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Mysticism

(17,207 words)

Author(s): Brück, Michael v. | Gordon, Richard L. | Herrmann, Klaus | Dan, Joseph | Köpf, Ulrich | Et al.
[German Version] I. The Concept – II. Religious Studies – III. History – IV. Philosophy of Religion – V. Practical Theology – VI. Islamic Mysticism – VII. Hindu Mysticism – VIII. Taoist Mysticism I. The Concept The concept of mysticism is closely linked to the development of the history of religion in Europe and the term must not be taken and applied uncritically as a general term for a phenomenologically determined group of phenomena in other religions (see also II, 3 below). Attempts at definition are either phenomenolog…

Bahir, Sefer ha-Bahir

(281 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (“the Book of Brilliance”), also known as the Midrash of Rabbi Nechunia ben ha-Kanah (after the 2nd-cent. sage to whom the first paragraph in the book is attributed). It is the first work of the Kabbalah, and was written anonymously around 1185, probably in the Provence or in northern Spain. It contains around 200 paragraphs, which are attribu…

Ethics

(18,301 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert | Antes, Peter | Otto, Eckart | Horn, Friedrich Wilhelm | Leicht, Reimund | Et al.
[German Version] I. Concept and Scope – II. Religious Studies – III. Bible – IV. Judaism – V. As a Theological Discipline – VI. As a Philosophical Discipline (Business Ethics, Discourse Ethics, Economic Ethics, Ethics, Bio-Medical Issues, Ethics Commissions, Ethics Education, Ethics of Conviction, Ethics of Duty, Ethics of Goods, Ethics of Responsibility, Evolutionary Ethics, Fraternal Ethics, Individual Et…

Symbols/Symbol Theory

(9,049 words)

Author(s): Berner, Ulrich | Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard | Recki, Birgit | Schlenke, Dorothee | Biehl, Peter | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Use of the Greek word σύμβολον/ sýmbolon in a sense relevant to religious studies is attested quite early in the history of European religions; Dio of Prusa (1st/2nd cent. ce), for example, used it in his speech on Phidias’s statue of Zeus in Olympia ( Oratio 12.59). In this context, the Greek term reflects the problem posed by images of the gods: what is intrinsically inaccessible to human vision (Vision/Intuition) is somehow to be represented visually. In religious studies, especially in the phenomenology of religion, the concept of sy…

Confession (of Faith)

(12,201 words)

Author(s): Bochinger, Christoph | Kreuzer, Siegfried | Reumann, John | Staats, Reinhart | Holze, Heinrich | Et al.
[German Version] I. History of Religions – II. Bible – III. Church History – IV. Systematics – V. Practical Theology – VI. Law – VII. Judaism – VIII. Islam I. History of Religions The term confession refers to various phenomena, including the confession of faith and of sin. A confession of faith can be understood as an officially sanctioned, formulaic summary of the central doctrines of a religious or a confessional community (“denomination”). Recited in cultic procedures and/or in everyday piety, i…

Anti-Semitism/Anti-Judaism

(9,075 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph | Schäfer, Peter | Schaller, Berndt | Thierfelder, Jörg | Frey, Christofer
[German Version] I. Definitions and Problems - II. Greco-Roman Antiquity- III. New Testament (Primitive and Early Christianity) - IV. Christian Antiquity to the Beginning of the MiddleAges - V. The Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period - VI. German Anti-Semitism in Recent History - VII. Systematic Theology I. Definitions and Problems The term “anti-Semitism” in its narrowest sense relates to a racist ideology that emerged in France and Germany in the last decades of the 19th century and de…

Shekhinah

(1,527 words)

Author(s): Janowski, Bernd | Reeg, Gottfried | Dan, Joseph | Moltmann, Jürgen
[German Version] I. Old Testament The word shekhinah (שְׁכִינָה), a postbiblical noun from the root שׁכן/ škn, “settle, dwell,” denotes an aspect of God’s presence in the world, usually translated as “indwelling” or “habitation.” The term indwelling suggests the Egyptian theology of cultic images, according to which the deity in heaven “descends” upon his image in the earthly temple and “unites” with it (Assmann). The earliest reference to the Old Testament shekhinah theology is in 1 Kgs 8:12f., in Solomon’s words at the dedicatio…

Yehiel ben Yekutiel Anav of Rome

(134 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] Jewish physician, halakhist, and ethical writer in the second half of the 13th century in Italy. His best-known work is the ethical treatise, Maʾalot ha-Midot (“The ascending ethical qualities”), written c. 1287, one of the most important ethical works of that age. Yehiel bases his teachings on both traditional rabbinic education and rationalistic philosophical ideology which was dominant among Jewish intellectuals at that time. His attitude is moderate and worldly (among the recommended qualities, “weal…

Providence

(4,529 words)

Author(s): Friedli, Richard | Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard | Bosman, Hendrik | Söding, Thomas | Plathow, Michael | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Certainty is a fundamental human need. The answers given by religions to unsettling experiences cover a broad cultural spectrum. The issue is (1) to foresee fate as much as possible, (2) to integrate it into a cosmology, and (3) thus to master it. In general terms, we can identify four ways of containing the unforeseeable. 1. Being at the mercy of natural events. When they are powerless, people feel at the mercy of a powerful, threatening fate. Archaic forms of religion and shamanistic experiences (Shamanism) document how t…

Eliyahu, Gaon of Vilna

(179 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Seletz near Horadna, April 1720 – Vilna, April 1797) was the most important halakhic authority (Halakhah) in East European Judaism in the last third of the 18th century, the leader of Lithuanian Jewry, and the leader of the opposition ( mitnaggedim) to the emerging Hasidic movement (Hasidism). He was called “gaon” (“highness,” the title of the leader in a high Rabbinic school), in recognition of his position of leadership in talmudic studies. He wr…

