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Sacramentum Mundi Online

Sacramentum Mundi Online is the online edition of the famous six volume English reference work in Catholic Theology, edited (in 1968-1970) by Karl Rahner, one of the main Catholic theologians of the 20th century. Sacramentum Mundi: An Encyclopedia of Theology was originally published by Herder Verlag, and is now available online at Brill.

Karl Rahner, together with Adolph Darlap, began work on Sacramentum Mundi in 1961, just before the start of the Second Vatican Council. It was conceived from the start as an international project, and was eventually published simultaneously (or almost simultaneously) in six languages—German, French, Italian, Spanish, English and Dutch—by Rahner and thirteen editors. The four volume German edition came out from 1967-1969; the six volumes in English, from 1968-1970.
Three things make Sacramentum Mundi stand out from the profusion of theological dictionaries and encyclopedias published in the last century or two. First, it is this international quality, involving scholars from across Europe (and to a certain degree America), whereas the norm is for a dictionary or encyclopedia to have a certain insular quality—written in German by and for German language scholars, or in English by and for theologians of the English speaking world, and so on. Secondly, there is the fact that it was edited and shaped by Karl Rahner, one of the leading theologians of the 20th century. One does not find anything like it from Barth or Balthasar, Tillich or Bultmann—Rahner alone among the great minds of this great theological generation turned his attention to forming such a distinctively collaborative intellectual endeavor. Thirdly, it offers itself not just as a reference work, available for occasional consultation, but as a Summa--something from which one can gain, in other words, not only bits and pieces of theological information, but a vision of the discipline as a whole in its coherence.

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             Karl Rahner, together with Adolph Darlap, began work on Sacramentum Mundi in 1961, just before the start of the Second Vatican Council. It was conceived from the start as an international project, and was eventually published simultaneously (or almost simultaneously) in six languages—German, French, Italian, Spanish, English and Dutch-- by Rahner and thirteen editors. The four volume German edition came out from 1967-1969; the six volumes in English, from 1968-1970.

            Three things make Sacramentum Mundi stand out from the profusion of theological dictionaries and encyclopedias published in the last century or two. First, it is this international quality, involving scholars from across Europe (and to a certain degree America), whereas the norm is for a dictionary or encyclopedia to have a certain insular quality—written in German by and for German language scholars, or in English by and for theologians of the English speaking world, and so on. Secondly, there is the fact that it was edited and shaped by Karl Rahner, one of the leading theologians of the 20th century. One does not find anything like it from Barth or Balthasar, Tillich or Bultmann—Rahner alone among the great minds of this great theological generation turned his attention to forming such a distinctively collaborative intellectual endeavor. Thirdly, it offers itself not just as a reference work, available for occasional consultation, but as a Summa--something from which one can gain, in other words, not only bits and pieces of theological information, but a vision of the discipline as a whole in its coherence.

            Sacramentum Mundi reflects Rahner’s conviction that the era of the ‘renaissance man,’ of the individual intellectual capable of knowing and synthesizing everything necessary for a full articulation and defense of the faith, is a thing of the past. If one is going to write a new Summa, it needs to be done in a collaborative way such as this. Compared, then, to Barth with his Church Dogmatics, or Balthasar with his voluminous Trilogy, Rahner’s approach is marked by a certain modesty. At the same time, however, Sacramentum Mundi testifies to the confidence and hope-filled quality of the period in which it was written. The chafing constraints of neo-scholasticism, of a narrow textbook theology bound to a restrictive interpretation of Thomas Aquinas, were gone from Catholic theology. The retrievals of biblical, patristic and medieval traditions, in what has come to be known as the Ressourcement movement, had enriched and broadened the intellectual world of theologians. There was the excitement of engaging with the best of Protestant thought, and with powerful currents of modern philosophy. There was a feeling that in the Second Vatican Council, which had closed only three years before the appearance of the first of these volumes, the Catholic Church had fundamentally reoriented itself towards the world beyond its borders. And there was the sense that all this could be drawn together, integrated, and presented in a new, collectively owned theological synthesis—a synthesis which, if not so rigid and limited as the abandoned neo-scholasticism, could nevertheless offer a genuine coherence of its own.

             Nearly half a century on, our confidence that a sense of the whole of theology is within our grasp—even collectively-- may not be so strong. Nearly half a century on, too, we are aware of a range of themes which have become important which cannot be found here. And yet nevertheless we continue to benefit from the freshness, the intellectual power, and the wisdom on display in this most fascinating of encyclopedias, coming from a generation whose theological depth and vision has not been equaled since. 

