Abbreviation for Anno Domini (“in the year of our Lord”). Refers to the era of history following the birth of Jesus Christ, which immediately follows the era designated B.C. (“before Christ”). See also B.C.


Something that deeply offends. Often describes something that offends God and his standard of holiness. The Bible also mentions the “abomination of desolation” (or “abomination that makes desolate”), apparently referring to some profane act or object permitted in the temple (Dan. 11:31; 12:11; Matt. 24:15).

abyss, the

Often translated “bottomless pit.” The abode of the dead or of demonic forces. Throughout Scripture can refer to both places, although the Bible appears to regard them as distinctly separate (compare Luke 8:31; Rom. 10:7).


Legal process by which a person gives the status of a son or daughter to another person who is not his or her child by birth. The NT uses the term to describe the act by which God makes believers his children through the atoning death and resurrection of his one and only true Son, Jesus (see Romans 8; Galatians 4).


One who acts on another person’s behalf as mediator, intercessor, or encourager. In 1 John 2:1, Jesus is described as an advocate for believers before God the Father. The same Greek word (translated “Helper”) is used to describe the Holy Spirit in John 14:16, 26.


A story that communicates truth through a symbolic understanding of its literal meaning. In allegory characters, objects, and actions specifically represent things from the parallel spiritual or moral context. An example is in Galatians 4, where Paul interpreted the true story of Hagar (Genesis 16–21) as an allegory to make a point about how the Sinai covenant differs from the new covenant in Christ.


First letter of the Greek alphabet (omega is the last letter). Three times in the book of Revelation, Jesus describes himself as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13).


Greek form of a Hebrew word meaning “to confirm.” In Scripture and in Christian life, when uttered after a prayer or statement, it means “let it be so.”


A form of reasoning in which one thing is considered similar to another in a certain respect. An example is Jesus’ comparison of his approaching death and burial with Jonah’s time in the whale (Matt. 12:40).


A supernatural messenger of God, often sent to carry out his will or to assist human beings in carrying out his will. Though angels are more powerful than humans and often instill awe, they are not to be worshiped (Col. 2:18; Rev. 22:8–9). The Bible does, however, note various appearances of an “angel of the Lord,” apparently a physical manifestation of God himself.

annunciation, the

Announcement by an angel to the virgin Mary that she would conceive the Son of God, Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26–38).


In Scripture, to pour oil (usually olive oil) on someone or something to set the person or thing apart for a special purpose. Anointing was performed for the high priest, for tabernacle vessels, for kings, and for prophets. The Hebrew word Messiah and its Greek equivalent Christ both mean “anointed one.”


This term, found only in the letters of John, describes anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ, the unique Son of God (1 John 2:22). John and other NT writers may also have foreseen the appearance of one particular “antichrist” in the end times. The “man of lawlessness” (2 Thess. 2:3–4) may have been that person.


The false belief that OT moral laws are no longer necessary or binding for those living under grace (see Rom. 6:1–2).


The distinctive literary form of the book of Revelation and of chs. 7–12 of Daniel. These parts of Scripture include revelation about the future, highly symbolic imagery, and the underlying belief that God himself will one day end the world in its present form and establish his kingdom on earth.


A body of religious writings included in the Septuagint and in Roman Catholic Bibles but not in the Jewish or Protestant canons. See also canon.


Abandonment or renunciation of faith.


Means “one who is sent” and refers to one who is an official representative of another. In the NT, refers specifically to the those whom Jesus chose to represent him.


A language related to Hebrew, spoken throughout much of the ancient Near East. It was the everyday language of most Israelites after their exile to Babylon, and it continued to be spoken by many Jews (including Jesus) living in Palestine during the Roman era. Portions of the books of Ezra and Daniel were written in Aramaic.


A title for the angel Michael in Jude 9, apparently indicating his chief rank among the angels. Paul also mentions that the Lord’s return to earth will be accompanied by the voice of an archangel (1 Thess. 4:16). See also angel.


A place name mentioned in Rev. 16:16, where the kings of the earth gather to wage war against God in the last days. Likely means “mountain(s) of Megiddo,” referring to a city in northern Israel.


The departure of the resurrected Jesus to God the Father in heaven (Luke 24:50–51; Acts 1:1–12).


The study of how the position of heavenly bodies supposedly influences earthly activity. Astrology often seeks to predict future events or to provide insight into advisable courses of action. Astrology is akin to other forms of divination condemned in Deut. 18:14. Jeremiah tells his hearers not to fear the signs of the heavens as other nations do (Jer. 10:2).


The reconciliation of a person with God, often associated with the offering of a sacrifice. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ made atonement for the sins of believers. His death satisfied God’s just wrath against sinful humanity, just as OT sacrifices symbolized substitutionary death as payment for sin. See also propitiation and reconciliation.

attributes of God

The distinctive characteristics of God as he is described in the Bible. These include eternality, faithfulness, goodness, graciousness, holiness, immutability, infinitude, justice, love, mercy, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, self-existence, self-sufficiency, sovereignty, and wisdom.


Abbreviation for “before Christ” in calendars. It immediately precedes the era designated A.D. (Anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord”) and refers to the number of years before Jesus Christ was born. See also A.D.


Literally “to immerse” or “to wash.” Refers to the Christian practice of immersing a new believer in water as an outward sign of the inward reality of regeneration. This regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit (see John 3:5, 8; Titus 3:5) and may be received only by grace through faith (see Eph. 2:8). Considerable disagreement exists as to method of baptism (e.g., sprinkling vs. immersion) and who may be baptized (e.g., believers only vs. believers and their infant children).


Derived from Latin for “blessedness,” refers to various verses in Scripture that declare a person “blessed” or “happy” under certain conditions. Beatitudes appear throughout the Bible but most famously in Matt. 5:1–11 and Luke 6:20–22.


