Religion Past and Present

Get access 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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(9 words)

[German Version] Church, Catholicity of the Church


(874 words)

Author(s): Oberdorfer, Bernd | Nicol, Martin
[German Version] I. Ethics 1. In a broad sense, sociability denotes the fundamental anthropological structure of human beings as social animals. But the Greek concept of the ζῷον πολιτικόν/ zṓon politikón already suggests a narrower understanding, since it addresses the specific way of life of free citizens, relieved of the burden of obtaining the necessities of life, in which the destiny of human beings is realized. Loosely based on this tradition, with special attention to Aristotle’s theory of friendship ( Eth. Nic. VIII and IX) and influenced by aspects of Pietism and th…

Social Change

(339 words)

Author(s): Schieder, Rolf
[German Version] This technical sociological term does not cover the multitude of change processes within a society but attempts to provide a theoretical framework for profound changes in the social structure itself. The first systematic presentation of the concept was published by William F. Ogburn (1886–1959), who deliberately isolated it from such concepts as evolution, development, and progress. He was unwilling to associate himself with any theory of development, optimistic or pessimistic, cy…

Social Classes

(8 words)

[German Version] Class Statistics/Social Classes

Social Contract

(776 words)

Author(s): Kersting, Wolfgang
[German Version] Social contract theories are socio- and politico-philosophical conceptions that consider the legitimation of political authority and social order to be grounded in a hypothetical contract entered into by free, rational, and equal individuals to improve their lot on a pre-social context under idea, non-compelling conditions. Such theories make universal capacity to consent their fundamental criterion of legitimacy. Restriction of freedom in any form, from the establishment of state…

Social Darwinism

(6 words)

[German Version] Darwinism

Social Democracy, German

(1,992 words)

Author(s): Däubler-Gmelin, Herta | Schmude, Jürgen
[German Version] I. History and Present Situation The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) was an outgrowth of the General German Workers’ Association, founded by F. Lassalle in 1863, and the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany, founded by A. Bebel in 1869; they merged in 1875 to form the Social Democratic Workers’ Party. The name was changed to the Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1890. In the party’s Eisenach Program of 1869, Bebel said: “Today’s political and social conditions are unjust in the extreme. . . . The struggle to free the working…

Social Disciplining

(190 words)

Author(s): Schubert, Anselm
[German Version] is a term coined by the historian G. Oestreich for the military and bureaucratic control of people’s life and work in an absolutist territorial state. In a broader sense, it denotes the structural social homogenization of subjects in modern (and early modern) states by formal moral control and church discipline. The term was used heavily in the research paradigm ofconfessionalization (Schilling). The concept is related to the theory of N. Elias – recently challenged – that the structure of our complex modern society since the ¶ Middle Ages has meant increasing sel…

Social Education

(1,623 words)

Author(s): Thiersch, Hans
[German Version] In Germany the term social education ( Sozialpädagogik) is generally used alongside social work in the doublet social education/social work; alternatively it may be used only for one specific, fundamental aspect within the broader context of social work, although this latter use has not gone unchallenged. This situation is the result of developments in social work during the past half century. This article will briefly trace the tradition of social education and then describe the nature of social work today. I. The Term and its History Social education as assistanc…

Social Ethics

(124 words)

Author(s): Stroh, Ralf
[German Version] Social ethics deals with the proper ordering (Order) of human coexistence – as intended, because it respects the transcendental conditions of the conditio humana. It is the indispensable counterpart to individual ethics, which examines the intended form of an individual’s life praxis. Since both social and individual ethics seek to unravel the ethical implications of one and the same transcendental concept of the conditio humana, they cannot be at odds within a single fundamental anthropological conception. Conflict can arise only between diff…

Social Gospel

(984 words)

Author(s): Toulouse, Mark G.
[German Version] is a loosely organized movement that developed among Protestants in the United States in the late-19th century. Precise dates for the movement’s beginning and ending are not easily identified. The Social Gospel combined traditional evangelical piety with a new call for the redemption of the social order. Impulses that led to the movement are found in at least four distinct sources: 1. Social crises external to the church, rooted in the economic struggles of a modern industrial soc…

Social History

(4,845 words)

Author(s): Kaiser, Jochen-Christoph | Schaper, Joachim | Hezser, Catherine | Leutzsch, Martin | Herrmann, Ulrich | Et al.
[German Version] I. Terminology and Theory In its scientific exploration of the past, all historiography aims at a synthesis in the sense of a valid overview of what has gone before. At best, however, the quest can succeed only paradigmatically and typically, because any reconstruction of an histoire totale is doomed to failure. Nevertheless historiography cannot abandon the ven-¶ ture of viewing history (History/Concepts of history) as a whole, because otherwise the incalculable mass of detail would rule out any interpretation of historical processes. …


