Adapted from the Glossary Plus of What We Believe and Why by George Byron Koch, an extensive book on the beliefs of Christianity and its Jewish roots. More information at WhatWeBelieveAndWhy.com. Terms defined below include those from Judaism, Christianity, philosophy and science, as they relate to each other. Definitions do not imply agreement with the ideas defined, merely explanation of their meaning.
Words in bold are cross references to separate entries.
613 laws, rules, commandments, mitzvot (plural of mitzvah). Refers to all of the commandments of the Law of Moses found in the Torah, or Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). Their enumeration is typically attributed to Maimonides, though others also numbered them prior to him. There are 365 negatives (e.g., “do not steal”) and 248 positives (e.g., “love your neighbor”). The sages also divide them into three categories: those that are logical and make sense (e.g., not committing murder), those that sustain or testify to the faith (e.g., keeping the Sabbath), and those that seem to defy logic and common sense (e.g., Numbers 19:1-22). All are binding nonetheless, though all are subject to interpretation and elucidation by the Oral Law. Christians, when they learn of these, often dismiss them as “mere legalism,” but that is a serious misunderstanding of their purpose and application.
Abram/Abraham. God changed the name of Abram, “exalted father,” to Abraham, “father of nations,” in Genesis 17. Husband of Sarai/Sarah. See Chapter 13, Covenant – Abraham.
Ad Hominem. A form of misdirection, by attacking the motives or character of an opponent, or appealing to the emotions of the listener, rather than focusing on the opponent’s position, argument or logic.
Adiaphora. Translates as “matters of indifference” or “indifferent things.” A term from Greek Stoic philosophers to refer to things that were morally neutral. In Christian usage, typically refers to things neither required nor forbidden by Scripture.
Adonai. See also HaShem. One of the three most common names for God in the Old Testament; the others are Yahweh and Elohim. Adonai means “lord,” and in most Bible translations into English is rendered “Lord” (uppercase L, lowercase ord). Yahweh is an English pronunciation of the Hebrew letters YOD-HEY-VAV-HEY, ×™×”×•×”, sometimes also pronounced “Yehovah” or “Jehovah.” Many Jews do not say this Name aloud, out of respect and in order never to “take it in vain.” In prayer, they substitute “Adonai” anywhere “Yahweh” appears in prayers or Scripture, and in daily conversation they substitute “HaShem” (the Name) rather than, say, “God.” Similarly, they write “G-d” rather than write out God’s Name. Yahweh is usually rendered “Lord” in English translations (uppercase L, small-caps ord). Elohim is another common name for God (and gods) in the Old Testament. Usually rendered “God” in translations. When used as such, it is with a singular verb, though the suffix -im is plural. When it refers to other gods, it takes a plural verb.
Agape. Love. From the Greek á¼€γÎ¬πη, agápÄ“. Distinguished from three other common terms for love, eros, philia and storge, the first of which refers to romantic desire and affection, the second to love for family and close friends, and the third to fondness that arises between acquaintances. “Agape” is a relatively uncommon word for love in Greek, though the verb form was used to translate the Hebrew word for love, ××”×‘, ahav, in the Septuagint. The New Testament uses it to denote a love that is less of a feeling than an intentional action for someone else’s blessing or well-being, including most especially God, neighbor and even enemy. It is the word used almost exclusively for love by Jesus, Paul and others. The King James Bible renders this word as charity.
Agnostic. Literally “not knowing.” In modern usage, an agnostic is unconvinced whether God exists or not, or believes such existence is unknowable. Apparently coined by T. H. Huxley, who said, “I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of ‘agnostic’ … antithetic to the ‘gnostic’ of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant.” From Science and Christian Tradition, Forgotten Books, 2010 (originally published 1889), p.239. See also Atheist, Deist and Theist.
Ahav. Love. From the Hebrew ××”×‘, a-hav. Also the root of haver and haverim, denoting intimate friend and friends, as well as study partners in a Yeshiva.
Alexander the Great. (356–323 B.C.) Greek military ruler who conquered Northern Africa, the Middle East (including Israel and Judea) and the Mediterranean. He was a pupil of Aristotle.
All the law and the prophets. An expression that refers to all of the parts of the Old Testament (see also Tanakh) that give instruction: both the mitzvot, or commandments, and the exhortations of the prophets, as they spoke for God.
All things depend on one thing. An ancient grammatical form used to highlight something as extremely important. May be meant literally, but may also be meant simply to draw close attention to a point being made. Used by Jesus about the Law and the Prophets, by the Talmud about the Second Commandment, and by Rashi about circumcision, among others.
Allah. “The God.” An Arabic word related to the Hebrew Elohim, used by Muslims to refer to God, but also by some Arabic-speaking Christians and Mizrahi Jews.
Anabaptists. Rebaptizers. A group of Protestant Christians that arose in Europe in the 16th century, and that insisted baptism be restricted to adult believers who make a profession of faith in Jesus. They did not recognize infant baptism as valid since infants cannot profess faith in Jesus. Thus they rebaptized anyone who had been baptized as an infant but as an adult was willing to profess faith. They had many other distinctives in their manner of life as Christians. Modern-day Baptists descend from this movement, though there have been many divisions and differences in these groups.
Anglican. Churches related to or “in communion” with the Church of England. Originally begun about A.D. 597 by St. Augustine of Canterbury, but separated from the Roman Catholic Church by King Henry VIII in 1534. Today a worldwide church of over 70 million with the majority of its members in Africa and Asia. The third-largest Christian denomination in the world, after the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Animus. From a Latin word meaning “intention,” or “inclination,” but more commonly means having ill-will or a negative attitude toward another person.
Apocrypha. Also called pseudepigrapha or “intertestamental” literature. A set of books written after the Old Testament and before the New Testaments. Variously regarded as being inspired by God or not, and therefore included or not, in the Bible. The Roman Catholic Church includes them within its Old Testament. Anglicans and others include them but in a separate section and consider them worthy of study, but not “inspired.” Many Protestants and Jews churches exclude them from their Bibles.
Apollos. One of the early Christian leaders and teachers. From Acts 18:24-25: “…a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy.” Also mentioned in 1 Corinthians and Titus.
Apostle. Someone who is sent, including Jesus in Luke 10:16. Also refers explicitly to the twelve disciples of Jesus, to the 70 disciples He sent out (Luke 10:1), as well as to Paul and some others, such as Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16:7). Also used more broadly to refer to someone who starts new churches, or leads those who do.
Apostles’ Creed. Probably the first of the three most accepted statements of theology of the Christian Church, including the Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed. It is dated in its earliest form to the second century. As such, it does not address some of the later theologies that developed in the Church, including those asserting the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. In that way, it is less of a theology fabricated into Concepts, and more a weaving together of verses and parts of verses from Scripture.
Apostolic Authority / Succession. The concept that the original apostles had spiritual authority given to them by Jesus, and that this authority can be passed on or conferred to succeeding generations of leaders in the Church, by the laying on of hands for ordination. This is particularly held by those churches that consider themselves in the “unbroken apostolic succession” of bishops from St Peter and the Apostles. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican and some Lutheran churches hold this view, among others. The sentence in the Nicene Creed, “We believe in one holy and catholic and apostolic Church…”, refers to this concept. Most non-Anglican Protestants do not hold this view. See also Apostle.
Apostolic Succession. See Apostolic Authority / Succession.
Aquinas, Thomas. (1225–1274) One of the fathers of the Church. Aquinas predated the Protestant Reformation, and by most any measure was among the most brilliant people who ever lived. His writings are widely respected by both Protestants and Roman Catholics. Even the Eastern Orthodox Church has commended parts of them (in particular they agreed with his thinking on Transubstantiation and said so in a letter to the Roman Catholic Church).
Aramaic. The common language of the people of Judea at the time of Jesus, along with Greek. Only the more educated Jews of that day knew Hebrew. Thought to be a dead language until its rediscovery among Kurdish Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries. See My Father’s Paradise in the Bibliography.
Argument from ignorance. A fallacy in informal logic where something is proposed to be true because it hasn’t been proven false. “Ignorance” in this context means “absence of evidence to the contrary.” Conspiracy theories typically use this kind of assertion, and when opponents of their theories ask for proof of the conspiracy, they say the absence of evidence is proof of how good the conspirators are. They say that since we can’t prove there is no conspiracy, it must be real. Similarly, if someone asserts that all of the original New Testament documents were without error, or dyed pink, this is an argument from absence of evidence. It’s true that I can’t disprove that the original New Testament documents were all pink, but that doesn’t prove the person who insisted they are pink is right.
Argumentum ad ignorantiam. See Argument from ignorance.
Arianism. A theology attributed to Arius (~A.D. 250–336), which says the Son of God (Jesus Christ) is not equal to the Father, but subordinate to, and created by, the Father. Based on John 14:28, “I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am.” Arius was deemed a heretic for this doctrine, later cleared, then (after his death) deemed a heretic once again. The issue of the relative status of Father, Son and Holy Spirit was a matter of intense debate. In A.D. 393, Gregory of Nyssa complained that you couldn’t go to market or baths without getting into an argument about Trinity. By 493 the debates were over and the equality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit had been made the settled doctrine of the Church.
Aristotelian. Following the teachings and worldview of Aristotle.
Aristotle. (384–322 B.C.) Greek philosopher and student of Plato. Also the teacher of Alexander the Great, whose military campaigns Hellenized Africa, the Mediterranean worlds and the Middle East. That is, the Greek worldview became the dominant worldview of the lands Alexander conquered, including Israel and Judah. Aristotle’s writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theatre, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology and zoology. Together with Plato and Socrates (Plato’s teacher), Aristotle is one of the most important founding figures in Western philosophy. His writings were the first to create a comprehensive system of Western philosophy, encompassing morality and aesthetics, logic and science, politics and metaphysics.
Ark of the Covenant. A chest made of acacia wood and gold, used to hold the tablets of the Ten Commandments. See Exodus 25.
Ark, for Torah scroll.A cabinet in a synagogue specifically for the storage and safekeeping of the scroll of the Torah. Also called Aron Kodesh, from the Hebrew for “holy ark,” a reference to the Ark of the Covenant.
Athanasian Creed.The last of the three most commonly accepted statements of theology of the Christian Church, including the Nicene Creed and Apostles’ Creed. The author and origin of this creed are unknown, except that it is unlikely to have been written by the author whose name it bears, Athanasius. It is probably from the 5th or 6th century A.D., and contains language from Augustine’s On the Trinity (A.D. 415). A rhythmic, thorough, strong declaration of Trinity, asserting the equal divinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, their being of the “same substance” (homoousios), and their being separate Persons. It also declares the necessity of holding the “Catholic Faith … whole and undefiled,” and says of anyone failing to do so “without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.”
Atheist. A-theist, literally “not theist,” from Greek atheos, literally, “without god,” meaning someone who does not believe in God (or gods, or divine beings, or the supernatural). See also Agnostic, Deist and Theist.
Augustine of Hippo. (A.D. 354–430) Bishop of Hippo. One of the most influential theologians of the Church, revered by Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox and Protestants (especially Calvinists) alike. Developed the concepts of original sin (after Paul, and Irenaeus) and just war, and wrote extensively on grace, salvation and predestination. His writings attacked many heresies, including Donatism, Arianism, Manichaeanism and Pelagianism. His most famous works include Confessions, The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, On the Trinity and The Retractions.
Autograph (of Scripture). Refers to the original document the author wrote, whether of Scripture or any other form of writing. In theology, refers specifically to the original manuscript of any book of the Bible. Those who believe in biblical inerrancy assert that such manuscripts are without error. Other versions of this claim would assert inerrancy in matters of faith and morals, but not necessarily grammar, history or science. See also Inerrancy.
Baptism. An enormous topic that will only be touched on here. At its core, baptism is a symbolic washing, rooted in the Jewish mikvah (ritual cleansing bath), and the baptism that John the Baptist (hence his name) offered to repentant Jews. But among Christians, it signifies both the washing away of sins, and entrance into membership in the Church—not a denomination or local church, but the very Body of Christ, the entire fellowship of His followers in all places throughout all time.