A prayer for God’s blessing at the end of a letter or a worship service. Many NT letters include a benediction.


A formal stage in the marriage process of ancient Near Eastern cultures, in which a couple was pledged to each other but did not yet live together or enjoy physical union. A betrothal could be dissolved only through divorce.


Translation of Greek episkopos (“overseer”). A person who exercised authority and oversight within the church. See also elder.


Any speech, writing, or action that slanders God. In the OT, the penalty for blasphemy was death (Lev. 24:16), and in the NT, Jesus states that the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven (Luke 12:10).


To worship or praise another, especially God; to bestow goodness on another.


See Preface.

born again

A phrase used by Jesus in John 3 to describe how a person enters the kingdom of heaven. Natural birth is not sufficient. Instead, through the work of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God, a person must experience a second, spiritual birth, in which he or she becomes a new person in Christ.


Someone who meddles in the affairs of others. Paul exhorted those who were busybodies to mind their own affairs and work hard at earning their own living (2 Thess. 3:11; 1 Tim. 5:13).


The list of writings recognized as Scripture, that is, regarded as inspired by God and authoritative in all areas of doctrine and practice. Criteria for canonical books include: (1) apostolic authority (was the book written by or associated with an apostle?); (2) universal acceptance by the church; and (3) unity of message (is the message of the book consistent with other books recognized as inspired?). See also Apocrypha.


Transliteration of the Greek for “anointed one” (equivalent to Hebrew Messiah). The term is used throughout the NT as a title for Jesus, indicating his role as Messiah and Savior.


A follower of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26).


From a Greek word meaning “assembly.” The body of believers in Jesus Christ, referring either to all believers everywhere or to a local gathering of believers.


The ritual practice of removing the foreskin of an individual, which was commanded for all male Israelites in OT times as a sign of participation in the covenant God established with Abraham (Gen. 17:9–14).


The ceremonial, spiritual, or moral state of a person or object, affected by a variety of factors. The terms are primarily related to the concept of holiness and have little to do with actual physical cleanliness. The Mosaic law declared certain foods and animals unclean, and a person became unclean if he or she came in contact with certain substances or objects, such as a dead body. Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19), and Peter’s vision in Acts 10 shows that no person is ceremonially unclean simply because he or she is a Gentile.


In the Bible, an instruction or order given by God. Com­mand­ments appear throughout Scripture, but most occur in the Law, the first five books of the Bible. Most famous are the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:2–17; Deut. 5:6–21).


The fellowship and unity all believers share as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Such communion among believers can be expressed in various ways, including worshiping God together, sharing possessions and resources, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper, which has also come to be referred to as Communion. See also Lord’s Supper, the.


Public acknowledgment of belief (2 Cor. 9:13; Heb. 4:14), or of sin (Ezra 10:1; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9).


The ability to understand the rightness or wrongness of one’s actions and motives. The conscience is not identical with the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, although the Holy Spirit often employs the conscience in guiding people and convicting them of sin (Rom. 2:15).


In Christian theology, the final and full establishment of the kingdom of God, when the heavens and earth will be made new and God will rule over all things forever (2 Pet. 3:13; Revelation 11; 19–22).


The result of turning away from sin, accepting the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and submitting to him.


A binding agreement between two parties, typically involving a formal statement of their relationship, a list of stipulations and obligations for both parties, a list of witnesses to the agreement, and a list of curses for unfaithfulness and blessings for faithfulness to the agreement. The OT is more properly understood as the old covenant, meaning the agreement established between God and his people prior to the coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the new covenant (NT).


The desire to have something (or someone) that belongs to another. Covetousness is forbidden in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:17; Deut. 5:21).


A means of execution in which the person was fastened, by ropes or nails, to a crossbeam that was then raised and attached to a vertical beam, forming a cross (the root meaning of “crucifixion”). The process was designed to maximize pain and humiliation, and to serve as a deterrent for other potential offenders. Jesus suffered this form of execution (Matt. 27:32–56), not for any offense he had committed (Heb. 4:15) but as the atoning sacrifice for all who would believe in him (John 3:16).


Condemnation by God that results in a person being consigned to suffer forever in hell. All people deserve damnation for sinning against God (Romans 1–3), but God offers redemption through Jesus Christ (Romans 5; Ephesians 2).

Day of Atonement

The holiest day in the Israelite calendar, when atonement was made for all the sins of Israel from the past year (Leviticus 16). It occurred on the tenth day of the seventh month (September/October), and all Israel was to fast and do no work. Only on that day each year could someone—the high priest—enter the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle (later, the temple) and offer the necessary sacrifices. A “scapegoat” would also be sent into the wilderness as a sign of Israel’s sins being carried away. See also atonement.


From the Greek for “servant.” An officer in the local church (1 Timothy 3) who assists the elders.


An official ruling, equivalent to a law. In theology, it can refer to God’s foreordained purpose or will regarding future events.


The setting apart of a person or an object for special or sacred use.


God’s unique, essential nature as supreme and eternal. Jesus, the Son of God, possesses deity. He is fully God, as is the Holy Spirit.


An evil spirit that can inhabit a human being and cause him or her to carry out its will. Demons were created by God and are always limited by God. Jesus and his followers cast out many demons, demonstrating Jesus’ superiority over them. All demons will one day be destroyed along with Satan (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10).


The sinful condition of human nature apart from grace, whereby humans are inclined to serve their own will and desires and to reject God’s rule.

devil, the

See Satan.

Diaspora, the

See Dispersion, the.


Wisdom in perception and judgment. Spiritual discernment is a Spirit-enabled capacity in believers to understand God’s truths (1 Cor. 2:9–16) as well as to identify spiritual error (1 John 4:1–6).


Any person who submits to the teachings of another. In the NT, refers to those who submitted themselves to the teaching of Jesus, especially those who traveled with him during his earthly ministry.