(3,591 words)

Author(s): Altvater, Elmar | Ruddies, Hartmut | Dorn, Jacob H.
[German Version] I. Terminology The word socialism can denote a theoretical school of thought, a political movement (Parties), and a way of organizing the state and society. As a theoretical school, modern (as distinct from premodern) socialism emerged in the 19th century as a response to the unreasonable demands of dynamically expanding capitalistic control of the means of production (Capitalism). All conceptions of socialism share rejection of the individualistic profit principle based on a private …

Socialism and Theology

(8 words)

[German Version] Religious Socialists

Socialist Parties

(1,318 words)

Author(s): Brakelmann, Günter
[German Version] Lorenz v. Stein’s Der Socialismus und Communismus des heutigen Frankreichs (1842) provided the first systematic survey of the group of socialist and communist theoreticians (Socialism, Communism) in France in the first half of the 19th century. Stein understood their various philosophical, sociocritical, and future-oriented blueprints as responses to the social and political situation of the emerging proletariat under the conditions of a capitalistic economy (Capitalism). The attempts of w…


(1,371 words)

Author(s): Bochinger, Christoph | Mette, Norbert | Schweitzer, Friedrich
[German Version] I. Religious Studies The term socialization is used in various academic fields, especially sociology, (social) psychology, and the educational disciplines (Education, Theory of ). Already used by É. Durkheim in 1907, it experienced a wave of popularity in the 1960s and again in the 1980s. Initially it emphasized the formation of individuals by society; recently it has focused more on the interaction between individuals’ own activity and outside influences and between individuation and …

Social Liberalism

(536 words)

Author(s): Schwarke, Christian
[German Version] The term social liberalism covers a variety of movements in various periods and places; all have combined the liberal tradition of the 18th century with the social challenges of modern industrial societies. ¶ There is no generally accepted definition, but the core of social liberalism has always been the same: the demand for moderate state intervention in the economy to mitigate the consequences of glaring social differences. In contrast to the ideas of socialism, the priority of the individual over society is emphasized. The ideas and programs of social liberal…

Social Movements

(884 words)

Author(s): Jähnichen, Traugott
[German Version] I. Definition Social movements are agents of social change that concentrate on revolutionary transformation of society (social-revolutionary movements), reform within an existing social system (reform movements), or defense or restoration of a status quo (resistance movements). They play a central role in understanding social conflicts and analyzing social change. II. History The expression social movement arose in Europe in the late 18th century, initially in Britain and France. Its earliest clear use in Germany is in the work of Lo…

Social Partners

(6 words)

[German Version] Partnership

Social Policy

(651 words)

Author(s): Cansier, Dieter
[German Version] A basic function of the liberal state is to enable people to enjoy maximum freedom for the best possible exercise of their opportunities to live self-determined lives. The requirement of free decision also implies freedom from constraints imposed by others in the economic sphere and leads to the system of a market economy. In this system, limits must be placed on the market that facilitate fair and socially just results. The freedom to enter into contracts must not be used as a we…

Social Psychology

(1,678 words)

Author(s): Fraas, Hans-Jürgen | Huxel, Kirsten | Santer, Hellmut
[German Version] I. The Concept Social psychology studies the modes of social experience and behavior and the interaction processes both of individuals and between individuals and social systems (Community and the individual) of varying complexity (microsystems like partnerships, families [Family], groups; mesosystems like organizations and institutions; macrosystems like social, political and cultural entities), as well as the relationship of social systems to each other. The basic issues, which are…

Social Question

(1,023 words)

Author(s): Jähnichen, Traugott
[German Version] I. Definition The term social question is linked indissolubly to the social history of the 19th century; it denotes the diagnoses of the crises produced by the emergence of industrial society and the strategies for dealing with it. By the 1840s, soziale Frage was already in use in Germany as a translation of the French question sociale; against the background of dramatically rising mass poverty and the first food riots, it summarized various social transformations that were experienced as extreme crises. In particular, we can identify …

Social Reform

(347 words)

Author(s): Bayer, Stefan
[German Version] By social reform, we mean the reform of the existing social security system in general. The need for such a reform in the Federal Republic of Germany is clear for several reasons. Expenditures related to social policy, more than half of all government spending, consumes the lion’s share of all public spending. In the year 2000, the statutory social security system alone cost 416 billion euros. At present the total “social budget,” which includes government spending ¶ occasioned by distributional policy (such as social welfare and unemployment assistance), …

