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NET Bible Reader's Edition - Glossary of Terms

Below is the Glossary of Terms included in the NET Bible Reader's Edition, pages 1401-1427. It consists of 451 commonly referred to terms in the specially constructed footnotes for this edition of the NET Bible.

A

  • Abaddon | a Hebrew term meaning “destruction,” closely related to Sheol as a place; in the New Testament this name is given to the angel who rules over the abyss (Rev 9:11)
  • Abyssinia | the older name for modern Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa, not to be confused with Cush, the Hebrew name for the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia (also known as Nubia) along the Nile Valley south of Aswan (now northern Sudan)
  • Achaia | a Roman senatorial province created in 146 B.C. that included the most important parts of Greece (Attica, Boeotia, and the Peloponnesus); Corinth was its capital city
  • acrostic | a poem or other text in which the first letter of each line is a successive letter of the alphabet in order; the book of Lamentations is written as an acrostic, as are Psalms 119 and 145
  • adamant | a somewhat archaic or poetic term for the very hardest substance, like diamond (there is no evidence that diamond as a material was known in antiquity)
  • Areopagus | traditionally understood as reference to a rocky hill near the Acropolis in Athens (sometimes translated as Mars Hill), although this place may well have been located in the marketplace at the foot of the hill itself; by extension the term came to refer to to the advisory council of Athens, the council of the Areopagus, which dealt with ethical, cultural, and religious matters, including the supervision of education and controlling the many visiting lecturers
  • Akkadian | a Semitic language spoken in ancient Mesopotamia by the Assyrians and Babylonians in particular; it used the cuneiform writing system derived from ancient Sumerian (an unrelated, non-Semitic language)
  • Aleppo | a city and province in northern Syria, north of Damascus (it was known to the Greeks in antiquity as Beroea); the great synagogue held the Aleppo codex, a ninth-century copy of the Hebrew Bible now located in Jerusalem
  • allusion | a literary stylistic device in which the writer refers implicitly to a related object or circumstance; often it is used of indirect references in the New Testament to Old Testament characters, events, or passages
  • alms | money or material aid given to the poor; sometimes a synonym for charity
  • Ammon | the tribe and people descended from Ben-Ammi, one of the two sons Lot fathered by his two daughters (the other was Moab; Gen 19:30-38); they inhabited the country east of the Jordan River and north of Moab and the Dead Sea, and were consistently hostile to Israel
  • Amon | (1) king of Judah and son of Manesseh (2 Kgs 21:18-26); (2) governor of the city of Samaria (1 Kgs 22:26); (3) an Egyptian god (mentioned in Jer 46:25) usually shown with a human body and the head of a ram, worshiped in the city of Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt
  • amulet | a charm or ornament often inscribed with a magic incantation designed to protect the wearer against evil
  • Anat | in Ugaritic mythology a violent warrior-goddess and sister to the great Baal-Hadad; she was later worshiped in Egypt where she was sometimes called “Queen of Heaven”; she has also been connected with Ishtar of the Babylonians and Assyrians
  • Anatolia | central modern Turkey, the peninsula of Asia Minor
  • anthropomorphism | a figure of speech which attributes human or personal characteristics to that which is not human; often applied to biblical descriptions of God as having arms, hands, eyes, etc.
  • antimony | a lead-gray mineral, antimony sulphide or stibnite (from Latin stibium, “black antimony”) used by women as a cosmetic (like modern eyeliner) to outline their eyes, making them look larger
  • aphrodisiac | an agent like a food or drug that arouses (or is believed to arouse) sexual desire