 Prof Dr Karen Kilby, Durham University (UK)

ABBREVIATIONS

The following list does not include biblical and other well-known abbreviations. Whenever an author, not listed below, is cited in an article by name only, followed by page number(s), the reference is to a work listed in the bibliography at the end of the article.

AAS Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1909 ff.)
ACW J. Quasten and J. C. Plumpe, Ancient Christian Writers (1946 ff.)
Billerbeck (H. L. Strack and) P. Billerbeck, Kommentar ɀum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, I—IV (1922—28; reprint, 1956), V: rabbinical index, ed. by J. Jeremias and K. Adolph (1956)
CBQ Catholic Biblical Quarterly (1939 ff.)
Chalkedon A. Grillmeier and H. Bacht, eds., Das Konɀil von Chalkedon, Geschichte und Gegenwart, 3 vols. (1951-54; 2nd enlarged ed., 1962)
CIC Codex Iuris Canonici
CIO Codex Iuris Canonici Orientalis (Unless stated otherwise, the references are to the law relating to persons.)
Collectio Lacensis Collectio Lacensis: Acta et Decreta Sacrorum Conciliorum Recentiorum, ed. by the Jesuits of Maria Laach, 7 vols. (1870-90)
CSEL Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (1866 ff.)
D H. Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, Definitionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum (31st ed., 1957); see also DS
DB F. Vigouroux, ed., Dictionnaire de la Bible, 5 vols. (1895–1912)
DBS L. Pirot, ed., Dictionnaire de la Bible, Supplément, continued by A. Robert (1928 ff.)
DS H. Denzinger and A. Schönmetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum, Definitionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum (33rd ed., 1965); see also D
DSAM M. Viller, ed., Dictionnaire de Spiritualité ascétique et mystique. Doctrine et Histoire (1932 ff.)
DTC A. Vacant and E. Mangenot, eds., Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, continued by É. Amann, I-XV, Table analytique and Tables générales, XVI ff. (1903 ff.)
Enchiridion Biblicum Enchiridion Biblicum. Documenta Ecclesiastica Sacram Scripturam Spectantia (3rd ed., 1956)
ETL Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses (1924 ff.)
GCS Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (1897 ff.)
Hennecke-Schneemelcher-Wilson E. Hennecke, W. Schneemelcher and R. McL. Wilson, eds., New Testament Apocrypha, 2 vols. (1963-65)
HERE J. Hastings, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 12 vols. + index (1908-26; 2nd rev. ed., 1925-40)
JBL Journal of Biblical Literature (1881 ff.)
JTS Journal of Theological Studies (1899 ff.)
LTK J. Höfer and K. Rahner, eds., Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 10 vols. + index (2nd rev. ed., 1957-67)
Mansi J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio, 31 vols. (1757-98); reprint and continuation ed. by L. Petit and J. B. Martin, 60 vols. (1899-1927)
NRT Nouvelle Revue Théologique (1879 ff.)
NTS New Testament Studies (1954 ff.)
PG J.-P. Migne, ed., Patrologia Graeca, 161 vols. (1857 ff.)
PL J.-P. Migne, ed., Patrologia Latina, 217 vols, + 4 index vols. (1844 ff.)
Pritchard J. B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament (1950; 2nd revised and enlarged ed., 1955)
RGG K. Galling, ed., Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 6 vols. + index (3rd rev. ed., 1957-65)
RHE Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique (1900 ff.)
RHPR Revue d’histoire et de philosophie religieuse (1921 ff.)
RSPT Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques (1907 ff.)
RSR Recherches de science religieuse (1910 ff.)
RSV Revised Standard Version of the Bible
TS Theological Studies (1940 ff.)
TWNT G. Kittel, ed., Theologisches Wörterbuch ɀum Neuen Testament, continued by G. Friedrich (1933 ff.); E. T.: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1964 ff.)
ZAW Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (1881 ff.)
ZKT Zeitschrift für Katholische Theologie (1877 ff.)
Edited by: Karl Rahner with Cornelius Ernst and Kevin Smyth
"Edited by one of the leading theologians of the 20th century, Sacramentum Mundi offers itself not just as a reference work, available for occasional consultation, but as a Summa--something from which one can gain, in other words, not only bits and pieces of theological information, but a vision of the discipline as a whole in its coherence. Nearly half a century on, our confidence that a sense of the whole of theology is within our grasp—even collectively-- may not be so strong. Nearly half a century on, too, we are aware of a range of themes which have become important which cannot be found here. And yet nevertheless we continue to benefit from the freshness, the intellectual power, and the wisdom on display in this most fascinating of encyclopedias, coming from a generation whose theological depth and vision has not been equaled since." - Karen Kilby, Durham University