Christian Cyclopedia

About the Cyclopedia


Theologically, recognition of human unworthiness in presence of transcendent God; ethically, in love valuing others above self. Non-Christian religions, including Islam,* define humility either in terms of approach to numinous power (esp. in prayer) or in terms of mystical relationship that emphasizes insignificance of man. In OT, concept of humility gen. little concerned with self-valuation apart from soc. context. A humble man depends on God, who requires humility of man (Mi 6:8). In NT, humility is not often assoc. with low soc. status, though it is part of Jesus' messianic character (Mt 11:29; 21:4–5). Included in NT catalogs of virtues (Cl 3:12; Eph 4:2; Ph 2:3). Humility involves man's relationship to God (2 Co 10:1, 12–18). Augustine* of Hippo posited humility as basic (Sermon 19 [69 in Benedictine ed.], 2 and 4, on Mt 11:28–29). Thomas* Aquinas viewed it as part of the cardinal virtue temperance, basic to Christian life. Mystical literature of the Middle Ages dealt at great length with humility. M. Luther* early defined humility as man's qualifying disposition (the deeper the humility, the greater God's mercy) which gave God honor, following Bernard* of Clairvaux (e.g., WA 1, 63–65). In many instances in the Ps Luther interprets humility as meaning nothingness of man before God, the crucifying of self, the will to hear God's Word (e.g., WA 40 II, 315–470). Humility assumes the character of God's work in man in Luther's lectures on Ro (e.g., WA 56, 408–409). In sermons of 1518 Christocentric humility appears in faith (e.g., WA 1, 329–334).

K. Thieme, Die christliche Demut (Giessen, 1906); W. C. v. Unnik, “Zur Bedeutung von Tapeinou##n th;n yuchvn bei den Apostolischen Vätern,” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, XLIV (1952–53), 250–255; L. Pinomaa, Der existenzielle Charakter der Theologie Luthers (Helsinki, 1940); R. Damerau, Die Demut in der Theologie Luthers (Giessen, Ger., [1967]). JEG

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

Stay Connected! Join the LCMS Network:

Contact Us Online
(Staff Switchboard)
(Church Info Center)
1333 S Kirkwood Rd
Saint Louis, MO 63122-7226 | Directions


Featured Publication

The Lutheran Witness

LCMS Communications

Interpreting the contemporary world from a Lutheran Christian perspective.
Visit TLW Online