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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,…


(303 words)

Author(s): Davies, J. G.
The English word “pulpit” (Lat. pulpitum, “platform”) recalls the desk for the reading of Scripture. German uses Kanzel, from Lat. cancelli, a tribunal’s latticed screen. Cancelli were adopted in the early Christian basilica to demarcate the place of the clergy, and from there the sermon was delivered. The French term is chaire, which recalls the bishop’s cathedra, from whence he spoke until about a.d. 400. Pulpits did not come into general use in parish churches until the 12th and 13th centuries; many fine wooden examples have survived from this era. The R…


(1,218 words)

Author(s): Davies, J. G.
1. The word “altar” derives from Lat. altare or altaria, which come from altus, meaning “high.” Lat. ara (from Gk. airō, “raise”) has the same connotation; it is the Vg word for bōmos (from bainō, “lift up”). In the LXX bōmos is used of heathen altars precisely because they were on high places, whereas thysiastērion, “place of sacrifice,” is used of the OT tabernacle (§1) and temple altars. This distinction corresponds respectively to the Heb. bāmâ versus mizbēaḥ. 2.1. The etymology points to two fundamental aspects of the altar: (1) it is a structure raised abov…

Religious Drama

(982 words)

Author(s): Davies, J. G.
1. Origin Without question, drama in its origins was religious. In classical Greece theaters were built within the leading sanctuaries because the performances were deemed religious events. Indeed it was its connection with pagan deities that led the church to be so hostile to the stage. According to Tertullian (d. ca. 225), “The entire apparatus of the shows is based upon idolatry” ( De spec.  4), as well as promoting profligacy and immodesty. Not surprisingly, actors wanting to be baptized had to give up their profession. 2. Development 2.1. This negative attitude to plays per…