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The Sermon on the Mount , fresco by Fra Angelico (1437–1445)
The cross and the fish are two of the most famous symbols for Jesus Christ. The letters of the Greek word ΙΧΘΥΣ Ichthýs (fish) are acrostic to form the creed of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior . Leaded glass window by Wilhelm Schmitz-Steinkrüger in the Church of St. Johannes Baptist (Nideggen) , around 1952

The Christianity is a world religion , which from the Judaism emerged. Their followers are called Christians ; the totality of Christians is also called Christianity .

Of central importance to Christianity is Jesus of Nazareth , a Jewish traveling preacher who appeared around AD 28-30 and was executed in Jerusalem . After his crucifixion and resurrection, his disciples recognized in him the Son of God and the Messiah expected by Judaism . In their confessions they call him Jesus Christ . Belief in him is grounded in the New Testament scriptures . The vast majority of Christians believe in one God ( monotheism ) as a Trinity , that is, a unity of the Father , Son and Holy Spirit . There are also smaller anti-Trinitarian groups within Christianity .

The numerous denominations or churches within Christianity can be summarized in five main groups: the Roman Catholic Church , the Orthodox Churches , the Protestant , Anglican Churches and the Pentecostal movement . With around 2.26 billion followers, Christianity is the most widespread religion worldwide, ahead of Islam (over 1.8 billion) and Hinduism (around 900 million).



The term "Christianity" (from the Greek. Χριστιανισμός, Christianismós ) is first mentioned in a letter from the Syrian bishop Ignatius of Antioch mentioned in the 2nd century and is the older terms Ἰουδαισμός ( Ioudaismós , Judaism) and Ἑλληνισμός ( Hellēnismós , Hellenism ) modeled. According to Acts 11:26 EU , the disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Χριστιανόι ( Christianói , Christians ) by the inhabitants of the Syrian city of Antioch on the Orontes, which belonged to the Roman Empire , to which the Christians had fled after the first persecutions in Palestine . The followers of Jesus apparently saw the confession of Christ as characteristic of their faith. The Christians soon adopted this designation for themselves (cf. Acts 26.28  EU , 1 Petr 4.16  EU ). The German word Kristentûm is first used by Walther von der Vogelweide .


The roots of Christianity lie in Judaism in Roman-ruled Palestine at the beginning of the 1st century. It goes back to the followers of the Jewish traveling preacher Jesus of Nazareth. Christianity is connected to Judaism in particular through the first part of its Bible , which corresponds to the Jewish holy writings of the Tanakh and is called the Old Testament in Christianity . Without the Old Testament, the Christian faith would have no history and would remain incomprehensible. Christians, however, read the texts of the Old Testament from and towards Jesus Christ ( Christological interpretation). Christianity spread in a short time in the Mediterranean area. Hellenism exerted a considerable influence on Christian thought.


The core of the Christian religion, as it sees itself, stems from God's unconditional love for people and all of creation . In this love, in which God reveals himself in the form of the man Jesus of Nazareth and makes himself accessible, the relationship man-world-God is clarified. It affects all areas of human existence and all dimensions of human existence. The promise of salvation applies to people of all nations, regardless of race or class, gender or social position (cf. Gal 3:28  EU ). Christianity sees itself as a universal religion and at the same time as the unsurpassable place where God has turned to people in history and can be experienced. The missionary character of Christianity corresponds to this understanding or the mission of Christ ( Mt 28, 19–20  EU ) .


According to the prevailing Christian understanding of faith, Jesus is both true God and true man . The Christian teaching, which is based on the biblical testimony, has the following central content: God turned in the incarnation (“ incarnation ”) in his Son Jesus Christ to humanity entangled in sin ; the death of Jesus Christ on the cross brought about salvation by eliminating the guilt and sin of mankind.

For the first Christians, the certainty of faith lay in the events of Easter , the third day after Jesus' crucifixion. At that time - according to the conviction of Christians - God was the first of all people to bring about the resurrection or resurrection in Jesus and thus confirmed Jesus' message of the coming kingdom of God ( Phil 2: 5–11  EU ). The followers of Jesus experienced that the risen Jesus appeared to them and promised his permanent presence ( 1 Cor 15 : 3–8  EU ). The Christian community ( church ) is based on this Easter or resurrection experience , which at Pentecost was empowered to fulfill its missionary mandate through the Holy Spirit .

