law distinctions were made. In contrast to heresy, apostasy was defined as a voluntary lapse from the Christian faith (1917 CIC 1325.2) or the Catholic faith (can. 646), or as a willful renunciation of orders or ordination vows (1983 CIC 751, 1364). Excommunication followed automatically. Whereas…

Apostle, Apostolate

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Author(s): Karrer, Martin
In the NT the term “apostle” denotes someone who is sent. “Apostolate” designates the task and authority of an apostle. 1. History of the Term “Apostle” In pre-Christian Greek the word apostolos relates to the act of sending or to an object that is sent. The idea of a person who is sent is rare in classical Greek; in the papyri it occurs later. There the emphasis on someone who is commissioned suggests a link with the ancient Near Eastern office of the emissary, in which the envoy authoritatively represents the one who commissioned him. This thought stands behind the only use in the LXX (3 Kgdms. …

Apostles’ Creed

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Author(s): Lochman, Jan Milič | Meijering, Eginhard P.
1. History and Setting The Apostles’ Creed, an early confession (Confession of Faith), was first referred to as the Symbolum apostolorum in a letter from the Council of Milan (390) to Pope Syricius (384–99). According to an ancient tradition, its text arose from an attempt by the apostles to formulate a common rule of faith, with each apostle contributing a statement. This story, told by T. Rufinus (ca. 345–411), is merely a legend, but it does illustrate the high esteem in which the text was held. The setting of the Apostles’ Creed was early Christian baptism. Statements of fai…

Apostolic Churches

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Author(s): Eggenberger, Oswald
The phrase “apostolic churches” designates several different churches that have reintroduced the office of apostle: the Catholic Apostolic Church, the New Apostolic Church, and various other churches and groups. The several bodies differ in significant ways. 1. Catholic Apostolic Church Around 1830 there was an outbreak of charismatic gifts (tongues, prophecy, and healing; Charisma; Charismatic Movement) in certain revivalist Bible circles in England and Scotland. The central figure in this movement was the Scottish minister Edward Ir…

Apostolic Council

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See Acts of the Apostles

Apostolic Fathers

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Author(s): Paulsen, Henning
1. The Phrase The phrase “Apostolic Fathers” goes back to a 1672 Paris edition prepared by J.-B. Cotelier entitled Ss. Patrum qui temporibus apostolicis floruerunt … opera. This work contained Barnabas, 1 and 2 Clement, the epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, and Hermas. Although the historicity is debatable, the phrase has secured a place in historical study. It now applies also to Didache, the Epistle to Diognetus, the Quadratus Fragment, and the fragments of Papias. 2. The Writings 2.1. Didache The work called The Didache, or The Teaching of the Twelve…

Apostolic Succession

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See Bishop, Episcopate

Arabic Philosophy

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See Islamic Philosophy


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Author(s): Spieckermann, Hermann
The Arameans (Heb. and Aram. ’ ărām, ’ ărammî, ’ rm; Akkad. aramu, arimu, etc.) left an important legacy in the Near East until well into the Christian era, namely, the Aramaic language, which belongs to the West Semitic group and is closely related to Hebrew. The OT contains several passages in Aramaic (Gen. 31:47; Ezra 4:8–6:18; 7:12–26; Jer. 10:11; Dan. 2:4b–7:28); the Hebrew text itself also contains various Aramaisms. Widespread from around the eighth century b.c., Aramaic became an official language in the Persian Empire and, with its many d…


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Author(s): Fritz, Volkmar | Wischmeyer, Wolfgang
1. Biblical Archaeology 1.1. Task The task of biblical archaeology is to investigate the history of settlement and culture of Palestine. This task demands the reconstruction of the history of settlement and the recovery of artifacts by surface exploration and excavation, followed by the collection and interpretation of the artifacts with a view to exhibiting the material culture in the different epochs. Surface exploration involves taking an inventory of whatever remains may still be present. Ruined buildings are seldom available. A site usually consists o…


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Author(s): Seifert, Theodor
C. G. Jung (1875–1961) introduced the concept of archetype into psychology and psychotherapy. In his work with patients Jung was struck by the similarity of personal ideas and fantasies (Imagination) to images and motifs that occur in fairy tales and myths and that have been for centuries the themes of meditation and practice in ritual festivals, visions, and sacred pictures and texts. Such images and motifs have been handed down as tribal lore, creation stories, stories of the end of the world,…
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