Dispersion, the

From the Greek for “scattering,” refers to the numerous relocations of large groups of Israelites/Jews throughout the world, including to Assyria and Media (722 B.C.), Babylon (586), Alexandria in Egypt (c. 300), Phrygia (c. 200), and Rome (c. 63). This dispersion resulted in greater exposure of the Jews to other peoples and also laid the groundwork for the worldwide spread of the gospel during the first century.


The attempt to acquire special knowledge about the future or other naturally unknowable information by interpreting phenomena such as dreams, heavenly bodies, animal intestines, or the casting of lots. All divination is condemned in Deut. 18:14.


A body of beliefs or teachings, often in systematic form.


Expression of praise to God. Often included at the end of NT letters. Modern church services often end with doxologies in the form of short hymns.


Having to do with the church (Greek ekklēsia). See church.


A recognized leader charged with oversight of a community or organized body. In the NT, an officer in the local church (Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 3:1–7) charged primarily with spiritual oversight.


In theology, God’s sovereign choice of people for redemption and eternal life. Also referred to as “predestination.”

end times

A time associated with events prophesied in Scripture to occur at the end of the world and the second coming of Christ—also known as “the last days.” Because the early church expected the return of Christ at any time, the end times can refer to the period from then until Christ returns.


Philosophy based on the teachings of Epicurus (341–270 B.C.), who emphasized tranquility and the absence of pain as the most desirable goals in life.


Essentially synonymous with “letter.” A literary form common in NT times. Epistles typically included: (1) statement of author and recipient; (2) brief greetings and expressions of thanks; (3) the body of the letter; (4) personal greetings and signature; and (5) a closing doxology or blessing. Twenty-one books of the NT are epistles.


Study of the end times as described in the Bible. Includes such topics as the return of Christ, the period of tribulation, the resurrection and judgment of all people, and the millennial reign of Christ on earth.

eternal life

For believers, the new life that begins with trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, and that continues after physical death with an eternity in God’s presence in heaven. See also salvation.

eternal security

See perseverance of the saints.


An endless span of time. For humans, eternity has a beginning (the moment of birth) but no end. With God, however, eternity has neither beginning nor end, for he has always existed.


In Christian theology, the study of morality, justice, and virtue in light of the Bible’s teachings.


From the Greek for “thanksgiving.” Synonymous with “the Lord’s Supper.” See also Lord’s Supper, the.


Proclamation of the gospel (Greek euangelion) of Jesus Christ.


In the NT, a form of church discipline that revoked a person’s privileges as part of the community of believers. Typically imposed for unrepented sin or heresy, to preserve the community’s purity and hopefully to bring the offender to repentance (Matt. 18:15–18; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Cor. 2:5–11; 1 Tim. 1:18–20).


Examining a text to determine and explain its originally intended meaning. Biblical commentaries are examples of exegesis.


A message encouraging someone to follow a particular course of action or to submit to a different way of thinking.

exile, the

Several relocations of large groups of Israelites/Jews have occurred throughout history (see Dispersion, the), but “the exile” typically refers to the Babylonian exile, that is, Nebuchadnezzar’s relocation of residents of the southern kingdom of Judah to Babylon in 586 B.C. (Residents of the northern kingdom of Israel had been resettled by Assyria in 722 B.C.) After Babylon came under Persian rule, several waves of Jewish exiles returned and repopulated Judah.

exodus, the

The departure of the people of Israel from Egypt and their journey to Mount Sinai under Moses’ leadership (Exodus 1–19; Numbers 33). The exodus demonstrated God’s power and providence for his people, who had been enslaved by the Egyptians. The annual festival of Passover commemorates God’s final plague upon the Egyptians, resulting in the Israelites’ release from Egypt.


The removal of sin and its consequences.


Pertaining to something not included in the canon of Scripture.


A story intended to teach a moral or cultural lesson. Fables are usually relatively brief and portray animals or objects with human abilities such as speech.


Trust in or reliance upon something or someone despite a lack of concrete proof. Salvation, which is purely a work of God’s grace, can be received only through faith (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:8–9). The writer of Hebrews calls on believers to emulate those who lived godly lives by faith (Hebrews 11).

fall, the

Adam and Eve’s disobedience of God by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, resulting in their loss of innocence and favor with God and the introduction of sin and its effects into the world (Genesis 3; Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:21–22).


Deliberate abstinence from some or all food for a sustained time.


Has both godly and ungodly meanings in the Bible, depending on the context. Fear of the Lord is a godly, wise fear that demonstrates awe and reverence for the all-powerful God (Prov. 1:7). Conversely, Jesus taught his disciples not to fear people or situations in a way that shows lack of trust in God’s protection (Matt. 10:26–31).


Pertaining to language intended to communicate a meaning other than what is literally expressed. An example is Nahum’s description of the Lord’s awesome power: “His way is in the whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet” (Nah. 1:3).


Depending on the immediate context, either skin (Lev. 4:11), a living being (Gen. 6:13), or sinful human nature (Rom. 8:3).


Release from guilt and the reestablishment of relationship. Forgiveness can be granted by God to human beings (Luke 24:47; 1 John 1:9) and by human beings to those who have wronged them (Matt. 18:21–22; Col. 3:13).


Any kind of sexual immorality, that is, any sexual activity other than between a man and a woman in marriage.


The work of God in believers to bring them to the ultimate and perfect stage of salvation—Christlikeness—following his justification and sanctification of them (Rom. 8:29–30). Glorification includes believers receiving imperishable resurrection bodies at Christ’s return (1 Cor. 15:42–43). See also justification and sanctification.


