Bible Definitions Of Biblical Terms!
Terms That Will Illuminate Your Understanding.
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Basic Bible Definitions
A term referring to the battle between God and evil in the last days. The term itself only appears once in the Bible in Revelation 16:16. “Armageddon” is a transliteration for the Hebrew word for “Mount Megiddo” in northern Israel.
A superhuman intermediary between the divine and human realm. Angels exist in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Perhaps the most famous angel is Gabriel, who reveals himself as God’s messenger in the Hebrew scriptures, Christianity’s New Testament, and Islam’s Koran. Theological discussions of the nature of angels vary by tradition.
In Christian literature, the Antichrist is an evil figure that deceives people into thinking that he is holy. In the end-times, according to the Christian tradition, Jesus will come back and defeat the Antichrist (Smith and Green 1995: 53). In Islamic eschatology, there is also an Antichrist figure depicted in the Hadith as a one-eyed monster from the East who rules the earth for a period of time before Jesus comes to conquer him.
The catastrophic end-times battle between good and evil, in which good will triumph over evil. The Greek term refers to “hidden things.” The most famous apocalyptic literature is the Book of Revelation at the end of the New Testament. The apocalypse has been popularized by Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series of Christian novels in contemporary usage.
The rite of applying water to a person usually marks their entrance into the Christian Church. It appears to have derived from John the Baptist in the first century C.E., although some scholars believe that the Jewish Essenes’ ritual ablution inspired the act. Churches and denominations are divided on whether baptism literally or symbolically washes away sin.
The belief that the Bible is without error in theology, ethics, history, geography, and science. This is common in Christian fundamentalism, as opposed to evangelicals who typically have a less strict view of the Bible and instead believe that the Bible is God’s inspired word.
Also known as Reformed theology, Calvinism is a Protestant theological tradition based on John Calvin’s works (1509-1564). Calvin believed in the absolute sovereignty of God and the total depravity of humans. Calvinism also includes the double predestination doctrine: the belief that God fated every human being, before birth, to either heaven or hell.
Christians who stress spiritual gifts described in the New Testament, such as speaking in tongues and healing. Before 1960, this phenomenon was closely associated with the Pentecostal tradition (see Azusa Street Revival). Since then, it has become a more general term that emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s presence, without a specific denominational affiliation.
The belief is that the creation account of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is historically and scientifically correct. This has led to a confrontation with Darwinian evolution proponents, most notably in the infamous Scopes Trial of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee. More recently, former creationists have advocated Intelligent Design instead of creationism to counter evolutionary claims.
A cross is bearing the figure of Christ. It is often used to represent the suffering of Christ. It became a basic image for devotional purposes in the Middle Ages. Still, it was viewed as idolatry by many Protestant Reformers, which is why many Protestant churches prefer the symbol of a cross without Jesus on it.
Condemnation to punishment in the afterlife for sins committed while alive. This is said to occur on judgment day and the eternal abode for the damned in hell.
A Christian theological view that divides history into several periods or dispensations. God’s plan for salvation differs according to the dispensation.
Dogma is understood as a principle component of a religious ideology that is non-disputable. The Greek word is “dokeo,” which means “appears.” Dogma is mainly found in Roman Catholicism, explicitly stated in ecumenical councils or by the pope. In a non-liturgical setting, it has a pejorative connotation. In the context of the Catholic Church, the Nicene Creed contains dogmata.
A Christian holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his crucifixion. It is known as “Pascha” by Orthodox Christians.
The belief is that the world is coming to an end, and God’s kingdom will be established.
A movement in Protestantism emphasizes one’s relationship with Christ, the Bible’s inspiration, and the importance of sharing one’s faith with non-believers. Evangelical Protestantism is usually seen as more theologically and socially conservative than Mainline Protestantism, although there is variation between denominations, congregations, and individuals within the “evangelical” category.
The Christian practice of sharing the gospel of Christ with non-believers. This term comes from the New Testament Greek word “euangelizomai,” which means “to proclaim the good news.”
The process of driving out demons/evil spirits from human beings. The practice dates back thousands of years before the Common Era and across various societies. According to pre-modern civilizations, physical and mental illnesses were indistinguishable from one another, as diseases and mental instability represented the presence of unappeased spirits. Priests served the role of “physicians” and attempted to drive out evil spirits causing the diseases through incantations and healing rituals (Koenig, King, and Carson 2012). Exorcisms began to decrease with the advent of modern medicine and a better understanding of the origins of diseases/illnesses.