It is done with water. Beyond this simple common element, there is enormous range and difference across the denominations as to how it is done. Even this simple element is sometimes missing. Some churches baptize without water by the laying on of hands. Others do not require baptism at all. Of those that baptize with water, some do so by full submersion in water, some with the person clothed and others with them naked (normative until the Middle Ages), some by pouring, sprinkling or partial immersion; some will baptize infants, and some only adults who profess faith in Jesus. Some require certain words be used without fail.
Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry – Faith and Order Paper No. 111 from the World Council of Churches, meeting in Lima, Peru in 1982, attempted to draw together the many denominations and streams of Christendom and find agreement or common ground on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry. Much agreement was accomplished, though in many ways it remains more theory than practice. At its conclusion, it urged all churches to recognize as valid baptisms done in other denominations, so long as they were done with the intention to baptize, and were Trinitarian in form; it also said baptism can be done only once. This was a positive step, though it does illuminate how seriously we have been distracted by differing Concepts, and our disputes over them, rather than reaching the world Jesus sent us to tell about the Gospel.
Bar Kochba, Simon. (c. 50-135 A.D.) Jewish leader of a revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 A.D. Established an independent Jewish state, which lasted three years, then was reconquered by the Romans. A contemporary, Rabbi Akiva, had declared him the Messiah and renamed him from “ben Kosiba” to “bar Kochba,” meaning “son of a star,” from Numbers 24:17, “A star will rise from Jacob; a scepter will emerge from Israel.” After the fall of his government, rabbinical writers began referring to him as Simon bar Kozeba, which means “Son of Lies.”
Bar mitzvah. See also Bat mitzvah. The “coming of age” ritual when a Jewish boy reaches 13. The term means “son of commandment” and signifies that the boy is now spiritually responsible for his own actions. His parents were responsible until this time. After Bar mitzvah, the boy is allowed to participate in ritual, read Torah, and be numbered as one in the making of a minyan (ten adult Jews necessary for public prayer).
Bat mitzvah. “Daughter of commandment.” See Bar mitzvah. Basically the same except that it refers to girls.
Begotten, Only. From the Greek monogenÄ“s. Mono- means “single” or “only”; -genÄ“s means “originated” or “born” from. Same root as “Genesis” and “genetics.” Much theological ink has been spilled on just what this word means in John 3:16, and whole denominations have sprung up because of differing Concepts about it.
Berit milah. “Covenant of circumcision.” From Deuteronomy 10:15-16. ×‘×¨×™×ª, berit, the Hebrew word for “covenant,” means “to cut.” See also Bris.
Bishop. See Overseer and Priest.
Book of Common Prayer. The title of books used for prayer and other services of the church within the Anglican Communion, and others who follow its practices. The first was authored by Thomas Cranmer in 1549, and subsequent editions and versions of it are used throughout the world.
Book of the Covenant. The Torah, containing all that the Lord told Moses, and that Moses wrote down for the people. See Exodus 24:3-7.
Born again. In many English translations of the New Testament Greek, an expression Jesus uses in talking to Nicodemus in John 3, meaning that a person must be born into the Kingdom of Heaven to become aware of it and be a part of it. The Greek actually says “born from above.”
Born from above. See Born again.
Bris / Brit. The Hebrew word for covenant, ×‘×¨×™×ª, berit, which also means cut, select, winnow or cleanse. The Jewish rite of circumcision is called berit milah, or covenant of circumcision. In the West, and generally among the European Ashkenazi Jews, this is usually pronounced “bris.” Among Middle Eastern and other Sephardic Jews, it is pronounced “brit.”
Brit. See Bris.
Canon. In religious institutions, a synonym for law or rule. Also the title of an assistant to a bishop or other church authority.
Canon of Scripture. The set of books (histories, prophecies, stories, letters, etc.) declared to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and worthy of inclusion in the Bible. Certain books written between the time of the Old Testament and the New Testament (hence called “intertestamental books”), known as the Apocrypha, are included in the Canon of Scripture for the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, but typically excluded by most modern Protestants. Some, such as the Anglicans, bind them in a separate section in their Bibles and say they are worthy of study but considered non-canonical (not a part of the canon and not inspired by the Holy Spirit in the way that the canonical books are).
Category error. Placing something into a category to which it does not belong, or that makes no sense. This can be done unintentionally or colloquially, such as calling a tomato a vegetable, or with intent to mislead, such as bottling tap water and calling it “pure mountain stream water.” Both kinds of category error have occurred in theology, as they do in many human arguments and discussions, and care is necessary to avoid them.
Catholic. Used in two different senses. Capitalized, it refers to the Roman Catholic Church or its members. With a lowercase C, as in “one holy catholic and apostolic Church” (from the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds) it means simply “worldwide” or “universal” and does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church, but to the whole Body of Christ.
Celsus. (A.D. ?–?) Greek philospher, 2nd century A.D., who wrote The True Word as an attack on Christianity. This was rebutted by the early Christian writer Origen in his work Against Celsus.
Charity. The English word used in the King James Version of the Bible, and others, as a translation of the Greek word agape.
Chassidic Judaism. One of the main sects of modern Judaism. The others are Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform. Founded Eastern Europe, and focused on Talmud study, ecstatic worship and loving kindness. Actively seeks new members from other Jewish sects, as well as from unaffiliated Jews. Founded by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov as a reaction to the legalistic Judaism of the time. The most recent head of one branch of this movement, known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, was long expected to announce that he was the Messiah, but he never did. He died in 1994.
Christian Humanism. An ancient stream of Christianity that believes every person should be regarded as having worth, dignity and individual freedom, because they are made in the image of God. Though today it might be considered a union of Christian and Humanist ideals, both ideals are rooted in the teachings of Jesus as part of an indivisible whole. Familiar exponents of this view include Justin Martyr, Blaise Pascal, Dorothy Sayers, Immanuel Kant, Pope John Paul II, Thomas Merton, Søren Kierkegaard and T. S. Eliot.
Christian Sabbath. The seventh day of the week is given by God in the Fourth Commandment as a day of rest from all work. Religious Jews and some Christians (Seventh-Day Adventists, for example) continue this practice. The vast majority of Christians, however, have changed this practice to an observance of “The Lord’s Day” or “Christian Sabbath” on Sunday, the first day of the week, corresponding to the resurrection of Jesus.
Christianity. Refers broadly to all followers of Jesus Christ. This movement was originally called simply “The Way” by early followers of Jesus: “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers” (Acts 24:14). Followers were also referred to as “Christians” in Antioch as early as the first century. See Acts 11:26.
Church Tradition. The combination of doctrines, writings, decisions of councils, polity, worship forms and practices, and other specifics in the evolution and growth of the Church over the course of centuries, which have become established and accepted ways of understanding and living out the faith of the followers of Jesus Christ. Of course, which elements of the Tradition are accepted as normative varies quite widely in the main streams of the Church—Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant—as well as in the countless other smaller groups and unaffiliated churches. Tradition is also one of the three key legs of the “three-legged stool,” Scripture, Tradition and Reason, which are followed by Anglicans and (at least implicitly) by other churches in the Apostolic Succession.
Commandment. Refers to both explicit directions (“you must,” or “you must not”) in the Ten Commandments and the full 613 rules, teachings and counsel of the Old Testament, as well as the two Great Commandments of the New Testament (Love God and neighbor), and the Royal Law of Love spoken of in James 2:8.
Communion. See Eucharist.
Composite Unity. The idea that something regarded as a single entity is actually composed of any number of subunits. A pencil is a composite of graphite, wood, eraser and metal ring. A molecule of water is a composite of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. An atom is a composite of protons, electrons and neutrons. A family is a composite of parents and children. This idea is used to illustrate the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three separate gods, but one God composed of three Persons. This is why Christians and others consider it a monotheistic religion, not a polytheistic one, such as Hinduism.
Conceptual silos. The idea that Concepts about God can be used to isolate religious groups from one another, because each group becomes so defensive of its favorite Concepts (whether fundamental or simply incidental) that it builds walls to keep itself separate from others who do not precisely share those Concepts.
Conservative Judaism. One of the main denominations of modern rabbinic Judaism, which typically stands between Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism in its beliefs and practices.
Councils of Bishops. Formal gatherings of bishops of the Church whose purpose is often to resolve disputes over theology, worship practice, or polity in the Church. Their rulings are normatively considered binding over those they oversee, as well as over future generations of the Church.
Covenant. In the Bible, an agreement binding on both (or all) parties that agree to it, but lived out more like a marriage relationship than a business contract or will. It is the plan, structure and means of Salvation, initiated by God out of love as a means to reconcile everyone to Himself, but constrained by the freewill of those sought by Him to refuse. The three key covenants in Scripture are those through Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
Covenant of Circumcision. The covenant God established with Abraham in Genesis 17.
Covenant That Jesus Declared. This is the covenant in His body and blood, which will be fulfilled by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart and minds of believers, so that the Law is written on their hearts and lived out in their daily actions, as foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Covenant Theology. A Calvinistic method of theology, stressing the covenants of redemption, grace and works, and using these as the organizing principle of Scripture.
Covenant, Everlasting. A promise made by God to Abraham in Genesis 17.
Covenant. The plan, structure and means of Salvation, initiated by God out of love as a means to reconcile everyone to Himself, but constrained by the freewill of those sought by Him to refuse. The three key covenants in Scripture are those through Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
Creed. A statement of doctrine derived from Scripture and Concepts about Scripture (including choices of verses, imputed meanings and relationships, abstractions and broader philosophical propositions), which affirms or denies various explanations of the nature of God and human relationships to Him. These were created and modified over the course of centuries as various factions within the Church disagreed about specific Concepts, such as the divinity and nature of Christ. The creeds established a perimeter for who was “in” and who was “out” of the group. Those who affirmed a certain creed could be “in,” while those who refused to affirm it were “out.” The biggest portion of the Christian Church affirms at least two creeds, the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. Many of them also accept the Athanasian Creed and some affirm the Chalcedonian Creed as well. Membership or ordination in various subgroups of the Church often requires assent to one or more of these creeds.
Cynics. A Greek school of philosophy founded originally by Antisthenes, a pupil of Socrates. Diogenes was a subsequent leader of this school of thought. Its basic principles were not cynicism as we think of it today, but rather a rejection of wealth, power and fame, in order to life a simple life, free of the bonds of possessions, and treating all humans as equals (everything belongs to everyone), and cultivating virtue. Their intentional lives of poverty and asceticism were adopted by early Christians and still find expression in groups such as monks and nuns sworn to poverty, and Protestant groups such as the Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites. The critics of the Cynics in their time called them dogs (the root meaning of Cynic in Greek) and despised them for their rejection of common cultural values.
Deist. Generally, someone who acknowledges there is a Supreme Being, but believes that though the universe and human being were created by this Supreme Being, it is not involved in the individual lives of human beings. The classic metaphor for this theological view is of a watchmaker who, having created a watch, winds it up and sets it aside to run on its own. Thomas Jefferson and some of the other founders of the United States were Deists. See also Agnostic, Atheist and Theist.
Denominationalism. The defense or promotion of one denomination over others, usually insisting on the superiority of one and the inferiority of another, for reasons of theology, worship, polity or tradition. See also Conceptual Silos.
Denomination. Means simply “named.” Among Christians this refers to different religious streams or sects, named to distinguish them from each other, such as Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant (at the highest level of distinguishing), but also including such labels as Byzantine Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Hutterite, Methodist, Baptist, Free-Will Baptist, Universalist, and so on. Normatively designates a group with more than one church. This term is also applied to differing groups within other religions.
Devarim. Hebrew title in the Torah for Deuteronomy. Means “words” and derives from the first sentence of the book, “These are the words that Moses spoke to all the people of Israel…”
Didaskalia. Greek word meaning doctrine, teaching, instruction.
Disciple. In the New Testament from the Greek matheteuo, meaning someone who learns by use and practice. It implies not a student who merely takes notes and learns intellectually, but is more like someone who is taught carpentry by working with a carpenter. Hence, someone mentored to gain skills, to become like the teacher in knowledge and ability. In a sense someone who is aware of and intentionally chooses sanctification, not just to unlearn sinful or hurtful habits, but to gain skill in order to help others.
Disfellowship. To expel someone from a group.
