Religion Past and Present

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Subject: Religious Studies

Edited by: Hans Dieter Betz, Don S. Browning†, Bernd Janowski and Eberhard Jüngel

Religion Past and Present (RPP) Online is the online version of the updated English translation of the 4th edition of the definitive encyclopedia of religion worldwide: the peerless Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (RGG). This great resource, now at last available in English and Online, Religion Past and Present Online continues the tradition of deep knowledge and authority relied upon by generations of scholars in religious, theological, and biblical studies. Including the latest developments in research, Religion Past and Present Online encompasses a vast range of subjects connected with religion.

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(363 words)

Author(s): Astley, Ian
[German Version] also known as Guanshiyin or Guanyin in Chinese, Kanzeon or Kannon in Japanese; Lokeśvararāja. The name means roughly “the one who looks down upon the world.” He is one of the oldest and most beloved Bodhisattva of Buddhism. In eastern Asia, AvalokiteŚvara is often portrayed in a female form; in Tibet the cult of Tārā arose as a female counterpart. The Dalai Lama (I) is regarded as his incarnation. Associated with the Buddha Amitābha, the iconography often depicts AvalokiteŚvara in a triad with him and the Bodhisattva Mahāsthāmaprāpta. The best-known documentary sourc…


(175 words)

Author(s): Michaels, Axel
[German Version] (Sanskrit, masc., lit. “descent”) is the Sanskrit expression, already attested as early as around the 5th century bce, for the appearance or incarnation of a Hindu god, especially of the high god Viṣṇu. The Mahābhārata and Purāṇa texts disseminate the idea that the gods descend from their residences and assume human or animal fo…

Ave Maria

(167 words)

Author(s): Flynn, W.T.
[German Version] (Lat., “Hail Mary”; antiphon and prayer, also title of a responsorial and an offertory). The first part of the text is a conflation of Luke 1:18 and 1:42, combining Gabriel's and Elizabeth's salutations to Mary. The second part (beginning at Sancta Maria) is a late petition (probably 15th cent.); they became inseparable by the early 17th century. The musical settings reflect the origins of the text. The popularity of the text grew with th…

Aventinus, Johannes

(134 words)

Author(s): Müller, Rainer A.
[German Version] (1477, Abensberg – 1534, Regensburg) corresponded during his study in Ingolstadt and Vienna with C. Celtis; after further study in Cracow and Paris, he became royal tutor at the ducal court in Munich. Appointed official Bavarian historian in 1517, he wrote his chief work Annales ducum Boiariae (1519/21), which he revised as the Bayerische Chronik (1533) and in which he showed himself to be a nationalistic humanist. In 1528, Aventinus, who corresponded with Melancthon, but did no…

Averroes, Ibn Rušd

(545 words)

Author(s): Endreß, Gerhard
[German Version] (1126, Córdoba – 1198, Marrakesh), Spanish-Latin for “Ibn Rušd” (Abūl-Walīd Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad) was an Islamic legal scholar, philosopher and physician; through his Aristotle commentary, he was the most important mediator of Arabic Aristotelianism to medieval Europe. As a judge and teacher, he was a respected authority on Islamic law. His majo…


(410 words)

Author(s): Niewöhner, Friedrich
[German Version] The collective name “Averroists” ( Averroistae) was first used in 1270 by Thomas Aquinas in De unitate intellectus contra Averroistas. At the end of the 15th century, H. Savonarola first called the Averroisti a school ( scuole). The term “Averroism” was first used in 1852 by E. Renan on the title page of his Averroès et l'averroïsme. Renan claimed that M. Maimonides (died 1204) and his disciples were the first to teach a peripatétisme averroistique. Today scholars speak of various kinds of Averroism: Jewish Averroism (represe…


(1,140 words)

Author(s): Panaino, Antonio
[German Version] (Pahlavi: abestāg) is the sacred book of the Zoroastrians; many etymologies were suggested for the name of this collection of religious texts; probably it signifies “praise” or “(religious) knowledge.” Avesta literature was orally composed in different periods and places, but the language, which cannot be located with any certainty in a restric…


(10 words)

[German Version] Ibn Gabirol, Solomon ben Judah


(563 words)

Author(s): Rudolph, Ulrich


(183 words)