  • Apollyon | the Greek translation of the Hebrew Abaddon, meaning “destruction”; in the New Testament this name is given to the angel who rules over the abyss (Rev 9:11)
  • apostasy | to renounce or abandon a previously held religious faith
  • Aquila | the very literal and accurate translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek produced around A.D. 130 by Aquila of Sinope, a Hellenist who had become a convert to Judaism
  • Arabah | the section of the Great Rift Valley south of the Jordan River from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba; the Dead Sea was sometimes known as the Sea of the Arabah (Deut 3:17)
  • Arabia | a geographical region that included the territory west of Mesopotamia, east and south of Syria and Israel, extending to the Isthmus of Suez
  • Arabian peninsula | the peninsula where Africa is joined to Asia, mostly desert and bordered on the west by the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba, on the southeast by the Arabian Sea, and on the northeast by the Gulf of Oman, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Persian Gulf
  • Aramaic | a Semitic language which was the official language of the western half of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, also known as Imperial Aramaic or Biblical Aramaic (large sections of the books of Ezra and Daniel are written in Aramaic); it became the main language in the Holy Land in the first century A.D. and is believed to have been one of the languages spoken by Jesus
  • Arameans | a Semitic, seminomadic people who orginated in and lived in upper Mesopotamia and Syria; they were mainly defined by their use of the Aramaic language
  • archetype | the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies
  • ark (of the covenant) | the sacred chest containing the two stone tablets of the Mosaic law and other artifacts; the ark was kept in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle and later Solomon’s temple, and represented God’s presence with his people (the ark disappeared during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. and there was no ark in the second temple)
  • ark (of Noah) | the large boat or ship built by Noah in which he, his family, and many animals were preserved during the flood (Gen 6:9–8:22)
  • Artaxerxes I | king of the Persian Empire from ca. 465 to 424 B.C., surnamed Longimanus
  • Artemis | a Greek goddess worshiped in Asia Minor, whose temple at Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world
  • article | a grammatical term for a word put next to a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun
  • Asherah | a leading deity of the Canaanite pantheon, wife/sister of El and goddess of fertility; she was commonly worshiped at shrines in or near groves of evergreen trees, or at places marked by wooden poles
  • Ashimah | the name of a goddess worshiped in Hamath in Syria (2 Kgs 17:30)
  • Ashtoreth | the supreme goddess of Canaan and female counterpart of Baal, connected with Ishtar of the Babylonians and Assyrians
  • Ashurbanipal | king of Assyria from 669 to 627 B.C.; the Aramaic form of his name, Osnappar, appears in Ezra 4:10
  • Asia Minor | central modern Turkey, the peninsula formed by the Black Sea on the north, the Mediterranean Sea on the south, and the Aegean Sea on the west (formerly known as Anatolia)
  • asphodel | a plant of the lily family with long slender leaves and flowers carried on a spike
  • Assyria | a region on the upper Tigris River named for its original capital, the city of Asshur; later as a nation and empire Assyria came to include approximately the northern half of Mesopotamia
  • Astarte | another name for the goddess Ashtoreth (the supreme goddess of Canaan), also connected with the goddess Ishtar (worshiped in Bablyonia and Assyria)
  • Augustus Caesar | emperor of Rome from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14, named Octavian before he became emperor; Augustus was known for his administrative effectiveness
  • astrologer | one who studies the movements and relative positions of stars, planets, and other celestial bodies in the belief that they exert an influence on human affairs and the natural world