This belief, together with the memory of the work of Jesus of Nazareth as the herald of God's message, was expressed in the form of hymns and confessional formulas and developed in sermons. The core of the creed were some Old Testament sovereign titles transferred to Jesus such as “Lord”, anointed one (Greek Christ , Hebrew Messiah ), “Son of God” and others. The writings of the New Testament emerged step by step, which over the course of the first centuries - together with the Bible of the Jews - were recorded and preserved in the biblical canon - as a uniform basis of Christian teaching. There are confessional differences with regard to the recognition of further teaching development.


Countries where Christianity is the most widespread religion are marked purple (Catholic), blue (Protestant) or pink (Orthodox).

Christianity is the numerically most important world religion, to which it is estimated that around a third of all people in the world belong. Most state statistics will be based on self-designations by individual citizens or extrapolations, sometimes also on official lists. Christians are persecuted in many countries around the world , so that there are only uncertain numbers.

Christianity worldwide in numbers (2000)
region population Christians
in millions growth in percent in millions growth
Europe 730 0.05% 71.0% 519.1 −0.4%
Germany 82 0.1% 69.4% 57.1 −1.0%
Switzerland 7th 0.67% 86.6% 6.4 0.4%
Austria 8th 0.52% 89.7% 7.3 0.2%
Asia 3,691 1.41% 8.5% 316.5 3.7%
Africa 784 2.41% 48.3% 379.4 2.8%
Angloamerica 309.6 0.85% 81.5% 259.0 0.7%
Latin America 519 1.59% 91.6% 476.6 1.5%
Pacific 31 1.59% 73.3% 22.9 0.74%
Worldwide 6,065 1.59% 32.5% 1,973.0 1.4%

Above are the UN population figures from 1998. Figures about religious affiliation out of Prayer for the World, 2003 edition (see below). The data come from the years 1998–2000. The growth rates relate to the average growth from 1995 to 2000, but are partly based on a change in the database. Christianity is growing very rapidly in most parts of the world today, with its growth shifting from the “old” continent of Europe to the “new” parts of the world; it is growing particularly strongly in Asia and Africa . This growth is shared equally between the Catholic Church, Evangelical communities and Pentecostal churches . The proportion of Lutherans is slowly declining. In Europe, due to the general decline in the birth rate and the number of people leaving the Church with simultaneous migration, a decline in the total number of Christians can be recorded.

Cohesion, organization and directions

The Christ monogram with the Greek letters Alpha and Omega . The "X" and the "P" are the two Greek letters Chi and Rho and the two first letters of Christ.

All of Christianity is seen as the Ekklesia , the body of Christ with Christ as head. Every single Christian represents a member of this mystical body. Some Christian theologians differentiate between the “invisible church”, which includes all believing Christians of all denominations, and the visible church, whose members can be more or less religious.

Several groups or currents soon emerged within Christianity, sometimes due to political motives or geographical conditions, but also due to different doctrines. These directions can be roughly divided into confessions and denominations according to their characteristics . One or more churches or parishes belong to a confession or denomination . The individual Christian is a member of a particular church or community. In addition to denominations, there are also cross-denominational theological directions, for example liberal , evangelical or charismatic .

Many churches are in a more or less loose communion with other churches, which is based on mutually recognized doctrines, without giving up their specific doctrines and their customs. Examples of such communities are the World Council of Churches , the Evangelical Alliance and the Leuenberg Agreement . There are also church communities which include full mutual recognition of sacraments , church membership and offices . Examples of such church communities are the Anglican Communion , the Orthodox Churches and the Protestant Uniate Churches .

Historical development

In the ancient world there were five Christian patriarchates , to which the local metropolitans , archbishops and bishops were subordinated: Rome , Constantinople , Alexandria , Antioch and Jerusalem . A council (an assembly of bishops) was called to decide on essential doctrinal issues . The ecumenical councils, in which bishops from all patriarchates met, enjoyed the highest esteem. However, this status was later withdrawn from several councils that considered themselves “ecumenical” due to a lack of approval from the local churches . Altogether there were seven ecumenical councils from 325 to 787 , which are recognized by the Catholic , Orthodox, Anglican and most of the Protestant churches to this day; however, some Protestant churches reject the Second Council of Nicaea because of its statements about image veneration .

After the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD, a first split occurred, namely the split of the Apostolic Church of the East ("Nestorians"). At the following Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon , the nature of Christ was defined as both human and divine. The Miaphysite churches , which include the Coptic Church , the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church , emphasize the unification ( enosis ) of the human and divine nature of Christ and reject the teaching of a "two-fold Christ" like him represented in Nestorianism . The imperial church took up the moderate two-natures doctrine of the Chalcedonense, so that it is part of the dogmatics of most of the denominations existing today.