A system of thought prevalent during the second century that combined elements of various philosophies and religions, including Christianity. Some common Gnostic beliefs include (1) a dualistic view of matter and spirit, with matter generally being viewed as evil and spirit as good; (2) the complete transcendence of God, who therefore has nothing to do with the evil material world; (3) a view of salvation in which humans are freed from their physical existence and reunited with God; and (4) an emphasis on special knowledge (Greek gnosis) about spiritual realities as the key to salvation.


A common translation for a Greek word meaning “good news,” that is, the good news of Jesus Christ and the salvation he made possible by his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Gospel with an initial capital letter refers to each of the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life on earth (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).


Unmerited favor, especially the free gift of salvation that God gives to believers through faith in Jesus Christ.


Pertaining to the culture, language, religion, or government of the Roman Empire, which was itself greatly influenced by Greek culture and religion.


Responsibility for wrongdoing.


In the NT, the abode of the dead prior to the second coming of Christ. Essentially equivalent to Sheol in the OT. See also hell and Sheol.


Transliteration of a Hebrew phrase meaning “praise the Lord.”


The sky, or the abode of God (Matt. 6:9), which is commonly regarded as being above the earth and sky. As the abode of God, heaven is also the place where believers live in God’s presence after death (1 Thess. 4:16–17).


A place of eternal torment for those who rebel against God and refuse to repent.


A modified form of Greek culture, philosophy, religion, politics, and language that was spread throughout the Mediterranean world by the exploits of Alexander the Great. Hellenism continued to have great influence throughout the time of the Roman Empire.


Any teaching incompatible with Christian orthodoxy.

high places

Height may or may not have been a feature of these public sites where offerings were made to God or to false gods. Worshiping the Lord at a high place was legitimate before the time of the temple (1 Kings 3:2, 4). Later “high places,” even those where the Lord was worshiped, were forbidden (2 Kings 23:15).

history of salvation

God’s unified plan for all of history, to accomplish the salvation of his people. He accomplished this salvation plan in the work of Jesus Christ on earth, by his life, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection (Eph. 1:10–12). The consummation of God’s plan will take place when Jesus Christ comes again to establish the “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13).


A quality possessed by something or someone set apart for special use. When applied to God, it refers to his utter perfection and complete transcendence over creation. God’s people are called to imitate his holiness (Lev. 19:2), which means being set apart from sin and reserved for his purposes.

Holy Spirit

One of the persons of the Trinity, and thus fully God. The Bible mentions several roles of the Holy Spirit, including convicting people of sin, bringing them to conversion, indwelling them and empowering them to live in righteousness and faithfulness, supporting them in times of trial, and enabling them to understand the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture, guiding them to record the very words of God. The Holy Spirit was especially active in Jesus’ life and ministry on earth (e.g., Luke 3:22).


Any sexual activity between members of the same sex. Explicitly condemned in both the OT (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) and the NT (Rom. 1:24–32; 1 Cor. 6:9–10).


Rhetorical device for expressing ideas in intentionally exaggerated form for emphasis, where the exaggerated expressions are not intended to be taken literally. An example is Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees for straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel (Matt. 23:24).


Falsely presenting oneself to others in order to gain positive regard or praise. Derived from Greek for “actor.” Jesus repeatedly condemned the hypocrisy of Jewish religious leaders.


An expression, often of several words that together have a figurative meaning different from the literal meanings of the words themselves. For example, the expression “take it with a grain of salt” means not to take something seriously.


In the Bible, usually refers to the worship of a physical object. Paul’s comments in Col. 3:5, however, suggest that idolatry can include covetousness, since it is essentially equivalent to worshiping material things.


The process by which God, through the Holy Spirit, enables people to understand Scripture and put it into practice.


A Hebrew term meaning “God with us.” Mentioned in Isa. 7:14 and 8:8 and then referred to in Matt. 1:23 as another name for Jesus. In both contexts the use of the name was intended to assure the readers of God’s presence with them.


Immunity from death. God alone possesses immortality as part of his very being (1 Tim. 6:16), and he will grant believers immortality at the return of Christ (1 Cor. 15:53–54).


Pertaining to the unchangeable character, will, and promises of God. One of his distinctive attributes (Mal. 3:6).


To attribute something to someone or credit it to his or her account. Often refers to God’s crediting to every believer the righteousness of Jesus Christ.


Literally “(becoming) in flesh,” it refers to God becoming a human being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.


In Scripture, refers to the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit within believers (Rom. 8:9–11; Eph. 3:16–18). This presence enables Christians to love (1 John 4:8–12) and to overcome sin, which also indwells believers (Rom. 8:4–11).


The doctrine of Biblical inerrancy expresses the Bible’s own teaching that it is true, reliable, and trustworthy—without error—in all the matters that it affirms and addresses (2 Tim. 3:16).


See sin.


God’s work of empowering and directing the writers of Scripture to communicate his authoritative truth to his people (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20–21). Belief in the inspiration of the Bible ensures that it represents the very words of God himself.


Appealing to one person on behalf of another. Often used with reference to prayer.


A mediator or messenger between two parties, especially between God and humanity.

intermediate state

The state of existence believers experience immediately after death and before resurrection. Most Protestant theologians believe that, after death, the souls of believers immediately enter God’s presence, although they remain in disembodied form as they await the final resurrection, when they will be reunited with their bodies.


Pertaining to the time between the end of OT history and beginning of NT history. Roughly 430–5 B.C.


Originally, another name given to Jacob (Gen. 32:28). Later applied to the nation formed by his descendants, then to the ten northern tribes of that nation, who rejected the anointed king and formed their own nation. In the NT, the name is applied to the church as the spiritual descendants of Abraham (Gal. 6:16).


A person belonging to one of the tribes of Israel. The term, derived from the word “Judah/Judean,” came into being around the time of the Babylonian exile (c. 586 B.C.).


The religion and culture of the Jewish people after their return from exile in Babylon (c. 538 B.C.), and continuing to modern times.