B

  • Baal | the supreme male god among the Canaanites and Phoenicians, worshiped as a fertility god and also known as a storm god (in Ugaritic the title “rider of the clouds” was applied to Baal); the name Baal means “lord” and could be compounded with place names (for example Baal Gad in Josh 11:17)
  • Babylon | the very large and famous city located on both banks of the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia, residence of the Babylonian kings and site of the exile of the southern kingdom of Judah; mentioned in the New Testament in Matt 1:11, 12, 17; Acts 7:43 (most interpreters identify Babylon in the book of Revelation as a symbol for Rome, though a few think it refers there to Jerusalem, and others think it refers to the original city on the banks of the Euphrates)
  • Bashan | a territory east of the Jordan River to the north of Gilead with forested slopes and splendid pastures; the land was given to the half tribe of Manasseh after the defeat of King Og the Amorite (Num 21:33-35; Josh 13:11-12)
  • bedouin | a nomadic Arab of the Arabian, Syrian, or North African deserts
  • Beelzebul | (traditionally Beelzebub) in the New Testament the name for the chief or prince of demons, identified with Satan (Matt 10:25; 12:24, 27; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15, 18, 19)
  • Behemoth | a huge and powerful beast described in Job 40:15-24, variously identified as mythological in nature or real; as a real creature many suggest the hippopotamus, though the elephant, rhinoceros, or some form of dinosaur have also been proposed
  • Bel | the name of a Babylonian god; the name was later applied to Marduk
  • Beliar | a Greek term referring to Satan, found only in the New Testament in 2 Cor 6:15; a variant spelling, Belial, is found in the Old Testament (Judg 20:13 LXX)
  • betroth (betrothal) | to promise to marry someone; a betrothal is a mutual promise or contract for a future marriage
  • BHS | an abbreviation for Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, the standard Hebrew Bible used by scholars which is based on the Masoretic Text of Leningrad Codex B19a
  • birthstool | a chair or stool on which a woman sat while in labor, perhaps of Egyptian origin (Exod 1:16); the exact meaning is uncertain, and the same Hebrew term refers to a stone potter’s wheel in Jer 18:3
  • bitumen | a naturally occurring asphalt (especially of Asia Minor) used in ancient times as a cement and mortar
  • boanthropy | a mental disorder where the victim believes he or she is an ox
  • breastplate | armor worn by soldiers to protect the chest, originally heavy leather (Latin coriaceus; French cuirasse) and later metal; the Romans used three types: chain mail (lorica hamata) scale armor (lorica squamata), and segmented body armor (lorica segmentata) made of narrow bands of metal
  • brimstone | sulfur, a solid nonmetallic element which burns at low temperatures and produces a colorless gas, sulfur dioxide
  • Bronze Age | a period of history when tools and weapons were made from bronze (beginning in the late 4th or early 3rd millennium B.C. in Mesopotamia, and around 2700 B.C. in Egypt)
  • brothel | a house or building in which prostitutes are available
  • Bubastis | the Greek name for the ancient Egyptian city of Per-Bast located on the Nile in the Delta region of Lower Egypt; the city was a center of worship for the feline goddess Bast (Bastet), originally depicted as a lioness but later as a domestic cat
  • buckler | a small round shield used in hand-to-hand combat to deflect an opponent’s sword or dagger
  • burden (prophetic) | a prophetic utterance or message (often but not always declaring judgment on places or people); an oracle
  • Byblos | a city located on the Mediterranean coast of modern Lebanon about 26 mi (42 km) north of Beirut; the Greek name Byblos refers to the Egyptian papyrus (reed paper) imported into Greece through the city (the English word “Bible” is derived from the Greek name of the city)

