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Supernatural Birth

(463 words)

Author(s): Beinhauer-Köhler, Bärbel
[German Version] In myths and legends, the motif of supernatural birth distinguishes deities and saviors who procreate, give birth, and are born supernaturally. Zeus’s potency is a token of his divinity and enables him to beget additional deities. Goddesses sometimes give birth without conception; examples include Hephaestus’s birth from Hera and Gaṇeśa’s birth from Parvati. Paradoxically, virginity (Virgin birth) is associated with goddesses of fertility (Ishtar, Venus). Gods appropriate the bir…

First Human Being

(1,147 words)

Author(s): Beinhauer-Köhler, Bärbel
[German Version] I. Religions tell of an Urmensch, or first human being, as an element of etiological myths in cosmogony (Creation), anthropogony or anthropology: A primal being anticipates or establishes constants of cosmic or earthly occurrences through his/her anthropomorphic body or corresponds to the first human being. II. These myths fulfill different functions. 1. They establish and justify social norms. The body parts of the Vedic puruṣa, Sanskrit for “human being,” become, in a micro-/macrocosmic analogy, the hierarchy of the castes ( Ṛgveda, IX 90). Notions of prima…


(1,407 words)

Author(s): Beinhauer-Köhler, Bärbel | Zenger, Erich | Volkmann, Stefan
[German Version] I. Concept Revenge as a form of compensation provides a model for social behavior. Religions interpret it and extend the concept to relationships between human beings and gods as well as between the living and the dead. Religions vary in their assessment of revenge. They can consider it a legitimate form of justice (talion in tribal societies, the notion of revenge in the OT, as in Gen 4:23f.) or as an unethical mode of conduct to be overcome (Buddhism; Matt 6:12). Usually revenge is a peripheral aspect of religion a…


(4,151 words)

Author(s): Beinhauer-Köhler, Bärbel | Koch, Dietrich-Alex | Brändle, Werner
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. New Testament – III. History – IV. Fundamental Theology – V. Dogmatics I. Religious Studies 1. Terminology The terms inspiration (from Lat. inspiratio, “insufflation”) and theopneusty come from the NT. Prophecy comes through the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:21); in 2 Tim 3:16, the adjective ϑεόπνευστος/ theópneustos) ¶ describes Scripture as being “inspired by God.” In many religions, we encounter the idea that communications enter the human sphere through the mediation of other entities. Plato ( Phaidr. 265) was already systematizing m…


(3,214 words)

Author(s): Beinhauer-Köhler, Bärbel | Otto, Eckart | Reeg, Gottfried | Krawietz, Birgit | Ogris, Werner
[German Version] I. Concept Talion is derived from the Roman lex talionis, in which it referred to a regulated act of retribution – in keeping with a legal norm that was meant to place limitations on self-administered justice. This stands in contradiction to the general understanding of talion as “doing as you are done by,” also in the sense of self-administered justice. In modern usage, talion is thus particularly understood in the sense of blood revenge or vendetta. The latter meaning is therefore focuse…

Prophets and Prophecy

(8,753 words)

Author(s): Beinhauer-Köhler, Bärbel | Jeremias, Jörg | Gray, Rebecca | Hayoun, Maurice-Ruben | Aune, David E. | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies 1. The term. In the significance ascribed to religious phenomena, prophecy surpasses individual experiences of mysticism, ecstasy, and inspiration, as well as the situational activities of established functionaries such as priests (Priesthood), shamans (Shamanism), or diviners (Divination). Revelations ascribed by prophets to the deity they serve give ethical guidance to a community. The term προφήτης/ prophḗ tēs derives from ancient Greek religion, where it referred initially to local specialists, who are hard to …


(6,592 words)

Author(s): Beinhauer-Köhler, Bärbel | Wischmeyer, Wolfgang | Köpf, Ulrich | Strohm, Christoph | Hauptmann, Peter | Et al.
[German Version] I. History of Religion – II. The Early Church – III. Middle Ages, Reformation, Counter-reformation – IV. The Modern Period – V. Martyrs of the Orthodox Church – VI. Judaism – VII. Islam – VIII. Missiology I. History of Religion The term martyrium (Greek μαρτύριον/ martúrion) was coined in early Christianity, where it denotes a self-sacrificial death in religious conflict as a witness to faith Historical and systematic references are found in many contexts, in which comparable terms imply something slightly different. For example, the Islamic šahīd, “witness…