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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Job, Book of

(1,465 words)

Author(s): Kutsch, Ernst
1. The Book and the Man At the heart of the Book of Job is a preeminently righteous man named Job (Heb. ʾiyyôb). An account is given of his thoughts and conduct when faced with extraordinary misfortune and suffering. The book is a poem (3:1–42:6) with a prose prologue (1:1–2:13) and epilogue (42:7–17). 2. Prologue and Epilogue The prologue and epilogue are a Wisdom story (1:1–5, 13–22; 42:11–15). In the face of his loss of wealth and children, Job suffers patiently. Ultimately, his fortunes are restored by Yahweh (42:12–15) after visits of sympathy from relatives and acquaintances (v. 11).…

Joel, Book of

(239 words)

Author(s): Thiel, Winfried
The Book of Joel has a strong liturgical orientation. A serious plague of locusts and drought (chap. 1) ¶ signifies the threatening proximity of the day of Yahweh (2:1–11). This setting issues in a proclamation of a day of lamentation and fasting (2:12–17), which brings about a turn to salvation (2:18–32). The day of Yahweh becomes a day of judgment on foreign peoples, while Jerusalem and Judah experience deliverance and paradisiacal fruitfulness (chap. 3). The date of the book is contested, though it may be the beginning of the fourth century b.c. (a different view is taken by W. Rud…

John, Epistles of

(775 words)

Author(s): Strecker, Georg
1. 1 John 1.1. Although 1 John is included among the Catholic Epistles, along with 2 and 3 John, it does not have the essential marks of a letter. When, though, the author calls his readers “children” and “beloved,” it shows that he was addressing specific people in a community (e.g., 2:7, 12–14). These people “believe in the name of the Son of God” (5:13). The entire church is in view, not just a single congregation. The work is thus a homily in which an introduction (1:1–4) is followed by sections that are alternately hortatory (1:5–2:17; 2:28–3:24; 4:7–5:4a; 5:13–21; Parenesis) and dogma…

John, Gospel of

(1,581 words)

Author(s): Koester, Helmut
1. Structure and Contents The main body of the Gospel of John comprises two sections: the public ministry of Jesus (2:1–11:54) and the parting discourses and the passion (11:55–19:42). The prologue, with the story of John the Baptist and the calling of the disciples, forms the introduction (chap. 1), and the resurrection stories form the conclusion (20). Chap. 21 is an addition. The first section contains narratives, which are often combined with dialogues: the wedding at Cana (chap. 2), the interview with Nicodemus (3), the Samaritan woman (4:1–42), the healing of the official’s son (4:…

John of Damascus

(964 words)

Author(s): FitzGerald, Thomas
St. John of Damascus, also known as John Damascene, was born into an affluent Christian family known as Mansour about the year 676, not long after the city’s capture by Muslims (though some date his birth to as early as 655). An adviser to Caliph Abdul Malek, John’s father, Sergius, was well respected and influential in the city’s government. As a young man, John received the best education available, much of it coming from the tutoring of Cosmas, a Sicilian monk who had been captured by pirate…

John the Baptist

(793 words)

Author(s): Thyen, Hartwig
John the Baptist is mentioned over 90 times in the canonical gospels and Acts. The only other reference of note is in Josephus Ant.  18.116–19. The accounts in the Slavonic translation of Josephus J.W.  2.110 and 168 and the Mandaica are apocryphal expansions of the Christian tradition. Luke 3:1–3 tells us that in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius (i.e., a.d. 28/29), John came on the scene with his call for “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4 and par.; Penitence). If, according to the Gospels of Matthew (cf. Matt. 3:11 and 26:28 and par.) and John, John’…

Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

(1,272 words)

Author(s): Root, Michael
The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) is an official statement of the Roman Catholic Church and the churches of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) affirming that a consensus exists between them on “basic truths of the doctrine of justification” and thus that the condemnations relating to justification contained in the documents of each church no longer apply to the other. It was developed between 1993 and 1997 and was signed by representatives of the two communions in 1999. 1. Background Lutheran-Catholic dialogues in the decades prior to the JDDJ repe…

Jonah, Book of

(354 words)

Author(s): Thiel, Winfried
The Book of Jonah is the only part of the Minor Prophets that consists of a prophet story in which a psalm (2:1–9) has been inserted. The work tells of the prophet’s attempt to evade a divine commission, the miraculous way in which God brought him back, his proclamation of judgment upon Nineveh, the penitence of Nineveh, which moves God to withhold his judgment, and the anger of Jonah that God spared the city upon its conversion, to which God responds with instruction. The main character, Jonah, is taken from a note in 2 Kgs. 14:25, referring to a prophet who proclaimed a message of salva…


(624 words)

Author(s): Koszinowski, Thomas
1. Geography and Economy The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is poor in resources, with desert occupying most of its area. Only phosphate and potash are of economic significance, followed by tourism and light industries. Although for a time Jordan could not support itself agriculturally because of low and irregular precipitation, yet with modern technology it somehow overcame its lack of water and is producing a variety of vegetables and fruits. Getting enough water, however, remains one of the chief pr…