Social Research, Empirical

(725 words)

Author(s): Feige, Andreas
[German Version] Empirical social research is a significant requirement for the social sciences (sociology, psychology, ethnology, economics) to the extent that they consider themselves factual sciences. It comprises the development and application of methods and techniques for discovering theoretically relevant information about social issues and situations, confirmed by explicitly systematic study. This information includes (a) objective data (e.g. legal structures, institutional structures, str…

Social Safety Net

(605 words)

Author(s): Cansier, Dieter
[German Version] In Germany, anyone who is unemployed, disabled, sick, or care-dependent is supported by a system of various transfer payments. Until 2004 social welfare provided a basic level of security for all the needy, both the disabled and those able to work. The long-term unemployed came under unemployment assistance. Social welfare and unemployment assistance were changed by the social legislation of 2004. Now a distinction is made between the disabled and those able to work. Since Jan 1, …

Social Sciences

(595 words)

Author(s): Schäfers, Bernhard
[German Version] I. Like many other terms in the language of politics and society, the term social sciences emerged in France in the late 18th century ( sciences sociales) and spread in the late 19th century. It is a collective term for the academic disciplines devoted to human sociality in its various forms and senses. The German term Gesellschaftswissenschaften, often treated as synonymous, is not quite accurate, since strictly speaking only sociology, politology (Political science), and economics relate unambiguously to society ( Gesellschaft). All other disciplines called…

Social Science Statistics

(550 words)

Author(s): Kretzschmar, Gerald
[German Version] The notion of social stratification, which implies a sequence of superimposed ¶ social strata (or layers), is inspired from the model of geological stratification and originated in American structural functionalism. Various efforts to analyze social inequalities in modern societies lie at the root of the concept of social stratification, for which there is no generally accepted definition. While “social stratum” serves as a generic term for caste, estate, or class, it is also used as a synonym for “social class,” or as a concept that is in fact not to be confused wit…

Social Security

(700 words)

Author(s): Cansier, Dieter
[German Version] Social security has a long history in Germany. The golden age of social legislation was the end of the Bismarck era. The year 1883 saw the introduction of statutory health insurance, followed by accident insurance in 1884 and disability and old age insurance in 1889 (Security, Social). Social changes associated with the breakdown of the traditional security community of peasants and artisans led to the emergence of a workforce dependent on wages (Pay and reward: II), which ceased …

Social State

(1,223 words)

Author(s): Kaiser, Jochen-Christoph
[German Version] I. Term and History The concept of the social state needs to be distinguished from that of the welfare state. The former emphasizes the responsibility and cooperation of all for socially just structures within a society; the latter tends to suggest a “nanny state” that guarantees social security (Security, Social) and is concerned primarily with the redistribution of social resources. The social state attaches great importance to subsidiarity, i.e. helping people to help themselves th…

Social Welfare

(374 words)

Author(s): Muckel, Stefan
[German Version] is secondary, non-contributory public assistance to needy individuals. The oldest form of social benefit (Social safety net, Social security), it developed out of poor relief (Poor, Care of the), with roots going back to the public law codes and poor laws of the 15th and 16th centuries. Today the function of welfare is no longer just to guarantee the minimum necessities of life. It is intended to put the recipient in a position to live a life commensurate with human dignity. In Ge…

Social Work

(1,010 words)

Author(s): Kaiser, Jochen-Christoph
[German Version] I. Definition Since the early 20th century, social work has been defined as “organized assistance on the part of the state and municipalities, public corporations, and private organizations . . . provided to individuals, families, and groups to avert internal and external hardship and meet their essential needs” (Heyne, 917). Related concepts are relief and social welfare. The term Sozialarbeit was accepted only gradually in Germany, obviously influenced by the Anglo-American term social work and the notion of social work as a distinct profession. II. Organiz…

Societas Liturgica

(234 words)

Author(s): Pahl, Irmgard
[German Version] The Societas Liturgica was founded in Driebergen, the Netherlands, in 1967 on the initiative of Wiebe Vos. Its is an international ecumenical association for liturgical research and renewal, with the purpose of promoting ecumenical dialogue on liturgical questions and serving the unity of the church (Liturgical studies: II, 3). Vos was already pursuing the same goal in 1962 when he founded the quarterly Studia Liturgica, which became the official organ of the Societas Liturgica in 1987. As of Jul 1, 2003, the society had 455 members on all con…

