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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(13,726 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten | Heintel, Erich | Reichenbach, Bruce R. | Preuss, Horst Dietrich | Roloff, Jürgen | Et al.
1. Ideas of God in the Religions Ideas are phenomena. We may interpret them in broader social and intellectual contexts, but they also speak for themselves in images, words, names, and texts. Even when deity is their content, they can display only themselves, not show whether revelation or merely human imagination underlies them, though this observation does not mean that we can rule out divine revelation. To speak of an idea of God tacitly presupposes horizontal comparison between societies and cultures. We set different ideas of God on different levels, thou…

God, Arguments for the Existence of

(2,391 words)

Author(s): Reichenbach, Bruce R.
1. General 1.1. Arguments, Proofs, and Basic Beliefs William Clifford (1845–79) wrote that “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence” (“The Ethics of ¶ Belief”). This evidentialist position reflects the view, common in the modern era after R. Descartes (1596–1650; Cartesianism), that belief in God should be justified by arguments. This strong evidentialism contrasts somewhat with the prior Augustinian tradition (Augustine’s Theology), which viewed the arguments for God’s e…

God Is Dead Theology

(1,369 words)

Author(s): Hjelm, Ralph
David Hume’s formulation and defense of empiricist nontheism in Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779) initiated the modern effort to write God’s death certificate. Derived mostly from philosophical, sociological, political, scientific, and literary contexts, such writings have contributed significantly to the texture of the last 200 years of theological history. They have contained protests and refinements to doctrines of God as Necessary Being, Transcendent Mystery, and even “acting in history.” In t…


(968 words)

Author(s): Heimbrock, Hans-Günter
1. Historical Development Research into the ecclesial role of godparents has revealed many different legal, social, liturgical, pastoral, and educational dimensions of the practice. Little, however, has as yet been done regarding many sociological and popular religious aspects (Piety: Social History). Borrowing from non-Christian practice, the church used godparents (Lat. sponsor, patrinus, Ger. Vadder, It. padrino, Sp. compadre) as early as the second century to vouch for adults in baptism and to be responsible companions for them in their catech…

Golden Age

(437 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
In his epic poem Works and Days (lines 109–201), the Greek poet Hesiod (fl. ca. 800 b.c.) tells the story of a golden age in which humans lived like gods with no cares, illnesses, or wickedness. This period was followed by successive declines into the silver age and then the bronze. A heroic age arrested the decline but was followed finally by the iron age, which was full of plague and evil. To the ancient idea of an ideal primitive age there correspond the myths in different cultures concerning an ideal place, paradise (an Iranian word), a garden (Eden, see Gen. 2:4–3:24), the mountain of Go…

Golden Rule

(290 words)

Author(s): Burchard, Christoph
The “Golden Rule” (a phrase not used before the 16th cent.) identifies the principle formulated in Matt. 7:12a and its parallel Luke 6:31, with either positive or negative parallels also among the Greeks (though hardly in philosophical ethics), the Romans, and the Jews (from the Hellenistic period), as well as in China, India, and elsewhere. It rests on the insight that life in society demands regulated giving and receiving, acting and reacting. It is thus a formal statement of what is generally demanded by way of s…

Good, The

(658 words)

Author(s): Nikolaus, Wolfgang
1. Definition and Terminology The good (Gk. agathon, Lat. bonum) is that which contributes to the perfection of something or constitutes it. Distinction is made between the absolute good and the relative good. The former involves the actualizing of every innate possibility of perfection (Gk. entelecheia, Lat. bonum honestum). The latter, along the lines of utility (bonum utile) or satisfaction (bonum delectabile), contributes to the fulfillment of another and produces a hierarchy of goods, at the head of which is the supreme good (summum bonum). 2. The Good in the History of…


(2,782 words)

Author(s): Stuhlmacher, Peter | Jäger, Alfred
1. Biblical 1.1. Greek Usage The word “gospel” is a translation of Gk. euangelion. Often found in the plural and attested from Homer, this word means “that which is proper to an euangelos, or messenger of good news.” The verb euangelizomai (mid. and pass.) means “speak as an euangelos,” that is, “bring (good) news.” The verb and noun have religious significance in the Greco-Roman world only in the emperor cult, in which ta euangelia is used for the good news of the birth or benevolence of the emperor. This usage has only background importance; it is not the source…

Gospel Song

(489 words)

