Encyclopedia of Christianity Online

Get access Subject: Religious Studies
Editors: Erwin Fahlbusch, Jan Milič Lochman, John Mbiti, Jaroslav Pelikan and Lukas Vischer

The Encyclopedia of Christianity Online describes modern-day Christian beliefs and communities in the context of 2000 years of apostolic tradition and Christian history. Based on the third, revised edition of the critically acclaimed German work Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon. The Encyclopedia of Christianity Online includes all 5 volumes of the print edition of 1999-2008 which has become a standard reference work for the study of Christianity past and present. Comprehensive, reflecting the highest standards in scholarship yet intended for a wide range of readers, the The Encyclopedia of Christianity Online also looks outward beyond Christianity, considering other world religions and philosophies as it paints the overall religious and socio-cultural picture in which the Christianity finds itself.

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(1,156 words)

Author(s): Davies, J. G.
1. History of Religion Dance, the rhythmic movement of the body to the accompaniment of music (G. van der Leeuw, “the oldest of the arts”), has been considered a sacred activity from the dawn of time. Spanish cave paintings of the late Paleolithic age depict hunting dances, indicating their connection with sympathetic magic (i.e., the imitation of a chase in dance is believed to ensure its success). A similar understanding is discernible in the war dances of the Greeks and Romans. 1.1. Classical Period From Plato onward many writers refer to dance as instituted by the deities,…

Dance Macabre

(644 words)

Author(s): Haustein, Jens
Dance macabre (or “dance of death”; Ger. Totentanz) is an allegorical theme in European art of the late Middle Ages. Typically involving the juxtaposed portrayal of either a clergyman or a layperson (Clergy and Laity) shown dancing with a dead person or with death itself, personified as a skeleton, it consists ideally of a picture and text (at first monologic, later dialogic) and is widespread throughout Europe both inside and outside of churches and also in MSS and books. We do not know the origin of the dance macabre (Spain, France, or Germany?), nor do we know the time it began (ca. 1350? …

Daniel, Book of

(1,269 words)

Author(s): Hanhart, Robert
The Book of Daniel was the first apocalypse—and the only one to find its way into the OT canon. Other apocalypses exist but belong to the pseudepigrapha. Earlier forms in the OT prophets (Ezekiel, Zechariah, Isaiah 24–27) share with true apocalyptic (§2) only the means of presentation. Hence the origin of apocalyptic must be sought in terms of the theological and historical subject matter of the Book of Daniel, namely, the status confessionis of the religious persecutions under the Seleucid Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 b.c.). This setting explains the statements …

Darmstadt Declaration

(305 words)

Author(s): Busch, Eberhard
The Darmstadt Declaration was issued on August 8, 1947, by the Bruderrat (leaders of the Confessing Church), concerning “the political path of our people.” It was based on drafts by H. J. Iwand (1899–1960), M. Niemöller (1892–1984), and K. Barth (1886–1968). It followed up on the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt (1945) but dealt with the causes of the guilt of church and people in the time of National Socialist rule (Fascism; Church Struggle). It found these in the older political mistakes of acce…


(4 words)

See Evolution

Daughter Church

(5 words)

See Filiation


(875 words)

Author(s): Veijola, Timo
1.1. The historical traditions about David (whose name means “beloved”), Israel’s most important king, appear in the Deuteronomistic history, whose author incorporated into the work the earlier stories of David’s rise (1 Sam. 16:14–2 Sam. 5:10) and of his reign and succession (2 Samuel 9–20 and 1 Kings 1–2). Further material about David—lists, anecdotes, annals, stories, and poems (see 2 Sam. 5:11–8:18 and chaps. 21–24)—also entered the work in the course of redaction. ¶ 1.2. The story of David’s rise is composite. It developed over a long and indefinite period in Juda…

Days of Prayer and Repentance

(301 words)

Author(s): Schmidt-Lauber, Hans-Christoph
Israel has its yearly Yom Kippur (day of atonement), with sacrifices for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16). In times of crisis a fast or day of prayer and repentance might also be proclaimed (Judg. 20:26; 1 Sam. 7:5–6; 31:13; Joel 1:13–14, etc.). The Western church developed weekly fasts on Wednesday and Friday, the Lenten fast before Easter, and in a limited sense the Advent fast and seasonal Ember Days based on pagan models. The authorities might also order fasts for special occasions. In Europe and America the Protestant churches followed this tradition. New England Pur…

Deacon, Deaconess

(1,959 words)

Author(s): McKee, Elsie Anne
Over the centuries, the definitions of deacon and deaconess have changed and developed, producing the present complex situation in which varied (sometimes overlapping) forms exist simultaneously in different (or occasionally the same) Christian bodies. Although there are some indications of convergence, the evolution also continues today in the worldwide ecumenical church. 1. Definition Defining “deacon” is often very confusing because the word is used for a number of different concepts that are usually not clearly distinguished, and in some cases…