Société des Missions Étrangères de Paris (MEP)

(214 words)

Author(s): Legrand, Hervé
[German Version] Founded in 1663 (a mission seminary since 1660) on the initiative of lay members of the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement, the society was supported by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. Its Instructions name three purposes: to reduce the dominance of Spanish and Portuguese missionary patronage in Asia, to adapt to local customs and cultures, and to create an indigenous clergy. As vicars apostolic, subject directly to Rome, its bishops ordained indigenous secular priests. The society, which served as a model for some ten similar societies, has…

Societies, Benevolent

(364 words)

Author(s): Gohde, Jürgen
[German Version] are combinations of sponsoring organizations or institutions that represent the common professional interests and individual interests of those concerned to public policy makers (Politics) and society as a whole; they also facilitate self-organization. They are dedicated to the common good. Today there are some 3,600 such societies in Germany. As a rule, the criterion for membership is engagement in not-for-profit activities. Societies are usually organized (Voluntary associations…

Societies of Apostolic Life

(155 words)

Author(s): Kalb, Herbert
[German Version] The societies of apostolic life found today in both the Eastern Uniate churches and the Latin Church came into being in the late 16th century. To avoid the ecclesiastical and social isolation imposed at that time by the legal corset of monastic life, quasi-monastic communities were formed that aimed at a more flexible community structure. The unfortunate definition in CIC c. 731 notwithstanding, these societates are societies of common life without monastic vows, but – depending on their individual constitutions – they make commitments of othe…

Societies, Theological

(534 words)

Author(s): WilhelmGraf, Friedrich
[German Version] The roots of scientific societies go back to the learned societies of the Enlightenment. In the secular form of private associations, scholars began joining in specialized societies in the post-Napoleonic period (Vormärz); they wished to articulate their interests, influence public opinion, and organize discussions of central questions in their fields. Communication within these societies took the form of congresses, circular letters, and specialized journals. Historians of cultur…


(6,607 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert | Kippenberg, Hans G. | Thiel, Winfried | Wehr, Lothar | Münch, Richard | Et al.
[German Version] I. Terminology The word society ( societas, société) has changed from a term denoting particular forms and modes of human coexistence to a term (in both sg. and pl.) denoting the totality of human coexistence; it has thus become the basic term of the theoretical sciences that deal with human coexistence. The German equivalent, Gesellschaft (from OHG sal, “room,” and selida, “dwelling place”), suggests ties that arise from sharing the same room (cf. Geselle, “apprentice,” etymologically “someone ¶ sharing accommodations” with a master) or belonging to the sa…

Society for Ethical Culture

(166 words)

Author(s): Noll, Mark A.
[German Version] was founded in New York in 1876 by F. Adler. Raised a Reform Jew (Reform Judaism), Adler came to reject traditional notions of monotheism, though he continued to look at the Hebrew Scriptures and the person of Jesus for inspiration. Adhering to the slogan, “deed not creed,” Adler encouraged the efforts of individuals rather than formal institutions and ritualized traditions. The Society for Ethical Culture with its regular Sunday services and Adler’s humanistic addresses became th…

Society for the Propagation of the Faith (SPF)

(335 words)

Author(s): Collet, Giancarlo
[German Version] The Society was formed from what had been four separate church organizations officially declared pontifical institutions in 1922 and 1980; its purpose is to promote the worldwide mission of the Catholic Church (Mission: II, 3). It structure is defined in its 1980 statutes. The Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith was founded in Lyon in 1822 by M.-P. Jaricot and a group of laity; it was introduced into Germany as the Franziskus-Xaverius or Ludwig-Missionsverein (know…

Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG)

(277 words)

Author(s): Carter, Grayson
[German Version] The SPG was established under royal charter by T. Bray in 1701 to supply the “want of learned and orthodox ministers” in the plantations, colonies, and “factories beyond the seas.” The rapidly expanding British Empire presented both challenges and opportunities for the Church of England. The SPG set out to “settle the State of Religion” for the colo­nists before undertaking “the conversion of the Natives.” During the 18th century the SPG’s efforts focused on the American colonies,…

Society of Jesus

(7 words)

[German Version] Jesuits

Society of the Divine Word (Steyler Missionaries)

(242 words)

Author(s): Rivinius, Karl Josef
[German Version] The Society of the Divine Word (Societas Verbi Divini, ¶ SVD) was founded by A. Janssen, a secular priest, on Sep 8, 1875, in Steyl in the Netherlands. He intended the Mission House to be a missionary training center, but it soon developed into a religious congregation with simple public vows. Its statutes were confirmed by the local ordinary on Jan 23, 1889; papal approbation was granted on Jan 25, 1901, definitive approval of the constitution on Apr 5, 1910. The generalate was at the moth…