Though this term is never actually used in the Bible, it refers to those in the early church who sought to compel Gentile believers to adhere to Jewish ceremonial requirements, such as circumcision, as a necessary part of salvation.


Any assessment of something or someone, especially moral assessment. The Bible also speaks of a final day of judgment when Christ returns, when all those who have refused to repent will be judged (Rev. 20:12–15).


The act of God’s grace in bringing sinners into a new covenant relationship with himself and counting them as righteous before him through the forgiveness of sins (Rom. 3:20–26).

kingdom of God/heaven

The sovereign rule of God. At the present time, the fallen, sinful world does not belong to the kingdom of God, since it does not submit to God’s rule. Instead, God’s kingdom can be found in heaven and among his people (Matt. 6:9–10; Luke 17:20–21). After Christ returns, however, the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of God (Rev. 11:15). Then all people will, either willingly or regretfully, acknowledge his sovereignty (Phil. 2:9–11). Even the natural world will be transformed to operate in perfect harmony with God (Rom. 8:19–23).


In OT times, a relative in each extended family who had the responsibility to redeem—that is, to buy back—any relative’s land in danger of being sold because of debt. In the book of Ruth, Boaz accepted this responsibility.


When spelled with an initial capital letter, “Law” refers to the first five books of the Bible (see also Pentateuch). The Law contains numerous commands of God to his people, including the Ten Commandments and instructions regarding worship, sacrifice, and life in Israel. The NT often uses “the law” (lower case) to refer to the entire body of precepts set forth in the books of the Law.


In the NT, denotes a religious teacher or scholar considered an authority on the interpretation of Jewish law. See also scribe.


Requirements that go beyond the commands of Scripture; or, the unbiblical belief that works are the means of becoming right with God.


In OT and NT, refers to several skin diseases. In the OT refers also to a condition affecting garments and houses. It is debated whether the term includes modern leprosy (Hansen’s disease).

lesser-to-greater argument

Rhetorical device that takes a recognized truth from one situation and applies it to another situation of greater scope. An example is Jesus’ comment that his followers can be certain God will provide for their needs because he provides glorious adornment even for the grass of the field (Matt. 6:30).

levirate marriage

In OT times, the obligation for a brother to marry his deceased brother’s widow and raise children in the brother’s name if he died childless (Deut. 25:5–10). This requirement sought to ensure that no Israelite family line would die out and lose its inheritance in Israel. Derived from levir, the Latin word for “brother-in-law.”

lex talionis

Latin for “law of retribution,” refers to a system of justice that punishes an offender by inflicting on him the same harm that he inflicted on someone else. Referred to in the Bible as “an eye for an eye” (see Ex. 21:22–27).


A method of communication in which words are intended to be understood according to their normally defined meaning. This is in contrast to figurative, analogical, or symbolic methods of communication.


Pertaining to traditional, customary, public readings performed by a church or other religious group.


Greek term literally meaning “word” or “logical principle.” Equated with Jesus and God in John’s Gospel (John 1:1–18). John is likely drawing upon the rich reservoir of meaning for the term both in Hellenistic thought and in first-century Judaism.


Someone superior in authority or status to another, similar to “master.” It is a common translation for several different Hebrew titles for God in the OT, and in the NT refers to Jesus. When spelled in the OT with small capital letters (Lord) it translates Hebrew Yahweh (YHWH), the personal name of God. See also Yahweh.

Lord’s Supper, the

A meal of remembrance instituted by Jesus on the night of his betrayal. Christians are to observe this meal, also called Communion, in remembrance of Jesus’ death. It consists of wine, symbolizing the new covenant in his blood, and bread, symbolizing his body, which was broken for his followers. See also Communion.


A Jewish family who led a successful revolt against the rulers who controlled Israel during the second century B.C. Their story is told in the apocryphal books of 1 and 2 Maccabees.


In the Bible, refers to the attempt to control events or people through supernatural forces other than God. It is similar to divination and other practices that are condemned in Deut. 18:14. The NT likewise implicitly condemns the practice of magic in Acts 8 and 19. See also divination.


A sinful love of material things, such as money or possessions. Materialism is sinful in that it looks to material things to provide what only God can truly provide (Col. 3:5).


One who intercedes between parties to resolve a conflict or achieve a goal. Jesus is the mediator between God and rebellious humanity (1 Tim. 2:5; compare Heb. 9:15; 12:24).


Contemplation on something, such as the attributes of God, with focused attention (see Ps. 1:2). Biblical meditation stands in contrast to many forms of Eastern meditation, which seek to empty the mind of rational thought.


Humble assurance founded on a deep trust in God’s will and providence (Ps. 37:11). Such trust results in a peaceful and gentle disposition even in the face of persecution or difficulty. It frees a person from the temptations of self-reliance and pride.


Compassion and kindness toward someone experiencing hardship, sometimes even when such suffering results from the person’s own sin or foolishness. God displays mercy toward his people and they, in turn, are called to display mercy toward others (Luke 6:36).


Transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “anointed one,” the equivalent of the Greek word Christ. Originally applied to anyone specially designated for a particular role, such as king or priest. Jesus himself affirmed that he was the Messiah sent from God (Matt. 16:16–17).


A figure of speech that draws an analogy between two objects by equating them, even though they are not actually the same thing. An example is Ps. 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” See also simile.


A special act of God that goes beyond natural means, thus demonstrating God’s power.


The belief that there is only one true God. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Israelites in the OT and of Christians, their spiritual heirs. See also polytheism.


A religious story explaining how the world came to be in its present form and what spiritual entities lie behind the visible world. The NT uses the term exclusively in a negative way (1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:14; 2 Pet. 1:16).