Dead, Cult of the

(1,522 words)

Author(s): Zinser, Hartmut
Death is part of the order of this world. Almost without exception, however, people have protested against its dominion, refused to acknowledge it, and even denied it. Accounts like that in Gen. 25:8, according to which people die contentedly after becoming sated with life, or the idea of a “good death” after a fulfilled life (Confucianism), are the exception. The protest against death underlies the cult of the dead, and at the same time these cults aid in coming to terms with the psychological and social conflicts among the s…


(6 words)

See Rural Dean; Superintendent


(1,850 words)

Author(s): Schoberth, Wolfgang
1. State of the Problem All societies share the basic experience of death, yet they respond to it in different ways in their thinking and customs (Dead, Cult of the). We find ideas ranging from self-evident certainty of the presence of the dead (Ancestor Worship; Demons) to preparation for the journey of the dead to their new home and hope of redemption in a new life beyond the present course. The various theories of the relation to death that are also found in society and religion do not allow of sy…

Death, Dance of

(7 words)

See Dance Macabre

Death of God Movement

(10 words)

See God Is Dead Theology

Death Penalty

(2,174 words)

Author(s): Bondolfi, Alberto
Many peoples and civilizations have had punishments involving the death penalty. They usually leave it to a judicial court made up of competent persons who judge publicly according to fair and well-regulated procedures. 1. Biblical Data Whereas the OT bears witness to the death penalty as an accepted judicial institution, there is little mention of it in the NT. 1.1. Gen. 4:10b–14 tells the relatives of a murdered person to avenge the blood of the dead, which cries out to God for vengeance. They can evade this duty if the slayer flees, but only if the kil…


(1,191 words)

Author(s): Boecker, Hans Jochen
1. The Decalogue (Greek for “ten words”) has come down to us in the OT in two places: Exod. 20:2–17 and Deut. 5:6–21. It has often been called the classic Decalogue, as distinct from the ethical, or Elohistic, Decalogue in Exod. 34:10–26. In both books the Decalogue shows itself to be an independent entity. This is especially clear in exodus, for the preceding verses in Exodus 19 do not prepare the ground for it, nor do the succeeding verses in 20:18–21 relate to it. They form a transition instead to the Book of the Covenant that follows. In virtue of the location of the Decalogue in Exodus 20, it is…


(6 words)

See Calvin’s Theology; Predestination


(6 words)

See Corpus Iuris Canonici


(4 words)

See Theosis


(672 words)

Author(s): Veldhuis, Ruurd
Until the 18th century, the term “deism” (from Lat. deus, a god, God) was interchangeable with “theism.” It was used for the first time by the Swiss theologian P. Viret (Geneva, 1564), who spoke with abhorrence of people who called themselves deists to emphasize that, in contrast to atheists, they believed in God, even though they accepted nothing of Christ and his teaching. Some writers (e.g., C. Blount and M. Tindal) explicitly confessed deism, but many deists avoided the term because of its negative connotation for their orthodox opponents. Later, deism increasingly became a ph…


(143 words)

Author(s): Stein, Albert
Delegation is the handing over of tasks to another person (the delegate) to discharge on his or her own responsibility. This may be done in a general way, as when a Catholic bishop commits questions of penance (Confession of Sins) or marriage to priests, or in special cases, as when a parish priest leaves a matter to an assistant. Roman Catholic canon law lays down rules for delegation (1983 CIC 131–42), and the church may step in when mistakes are made or substantial doubts arise (can. 144). In Protestant church law, delegation occurs particularly in occasional services when, at…


(3,584 words)

Author(s): Narr, Wolf-Dieter | Strohm, Theodor
1. Term and History The term “democracy,” which comes from ancient Greece, literally means “rule by the people.” In political philosophy, democracy was viewed as a form of government. It stood between aristocracy (the rule of the elite) and the negatively viewed ochlocracy (mob rule; Aristotle Pol. ). Classical Greece—or more narrowly the city-state of Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries b.c. up to its subjugation by Philip II of Macedonia and the end of its independence in 338 b.c.—ranked as a model democracy. In Athens male citizens had the right to vote at popular…


(1,059 words)

Author(s): Röhl, Wolfgang G.
As personal spiritual beings of varied origin, midway between divine and human beings, demons appear in the mythologies both of the so-called tribal religions and of the great world religions (Hinduism; Buddhism; Islam), though their significance differs in the two cases. Fundamentally, they are morally ambivalent, but they belong for the most part to the sphere of evil, and in this sense they have a harmful influence on humans, animals, and nature. To ward off their influence, the religions use…