A term usually limited to the Christian practice of restoring health through prayer, divine power, or the Holy Spirit’s intervention.
1) Protestants movement embraces similar beliefs as evangelicals, although usually in a more conservative direction, stressing separation from the world and more liberal Christian bodies. The term derives from a series of booklets entitled The Fundamentals, published in the early 20th century on what was viewed as Christianity’s fundamental doctrines. 2) The term also is used to describe similarly conservative movements in other religions, particularly Islam.
An archangel in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. In Christianity, he is known for announcing to Mary that she will bear Jesus, humanity’s savior. In Islam, he is known as “Jibril” and is known for visiting the Prophet Muhammad in a human form. It was Jibril who revealed God’s messages through Muhammad and who also guided Muhammad during his night journey through the heavens.
Anyone not Jewish
Graham, William “Billy” (1918-2020):
Billy Graham was the preeminent Christian evangelist of the second half of the 20th century, preaching to millions in the United States and abroad. Vast audiences attended his “crusades” throughout his career. For example, the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade was attended by more than 350,000 people. He was friends with Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as many U.S. presidents. For more information on Billy Graham, click here.
The narratives of the life of Jesus are found at the beginning of the New Testament of the Bible in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In Greek, “gospel” refers to “good news.” The gospels contain some differences between them. Many believe that Mark is the first gospel and that Matthew and Luke borrowed some of their material from Mark. For this reason, they are known as synoptic gospels, while the Book of John is believed to have been written later and contains information not found in the synoptic gospels.
The term refers to an expression of unmerited divine love and assistance given to humans from God (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-6). In Christianity, God’s grace is expressed through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross for the redemption of human sin.
The dwelling place of God, angels, and redeemed individuals in the afterlife. It functions as the ultimate reward for the redeemed instead of hell, which is the punishment for the damned (Smith and Green 1995: 411).
A place for the damned in the afterlife after Judgment Day. Hell originally referred to the underworld’s dark regions, but now it refers to the eternal separation between individuals and God. Whether hell is everlasting or a temporary state of existence is often debated.
It is either a rejection of doctrines taught by a communal authority or a choice to advocate an alternative doctrine/interpretation instead of authoritative conventional teaching. This concept is tied to the early Christian tradition, as the Church attempted to dispel certain Hellenistic philosophies. It is also evident in Judaism and Islam, although it is often more related to religious behavior than religious beliefs.
It is a term widely employed in the New Testament and used at points in the Old Testament, although in a different context. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon prophets to transmit God’s message to others. Christianity describes the third person in the Trinity. The archaic term for the Holy Spirit is “holy ghost.” Charismatics often refer to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including speaking in tongues and prophecy.
In Christian theology, it is the eternal Word of God embodied in the flesh of Jesus during his time on earth.
A theory posits that both the universe and individual organisms are too complex to result from either chance or random selection, thus pointing to an “intelligent designer.” Critics accuse Intelligent Design proponents of espousing “pseudoscience” and attempting to give creationist sentiments a more scientific facade.
1) A term for the Jews as a religious people. 2) The land and state of Israel were founded in 1948 and located in the Middle East.
The founder of the Christian religion. “Christ” is a Hebrew term for “messiah,” meaning Christians believe that he is the savior of humanity. Jesus was born in Palestine under Roman occupation around 6 BCE. Many Christians believe that he is the Son of God, who died for human sin, and was raised to salvation. Along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, he makes up what is known as the Trinity. Muslims believe that he was an important prophet, but he was not the Son of God, nor did they believe in the Trinity. In terms of his physical form and divine form, the nature of Jesus’ form has been debated over the centuries in what is known as Christology.
Jews for Jesus:
A term referring to a contemporary movement of young Jews to Christianity and a missionary agency. The movement began in the late 1960s during the “Jesus Movement.” The movement and missionary group attempts to convert Jews by emphasizing that accepting Christianity did not automatically reject Jewish heritage.
John the Baptist:
A first-century figure appears in Josephus’ Antiquities and the New Testament gospels as a prophetic forerunner to Jesus Christ. Many believe that he was associated with the baptist movements in Judaism and preached baptism for the purification of sins.