In the centuries that followed, the alienation between the Eastern and Western traditions in the Imperial Church deepened to the point of rupture. The western tradition developed in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages in the western Roman Empire , while the eastern tradition originated in Constantinople, Asia Minor , Syria and Egypt ( Byzantine Empire ). The actual dogmatic differences remain small, but the Latin Church had developed doctrines during this period that had not been approved by ecumenical councils (e.g. doctrine of original sin , purgatory , filioque , papal primacy of the pope ). Other differences had long existed with regard to the political environment, language and questions of rite and liturgy ( fasting on Saturdays , azyma ). The situation came to a head in the 11th century, so that in 1054 there was a mutual excommunication between the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople. This date is usually considered to be the beginning of the Eastern Schism .

The Western Church experienced a profound division through the Reformation of the 16th century. The reformers' concerns primarily concerned the understanding of the Church and the sacraments and the doctrine of justification . The Reformation movement led to the formation of several parallel churches, from which new groupings broke up in the further course, some of which came together in the following centuries to form church communities.

After initial approaches in the 19th century (e.g. Bonn Union Conferences ), in the 20th century there was a rapprochement between the denominations and forms of dialogue and cooperation that can be summarized under the heading of ecumenical movement . Today, churches that affirm the central elements of Christian doctrine see themselves as sister churches, or they are involved in ecumenical forums such as the World Council of Churches or the Working Group of Christian Churches in Germany .

Eastern tradition

St. Apostle Andrew erects a cross on the heights of Kiev

The patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem and some of the national churches that have been added since then have the same theology and spirituality, which has hardly changed, and see themselves as part of the original Church founded by Christ. What they all have in common is that they celebrate the liturgy in the respective national language. The largest Orthodox church today is the Russian Orthodox Church . In fact, since the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Patriarch of Constantinople has held the priority of honor among the Orthodox Patriarchs. Today, the Orthodox patriarchates often have churches abroad that are subordinate to them. There are significant differences between the Orthodox and Western churches - these include e.g. B. the place of the Holy Spirit with regard to the sanctification of the faithful and the matter to be consecrated , spirituality , icons and the doctrine of the Church. The Orthodox churches have their historical focuses in Southeast and Eastern Europe , the Middle East , India and Northeast Africa and can be found today as emigrant churches in all parts of the world.

Orthodox Christians give the Bishop of Rome priority of honor within the framework of the pentarchy , unless this is understood to mean a legal primacy. This requires that the Pope is orthodoxy and sees himself as “ primus inter pares ”.

In the Orthodox churches, the three sacraments of inclusion ( baptism , anointing of myron and first communion ) are administered in a single celebration. The celibacy is in the Orthodox churches as well as in the Eastern Catholic Churches united with Rome for the Bishops, for religious and consecrated virgins prescribed. The teaching is based on the understanding that tradition can progress under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a distinction must be made between a “traditio constitutiva” (unchangeable) and a “traditio divino-apostolica”, which include the Adiaphora . Orthodoxy limits the “traditio constitutiva” to the ecumenical councils recognized by them.

Western tradition

From late antiquity , the doctrine developed that the bishop of Rome has an authority that can be directly traced back to the apostle Peter and that makes him the representative of Christ and thus holder of the supreme jurisdiction, teaching and pastoral office in the Christian church.

Around the middle of the second millennium, theologians in various places in Europe ( Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli in German-speaking countries, Johannes Calvin in French, and Thomas Cranmer in English) demanded reforms in the Catholic Church in protest against abuses. This resulted in the separation of the Western Church into a Roman tradition, which remained with Rome during the Reformation, and a Reformation tradition that broke away from Rome.

The Pope's infallibility in statements of faith proclaimed ex cathedra and his primacy of jurisdiction over the Church as a whole were raised to binding beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church in the First Vatican Council with the dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus . After this council, the opponents of infallibility separated from Rome or were excommunicated and henceforth formed their own Old Catholic churches, which merged in the Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches . Because their historical tradition ran parallel to the Roman Catholic Church between the 16th and 19th centuries , but they have a reform-oriented orientation according to their self-image, which has brought them to Protestantism in church fellowship with the Anglicans and in ecumenical solidarity, is their classification difficult.

Roman Catholic tradition

Holy Mass on the Feast of the Assumption in Villafranca de la Sierra (Spain)

The Roman Catholic Church has around 1.1 billion believers worldwide. According to their understanding, the “one holy Catholic Church” ( Nicano-Constantinopolitan Creed ) is the wandering “people of God” who, under the leadership of the Pope as the successor of the Apostle Peter and representative of Christ on earth, “indestructible germ cell of unity, hope and the Salvation ”(cf. Lumen Gentium , Apostolicae curae and Dominus Jesus ). The Second Vatican Council supplemented the dogma of papal infallibility (1870) with the statement: "The whole of the believers who have the anointing of the Holy (cf. 1 Jn 2: 20, 27  EU ) cannot err in their faith."

