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Francis of Assisi

(718 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich A.
Francis of Assisi (1181/82–1226), baptized Giovanni Bernardone, was the founder of the Franciscan Order. The son of a wealthy cloth merchant, Peter Bernardone, and his French wife, Pica, Francis experienced the kind of wild youth appropriate for a later saint. After participating in a war between his hometown Assisi and Perugia in 1202 and being held captive for a year, and after a lengthy illness, he underwent a conversion (§1) during the years 1204–7, the details of which are difficult to unde…

Church Polity

(28,214 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich | Dingel, Irene | Ohst, Martin | Weitlauff, Manfred | Pirson, Dietrich | Et al.
[German Version] I. Early Church – II. Middle Ages – III. Reformation – IV. Modern Period – V. Present – VI. Practical Theology I. Early Church The church polity projected and in part realized in early Christianity is one of the most significant institutional inventions of Late Antiquity. Since it has survived into the present, with many modifications and variations, it also represents an element of continuity between the ancient world and the modern world. Church polity as used here means all the institutions affecting the external organization of early Ch…

Optatus of Milevis

(282 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich
[German Version] Between 364 and 367, Optatus, an African bishop, wrote a treatise against the schismatic Donatists (Donatism), who had regained their strength as a result of the religious policies of Julian ¶ the Apostate. Initially his work comprised six books with an appended dossier of relevant documents, in response to a work by Parmenianus, the Donatist bishop of Carthage. During the pontificate of Siricius, Optatus added a seventh book. His argument was both historical and theological: in his polemical and apologetic rec…


(270 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich
[German Version] (died after 431), a disciple of Pelagius, was born into an aristocratic family and became a public advocate. It was in Rome, c. 399, that he met the Syrian priest Rufinus, who denied the existence of original sin (Aug. Pecc. orig. III, 3). Pelagius and Celestius left ¶ Rome c. 410 in the face of the Gothic invasion (Goths). They fled to Carthage, where Celestius was condemned by synodal decree (c. 411/412), inter alia on account of his rejection of the doctrine of original sin. Though Celestius appealed to Rome, his sentence was confirmed …

Lyon and Vienne, Martyrs of

(338 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich
[German Version] In his Historia ecclesiastica (V 1), Eusebius of Caesarea includes fragments of a letter written by the churches of Lyon and Vienne in Gaul to the Christians in Asia and Phrygia during the episcopate of Bishop Eleutherus of Rome, with a hagiographically stylized account of a contemporary persecution of Christians. Clearly the Christians were initially detained on the basis of accusations; in conformity with the edict of Emperor Trajan, those who confessed their faith were imprisoned …

Marius Mercator

(170 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich
[German Version] (died before 450), early Christian writer who engaged in the conflict over the doctrine of grace and the debate over Christology. Around 418 ce in Rome he published works against the Pelagians (Pelagius), who had been condemned by the pope and emperor. In 429, now a monk in a Thracian monastery with ties to Constantinople, he addressed an attack on Pelagius's disciple Celestius to Emperor Theodosius II ( Commonitorium super nomine Caelestii). His theological position was dependent on Augus-¶ tine of Hippo, Jerome, and the party of Cyril of Alexandria. He col…


(287 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich A.
[German Version] With his son and disciple Isidore, Basilides was active as a teacher of theology in the time of the emperors Hadrian (117-138) and Antoninus Pius (138-161). His Exegetica was a commentary on what was probably his own recension of Luke; two fragments have been preserved: Clement of Alexandria, Strom. IV, 81.1-83.1, and Acta Archelai 67.4-12. Fragments of the following works of Isidore have been preserved: Ethica (Clem. Alex. Strom. III, 1-3), On the Attached Soul ( Strom. II, 112.1-114.2), and An Explanation of the Prophet Parchor ( Strom. VI, 53.2-5). Additional dox…

Dionysius of Corinth

(154 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich
[German Version] held office at the time of Roman bishop Soter (166?–175?). Eusebius of Caesarea discusses his correspondence ( Hist. eccl. IV 23) and mentions eight letters to the churches or bishops of Lacedaemonia, Athens (reference to Dionysius Areopagita as the first bishop there), Nicomedia, Gortyna (and other churches in Crete), Amastris (and other churches on the Black Sea), Knossos (reply from Bishop Pinytos), Rome (mentioning Peter and Paul as founders of the churches of Rome and Corinth and as martyrs; cf. Eus. Hist. eccl. II 25.8), as well as…

Prosper of Aquitaine (Saint)

(294 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich
[German Version] (born in southern France; died after 455), cultured lay theologian and supporter of Augustine. Prosper’s oeuvre includes epigrams, poems, Augustinian florilegia, and a commentary on the Psalms based on Augustine of Hippo. In 428 he wrote to Augustine, challenging him to defend his doctrine of grace. He had been impressed by the criticism of certain monks in Marseille, who maintained that Augustine’s concept of predestination broke with tradition and ignored the value of moral and ascetic efforts…

Bishop Lists

(316 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich A.
[German Version] The first list of bishops is found in Irenaeus, Haer. III 3.3 (c. 185 ce) as a list of names of twelve Roman bishops who had handed down in the apostolic succession the teaching entrusted to them by the apostles Peter and Paul. This construction was used by Irenaeus to legitimize his own position of being in possession of the complete apostolic teaching against the claim of the Valentinian school (Valentinianism) to a secret tradition interpreting and transcending scripture. Examples of the succession of teachings are found in ancient Judaism (cf. m. Ab. 1.1–2.8) and in …


