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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(918 words)

Author(s): Nxumalo, Sibongile C.
1. General Situation The Kingdom of Swaziland borders South Africa on the north, west, and south, and Mozambique on the east. Politically, the country has a dual monarchy, with the king ruling in conjunction with the queen mother. Executive power is vested in the king, who rules in consultation with the Cabinet, headed by the prime minister; the Libandla, or bicameral Parliament; and the Swazi National Council, which advises the king on all matters and speaks in particular for traditional Swazi cus…


(6,800 words)

Author(s): Ryman, Björn
1. Church and Nation Sweden is situated in northern Europe, sharing political and religious experience with its neighboring Nordic countries and churches. To counter the Viking paganism of these countries, the Diocese of Hamburg-Bremen in Germany sent missionaries, first and foremost among them Anskar (801–65), who came twice to Sweden, in 830 and 852. The Christian mission, coming both from Germany and Britain, was not particularly successful until 1000, when the first King Olof was baptized. Altho…


(716 words)

Author(s): Reimer, Hans-Diether
Denominations that include “New Church” or “New Jerusalem” in their names, found mostly in Britain, the United States, and South and West Africa, all go back to the Swedish “visionary” (so I. Kant) Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), the first in the modern period to present revelations from the spirit world. As a brilliant scientist, engineer, and inventor, Swedenborg was one of the leading thinkers of his age. He had doubts, however, regarding whether we can truly grasp reality with scientific mea…


(3,148 words)

Author(s): Weibel, Rolf
1. General Situation 1.1. Structure of the State The official name of Switzerland, the Swiss Confederation, shows that the nation has no linguistic or cultural uniformity. The constitution recognizes German, French, and Italian as official languages; in 1938 Rhaeto-Romance was added as a national language. Of the 7,288 million inhabitants (2000 census) 63.7 percent speak German, 20.4 percent French, 6.5 percent Italian, 0.5 percent Rhaeto-Romance, and 9.0 percent other languages. With its 1848 constitution Switzerland became the first European nation with a democr…

Syllabus of Errors

(695 words)

Author(s): Kirchner, Hubert
The term “Syllabus of Errors” traditionally refers to the 80 statements that were published with the encyclical Quanta cura by Pius IX (1846–78) on December 8, 1864 (DH 2901–80). They form a climax in the controversies of the Roman Catholic Church with the intellectual movements of the age, which were a particular concern of the pope in drawing up his Syllabus. It represents, as Cardinal I. Antonelli wrote in an accompanying letter to the bishops, a “Syllabus” of “the most conspicuous errors and false doctrines of this es…


(2,971 words)

Author(s): Bucher, Anton A. | Brown, Robert F. | Rudolph, Enno | Bürki, Bruno
1. Term “Symbol” (Gk. symbolon, Lat. symbolum) is a broad term with various senses and applications. Symbols are like signs in that they represent, or refer to, something that is other, or more, than themselves. The category of symbols is usually said to overlap that of signs. Some interpreters use the two terms almost interchangeably; others treat symbols as special kinds of signs with characteristics of their own. Still others seek to distinguish clearly between the two (Sign 1). Symbols and signs point beyond themselves. The conventional kind of sign usually has a singl…

Symbolism of Animals

(1,884 words)

Author(s): Neumann, Helga
1. Cultural History 1.1. Stone Age engravings and paintings on rock walls and caves include portrayals of animals, whose significance goes beyond the pictured life-forms. The naturalistic portrayal of hunting animals expresses the effort of the ancient hunter, by means of the images, to gain power over the animal by casting a hunting spell on it (Magic) and to utilize the animal’s strength and power by worshiping it. In the cultures of shepherding and animal husbandry, the fertility of bull, cow, o…


(2,082 words)

Author(s): Reeg, Gottfried
1. Term Synagōgē is a Greek term meaning “gathering, conventicle,” used first by Philo (15–10 b.c.–a.d. 45–50), then by Josephus (ca. 37–ca. 100), and also in the NT for a place of gathering. The Hebrew equivalent is bēt ha-kĕneset (Aram. bē kĕništā), meaning “community house” or “house of the assembly” (from the root kns, “assemble”). In the Egyptian diaspora and in Josephus we also find the term proseuchē, “place of prayer.” Other terms such as sabbateion (house in which a Sabbath service was held) are infrequently used. M. Luther’s (1483–1546) translation Judenschul in the NT is ba…


(335 words)

Author(s): Plank, Peter
From the word synagō, “collect,” the synaxarion is a collection for the church year of short lives and notices of the saints (§5.1) that, in the Eastern churches, can be used either in public worship or privately (Orthodox Christianity; Orthodox Church). From the 9th century onward, the literary genus of the synaxarion has merged into that of church calendars and martyrologies (Martyrs; Martyrs, Acts of the). There are examples in Byzantium and Italy and Greece, and also in the Near East, though usually in translation from the Greek. Modern Greek usage has added the texts to the li…