The three sacraments of incorporation into the Catholic Church are baptism , confirmation and the reception of the Eucharist .

The apostolic succession sees the continuity with the early church guaranteed by the fact that it is assumed to be a chain of laying on of hands (consecration), starting with the apostles via many bishops of bygone days up to today's bishops. Only bishops standing in apostolic succession can therefore validly donate the sacrament of consecration .

Roman Catholic services are open to all; However, only Catholics and members of Orthodox and Oriental churches are allowed to receive communion , provided they are properly disposed. In the event of death, members of other churches may be given food for the journey , provided that they declare their Catholic faith in relation to this sacrament. Intercommunion is prohibited.

Evangelical tradition

Protestant preaching service in Ravensburg , Germany

The Protestant churches see themselves as being based solely on the biblical scripture ( Sola scriptura ), while the Roman Catholic Church sees itself as being based on scripture and tradition. Nevertheless, the Protestant churches recognize the early ecclesiastical traditions and with them the resolutions of their synods and councils, and the confessions derived from them ( Apostolic Creed and Nicene Creed ). However, these derive their authority only from their harmony with the evangelical understanding of Scripture and not from the offices of their authors.

Martin Luther's public discussion of the Roman Catholic tradition began - after several years of theological development - with the 95 theses ; his doctrine is recorded in two catechisms he wrote ( Great and Small Catechism ) and other writings. Luther himself was an advocate of infant baptism , confession and the veneration of Mary , but turned against celibacy and married Katharina von Bora in 1525 .

The theologian, trained as an Augustinian monk , wrote a new doctrine of justification based on Augustine of Hippo , which states that “faith alone” ( Sola fide ) makes people “coram Deo” (before God) just and thus saves them from God's just punishment . Based on this doctrine of justification , as well as the principle of Sola scriptura, most evangelical Christians recognize only two acts as sacraments: baptism, in which Jesus himself was not the doer, but John the Baptist , and the Lord's Supper or Lord's Supper, which Jesus himself was reasoned. A word and an element are constitutive for both actions, which in the biblical tradition are connected with Jesus' command to carry them out. In the Protestant tradition, there are different understandings of the Lord's Supper, which, however , are not considered to be church-dividing by the member churches of the Leuenberg Agreement . The Reformed tradition understands the Lord's Supper as a purely symbolic memorial meal , while in the Lutheran tradition the idea of ​​the real presence of Jesus "in, with and under" the elements of bread and wine is emphasized ( consubstantiation ), but without their change ( transubstantiation ) as in the Catholic Understanding. It is still possible to make confession and receive absolution , but it is neither necessary nor a sacrament. In the baptized Protestant churches (but not in the German regional churches, which are united in the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) ), the baptism of underage children has been replaced by the baptism of believers , since these churches assume that a personal belief of the person baptized is a New Testament one A prerequisite for receiving baptism (sola fide) is. The various evangelical denominations are institutionally autonomous and have no official common doctrine that goes beyond scripture and no common head other than Christ.

The common basic ideas of the Protestant churches can be summarized in the "four solos":

  • Sola fide ”: Faith alone justifies before God.
  • " Sola gratia ": only the grace of God brings salvation.
  • Sola scriptura ”: The Bible alone is the rule and guideline of faith (“ regula fidei ”).
  • Solus Christ ”: Only the person, the work and the teaching of Jesus are the basis of faith.

A special case is the Anglican Church , which adheres to apostolic succession, to many Catholic customs in the liturgy and to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic gifts .

With regard to the relationship between tradition and the Bible, there are all intermediate stages from the Anglican Church to the Calvinist Reformed Churches, which reject any church tradition outside of the Bible.

In most denominations, doctrine and practice are decided by synods or conferences at the international level, in other denominations at the level of the local church.

Today, the differences between liberal and conservative wings within a denomination are often greater than the differences between individual liberals or between individual conservatives from different denominations.

While the Protestant denominations used to emphasize the differences very strongly, today there are some approaches to convergence: many Protestant denominations in Europe have come together in the Leuenberg Agreement, Evangelical denominations work together in the Evangelical Alliance. In some cases there have even been reunions ( United Church of Canada composed of Lutherans , Methodists and Presbyterians ; Uniting Church of Australia composed of Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Methodists; United Church of Christ composed of seven denominations). With the World Council of Churches there is also a body for ecumenical cooperation, which is not limited to the dialogue between the various Protestant churches, but in which the Old Catholic, Orthodox and Old Oriental churches are represented.