Author(s): Schmidt, Tilmann
[German Version] (Vaucluse), belongs to the duchy of Provence. It has been an episcopal see since the 4th/5th centuries. Surrounded by Venaissin, a papal duchy since 1274, Avignon, situated favorably for commerce on the Rhône, …

Avitus of Vienne (Saint)

(149 words)

Author(s): Vielberg, Meinolf
[German Version] (Alcimus Ecdicius Avitus; c. 450, Vienne – 518, Vienne) belonged to the senatorial aristocracy and was related to the emperor Avitus. Having become bishop of Vienne in 494, he mediated between the homoean Burgundians (Arius/Arianism) and the Roman church; in 516 he succeeded in converting Sigismund, the heir to the throne, after Catholic education. In 517, he presided ov…


(247 words)

Author(s): Becker, Hans-Jürgen
[German Version] (“Sayings of the Fathers”) is a tractate in the fourth order of the Mishnah ( Neziqin). As a purely haggadic (Haggadah) work in the tradition of proverbial wisdom, Avot occupies a special position with respect to both form and content. Rabbinic tradition shows that it did not originally belong to the Mishnah, but it had already been included in the Amoraic period – in a shorter version, different f…

Avot de Rabbi Nathan

(250 words)

Author(s): Becker, Hans-Jürgen
[German Version] One of the so-called “extracanonical tracts” of the Talmud (Babylonian Talmud). It is not a “Gemara” (Talmud) to Avot , but rather a (purely haggadic [Haggadah]) commentary and expansion on it in the style of Midrash and sometimes of the Tosefta. The language is Hebrew, and the rabbis named mostly belonged to the Tannaitic period (Tannaim). It is unclear whether the title refers to the Tanna Rabbi Nathan of the same name and whether it is meant to indicate authorship. The Avot R. Nat. has been handed down in two very different versions (A …


(194 words)

Author(s): Hauptmann, Peter
[German Version] (Nov 25, 1620, Grigorovo beyond the Kudma – Apr 14, 1682, Pústozersk), spokesman for the Russian Old Believers. Was designated protopope (archpriest) for Jur'evec – Povolžskij in 1652, and after 1653 moved to the forefront of the opposition against the cultic reforms of Patriarch Nikon with the consequence that he was immediately dispatched to Siberia until 1663. Excommunicated in 1666, from 1667 onwards he was held prisoner on the lower reaches of the Pechora. There he carried on with the fight until his death – he was burned at the stake – by composing his own vita (


(7 words)

[German Version] Revival/Revival Movements

Axial Age

(174 words)

Author(s): Woschitz, Karl M.
[German Version] The idea of a common “axial age” of human history as the center of all history was developed by K. Jaspers in his Origin and Goal of History (1959). Jaspers sees in the period 800–200 bce – India (Upanishad, Buddha), Iran …


(86 words)

Author(s): Haile, Getatchew
[German Version] The ancient capital of Ethiopia, located in Tigray (northern Ethiopia). Although founded before the …

Ayala, Felipe Guamán Poma de

(166 words)

Author(s): Süss, Paulo G.
[German Version] (c. 1550 – c. 1619, San Cristóbal de Sondondo, Lucanas [Ayacucho]; place of death unknown) was a chronicler and a pilgrim “searching for the poor of Jesus Christ” ( El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno, 1936, 1109 [1119]; 1988, III, 1015). A descendant of Inca aristocracy, he left a graphic chronicle comprising more than 400 pen-and-ink drawings with commentary, in which he castigates religious and political conditions in the Viceroyalty of Peru and makes proposals for a buen gobierno (good government). From the perspective of…


(164 words)

Author(s): Halm, Heinz
[German Version] “Sign of God.” In Shihite Islam this is an honorary title for the person with the highest spiritual authority. Since the 14th century it has been documented as an individual surname. The title was defined terminologically for the first time in the 20th century in the context of a self-consolidating hierarchy of spiritual dignitaries. Since then it represents the highest category of the mujtahids, i.e. Islamic scholars ( ʿulamā), who are qualified by means of studies and exams to make decisions independently and on their own responsibility ( ijtihād) on …

Azariah, Vedanayakam Samuel

(283 words)

Author(s): Koschorke, Klaus
[German Version] (Aug 17, 1874, Vellalanvilai, South India – Jan 1, 1945, Dornakal), Indian church leader and one of the most distinguished representatives of the early Asian mission and ecumenical movements. The son of a village pastor, he came into contact with diverse Christian groups as …
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