(1,999 words)

Author(s): Sundermeier, Theo
1. Term The term “syncretism” (Gk. synkrētismos) appears first in the Moralia (490ab) by Plutarch (ca. 46-after 119). Popular opinion or perhaps Plutarch himself derived the term on the basis of a false etymology from the Cretans, who in times of danger would set aside all differences in order to make common cause against the enemy. The term appears first in its theological meaning in the late Middle Ages (Erasmus), where it means the mixing together of various confessionally related doctrines that originally …

Syncretistic Controversy

(895 words)

Author(s): Mager, Inge
The syncretistic controversy was the longest and last theological debate in the so-called confessional period (Catholic Reform and Counterreformation 1.2). In it, doctrinal views traceable to Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560, positions polemically labeled Philippism or crypto-Calvinism), coupled with the attempt to search for the truth held in ¶ common by all three Christian churches in order to arrive at a fundamental minimum common ground, collided with a strict Lutheranism that was faithful to the Formula of Concord, uncompromising in defen…


(1,757 words)

Author(s): Neuner, Peter
1. Concept “Synergism” (from Gk. synergeō, “work together”) denotes all theological positions that teach a cooperation of human beings with divine grace, so that both their own action and divine grace are the cause of their justification (§2). In contrast to this view are theological systems that regard human beings as incapable of salvation because of their corruption through original sin (§3.2) and the bondage of their will. These systems assign justification solely to grace on the basis of divine …


(2,385 words)

Author(s): Mehlhausen, Joachim
1. Term The word “synod” (Gk. synodos, “on the way together”) was common already in classical Greek. In the apocryphal NT it occurs in Prot. Jas. 15.1 and is parallel to “synagogue.” As a term originally with the same meaning as “councils,” it has gained currency since the Reformation. It refers to church bodies that meet relatively regularly and that, through duly authorized members, advise the church on matters of faith, order, and government. In many church constitutions today, synods are collegial authorities by whic…


(1,610 words)

Author(s): Harlow, Daniel C.
1. The Problem The first three canonical gospels—those traditionally attributed to Matthew, Mark, and Luke—are referred to as the Synoptic gospels (from Gk. synoptikos = syn [with] + optikos [relating to sight]) in recognition of the marked similarities in the wording and sequence of their common material. Together these similarities, which extend to occasional verbatim agreement, suggest some sort of literary relationship. The challenge of determining the precise nature of the relationship has come to be known as the Syno…


(2,254 words)

Author(s): Al-Bagdadi, Nadia
1. History, Population, and Religious Communities Al-Jumhūrīya al-ʿArabīya al-Sūrīya, or the Syrian Arab Republic, is the northern part of the territory that, prior to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, was called Greater Syria (Bilād al-Shām), an area that included not only modern Syria but also Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine and Israel. The country’s geographic location at the intersection of three continents has had a great effect on Syria’s history. From ancient times, under Roman and Byzantine so…

Syrian Orthodox Church

(2,631 words)

Author(s): Meno, John P.
1. History The Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, sometimes referred to as the Syriac Orthodox Church, one of the Oriental Orthodox family of Eastern churches, traces its history back to the see established by the apostle Peter in Antioch. Located in the valley of the Orontes River, Antioch served as a vital crossroads of the Euphrates and the Mediterranean and was an important center of international trade and culture. The Patriarchate of Antioch claims the greatest antiquity of all the churches of Christendom. The Acts of the Apostles (11:26) confirms that the disciples of Christ…

Syrian Orthodox Churches in India

(1,269 words)

Author(s): Gregorios, Paulos | Roberson, Ronald G.
1. Organization There are two Syrian Orthodox churches in India: 1. an autocephalous church, acknowledging no other authority over it, known as the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, or the Indian Orthodox Church, with membership officially estimated at 2.5 million; and 2. an autonomous church, acknowledging the authority of the Syrian patriarch in Damascus, known as the Malankara “Jacobite” Syrian Orthodox Church, with membership estimated at 1.2 million. The two churches are identical in faith, both following the Oriental Orthodox tradition. Both acknowledge T…

Systematic Theology

(8,308 words)

Author(s): Ritschl, Dietrich | Sattler, Dorothea
1. Term The attempt is made here to describe systematic theology by comparing its understanding in Protestant and in Roman Catholic thought. 1.1. The term “systematic” as an attribute of theology is often viewed as unfortunate because it seems to imply that the full truth of the living God can be summarized in a system. The Anglican ¶ Church (Anglican Communion) did not use it for fear of theological system-building, but in Roman Catholic theology it encompasses the various disciplines of dogmatics, fundamental theology, moral theology, and canon law. …

Systems Theory

(6 words)

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