C

  • calamus | probably the tall perennial wetland reed Acorus calamus, used medicinally and for its odor; it is known by a variety of names among which are common sweet flag, sweet cane, and sweet myrtle
  • Canaan, land of | the part of the Holy Land west of the Jordan River, populated by the descendants of Canaan and subsequently conquered by the Israelites under Joshua
  • Candace | the title of the queen of the Ethiopians (Acts 8:27); the term is a title like Pharaoh rather than a name (the Candace referred to in Acts 8:27 was probably Amantitere, who ruled from A.D. 25-41)
  • Cappadocia | a large province in eastern Asia Minor bounded by the Taurus mountains on the south, the Anti-Taurus mountains and the Euphrates River on the east, and (less well-defined) by Pontus on the north and Galatia on the west
  • capstone | the highest stone of a structure; in an arch, the capstone (or keystone) was wedge-shaped, located at the top of the arch and holding the arch together
  • Carians | apparently a royal bodyguard (2 Kgs 11:4, 19); some suggest it was composed of foreigners
  • Carthage | an ancient and very influential city in North Africa, located on the eastern side of Lake Tunis across from the modern city of Tunis in Tunisia; Carthage grew into a major economic power in the Mediterranean region that at one point rivaled Rome
  • cassia | a fragrant, aromatic inner bark of the plant Cinnamomum cassia which grows in eastern Asia and is closely related to cinnamon; it was probably used in powdered form
  • Cassite | (also spelled Kassite) an ancient Near Eastern mountain tribe who spoke a non-Indo-European and non-Semitic language; they conquered Mesopotamia and ruled Babylonia for about 400 years (ca. 1595-1155 B.C.)
  • causative | expressing causation; specifically, a linguistic form that indicates that the subject causes an act to be performed or a condition to come into being
  • Chaldeans | in biblical usage, referring to an ancient people of lower Mesopotamia and their culture; the 11th dynasty of the kings of Babylon (6th century B.C.) is generally known as the Chaldean dynasty and included Nabopolassar, Nebuchadrezzar, and Nabonidus
  • chamomile | a white, daisy-like flower, the only member of the lily family native to the Holy Land (Anthemis palaestina)
  • Chemosh | the national god of Moab (Num 21:29); child sacrifice appears to have been part of the worship of Chemosh (2 Kgs 3:26-27)
  • cherubim | (singular “cherub”) in the Bible cherubim appear to be a class of winged angelic creatures that are composite in appearance (Ezek 1:5-14; 10:20) and whose primary function is guarding (Gen 3:24)
  • circumcise | to cut off the foreskin of the male reproductive organ; for Jewish men this became a sign of inclusion in the covenant community
  • circumlocution | the use of a larger number of words than really necessary to express an idea; sometimes also a form of indirect reference (as Matt 26:64, where “the right hand of the Power” is a circumlocution for God)
  • cistern | a pear-shaped pit with a narrow opening at the top, cut or dug into limestone rock and lined with plaster to prevent leakage, used to collect and store rainwater or water from a spring
  • cobra | any of several venomous Asian and African snakes that when agitated expand the skin of the neck into a hood
  • cognate languages | languages derived from a mutual ancestor language or otherwise related to one another (for example, Ugaritic and Hebrew are cognate languages)
  • cognition | the act or process of knowing, including both awareness and judgment
  • cohort | a unit of the Roman army with a nominal strength of 600 soldiers or 1/10 of a legion
  • collective | denoting a number of persons or things considered as one group or whole; for example, “offspring” is a collective singular which can refer to many descendants
  • colloquial | used in, or characteristic of, familiar and informal conversation; referring to conversational style
  • concubine | a slave woman in ancient Near Eastern society who could have legitimate sexual relations with her master but still did not have the rights of a free wife
  • coney | in biblical usage, a small animal generally understood to be the rock badger, Hyrax syriacus
  • conjugation | a schematic arrangement of the inflectional forms of a verb
  • coriander seed | the ripened dried fruit of Coriander sativum, commonly known as cilantro, an herb of the carrot family native to southwestern Asia and north Africa which produces an aromatic fruit
  • covenant | a solemn, formal and binding agreement between two or more parties
  • covetousness | inordinate desire for wealth or possessions, especially those belonging to someone else
  • Crete | an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea south of Athens, Greece; Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean
  • cubit | a unit of measurement based on the length of the human forearm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger (usually considered to be about 18 in or 45 cm); the so-called “long cubit” mentioned in the book of Ezekiel consisted of a cubit and a handbreadth (a total of about 21 in or 52.5 cm)
  • cult statues | statues used as idols by pagan religious cults
  • cultic | belonging to a particular system of religious beliefs, ritual, or custom; in this more neutral sense the instructions for Israel laid down in the book of Leviticus could be described as “cultic” in nature
  • cumin | (also spelled cummin) the aromatic seeds of a flowering plant of the parsley family, Cuminum cyminum, used as a spice
  • cuneiform | a form of ancient writing used in Mesopotamia, Persia, and Ugarit in which the characters are wedge-shaped
  • curds | the thick casein-rich part of coagulated (curdled or clotted) milk, similar to cottage cheese
  • Cush | in biblical usage this Hebrew term refers to (1) a region in Mesopotamia, the area of the later Cassite dynasty of Babylon (Gen 2:13) or (2) the region in southern (or Upper) Egypt and northern Sudan known as Nubia (called “Ethiopia” by classical authors, but not to be confused with modern Ethiopia, known in antiquity as Abyssinia)
  • cylinder seal | a form of stamp seal used in ancient Israel either worn on a bracelet or hung on a cord around the neck, consisting of a short tube of stone (average length 20 mm) engraved around the outside and used to stamp clay tablets to verify their authenticity; after clay tablets were replaced by written scrolls, the seal was pressed into a small lump of clay used to fix a string around a rolled document
  • Cyprus | an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea south of Asia Minor (modern Turkey); Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean
  • Cyrus | a Persian king who conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. and added for himself the title “king of Babylon” and who was responsible for issuing the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple at the end of the Jewish exile to Babylon; Cyrus is viewed in Isa 44:28 as God’s commissioned agent for this task

