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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(1,835 words)

Author(s): Heinemann, Heribert | Fahlbusch, Erwin
1. Church Law 1.1. Hierarchy derives from Gk. hiera archē, denoting holy origin or rule. Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite seems to have been the first to use the term in theology to expound and rank the ministry. His works The Celestial Hierarchy and The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy at the end of the fifth century give clear evidence of a Neoplatonic origin, which he tries to fuse with Christian doctrine. For him the ecclesiastical hierarchy is a reflection of the celestial hierarchy. As the latter comprises three “triads” with three “choirs”…

High Priest

(444 words)

Author(s): Schaller, Berndt
The office of high priest, directing the cult and its personnel, was one of the religious institutions of Israel (§1), as it was of most ancient societies. 1. We have no documentation from the earliest period. The oldest references come from the age of the monarchy (Amos 7:10–15; 1 Sam. 14:3; 21:1–9; 2 Kgs. 12:7; 16:10–16), but with no specific description of the office. Postexilic texts first include the titles hakkōhēn haggādôl (Lev. 21:10; Num. 35:25–28; Hag. 1:1) and kōhēn hārōʾš (2 Chr. 19:11 etc.). The tasks are set forth (atonement of the whole congregation, Lev. 4:16–20),…

Hildegard of Bingen

(1,710 words)

Author(s): Clark, Anne L.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) was a theologian, pastoral adviser, poet, monastic administrator, composer, preacher, and scientific and medical encyclopedist. Born into a noble family in Bermersheim in the Rhineland, at the age of 8 she was dedicated by her parents to the religious life. When she was 14 her parents formally bound her to the Benedictine community of St. Disibod, under the care of Jutta, a 20-year-old kinswoman who became the mistress of the small community of female recluses attached to that monastery (Orders and Congregations). After…


(3,354 words)

Author(s): von Brück, Michael | Rajashekar, J. Paul
1. Characteristics Hinduism is a very complex, contradictory, yet coherent nexus of writings, rites, and ways of life. It is not an organized religion stabilized by dogmatic unity but an order that is believed and lived out as supratemporal and cosmic (as sanātana dharma, “traditional duty” or “traditional practices”) and that regulates precisely all the spheres of individual life and the arrangement of social groups (Caste). It unites in itself widely divergent religious types, from personalistic theism to a doctrine of transpersonal is…

Hinduism and Christianity

(756 words)

Author(s): Brück, Michael von | Rajashekar, J. Paul
A first attempt at communication between Hinduism and Christianity was made by Robert de Nobili (1577–1656), who, with a view to missionary effectiveness (Mission 3), adopted the lifestyle of a sannyasin, or itinerant ascetic, in order to understand Hinduism better. Only with the Hindu renaissance in the 18th and 19th centuries (through Rammohan Ray and others; Hinduism 3.4) did a dialogic exchange begin. Hindu reformers found in Jesus a divine incarnation, gained inspiration from him, and made …


(749 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
1. The term “historicism,” now used mostly in a critical sense, still had positive significance in the mid-19th century. Thus it could denote a philosophy that, following G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831; Hegelianism), viewed world history as a realization of the absolute (C. J. Braniss). It then soon became a polemical title for Hegel’s own philosophy of history (R. Haym), for the historical school of law (I. H. Fichte), and finally for a concept of human life oriented primarily to historical facts and contexts. Critics of historicism did not dispute the historicity of this life but …

Historicocritical Method

(6 words)

See Exegesis, Biblical


(4,422 words)

Author(s): Smend, Rudolf | Holtz, Traugott | Schindler, Alfred | Koschorke, Klaus
1. OT 1.1. Historiography and Historical Thinking To a greater extent than is sometimes realized, ancient Israel (§1) shared in the very diverse “mythical” historical thinking of the surrounding world. It read present events in the light of past events, beginning in a distant primal period, which would both explain and if necessary validate them. It thus narrated, established, and handed down the stories of the past, not least of all in the cult. The course of history was determined by human conduct in…

History, Auxiliary Sciences to

(2,551 words)

Author(s): Giessler-Wirsig, Eva
1. Survey Of great importance in the writing of church history (Historiography 3) are a comprehensive knowledge, critical evaluation, and reliable assessment of the extant sources. Writings that were once unknown and materials that have been neglected can bring to light new facts and open up new perspectives. A scientific discussion of existing opinions rests on such endeavors. Reliable accounts of historical events often must be reconstructions. In depicting the views, goals, and motives of histo…

History of Religion

(1,016 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
1. According to the view one takes of religious studies, the history of religion is either one department of such studies or it is the main discipline itself. In about 1694 G. W. Leibniz (1646–1716) became the first to differentiate the histoire des religions from church history. In his Natural History of Religion (1757), D. Hume (1711–76) became probably the first to juxtapose critically religion’s “natural history” (terminology adopted by the whole Enlightenment) with the salvation history represented by the church. In French and Italian, for ex…

History of Religions School

(1,307 words)

Author(s): Rollmann, Hans
The history-of-religions school was a group of young theologians who, in the late 1880s, influenced theology and the church first at Göttingen and then over wider circles, handling exegesis and church history in a way that made an impact not only on Protestant but also on Roman Catholic theology (Modernism) and on the dialogue with the world religions. In OT and NT scholarship the history-of-religions school helped to prepare the way for form criticism and redaction criticism and made methodolog…