Dispensationalism. The theological idea that God works with mankind in a series of “dispensations,” each of which has characteristics of interaction that differ from other dispensations, i.e., Old Testament times, New Testament (Apostolic Age) times and the Church Era. Common to this idea is the assertion that miracles occurred only until the completion of the Apostolic Age (~A.D. 100) and stopped after that. This school of thought has now developed into numerous streams with considerable differences.
Divinity, of Christ. The idea that Jesus was not merely a man, or merely a prophet, but was actually divine, i.e., a member of the Godhead, fully God and fully man.
Docetism. The idea that Christ was fully God but not fully man, and simply “inhabited” a human body but did not experience human feelings or shortcomings, and at His crucifixion did not experience pain, even though the human body He had “borrowed” did experience pain. A heterodox idea, because, like Modalism, it implies fraud on the part of God.
Doctrine. Greek didaskalia. A set of agreed-upon theological principles or rules, which are generally considered binding on Christians within the church that holds that Doctrine to be true.
Eastern Orthodox Church. Officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church, and sometimes just the Orthodox Church. It traces its roots back to St. Paul and considers itself “the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” It is the second-largest Christian denomination in the world only to the Roman Catholic Church; the Anglican Church is third. Currently its primary areas of dominance are Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia and the Ukraine, though it is active even in countries where it is not dominant, such as the United States. The Bible it uses includes the Old and New Testaments, plus seven of the intertestamental books (Apocrypha) accepted by the Roman Catholic Church and rejected by most Protestants, plus three additional books not recognized by either the Roman or Protestant Churches. However, these last ten books are considered worthy of reading, but not at the level of holy inspiration of the books of the Testaments. The Orthodox Church split with the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 in a dispute over coming of the Holy Spirit as represented in the Nicene Creed.
Echad. ××—×“. The number 1 in Hebrew, as in the shema (sheh-mah), “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord in One” (Deuteronomy 6:4), which is the key declaration of monotheism among Jews. Echad also appears in many Old Testament passages as a composite unity, such as when a man and woman together become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
Edicts of Toleration. The early Church suffered considerable persecution and martyrdom primarily at the hands of the Roman Empire and its local rulers, often directed from the reigning Caesar. Rome had its own pantheon of gods, and the Christians would not worship them, opening them to suspicion of disloyalty (especially since the Caesar was himself considered a god). This changed with the ascent of Constantine as Caesar, whose first Edict of Toleration, issued in A.D. 311, called for Christians to be “tolerated,” that is, left alone in their religion. Constantine himself became a Christian, leading to the incorporation of the Christian faith into the very structure of the entire Roman Empire. The letters “IHS” seen on some crosses refer to the reason for his conversion. Christianity replaced the Roman pantheon of gods as the state religion, and led to rapid expansion of the faith and its eventual domination throughout the Mediterranean, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. However, as Christianity broke into factions, fights regularly broke out between them, and often the dominant faction in a given country would suppress or persecute the others. This in some cases led to new Edicts of Toleration as rulers tried to quell the conflicts in their countries. These were issued in many locales, from Bohemia to China, over the course of centuries, and covered both other Christian groups and other religions (they were also issued toward Christian groups by leaders of other religions). In many cases these were later withdrawn, and persecution resumed when new leaders rose to power.
Elohim. ×Ö±×œ×”Ö´×™×. One of the names for God in the Old Testament. See Adonai for more detail.
Elohim, and Allah. Allah is an Arabic word for God and is related to the Hebrew word for God, eloah (××œ×•×”) and el (×Ö±×œ) (both singular, and Elohim (×Ö±×œ×”Ö´×™×) (plural). See Adonai for more detail on Elohim.
Enlightenment. Also called the French Enlightenment, the Age of Enlightenment and the Age of Reason. An intellectual revolution and cultural movement that celebrated reason as the key means to reform and order society and help the advancement of knowledge. It directly affected the American revolution (Franklin and Jefferson among others) and led to the overthrow of the French aristocracy and the power of the Roman Catholic church in France.
Epiclesis. Invocation or calling down of the Holy Spirit by a priest upon the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
Epicurean. Follower of a Greek philosophical school founded by Epicurus before 300 B.C. Although “epicurean” today implies expensive or sophisticated foods or tastes, the actual Epicurean school was quite modest, and advocated a simple life that sought tranquility and freedom from fear. This is defined as pleasure, with freedom from pain as the highest pleasure. This group contested with the followers of Plato and the Stoics, and eventually died out with the rise of Christianity. It was later given new life and incorporated into Christian practice by Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655), a French priest, philosopher and scientist.
Episcopal. Refers to churches whose upper leadership consists of bishops. From Greek episkope, meaning “overseer.”
Epistle of straw. A term of disrespect used by Martin Luther in reference to the New Testament book of James. Luther denied that it was written by an apostle, or James, brother of Jesus, at least in part because he believed it conflicted with Paul on the doctrine of Justification. An example of how a Concept, such as Justification, can affect hermeneutics—how the Bible is read and interpreted. See Chapter 22 on Religious Concepts.
Eros. The Greek word for romantic love. See Agape for further explanation.
Essentials and Non-Essentials. An essential is something that is necessary, utterly required for something to be effective, true or real. You may recall this expression from mathematics: if and only if. That defines an essential.
A non-essential may be profoundly important, valuable or highly regarded, but it is not necessary, not required. This is a critical distinction.
Eucharist. From the Greek eucharistia, “thanksgiving, gratitude.” Used by some churches to refer to the celebration of The Last Supper, or Communion, which remembers the meal of bread and wine of Jesus and His disciples on the night before He died. See Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22 and John 13-17. First Corinthians 11:18-34, probably written before the Gospels, refers to the Last Supper and its meaning.
Eucharistic Sacrifice. The Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as some others, consider the celebration of Communion, or The Last Supper, to be a literal sacrifice of Christ Himself, present in the bread and wine, to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and a propitiation (payment) for sin. On this point both the Orthodox and Roman churches follow the theology of Thomas Aquinas and his concept of Transubstantiation, appropriated by him from Aristotle.
Faith in Christ. “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:21-23). The italicized line (v. 22a) highlights the Covenant that begins with Salvation. The Greek actually reads, “righteousness of God through faithfulness of Jesus Christ into all and onto all the believing-ones.” That is, that the faithfulness OF Jesus places the righteousness of God into and unto those who trust Him. Faith shines both ways in this Covenant: We have faith that He will do what He promises, and He is faithful to do what He promises.
Faith Once Delivered to the Saints. An expression from Jude 1:3, commonly used by advocates of certain Concepts or Doctrines to assert that their exposition of the faith is true to the teachings and faith of the earliest Church. Of course, though this is to be desired, it may or may not be true of any particular Concept.
Faithfulness of Jesus. An expression common in the Greek of the New Testament, but often wrongly translated “faith in Jesus,” and similarly with “faith in Christ.” BOTH expressions are present; one refers to a believer’s trust in Jesus, and the other refers to His reliability, His faithfulness, to God and to us. This mutuality is characteristic of Covenant, which in part is why both expressions should be rendered accurately into English, and not compacted into a single “faith in Jesus” in every case.
Fall. The Christian Concept that Adam and Eve, living in innocence in paradise, fell from this state of grace by disobeying God and eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The term “The Fall” does not appear in Scripture, but the story (or reference to it) appears in both Testaments. Interpretations of it differ among Protestants, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Five Books of Moses. Refers to Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Also referred to as the Pentateuch (Greek for “five books”) and Torah. See Torah for more detail.
Forgive. In the Bible, this means to pardon, set free, release a just claim, or cut a cord (in the sense that if you owe me something, that ties me to you until it is paid or forgiven).
Frontlet. A small box tied to the forehead and containing Scripture from the Old Testament. Based on Deuteronomy 6:8.
Galilei, Galileo. (1564-1642) Italian astronomer who supported the heliocentric (Sun-centered) model of the universe, resulting in his arrest for heresy by the Roman Catholic Church for contradicting the Church’s concept of the universe with the Earth as its center.
GeorgeKoch.com. The author’s Web site.
Gesenius’ Lexicon. A famous and detailed work on the Hebrew language, in German, by Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius (1786–1842). The English translation by Samuel P. Tregelles (1813–1875) is listed in the Bibliography.
Girgashites. A tribe that inhabited Canaan before the Israelites, descended from the fifth son of Canaan (mentioned in Genesis 10:16, 15:21 and Deuteronomy 7:1). Beyond this, little is known.
Glorification. The life after this earthly one. It is eternity in God’s presence, gained in our salvation. Its nature and content is determined in part by the life we live here after we are saved, during sanctification and by being a disciple.
Glorified bodies. See Philippians 3:21 and 1 Corinthians 15:36-55. Although little detail is given in Scripture, these are the transformed and resurrected bodies in which we will live forever.
Gnosis. Greek for “knowledge,” but used by the Gnostics to assert a special spiritual knowledge available only to an elite few.
Gnosticism. Refers to the idea held by a variety of sects that a special esoteric hidden knowledge of spiritual realities was available to select “initiates” of the sect. Some “Christian” Gnostics believed Jesus came to bring this secret knowledge to earth. The early Christian author Irenaeus called this a heresy in his On the Detection and Overthrow of Knowledge Falsely So Called.
Gnostics. See Gnosticism.
God. The English word for the Supreme Being and Creator of the universe. Christians normatively believe there is just one God, but that this one God consists of three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in eternal relationship with each other, and in whose image humans are made.
“God forbid!” An expression used in the Talmud and by rabbis at the time of Jesus, in arguing about how the Law should be applied or fulfilled. Appears in the New Testament when similar discussions are taking place.
God particle. A term used for the Higgs boson, an elementary particle smaller than an electron, proton, neutron or quark, which is believed to be the smallest particle, or building block, from which matter is constructed.
God’s Word. A term generally used to refer to the Old and New Testaments. Occasionally used to refer to Jesus, from the reference to Him in John 1.
Godhead. For Christians, a term referring to the essential being of God, and especially to the Trinity.
Gospel of Thomas. A book found with the Dead Sea Scrolls near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945, and not a part of the New Testament. Considered by many scholars as a Gnostic text, though others would say it is ambiguous on that point.
Grammatical convention. Refers to a grammatical method to draw attention to a particular word, sentence or idea in a text. In a sense, this is a long-established equivalent of boldface, underlining or highlighting, but accomplished by using techniques in the text itself, rather than modifications of the form of the letters. Chiasmus and repetition are examples of this.
Great Thanksgiving. Another term for Eucharist, Communion or The Last Supper. See Eucharist for more detail.
Greek language. The language spoken in Greece, but also the common language of the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East (and all the way to the Himalayas), after the conquests of Alexander the Great. An ancient form of Greek, also known as “koine” or common language Greek, widely used from 300 B.C. to A.D. 300. The New Testament was written in this language.
Greek Orthodox Church. See Eastern Orthodox Church.
Ha-kodesh. Hebrew for “the holy.” See Ruach Ha-kodesh.
Hairesis. See Heresy.
HaShem. Hebrew for “the name.” Often used by Jews in place of “God,” or any Hebrew word for God, in daily conversation and writing, as a sign of respect, and in order to avoid taking the name of God in vain.
Hassidic Judaism. See Chassidic Judaism.
Haver / Haverim. Hebrew for “friend” and “friends” (the -im suffix is the plural form). Used generally, but also specifically for a Yeshiva study partner.
Havering. A English verb formed from the Hebrew haver, meaning to converse, contest, argue or debate deeply, but without personal attack or bitterness.
Head coverings. Ranging from a kippa or yarmulke to a scarf or veil, they are often used to protect the head from weather or sunlight, but are also used as a sign of religious respect for God, or modesty. In biblical times, a woman’s exposed hair was considered salacious, or a sign of a prostitute, so covering it indicated modesty and religious devotion. This tradition survives today in Islam, Orthodox Judaism, and among Amish and other conservative Christian groups.
“Hear, O Israel.” First words of the most important prayer in Judaism. See Shema.
Heart. The primary organ of the body for pumping life-giving blood to all of its parts. Also used metaphorically to refer to the emotions, and emotional understanding, as opposed to reason and logical understanding.
Heart-understanding. An understanding that is different than, and often deeper than (but not necessarily at odds with) a reasoned or logical understanding of something. It includes emotions such as empathy, sympathy and love.