King, Martin Luther (1929-1968):
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an extremely significant African-American Baptist minister and civil rights leader who combined Gandhi’s nonviolent philosophy and Christian love to fight racism. He is the most recognizable figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. For more information on Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jewish dietary laws include permissible and restricted foods from one’s diet. These guidelines were outlined in the Torah and later elaborated in postbiblical Jewish law. Animals with cloven hooves and who chew their cud are forbidden to eat, like pigs. Some explain that kosher laws exist for hygienic reasons and symbolic reasons, like discouraging the assimilation of non-Jewish neighboring communities.
The New Testament narrative of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. This event is commemorated through the Christian rite of Communion, also known as the Eucharist.
A 40 day period of fasting begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter. The purpose of fasting is to encourage spiritual discipline and devotional reflection. These 40 days usually don’t include Sundays. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and some Protestant churches celebrate this practice. For Orthodox Christians, Lent begins on Clean Monday.
Luther, Martin (1483-1546):
A German monk and theologian who became a leader in the sixteenth century during the Protestant Reformation. He was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church after publishing his 95 Theses, which challenged the Church’s doctrines and practices. Luther placed importance on justification by grace through faith and the Bible as the sole authority for Christians, not scripture and tradition as Catholics assert. His ideas helped pioneer Protestant thought. He is the founder of Lutheranism.
A large congregation with 2,000 or more people attending services. It is typically Protestant, often evangelical. Two-thirds of megachurches are affiliated with a denomination. They tend to cluster in the suburbs located outside of growing cities. Currently, there are more than 1,200 megachurches in the United States. Famous megachurch pastors include Joel Osteen and Rick Warren.
Mental Health, Religion, and: Mental health
It consists of positive and negative dimensions. Positive mental health includes positive emotions (e.g., happiness, peace, etc.) as well as positive cognitive processes (e.g., optimistic thinking and adaptation), while adverse mental health involves emotions, cognitions, and behaviors that cause dysfunction in social relationships, occupation, and recreation, and interfere with adaptation (e.g., anger, violence, addiction, etc.; see Koenig et al. 2012: 298). An estimated 80 percent of studies focus specifically on mental health in religion and health (Koenig 2012). In general, religiousness tends to improve positive mental health and reduce adverse mental health outcomes. Examining hundreds of studies on mental health and religion, Koenig and colleagues (2012) found that religion/spirituality improves mental well-being, increases hope/optimism, reduces loneliness/depression, increases social capital, reduces substance abuse, and improves marital outcomes.
A significant prophet in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He is remembered for leading the Jewish slaves out of Egypt and receiving the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai. The revelations on Mount Sinai became known as the Torah or Law. In all three traditions, Moses is highly regarded but receives special importance in the Jewish tradition.
Canonized scripture in addition to the Old Testament that constitutes the Christian Bible. The New Testament is made up of 27 books, written roughly between 50 and 150 CE. The first four books are the gospels, which record the life of Jesus Christ. Among the gospels, the first three (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are considered the synoptic gospels for their similarity in content, whereas John’s book is considered relatively distinct. The gospels are followed by the Apostles Acts, which records the development of the early Christian movement. Most of the New Testament contains letters, many attributed to the apostle Paul, while others are either anonymous or associated with other early church leaders.
A formal creed stated that Jesus was “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.” This creed originated in the fourth century C.E. due to controversies about Jesus’ nature (see Christology). Most Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians affirm this creed.
The practices and beliefs relating to “hidden” spiritual truths or esoteric insights. These hidden truths are seen as very powerful. This tradition was somewhat underground during the Middle Ages but became more prominent in the Renaissance. The occult worldview was basic to pre-Copernican and pre-Newtonian science. Modern groups that incorporate the occult elements include the Liberal Catholic Church and Wicca and some Neopagan groups.
Old Testament (Hebrew Bible):
The first portion of the Christian Bible. It also is known as the Hebrew Bible in Judaism. The Hebrew Bible contains twenty-four books, while Protestant Bibles further divide the 24 books into 39 books and place them in a different order. Catholic Bibles are ordered the same as the Protestant Bible but include seven additional books known as the Deuterocanonical Books. Orthodox Bibles also contain additional books.
The first day of Holy Week commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It is called “Palm Sunday” because the crowds took palm branches in John’s gospel and met Jesus as he arrived in the city. It is celebrated a week before Easter.