Humans were warned in the OT not to swear promises rashly or falsely (Lev. 5:4; 19:11–12). Sometimes oaths were made in God’s name, as though to guarantee them, but Jesus told his disciples not to swear oaths at all. Rather, they should let their simple statement of “yes” mean yes and their “no” mean no (Matt. 5:33–37).


Describes any attempt to acquire secret knowledge about the future or other naturally unknowable information through sources other than God and observance of the natural world. Occult practices are similar to divination, which is condemned in Deut. 18:14.


Last letter of the Greek alphabet (alpha is the first letter). Three times in the book of Revelation Jesus describes himself as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13).


An attribute of God that describes his unlimited power to carry out his will.


An attribute of God that describes his presence in all places at all times.


An attribute of God that describes his complete knowledge and understanding of all things at all times.


From Latin “to speak.” In the Bible, refers to a divine pronouncement delivered through a human agent.


Official investment of religious authority upon a person. In the OT, priests were ordained. Most modern Christian denominations require some form of ordination for those in ministry.

original sin

A condition of both guilt and a propensity to sin, inherited by all people because of their descent from Adam, who committed the first sin.


Teaching and doctrine regarded as correct and in agreement with essential biblical teachings.


Any belief system that does not acknowledge the God of the Bible as the one true God. Atheism, polytheism, pantheism, animism, and humanism, as well as numerous other religious systems, can all be classified as forms of paganism.


A name often used to refer to the land occupied by the Israelites. Derived from Philistia, the stretch of land along the Mediterranean Sea that formed the southwest border of Israel’s territory.


The heretical belief that all things are part of the essence of God, thus making all things divine.


A plant abundant in Middle Eastern marshes. Used for many purposes in ancient times, including the production of writing material. Some of the earliest copies of the Bible were written on papyrus.


A story that uses everyday imagery and activities to communicate a spiritual truth. Jesus often taught in parables (e.g., Matthew 13).


The place of the righteous dead (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:3; Rev. 2:7), likely the same as heaven.


A poetic device, employed in virtually all Hebrew poetry, that places together two or three concepts that are matching, opposing, or progressive in meaning. Essentially it is a “rhyming” of concepts rather than sounds, with the first line being restated in a slightly different way in the second line. An example is Ps. 51:7: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”


Writing material, sometimes called vellum, produced from animal skin. Some of the earliest known copies of the Bible were written on parchment.


See forgiveness.


An annual Israelite festival commemorating God’s final plague on the Egyptians, which led to the exodus. In this final plague, the Lord “passed over” the houses of those who spread the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their homes (Exodus 12). Those who did not obey this command suffered the death of their firstborn.


A common translation of the Greek for “shepherd,” which came to be used of leaders of the church, who are to “shepherd” the “flock” of believers in Christ.


The earliest ancestors of Israel, primarily Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


In modern use, the absence of tension or conflict. In biblical use, a condition of well-being or wholeness that God grants his people, which also results in harmony with God and others.


The condition of being repentant and sorrowful for wrongdoing.


The first five books of the Bible.

perseverance of the saints

According to this doctrine, God enables all true believers to remain faithful to the end. Those who willfully continue in sin reveal that they were never truly believers. Others may for a time appear to abandon their faith though they have not in fact done so. This doctrine does not deny the reality that even true believers still sin, nor does it mean that those who have made a profession of faith are free to live sinful, godless lives.


Rhetorical device attributing human characteristics to non-human things, such as animals, plants, or objects. An example is Isa. 55:12: “The mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”


A request made to someone in authority, such as a citizen to a judge or a person to God in prayer.


A member of a popular religious/political party in NT times characterized by strict adherence to the law of Moses and also to extrabiblical Jewish traditions. The Pharisees were frequently criticized by Jesus for their legalistic and hypocritical practices. The apostle Paul was a zealous Pharisee prior to his conversion.


The study of the fundamental questions and principles of any subject or discipline. It is often specifically concerned with topics regarding existence, knowledge, values, and reason and is typically characterized by rational, systematic analysis of its subject of inquiry.


Reverential fear of God, often demonstrated by practical deeds. In NT times, many Jews considered prayer, almsgiving, and fasting to be the three primary acts of piety.


Belief in the existence of many gods.


Pertaining to the period following the return from exile in Babylon (c. 538 B.C.). Postexilic life in Israel differed markedly from the time before the exile. There was a greater emphasis on observance of the Law of Moses, a near universal abhorrence of idolatry, and the development of the synagogue as a place for Jews to worship and study the Scriptures.


God’s sovereign choice of people for redemption and eternal life. Also referred to as “election.”


The quality of being first, foremost, or of highest significance. In the Bible, this quality is attributed supremely to Christ (Col. 1:18).


In OT Israel, the priest represented the people before God, and God before the people. Only those descended from Aaron could be priests. Their prescribed duties also included inspecting and receiving sacrifices from the people and overseeing the daily activities and maintenance of the tabernacle or temple.


The appeasement of wrath by the offering of a gift or sacrifice. Jesus made propitiation for the sins of humanity by his suffering and death (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).


A convert to a particular religion, as opposed to one who had grown up in that religion. The Law of Moses gave instructions for how Gentiles could become proselytes of the Israelite covenant community. This primarily involved the circumcision of males.


A brief saying that conveys a lesson about how to live wisely and well, usually drawn from observations about nature and life. The book of Proverbs contains the vast majority of biblical proverbs, but they occur in other books as well.


God’s good, wise, and sovereign guidance and control of all things, by which he supplies all our needs and accomplishes his holy will.


A teacher of Jewish religious law. The term, meaning “my master,” originally developed as an expression of respect and later became more formalized as a title. Jesus was often called “Rabbi” by his followers (e.g., Mark 9:5).


A price paid to redeem, or buy back, someone who had become enslaved or something that had been lost to someone else. Jesus described his ministry as serving others and giving his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). See also redemption.