Tradition of Protestant Free Churches

The radical Reformation Anabaptist movement that originated in Zurich in 1525 is counted as part of its prehistory by many free churches . The Mennonites (baptismal people) and Hutterites have a direct historical connection with it. The Schwenkfeldians and the Unitarians are also rooted in the Reformation . The first Baptist church was founded in Amsterdam in 1609 under English Puritans and under the influence of Dutch Mennonites. The Methodists were founded in England in the 18th century . In Pietism , other churches emerged in German-speaking countries such as the Schwarzenau Brethren and the Herrnhuter , some of which can be traced back to the earlier Bohemian Brothers . In the 19th century, the Salvation Army , the Free Evangelical Churches and the Seventh-day Adventists were formed . At the beginning of the 20th century, the Pentecostal movement developed from North America .

Most of these movements see themselves as baptismal and are of the conviction that water baptism should be an expression of a person's new birth that has already been experienced. The Anabaptist movement was persecuted for centuries. The free churches that emerged later also experienced persecution and discrimination. They were separate from the respective state or regional church and thus “free churches”, which advocated the separation of church and state. These various free church branches are now showing strong growth in membership numbers worldwide.

In Germany, many Protestant free churches work together in the Association of Protestant Free Churches , in Switzerland in the Association of Protestant Free Churches and Congregations in Switzerland . In Austria there was a merger of several unions (Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Baptists, Mennonites) to form the free churches in Austria ; this association is a legally recognized church there.

Other denominations

Apostolic Communities

Apostolic communities are Christian communities whose origins lie in the revival movements between 1820 and 1830 and in the Catholic-Apostolic community that emerged from them . The main concern of these revival movements was a reoccupation of the apostolic office . Especially in the early years, the teaching and practice of the apostolic communities were influenced and shaped by both Protestantism and Catholicism . In addition to the doctrine of the apostleship, other exclusive doctrinal ideas developed, for example in the area of eschatology and the dormant being. A theological peculiarity of all these communities is also the sacrament of the Holy Sealing , which according to doctrine is necessary in order to achieve complete salvation (although the statements about this differ).

Today, the most important representatives include the New Apostolic Church (NAK) and the Association of Apostolic Congregations (VAG), whose congregations mainly emerged as a spin-off from the NAK. There is also the Apostle Ministry of Jesus Christ , the Apostle Ministry of Judah and the Old Apostolic Church . Some of the communities participate in the ecumenical movement and, despite theological reservations, have been accepted into the working groups of Christian churches .

New religious communities

Various other denominations see themselves neither in the Orthodox, Catholic nor in the Evangelical tradition. Groups that classify themselves in this way include the Quakers , Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Mormon communities , The Christian Community , the Unification Church , the Serious Bible Students , the Free Biblical Congregations, and Jehovah's Witnesses . Many of these new religious communities have different interpretations from the denominations outlined above. For example, they have views about the Trinity that do not agree with the ecumenical councils , or equivalent writings in addition to the Bible or certain so-called “special teachings” that are not found in the other denominations or in the Bible in this form or even openly contradict them . Because of these deviations, it is controversial whether those groups that are often referred to as “(Christian or religious) special groups or communities” or “ sects ” can even be counted among the Christian denominations. Some of the groups mentioned have the tendency (albeit differently pronounced) to set their own view of Christianity as "absolute". The term Unitarians today includes both anti-Trinitarian Christian groups (Unitarians in the traditional sense) and representatives of a pantheistic-humanist religion in which Christ no longer plays a central role.



The incarnation of God , the death on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ are central to Christian teaching . The majority of Christians believe that these events form the basis of God's work that humanity will reconcile with him; his death on the cross is understood as an act of redemption . The incarnation and voluntary sacrificial death are regarded as expressions of God's extreme love for lost humanity. Correspondingly central to Christian action is love ( Greek Αγάπη ; Latin caritas ) for God ( love of God ) and for fellow human beings ( love of neighbor ).

