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Oral Tradition

(2,353 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
One could say that Western culture is coming to the end of a phase in its history, which has been characterized by literacy and the dominance of the written texts. Technologies like telephone and radio as well as computers controlled by speech contribute to the rise of a new type of oral tradition, as do cultural trends toward deviating from traditional prescribed texts or agendas, such as the value placed on improvisation in → music, → theater and religious services. The current emphasis on → d…

Architecture, Sacred

(194 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
If religion is to be a vital institution in society, buildings are needed: from a walled approach or entranceway to a cave, to pieces of architecture reserved exclusively for religious use. Buildings for worship are places where gods are thought of as dwelling, where their images are displayed, and where persons show their reverence through gifts. The altar is not always the central point. The Greek temple is rather a treasure house for votive gifts, while the sacrifice is offered on the altar i…

Ecstasy

(129 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Unlike → enthusiasm, when God or the Spirit enters human beings, in ecstasy (Gk., ek-stasis, ‘standing out of’) human beings ‘leave’ themselves, so that they lose consciousness and self-control. The concept is variously differentiated. In the psychological sense, euphoria (→ Emotions/Feelings) can be included. The anthropology of religion has especially described the techniques of the release of the spirit or → soul from the body by dance, rhythm, or drugs. In a context of the history of religions, the applic…

Miracles

(1,626 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Miracles are a basically ambivalent element of religion, as they are both expected to occur or be believed in as a part of religious life and are also liable to arouse criticism and skepticism. Miracles occur outside the course of everyday existence, provoking both belief and unbelief. Miracle Narratives Narratives about miracles serve to substantiate the activity of an otherwise invisible God in the world, whom faith and piety require to be willing and able to intervene in a crisis or to demonstrate various divine attributes. Miracle narrativ…

Exegesis

(178 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Exegesis (Gk., ‘explanation’; etym., ‘out-leading,’ ‘ex-position’) denotes the interpretation or explanation of a text or a passage of a text, especially one from the Bible, and especially at the hands of an expert. In Greek sanctuaries, exegetes stood ready to ‘translate’ oracles of the god into human speech, or to explain to strangers the meaning of the chunks of boulder, or the tree, in the sanctuary, having to find an answer for everything. In theology, professionals concern themselves with …

European History of Religion

(3,506 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The Project 1. a) The project of a European history of religion is new. It is to be distinguished from two other perspectives on the same object. On the one hand, there is church history that finds religion, by definition, in the Church, with extra-ecclesial religion taken for heresy, paganism, and secularization. In such a view, any ‘religion’ is an illegitimacy. The counter-thesis presents Christianity as a late and foreign, Eastern, religion, which has suppressed “Europe's own religion” (Sigrid…

Monarchy/Royalty

(1,340 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Fascination with Another World Although functioning monarchies are very rare, the lives of royal families keep fascinating people. Even when royalty are the objects of scandal, they are regarded with a certain envy. We tend to project our dreams of an ideal life onto royal families. Whatever their lapses, they remain idols, as did Lady Diana, estranged wife of the heir to the British throne, who was fondly remembered as the ‘Queen of Hearts’ after her fatal accident in 1997. Sacredness of the King or Queen In modern societies with democratic institutions, the death of the head of…

Hereafter

(323 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
A hereafter, in the raw sense of ‘the other side,’ necessarily corresponds to the fact that a boundary is traced when a dead person must be withdrawn from the world of the living, to be buried beyond a boundary, a stream, or a cemetery wall, in a special area. Here, in ambivalent reciprocity, are both the ‘disposal of’ the corpse, lest the living suffer the peril of contamination (→ Purification/Hygiene/Bodily Grooming), and the ‘provision for’ the departed in the life after death. But the conceptualization of a life after death als…

Violence

(139 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Theologically, it can certainly be concluded that all religions have the goal of peace. But the opposite goal can just as easily be deduced. The rejection of violence among the historical conditions of a religion's emergence says nothing as yet about the possibility, in other situations, of justifying violence, and founding it in religion. The historical experience of Christians' crusades and Islamic tolerance occasions doubts as to whether the images of the ‘sword of Islam’ and that of the ‘God…

Middle Ages

(1,527 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The understanding of the Middle Ages by later ages in Europe has passed through a number of phases. Even the term ‘Middle Ages’ is a modern convention. Enlightenment thinkers tended to use the expression ‘the dark ages’ to refer to this period, in order to set it up as a gloomy foil, making the light of the new era shine all the brighter. In the confrontation of the French Revolution of 1789, both the revolutionaries, on the one hand, and the nobility and the Church, on the other, laid claim to …

