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(785 words)

Author(s): Wyrwa, Dietmar
1. The Donatists were a North African schismatic church of the fourth and early fifth centuries. They fell into schism because, against the realities of their own time, they wished to be loyal to the ancient principles inherited from Tertullian (ca. 160-ca. 225) and Cyprian (ca. 200–258). With naive enthusiasm they clung to the ideal of a Spirit-filled church of saints and martyrs that could not tolerate anything unclean and that therefore had to suffer persecution. The main period also saw an infusion of social and revolutionary elemen…

Old Roman Creed

(397 words)

Author(s): Wyrwa, Dietmar
“Old Roman Creed,” or “Romanum,” is the scholarly name for the earlier and shorter form of the Apostles’ Creed as we have it in its original Greek (with probably also a simultaneous Latin edition) in Marcellus (…

Rule of Faith

(713 words)

Author(s): Wyrwa, Dietmar | Bromiley, Geoffrey W.
1. Early Church The phrase “rule of faith” (regula fidei), equivalent to “rule of truth,” is a term and concept that we first find in Irenaeus (ca. 130–ca. 200). It then occurs in almost all second- and third-century church fathers but is less common in Constantinian usage. As the defining genitive shows, what is meant is the substance of Christian faith, or truth as a standard and normative authority. In the rule of faith the church has preserved the quintessence of Christian belief, and it has shown its fidelity to the apostolic tradition by maintaining the r…


(3,230 words)

Author(s): Timpe, Dieter | Känel, Rudolf | Veltri, Giuseppe | Wyrwa, Dietmar | Lilie, Ralf J.
[German Version] I. Definition – II. Historical Expansion I. Definition Hellenism as a periodization concept goes back to J.G. Droysen, who gave a positive assessment of the amalgamation of Greek and Near Eastern cultures, seeing this as a characteristic feature of the period and as a precondition for Christianity. Thus, instead of a negative judgment of the period equaling it with a time of decline, its distinct character was highlighted in the definition of the concept. The Greek usage (ἑλληνισμός/ hellēnismós, for the assimilation of non-Greeks to the Greek language and way of life; cf. ἑλληνισταί/ hellēnistaí ¶ in Acts 6:1; 9:29) and its modern understanding explain the genesis of the scholarly concept, but are no more binding than Droysen's historico-theological specifications for the periodization concept that has since become established. The accessibility of the East since Alexander the Great, but also colonization, urbanization and civilizatory cosmopolitanism, changes in the economic and …

Hellenization of Christianity

(435 words)

Author(s): Wyrwa, Dietmar
[German Version] Awareness of the hellenization of Christianity as a historical phenomenon in the Early Church first arose in the period of Humanism and the Reformation and was already subject to contrary evaluations then, as is evident from the comments of Erasmus (exemplary importance of cultural blending for the revival of Christian piety), of G. Budé (emphasis on the differences for fear of a relapse into paganism) and Melanchthon (a demand to preserve the purity of the gospel in view of the infiltration of philosophy immediately after the beginnings of the church). The theme of the hellenization of Christianity, which henceforth circulated in all confessional camps, developed its full explosive force when first turned against existing church dogma, namely by Antitrinitarians and especially in the first, now methodologically untenable, monographic treatment of the question, authored by the Anglican convert J. Souverain and published anonymously and posthumously. The thesis, however, could be associated not only with the idea of decline, but also with that of progress and so was ultimately incorporated into the newly developing history of dogma. The form in which the thesis continues to define the discussion traces back to A. v. Harnack, who, with the strict means of historical-critical research, demonstrated the formal and material changes in dogma to be a work of the Greek spirit on the foundation of the gospel. The fact that Christianity was hellenized can hardly be denied (cf. the research field Antiquity and Christianity). The concept of the hellenization of Christianity here implies that genuine thinking about faith and philosophical reason belong to different worlds from the outset. However, current attempts by Catholic scholars to interpret the conciliar decisions of 325 and 381 as an opposing process of de-hellenization miss the point. Equally problematic is Harnack's negative assessment of the hellenization of Christianity aimed at the destruction of the Early Church's dogma, an assessment based on philosophical premises mediated by A. Ritschl's school with the objective of overcoming metaphysics. The determinative viewpoint must be how the old world was changed by the Christian message and brought to a new historical course so that a creative synthesis between biblical faith and Greek ontology became possible and the God of the philosophers as envisioned in Greek thou…

Irenaeus of Lyon

(690 words)

Author(s): Wyrwa, Dietmar
[German Version] (c. 135 – c. 200). Irenaeus, who compiled the products of the Early Church's theological work in the 2nd century and effectively brought this phase to a close, may be regarded as one of the great church fathers (Patristics/Patrology) or certainly as the most significant of the “old Catholic fathers.” Originally from Asia Minor, where he had received a solid pagan education as well as his theological formation, he later moved to Gaul. As presbyter of the Lyon congregation, he trave…

Leo I, Pope (Saint)

(440 words)

Author(s): Wyrwa, Dietmar
[German Version] (pope Sep 29, 440 – Nov 10, 461). Born to a Tuscan family, Leo early on played an influential role among the clergy in Rome, where he came forward with important initiatives and measures ¶ to protect the purity of the faith. From his pontificate there survives a substantial literary corpus: 173 lette…