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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(1,917 words)

Author(s): Schwarz, Joachim
1. Concept and Origin An oath is either a solemn assertion or a promise. We find this form of enhancing reliability in almost all cultures. Oaths perhaps arose from the attempt to link gestures, acts, words, and the reaction of the world around in such a way as to reduce any doubt as to the validity of a communication. Thus raising the hand at an oath might originally have been a gesture of peace. The beginning of an oath—“If I do this, may it be so”—conveys the tone of agreement and trustworthiness…

Obadiah, Book of

(323 words)

Author(s): Thiel, Winfried
The Book of Obadiah opens with the phrase “The vision of Obadiah,” a superscription obviously intended to reflect the prophetic functions of Obadiah, about whom we know nothing. Although the ¶ name may have been a fictitious one attached to an originally anonymous collection of oracles against Edom, an actual individual may be behind the book, someone generally identified as a cult prophet who was active shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 b.c. (see vv. 11–14). H. W. Wolff suggests he may have been a cult prophet who a…


(2,254 words)

Author(s): Bondolfi, Alberto | Stubbs, David L.
1. Concept Obedience is a central but much debated concept in the Christian tradition. At the heart of the tradition is the idea that life should be lived in obedience to God’s will as expressed in God’s Word (Word of God). As the divine Word is always mediated or embodied in creaturely forms, however, discussion about obedience to God necessarily involves decisions about where and to what extent the ways, purposes, and commands of God may be discerned in creaturely and fallen reality. Thus, while…


(1,694 words)

Author(s): Rudin, A. James
1. History According to tradition, a plague that swept Germany in 1633 spared the Bavarian village of Oberammergau, and in gratitude for their deliverance the townspeople promised to honor God by performing a play the following year that depicted the death of Jesus (Passion, Account of the; Religious Drama). In following years the town repeated the play, and now, almost four centuries later, it still continues to do so every ten years. The 2000 production involved six months of performances that attracted nearly 500,000 viewers from all parts of the world. The elabo…


(6 words)

See Subjectivism and Objectivism


(183 words)

Author(s): Primetshofer, Bruno
The term “observance” (Lat. observo, “observe, watch, follow, keep”) is used legally with reference to custom or to mere tradition that has not yet reached the stage of custom. In Roman Catholic religious orders it is the effort to follow exactly the original rule without any later relaxations. In the Franciscan controversy regarding poverty in the 13th and 14th centuries (Franciscans), the reformers called themselves Observantines or Observants. Favoring a strict observance among Cistercians are th…

Occasional Services

(2,258 words)

Author(s): Pfatteicher, Philip H. | Neidhart, Walter
1. Development The church’s “occasional services” are called such not because they are used infrequently but because they are rites that have been developed for specific occasions. The term is thus comparable to the variety of poetry called occasional verse. Occasional services are often seen as a special form of ordinary worship. Instead of assembling because of the weekly rhythm or the cycle of the church year, the congregation meets because one of its members is crossing a threshold from one stage of life to another. As it does for…


(564 words)

Author(s): Hoheisel, Karl
From Lat. occultus, “secret, hidden,” the term “occult” has reference to phenomena, processes, and practices in nature, the spiritual world, or the extraterrestrial sphere that point to hidden forces that escape both normal sensory observation and the knowledge that rests on it. From the end of the 19th century, the term “occultism” came into use primarily for practical or theoretical dealings with transcendental phenomena of this kind. Today it is usually related to the occult worldview that is b…


(2,531 words)

Author(s): Forman, Charles W.
Overview Overview “Oceania” is the U.N. term for the major area encompassing Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. The last are divided into Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. (For information on Australia and New Zealand, see the separate articles.) The region of Micronesia, the westernmost of the three island groups, lies mostly above the equator. Among others, it includes the following territories and independent nations, listed here in approximate west-to-east order (information in parentheses shows the current or last…

Office of Christ

(231 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich
From the days of the early church, with a view to interpreting the title “Christ,” it was the tradition, unformulated doctrinally, to speak of Christ’s priestly office (munus sacerdotale) and his kingly office (munus regium). The question was left open whether we should speak instead of a triplex munus by adding the prophetic office (munus propheticum). J. Calvin took this view in Inst.  2.15, though not in all his writings. So did the Catechismus Romanus 1.3.7, Lutheran orthodoxy, and, even more so, Reformed orthodoxy. What was in view was a threefold off…


(218 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
The word “offices,” derived from Lat. officium (office, duty), is used in two main senses in the Roman Catholic Church. 1. “Office” denotes an ecclesiastical office (Ministry, Ministerial Offices). The reference is to a divinely or ecclesiastically ordained ministry and the acceptance of a spiritual mission (see 1983 CIC 145.1). In the broad sense the whole of the Christian way of faith constitutes the ministry, all believers being called “to exercise the mission which God entrusted to the Church” (can. 204.1) and pledged to participation in it (cans. 208–23). In the Roman curia, t…

Offices, Ecclesiastical

(7 words)

See Ministry, Ministerial Offices

Official Principal

(257 words)

Author(s): Stein, Albert
In the Anglican Communion the official principal is the person entrusted by a bishop with the exercise of judicial authority. The same function is discharged by the chancellor or commissary general of the Consistory Court. The Orthodox Church has no comparable office, since the bishop himself exercises jurisdiction. Nor is there any place for an office of this kind in the jurisdiction of Protestant churches. In the Roman Catholic Church the officialis, or judicial vicar (vicarius iudicialis), represents the diocesan bishop in ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The 1983 CIC 141…