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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(6 words)

See Deacon, Deaconess; Diakonia


(3,238 words)

Author(s): Boeckler, Richard
1. Theological Basis Diakonia (from Gk. diakoneō, “serve”) has been described as “the responsible service of the Gospel by deeds and by words performed by Christians in response to the needs of people” (T. G. White, 276). Like mission, diakonia exists in a contemporary social context and expresses the life and nature of the church. Particularly because of the social demands of the Third World, the church in the modern age has reached an unprecedented degree of consensus regarding diakonia. Face to f…


(1,334 words)

Author(s): Hubbeling, Hubertus G.
1. Etymology and History 1.1. The term “dialectic” comes from the Greek phrase hē dialektikē technē or epistēmē (the art or knowledge of discussion by question and answer), and specifically, the verb dialegomai (discuss, dispute). In Plato (Platonism) dialectic is thus the knowledge that is achieved by (Socratic) dialogue. In contrast, Aristotle (Aristotelianism) opposed the apodictic proofs of analytic to the probability proofs of dialectic. Ever since, the term has been ambiguous. In the Middle Ages it was often equated…

Dialectical Theology

(2,318 words)

Author(s): Sauter, Gerhard
1. The Phrase “Dialectical theology” is the name for a movement that after World War I initiated a new period in theology and the church, first of all in Germany. It found expression in the journal Zwischen den Zeiten (Between the times; 1923–33), produced by Karl Barth (1886–1968), Friedrich Gogarten (1887–1967), Georg Merz (1892–1959), and Eduard Thurneysen (1888–1974). Coworkers were Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) and Emil Brunner (1889–1966); for a time, Paul Tillich (1886–1965) was also in dialogue with them. 1.1. Purpose What the proponents of the trend had in mind can ha…


(1,595 words)

Author(s): Veldhuis, Ruurd | Ott, Heinrich
1. Philosophy Deriving from the Gk. dialogos (conversation), the term “dialogue” has become a key term in 20thcentury philosophy, though used in different ways. In the history of philosophy it has played a leading role since Plato (Platonism), mainly as a literary genre. Yet the form Plato chose was connected with his conviction that we can reach true insight only in a conversation that does justice to opposing views and seeks agreement step by step. The term took on philosophical significance only in the 20th century. It did so first, out of anthropological and ontol…


(1,119 words)

Author(s): Riess, Hermann
1. Term Etymologically, “diaspora” is from Gk. diaspeirō (scatter); semantically, its usage derives from Jewish tradition. 1.1. In the LXX the term describes the fate of Jews outside Palestine. As traders, hired workers, captives, slaves, and colonists, they were “scattered” over three continents (Isa. 11:11). Although diaspora and exile are not synonymous, yet for the prophets they are closely related. Divine judgment has scattered the disobedient; divine mercy will gather the dispersed (e.g., Ezek. 22:15; 37:21). In Isa. 49:6 Israel is the light of the Gentiles. In the NT t…


(409 words)

Author(s): Schmidt, Günter R.
1. The word “didactics” comes from Lat. (ars) didactica, which is based on Gk. didaktikē technē (the art of teaching). Baroque pedagogy popularized it, especially the famous Didactica magna of J. A. Comenius (Czech 1632, Latin 1657). Most of the languages of western Europe use a cognate (e.g., Fr. didactique), though English prefers to speak of “educational psychology” or “instructional theory” for the formal and methodological aspects of teaching, and “curriculum (development)” for content. The art of teaching originally comprised rules…

Dietary Laws

(560 words)

Author(s): Reventlow, Henning Graf
In the ancient Orient (e.g., Egypt, Persia), as in all cultures, dietary laws were common. Being taboos, they defy rational explanation. In the OT they apply primarily to animals used for food. Deuteronomy 14 and Leviticus 11 contain systematic lists of clean and unclean animals of the land, sea, and air. Animals that chew the cud and have cloven hoofs are clean, as are most birds, all fish that have fins and scales, and, among insects, grasshoppers. Unclean are cloven-hoofed animals that do not chew the cud, various birds, fish …


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See Human Dignity


(241 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
A dimissorial, also (Littera) Dimissoria (from Lat. dimitto, “release”), is a certificate of discharge or release that one principal sends to another on behalf of certain individuals. In various forms it is customary in most Christian churches (church law). It approves or requests the giving of the sacraments or the performance of occasional services by another ordained person, presupposing the fulfillment of all preconditions and the making of a report. In some countries it is also important in relation to standing and income (Pastor, Pastorate). Present-day mobility makes the…


