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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. Haer. IV 27.2). In contrast, 1 Pet 3:19f. certainly thinks not of the “spirits” of the dead, but of the demons of the flood imprisoned by God in the ethereal realm (Gen 6:1–4; cf. 1 Enoch 6–11; 15:3–12; 21:6, 10; Jub. 5:1–4; 10:5–11; 2 Pet 2:4; Jud 6, 13; Rev 12:7–9) transited by Christ (cf. Eph 2:2; 6:12). The background of the later Decensus mythologem …

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…

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 true prophets to foretell the truth, while false prophets and soothsayers respond to enquiries, for payment. Nonetheless, no such distinction is made between the “prophetic” predictive utterances in the following examples, which resist such classification: Samuel, a “true” prophet, receives remuneration (1 Sam 9:7f.) for a very personal prophecy (1 Sam 9:20); Agabus certainly also predicts individual calamity (Acts 21:1…

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; 2 Kgs 1. The legend concerning Elijah's ascent to heaven (2 Kgs 2:1–8) is more an Elisha tradition since it characterizes Elisha as Elijah's legitimate successor. The Elijah narratives were primarily transmitted by ¶ the prophetic groups gathered around Elisha and thus exhibit influences of the Elisha tradition (1 Kgs 17:8–16, 17–24; 2 Kgs 1:9–16). They grew further after they were recorded. 1 Kgs 17–19 constitute a “drought composition” w…


(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 the deities proclaimed their will and future events, partly through astral omens. The intensive observation of the stars also led in Mesopotamia to the development of mathemati…


(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…

Prophet, Prophecy

(6,407 words)

Author(s): Stolz, Fritz | Barton, John | Böcher, Otto
1. Religions 1.1. Definition In Greek the term prophētēs (prophet) refers to one engaged in public proclamation, as by oracles or poets. The word became significant when used to describe an OT phenomenon, as it came to denote the OT prophets in particular and then, by extensi…


(3,480 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten | Böcher, Otto | Grözinger, Albrecht
1. Basic Considerations 1.1. Distinctions No systematic hermeneutical examination of miracles in the larger sense can avoid articulating exactly which elements are to be addressed as objective facts and which as part of the concept itself. Because arguments on the two sides can no longer be adduced in support of one another, the modes in which the two aspects are examined necessarily also diverge. The remaining conceptual content prompts even further distinctions, depending on whether one is dealing with a simple or a complex concept. Only simple concepts mu…


(730 words)

Author(s): Böcher, Otto