The vast majority of the various denominations share the following beliefs:

  • There is only one God, and God is triune - a single eternal being who reveals himself in three “ persons ”: Father (Creator), Son (Mediator, Redeemer) and Holy Spirit (power, “Comforter” = assistance, finisher ).
  • Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the promised Messiah .
  • Jesus Christ is both true God and true man ( doctrine of two natures ).
  • Jesus Christ proclaimed the coming kingdom of God , which began with his appearance.
  • The guideline for life as a Christian is the unity of love for God and neighbor, including love for one's enemies.
  • Jesus couldn't sin. Through his sacrifice on the cross, all people are forgiven their guilt of the original sin that has clung to them from their birth, and they are reconciled to God through the blood of Christ if they accept it.
  • Those to be baptized are baptized with water and according to the Trinitarian baptismal formula ( Mt 28:19  EU ). Through faith they are raised from death to eternal life , provided that they believe in this redemptive work of God for themselves.
  • Through faith in Christ, people receive the Holy Spirit, who brings hope and guides them or the church in God's truth and according to God's purposes.
  • The risen Jesus sits at the right hand of God. He will return to lead the believers into the eternal vision of God. Until this return, the church has the task of proclaiming the good news to all people and peoples.
  • As the Word of God , the Bible is inspired by God . It contains the message about Jesus and God as well as the guideline for the God-conscious behavior of people.
  • Mary , the mother of Jesus, gave birth to the Son of God, who was begotten through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Origin and Influences

Depiction of the crucified from 1310

The first Christians were Jews who found faith in Jesus Christ. In him they recognized the Messiah already promised by biblical prophecy (Hebrew: maschiach , Greek: Christos , Latinized Christ ), for whose coming the Jews have been waiting to this day. The early Christians took over all holy scriptures (the Tanach ) from the Jewish tradition , as well as the belief in a Messiah or Christ ( Christos : anointed). The way of worshiping God, the prayer of the Psalms, etc. were adopted from the Jews . v. a. m. Another thing they have in common with Judaism is the worship of the same Creator God. However, almost all Christians see God as a triune God : the Father, the Son (Christ) and the Holy Spirit . About how the triune God can be concretely thought, there are different views among the Christian denominations and groupings up to the rejection of the trinity of God ( anti-Trinitarians ). Faith in Jesus Christ led to tension and ultimately to the separation between Jews who accepted this belief and Jews who did not, as they refused, among other things, to worship a person because they did not see Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah and especially not the Son of God. Today's calendar is counted from the birth of Christ. Anno Domini (A.D.) means "in the year of the Lord".

The Holy Scriptures and Other Sources

The central source for the content and essence of the Christian faith is the Bible , whereby the status and interpretation vary.

The Bible consists of two parts, the Old and the New Testament. The content of the Old Testament corresponds to the Jewish Tanach except for details and was seen by Jesus and the early Christians as well as by the Jews as Holy Scripture . The New Testament contains accounts of the life of Jesus ( Gospels ), the early Church ( Acts of the Apostles for the years 30 to around 62), letters of the apostles, and the Revelation of John . The terms “old” and “new” for the wills denote the fact that, from the point of view of Christians, there is an old and a new covenant between God and man. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and was later (albeit in pre-Christian times) translated into ancient Greek under the name Septuagint . The New Testament, on the other hand, is written in a special variant of ancient Greek, the koine . Later both Testaments were translated into Latin translated ( Vetus Latina , Vulgate ), which was followed much later different, partly denominational, translations (from the original text ) in the respective people - and / or national languages (about Luther Bible , Zurich Bible , NIV , King James Bible ).

The extent of the Old Testament is determined differently by the denominations, since the Greek tradition of the Septuagint also contains several texts that are not contained in the Hebrew tradition. The parts that are only found in the Septuagint are called deuterocanonical or apocryphal writings. (See also Old Testament Canon .)

There is a consensus among all major denominations on the content of the New Testament, which has developed over the course of the first four centuries. (See also New Testament Canon .)

Thanks to numerous finds of codices and papyri in the last two centuries, the original text of the New Testament can now be scientifically reconstructed with great accuracy. This is what the textual history of the New Testament deals with . How this reconstructed text can best be translated into the languages ​​of the present is being discussed intensively (see Bible translation ).

There is also a wide range of opinions with regard to the exegesis (interpretation) of the biblical texts and their practical application to everyday life ( ethics ).

For most denominations, in addition to the Bible, other texts such as creeds , catechism , tradition , liturgy and Christian models such as saints influence the development of ecclesiastical and personal practice.