Heart, and reason (according to Pascal). “The heart has reasons which reason knows not of. We feel it in a thousand things. It is the heart that experiences God, and not the reason. This, then, is faith: God felt by the heart, not by the reason.”
Heaven. In both Testaments, from a Hebrew or Greek word for “sky,” and intended to mean that God’s abode is elevated above the earth and humans—not literally but in terms of authority, power and place.
Hebrew. ×¢×‘×¨×™×ª. Pronounced “eev-reet” in Hebrew. The language of the Old Testament (called Biblical Hebrew) as well as of modern Israel (called Modern Hebrew). Biblical Hebrew is the language used in synagogues in the reading of Torah.
Hebrew Scriptures. Another term for Old Testament, or Tanakh.
Hebrew word for love. See Ahav.
Heliocentric. “Sun-centered” model of the relation of earth, the planets and the stars to the Sun, as opposed to geocentric, which is an Earth-centered model.
Hellenization. Refers to the spread of Greek culture, philosophy and language throughout the Mediterranean, North Africa and Middle East, all the way to the Himalayan Mountains, after their conquest by Alexander the Great.
Heresy. From Greek hairesis. “Heresy” can be used positively or neutrally to refer to a sect, choice or way of life, or negatively, to refer to an action or belief that causes factions, disunion or division in a group. Although used colloquially to mean “bad doctrine,” its actual sense is the division that it causes. Thus, even good doctrine can be heresy if used in a way that causes division.
Heresy of the Gospel. An expression by an early Christian writer that refers to the way of the Gospel. It is not a criticism of the Gospel, but simply the use of the word haireses in Greek to mean a way or a path. In fact, Paul uses the word haireses this way in Acts 24:14, meaning a sect, choice or preference.
Heretics. People who cause division. See Heresy.
Hermeneutics. The interpretation of Scripture. In theory, it is to be objective and careful, but in practice it is greatly affected by religious Concepts—developed through Greek philosophical methods—that influence and often warp the understanding of what is read. See Chapter 22, “Religious Concepts,” for more detail. Ironically, the root of the word hermeneutics is the Greek god Hermes, the one who brought the messages of the gods to people, and the patron of orators, literature, poets, dreamers and thieves.
Herodotus. (ca. 484–425 B.C.) Greek historian and considered the “Father of History” for his systematic collection historical materials, and his organization of them into narrative.
Heterodoxy. “Error of opinion,” from heteros (“the other”) and doxa (“opinion”). The proper term for wrong or bad doctrine or teaching, rather than heresy.
Higgs boson. An elementary particle smaller than an electron, proton, neutron or quark, which is believed to be the smallest particle, or building block, from which matter is constructed. Nicknamed the God particle.
High Priest. The top religious authority from the formation of the Israelite nation under the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70. Also applied to Jesus in the book of Hebrews.
Hippolytus of Rome. (A.D. 170–235) Theologian, probable disciple of Irenaeus. Conflicted with the popes of his era and may have led a schismatic (see Heresy) group as rival bishop of the bishop of Rome.
Holy of Holies. The inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle, and then the Temple in Jerusalem, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments. There the High Priest could enter only on Yom Kippur, to make atonement for all of Israel.
Holy Spirit. The third Person of the Trinity. Also known as the Holy Ghost in earlier translations of the Bible.
Homoiousios. Of “similar substance,” with the emphasis on similar. In the early debates about the nature of the Trinity, some argued that each Person of the Trinity was of similar substance, while others contended that they were of the same substance. See also Homoousios and Iota.
Homoousios. Of “same substance,” with the emphasis on same. In the early debates about the nature of the Trinity, some argued that each Person of the Trinity was of similar substance, while others contended that they were of the same substance. See also Homoiousios and Iota.
Humanism. A view of human nature that is concerned primarily with human values, needs and concerns. Its two primary branches are Religious Humanism, which integrates religious beliefs and practices with humanist ethical philosophy, and Secular Humanism, which rejects religious and supernatural elements, and focuses on reason, ethics and justice.
Humanist. An adherent of humanism.
Hyper-belief. An assertion of belief “above and beyond” what is given in Scripture, or perhaps even in the oldest and longest-held traditions of the Church, but that is given elevated prominence and even required acceptance.
Hypocrisy. Not simply the act of preaching one thing and doing another (since one may desire to act in the manner he preaches, but have not yet attained it), but rather pretending to be doing (or being) the thing one preaches, while not actually doing or intending to do it.
Hypocritical. To act with hypocrisy.
Hypotheses. Plural of hypothesis, an explanation of a phenomenon that has not yet been proven true or accurate, but is held up for examination and testing. Concepts, which are abstractions from the details of events or narratives, are used to develop and the test hypotheses. Unfortunately, in religion, the development of religious concepts leads not to hypotheses, but Doctrines, which are then promoted as if proven, or revealed by God. In fact, that very claim is made, that they have been given by the leading of the Holy Spirit and are therefore inerrant or infallible.
“I Am that I Am.” From Exodus 3:14. Also rendered “I am who I am” and “I am what I am” in other translations. This was in response to Moses asking who he should say had sent him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The Hebrew actually says something more like “I will be what I will be,” or “I shall become who I am becoming.”
“I Will Be What I Will Be.” See “I Am that I Am.”
Iconoclasm. The destruction of religious symbols, statues, icons and the like, generally in a dispute between sects of the same religion. In Christianity it arose as a literal reading of the commandment to make no images. Also used in relation of the destruction of the artifacts of one religion by another, and of a ruler who has been overthrown. Also used to refer to any rejection of tradition.
Iconoclasts. Individuals who favor or act with iconoclasm, for instance in destroying statues, or challenging a tradition or the “common wisdom.”
Icon. From the Greek word for “image.” Typically refers to a stylized form of painting, often in gold, representing a biblical scene or a saint. See Chapter 8, “Images and Icons.”
Idolatry. Used literally to refer to the worship of an idol or a physical object, and figuratively to refer to undue attention, honor or obsession with fame, human beings, wealth, and so on. This is a negative and forbidden act in Judaism and Christianity, but a common one in some other religions.
If and Only If. An expression used to define an essential. Borrowed from logic and mathematics.
“In Jesus’ name.” An expression often thought to mean the use of the literal name “Jesus” was required, as in a prayer, in order to be effective—but this would be a kind of talisman, or magic. The expression actually means “by the authority of Jesus,” and has the same sense as the expression “power of attorney,” where one individual is granted the right to make decisions and act in another person’s name.
Incompleteness theorems. Two related theorems, proven by mathematician Kurt Gödel in 1931, that demonstrate that (1) within any logical system (such as arithmetic) there will be some statements that are true but unprovable within the system, and (2) logical systems cannot prove their own consistency.
Inerrancy of Scripture. “Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.” That is Summary Statement 4 (of 5) from the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, a gathering of over 300 Protestant Evangelicals, including James Boice, Norman L. Geisler, John Gerstner, Jay Grimstead, Carl F. H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, Harold Lindsell, John Warwick Montgomery, Roger Nicole, J. I. Packer, Robert Preus, Earl Radmacher, Francis Schaeffer, R. C. Sproul and John Wenham. It is followed by 19 Articles of affirmation and denial, including Article X, “We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the authographic text of Scripture [See Autograph, of Scripture], which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original. We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs [See Argument from ignorance]. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.” See also Infallible for a similar assertion in relation to the Church.
Infallible. Incapable of error. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches maintain that the Holy Spirit will not allow error in the church’s teachings, within certain strict parameters. These include the infallibility of ecumenical councils, and (within Roman Catholicism) certain declarations of the Pope, such as the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Assumption of Mary, and the teachings of the “ordinary and universal Magisterium.” Without going into detail, it should be noted that this infallibility is asserted for 21 councils (historical meetings over many centuries, mostly of bishops, which made doctrinal statements) by the Roman Catholic Church, for 7 by the Eastern Orthodox church, for none by many Protestants, and for the “Christological statements” of the first seven by some Protestants. (A reader will search in vain for a Christological statement in the seventh council. It’s in a footnote.) Those Protestants who reject this idea of infallibility in the teachings of the Church are often the same who affirm it in the Inerrancy of Scripture, even though both represent claims about the leading of men by the Holy Spirit so that their writing (whether Scripture or Church teachings) are without error.
Intercession. Intervening on behalf of another, especially in prayer.
Intertestamental. The period between the time of the writing of the Old and New Testaments, about 400 years, during which the books of the Apocrypha were written.
Iota. Greek letter roughly equilvalent to the Engish letter I. The difference between the words (in Greek) of homoiousios, “similar substance,” and homoousios, “same substance,” in the debate about the nature of the three Persons of the Trinity. The wags of that day thus said there was only “one iota” of difference between them. “Iota” was also used by Jesus in Matthew 5:18, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
Irenaeus. (A.D. ? – 202) Early Christian bishop and apologist of the second century, and author of Against Heresies, an attack on Gnosticism. Irenaeus contended that Christian unity was to be found only in accepting the doctrinal authority of councils of bishops in union with the bishop of Rome.
Isaacs, Ronald. See Rabbi Ronald Isaacs.
James. See Yacov. Brother of Jesus.
Jefferson, Thomas. Third President of the United States and one of the chief authors of the Declaration of Independence. Also the author of a Bible in which he chose all of the verses he found helpful in making moral and ethical decisions. This is called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Jefferson was a Deist.
Jehovah. A pronunciation for the Hebrew letters ×™×”×•×” (YHWH), whose earliest use is debated, but arose anywhere from the second to 12th centuries as a means to pronounce the proper name of the God of Israel.
Jehovah’s Witnesses. A nontrinitarian sect that arose in the 1870s, founded by Charles Russell, and who use their own translation of the Bible, known as the New World Translation. They anticipate the certain and soon destruction of the present world-systems and the coming of God’s Kingdom on Earth. They are well known for their door-to-door evangelism and for distribution of The Watchtower magazine.
Jesus. Also known as Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ, or Christ. Regarded by Christians as the Son of God and second Person of the Trinity.
Jew. A member of the Jewish people, which originated in the Ancient Near East, and tracing their ancestry to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the second millennium B.C. (2000–1000 B.C.). Judaism is the traditional religion, and converts to Judaism are regarded as equal to those born into it. The two primary modern branches of Judaism are the Ashkenazi (primarily European; the term literally means “German”) and Sephardic (primarily from Spain and Portugal, though the term is now used to include Jews from Africa, Asia and other parts of the Middle East). These communities were formed after the Diaspora (scattering) when the Jews were driven out of their traditional land in Israel (more than once before the time of Jesus, and after A.D. 70 and 132, after conflicts with the Romans).
Jewish. See Jew.
Jewish Bible. Also called the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh. Refers typically to the books of the Old Testament, though they are in a different sequence in a Jewish Bible.
Jewish Law. Refers generally to the Ten Commandments and the additional 603 rules (of various sorts) throughout the Torah, or Five Books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy). These are also called the Law of Moses or the Mosaic Law, and the rules themselves are called mitzvot (plural; singular is mitzvah).
Jewish Oral Law tradition. A tradition, now embodied in the Talmud, that says that at the same time as the Law was given at Sinai, a parallel oral tradition to aid in interpreting and applying the Law was given.
Jewish Publication Society. Oldest nondenominational and nonprofit publisher of Jewish works in English. Founded in 1888. The JPS Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, is the authoritative translation among Jews.
Joshua. Biblical leader after Moses who led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Fundamentally the same name as Jesus.
Judah. Fourth son of Jacob, who was renamed Israel after wrestling with God. Refers also to a kingdom and later a Roman province. Root of the word Jew.
Judiazers. Early Christians who insisted that converts to Christianity must first convert to Judaism and follow all of its Laws and customs.
Kosher. From a Hebrew word that means “clean” or “fit” for use as food, following the dietary laws set forth in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, as well as the Oral Law, used to interpret them.
Last Supper. See Eucharist.
Law of Moses. Refers broadly to the Torah (or Pentateuch), the first five books of the Bible. Also refers to the 613 mitzvot, or rules, contained in those books.