Communication is addressed to God or gods, and sometimes intermediaries. Prayers build confidence and affection between humans and a god or gods.
A branch of Christianity dating back to the Reformation of the 15th century, when Reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, first sought to reform the Catholic Church but increasingly left to start their own churches. Most Protestant churches share a belief in all believers’ priesthood, whereas Catholic Churches have a hierarchal model that clearly separates the priesthood (clergy) from the members (laity). Also, Protestants emphasize the sole authority of the Bible (sola scriptura), whereas Catholics see church tradition along with the Bible as authorities for faith and practice.
Using the best available data, the QuickLists section of the ARDA provides data on American and international religion in rank order. For example, if one wants to know the number of Christians or Muslims globally, this list will assist the user. If one wants a list of states with the most Evangelical Protestants, this list provides that information. For more information on QuickLists, click here!
The belief is that Christians will be brought up to heaven and escape a time of tribulation and testing before the return of Christ.
The belief that the dead will rise someday in the future for final judgment. This is closely associated with the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic beliefs that a person is a combination of body and soul. Belief in a resurrection came late in the Jewish tradition, in 2 Maccabees, and was later adopted by Christians. Sometimes, when Christians refer to the “resurrection,” they refer to the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his crucifixion.
According to the Book of Genesis, the last day of the week is considered the day of rest by Jews. On this day, God rested after creating the universe, and therefore observers are forbidden from working. Over time, the Sabbath became known as a day of worship. Jews and Seventh-day Adventists observe the Sabbath on Saturday, while many Christians celebrate it on Sunday.
The belief is that humans require deliverance due to the problem of sin. For Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus will allow individuals to be forgiven of sin and therefore saved. Salvation also is often associated with receiving admission into heaven.
A malevolent figure in the Abrahamic religions, which include Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Satan often is interpreted as an angelic being in the Hebrew scriptures. In the New Testament, Satan is the enemy of God who challenges Jesus in the desert. In Islam, Satan is identified with Iblis, chief of devils’ legion who leads humanity astray. It is important to note that Satan’s portrayal as a horned being with cloven hoofs and a tail appears in the Middle Ages, ascribed by the European populace to ancient fertility spirits, such as the Greek God Pan.
Seven Deadly Sins:
Roman Catholicism refers to the seven most serious human failings: pride, envy, greed, anger, sloth, lust, and gluttony. Some date the list back to Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century C.E.
The study of God and his relationship with created reality.
The Christian term for the community of God is made of three “persons” (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The term itself is not in the New Testament, although the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are mentioned. The distinctions between the three are relational and not believed to be a separation of power. Jesus is said to be the Son of God. The trinity doctrine is somewhat controversial, for critics (e.g., Muslims and Unitarians) claim that it is polytheism, while Christians traditionally defend the doctrine as communal monotheism.
Those who do not attend or have stopped attending religious services.
A Christian teaching that Mary conceived Jesus without a human father. God miraculously made Mary pregnant without the use of sexual intercourse with Joseph. This doctrine is accepted by Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, and Muslims. This doctrine is not the same as the Immaculate Conception.
Wesley, John (1703-1791):
The founder of Methodism. He was ordained in 1725 in the Church of England. From 1729 to 1735, he led the Holy Club, a group of students called Methodists. They performed acts of piety and charity. After his disastrous missionary trip to America, he returned to England. In 1738, he had a religious experience that convinced him that the Methodists’ activities could be empowered by grace through faith in Jesus. This led to a revival and a 52-year ministry up until his death.
X, Malcolm (1925-1965):
Malcolm X was an active and controversial minister/spokesman for Islam from the mid-1950s until 1964. He brought national attention to his religious group and the problems facing black Americans. However, his negative comments toward whites and the civil rights movement received widespread criticism as well. For more information on Malcolm X, click here.
A vernacular language of Ashkenazi Jews. It is a combination of medieval German with elements from Hebrew, Slavic, and other romance languages. It has been used since the Middle Ages and continues to be used today.
A Jewish holiday ten days after the Jewish New Year entails a 25-hour fast day from dusk until nightfall the following day. It also is known as the Day of Atonement, where Jews seek atonement from God for past sins. It is considered one of the most solemn Jewish holidays, and synagogues are often very crowded on this day.
1) A specific hill in Jerusalem. 2) The place from which God rules the world in the Hebrew Bible.
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