The Brill Dictionary of Religion

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(415 words)

The meaning of the Greek word eídolon is ‘image,’ ‘shadow,’ or ‘phantom,’ or also, in a narrow sense, ‘sacred image.’ In Greco-Latin ecclesiastical language, the concept attaches to the ‘image of the gods of the pagans,’ a ‘false god.’ In this sense, it denotes polemically an object or person shown an extravagant, immoderate reverence, or ‘deified.’ In a neutral sense, ‘idol' can also designate the material picture of a deity. In this meaning, it plays an eminent role in all cultures, whether as canon…

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Frohn, Elke Sophie and Lützenkirchen, H.-Georg, “Idol”, in: The Brill Dictionary of Religion, Edited by Kocku von Stuckrad. Consulted online on 19 January 2021 <>
First published online: 2006
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004124332, 20051223

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