(1,742 words)

1. The term. The word “syncretism” was first used by Plutarch (De Fraterno Amore, 19) to describe a combination of Cretan communities against a common enemy, a rare and in fact historically uncertain event, as the Cretans were usually fighting among themselves. The term began therefore by signifying a political alliance in which mutual differences were overlooked in the face of a threat to all. The term then occurs again in the 16th century in Erasmus (Opus Epistolaram), who derived it from a verb συν-ϰίφάννυμι (which does not occur in classical Greek) and transposed it …

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John Charles Maraldo, “Syncretism”, in: Sacramentum Mundi Online, General Editor Karl Rahner, SJ. Consulted online on 25 March 2018 <>
First published online: 2016

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