Abraham ben Azriel

(152 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] was one of the major authors belonging to the Kalonymus circle of 13th-century Rhineland esoterics and mystics; he was among the third generation of scholars produced by this school. He came to Speyer from Bohemia to study with Rabbi Judah the Pious (died 1217) and especially with Rabbi Eleazar ben Judah of Worms, whom he referred to as his immediate teacher. He is the author of Arugat ha-bosem (“Bed of Spices”: Song 5:13), completed in 1234, an exhaustive commentary on the piyuttim of the Jewish prayer book. Its encyclopedic compass makes Arugat ha-bosem unique …

Nagara, Israel ben Moses

(185 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Naǧara; c. 1555, Damascus – c. 1625) is regarded as the great poet of the “golden age” of Jewish culture of the 16th century in Zefat. Following the destruction of the Jewish communities in Spain (1492) this Upper Galilean region, where various kabbalistic schools (Kabbalah) were situated, flourished. Although Nagara is often regarded as a kabbalistic poet, the Kabbalah did not occupy a meaningful place in his work. He served as the rabbi of the Gaza Jewish community for several …

Kalonymus

(192 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] Kalonymus, one of the most prominent Jewish families into which important personalities were born between the 9th and 13th centuries. Their descendants exerted great influence on Jewish culture in Italy, Germany, and the Provence. Originally perhaps from southern Italy, the earliest mention of this family occurs in the Chronicle of Achimaaz (11th cent.). According to widespread tradition, part of the family was brought to Mainz from Italy by Charlemagne and rose to become the leading family of the Rhineland from the 9th century o…

Zohar, Sefer

(471 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] The Zohar is the most important book of the Kabbalah (II) and one of the most profound works of mysticism (III, 2.b.) in the Middle Ages. It joined the Bible and the Talmud as the three most sacred works of Judaism. According to G. Scholem it was written mainly by Rabbi Moses ben Shem Tov de Leon in northern Spain between 1270 and 1291; according to Isaiah Tishby it was written in the year de Leon died in 1305. Since 1280 de Leon was distributing sections of the Zohar, claiming th…

Zefad

(195 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Safed, Sefat; bibl. Heb. תפַצְ/ ṣepat), is a small town in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel which served as a center for Jewish mystics from the 16th century (Land of Israel). Many kabbalists (Kabbalah) assembled in this town, attracted by nearby Meron with the tomb of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, the 2nd-century sage to whom the Zohar is attributed. Several main figures lived in Zefad: Rabbi Joseph Karo, the author of Shulhan Arukh, the major book of law in modern Judaism; Rabbi Moshe Alsheikh, the great sermonist; Rabbi Israel Nagara, the great litur…

Isaac ben Abraham

(177 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (the Blind; c. 1160, Posquières, Provence – 1235) was the author of the first non-anonymous kabbalistic work (his Commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah, Kabbalah) and the most prominent kabbalist in the early circle in southern France in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. It is not known whether he was blind from birth or became blind as an adult. His commentary and several other short treatises, for example, On the Secret of the Sacrifices and On the Intentions of Prayer, and the many quotations from his teachings found in the writings of his disciples, reve…

Fear of God

(3,873 words)

Author(s): Nielsen, Kirsten | Becker, Jürgen | Link, Christian | Börner-Klein, Dagmar | Dan, Joseph | Et al.
[German Version] I. Old Testament – II. New Testament – III.  Christianity – IV.  Judaism – V. Islam I. Old Testament In the OT, fear of God occurs in various reactions to the encounter with God. Fear of God encompasses both the immediate reaction of a person gripped by horror before the holy God (the numinous) and the behavior of the pious person toward God in the form of obedience and praise. Consequently, fear of God can also designate veneration of God and piety (religion). The scope of the fear of God corresponds to the breadth of the concept of God (God: II). The God of Israel is not only a nume…

Luzzatto, Moshe Hayyim

(315 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1707, Padua – May 6, 1747, Akko) is regarded as one of the most influential figures in Jewish culture in early modern times. His poems and plays, written in the fashionable Italian allegorical manner of the time, placed him in the position of the first writer of modern Hebrew literature. With a small group of adherents Luzzatto established a mystical-messianic sect (Messiah/Messianism). He claimed that a maggid appeared to him in 1727, transmitting secrets, directing his actions, and instructing him in the composition of the new Zohar , the mysti…

Nagid

(299 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Heb. נָגִיד, pl. nagidim) is the Hebrew title of the head of the Jewish community in an Arabic-speaking country. It followed the Babylonian title “Rosh ha-Gola” (“exilarch”; Resh Galuta) which developed in the early Middle Ages. In Spain, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and the Yemen there arose several dynasties of nagidim. Many Jewish poets, scholars, philosophers and scientists served in this position, and in several cases it became hereditary for three or four generations. The establis…

Baʾal Shem Tov

(337 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 1700, Okop, Ukraine – 1760, Mezibuz, Silesia), acronym: “Besht,” Baal Shem Tov, lit. “Master of the Good Name,” figuratively “Master of White Magic” was actually called Israel ben Eliezer and is considered to be the founder of the modern Jewish religious movement of the “Hasidim” (Hasidism). Hasidic tradition makes him the disciple of the prophet Achiya Ha-Shiloni (1 Kgs 11:29), who was, according to midrashic tradition (Midrash), the teacher of the prophet Elijah. The collection of legends known as Shivkhey ha-Besht (“In Praise…
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