Sunday/Sabbath

(1,061 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
1. a) In most Western societies where Christianity has been the dominant religion for a long time, Sunday has a special place as a ‘day off.’ As a day of rest and pause from labor, however, Sunday is not very old. In societies defined by the sowing, cultivating, and reaping of nutrients, season and weather govern the rhythm of work and rest. Animals must always be cared for: feeding, milking, and carrying out the dung must be seen to. The farm family cannot take a ‘day off.’ The dyers had their ‘blue Monday,’ when they dried and oxidized the wool that had been steeped in dye on Sunday. The Sabbath, a …

Antiquity

(4,038 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Biases of periodization 1. a) The Protestant humanists accustomed us to a tripartition of history: geographically into old world, new world, and third world; and historically into antiquity, Middle Ages, and modernity.1 This determination also provides a help in practical ordering, especially in our method of counting by centuries ( saecula), as it expresses an assessment of our times. Our enumeration of centuries begins with the ‘birth of Christ,’ runs forward and backward, and, with ‘new world’—or ‘new age’—indicates the hope of an era ‘accor…

Superstition

(68 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The designation is a polemical one, connoting a distance taken from the acts of persons, other than oneself, which must be called religious, but which either seem exaggerated ( superstition), or are forbidden by official religion. Pastors, especially, and (other) intellectuals use it to disparage the piety of the ‘uneducated folk.’ From an atheistic viewpoint, any religion can be called superstition. → Atheism, Polemics, Religion Christoph Auffarth

Rebirth

(516 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Rebirth may refer to both the idea of → reincarnation and that of being spiritually born again. Reincarnation involves a person being physically reborn into the world after having exited it through death in a previous individual existence. The previous existence cannot be consciously remembered by the individual, but still affects the person. For example, deeds and experiences in a previous life may influence the type of incarnation a person now has. Around 1900 European religious historians tended to see reincarnation as a distinguishing characteristic of what was …

Cross/Crucifixion

(1,217 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The ‘Crucifix Affair’ 1. In the folk schools of Bavaria, a crucifix hangs over the chalkboard—a ‘Cross with the Nailed One,’ the suffering Christ. In 1995, a parental couple insisted that children not be required to gaze upon this mute sign of Christian faith unless they shared the faith. In the Weimar Constitution, they argued, and in the German Basic Law, the state had obliged itself to ‘neutrality of Weltanschauung,’—neutrality when it came to a worldview—so that this display of the crucifix contradicted the basic rights of every citizen. True, unlike the case…

Government/Rule/Politics/State

(3,689 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Secular and Religious Power 1. a) As Jesus is interrogated before Pilate as to whether he has planned an overthrow of Roman rule, the Roman governor asks him: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answers (in John 18:33–19:30): “My kingdom is not of this world.” The philosophically trained general presses the higher ruler of the world, as he has understood things, to defend himself; however, the latter does not see the meaning of his mission in the preservation of his life: “You would have no power …

Creation

(250 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
When nineteenth-century scientists presented the claim that they could offer an exhaustive explanation of the world, the question of how life arose became a crucial issue. Their theories were set in competition with religious accounts. The confrontation climaxed on the horns of a dilemma: what need is there for a God if nature makes itself according to eternal rules? Or: what was there before the primordial soup, the Big Bang? To establish the nonexistence of God is no longer one of the goals of science. The creation account is simply a myth. A modern creation story, like Steven Weinberg's Th…

Humanism

(180 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
There are various nuances to the term ‘humanism’ which arise out of its diverse uses throughout European history. The Renaissance has often been characterized as the age of humanism because of its fascination with and idealization of human achievement in the literature, philosophy, and art of antiquity, which were then being re-discovered. As an ideological continuation of this trend, humanism came to signify a belief in the value and dignity of the human being and an optimistic image of humanit…

European History of Religion: Time Chart

(2,453 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
In terms of the indication of the entry above, European history of religion is bound up with an urban public character. Its orientation is to ancient discussions and methodical approaches of the logic of a quasi-Aristotelian method of ‘theo-logy,’ and the logic of the majority of religions. This situation was reached with the twelfth-century ‘Renaissance.’ In contrast, the antiquity of the Eastern Mediterranean extends to the demise of urban culture with the capture of Constantinople (‘Byzantium’) in 1453 (→ “Antiquity,” Time Chart). Era 1: Europe appropriates the culture of …

Holocaust

(281 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The term ‘holocaust’ was proposed at the beginning of the 1960s by Elie Wiesel, who himself was nearly killed at Auschwitz. This term was intended to designate the unspeakable murder of six million European Jews, whose destruction was bureaucratically organized and industrially executed. Although the term originated in America, it has become current in Europe especially through the American media. The Greek word holókaustos is a translation of a term from the Hebrew Bible meaning ‘wholly burned’ or ‘burnt offering’ and describing the type of sacrifice in wh…
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