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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Bohemian Brethren

(1,002 words)

Author(s): Molnár, Amedeo
Around 1458 the Czech nobleman Gregory gathered around him a group that was called the Brotherhood of the Law of Christ, made up for the most part of the remnants of the Hussite Taborites. This group soon came to be known as the Bohemian Brethren. Theologically they were influenced by the writings of the pacifist Peter Chelčický (ca. 1390-ca. 1460); in organization, they borrowed from the so-called Faithful Brethren, itinerant Waldensian preachers trained by the Taborites. The young brotherhood survived two waves of persecution under King George of Podebrady (1420–7…


(1,913 words)

Author(s): Barnadas, Josep M.
1. Peoples and Politics The topography of Bolivia ranges from the High Andes (4,000–7,000 m. / 13,100–23,000 ft.) through the inland valleys (2,200–3,000 m. / 7,200–9,800 ft.) to the eastern lowlands (150 m. / 500 ft.). In 1997 urban dwellers accounted for 57.5 percent of the population. Ethnically and culturally there are three main groups: the Quechuas (30 percent), the Aymaras (25 percent), and the mestizos, or “mixed” (25–30 percent). There are also several smaller, Indian groups (approximately 200,000 total). Political…

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich

(929 words)

Author(s): Green, Clifford
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–45) was a German Lutheran theologian, pastor, and martyr. A member of the large and prominent Berlin family of Karl Bonhoeffer and Paula von Hase, Bonhoeffer first studied at Tübingen, then took his doctorate in theology at Berlin, where he studied with A. Harnack, K. Holl, and R. Seeberg. Early allied with Karl Barth’s theological movement, Bonhoeffer thought independently, yet continued to read Barth and contact him personally at crucial periods in his life. He travel…


(153 words)

Author(s): Brenner, Beatus
Founded in 1849 as the Bonifatiusverein, the Bonifatiuswerk is a German Roman Catholic charitable organization for pastoral care among the diaspora in Germany. With some 500,000 members, it promotes spiritual vocations, provides transportation for pastoral work, and supports the building of churches and educational centers, always in the form of help for self-help. Its work has spread to the Scandinavian countries, including Iceland. It also promotes interdenominational dialogue, helped to found the J…

Book of Common Prayer

(857 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
The Book of Common Prayer is the most common name of the prayer book used in the Anglican Communion in regular worship (§2). Along with the Bible, it has something of the status of a standard of faith among Anglicans. The Book of Common Prayer is a product of the English Reformation (§2.4) and may be compared with the service books of other Reformation churches. It was first introduced in 1549 under the leadership of Archbishop T. Cranmer (1489–1556) in order to provide the English church with a suitable order of worship. It included …

Book of the Covenant

(306 words)

Author(s): Boecker, Hans Jochen
The Book of the Covenant, which comprises Exod. 20:22–23:19 (or perhaps through 23:33), is the oldest legal code in the Pentateuch. It takes its name from Exod. 24:7 (although it is an open question whether the phrase here refers specifically to the material of the earlier chapters). In the present text the Book of the Covenant is related to the events at Sinai, being put between the theophany depicted in 19:1–20:21 and the covenant described in 24:1–11. Special theological importance is thus ascribed to it. The heading in Exod. 21:1 introduces the specific provisions, but a prologu…

Bosnia and Herzegovina

(1,158 words)

Author(s): Kuzmič, Peter
Bosnia (the northern part) and Herzegovina (the southern part), situated in the Balkan Peninsula, was recognized as an independent country in 1992. The country is bordered to the north and southwest by Croatia, and to the east and south by Serbia and Montenegro. The Slavs settled this area in the seventh century. In 1991 the main groupings of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population were Bosnian Muslims (43.7 percent), Bosnian Serbs (31.3 percent), and Bosnian Croats (17.3 percent). All the main Bosnian ¶ ethnic groups are of South Slavic origin. These figures were radically affe…


(1,301 words)

Author(s): Schoof, Hans-Michael
Overview Botswana is one of the least densely populated countries of Africa. This country on the sandy Kalahari plateau in southern Africa has had an extremely high rate of population growth (3.4 percent between 1988 and 1993), which was cause for concern. The dominant ethnic group is the Batswana (95 percent). Botswana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966 and since that time has functioned as a relatively stable, multiparty democracy. The most important economic pursuits are mining, which is almost totally under the control of mul…

Bourgeois, Bourgeoisie

(2,086 words)