The restoration of relationship and peace between alienated or opposing parties. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has reconciled believers to God (2 Cor. 5:18–21).


In the context of the Bible, the act of buying back someone who had become enslaved or something that had been lost to someone else. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus purchased redemption for all believers (Col. 1:13–14). See also ransom.


The Holy Spirit’s work of bringing spiritual life to a person, thus enabling him or her to love and follow God. Essentially equivalent to what is often referred to as being “born again” or “saved.”


The unbiblical belief that all living beings possess an immortal soul that, upon the death of the physical body, is reborn into another living being. Many also believe that each time this process is repeated the soul moves closer to or further away from some form of ultimate happiness. This belief stands in opposition to the biblical view of human existence and what awaits people after death.


In the Bible, a portion of people who remain after most others are destroyed by some catastrophe. The notion of a “remnant” can be found in various events recorded in Scripture, including the flood (Genesis 6–8) and the return of exiled Judah (Ezra 9).


A complete change of heart and mind regarding one’s overall attitude toward God or one’s individual actions. True regeneration and conversion is always accompanied by repentance.


Rebuke or criticism for wrong or sinful behavior. The book of Proverbs contains many verses commending those willing to listen to rebuke (Prov. 3:11) and condemning those who reject it (Prov. 9:8). Scripture is profitable, among other things, for reproof and correction (2 Tim. 3:16–17).


The impartation of new, eternal life to a dead person at the end of time (or in the case of Jesus, on the third day after his death). This new life is not a mere resuscitation of the body (as in the case of Lazarus; John 11:1–44) but a transformation of the body to an eternal state (1 Cor. 15:35–58). Both the righteous and the wicked will be resurrected, the former to eternal life and the latter to judgment (John 5:29).


A renewed desire for spiritual things, brought about by the work of God.


The use of language to communicate effectively.


The quality of being morally right and without sin. One of God’s distinctive attributes. God imputes righteousness to (justifies) those who trust in Jesus Christ. See also justification.


A symbolic action performed for religious purposes.


Saturday, the seventh day of the week, the Jewish day of worship and rest (Gen. 2:2–3; Ex. 31:13–17). Christians meet for worship on Sunday, the day of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 20:7), and regard Sunday, rather than Saturday, as their weekly day of rest. And yet, believers look forward to an eternal Sabbath rest (Heb. 4:1–13).


A period of rest. See Sabbath.


An offering to God, often to signify forgiveness of sin. The Law of Moses gave detailed instructions regarding various kinds of sacrifices. By his death on the cross, Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of believers (Eph. 5:2; Heb. 10:12). Believers are to offer their bodies as living sacrifices to God (Rom. 12:1).


A member of a religious/political party during Jesus’ time characterized by (1) rejection of any OT writings except the five books of Moses, (2) rejection of belief in the resurrection and in angels and demons, (3) an interest in Hellenistic beliefs and ways of life, and (4) affluence, as a result of their influential priestly positions. Jesus criticized the Sadducees for refusing to believe in the resurrection and for demanding a sign from heaven to confirm his authority.


Deliverance from the eternal consequences of sin. Jesus’ death and resurrection purchased eternal salvation for believers (Rom. 1:16).


The process of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. This process begins immediately after regeneration and continues throughout a Christian’s life.


In the Bible, a place set aside as holy because of God’s presence there. The inner sanctuary of the tabernacle (and later the temple) was called the Most Holy Place.


Either a local Jewish tribunal (“council,” Matt. 5:22; “courts,” Matt. 10:17) or the supreme ecclesiastical court in Jerusalem (Matt. 26:59). These Jewish leaders included elders, chief priests, and scribes.


A spiritual being whose name means “accuser.” As the leader of all the demonic forces, he opposes God’s rule and seeks to harm God’s people and accuse them of wrongdoing. His power, however, is confined to the bounds that God has set for him, and one day he will be destroyed along with all his demons (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10).


One who rescues another from destruction. Jesus is the Savior of all believers, rescuing them from sin and eternal punishment (Luke 2:11).


A goat that was to be sent away into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement as a symbol of Israel’s sins being sent away (Leviticus 16).


Someone trained and authorized to transcribe, teach, and interpret the Scriptures. Jesus often criticized scribes for their pride, their legalistic approach to the Scriptures, and their refusal to believe in him.


Writings regarded by Christians as inspired by God and authoritative in all areas of doctrine and practice.


The belief that one is righteous because of moral uprightness or human effort, rather than depending on the grace of God. Self-righteousness is typically accompanied by pride and a judgmental attitude toward others.


A strong preference for what can be gained through the physical senses, often leading to indulgence in immoral behavior, such as sexual sin.


A Greek translation of the Hebrew OT by Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt, around 200 B.C. Its name derives from the belief that 70 translators were involved in the project.


Commonly translated “the grave,” this OT term predominantly refers to the abode of the dead prior to the coming of Christ. It was associated with descriptions of a dark, prison-like place in the underworld, where the souls of the deceased resided. See also Hades and hell.

siege warfare

A plan of attack in which an enemy would surround a fortified city and lie in wait until the city surrendered because of starvation or lack of water. A city under siege would likely fall eventually, apart from divine intervention, as occurred for Jerusalem during the reign of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:32–35).


A figure of speech, often seen in poetry, that compares two objects, often using “like” or “as,” even though they are not actually the same thing. A biblical example is in Ps. 1:3: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water.” See also metaphor.


Any violation of or failure to adhere to the commands of God, or the desire to do so.


One living as a non-citizen in a foreign land. In OT times, sojourners had few rights and were especially vulnerable to mistreatment. The Law of Moses protected sojourners and encouraged the Israelites to include them in community life (see Ex. 22:21; Num. 15:15).

