Edited by: Karl Rahner with Cornelius Ernst and Kevin Smyth.
Advisor for the online edition: Karen Kilby, Durham University
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.
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
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