Religion Past and Present

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(583 words)

[German Version]

The adjective numinous and its nominalized form the numinous were introduced into the phenomenology of religion by R. Otto in his book Das Heilige. It is derived from Latin numen (“divine will/activity/being”), translated by Otto himself as “supernatural being without a more precise concept”). In subsequent literature based on Otto’s work, the Latinized form numinosum came into widespread use, but Otto himself never used it.

In Otto’s work, the concept of the numinous functions as a qualifier of the holy, to distinguish it from the use of holy in liberal theology. It d…

Cite this page
Feldtkeller, Andreas, “Numinous”, in: Religion Past and Present. Consulted online on 19 January 2022 <>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004146662, 2006-2013

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