(449 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich A.
[German Version] is the conventional term for a Christological conception that denies Christ's preexistence and generation before all time, maintaining instead that God adopted the human Jesus as Son. I. Two theologians from Asia Minor are mentioned as exponents of Adoptionism in early Christianity: Theodotus the Money-Changer (or Banker) and Theodotus (or Theodotus of Byzantium). As heads of schools in Rome in th…


(1,489 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich | van Ess, Josef
[German Version] I. Christianity – II. Islam I. Christianity 1. Early Church Docetism (Gk δοκέω/ dokéō, “to seem”) can be defined as any type of Christology that (a) limits the true humanity of the Son of God Jesus Christ through the assumption of a body of special quality, that (b) teaches the suffering and death of Jesus Christ as merely apparent, or that (c) characterizes the hum…

Orange, Synod of

(297 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich
[German Version] On Jul 3, 529, on the occasion of a church dedication, Caesarius of Arles convoked a synod in the southern French city of Orange to consider the controversial doctrine of grace (Grace, Doctrine of) espoused by Augustine of Hippo. Not long before, a synod in Valence, in the diocese of Vienne, then a rival see to Arles, had dealt with the same topic. The Synod of Orange approved a document, presumably edited by Caesarius, comprising 25 canons framed by an introduction and a credal s…


(452 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich A.
[German Version] Priscillian was of noble descent. From 370 ce, he led a devotional movement that spread rapidly in Spain and southern Gaul, advocating asceticism (stricter fasting, poverty, celibacy), charisma (Spirit/Holy Spirit), and intensive private study of the Bible and the Apocrypha as the true form of Christianity for clergy and laity. The Priscillianists were soon suspected of Gnostic/Manichaean heresy (Gnosis, Manichaeism), also of superstition and magic. At the Synod of Saragossa (380), sharp criti-¶ cism of Priscillian apparently led to no formal condemnat…


(962 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich
[German Version] The Homoeans were a group of bishops in the Early Church who defined their faith in such a way that the relationship between Jesus Christ and his Father was to be described as ὅμοιος/ homoios (similar). Homoeanism refers to the first phase of the development of a confessional orthodoxy within the Roman Empire and the emergence of a multiconfessional “commonwealth” (Fowden) at its edges. I. Homoeanism arose in the conflicts of the 4th-century imperial church: from the time of the Synod of Serdica ¶ (342 or 343), there was a schism that was manifested in doctrinal …

Domnus of Antioch (I)

(99 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich
[German Version] was appointed bishop of Antioch after his predecessor Paul of Samosata was deposed by two Antiochene synods (264 and 268 ce). His episcopate was probably brief (268–271?). Since Paul was unwilling to step down, Domnus was able to occupy the church building only after Emperor Aurelian, who had been asked for a ruling, decreed that those who were in epistolary contact with the bishops in Rome and Italy were legally entitled to it (Eus. Hist. eccl. VII 30.18–19). Winrich Löhr Bibliography E. Venables, DCB I, 1877, 878 E. Prinzivalli, EEC I, 1992, 246f.

Philoponus, John

(214 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich
[German Version] (died after 575 in Alexandria), important Christian philosopher and exegete in Alexandria. A student of the Neoplatonic philosopher Ammonius Hermeiou, inter aliahe wrote commentaries on the writings of Aristotle and Porphyry of Gaza, and worked in the fields of grammar, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. In his commentary on Aristotle’s Physica he developed the so-called theory of impetus, according to which, for example, someone throwing a stone transmits power to it directly. Theologically important are his polemics against…

Domnus of Antioch (II)

(126 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich
[German Version] (5th cent.), bishop of Antioch, spiritual student of Euthymius the Great, ¶ nephew and, after 442, successor of John of Antioch, was accused and deposed at the Council of Ephesus (449) led by Dioscorus of Alexandria (Flemming, 114–151). Domnus, sympathetic with the theology of Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia, turned …


(2,236 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich | Markschies, Christoph | Holmes, Stephen R.
[German Version] I. Church History Pelagius was an ascetic and theological writer from Britain. Before 410 he taught in Rome, and in 411/412, following the capture of Rome by the Goths, went to Palestine after a short stay in North Africa. His teaching, according to which the possibility of sinlessness was an essential part of human nature, provoked the criticism of Augustine and Jerome. This teaching had its setting in the pastoral care of members of the Roman elite. Pelagius stated that when one re…


(157 words)

Author(s): Löhr, Winrich
[German Version] (late 4th cent.), exegete. A member of the church of the Donatists (Donatism), he was condemned by the church’s head, Parmenianus of Carthage, because he taught that God’s promise of a universal church was not abrogated by the presence of sinners in the church. He made a fruitful contribution to Latin exegesis (V, 1) through his commentary on Revelation (possibly surviving in a frgm. on Rev 6:6–13) and his Liber regularum (surviving incomplete; “the first Christian exegetical textbook” [Alexander]), used intensively by Augustine of Hippo ( Doctr. chr. III 30–37); it…
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