(321 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
The Greek word dioikēsis (housekeeping, government) quickly found its way into the official vocabulary of the Roman Empire in the sense of an administrative district. It first denoted individual parts of a province, then a larger unit consisting of several provinces. In the East the latter sense came into use for a division of the church. In the West the church retained the older Roman understanding and used the term for a bishopric (Bishop, Episcopate). Today the word has become a technical term in canon law and ecclesiology. For the Roman Catholic Church, local, or …


(8 words)

See History, Auxiliary Sciences to, 6


(405 words)

Author(s): Longin, Archbishop
The term “diptych,” from Greek, literally denotes something that is folded double. It was first used for two tablets that were laid together, which in antiquity were in common use as a kind of notebook. In many cases they were decorated with artwork, often with portraits of Roman consuls, who would send them as gifts to friends when taking office. Quite early the diptych came into church use, for commemorations for the eucharistic liturgy (Eucharist) could be noted in them. Christian themes that often bear witness to their provenance were depicted on the…

Disarmament and Armament

(3,406 words)

Author(s): Everts, Philip P. | Lienemann, Wolfgang
1. Political Aspects In an international society that might be described as a mitigated anarchy, power relations between states have a central role. Although other means of exerting force are of increasing importance, military power is still seen as decisive. The question of the relation of armaments to the possibility of war has not yet been satisfactorily answered by peace research. Two contrary positions are adopted. The first takes the old view that if one wants peace (§1), one must prepare for…

Discalced Friars

(141 words)

Author(s): Schilling, Johannes
The discalced friars are religious orders whose members wear nothing on their feet but sandals (Franciscans) or who go totally barefoot (Carmelites). Biblical reasons and precedents include poverty (Isa. 20:2–4), reverence (Exod. 3:5; Josh. 5:15), and penitence (2 Sam. 15:30). The underlying idea is that in the spirit of discipleship of Jesus, the discalced friars observe a rule Jesus once gave prohibiting the use of shoes (see Matt. 10:10). Observants, Capuchins, Camaldolese, Servites, and Passionists are some of the orders of male religious involved. Women’s o…


(730 words)

Author(s): Böcher, Otto
The word “disciple” comes from Lat. discipulus. Both terms are used for the Gk. mathētēs (pupil), which refers especially to the disciples of Jesus and then, in a way that transcends the mere teacher-student relation, to the followers and admirers of a religious leader or to the younger members of a religious group. The NT itself speaks not only of the disciples of Jesus but also of the disciples of Moses (John 9:28; cf. 1 Cor. 10:2), of the Pharisees (Matt. 22:15–16; Mark 2:18 and par.), of John the Baptist (Matt. 11:2; Mark 6:29 and par.), and of Paul (Acts 9:25). 1. In the OT we might …


(2,050 words)

Author(s): Strecker, Georg | Starke, Ekkehard
1. NT 1.1. The Greek verb akoloutheō, “follow,” has a specifically religious sense only in the Gospels (apart from Rev. 14:4) and relates exclusively to Jesus, never to God. 1.2. The call of Jesus, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17), which is always directed to individuals, initiates discipleship. The announcing of the imminence of the kingdom of God, with the ensuing demand for conversion and faith in the gospel (cf. v. 15), gives urgency to the summons. Those who heed the call renounce existing ties (1:18; 10:28; Luke 9:61–62), receive a share in the future salvation that the person of …

Disciples of Christ

(10 words)

See Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)


(259 words)

Author(s): Stein, Albert
A dispensation is a grant of relief from an ordinance in individual cases, a means for the church to give spiritual direction in particular matters affecting an individual. In canon law the dispensation presupposes the presence of adequate legal grounds (1983 CIC 90). A dispensation from divine law is impossible. The cases of dispensation today are primarily in relation to hindrances to marriage or ordination. Except when the privilege is reserved for the papacy (e.g., see discussion of celibacy, can. 291), diocesan bishops grant the dispensation, although with dele…


(1,206 words)

Author(s): Spencer, Stephen R.
Dispensationalism is a tradition in evangelical orthodoxy that interprets the Bible—and indeed all history—in terms of a series of God’s dispensations. Originating in Britain in the 1830s, this approach, while showing variations over time, has consistently emphasized the authority of Scripture, discontinuities in the divine administration of history, the uniqueness of the church and of certain features of grace for the dispensation of the church (which began at pentecost), the practical signific…
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