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Predictive Prophecy/Divination

(1,842 words)

Author(s): Böcher, Otto
[German Version] I. History of Religions The phenomenon of predictive prophecy is often referred to by the related terms “promise” and “soothsaying,” which vary in content according to context. While soothsaying or divination belongs in the demonic sphere of an individual’s curiosity about his or her future, prophetic promise is invariably understood as the prediction of eschatological and collective salvation; calamity is merely “predicted,” not “promised.” The criteria offered by the Shepherd of Hermas (Herm. Mand. XI [43]) still apply: the divine Spirit inspires tr…

Evangelists, Symbols of the

(725 words)

Author(s): Böcher, Otto
[German Version] The Symbols of the Evangelists are found from the 5th century on: winged depictions of a human (angel), lion, ox, and eagle, representing the authors of the four canonical Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, respectively. This scheme was based on the Early Church's interpretation of the four living creatures (lion, ox, human, eagle) that, according to Rev 4:6…

Dragon

(1,730 words)

Author(s): Uehlinger, Christoph | Böcher, Otto
[German Version] I. History of Religions – II. History of Art I. History of Religions The word “dragon” (from Gk δράκων/ drákōn, “staring one”?) denotes especially snakes and (mostly gigantic) snake-like composite beings with a numinous aura, but also other composite beings (e.g. the Mesopotamian “lion dragon”: RLA VII, 97–99). Dragons have only positive connotations in East Asia, where they appear as kind heavenly beings, providers of rain and light, and guarantors of fertility. Dragons are also known positively in West Asia, especially in the early Sumerian period, as em…

Constellations

(1,114 words)

Author(s): Albani, Matthias | Böcher, Otto | Hübner, Wolfgang
[German Version] I. Ancient Near East and Old Testament – II. Greco-Roman World and the New Testament – III. Early Church I. Ancient Near East and Old Testament The starry heavens were the object of enthusiastic study in the ancient Near East from earliest times. This is ¶ associated with the importance of the star cycles for the calendar and with belief in the divinity of the stars (Astral religion). From veneration of the stars, astral divination or astrology developed in Mesopotamia based on the conviction that …

Descent into Hell

(2,415 words)

Author(s): Böcher, Otto | Sparn, Walter | Felmy, Karl Christian
[German Version] I. New Testament – II. Dogma and the History of Dogma – III. Art History I. New Testament Christ's descent into hell, i.e. his descent to the underworld, the realm of the dead, is, as Descensus ad inferos, one of the christological statements of the early and medieval church's confession of faith (Apostles' Creed, Athanasian Creed; Confession (of faith): III). Nonetheless, the NT does not offer a single certain text for this notion; at most, 1 Pet 4:6 may be interpreted as preaching by Jesus to the dead, before his resurrection (cf. Ign. Magn. 9.2; Gos. Pet. 10.41f.; Iren. H…

Elijah the Prophet

(2,156 words)

Author(s): Thiel, Winfried | Necker, Gerold | Böcher, Otto | Hennings, Ralph
[German Version] I. Old Testament – II. Judaism – III. New Testament – IV. Christianity I. Old Testament Elijah, an Israelite prophet in the 9th century bce, was from transjordanian Tishbe in Gilead (not yet located with certainty); consequently, he bore the nickname “the Tishbite,” but only rarely the title “prophet.” He appeared in the Northern Kingdom and was active under kings Ahab (871–852) and Ahaziah (852–851). He is said not to have died but to have been taken up by God to heaven. The traditions concerning Elijah occur in 1 Kgs 17–19; 21; …

Resurrection

(8,280 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor | Waschke, Ernst-Joachim | Stemberger, Günter | Sellin, Gerhard | Schwöbel, Christoph | Et al.
[German Version] I. Resurrection of the Dead 1. History of religions a. Resurrection as a religious category. The concept of resurrection has been shaped extensively by connotations drawn from the tradition of Christian theology. In this sense, it is understood as a unique event that takes the body and soul of a human being, separated at death, and reunites them for a new, eternal life in the next world. Here it serves to mark a distinction from other notions of a postmortal existence (e.g. reincarnation, metempsyc…

Fasting

(4,168 words)

Author(s): Freiberger, Oliver | Podella, Thomas | Böcher, Otto | Bieritz, Karl-Heinrich | Troickij, Aleksandr | Et al.
[German Version] I. History of Religions – II. Old Testament – III. Christianity – IV. Ethics – V. Judaism – VI. Islam I. History of Religions “Fasting” is a universally attested cultural technique to produce an expansion of mental and social control, power, or awareness (Asceticism) by restricting the intake of food. Many different types of and reasons for fasting can be found in the history of religions, and they are combined in various ways. Several studies have been produced with regard to individual religions …