(955 words)

Author(s): Hauptmann, Peter
[German Version] This term, first used in the 17th century, denotes the main stream of the anti-Trinitarian movement (Antitrinitarians), moderated in many respects by F. Socinus after 1579. The Socinians explicitly kept the Trinitarian formula in the command to baptize (Matt 28:19). According to the Racovian Catechism, anyone who rejected it could not be a Christian. It was the Early Church’s doctrine of the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son and the personhood of the Holy Spirit that the…

Socinus, Faustus

(162 words)

Author(s): Hauptmann, Peter
[German Version] (Dec 5, 1539, Siena – Mar 3, 1604, Lucławice, near Cracow), a leading thinker of the antitrinitarian movement (Antitrinitarians, Socinians) of his era, shaped its churches in Poland and to some extent in Transylvania. Born a patrician, he served from 1562 to 1574 as a jurist at the Medici court in Florence; inspired by his uncle Lelio Sozzini, who did not believe the doctrine of the Trinity, he devoted himself to theological study, primarily at Basel, from 1572 to 1578, attracting attention with his first writings (including De Jesu Christo servatore, printed in 1594).…


(579 words)

Author(s): Meisinger, Hubert
[German Version] Sociobiology has improved our understanding of the social life of human beings and animals on the basis of a neo-Darwinian theory of evolution (Neo-Darwinism; cf. Meisinger, 187ff., with bibl.). Grounded in ethology (Behavioral research) and building on population genetics and the theory of kin selection, sociobiology was popularized in the 1970s by Edward O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins, becoming a separate area within biology. It was intended to take its place as a fundamental dis…


(5,316 words)

Author(s): Schäfers, Bernhard | Leppin, Volker | Meyer-Blanck, Michael | de Boutemard, Bernhard Suin | Knoblauch, Hubert
[German Version] I. Definition Sociology is an empirical social science; its field of study encompasses the relatively enduring forms and structures of social action (Action, Science of ) and the resultant social units, from entities like the family and kinship group and social groups to large-scale organizations and states. The word itself is an artificial combination of Latin socius (“companion, fellow”) and Greek logos (“word, truth,” in an extended sense “knowledge”). It appears for the first time in vol. IV of the Cours de philosophie positive of A. Comte (1838). As a scie…

Sociology of Knowledge

(525 words)

Author(s): Kreinath, Jens
[German Version] The sociology of knowledge inquires into the social conditions under which knowledge is generated, acquired, and communicated. Its beginnings are closely interwoven with positivist criticism of religion and ideology (Religious criticism, Ideological criticism). K. Marx pioneered the sociology of knowledge with his recognition that the content of knowledge is conditioned by social and economic factors. E. Durkheim began instead with the forms of knowledge; starting with an analysis…

Sociology of Religion

(3,710 words)

Author(s): Knoblauch, Hubert | Mürmel, Heinz | Otto, Eckart | Ebertz, Michael N. | Stuckrad, Kocku v. | Et al.
[German Version] I. Terminology The sociology of religion studies religion’s social aspects and manifestations, clearly including religious institutions, organizations, and social groups. It also studies more situational forms, less clearly defined, such as gatherings, ceremonies, and collective rituals (e.g. processions [Rite and ritual]). In an extended sense, characteristic of the German-language tradition since M. Weber, religious sociology deals with all social or socialized behavior focused on…

Sociology of the Church

(1,158 words)

Author(s): Daiber, Karl-Fritz | Feige, Andreas
[German Version] I. Practical Theology The systematic study of the church as a social entity (Churched) began with A. v. Oettingen in the 19th century. In the context of practical theology, the church studies published by P. Drews beginning in 1902 produced accurate descriptions of the life of the church. These were joined in subsequent decades by smaller individual studies, especially of the religiosity of industrial workers. Pastoral sociology began to take shape in France and the Netherlands, buil…

Sociology of Youth

(849 words)

Author(s): Ferchhoff, Wilfried
[German Version] In the early 21st century, youth studies as an empirical discipline is increasingly becoming an interdisciplinary subject, to which scholars from various fields contribute, including social anthropology, philosophy, social history, biology, psychology, education, medicine, and sociology. It embraces sociologically based attempts that draw on both single and multiple disciplines to cast light on the circumstances and lifeworlds of young people in various historical, social, cultura…
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