Religion Past and Present

Get access Subject: Religious Studies
Edited by: Hans Dieter Betz, Don S. Browning†, Bernd Janowski and Eberhard Jüngel

Religion Past and Present (RPP) Online is the online version of the updated English translation of the 4th edition of the definitive encyclopedia of religion worldwide: the peerless Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (RGG). This great resource, now at last available in English and Online, Religion Past and Present Online continues the tradition of deep knowledge and authority relied upon by generations of scholars in religious, theological, and biblical studies. Including the latest developments in research, Religion Past and Present Online encompasses a vast range of subjects connected with religion.

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(836 words)

Author(s): Plisch, Uwe-Karsten
[German Version] Sethianism was a redemptive religious movement in Late Antiquity associated with Gnosticism (Gnosis). The name Sethianism, critically patterned on the terminology used by the heresiologists of the Early Church (Hippolytus, Epiphanius, Theodoret of Cyrus), reflects the special role of Adam’s son Seth (Gen 4:25) for the Sethians, who considered themselves children (“the seed”) of Seth. The movement was almost unknown until the discovery of a few original Sethian texts among the Nag Hammadi manuscr…

Seth, The Three Steles of (NHC VII,5; StelSeth)

(169 words)

Author(s): Bethge, Hans-Gebhard
[German Version] Until the discovery of the Nag Hammadi codices, this work, preserved only in Coptic, was unknown. It probably originated in the first half of the 3rd century in Alexandria or the territory of Palestine (Samaria?) or western Syria. Its original language was Greek. It is a non-Christian text associated with Sethianism, a liturgical formulary for ecstatic ascent to the vision of God. At its center are three hymnic passages invoking the three supreme deities while also identifying wit…

Seton, Elizabeth Ann Bailey (Saint)

(137 words)

Author(s): Noll, Mark A.
[German Version] (Aug 28, 1774, New York – Jan 4, 1821, Emmitsburg, MD), founder of a religious community. Seton traveled to Italy in 1803, where she was introduced to the Roman Catholic Church. Following her husband’s death and her return to the United States in 1804, she continued to study the Catholic faith and on Mar 14, 1805, entered the church. After moving to Maryland in 1808, she opened a school for girls and then joined the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph, whose first American director…


(530 words)

Author(s): Pezzoli-Olgiati, Daria
[German Version] Generally speaking, settlements include various types of construction: individual buildings in isolation as well as villages, towns, and cities with various types of internal organization, functions, and networks. These tend to generate different forms of religious symbol systems. In ancient societies, the distinction between urban centers (Town and city) and other forms of settlement played a central role. The city or town was the center, the surrounding settlements the periphery…

Settlement/Settlement Traditions

(1,194 words)

Author(s): Otto, Eckart
[German Version] The canonical Old Testament describes the settlement as a military conquest of Palestine by the 12 tribes of Israel, beginning in Transjordan under Moses’ leadership with a victory over Sihon and Og, kings of the Amorites, and the capture of Heshbon (Num 20f.; 32; Deut 1–3). After Moses’ death (Deut 34), the settlement continued west of the Jordan under Joshua’s leadership, initially in Benjaminite territory with the capture of Jericho (Josh 6) and Ai (Josh 7–8) and a treaty with …

Seumois, André

(198 words)

Author(s): Henkel, Willi
[German Version] (Apr 29, 1917, Flémalle-Grande, Liège – Sep 11, 2000, Rome), Catholic missiologist and advocate of scholarly missiology in the context of a normative, biblically based program ( missiologie spirituelle, 1952). He joined the congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1935. After studying at the Athenaeum of the Propaganda Fide (Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith) in Rome, he taught as a missiologist at the University of Ottawa from 1938 to 1951. In 1952 he was recalled to teach at the Missio…

Seven Sleepers

(336 words)

Author(s): Pillinger, Renate
[German Version] The legend of the Seven Sleepers tells of (usually) seven young men, whose Passio recounts how they took refuge in a cave during the persecution (Persecutions of Christians: I) under Emperor Decius; they were immured and then reawakened under Emperor Theodosius I. The background and source of this legend are both obscure. ¶ The Syriac version, dating from the 5th century, is probably the earliest; it was drawn upon by Gregory of Tours ( In gloria confessorum miracula 1.94 [MGH.SRM 1, 1884, 550–552]). There are translations into other languages, including G…

Severian of Gabala

(184 words)

Author(s): Uthemann, Karl-Heinz
[German Version] (Jableh or Jebleh), bishop of the port city in Syria. From 398/399 on, he was a successful preacher in Constantinople and a favorite of the empress Eudoxia; when John Chrysostom went to Ephesus (401), he commissioned Severian to represent him in spiritual matters. After his return, Severian came into open conflict with him and opposed him at the so-called Synod of the Oaks (fall of 403). In 404 Severian was involved in the intrigues over the succession of Flavian of Antioch. The d…