(1,230 words)

Author(s): Hübner, Hans
In 1941 Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) wrote a programmatic essay “Neues Testament und Mythologie. Das Problem der Entmythologisierung der neutestamentlichen Verkündigung” (NT and mythology. The problem of demythologizing the NT proclamation). Only after World War II, however, did a full-scale discussion—often embittered—of demythologizing take place. Other themes have replaced it now; it is no longer a main subject of ecclesiastical and theological debate. For the foreseeable future, however, it will undoubtedly be recognized as an important theological issue. According to…


(2,405 words)

Author(s): Lindhardt, Poul Georg
1. The Evangelical Lutheran Church (Folkekirke) 1.1. The Lutheran Church, 1536–1849 After the victory of the Danish king over a revolt of peasants and citizens, the Lutheran Church became established in Denmark in 1536/37. It served as a religious department of state, though the congregations could choose their pastors and the city pastors their bishops. The office of bishop remained as an administrative one. The confessional allegiance of the church was at first unclear, but in the Crypto-Calvinist debates it viewed the Augsburg Confession as a norm. In 168…


(4,190 words)

Author(s): Fahlbusch, Erwin | Laeyendecker, Leo
1. Terminology The term “denomination” refers broadly to any class of persons called, or denominated, by the same name. In the context of Christianity, “denomination” may be defined as “an organized Christian church or tradition or religious group or community of believers or aggregate of worship centers or congregations, usually within a specific country, whose component congregations and members are called by the same name in different areas, regarding themselves as an autonomous Christian church distinct from other denominations, churches and traditions” ( WCE , 824). In 19…


(414 words)

Author(s): Schwartz, Werner
The term “deontology” comes from the Gk. to deon, meaning “what is required; duty.” J. Bentham (1748–1832) was the first to use the term. He denoted by it the whole complex of his utilitarian theory, which is oriented to a balance of duty and self-interest. Since the time of Bentham the usage has changed. “Deontology” now denotes normative ethical theories (Norms; Metaethics) that assess moral actions (or judgments or rules, e.g., the rule that promises must be kept) solely in terms of themselves. Quite apart from any positive or negative consequences, qualities…


(1,415 words)

Author(s): Hein, Wolfgang
1. Term The term “dependence,” especially after World War II, refers to relations of subordination among nations. The point of using this term is to stress the fact that the underdevelopment of the Third ¶ World results, not from a general economic backwardness in the sense of being on a lower rung of social development, but from the centuries-long dependence of the periphery on the countries of the capitalist center. “Dependence” implies the penetration of dependent societies at every social level. Thus there is political and military penetration, involving colonialism, the politi…


(906 words)

Author(s): Hole, Günter
1. Definition In psychiatry, depression (Lat. deprimo, “press down, depress”) denotes a state of severe mental and physical loss of confidence and vigor, usually lasting for a limited period. Allowing for variation, depression differs from ordinary sadness or dispiritedness, on the one hand, and, on the other, from what is called a depressive personality structure. 2. Symptoms and Course Depression manifests itself fundamentally as a combination of individual depressive symptoms (depressive syndrome) that form a unified syndrome at the mental and physi…

Depth-Psychological Exegesis

(949 words)

Author(s): Leiner, Martin
1. Depth-psychological exegesis is any exposition of the Bible (Exegesis, Biblical) that uses depthpsychological concepts, theories, or methods. In European usage, as distinct from American, depth psychology denotes all psychological trends using the unconscious, especially psychoanalysis, the analytic psychology of C. G. Jung (1875–1961), and its further developments (Ego Psychology; Identity; Psychotherapy). As such, it is merely one form of psychological exegesis (G. Theissen, K. Berger). Dep…

Descartes, René

(5 words)

See Cartesianism

Descent into Hell

(559 words)

Author(s): Heron, Alasdair I. C.
According to the Apostles’ Creed, Jesus Christ “descended into hell.” The statement that between his death (§2.2) and resurrection came his descent ad inferna or ad infernos was adopted into the confession only around a.d. 400, probably to stress the full humanity of Christ, both body and soul, in opposition to heretical views (e.g., of Arius and Apollinarius; Arianism; Christology 2). The descent, however, had already been associated with ideas that would greatly affect its interpretation in personal piety, literature, and art. In the NT the basis was found partly in such texts as Mat…

Design, Argument from

(11 words)

See God, Arguments for the Existence of


(1,345 words)

Author(s): Benedetti, Gaetano | Starke, Ekkehard
Despair is a state that, like anxiety or a feeling of guilt, affects a person’s whole experience. It may derive from differing situations, depending on whether the psychological nature of conflict, the state of the nervous system, or existence as a metaphysical problem is dominant. The loss of all hope of well-being causes despair to seem related to sadness and depression, though in reality it represents a radical heightening of the latter within experience. In older psychiatry (J.-É.-D. Esquiro…