Law. A broad term with numerous related definitions, ranging from secular law in a country, state or city, to scriptural law (see Law of Moses, to the Royal Law,“Love your neighbor as yourself”), to scientific law, which follows the pattern concept leads to hypothesis leads to theory leads to law, if certain criteria are met at each stage.
Liturgics. The study of the doing of worship, particularly the actions of clergy, assistants and the congregation, in a worship service. This includes clothing, decorations, ritual actions, sequence, content (words, music, prayers, etc.), in any kind of worship service, including those churches that might call themselves “non-liturgical,” and applies to Christian, Jewish and other religious practices.
Liturgy. From Greek, literally, “the work of the people.” Liturgy does not mean ritualistic, nor does it imply robes, priests, processions or candles (though it can include them). Rather, liturgy is the overall concept covering all of the actions of the people—lay and clergy both—that constitute a worship service.
Lord’s Supper. See Eucharist.
Love feast. An expression from Jude 1:12 (NKJV), “These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves.” May refer to Eucharist, or may refer to meals the early followers of Jesus shared together.
Lubavitcher Rebbe. The title of the head of a sect of Chassidic Jews, the most famous of which in modern times being Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902–1994). Rebbe is the title only of the head of the movement. Within the movement are many rabbis and their followers.
Luther, Martin. (1483–1546) The founder of the Protestant Reformation. A German Roman Catholic priest and professor of theology who confronted the selling of “indulgences” by the church in order to raise money. These indulgences were sold with the promise that dead ancestors could have their way to heaven assured by the church. Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses challenged this and other practices of the church that were unscriptural or in error. In this he challenged the authority of the Pope, and asserted instead that the only source of divinely revealed knowledge is the Bible. His concept for this was “sola scriptura,” or “only scripture.” He married Katharina von Bora, thus setting an example of clerical marriage still followed by Protestants to this day. In his declining years he became increasingly anti-Semitic, advocating violence against Jews and confiscation of their property.
Lutheran. Member of a Lutheran church, or a follower of the ideas of Luther. Lutheran churches come in many denominations, ranging from quite conservative to quite liberal.
Maimonides. (1135–1204) Moses ben-Maimon, or Rambam a prolific medieval Jewish philosopher and Torah. A rabbi, physician and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt. Author of the Mishneh Torah, a massive codification of Talmudic Law. Nicknamed “the great eagle” for his stature in the Oral Law tradition. Maimonides wrote The Guide for the Perplexed and greatly advanced Greek Concepts and philosophy within Jewish thought (seeing allegory where others saw miracles and the supernatural)—not unlike Thomas Aquinas’ writings did for Christian theology.
Mars Hill Speech. A speech given by Paul to Greek philosophers at the Areopagus in Athens, recorded in Acts 17.
Martyr. A Greek word meaning “witness,” in the sense of one who testifies about something (as in a court trial). Because early Christians would testify about their faith in Christ even on threat of death, and were subsequently murdered, the term came to refer more specifically to those who were killed for their Christian faith.
May it never be! An expression used in the Talmud and by rabbis at the time of Jesus, in arguing about how the Law should be applied or fulfilled. Appears in the New Testament when similar discussions are taking place.
Meiderlin, Peter. (1582–1651) Lutheran educator and theologian, also known by the pseudonym Rupertus Meldenius, under which he published Paraenesis votiva per Pace Ecclesia ad Theologos Augustana Confessionis auctore Ruperto Meldenio Theologo (“A reminder for peace at the Church of the Augsburg Confession of theologians”). This is the source of his quote, “Verbo dicam: Si nos servaremus IN necesariis Unitatem, IN non-necessariis Libertatem, in utrisque Charitatem, optimo certe loco essent res nostrae.” (“Word I will say: if we preserve unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and charity in both, our affairs will be in the best condition at all events.”) See Chapter 1, “What We Believe And Why.” Later in the same book Meiderlin also says, “Vincat veritas, vivat charitas, maneat libertas per Jesum Christum qui est veritas ipsa, charitas ipsa, libertas ipsa.” (“Let truth prevail, live in charity, abide in freedom through Jesus Christ who is truth itself, love itself, freedom itself.”)
Melchizedek. Also known as Malki Tzedek, which means “king of righteousness.” Sometimes identified as a son of Noah (Shem). Mentioned in Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 110 and the book of Hebrews.
Metaphor. A word, phrase, figure or speech, object or concept that is representative or symbolic of something else. Examples: “All the world’s a stage.” “Dad was a rock.” “You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus 19:4b).
Middle East. A somewhat imprecise term for the area of Western Asia and Northern Africa, generally including the modern countries of Egypt, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have their origins here.
Middle Platonic. A stage in the development of Plato’s philosophy (by others) starting near 100 B.C. and continuing into the 3rd century A.D., with the development of Neoplatonism. Both Middle Platonic and Neoplatonic schools held the concept of a “demiurge,” which was the uncreated second god, wholly benevolent, through whom the world was made.
Midrash. A Hebrew word meaning “story,” but typically used by Jews to describe a method of hermeneutics and exegesis to understand and apply the Old Testament. It operates at four different levels, from the simple or literal through “hints,” “seeking,” and “secret.” The focus of midrash is either “Halakha” (law) or “Aggadah” (mostly teaching and homily).
Minor Prophets. Refers to the prophets Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and the biblical books attributed to them.
Misdirection. A technique used by thieves, magicians, politicians, religious partisans and others to direct the attention of someone away from the actual topic of interest in order to accomplish something, usually nefarious, without it being seen.
Mishneh Torah. Hebrew expression meaning “repetition of the Torah,” authored by Maimonides between 1170 and 1180. It is a treatise on Jewish religious law (Halakha), and is enormous in the breadth of the study. Though innovative—and therefore hotly opposed—in its time, it is today regarded as one of the key approaches and resources in the understanding and application of the Oral Law.
Mitzvah. Hebrew for “commandment” (plural mitzvot), and referring to the 613 rules present in the Torah. Can also refer to a “good deed” or moral act performed in carrying out one’s religious duty. See also Bar mitzvah.
Modalism. Also known as Sabellianism after its conception by Sabellius, a third-century priest and theologian, who imagined that God acted in three modes, or wore three masks, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but was not three separate Persons. This is a non-Trinitarian theology, but one that does consider Jesus Christ to be fully God.
Modernism. A movement of the late-19th and 20th centuries that denied the existence of a Creator God (at least one with any personal engagement with humans), as well as the self-satisfaction of the Enlightenment, and embraced instead the abstract, unconventional and ambiguous morality of the modern age.
Monotheist. One who believes in only one God. Trinitarians consider themselves monotheists (three Persons in one God), but most Jews and Muslims do not consider Trinitarians monotheists.
Montanism. Early Christian sect founded by the priest Montanus in the late 2nd century A.D. Very charismatic and popular, with an emphasis on personal holiness. A strong attention to prophetic teachings (the “New Prophecy”), said to be from the Holy Spirit, eventually led to it retroactively being regarded as a heresy. Even so, in many areas the church continued to accept the movement as orthodox. Montanus had two women, Prisca and Maximilla, who claimed that the Holy Spirit spoke through them.
Mosaich. Hebrew pronunciation of “Messiah.”
Moses. Considered the author of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and therefore of the Law of Moses. Though born a Jew, was raised by Pharaoh, and later led the Israelites out of Egypt and to the Promised Land.
Moses ben-Maimon. (a.k.a. Rambam.) See Maimonides.
Murmuring. As used in the Bible, particularly by Jesus, refers to complaining or gossiping about others, generally in a belittling or condescending way, and not contributing to the solving of whatever was complained about.
Music of the Spheres. An expression referring to imagined concentric invisible crystal spheres in which were embedded the planets, sun and stars, all circling around the Earth. The idea can be traced to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras (ca. 570–495 B.C.) and his students and was a “geocentric” concept about how the universe was organized. Later overthrown by Copernicus and Gallileo. See Chapter 3, “Sanctification.”
Muslims. Also known as Moslems (meaning those who submit to God), are followers of Islam, a religion founded by Mohammed around A.D. 610. Muslims regard the Qur’an (or Koran) as their holy book, written by Mohammed, whom they consider a prophet. Muslims are monotheistic and consider themselves descendents of Abraham. They believe that prior to Mohammed and the Qur’an, God gave the Torah to Moses, Psalms to David, and the Gospel to Jesus. They consider Jesus a great prophet, but deny His divinity.
Nachmanides. (1194–1270) Also known as Ramban. Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, also known as Bonastruc de Porta. A rabbi, physician, kabbalist and philosopher. Ramban opposed the ideas of Maimonides (Rambam) in part because of their advancing of Greek concepts and philosophy. He tried to act as a reconciler of those who opposed and those who favored Maimonides; both sides rejected his efforts and proposed solution.
Neoplatonism. See Middle Platonic.
Nestorianism. A 5th-century movement that considered Jesus both human and divine, but considered the relation between these two to be loose: The Son of God lived in Jesus Christ, but was not identical with Him.
Nevi’im. Hebrew word for “prophets,” used to describe those books in the Hebrew Bible that are between the Torah (teachings) and the Ketuvim (writings).
New Age. A term used generally to describe any of several spiritual movements that began in earnest in the mid-20th century, and including Eastern religions (primarily from India), yoga, Zen, enlightenment, astrology, meditation and so on.
New Commandment. From John 13:34-35, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
New Covenant. An expression used by Jesus during the Last Supper, and recorded in Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 22. Also referenced In 1 Corinthians 11 and 2 Corinthians 3, as well as in Hebrews 8, which quotes its original use in Jeremiah 31:31. In both the Hebrew and the Greek, the word translated “new” does not mean more recent in time, but fresh.
New Testament. The title given to the books produced by the followers of Jesus, beginning with Matthew and extending through Revelation; most, if not all, were written during the first century after the Crucifixion. This is also the expression used in the King James Version; other translations render it “new covenant.” See New Covenant, and Chapter 15, “Covenant – Jesus.”
New World Translation. The translation used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses church, and questionable for some of its intentional choices in rendering both Hebrew and Greek into English.
Nicene Creed. The second of the three most-accepted statements of theology of the Christian Church, including the Apostles’ Creed and Athanasian Creed.Originating in the early fourth century, this was a statement of doctrine to oppose the teachings of Arius, who declared Jesus was divine, but created by God the Father. The Nicene Creed declares, instead, that Jesus Christ is “very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” This creed underwent some change and development in the years following, and one element of it, inserted in the late sixth century, led to the division of the Church, with the Orthodox Church separating from the Roman Catholic Church in A.D. 1054.
Nicodemus. A renowned Pharisee and teacher of the Law who encountered Jesus three times in Scripture: first in John 3:1-21 (See Chapter 2, “Salvation”), and later at Jesus’ arrest (John 7:45-51) and after His Crucifixion (John 19:39-42).
Noah. In Genesis 6-9, the man who built the Ark to save his family and two of each kind of animal, having been told by God of His intention to destroy mankind for its wickedness.
Noahide Laws. Also known as Noachide Laws or Code. Some religious Jews consider certain commands of God to be binding on all people, while some are binding only on Jews as a part of their covenant with God. Any non-Jew who abides by these Noahide Laws is considered a “righteous Gentile” and is assured a place in the world to come. These laws (usually numbered as seven) include the prohibitions of idolatry, murder, theft, sexual immortality, blasphemy and eating flesh from an animal that is still alive. The seventh establishes courts of law.
Non-Christians. Used generally to refer to those who do not affirm faith in Jesus, but also used pejoratively of Christians of one group against Christians of another group that do not subscribe to all of their doctrines.
Non-Essentials. See Essentials and Non-Essentials.
Non-Jews. Generally used to refer to those who are either not born into a Jewish family, or who have not converted to Judaism.
Nonbelievers. Another term for Non-Christians.
Nuance. A subtle or slight difference in understanding or interpretation. From a French root meaning “to shade” or “shade of color.” Also related etymologically to cloud and fog.
Obedience/obedient/obey. All of these convey the sense, in English as well as in Greek and Hebrew, of listening attentively, and then complying with what was ordered, especially by one in authority over you. In Hebrew, often also the same word as the command in “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The word “hear” in this sentence is shema, and it means to hear attentively and respond by obeying. See also Shema.
Omnipotent. Meaning all-powerful, almighty, able to do anything at will, and used in reference only to God.
