Encyclopedia of Christianity Online

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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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(638 words)

Author(s): Greschat, Hans-Jürgen
The term “shamanism” is used for anything that has to do with shamans. It comes from Evenki, a Tungusic language of Siberia, and denotes beating around oneself. Scholars have for many years disputed the definition, origin, extent, and exact scope of shamanism. Their uncertainty bears witness to the gap between the West and the intercultural and religious phenomenon known as shamanism. Women as well as men are shamans. They may be found in the north of Asia, America, and Europe, among Inuits, Ind…


(1,553 words)

Author(s): Wurmser, Léon
1. Term, Forms The word “shame” refers both to an emotion and to a basic disposition. 1.1. Shame appears as a type of anxiety, the anxiety of shame (“I am afraid of being exposed and thus humiliated”). Such anxiety can manifest itself as a subtle warning (signal form) or as overwhelming panic. 1.2. Shame also occurs as a complex emotion in reference to a depressive core feeling (“I have exposed myself and feel humiliated; I want to disappear; I don’t want to exist any longer as such a being that has thus exposed itself; I can extirpate this perceived contempt only by eliminating that which is exposed, either by hiding or disappearing myself or, if necessary, by my own elimination”; Depression; Suicide). The elements of seeing and disappearing—that is, of the eye—play particularly important roles in the feeling of contempt and…


(3,534 words)

Author(s): Zysow, Aron
1. Term The word “Shariʿa” (Arab. sharīʿah, etymologically “a path to water”; pl. sharā’iʿ) appears once in the Qur’ān (45:18) in the sense of a religious path to be followed, as does the synonymous shirʿah (5:48). In Islamic usage sha…

Shia, Shiites

(3,045 words)

Author(s): Sachedina, Abdulaziz
1. Term The word “Shia” (Arab. shīʿah, “a separate or distinct party of people who follow or conform with one another” [though perhaps without full agreement]) applies to one person or many, male or female. Broadly, it refers to Muslims who hold that the family of the Prophet Muḥammad (…


(1,405 words)

Author(s): Pye, Michael
1. Term Shinto is Japan’s native, national religion. The word means “way [ tō; cf. Chin. tao] of the gods [ shin],” though the sign for shin, when alone, reads kami. Kami are the many mythological or legendary figures that occur in the oldest Japanese written sources (i.e.,

Sierra Leone

(1,364 words)

Author(s): Jenkins, Paul | Haenger, Peter | Kortenhoven, Paul
¶ 1. General Situation 1.1. The Republic of Sierra Leone is an extremely poor West African nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution. While it possesses substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources, its economic and social infrastructure is not well developed, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development. Over 60 percent of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. Manufacturing is minimal, consisting mainly of processing raw ma…


(3,172 words)

Author(s): Rudolph, Enno | Brown, Robert F. | Slenczka, Notger
1. Term A sign in the most general sense is something understood to stand for something else, for something other than the sign itself. To serve as a sign, it must be recognized as signifying what it stands for. People and computer programs recognize and employ signs. To determine whether other animals do too depends on what counts as a sign, and on the assessment of their cognitive and instinctual functions. There is no unanimity as to what counts as a sign or how to classify different sorts of signs.…

Sign of the Cross

(656 words)

Author(s): Senn, Frank C.
The sign of the cross may be used to trace the shape of the cross on oneself or over an assembly or over things that are being set aside for sacramental use. 1. The earliest form of crossing oneself was to trace a cross on one’s forehead with one thumb. Later, during the Arian controversy (Arianism), the sign of the cross was made during Trinitarian invocations or benedictions. It is typically made by drawing the right hand from forehead to breast, then from shoulder to shoulder, and back to the center of the breast. In the Ea…


(370 words)

Author(s): Stein, Jürgen
1. The term “simony” took its origin from Simon Magus in Acts 8:18–24. It involves making, or trying to make, spiritual office or gifts a commercial matter. In 451 the Council of Chalcedon began systematizing this offense, and we still find signs of it in the Roman Catholic 1983 CIC (cans. 149.3, 188, and 1380) and in Anglican church law (can. 1969.16). The CIC has come under criticism for leaving many questions open (E. Eichmann). Simony is not just a disciplinary offense but a sacrilege or heresy. Gehazi in 2 Kgs. 5:20–27 has given his name to the special offense of selling spiritua…