Relationship to other worldviews

Christianity has influenced other religions, whose followers do not see themselves as Christians, but recognize Jesus as God's prophet. In the Koran , Jesus appears as Isa ibn Maryam , that is, as the son of Mary, but his sonship is contested. Every worship of Jesus is sharply rejected in the Koran and, according to Sura 112, the Trinity. On the other hand, Jesus has positive titles in the Koran such as Messiah, Word of God and also Spirit of God; he is also one of the prophets of Islam . The crucifixion of Christ is denied in sura 4 , verse 157 and accordingly in the Islamic exegesis of the Koran :

“They did not (in reality) kill him and (also) did not crucify him. Rather, (someone else) appeared similar to them (so that they mistook him for Jesus and killed him). "

Christianity is generally attributed both positive and negative effects among non-Christians. The teaching of charity is usually seen as positive. Many Christians around the world also stand up for peace and for merciful concepts against poverty. The history of Christianity with crusades , witch hunts , the inquisition and anti-Judaism is viewed negatively . The positions on ethical issues such as artificial contraception , homosexuality and abortion are also controversial within Christians.

The later King of Thailand Mongkut had close contact with the Catholic Bishop Jean-Baptiste Pallegoix around 1825 as a Buddhist abbot . He commented, “What you teach people to do is admirable. But what you teach them to believe is foolish. "

It is a concern of many Christian churches to reconcile one another and to create a common basis ( ecumenism ). In addition, some have conversations with other religions ( interreligious dialogue ). The aim is peaceful coexistence between the religious communities.

In the first centuries after Christianity there was sometimes violent persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire . Even today, especially in communist and Islamic countries, there is strong persecution of Christians .

Christianity is partially accused of having been complicit in the persecution of the Jews. B. in the Middle Ages Jews were persecuted because they were blamed for Jesus' death on the cross. The reason for this persecution was the mixture of the historical and theological question of guilt, which led to the fact that currently living Jews were made liable for the (historical) guilt for the death of Jesus and were described, for example, as " God murderers ". Today's theological research differentiates between the question of historical guilt for a judicial murder , which can and must be asked equally for Jesus as for every other judicial murder in world history, and the theological question of the significance of the death of Jesus Christ for each individual. The historical question about the guilt for the death of Jesus is answered relatively unanimously today in such a way that the Roman occupying power was responsible here, since the Jewish authorities had no authority to execute people. The theological question is answered in the Christian understanding of faith in such a way that every sinner bears the guilt for Jesus' death on the cross.

Cultural influence of Christianity

In the history of the West , belief, culture and art have influenced each other. A crucial stop was, for example, the iconoclasm in the early Middle Ages. In the West, art often dealt with Christian themes, although since the Renaissance, more recourse has been made to non-Christian motifs from antiquity .

Music has always been part of the liturgical expression of the Christian faith. In all epochs of music history the most important musicians of their time also created works for church music , for example Georg Friedrich Händel , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy ; but above all Johann Sebastian Bach . Poets like Martin Luther or Paul Gerhardt created texts of high standing in the German-speaking countries and had a decisive influence on the further development of church music. The influence of the Christian faith is not limited to so-called classical or serious music : For example, gospel music , especially in the American culture, picks up on different styles of the 20th century and develops them further.

Christianity has also had a major impact in many countries in the field of language and school education. In German-speaking countries, Martin Luther's translation of the Bible had a formative influence on the development and spread of the High German language . The Bible, as the most translated book in world literature, made it especially in smaller linguistic areas e.g. Sometimes it was necessary to develop a written language in the first place, whereby smaller languages ​​were often strengthened in their value and their identity.

Observation of nature, work and technology played an important role for the western monks, they were part of the regular daily routine in the monastery, the Ora et labora (German: pray and work ). Gregor von Tours (538–594) invented the water mill, Wilhelm von Auvergne (1228–1249) the mechanical clock, and in 1280 monks in Pisa and Lucca invented spectacle lenses. In the sixteenth century, the reformers also encouraged the establishment of public schools and the reading of the Bible in the family through comprehensible Bible translations into the vernacular, which led to a greater commitment and sense of responsibility in work and society. Most of the early scientists were Christians because they believed in a rational, lawful cosmos that could be discovered, explored, and described. Around 1830, Presbyterian Cyrus McCormick and Quaker Obed Hussey developed the first mowing machines to ease the hard work of harvesting and increase yields for farmers in the United States.

In the past , the Christian mission was partially accused of exporting the culture of the West (e.g. in the form of dress codes) at the same time as the Christian faith, but today mission is more oriented towards inculturation . One of the main cultural influences of Christianity is also the establishment of the Christian calendar in the West.

See also



History (extensive representations)

  • Cambridge History of Christianity . Several ed. 9 volumes. Cambridge 2005ff. (Overall presentation that includes the latest research.)
  • The history of Christianity. Religion politics culture . Edited by Jean-Marie Mayeur, Charles and Luce Pietri, André Vaucher, Marc Venard. German edition edited by Norbert Brox, Odilo Engels, Georg Kretschmar, Kurt Meier, Heribert Smolinsky, 14 vols., Verlag Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 1991ff. (current overall presentation: meeting )
  • Handbook of Church History . Edited by H. Jedin et al. a., 7 vol., Freiburg 1962–1979, ISBN 3-451-20454-1 (Standard work on the history of Christianity from the perspective of the Catholic Church and partly outdated.)