Omnipresent. Present at all times and all places. Used in reference only to God.
Omniscient. All-knowing. Used in reference only to God.
Ontologically. See Ontology.
Ontology. The “science” or philosophical study of being, existence and reality. More specifically, refers to that part of metaphysics that considers what kinds of things can and do exist, and how they can be categorized, and subdivided by similarities and differences. This approach to reality is thought to have begun with the 5th-century B.C. Greek philosopher Parmenides of Elea, founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy.
Oral Law. In Rabbinic Judaism (descended from the Pharisees, a holiness movement), the idea that at the giving of the written Law to Moses at Sinai, there was simultaneously given an oral law, which was the method to understand, interpret and apply the written law in specific cases at specific times. The written Law is found in the Torah (literally “instruction” or “teaching,” and found in the first five books of the Bible) and the Tanakh (all of the Old Testament, including the Torah). The Oral Law is recorded in the Talmud (the “learning”) and the Midrashim (the “interpretations”). Thus Jewish Law in total, called Halakha (meaning “the path”), is the authoritative reading of the Torah based on the Talmud and Midrashim. The Torah does not stand alone and is not read literally, but is applied situationally based upon careful interpretation and study of Oral Law.
Oral Tradition. See Oral Law.
Orans position. Orans is Latin for “praying,” and is usually used to refer to the position of hands raised and held to the side, palms forward.
Ordination. The act of conferring holy orders, or a ministry position, on an individual pastor, priest, deacon, and so on, often done with the laying on of hands.
Origen. (A.D. 184–253) Early Church father, highly regarded for his scholarship and expertise in many areas of theology. Later scorned for his views on the Trinity, the pre-existence of the soul, and the possibility that God would ultimately reconcile everything and everyone to Himself, even Satan. To be fair to Origen, many of the decisions of the Church on Doctrine related to these issues came much later in its life, and Origen wrote while many of these Concepts were still undecided and in common debate.
Orthodox. From Greek ortho-, “right, true, straight” (as in a right angle, which is orthogonal), and doxa, “opinion, praise.” In normal use this means “having the right doctrine or opinion,” that is, one that is congruent with the teaching of the Church. Who determines this is a matter of some dispute, particularly on non-essentials. See Infallible for further discussion.
Orthodox Church. See Eastern Orthodox Church.
Orthodox Jewish. One of the main sects of modern Judaism. The others are Chassidic, Reform and Reconstructionist. Orthodox Jews affirm and live according to traditional interpretations and application of the Torah and Oral Law. Sometimes also called “observant” Jews, though this adjective can also be applied to others. There are many movements of Orthodox Judaism, and not all congregations nor rabbis fall under just one overarching group. There are two main Orthodox groupings, Modern and Haredi, but there is wide variety even within these.
Orthodoxy. Refers usually to either the Eastern Orthodox Church, or to correct doctrine. See Orthodox and Infallible.
Overseer. 1 Timothy 3:1 says, “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” The word translated “bishop” is episcopes in Greek, meaning overseer or supervisor (that is, someone who oversees the work of others). In the New Testament, the teachings on the roles of presbyter and overseer do not clearly distinguish the two, but episcope quickly came to refer to those who (usually while remaining pastors themselves) oversaw the work of younger and less-mature pastors. Thus emerged the hierarchy of bishops over pastors, with both mentoring and directive authority.
Pagans. In Christian usage, anyone who is not either a Jew or a Christian. Typically refers to someone who worships local gods, or no god at all.
Papyrus. A kind of early paper made from the papyrus plant.
Partisan. Someone who has taken one side in a dispute or disagreement, and advocates or fights passionately, sometimes violently, for that position.
Partisan spirit. Having the tendency to fight rather then seek compromise or reconciliation.
Pascal, Blaise. (1623–1662) Brilliant French mathematician, physicist and philosopher. Invented the calculator, and wrote on geometry, probability theory, economics and social science. Author of “Pascal’s Wager,” to wit: Even if God cannot be proved by rational means, a rational person should choose to live as if He did, because he thereby has everything to gain, and nothing to lose. If there is a God, he gains heaven. If there isn’t, nothing is lost. Pascal also had a profound spiritual experience that he recorded on a piece of paper and sewed into his coat, where it was found only after his death. It read, “From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past twelve … FIRE … God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and not of the philosophers and savants. Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.”
Passover. Also called Pesach. Refers to the “Passover” of the Spirit of the Lord, when the firstborn of all families in Egypt were killed, except those of the Israelites who placed the blood of a lamb on their doorposts. The Jewish celebration of Passover commemorates this event, and it is the event celebrated by Jesus with His disciples as the Last Supper, on the night before He was crucified. Christians thus also remember Passover, and their salvation by the “blood of the Lamb” every time they celebrate the Last Supper, also known as Eucharist or Communion.
Pastor. See Priest for a detailed explanation.
Paul. Also know as Paul of Tarsus, the Apostle Paul, and Saul (before his conversion). Lived ca. A.D. 5-67. A highly religious and zealous Pharisee who persecuted Christians prior to an encounter with Jesus (after the Ascension) on the road to Damascus. The author of a major portion of the New Testament, and responsible for the growth of Christian communities throughout the Mediterranean.
Pentateuch. See Torah.
Pentecost / Shavuot. A celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit 50 days after the Last Supper. See Acts 2. This exact same holiday is celebrated in Judaism as Shavuot, the commemoration of the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, and is counted as seven weeks from the second day of the celebration of Passover. The Jews present in Jerusalem who witnessed the coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ followers had come there for the festival of Shavuot.
Pentecostal. A term applied in the last century or so to Christians who seek and have an experience of the Holy Spirit. Named after the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2 (see Pentecost), and subsequently common in the early Church. Some theologians asserted the supernatural works of the Holy Spirit had ended with the death of the last Apostle, around A.D. 100, and thus opposed the Pentecostals and claimed their present-day experiences must be demonic. But the rise and faithfulness of this stream of Christianity proved so powerful, and so effective in spreading the Gospel, that this criticism is now confined to a relatively small number of Dispensationalists and other theologians and groups.
Pharisees. A Jewish religious sect that arose after the Maccabean Revolt (Hanukah celebrates this revolt). The Pharisees stressed personal holiness, both the Torah and the Oral Law, and believed in the resurrection of the dead. Their primary opponents at the time of Jesus were the Sadducees, made up of a wealthier class of people, and descended from Solomon’s high priest, Zadok. The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee.
Philia. One of four Greek words for love. See Agape.
Piety. Piety is considered one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is reverence, love and humility before God.
Placebo effect. The idea that a person may feel better or even be healed of a disease if they believe they are taking something that can cure it, even if what they are taking has no ability to do so.
Plain dress. A mode of dressing that stresses modesty of behavior and avoids showy materials and designs. Common to Mennonite, Amish, Orthodox Jewish and similar conservative religious groups.
Plato. (ca. 424-347 B.C.) Greek philosopher, student of Socrates, teacher of Aristotle. One of the greatest and most prolific minds of all time. See Aristotle for more detail.
Platonic. An adjective meaning that a Concept can be traced to Plato or his followers. (Occasionally used to describe a non-sexual friendship.)
Platonic ideal. Simply put, the concept that behind each tangible thing, including people, dogs, love, tables, color and more, there is a universal Form, in a sense the “perfect” model of the thing, of which the actual thing—like a cocker spaniel named Toby—is a mere shadow, a mimic, of the real substance, the true perfect universal Form of a dog. This “ideal” is unseen by humans, but is considered more real than the thing that humans perceive.
Pleroma. Means “fullness” in Greek. Used by Paul in Colossians 2:8-9, “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” Here Paul in effect is rejecting the use of the term by the Gnostics, who believed that spiritual beings or powers emanated from the pleroma, the “heavenly light above our world.”
Pneumatos Hagiou. Greek for, literally, “breath holy,” normally translated as Holy Spirit.
Polemic. From the Greek polemikos, meaning “warlike, belligerent.” Can be used neutrally to simply refer to someone who writes against the beliefs of another, but typically polemical writings have implications or outright accusations about the character or ability of the person whose ideas are opposed.
Polity. Refers to the organizational structure of an institution or government, or the rules and practices that support it.
Polygamy. Literally means many marriages, regardless of the gender of the parties involved, but often used colloquially to refer to one man with several wives—which more correctly is called polygyny. One woman with multiple husbands is called polyandry.
Pope. From the Greek papas, “father.” Originally used by bishops in Rome, Asia Minor and Egypt, but restricted to the Bishop of Rome after 1073.
Presbyter. Elder or pastor. See Priest for a detailed explanation.
Priest. To understand the various terms that are used, often inaccurately, to refer to spiritual leaders in the Church, we need especially to look at three terms: pastor, presbyter and priest. In normal English usage, they are roughly equivalent: They refer to a person called and trained to care for and to lead others in a church. Pastor (as in Ephesians 4:11) is from the Greek poimen, literally, “shepherd.” Presbyter is from the Greek presbuteros, meaning “elder”—as in someone mature and experienced in the faith, and called upon to lead in the church. This is the word Paul used, for example, in Titus 1:5 (KJV), “ordain elders in every city” (and is the root of Presbyterian). The two concepts are basically the same. But it gets interesting with the word priest in English, because it actually has two root meanings: those who were descendents of Aaron and served in the Temple. Cohen (in Hebrew) and hiereus (in Greek) mean “offerer of sacrifices,” and describe what Old Testament priests did. This is the first root meaning of our English word priest. The second root is presbuteros, which, in its long etymology, contracted over time, losing some of its letters, until it coincidentally became prest, or priest. So our word priest can refer either to the root cohen or hiereus, “one who sacrifices,” or presbuteros, an elder in the faith, a pastor. Cohen is the word used in the Old Testament for the one who comes to the altar of God and sacrifices. But its Greek equivalent, hiereus, is NEVER used in the New Testament to describe a pastor or elder in the church. Instead, it is used only to describe ALL BELIEVERS. 1 Peter 2:5, “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.” Hiereus is also used to describe Jesus, when combined with the adjective for “high,” as in Hebrews 4:14-16, “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” So the idea that the priest in a Roman Catholic or other church is sacrificing at the altar comes from the church’s religious Concept, a metaphor, that the priest is “standing in the place” of Christ and re-enacting His sacrifice. The difficulty with this concept is twofold: It confuses us because all believers are called priests by Scripture, yet in the church these same believers are called the laity, and the pastor is called the priest; and because the appropriate title for the pastor, presbuteros, has contracted down to priest. It is further confused by the practice of the Roman Catholic and other churches of conceiving of their pastors as modern-day cohens, still at the altar as in the days of the Old Testament. Incidentally, a Latin word also shows up in these discussions: sacerdotal, meaning duties restricted to or pertaining to a sacerdos, a priest who offers sacrifices. Not surprisingly, this confusion of terms has led not only to huge misunderstandings, but countless religious battles. See also Overseer.
Priesthood of all believers. From 1 Peter 2:5. See Priest.
Principalities and Powers. An expression used variously in the New Testament, positively, negatively and neutrally, to refer to earthly or spiritual authorities.
Principles Through Which Torah Is Expounded. Means both a set of hermeneutical rules (such as from Rabbi Ishmael) to guide the interpretation of Torah, or a general approach to Torah interpretation which guides application in specific circumstances.
Prisca. One of the leaders of Montanism. There are others with this name, both in Scripture and tradition, but in this book the reference is only to the Montanist.
Progressive Tradition. Also called progressive Christianity. Refers to a movement that often questions tradition, is open to human diversity (often in ways rejected by more-traditional Christians), and has a strong focus on social justice, especially for the poor, oppressed groups, and the environment. Jesus’ command to “love one another” leads to a strong emphasis on the “social gospel,” and the solving of the world’s ills.
Prophecy. In Scripture, a term that means both “foretelling” events that will or may come, depending upon a response to God’s direction; and, a “forth-telling” of truth: That is, speaking out, regardless of opposition, of a truth that needs to be heard. Thus prophecy can be about the future, or about needed truth-telling.
