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(281 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
The designation “chapel” derives from the place that housed the royal Frankish relic, namely, half of the cape (Lat. cappella) of St. Martin of Tours (ca. 316–97). Although chapels conceived as sacred spaces in citadels and castles were actually part of the overall concept, independent cultic spaces, normally with an altar, were also called chapels (e.g., baptismal chapels, baptisteries, funerary chapels) and were constructed usually in the shape of a cross or as a central edifice. The initial architectonic result of the veneration involving alt…


(541 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
The term “Docetism” (from Gk. dokeō, “seem”) includes a variety of meanings throughout the history of dogma, covering heretical (Heresies and Schisms) claims and doctrines about Christ (Christology). At the root of all of them lies the denial of the truth and reality of the material, earthly, and corporal existence of Christ, with the concurrent assumption that he lived among humans only in appearance, our perception of him being no more than a delusion of the senses. …

Heresies and Schisms

(3,950 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
1. Dogmatic Aspects Heresy is the opposite of pure doctrine (Orthodoxy). As schismatic deviation from the unity of faith, it belongs to the doctrine of the church. It presupposes (1) the idea of a pure doctrine that, at least in demarcation, formulates truth in doctrinal statements and thus defines the church’s unity. A verdict of heresy, however, also points to (2) criteria by which to distinguish redeeming faith in Jesus Christ from sinful falsification. Finally, to establish heresy there is need…


(160 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
The Latin word catena, “chain,” designates a form of Bible commentary that lists extracts from older commentaries for each verse. The catena first developed in the sixth century and became very common in Byzantium. Its purpose was to give a handy summary of biblical tradition. Much of the Greek exposition of the early church has…


(812 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
The early Christian writers who defended the Christian faith became known as apologists. The first apologies were legal defenses directed to the Roman emperors in the second century. Many of the names of the authors are known, and we have full copies of the apology addressed by Aristides to Hadrian (117–38) and of that of Justin Martyr to Antoninus Pius (138–61). The plea of Athenagoras to Marcus Aurelius (161–80) is similar. The literary form, which was influenced by the current persecutions, reached its height in the North African Tertullian (ca. 160-ca. 225). It then faded out, merging into the stories of martyrs. From the very first, the literary form served also as public propaganda for Christianity, and it could thus adopt other rhetorical devices. Justin Martyr defended the Christian understanding of the Bible against the Jews in a dialogue, and Minucius Felix (3d cent.) showed how to win over a pagan partner in debate. We also find the open letter, as in the anonymous Letter to Diognetus (end of the 2d cent.). Justin’s disciple Tatian (in Rome up to 172) wrote a protreptic, or exhortation, to the Greeks,…

Early Church

(2,556 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
1. Term In church history the idea of the early church has theologic…

Lives of the Saints

(829 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
The imprecise phrase “lives of the saints” describes works in the genre of hagiography. Veneration of saints has always produced descriptions of their lives presupposed by stories about them. The forms of such lives range from popular narratives and legends to more stylized literary biographies. The aim of creating historically verifiable accounts is a purely academic ideal. Only the Roman Catholic Church has a legally defined concept of saints (through its canonization process), though the understanding of the Orthodox Church is very similar.…


(646 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
The lapsi were apostates from the Christian faith during the persecution under Decius (249–51). An edict of the emperor in February 250 ordered the whole population to show loyalty to the gods of the Roman Empire by an act of sacrifice (Roman Religion). Local commissions supervised the execution of the edict and gave a certificate (libellus) for compliance. A shocking number of Christians yielded. Since the edict applied only for a set time, however, many sought readmission to the church’s fellowship. As might be expected, the question of readmission g…

Bonwetsch, Gottlieb Nathanael

(137 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
[German Version] (Feb 17, 1848, Norka, Saratow, Russia – Jul 18, 1925, Göttingen) studied Protestant theology in Dorpat (1866–1870; Tartu), Göttingen (1874/75), and Bonn (1877/78), serving churches among the Germans in the Volga in the interim. In Dorpat Bonwetsch was lecturer (1878) and professor of historical theology (1883); he was then called to …

Augustine of Hippo

(4,400 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
[German Version] (Nov 13, 354, Thagaste – Apr 28, 430, Hippo Regius) I. Life – II. Works – III. Influence I. Life

Ephesus, Councils of

(835 words)

Author(s): Mühlenberg, Ekkehard
[German Version] I. Council of 431 – II. Council of 449 I. Council of 431 1. Occasion The imperial synod called by Emperor Theodosius II at Pentecost (Jun 7) 431 was already ¶ dissolved in October because an irreconcilable division into two synods had developed. This synod only become the third ecumenical council subsequently, although not in the Apostolic Church of the East. The synod's task was to clarify legal matters – perhaps a charge leveled by four Egyptian monks against Cyril of Alexandria? – …


(13,361 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich | Luz, Ulrich | Mühlenberg, Ekkehard | Kallis, Anastasios | Döring, Heinrich
Overview Overview Christology is systematic reflection on the basis and significance of the apostolic witness to Jesus Christ, along with its expression and application throughout the history of the church. It has long been a classic part of theological teaching. It seeks to fashion explicit statements that can be tested and used in close connection with other central areas of Christian doctrine (e.g., Church; Anthropology; Justification; Hope; Ethics; Pastoral Theology). It begins, however, with implicit as well as explicit Christological statements. The…