(550 words)

Author(s): Roloff, Jürgen
Joseph is a common name in the Bible. It means “may he [God] add [more sons]” (Gen. 30:23). 1. The patriarch Joseph was the son of Jacob and Rachel. Tradition locates his grave at Shechem (Josh. 24:32; Gen. 50:25). He was the tribal head of the central Palestinian tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, generally referred to as the house of Joseph (Deut. 33:13–17; ¶ Judg. 1:22–23). He was also the hero of the Joseph story in Genesis 37 and 39–47, 50, which differs considerably, both materially and formally, from the other patriarchal narratives (Patriarchal History), and in which s…


(562 words)

Author(s): Reinalter, Helmut
1. Meaning The term “Josephinism” denotes the extension of the absolute authority of the state to all church matters other than doctrine. Flourishing particularly in Austria under Joseph II (Holy Roman emperor 1765–90), it entailed the full subjection of the church and its institutions to the interests and control of the autonomous state (Church and State). Along with dominant Enlightenment ecclesiastical policies, including religious toleration, it also contained strong reforming elements. 2. Origin Already under Joseph’s mother, Maria Theresa (succeeded to the Haps…

Joshua, Book of

(696 words)

Author(s): Noort, Edward
1. The Man and His Work Joshua (Heb. yĕhôšuaʿ, also yĕhôšûaʿ, yēšûaʿ, hôšēaʿ, Num. 13:8, 16; LXX Iēsous), the son of Nun, was originally an Ephraimite. Although different locations have been proposed for Timnath-heres, his burial place (Judg. 2:9), all the traditions are inclined to locate it somewhere in the hill country of Ephraim. His name means “Yahweh helps.” According to the reconstruction of A. Alt (1883–1956), the land conquest actually consisted of various processes of internal restructuring and of military skirmishes on a small…


(401 words)

Author(s): Spieckermann, Hermann
Josiah, king of Judah (639/638–609 b.c.), was the last significant ruler on the throne of David. The sources tell us more about what he stood for than about himself. During his reign a book of the law (probably identical with the core of Deuteronomy) was found in the temple at Jerusalem, which Josiah pledged himself and his people to keep. Cultic reform meant exclusive worship of Yahweh (Deut. 6:4–25; Monolatry) and centralization of worship (chap. 12) in Jerusalem. (Authentic material strongly shaped by Deuteronomistic redaction appears in 2 Kings 22–23; a wholly tendentious parall…

Journalism, Ecclesiastical

(6 words)

See Church Communications


(619 words)

Author(s): Winkler, Klaus
1. Infants and small children express joy in life by spontaneous movements and cries. Adults gradually become aware that a feeling of delight corresponds to happy situations, not only in the physical sphere, but also intellectually and spiritually. It must be learned that the state of joy is only one very limited state alongside other possible feelings (Childhood; Adulthood). For some individuals the dealings with various spiritual states in the course of life that affect attitudes and conduct are joyless and frustrating. Thus in the history of philosop…

Jubilee Year

(6 words)

See Holy Year


(5,560 words)

Author(s): Schwarzschild, Steven S. | Dorff, Elliot N.
1. Definition Judaism is a live historical phenomenon that has extended over more than 3,000 years and manifested itself in just about every spot on earth. To describe a phenomenon of this magnitude is obviously impossible even in many volumes (indeed, the literature on the subject is virtually unlimited)—much more so in a brief overview. All that one can hope to do is to select a few essential characteristics that seem to define Judaism and to observe their temporal and geographic development. Th…

Jude, Epistle of

(347 words)

Author(s): Merkel, Helmut | Hultgren, Arland J.
The author of the Epistle of Jude calls himself “a servant of Jesus Christ” and “brother of James” but does not tell us to whom he is writing (vv. 1–2). The cause of writing is the intrusion of false teachers into an unknown community. These teachers promote licentiousness and, in fact, deny Christ (vv. 3–4). Their judgment is depicted (vv. 5–19) in terms taken from examples in the OT and the Apocrypha (vv. 5–7, 9, 11) and by means of pre-Christian and early Christian prophecy (vv. 14–18). The recipients are admonished to cling to their “most holy faith” (v. 20), the faith “once for all entru…

Judges, Book of

(566 words)

Author(s): Becker, Uwe
1. Title and Office The Book of Judges (Heb. šōpĕṭı̂m) derives its title from the charismatic tribal heroes (Tribes of Israel) who, during the period preceding the monarchy, repeatedly rescued Israel (§1) during times of extreme distress. At the same time, they occupied a temporally restricted office of leadership. 2. Contents Three major parts can be discerned. The introduction (1:1–2:5) offers a retrospective on the ongoing land conquest of the tribes west of the Jordan (in the form of a “negative account of occupation”). The main section (2:6–16:31) contains the actual sto…


(5 words)

See Last Judgment
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