Prophetic action. An action intended to produce a perceived needed change in the church, society, or someone’s behavior. Jeremiah demonstrated prophetic action when he put a yoke on his shoulders (Jer. 27-28). Modern Christians demonstrate prophetic action when they protest or support the actions or needs of others. Sometimes this is dramatic so as to “make a point.” Other times it is simply illustrative of living out the love Jesus commanded of us.
Prophets. Refers to both a set of books in the Old Testament: the “Major Prophets,” Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, plus the 12 “Minor Prophets,” Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Also refers to individuals who were given the spirit or ability to prophesy. There we many in addition to those named in this list of books. See also Tanakh.
Proselytizing. Attempting to convince another of the truth of your religious beliefs, with the intention of converting them.
Protestant Reformation. A split (schism) in Western Christianity following the publication of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. Luther wrote and nailed it to the door of the Castle Church, in Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517. Luther protested (hence the name) the church’s selling of “indulgences” that supposedly would get one’s ancestors out of purgatory and into heaven. Others, including John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli, followed, and virtually all Protestant churches flowed from these events, including the establishment of many denominations of Protestants, as they disagreed and split from each other.
Protestant. A member of a church descended from the Protestant Reformation. This includes Lutherans, Presbyterians, Reformed, Puritans, Methodists, Anglicans, Baptists, Assemblies of God and many more.
Protestantism. The movement that developed from the Protestant Reformation.
Pythagoras. (ca. 570–495 B.C.) Greek philosopher and mathematician. Founded a religious/philosophical movement called Pythgoreanism. He (or his students) conceived of the “harmony of the spheres,” the idea that the Earth was at the center of a series of concentric spheres, in which the other planets, the Sun and the stars were embedded, and therefore moved around the Earth. The Pythagoreans studied music, and musical intervals, and believed the “spheres” in which the planets were embedded must produce a sound, since they were of different sizes, and arranged together at specific harmonic intervals from Earth. This “geocentric” model was adapted by the Church and led to Galileo’s arrest and the accusation of heresy against him. See Chapter 3, “Sanctification,” for more detail. The term “music of the spheres” comes from this idea.
Pythagorean. See Pythagoras.
Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman. Also known as Ramban. See Nachmanides.
Rabbi Ronald Isaacs. Author of Mitzvot: A Sourcebook for the 613 Commandments, an excellent introduction to Jewish thought and belief on the Law of Moses. See Chapter 14, “Covenant – The Law of Moses.”
Rabbi. Also rebbe. A Hebrew word meaning “teacher.”
Rambam. See Maimonides.
Ramban. See Nachmanides
Ramchal. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707–1746). Italian rabbi, who said, “Whoever sets God always before him and is exclusively concerned with doing God’s pleasure and observing God’s commandments will be called God’s lover. The love of God is, therefore, not a separate commandment but an underlying principle of all of God’s commandments.” See Chapter 14, “Covenant – The Law of Moses.” Quoted in Mitzvot: A Sourcebook for the 613 Commandments, by Rabbi Ronald Isaacs.
Rapture. A term used to refer to the event described in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “…we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” The term “rapture” itself doesn’t appear in Scripture, and itself has been used in connection with certain relatively recent Concepts from 18th- and 19th-century theologians.
Rashi, Shlomo Yitzhaki. (1040–1105) The most famous, highly regarded and most-referenced of all rabbinic commentators on both the Talmud and the Tanakh. Famous for the clarity and conciseness of his comments.
Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Concept that Jesus is actually fully present, in person, in the bread and wine of Communion. This idea stems from the Last Supper (see Matthew 26) when Jesus said of the bread, “this is my body,” and of the wine, “this is my blood.” The early Church accepted this as true, but did not try to explain how it was true. Thomas Aquinas and others tried to create Concepts that explained how.
Reason. The ability of the human mind to think through things, create logical categories, make assumptions and draw conclusions.
Rebaptizing. See Anabaptists.
Rebbe of Kotzk. R. Menachem Mendel (1787–1859). Chassidic rabbi in Kotzk, Austria. Said the prohibition against idolatry extends to making an idol out of the Commandments.
Redeemer. From the concept of paying a ransom to get something back that was sold or lost. The concept of the redeemer is used in Ruth 4:14 to refer to a redeemer for a family, and in many places in the Book of Isaiah to refer to God, as in Isaiah 59:20, “The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins.” This title is not used directly in the New Testament, though Paul uses redemption to refer to what Jesus did.
Redeemer of Israel. A reference to God in the book of Isaiah.
Reform Jewish. See also Orthodox Jewish for more detail.The Reform movement in Judaism tends to be liberal in its theology and interpretation of the Law of Moses, adapting it to the modern culture, and working to “heal the world” by its advocacy of social reform and justice.
Reformation. See also Protestant Reformation. A process that changes the “form” of the Church, in particular to correct widespread error or abuse. Those who initiate or promote reform in the Church often do so against great opposition from those currently in positions of power or influence. This is not to imply that the reformers are right and those who oppose them are wrong. It can go either way, or (more commonly) error and truth are on both sides in a dispute.
Reformed Tradition. Another term for Calvinism, and followers of Calvin and other theologians in his tradition. Stresses the Five Points of Calvinism, predestination, total depravity and the sovereignty of God.
Reincarnation. The Hindu and Buddhist idea that human beings return in a series of lives on Earth, striving for greater holiness or enlightenment in each subsequent life, until finally reaching liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Mentioned here because some “conspiracy theorists” claim the Bible once taught about reincarnation, but that the idea was removed by Justinian and Theodora. See Chapter 21, “Bible Authority.”
Relics of saints. Typically either body parts (usually bones, or pieces of bones) or possessions of famous saints, which are venerated by some Christians. These relics are often kept in a “reliquary,” and put on display in a church. Sometimes they are believed to have miraculous powers because of the holiness of the saint.
Religious Concepts. The foundational idea that the narrative of Scripture was mined for themes, ideas, parallels, grammatical structures and textual forms, and these were then abstracted into categories, and philosophical Concepts were fabricated. These complex Religious Concepts then led to the creation of Doctrines, Rituals, Canons, Worship, Practices, Polities, Creeds (conceptual statements of faith) and Hermeneutics (ways of reading and interpreting Scripture).
Religious idolatry. Making an idol of any religious concept, tradition, practice or form of worship.
Renaissance. A cultural phenomenon from the 14th to 17th century that involved a revival of Greek philosophical ideas, and a flowering of science, mathematics, literature, art, politics and religion.
Revisionism. The process of rewriting history or the telling of events, usually in order to support one’s point of view or hinder another’s.
Right Doctrine. The idea that some Religious Concepts more accurately describe God or God’s will than others. See also Orthodox.
Ritual. A physical action done in a certain and consistent way, usually as part of a liturgy or religious act.
Roman Catholic Church. A denomination whose name means, essentially, “the universal church headquartered in Rome.” The world’s largest Christian church, headed by the Pope, and administered by layers of authority from Cardinals down to Priests, in a pattern based on the Roman Empire’s administrative structure.
Rosh Yeshiva. Head rabbi of a yeshiva. Sometimes called roshi.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. (1712–1778) A Swiss philosopher.
Royal Law. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” from James 2:8.
Ruach Ha-kodesh. ×”×§×•×“×© ×¨×•×—. The word “spirit” in Hebrew is ruach, and it means “breath” as well as “spirit.” This same word is used both to describe what God breathes into Adam’s lungs to give him life, and the Holy Spirit (ruach ha-kodesh, literally spirit the holy, or breath the holy) in the Old Testament.
Sabbath. The seventh day of the week, according to Jewish reckoning, commanded by God in the Fourth Commandment, to be a day of rest: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” The only one of the Ten Commandments that Christians broadly seem to consider no longer binding. See also Shabbat.
Sacrament. A sacred rite of the Church denoting a specific spiritual event or reality. Defined by some as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual reality.” Some churches have no sacraments, others two (Baptism and Eucharist), while still other have seven (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction).
Sacrifice. The idea of offering something—food, animals or humans—to God, in order to gain favor, or as an act of thanksgiving, penitence or worship.
Sadducees. A Jewish religious movement from the time of Solomon until about A.D. 70. Believed to be descendents of Zadok (or Tzadok), the priest who served under King Solomon.
Saint. A term often used to refer to a Christian of great distinction, or a martyr, and in some churches given a special day of honor. In the New Testament, “saint” is from the Greek hagiois, meaning “holy ones,” and is used generally for all believers, not just those worthy of special honor.
Salvation. In the New Testament, from the Greek soteria, meaning to be rescued, or delivered away from danger. In the Old Testament the word typically is yeshua, and means deliverance, safety, help, victory, welfare and even prosperity, or teshua, meaning deliverance by God but through humans. For Christians, salvation means being rescued or saved from a life poisoned by sin, thus being born into eternity in God’s presence. This comes simply by recognizing that we sin, that we hurt others, ourselves and the world around us; and accepting the forgiveness that God offers through Jesus. That is salvation.
Samaritan. Followers of Samaritanism, a religion closely related to Judaism, and descendents of Abraham, who studied the Samaritan Torah. Their name is from a root that means “keepers of the Law.” At the time of Jesus, generally disrespected by the Jews, and themselves disrespectful of the Jews. Jesus’ story of the “Good Samaritan” used this mutual disrespect to illustrate what true love really was.
Sanctification. Allowing ourselves to be changed in our thought-life, in our behavior, in the way we live in the world—in essence, to become more and more conformed to the image of Christ. Said differently, to learn to live and love like Jesus did—that is sanctification.
Sanctuary. From the Latin sanctus, holy. Normatively refers to a building or place set apart, “consecrated,” for worship. Can also mean a place where a fugitive can be hidden and protected from pursuers.
Sarah/Sarai. The name of Abraham’s wife. She was known as Sarai, a name whose meaning is not known; in Genesis 17:5, her name was changed by God to Sarah, meaning “princess,” just after God changed the name of Abram, “exalted father,” to Abraham, “father of nations.” See Chapter 13, “Covenant – Abraham.”
Satan. A Hebrew word, satahn, meaning adversary, or enemy. In the book of Job and elsewhere, a being who moves on Earth causing strife, but also stands in heaven and argues with God. Also used as a word simply to mean an adversary, as when an angel of the Lord blocked the path of Balaam in Numbers 22:22. In the New Testament Greek, satanas, the prince of evil spirits and the enemy of God and man.
Satan’s Counterfeit. A pejorative expression used by Christians who believe only in full immersion for baptism, in relation to baptism done with sprinkling or pouring of water.
Schism. To split, or “dissension within the church.” Generally refers to a division in the church, with people choosing sides or starting new denominations in reaction to some perceived error.
Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst. (1768–1834) German theologian and philosopher. Sometimes called the “father of modern liberal theology.” Rejected many traditional teachings of the Church, and loved Plato and Aristotle.
Scribal error. An error in copying. Even with extraordinary care, those who copy documents sometimes make errors, from mistaking one character for another, to skipping a whole sentence or verse. I have a modern Bible with each section of verses of Psalm 119 marked with a Hebrew letter. The entire Hebrew alphabet is used in this Psalm as an acrostic, from alef to tav. The third-to-last letter in the Hebrew alphabet is resh (×¨), and it begins verse 153. But in my Bible, verse 153 begins with dalet (×“). Close, but not the right Hebrew letter. Whoever set the type mixed up the two similar letters. That is a “scribal error.” These errors can often be found by careful comparison of documents that are supposed to be identical, though if the original document is not available, which of several differing documents is correct is always open to question. See Chapter 21, “Bible Authority,” for a discussion. Though this kind of error is possible, their occurrence is rare at best, and none of those discovered in the copies that we have has made any substantive difference in the content.
Scribal tradition. Refers to the extraordinary skill and care of the “scribes” who hand-copy the Tanakh (Old Testament), to make certain no Scribal Errors are made. The scribes’ expertise is so exceptional that they can look at a tiny piece of paper with a single verse on it from anywhere in the Tanakh, and tell you immediately where it is from, and if any characters are missing or wrong.
Scripture Alone. Also known as Sola Scriptura, from the Latin for this expression. An expression arising out of the Protestant Reformation and attributed to Martin Luther, that the final authority of the faith rests not in the Church, or Reason, or Tradition, but in the Scripture itself, alone, and any other authority by the Church must be subsidiary to that which is plain (or able to be readily deduced) from Scripture. Chapter I, Section VII of the Westminster Confession puts it this way: “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” Some denominations take Scripture Alone beyond this, and say, effectively, that only Scripture can be used to understand and interpret Scripture. Other denominations (e.g., the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and some others) claim equal authority of Scripture, Tradition and Bishops (or Reason).
Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Also known as the “three-legged stool” of Anglicanism, it describes 3 sources of authority in the Church: the Bible; the understanding of the Bible and the established Doctrine of the Church coming through the “fathers” of the Church and its Councils; and the use of thoughtful insight, guided by the Holy Spirit. Anglican priest and theologian Richard Hooker (1554–1600) is often cited as the source of this approach.
Second Temple. The first Jewish temple was built by Solomon in Jerusalem about 1000 B.C. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., and the Jewish people were exiled to Babylon (in modern-day Iraq). After their return from exile, a second temple was built there and completed around 516 B.C., renovated by King Herod around 19 B.C., and stood until destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.
Second Temple Period. The period from about 530 B.C. until A.D. 70, during which the Jewish people faced three significant crises: the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 586 B.C. and their exile to Babylon (rebuilt; see Second Temple); the Hellenization of all of Israel and Judea by and following its conquering by Alexander the Great, and the Maccabean Revolt of 167 B.C. (which is remembered in the celebration of Channukah); and then the Roman occupation (which also led to the destruction of the Second Temple).
Semantic misdirection. The technique of drawing an opponent’s or listener’s attention away from an important issue by ad hominem attack, revision, redefinition, sarcasm, shouting, or other verbal or logical means.
Septuagint. Translation of the Torah, and eventually all of the Tanakh, or Old Testament, into Greek. Held in high regard, with some early writers (e.g., Philo and Josephus) believing the translators to have been divinely inspired.
Shabbat. Hebrew word (also Shabbos) meaning “rest,” for the day of rest ordered by God in the 4th Commandment. Begins approximately at sunset on Friday evening, and ends shortly after sunset on Saturday evening. See also Sabbath.
Shema. Hebrew for “hear!” and used as a short label for (sheh-mah), “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord in One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). In Judaism, considered the key statement of the faith; the full Shema consists of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41, though often just the first two verses are used. The following is from the NKJV.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Deuteronomy 11:13-21. “And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled. Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, lest the Lord’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you. Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.”
Numbers 15:37-41. Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.” See also Echad and Obedience/Obedient/Obey.
Skeptics. Originally a member of a Greek philosophical school founded by Pyrrho (ca. 360–270 B.C.), which doubted that it was possible to truly “know” anything. Much later took on the meaning of someone with a critical and doubting point of view. Still much later (20th century), someone who disbelieves in the supernatural and either sets out to prove it mistaken, or assumes it is mistaken and speaks condescendingly toward those who believe in it.
Social Action. Also called the Social Gospel. Although there is a whole school of thought called “Social Action,” related to how individuals and society (or others) interact, in the Church the term typically refers to those who believe the primary purpose of the Church is to change existing social structures, governments, laws and institutions, in order to bring justice and equity to all people—particularly the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged. Although in the West this is primarily seen as a politically and theologically “liberal” movement, in other parts of the world, such as Africa and the Middle East, it is considered simply a natural and integral part of the Gospel.
Social Contract. A Concept that came out of the Enlightenment (and traceable back to the Greeks) that the appropriate relationship among individuals, and with their government(s), is best understood as a “contract” where the individuals have intrinsic rights and collateral responsibilities toward each other. Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were the philosophers who brought this Concept to the modern era. Its development continues.
Social Gospel. See Social Action.
Socrates. (ca. 469–399 B.C.) Greek philosopher and the “father” of all Western philosophy since his time. If Socrates wrote anything, none of it survived or is known. What we do know of him comes through the writings of his students, primarily Plato and Xenophon. Socrates is famous for his method of dialogue, in which probing questions are asked in order to both understand what someone else is asserting, but also to gain deeper insight into the issue being considered. His influence on all modern thought, including ethics, politics, religion, knowledge and life itself, is virtually unmatched. Socrates taught Plato, who taught Aristotle, who taught Alexander the Great. See Aristotle for more detail.
Sola Scriptura. See Scripture Alone.
Solomon. (ca. 1000 B.C.) Son of King David. Builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem.
Søren Kierkegaard. See Kierkegaard, Søren.
Soul-rest. One of several Concepts among Christian theologians about what happens at death. Some believe a person who dies goes immediately to the “afterlife.” Others believe that all who die “sleep” until the Second Coming of Christ, at which point they all are awakened—some to glory, some to destruction.
Speaking in tongues. A phenomenon among Christians of speaking, praying, singing or prophesying in a seemingly unknown language. Also called glossolalia; a related phenomenon is xenoglossy, speaking in a normal human language that the speaker doesn’t know.
Speechless idols. A term Paul uses in 1Corinthians 12 to distinguish idols made by man, such as those carved from wood or stone, and God. Paul’s point is that idols made by man cannot speak because they are not gods at all, whereas Christians worship a real God who can and does speak.
Spirit of God. See Holy Spirit.
St. Augustine. See Augustine of Hippo.
Stigmata. A phenomenon whereby some Christians spontaneously exhibit wounds similar to those described as having been suffered by Jesus Christ at His Crucifixion, such as pierced and bleeding hand, feet, side and head.
Stoics. A Greek philosophical school founded by Zeno (3rd century B.C.). The Stoics believed a person’s character and philosophical view of life was demonstrated by behavior, not simply words. They also believed that one’s will should be in harmony with nature, and that when it was, this was virtue.
Storge. One of four Greek words for love. See Agape.
Styx. In Greek mythology, the river that separated the Earth from the Underworld, or place of the dead. It was believed that the water of the river Styx gave immortality, and Achilles’ mother dipped him in the river, holding him by his heel. See Apollo.
Subatomic particle. Typically, a particle smaller than an atom. This includes electrons, which orbit around the nucleus, protons and neutrons, which make up the nucleus, and a host of other particles.
Substance and Accident. These are terms from Aristotle, to express the Concept that what is seen by the senses, the “accident,” is not the same as the reality, the “substance.” The term “transubstantiation” was meant to describe a change that bread and wine underwent during the Eucharist, in which they literally became the body and blood of Jesus Christ. However, this change took place not in the accident, which people see, but in the substance that was invisible beneath or behind the accident. Thomas Aquinas borrowed this Concept from Aristotle and applied it to the bread and wine used during Communion.
Summa Theologica. The massive summary of theology written by Thomas Aquinas.
Summary of Theology. See Summa Theologica.
Syllogism. Although the term has other meanings, typically it refers to a logical structure consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.
Synagogue. A very general term used by Jews to denote a place of assembly, usually with a large room for prayer, and smaller rooms for study or fellowship.
Syncretism. The blending together of various beliefs, usually religious. In a positive sense, this means they share a common underlying truth. In a pejorative sense (more common), this means they have been blended to accomplish a false inclusiveness that does not do justice to the beliefs that were blended.
Systematic theology. An intentionally comprehensive, orderly and rational approach to explaining or defending the beliefs of the Christian faith.
Talmud. A record of rabbinic commentaries on Jewish Law, as well as comments on the commentaries, all applied as a means to understand the Law, and apply it to religious and every day life.
Tanakh. An acronym for the books of the Old Testament, formed from the first letter of the names of the three main sections: the Torah (teaching), the Nevi’im (prophets) and the Ketuvim (writings). TNK, those letters, are thus used and pronounced “ta-nakh.”
Tautology. In logic, a formula or statement that is true in all circumstances, always valid. Pointlessly obvious. Can also be used negatively to refer to something that proposes to be proved true, but actually assumes the truth it pretends to prove, or needlessly repeats an assertion, seeming to prove the assertion by repetition.
Ten Commandments. Also called the Decalogue. Ten instructions given to Moses by God for the Israelites.
Tertullian. (ca. A.D. 160–220) Early Christian writer and apologist, from whom we get the Trinitarian concept of “three Persons, one Substance,” although he was later spurned as unorthodox by the Church when he became a Montanist.
Textual criticism. A technique intended to recover, as well as possible, the original text based on a multitude of copies. The technique is quite ancient (it was in use thousands of years ago) and consists of looking at how the copies we have differ from one another. See Chapter 21, “Bible Authority.”
The Law of Moses. Refers to the Ten Commandments and other instructions given by God in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.
Theism. From the Greek word theos, “god.” A belief that a God, or gods, exist. Also refers to how God relates to the universe and human beings.
Theist. One who believes in at least one God.
Theopneustos. Greek for “God-breathed,” but implying something that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Thetis. Mother of Achilles.
Thomas Aquinas. See Aquinas, Thomas.
Thomas Jefferson. See Jefferson, Thomas.
Thought-forms. A habitual or learned way of thinking that affects or biases perception, and hence leads to loss of objectivity and understanding.
Tongues. See Speaking in tongues.
Torah. Hebrew for “instruction.” Also known as the five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), and the Pentateuch. The fundamental text of Judaism; held in high regard by Christians and Muslims as well.
Transubstantiation. A term meant to describe a change that bread and wine underwent during the Eucharist, in which they literally became the body and blood of Jesus Christ. See Substance and Accident. This Concept is held by the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, but is rejected by many Protestants, some of whom substitute similar Concepts, such as Consubstantiation or Dynamic Presence, both of which imply that Jesus Christ is present during Communion, but not through any transformation of the actual bread and wine.
Triadic Emanation. A Concept from what is called “Middle Platonism” about the divine realm emanating three gods (look into Numenius of Apamea and the Platonic Second Letter for more detail, though they are beyond the scope of this present book). This Concept informed Celsus in his writing of On First Principles, where he developed his ideas about the Trinity.
Trinity. Normative Christian doctrine asserts that God exists as three divine Persons, each fully God, who are distinct, but live in constant eternal unity and equality, and are of the same substance.
Unbroken Apostolic Succession. See Apostolic Authority / Succession.
Universalism. In a Christian context, the belief that all humans will be saved by Jesus Christ and be reconciled to God. (A less-common meaning is that all humans may be saved, but not all will choose to be.)
Veneration of the Saints. The concept that those Christians in history that showed special holiness or dedication, or gave their lives for the faith (martyrs), are worthy of special attention, praise and study: This is veneration. It is distinct from worship, which is intended for God alone.
Virgin Mary. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was engaged to Joseph, but was still a virgin, when she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. See Luke 1:26-36. In some Christian circles Mary is deeply venerated, and some believe she remained a virgin for the rest of her life. The term “Immaculate Conception” actually refers to the conception of Mary in her mother’s womb, not Mary’s conception of Jesus. Many believe Mary lived without sin.
Voltaire. (1694–1778) Pen name of François-Marie Arouet, French philosopher of the Enlightenment, advocate of social reform, separation of church and state, and freedom of religion.
(The) Way. “The Way” was the term used to designate the early followers of Jesus. See Acts 9:2 and 22:4, among others.
“What shall we then say?” An expression used in the Talmud and by rabbis at the time of Jesus, in arguing about how the Law should be applied or fulfilled. Appears in the New Testament when similar discussions are taking place.
Yacov. Brother of Jesus/Yeshua. In English often referred to as James, though Jacob would be a better rendering. Head of the church in Jerusalem after the death of Jesus. Head of the Council of Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15.
Yahweh. An English pronunciation of the Hebrew letters YOD-HEY-VAV-HEY, ×™×”×•×”, sometimes also pronounced Jehovah or Yehovah. See Adonai for more detail.
Yehovah. See Adonai.
Yeshiva. Hebrew for “sitting.” A school that focuses primarily on the study of the Talmud and the Torah. This is done with daily lectures, and by working in pairs to discuss or debate a particular passage or rabbinic opinion. The head of a yeshiva is called rosh or roshi yeshiva. The members of the study pairs are called haverim, Hebrew for “friends,” or chavrutas, Aramaic for “friends.”
Yehoshua / Yeshua. Hebrew: ×™×”×•×©×¢ Yehoshua, or ×™×©×•×¢ Yeshua (shortened version of the same name). The name Jesus in Hebrew.
Yom Kippur. Also called the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year for Jews, calling upon them for deep repentance and atonement.