Severinus of Noricum (Saint)

(207 words)

Author(s): Brennecke, Hanns Christof
[German Version] According to our only source, the Commemoratorium vitae s. Severini (511) of Eugippius, Severinus was a high-born Roman living as an anchorite in the East. After the death of Attila in 453, he went to Rhaeto-Romania as a monastic ascetic, charismatic, and miracle-worker. There he organized the Rhaeto-Romanic population politically and socially during the death throes of the western Roman Empire and prepared them for their journey to Italy. His positive relationship with the Rugian house me…

Severus ibn al-Muqaffaʿ

(193 words)

Author(s): Gerö, Stephen
[German Version] (10th cent. ce), initially a secretary ( kātib) in the Egyptian civil service in Cairo, later a monk and Coptic Orthodox bishop of al-Ashmūnain; pioneer and versatile exponent of Christian Arabic literature in Egypt. His many works include a History of the Councils, directed against the Melkite patriarch Eutychius of Alexandria, and a catechetical Book of the Statement ( Kitāb al-Īḍāḥ); both works were later translated into Ethiopic. Severus was also undoubtedly the author of The Book of the Precious Bead ( Kitāb ad-Durr at-ṯamīn), an anonymously transmitted cat…

Severus of Antioch

(385 words)

Author(s): Rist, Josef
[German Version] (c. 465 Sociopolis, Pisidia – Feb 8, 538, Xois, Egypt), Syrian Orthodox patriarch of Antioch (512–518) and leading Monophysite. After extensive study in Alexandria and Beirut, he initially became a monk in Palestine. In Constantinople after 508, he won the confidence of the emperor Anastasius, who favored the Monophysites, and was made patriarch ¶ of Antioch in 512. Deposed when Emperor Justin I came to the throne in 518, Severus went into exile. Attempts at reconciliation undertaken by Justinian I failed. When Severus returned to Co…


(180 words)

Author(s): Maser, Matthias
[German Version] Probably a metropolitan see (Hispalis) since the late 4th century, in the 6th and 7th centuries under the archbishops Leander of Seville and Isidore of Seville the city experienced a cultural golden age, which the Muslim conquest in 713 put an end to. Until the pogroms of the Almohads in 1145, the bishops (now Mozarabic) under Islamic rule functioned as leaders of the Christian minority. The Latin bishopric was restored in 1248 after the Christian reconquest by Ferdinand III of Castille and León. After the mid-13th century, Seville ¶ had suffragan sees in Morocco and …

Sewushan, Martinus

(183 words)

Author(s): van der Heyden, Ulrich
[German Version] (also Sewuchane, Sebushan, Sewuschan; Jul 19, 1838, Sekhukhuneland, South Africa – Jan 10, 1920, Sekhukhuneland). By the early 1860s, Sewushan had already had contact with European missionaries of the Berlin Mission, who found in him a committed advocate with the chieftain of the Pedi. In 1865, when the society established Botshabelo as a “model missionary station,” Sewushan became an indispensible colleague. He taught in the school as an “ethnic colleague,” served as a mediator b…

Sex Education

(781 words)

Author(s): Bartholomäus, Wolfgang
[German Version] is the theory of education in the field of sexuality and religion, individual and society. The changing emphasis placed on its interlocking dimensions, which are also subject to cultural influences and historical change, leaves sex education in a constant state of flux, so that a single approach is impossible. Since no theories can evade the involvement of sexuality with religion, not even those that consider religion obsolete in today’s world, it is appropriate to turn our attention to “sex education under the influence of religious traditions.” Sex education does…


(466 words)

Author(s): Körtner, Ulrich H.J.
[German Version] The term sexism was coined by feminism after the analogy of racism. It denotes “the social construction of inequality within a society based on the assumed superiority of one sex to the other” (Tolbert, 503). The social pressure to act in accordance with conventional gender roles implies a negative moral assessment of deviant sexual behavior, especially homosexuality, and in the context of patriarchy misogyny that can extend to violence. A sexist perspective ascribes gender differen…


(177 words)

Author(s): Kluck, Thomas
[German Version] (from Old Fr. segrestien, from Middle Lat. sacristanus, “sacristan”; also warden, janitor, custodian, sacristan, verger), a member of the church staff responsible for preparing and maintaining the physical setting of worship, often also for janitorial work in and around church buildings. Initially these tasks were assigned to the deacons (Diaconate), but auxiliary offices were established early on (doorkeeper, acolyte). After the Reformation, sextons sometimes also acted as cantors or sc…

Sexton, Anne

(150 words)

Author(s): Lewis, Kevin
[German Version] (born Anne Gray Harvey; Nov 9, 1928, Newton, MA – Oct 4, 1974, Boston, MA), ¶ American lyricist, born into the comfortable middle class to troubled parents. She married at 19, tried fashion modeling, entered extra-marital affairs, suffered chronic depression, famously sought help in psychotherapy, and made several suicide attempts. Sexton bore two daughters and won prestigious fellowships and academic appointments as a teacher of poetry. She divorced and died by her own hand at 45. The intimate, exhibitionist voice in To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960) and All My Pret…