Author(s): Schalk, Carl
The term “gospel song” refers to a particular kind of religious song that flourished in the United States during the religious revivals of the Reconstruction era (1865–77) following the Civil War. Its texts are generally characterized by simple, direct words describing the condition of sinners and of their “being saved,” joined with music rooted in various European, British, and Afro-American folk traditions. The musical origins of the gospel song are found in the camp-meeting song (from 1800), one of the most important of its antecedents, together with th…


(5 words)

See Middle Ages

Government Ethics

(6 words)

See State Ethics


(7,671 words)

Author(s): Fahlbusch, Erwin | Roloff, Jürgen | Mehedintu, Viorel | Wagner, Harald | Heron, Alasdair I. C.
Overview In common parlance the words “grace” and “gracious” denote a human attitude. A gracious person is kind, well-disposed, considerate, gentle, and ready to show favor, to pardon, or to show clemency. The terms also occur in courtly formulas. In a legal setting grace is shown by the authorities when a reprieve or amnesty is granted. The language of religion (cf. ideas of redemption in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Jainism) understands grace as divine assistance, the unmerited mercy of God, though also the mercy that may be expected on the basis of sacrifices or works. Grace is a ce…


(460 words)

Author(s): Schalk, Carl
In the medieval Roman Mass, the gradual, a structure of psalmodic material usually sung from the ambo, or reading desk, came between the Epistle and Gospel readings. In the early centuries of the church, this chant was a simple psalm sung by a solo voice, with the congregation singing a recurring refrain. In the later development of the Mass, the gradual became one of its most elaborate and melismatic chants. The Lutheran Reformation replaced the gradual with a congregational hymn. M. Luther’s Formula Missae (1523) first suggested a congregational hymn immediately following the…

Great Britain

(6 words)

See United Kingdom


(1,931 words)

Author(s): Savramis, Demosthenes | Papademetriou, George C.
1. Churches Greece is a unidenominational country, with the vast majority of citizens belonging to the Orthodox Church of Greece. Constitutionally, this church represents the “dominant,” established religion. The church is divided into some 80 bishoprics. The number fluctuates as provinces are divided when the population increases. Control is exercised by the Synod of the Hierarchy, comprising the members of the Holy Hierarchy, or all the metropolitans. The 12-member Permanent Holy Synod, consisti…

Greek Language

(497 words)

Author(s): Dürbeck, Helmut
Ancient Greek, a daughter language of Indo-European, was the language of the tribes that in the second millennium b.c. pushed into various areas of the mainland of Greece, into the Aegean Islands, and onto the west coast of Asia Minor. At this time there were only two dialects, Northern Greek and Southern Greek, which did not differ so greatly as the dialects of the historical period. From Southern Greek there developed Old Ionic, Mycenaean, Ionic (with Attic), Arcadian, and Cypriot. From Northe…

Greek Orthodox Church

(7 words)

See Orthodox Church

Greek Philosophy

(2,984 words)

Author(s): Graeser, Andreas
1. Epochs Greek philosophy was developing from the sixth century b.c. to the first century a.d. Within this period we may distinguish the archaic or preclassical, classical, and postclassical epochs. The archaic period is essentially characterized by questions that the so-called pre-Socratics (thinkers preceding Socrates and his followers) posed in the sphere of the philosophy of nature. These questions served the interests of rational explanation and involved a breaking free from myth and its approaches. The classical peri…

Greek Religion

(1,003 words)

Author(s): Fauth, Wolfgang
1. General Character As a product of the polytheism of pagan antiquity, Greek religion had no concept of a transcendent God or of an omnipotent Creator and Ruler of the world. Its pantheon is a hierarchically and, in part, genealogically integrated system of immanent, functionally limited deities of various types who represent natural forces (Nature Religion) and cosmic phenomena (Poseidon as god of the sea, Helios and Selene as astral gods, Boreas as a wind demon) or terrestrial, agrarian powers (…

Gregorian Chant

(1,645 words)

Author(s): Eham, Markus
1. Term “Gregorian chant” is the collective name and stylistic designation for the (medieval) tradition and repertory collected in liturgical books of the monodic, originally unaccompanied chant of the liturgy of Roman Catholic ritual. The designation derives from a legend arising in connection with the Frankish reception of the Roman liturgy in the eighth and ninth centuries, one identifying Pope Gregory I (590–604) as the author or editor first of the texts, then also of the melodies of the cantus gregorianus (first in the 9th cent.). Although no historical proof has been add…
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