Author(s): Peeters, Hans | Schreuder, Osmund
1. Etymology and Semantics The word “bourgeois,” in its earliest meaning as a burgher, is related to the medieval Ger. burg, or fortified place. Out of fortified places, cities in medieval times began to develop, in which (as they were later known) the bourgeois came to play an increasingly important role. The city came into its own as certain groups of people—later collectively labeled the bourgeoisie—freed themselves from feudal ties, achieved economic power, and secured a measure of political autonomy. The burgh…


(3,482 words)

Author(s): Prien, Hans-Jürgen
1. History, Society, Economy, and State P. A. Cabral (1467/68–1520) discovered Brazil for Portugal in 1500. The name came from its first export, brazilwood (from Sp. brasa, “live coals”), which was in demand on account of its red dye. After hesitant beginnings, the settlers expanded in the colonial period, and in the 19th and 20th centuries pushed far beyond the boundaries set by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. In 1822, under Pedro I (1822–31) of the house of Braganza, Brazil achieved total independence from Portugal…

Bread for the World

(8 words)

See Relief Organizations

Brethren Churches

(1,052 words)

Author(s): Durnbaugh, Donald F.
Several religious organizations in the United States have chosen the biblical designation “Brethren.” Although diverse in origin, they share a basic biblicist orientation. None of them is related to the Plymouth Brethren (Dispensationalism). 1. One of the older movements of this sort is the Church of the Brethren, which originated in central Germany in 1708. Its eight founding members had moved from a radical Pietist position within their Reformed and Lutheran churches to separatism heavily influenced by Anabaptism through conta…

Brethren of the Common Life

(461 words)

Author(s): Elm, Kaspar
Like the Canons of Windesheim, the Brethren of the Common Life was a product of the devotio moderna (modern devotion) inspired by G. Groote (1340–84). This community traces its origin to clergy and laity who, in Deventer in 1380/81, without official vows or an approved rule, came together in a communal spiritual life. Their goal was to promote their own edification and, by their example and teaching, to further the salvation of others. They lived mainly by their own work, including the production of books. Organ…


(5 words)

See Hours, Canonical

British Missions

(1,960 words)

Author(s): Walls, Andrew F.
1. Origins British missions were born in the theoretical ideals of the English Commonwealth of the 17th century and later were given new directions by the American colonies and the reconversion of the Scottish Highlands. They were driven by the Moravian example and an eschatology that stressed that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9) before the return of Christ. The Evangelical Revival (Revivals 2.2) provided the religious dynamic, and the economic and technological development of 19th-century Britain provided the outlets. 1.1. S…


(5 words)

See Communities, Spiritual


(964 words)

Author(s): Editors, The
The sultanate of Brunei (official name: Negara [State of] Brunei Darussalam) is a small enclave on the northwestern coast of Borneo. It is bordered by the South China Sea and, on land, is surrounded entirely by Sarawak, an eastern state of Malaysia. In 1997 the sultan was Sir Muda Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah, who, upon succeeding his father in October 1967, became the 29th ruler in a single family of sultans tracing back to Sultan Mohammed (reigned 1405–15), the first Brunei leader to embrace Islam. According to the official census, in 1991 the population of Brunei was…

Bucer, Martin

(909 words)

Author(s): Kaufmann, Thomas
Modern research has rightly come to see in Martin Bucer (1491–1551) one of the main leaders of the Reformation. Educated at the famous Schlettstadt grammar school, he became the reformer of the imperial city of Strasbourg. Having first made an intensive, Thomistically oriented study of Scholastic theology, he then came under the lasting influence of the humanism of D. Erasmus (1469?-1536). His crucial experience, however, was his encounter with M. Luther (1483–1546) at the Heidelberg Disputation…


(2,135 words)

Author(s): von Hinüber, Oskar
1. Sphere The sphere of Buddhism embraces a great part of Asia but has suffered serious reductions through the centuries. In India itself it died out after 1200, and it was suppressed or destroyed in China (after 1947), in Tibet (after 1950), and in Viet Nam, Cambodia (where there have been signs recently of a revival), and Laos (from the middle of the 1970s). Theravada Buddhism still flourishes in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand, and other forms exist in Nepal, Japan (Zen), Korea, and in some ar…

Buddhism and Christianity

(555 words)

Author(s): Waldenfels, Hans | Schmidt, Gabriele
The first references to relations between Buddhism and Christianity come from Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-ca. 215; see Strom. Information about Buddhism may be found in the letters and journals of Francis Xavier (1506–52) and other Jesuit missionaries. True dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity began when the lands of Asia opened themselves to the West and Christian missionary work led to the development of a new religious self-awareness in Asia (Mission). The World Parliament of Religions…
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