Sextus Empiricus

(403 words)

Author(s): Erler, Michael
[German Version] Sextus Empiricus, a Pyrrhonian Skeptic (Skepticism: I) and empirical physician (D.L. IX 116), probably lived at the end of the 2nd century ce. His Outlines of Pyrrhonian Skepticism ( PH) (book I) contains a presentation of Pyrrhonian Skepticism and – like his Against the Dogmatists (5 books) – a discussion of dogmatic epistemology, natural philosophy, and ethics from a Skeptical perspective (books II and III). His Against the Professors ( Adversus mathematicos, 6 books) examines six of the liberal arts (Artes liberales). Sextus’s works are important …

Sexual Abuse

(474 words)

Author(s): Ulonska, Herbert
[German Version] I. The change of terminology from sexual abuse through sexual violence to sexualized violence reflects the history of research into this ancient social phenomenon, recently rediscovered in the 1970s by its victims. Differing research paradigms (diagnostic, therapeutic, victim-oriented, perpetrator-oriented) produce varying criteria for defining sexualized violence. Unambiguous criteria include: incest, child pornography, child prostitution, trafficking in children for sexual explo…

Sexual Ethics

(532 words)

Author(s): Körtner, Ulrich H.J.
[German Version] Recent conceptions of Protestant sexual ethics emphasize the difference between ethics as critical moral theory and sexual morality as its object; again, a distinction must be made between normative conceptions of ethics and descriptive or hermeneutical conceptions, following in the footsteps of F.D.E. Schleiermacher. Changes in the area of sexuality, marriage, and family, often profound, can be adequately addressed theologically only if they are not subjected at the same time to …

Sexual Intercourse

(407 words)

Author(s): Stolz, Fritz
[German Version] Because of the biological nature of human beings, sexual intercourse is the goal of a fundamental drive (Drive theory); at the same time, it is influenced by precise cultural rules. The biological unity of pleasure and procreation is often dissolved: the pursuit of pleasure is diverted into art or commerce (with various religious and cultural assessments); occasionally procreation is defined as the only religiously legitimate purpose of intercourse (as is still true in Catholicism…


(7,176 words)

Author(s): Heller, Birgit | Körtner, Ulrich H.J. | Schubert, Anselm | Braun, Karl | Ziemer, Jürgen | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Religions have various assessments and guidelines regarding sexuality, which shape the concrete ways people deal with it and influence certain social attitudes. Religious sexual morality (Sexual ethics) regulates sexual relations through various sexual taboos and by ¶ prohibiting premarital and extramarital sex as well as homosexuality, but also by requiring temporary continence, for instance during menstruation or periods of fasting. It protects procreation (Generativity) in general by commandments…

Sexual Morality

(513 words)

Author(s): Gruber, Hans-Günter
[German Version] Sexual morality denotes the stock of values and norms, of human actions and behaviors, that authoritatively regulate the realm of sexuality. In its form and content, this stock of values and norms is dependent on the prevailing interpretation of the meaning of human sexuality and hence necessarily specific to a particular time and culture. In Christianity the theology of the early fathers with its consistently negative assessment of sexuality dominated the church’s teaching for centuries. The central problem was the ethical character…

Sexual Offense

(400 words)

Author(s): Dölling, Dieter
[German Version] As seen today, laws governing sexual offenses serve to protect sexual self-determination, including the unmolested sexual development of children and adolescents and freedom from sexual harassment. The German Criminal Code covers sexual offenses in §§174 to 184f. Coercion of sexual acts by violence, threat, or exploitation of a defenseless situation are covered by the offense of sexual assault by use of force/rape (§177); rape is identified as an especially serious instance of sexual duress. Sexual abuse of persons incapable of ¶ resistance is covered under §1…


(385 words)

Author(s): Spindler, Marc
[German Version] The Seychelles islands take up 455 km2 of dry land and a sea area of 1.3 million km2 in the Indian Ocean. The Republic of Seychelles was created, and granted independence from the United Kingdom on Jun 29, 1976. Ever since then, President France-Albert René has been its leading political figure, supported by his party, the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front. 88% of the 80,000 Seychellois live in Mahé, the main island. Other significant islands are Praslin, La Digue, Bird, Frégate, Silhouette, a…

Seymour, William Joseph

(180 words)

Author(s): Parris, Garnet
[German Version] (May 2, 1870, near New Orleans, LA – Sep 28, 1922, Los Angeles, CA). A black man, he was self-taught and his major influences were the Bible and the distinctively black understanding of Christianity – freedom, equality, community, the experience of power from the Spirit of God, visions, and the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. He left for Indianapolis where he flirted briefly with Methodism (Methodists: II, 3), then joined the Holiness movement, where he was influenced by t…
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