Simul iustus et peccator

(1,545 words)

Author(s): Root, Michael
The formula simul iustus et peccator ( siep, “simultaneously justified and a sinner”) was used by Martin Luther (1483–1546; Luther’s Theology) and adopted as a central term of Lutheran theology in the 20th century. It refers to the continuing sinfulness of the justified person. Earlier a focus of doctrinal disagreement between Protestant (esp. Lutheran) and Roman Catholic theology, it recently has been the subject of official ecumenical agreement.…


(470 words)

Author(s): Bromiley, Geoffrey W.
In the story of the exodus Moses leads the people to Sinai and receives the law there (…


(1,166 words)

Author(s): Roxborogh, John | Yeow, Choo-Lak
1. General Situation The island of Singapore was obtained from Malay rulers in Johor in 1819 by Stamford Raffles (1781–1826). Established as a free trading port, it became part of the British Straits Settlements along with Malacca and Penang. The British surrendered to the Japanese in February 1942, and in 1946 Singapore became a crown colony. After independence in 1963 it was part of the Federation of Malaysia until 1965.…


(4 words)

See Roma


(1,033 words)

Author(s): Rudolph, Enno
1. Antiquity Skepticism (from Gk. skeptomai, “examine”) is a principle of thought, constantly modified in the history of philosophy, whereby doubt is cast on everything. It originated with the founder of the third post-Aristotelian school, Pyrrho of Elis (ca. 360–ca. 272 b.c.). Pyrrho’s teachings were handed down by Sextus Empiricus (fl. early 3d cent. a.d.), ¶ which gave rise to the traditional equating of Pyrrhonism and skepticism. Pyrrho established the possibility of a radical skepticism with his argument that there are no convincing reasons for …


(4,583 words)

Author(s): Fahlbusch, Erwin | Wirz, Albert | Szabó, Eszter | Cone, James H.
Overview The “Slavs,” an ancient people of east-central Europe, were conquered and sold into bondage so frequently during the Middle Ages that their name eventually became synonymous with the state of servitude. “Sclavus,” their original title, came into MEng. as sclave, with the meaning “one bound to servility” attached as early as the ninth century. Evidently, by that time it already made no difference to which race these “slaves” belonged. By means of slavery, whether the ownership and dependence be physical or otherwise, certain people become the property of others and are obliged to offer service, being given the degrading status of no more than useful objects. Slavery was a social institution in antiquity. The Christian West at times found it offensive but did not totally end it, and with European expansion from the 15th century onward (Colonialism 2), it took on a mercantile form (the African-American slave trade). This form of slavery persisted in…

Slavic Mission

(1,106 words)

Author(s): Döpmann, Hans-Dieter
Whereas Latin and Byzantine missions went hand in hand with expansion, the adoption of Christianity by Slavic tribes helped to stabilize independent states (Mission 3.3). 1. After a mainly Frankish mission to Slavs who had settled in Illyria in the sixth and seventh centuries, and to southern Slavs in Slovenia and Croatia, missionary ¶ work increased with the destruction of the Avars’ kingdom in Pannonia (ca. 500–803) by Charlemagne (768–814) and the Bulgars in 811. The Drava River became the boundary of the influence of Aquileia, in northern Italy, and of th…


(466 words)

Author(s): Hauptmann, Peter
When Russian philosophy became independent in the early 19th century, a prominent question was that of the relation of Russia to Europe, which J. P. Chaadayev (1794–1856) raised in his Lettres philosophiques (1827–31; ET Philosophical Letters [Knoxville, Tenn., 1969]). A “Western” group of thinkers wanted a full and swift adoption of the achievements of the West, but another group, the Slavophiles, argued for Russia’s independence and even superiority and hence advocated separate enterprises. It …
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