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Monotheism and Polytheism

(5,621 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor | Müller, Hans-Peter | Hübner, Hans | Gunton, Colin
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Old Testament. – III. New Testament – IV. Philosophy of Religion – V. Dogmatics I. Religious Studies Monotheistic ideas of God, which take as their starting point the existence and activity of a single God, have long dominated the understanding of religion in historically Christian Europe. The term monotheism itself is a modern coinage, first appearing in 1660 in the work of the English philosopher Henry More. As a contrast ¶ to the term polytheism, which goes back originally to Philo of Alexandria and was rediscovered for the…

Resurrection

(8,280 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor | Waschke, Ernst-Joachim | Stemberger, Günter | Sellin, Gerhard | Schwöbel, Christoph | Et al.
[German Version] I. Resurrection of the Dead 1. History of religions a. Resurrection as a religious category. The concept of resurrection has been shaped extensively by connotations drawn from the tradition of Christian theology. In this sense, it is understood as a unique event that takes the body and soul of a human being, separated at death, and reunites them for a new, eternal life in the next world. Here it serves to mark a distinction from other notions of a postmortal existence (e.g. reincarnation, metempsyc…

Sleep

(382 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
[German Version] In all cultures, vital bodily functions have been the object of reflection and usually also of symbolic exaggeration. Nearly all religions have focused on sleep as a fundamental element of human existence. The spectrum of interpretations runs from approaches that view sleep as a medium for contact with beings in a transcendent world (gods, spirits, demons, ancestors or other shades), who give individuals important guidance for their lives or the lives of others to scenarios that i…

Fate

(2,647 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor | Volkmann, Stefan | Roth, Michael
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Philosophy of Religion – III. Dogmatics – IV. Ethics I. Religious Studies In every age and culture, people have felt the need to explain inescapable situations and unforeseeable events. From the perspective of cultural anthropology, however, this need does not make fate a clearly definable concept; it is instead a summary term encompassing a multiplicity of culturally divergent ideas to which individual religions often assign very different values. The concept of fat…

Israel and Persia

(753 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
[German Version] Founded by Cyrus II (550/549–530) in the mid-6th century bce and expanded by his successors Cambyses II (530–522) and Darius I (522/521–486), the Achaemenid-Persian Empire was the first great empire of antiquity to encompass all cultures of the ancient Near East (Iran). The administration of this state, which was divided into different ethnicities, religions, and cultures, was organized along the lines of a hierarchically structured system of authorities headed by regional governors known …

Worldview

(11,663 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter | Ahn, Gregor | Janowski, Bernd | Furley, David J. | Sellin, Gerhard | Et al.
[German Version] I. Philosophy The word Weltbild (“worldview”; more lit. “world picture”) is already found in early medieval German; it is defined as a “conceptual view of the world that emerges from the totality of impressions made by the world and ideas of one’s Weltanschauung” ( DWb 28 [14.1.1], 1955, 1553). Its meaning is thus related to the meaning of Weltanschauung . Philosophy usually treats both together. A Weltbild can be understood as both a premise and a product of a Weltanschauung. W. Dilthey called a Weltbild “the basis of one’s appreciation of life and understanding…

New Year's celebration

(1,992 words)

Author(s): Renger, Johannes (Berlin) | Ahn, Gregor (Heidelberg) | Graf, Fritz (Columbus, OH)
(NYC). The beginning of the year was variously fixed in different local or supra-regional calendars. It was oriented, as far as we know, towards agricultural patterns connected to the time of the year (especially sowing in the spring and harvest in the autumn). The beginning of the year was connected with administrative measures (e.g. raising taxes). Spring and autumn received particular consideration in the festival calendar because of their significance within the agrarian cycle. Because in re…

Neujahrsfest

(1,809 words)

Author(s): Renger, Johannes (Berlin) | Ahn, Gregor (Heidelberg) | Graf, Fritz (Princeton)
In den einzelnen lokalen bzw. überregionalen Kalendern wurde der Jahresanfang unterschiedlich festgelegt. Er richtete sich, soweit erkennbar, an den jahreszeitlich gebundenen landwirtschaftlichen Gegebenheiten (bes. Aussaat im Frühjahr und Ernte im Herbst) aus. Der Jahresanfang war mit verwaltungstechnisch relevanten Maßnahmen (z.B. Abgabenerhebung) verbunden. Ihrer Bed. innerhalb des agrarischen Zyklus entsprechend fanden Frühjahr und Herbst im Festkalender bes. Berücksichtigung. Da Frühjahrs- …

Monotheism

(1,540 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
1. Monotheistic conceptions of God, whose point of departure is the existence and activity of one God, have dominated the religious understanding of Christian and post-Christian Europe for long centuries. In view of the multiplicity of other, especially polytheistic, religions, however, which premise a plurality of deities, monotheistic forms present a special case in religious history. They are not actually what seems from the Western standpoint to be the obviously ‘normal’ one. The current sit…