See above all: Theological Real Encyclopedia , Religion Past and Present [4. Ed.], Lexicon for Theology and Church [3. Ed.] And Biographical-Bibliographical Church Lexicon .

  • Metzler Lexicon of Christian Thinkers: 700 authors from the beginnings of Christianity to the present . Edited by Markus Vinzent. Metzler, Stuttgart a. a. 2000

Philosophical Interpretations

  • Ludwig Feuerbach : The essence of Christianity . Otto Wiegand, Leipzig 1841.
  • René Girard : I saw Satan fall from the sky like lightning. A critical apology for Christianity . Hanser, Munich 2002.
  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel : Early Writings. Works in twenty volumes, volume 1. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1971.
  • Michel Henry : Incarnation: A Philosophy of the Flesh . 2nd Edition. Alber, Freiburg 2004.
  • Jean-Luc Nancy : Deconstruction of Christianity . Diaphanes, Zurich / Berlin 2008.
  • Slavoj Zizek : The Reality of Christianity . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-518-06860-1 .

Other literature

  • Bruce Bawer: Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity . Three Rivers Press, New York 1997, ISBN 0-609-80222-4 (Critique of fundamental dogmatic tendencies.)

Web links

Portal: Christianity  - Overview of Wikipedia content on Christianity
Wiktionary: Christianity  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Category: Christianity  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikibooks: Introduction to Christianity  - Learning and Teaching Materials
Wikisource: Christianity  - Sources and Full Texts


  1. Theodore M. Ludwig: Art. Monotheism , in: Lindsay Jones (and others) (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Religion. 2nd, completely new edition. New York (et al.) 2005, Vol. 9, pp. 6155-6163.
  2. Gisbert Greshake: Der dreieine Gott - Ein Trinitarian Theologie, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna, 5th edition 2007.
  3. Cf. the early church creeds of the Apostolicum , Niceneum and Athanasium .
  4. Lothar Ullrich: Antitrinitarier , in: Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, durchg. 3rd edition, Freiburg 2009, Sp. 776-777.
  5. Article Antitrinitarier , in: Evangelisches Lexikon für Theologie und Gemeinde , Vol. 1. 1992, p. 91: "They ... formed a figure of Christianity in Unitarianism that went beyond the Reformation ..."
  6. According to the only comprehensive, but often criticized, survey, the number of followers of the individual currents in 2000 was around: 66 million (classical Pentecostals), 176 million (Charismatic Movement), 295 million (Third Wave). See David B. Barrett; Todd M. Johnson: Global Statistics. In: Stanley M. Burgess; Eduard M. van der Maas (Ed.): The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Revised and Expanded Edition. Zondervan, Grand Rapids 2002, ISBN 978-0-310-22481-5 , pp. 283-302.
  7. ^ CIA (Ed.): The World Fact Book 2009 . ( CIA World Factbook: online ). 33.32% of 6.790 billion world population.
  8. Max Seckler : Art. Christianity I-III. In: Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche , Third Edition, 1993–2001, Second Volume, Sp. 1105ff.
  9. Max Seckler : Art. Christianity I-III. In: Lexicon for Theology and Church , Third Edition, 1993–2001, Second Volume, Sp. 1113 f.
  10. Benedict XVI. : "Renewed Jewish Torah "
  11. Second Vatican Council: Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium" , No. 9.
  12. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium" , No. 12.
  13. Similar rules apply to the reception of the sacraments of reconciliation and the anointing of the sick ; see can. 844 CIC .
  14. ^ Denomination group of the Apostolic Communities. In: APWiki. Retrieved October 31, 2014 .
  15. Guest members. In: Working Group of Christian Churches in Germany. Retrieved October 31, 2014 .
  16. Manuel Sarkisyanz: The cultures of continental Southeast Asia. Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaya. Academic Publishing Society Athenaion, 1979, p. 95.
  17. ^ Robert Bruce: "King Mongkut of Siam and His Treaty with Britain" page 91. (PDF) In: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch. The University of Hong Kong Libraries Vol. 9, 1969, accessed April 14, 2012 .
  18. Vishal Mangalwadi : The Book of the Middle. How we became what we are: The Bible as the heart of Western culture , Fontis Basel 2014, ISBN 978-3-03848-004-4 .