Symbolics The meaning of this term will vary with that assigned to the original word from which it is derived σύμβολον (from συμβάλλειν) has a primary reference to the fitting-together of two separate objects, e.g. the parts of a ring or of other "tessera hospitalitatis." Σύμβολον (related to σήμα) next came to denote every mark or sign by which the connection of individuals to a whole, e.g. a corporation or association, might be indicated. Such were the badges which secured admission to a banquet, the "tessera militaria," the flag, the password, etc. In time, whatever might be employed to illustrate abstract or supersensual ideas to the senses came to be termed a symbol, and this may be regarded the current meaning of the word today. As Christianity, like all religions, has its symbols, it is as proper to speak of Christian symbolics as of heathen (or ancient). A rich symbolism runs through the whole of Christian liturgies, e.g. the symbolism of the cross, etc.; but in the organism of theological study the term symbolics has no reference to such symbols. The reference is rather to the formulated and written confessions of the Church, which, more than any badge, are suited to indicate the union of individuals in one and the same ecclesiastical organization. Of these symbols the most ancient are baptismal confessions, from which the Symbolum Apostolicum was developed, which forms the rallying point of all who are adherents of Christianity. Heretical tendencies afterwards compelled the Church to formulate the great creeds — the Nicene, the Niceno Constantinopolitan, and the so-called Athanasian in which the marks of orthodoxy were determined and made prominent; and, in addition to the foregoing so called ecumenical symbols, other minor creeds and confessions were called into being by the force of events from time to time.
The rise of Protestantism furnished a new class of symbols, which were intended to serve as marks of distinction between the old papal and the new evangelical churches. Of these the first was the Augsburg Confession (q.v.) of 1530, and the supplementary symbolical books of the Lutheran Church, closing with the Book of Concord in 1580. The Reformed churches framed distinct symbols of their own-the Zwinglian, the Tetrapolitana, etc. Of this class the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the second Helvetic Confession (see the respective articles) acquired especial prominence. The Romish Church, for its part, was obliged, by the rise of Protestantism, to formulate its faith anew with a view to marking the features peculiar to its teachings, which was done in the Professio Fidei Tridentina and the Catechismus Romanus (see the corresponding articles). The accumulation of this wealth of material has operated decisively upon symbolics, so that the term has come to denote the science, which is employed upon the doctrines that distinguish the several confessions of Christendom. Its method may be historical, statistical, polemical, or irenical; but the ground upon which it operates can only be that of comparison of dogmas.
Like the history of doctrines, to which it stands related, symbolics is a modern branch of theological science, but is possessed of so much individuality as to necessitate a separate treatment. The foundation for the science was laid in the preliminary works of'Walch, Semler, Planck, and others (see below, Literature), while its actual beginnings date to Winer and Marheineke. The former drew up tables in which he simply presented to view, side by side, the differences existing in the various confessions, while the latter sought to exhibit the internal unity of each separate confession. It is evident that the treatment of symbolics requires the use of both these methods, and will vary according as the writer occupies the ground of one confession or another, or as he places himself above all confessions. It was because of this fact that Mohler's Symbolik, from the Roman Catholic point of view, drew forth the famous work of Baur from the Evangelical position (see below). The science speedily developed the necessity for examining its material, not simply in the letter of the symbolical books, but in the spirit of the confessions. Every detail has accordingly been made the subject of earnest study; and the ethical, social, political, and artistic bearings and differences of the various symbols have been examined. This fact gives rise to the question whether the term symbolics is adequate to the thing it is intended to represent; but all attempted substitutes have been so clumsy that they failed to win their way into favor. In Great Britain and America the subject is usually included under dogmatic theology (q.v.).
Literature. — Walch, Introd. in Libros Symb. Eccl. Luth. (Jen. 1732); Semler, Apparat. ad Libros Symb. Eccles. Luth. (Halle, 1775); Feuerlin: Bibl. Symbolica (Gött. 1752, 1768); Planck, Geseh. d. Entstehung, d. Verdnderungen, u. d. Bildung des prot. Lehrbegriffs (Leips. 17911800); id. Hist. u. vergleichende Darstellung d. verschiednene Dogm. — Systeme, etc. (Gott. 1796; 3rd ed. 1822); Winer, Comparative Darst. d. Lehrbegr. d. verschiedenen Kirchenparteien, etc. (Leips. 1824, etc. 4to); Marheineke, Symbolik (Heidelb. 1810, etc.); id. Inst. Symbolicae Doctrinarum, etc. (Berl. 1812, etc.); Marsh, Comp. View of the Churches of England and Rome (Lond. 1841, 8vo); Möhler, Symbolik (Mayence, 6th ed. 1843); Baur, Gegensatz d. Katholicismus u. Protestantismus, etc. (Tub. 1834).
See in connection therewith Sack, Nitzsch, etc.; Kollner, Symballer christl. Conf. (Hamb. 1837; 1844, 2 vols.); Guericke, Allgem. christl. Symbol. [Lutheran] (Leips. 1839); Rudelbach, Reformation, Lutherthun und Union (ibid. 1839); Gobel, Lutherische u. ref. Kirche (Bonn, 1837); Schneckenburger, Lutherisch. u. ref. Lehrbegriffe (Stuttg. 1855, posthumous); Thiersch, Kathol. u. Protestantismus [lectures] (Erl. 1848, 2nd ed.);
Schenkel, Wesen d. Protestantismus (Schaffhausen, 184652, etc.). See especially Schaff, Creeds of Christendom (N. Y. 1877, 3 vols. 8vo). — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v. SEE SYMBOLICAL BOOKS.