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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(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
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