Destiny/Fate

(1,859 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Conceptualizations Unforeseeable events that radically alter persons' lives can be seen as their ‘destiny’ (Lat. de-stanare, ‘stand down,’ solidly ‘stand’) or their ‘fate’ (Lat., fatum, ‘oracle,’ from far-, ‘speak’). Since such events differentiate what happens to one person from what happens to another, in most cultures they call for an explanation. In Europe, the emergence of conceptualizations of destiny that would become traditional is first and especially inspired by Greco-Hellenistic religions. In these religions, r…

Angel

(1,254 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Rush of Angels Today 1. Despite the extensive loss of importance and meaning that marks the overall situation of Christian piety in post-war Europe, angels have anything but fallen out of fashion. In secular and neo-religious contexts, representations of angels have been the subject of an extraordinary renaissance. Independently of church traditions, and to some extent in direct competition with them, a significant ‘reception’ has occurred of the notion of the angel as a benign, efficacious manifest…

Cosmology/Cosmogony

(1,366 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Emergence of the World 1. Cosmogonies (Gk., kosmogonía, ‘world-origin’) are explanatory models, developed by persons of nearly all times and cultures, describing the origin of the world around them, and of the conditions of life that they find there. Inasmuch, then, as cosmogonies not only refer to the genesis of specific, individual circumstances of life, but reflect a world-encompassing linkage of functions, structures, or orders, they form an integral component of cosmologies (Gk., kosmología, ‘doctrine of the world-whole’)—that is, of concepts serving to help exp…

Demon/Demonology

(657 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Daimon with the Greeks 1. The word daemon is the Latinized form of the ancient Greek daímon. In English, it has become ‘demon.’ In the Greek tradition, daímones referred to supernatural beings who intervened in the destiny of human beings, partly as bringers of luck and happiness, partly as messengers of the insalubrious. Even Plato still interprets Eros, messenger of love, as a ‘great daímon,’ in correspondence with this interpretation, and thus as a being ‘between a god and a mortal’ ( Symposium, 202d-e). In the later Plato, in the Apology, an extension of the concept sees Socrates's daímo…

Composite Beings

(225 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Supernatural beings in composite form, whose outward appearance—in varying proportion—is partly animal and partly human, are a hardy component of the iconography of a great number of religions. Although gods are extensively encountered in human form (‘anthropomorphism’), deviations from the norm are suited to certain purposes. A multiplication of bodily parts (heads, arms), a merging of the sexes (‘androgyny’), or a combination of animal and human forms, has been a preferred stylistic means of d…

Weltbild

(9,960 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter | Ahn, Gregor | Janowski, Bernd | D. Furley, William | Sellin, Gerhard | Et al.
[English Version] I. PhilosophischDas Wort »W.«, das schon im frühma. Deutsch nachweisbar ist, bez. i. allg. ein »vorstellungsmäsziges bild der welt, wie es sich aus der gesamtheit der welteindrücke und weltanschaulichen vorstellungen ergibt« (DWb 28 [= 14,1,1], 1955, 1553). So ist die Bedeutung des Wortes mit der von »Weltanschauung« verwandt und kommt in der Philos. auch meist zus. mit diesem vor. Dabei wird das W. sowohl als Voraussetzung wie als Resultat der Weltanschauung verstanden. W. Dilth…

Schicksal

(2,427 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor | Volkmann, Stefan | Roth, Michael
[English Version] I. Religionswissenschaftlich Unabwendbare Lebensumstände und unvorhersehbare Ereignisse sind zu allen Zeiten und in allen Kulturen als erklärungsbedürftig empfunden worden. In kulturvergleichender Perspektive ist Sch. (älter: Geschick) gerade deshalb aber kein inhaltlich klar umgrenzbarer Sachverhalt, sondern die Zusammenfassung einer Vielzahl von kulturell divergierenden Vorstellungen, denen in den einzelnen Rel. häufig ein ganz unterschiedlicher Stellenwert zukommt. Sch. umfaßt …

Schlaf

(338 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
[English Version] Schlaf, religionswissenschaftlich. Vitale Körperfunktionen sind in allen Kulturen zum Gegenstand der Reflexion und meist auch symbolischer Überhöhung geworden. So ist auch Sch. als Grundgegebenheit menschlichen Daseins in nahezu allen Rel. thematisiert worden. Das Spektrum der Deutungen reicht dabei von Ansätzen, die Sch. als ein Medium für die Kontaktaufnahme mit Wesen einer Jenseitswelt ansehen, die dem Individuum wichtige Informationen für seine Lebensgestaltung oder die andere…