(7 words)

See Isaiah, Book of, 32

Deuteronomistic History

(905 words)

Author(s): Smend, Rudolf
1. In the Hebrew Bible the first part of the canon (§1)—the Law and the Former Prophets, or the books from Genesis to Kings—contains a consecutive narrative from the creation to the Babylonian exile. Not merely by canonical arrangement or in terms of content but also in view of its historical development, there are good reasons to divide it into two parts. The first part consists of the Pentateuch, which ends with the death of Moses and therefore with the conclusion of the age of the founding of…

Deuteronomy, Book of

(1,151 words)

Author(s): Perlitt, Lothar
1. Name Deriving from the LXX, “Deuteronomy” is the name for the fifth book of the Pentateuch. On the basis of Deut. 17:18, it has the sense “repetition of the law” (i.e., of that given in Exodus–Numbers). This is a mistaken rendering, however, of the Heb. mišnēh hattôrâ, “copy of the law.” 2. Form In its form, Deuteronomy is largely the parting address of Moses, structured in several sections. He gave this address to the Israelites in Moab, east of the Jordan (1:1, 5; 29:1), immediately before the conquest of the promised land (Joshua 1–12). This stylistic device forces the autho…

Deutsche Christen

(6 words)

See German Christians


(3,118 words)

Author(s): Elwert, Georg | Hoppe, Günter | Schweitzer, Friedrich
1. Socioeconomic Development Descriptively, the term “development” denotes historical changes made to produce the form of society desired by its members; normatively, it denotes the structural changes made toward this goal. Whether the development or its basic mechanisms represent progress in some absolute sense is immaterial. In the normative sense, socioeconomic developments are the processes that can bring a poor society closer to its desired form. Politically, various indicators stand in the fo…

Development Education

(725 words)

Author(s): Boerma, Coenraad M.
1. History Development education arose in the 1970s as a relatively independent activity alongside mission and aid. The economic growth of the period, as well as the widening gulf between rich and poor countries (Third World), posed a demand for information as well as assistance. Wrestling with the causes of the gulf would also bring an awareness of existing problems. Working parallel to, and sometimes in conjunction with, such international bodies as the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Conf…

Development Services

(7 words)

See Christian Development Services


(2,130 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
1. Concept 1.1. Gk. diabolos, from which the Eng. “devil” is derived, is the usual LXX translation of śāṭān (adversary). In the NT it is used more in the Greek sense as “accuser” or “slanderer.” By way of the Gothic Bible it was taken over in Frankish, Anglo-Saxon, and German. It has retained its full meaning only as a Christian term, which also refers to the leader and representative of unbelief and heresy (Heresies and Schisms) and to the seducer and perverse paramour of witches (Witchcraft). To this extent, as one might say also of “God” (G. van der Leeuw, Phänomenologie der Religion [4…

Devil’s Advocate

(6 words)

See Promotor fidei

Devotional Images

(233 words)

Author(s): Schilling, Johannes
Devotional images are cultic objects that believers piously venerate in holy places and from which, as representations of the saints (DH 1823), they expect miracles and salvation (Piety). Pilgrimages to devotional images sprang up besides pilgrimages to places of remembrance, graves, and relics of saints. Veneration of Mary, which developed from the 12th century and was promoted by the orders and later by the Counter-Reformation, especially the Jesuits, greatly increased pilgrimages to devotional images, since Mary was not a martyr, and there were no bodily relics of Mary. Devotio…

Devotional Literature

(3,296 words)

Author(s): Mennecke-Haustein, Ute | Bintz, Helmut
1. Term Over the centuries the phrase “devotional literature” has continually expanded its reference, today being used for any kind of literature that helps to promote piety as an overall religious attitude (R. Mohr) or that strengthens the religious aspirations of believers (S. Ringler) or that leads to a fuller life of Christian virtue. In short, it has become an omnibus term for religious writing. 1.1. The first reference of devotional literature was to the works of Pietism. Then by way of Roman Catholic ascetic literature, the term came to be used for the …

Devotion, Devotions

(850 words)

Author(s): Merkel, Friedemann
The term “devotion” denotes the fixing of one’s senses and mind totally on God and the things of God. The pl. “devotions” denotes various private and public exercises aimed at giving a spiritual orientation to life, at enhancing one’s devotion. These may be at set times of the week or of the day (morning ¶ or evening), or they may be customized for specific groups (e.g., in schools and hospitals). Devotions may reflect the church year (e.g., at Advent or Holy Week) and may be conducted through the media (radio or television). They typically give church groups and cir…

Devotion to Mary

(8 words)

See Mary, Devotion to
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