Son of Man

The title Jesus uses more than any other to refer to himself (e.g., Matt. 8:20; 11:19). While labeling himself this way may underscore Jesus’ humanity, the phrase is most significant in relation to the figure in Daniel 7 who receives supreme authority and an everlasting kingdom from God (compare Dan. 7:13–14 and Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62).


See magic.


Biblically, there are at least two distinct aspects of a human being: the immaterial or spiritual (spirit/soul) and the material or physical (body). Some interpreters believe that the “soul” and the “spirit” are distinct, and that we are composed of three parts: body, soul, and spirit. Yet most interpreters today believe that “spirit” and “soul” are interchangeable terms for the immaterial aspect of our being. Scripture uses other terms for aspects of our immaterial nature as well, including heart and mind. See also spirit.


Supreme and independent power and authority. Sovereignty over all things is a distinctive attribute of God (1 Tim. 6:15–16). He directs all things to carry out his purposes (Rom. 8:28–29).


The innermost, immaterial part of a human being, which corresponds to God, who is Spirit. In the Bible, the term often translates the Hebrew word ruach or the Greek word pneuma, but these words can also be translated as “breath” or “wind” and can refer to the emotions (e.g., Ps. 34:18; Prov. 17:22) or simply the breath of life (e.g., Gen. 6:17; Job 12:10). See also soul.

spiritual gifts

Special abilities given by God to believers for building up the church (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12–14; Ephesians 4).


A Hellenistic philosophy that valued logic, asserted that emotions arose from false judgments, and held that the truly wise person would not be subject to such emotions. In modern times it has come to mean being unaffected by either pain or pleasure.

substitutionary atonement

A way of understanding the purpose of Jesus’ death on the cross: Jesus offered himself to die as a substitute for believers. He took upon himself the punishment they deserve and thereby reconciled them to God.


Pertaining to anything that is not confined to or explained by the laws of nature as humans understand them.


The belief that an event has a pagan supernatural cause even though it can be explained by other means—either by natural laws or by God’s power.


Prayer that asks God to provide something.


The use of natural objects and actions to represent something other than what they actually are. For example, Ps. 23:4: “your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” See also metaphor.


In cities other than Jerusalem, the synagogue (meaning “assembly”) was the center of Jewish worship during the time of Christ and remains so today. Synagogues were located in most of the leading towns of Israel. See also tabernacle and temple.


The creation of a new religious system by blending together ideas and practices of various religions.

Synoptic Gospels

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which bear many similarities in their content and basic outline of events (“synoptic” means “same view”). The style and content of the Synoptic Gospels differ in many ways from the Gospel of John.


The tent where God dwelled on earth and communed with his people as Israel’s divine king. Also referred to as the “tent of meeting” (Lev. 1:5). The temple in Jerusalem later replaced it. See also synagogue and temple.


A place set aside as holy because of God’s presence there. Solomon built the first temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, to replace the portable tabernacle. This temple was later destroyed by the Babylonians, rebuilt, and destroyed again by the Romans. See also synagogue and tabernacle.


A form of government in which God is recognized as the supreme ruler of a nation or people. Though the Bible never uses the term, it is the form of government that characterized Israel before the time of the kings (see 1 Sam. 10:19).


The study of God and religious beliefs.


An appearance of God to a human being.


The giving of a tenth of one’s income to God, typically by giving to those who perform religious services and duties. In the OT, a tithe was required of all Israelites to support the work of the priests and other Levites. The NT neither requires nor repeals the OT tithe, but believers are called on to give generously, with the confidence that God will supply their needs (2 Corinthians 9).


The first five books of the Bible, also called the Law. See also Pentateuch.


A distinctive attribute of God that describes his complete independence from and superiority over creation.

transfiguration, the

An event in the life of Jesus Christ in which his physical appearance was transfigured, or changed to reflect his heavenly glory as the Son of God (Matt. 17:1–13).


A violation of a command or law.


To violate a command or boundary—of another human, or of God. See sin.

Trinity, the

The Godhead as it exists in three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is one God, yet he is three Persons; there are not three Gods, nor do the three Persons merely represent different aspects or modes of a single God. While the term Trinity is not found in the Bible, the concept is repeatedly assumed and affirmed by the writers of Scripture (e.g., Matt. 28:19; Luke 1:35; 3:22; Gal. 4:6; 2 Thess. 2:13–14; Heb. 10:29).


See Trinity, the.


A method of interpretation in which a real, historical object, place, or person is recognized as a pattern or foreshadowing (a “type”) of some later object, place, or person. For example, the Bible presents Adam as a “type” of Christ (Rom. 5:14).


The unbiblical belief that all people will be saved from eternal damnation, regardless of whether or not they come to faith in Christ.


A subservient power who has accepted the terms of a covenant treaty with a superior power. Such treaties usually required the vassal to pledge loyalty to the superior power and to present a monetary tribute.

vicarious atonement

See substitutionary atonement.


Being cleared of accusation or blame.


In the NT, refers especially to proclaiming the truth of the gospel (Acts 1:8).

Word, the

When spelled with an initial capital letter, can refer either to the written Word of God or to Jesus Christ (John 1:1–18). Regarding the latter meaning, see Logos.


Actions and attitudes, either good or bad. True faith in Christ will inevitably produce good works that are pleasing to God. Good works can never be the basis or means of salvation, which is by grace through faith alone. See faith and grace.


In Scripture, the context determines the meaning of this term. The physical world is God’s creation of the earth and everything in it. It can refer to all of humanity (John 3:16) or to the unbelieving, godless world system (John 1:10), often as an adjective, “worldly” (1 Cor. 1:26).


The likely English form of the name represented by the Hebrew letters YHWH. The Lord revealed this unique name for himself to Moses at the burning bush and told him to instruct the Israelites to call on him by this name (Exodus 3). English translations of the Bible usually render this term as “Lord,” with small capital letters. (YHWH can also be translated God, in small capitals.)