D

  • Dagon | a pagan god worshiped in the middle Euphrates region from the 3rd millennium B.C. about which little is known; Dagon is mentioned in some Ugaritic texts as the father of Baal, but in the biblical narratives Dagon appears as a Philistine god with temples in Ashdod, Beth Shan, and perhaps Gaza (1 Sam 5:1-7; Judg 16:23)
  • Dalmanutha | a place apparently located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, mentioned once in Mark 8:10; some have suggested the Aramaic word originally meant “enclosure” or “anchorage,” but came over time to be used as a proper name
  • Damascus | the capital and largest city of modern Syria, thought to be the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world; the city lies about 50 mi (80 km) inland from the Mediterranean Sea near the Anti-Lebanon mountains
  • Danel | a legendary Canaanite ruler known for his justice and wisdom; his name is preserved in Ugaritic texts
  • daric | a unit of weight about 1/3 of an ounce (8 or 9 grams); also a minted Persian coin made of gold, possibly named after Darius I
  • Darius I Hystaspes | king of Persia from around 522-486 B.C., also known as Darius the Great, known for his administrative reforms, legal code, and building projects, including the new capital city of Persepolis
  • darnel | a tufted grass of the ryegrass family (particularly Lolium temulentum) which grows as an especially undesirable weed among cereal grains; it looks similar to wheat but has poisonous seeds
  • Dead Sea Scrolls | a collection of about 850 documents including texts from the Old Testament, discovered in 11 caves near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea; these texts, written between the middle of the 2nd century B.C. and the 1st century A.D., are of great religious and historical significance (before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest existing Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible were Masoretic texts from the 9th century A.D.)
  • decorum | propriety and good taste in conduct or appearance; presentability
  • denarius | a larger silver coin in use in New Testament times; most carried the likeness of the Roman emperor and one denarius constituted the accepted salary for a day’s work by a common laborer
  • diadem | in the Old Testament this refers to the inscribed plate that was tied to the turban of the high priest (Exod 29:6); in the New Testament it refers to a jeweled crown or headband worn as a symbol of sovereignty (e.g., Rev 12:3; 13:1: 19:12)
  • Diaspora | the settling of scattered colonies of Jews outside the Holy Land after the Babylonian exile; one of the largest Jewish colonies was at Alexandria in Egypt
  • Dioscuri | the combined form of Dios kouroi, “the Sons of Zeus,” the title of the twin gods Castor and Pollux that formed the insignia of the Alexandrian ship in which Paul sailed from Malta (Acts 28:1) to Puteoli (Acts 28:11)
  • disciple | in general, a follower or pupil of a teacher, leader, or a philosophy; in the New Testament, a follower of Christ, sometimes used (as in the Gospel of John) to refer especially to the twelve apostles
  • diviner | a person who tries to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge, usually by the interpretation of omens or by the aid of supernatural powers; divination was strictly forbidden under the Mosaic law (Lev 19:26)
  • double entendre | a word or phrase open to two different interpretations; in contemporary usage this can sometimes have overtones of sexual innuendo, but when discussing narrative or other biblical literature the expression is generally neutral
  • drachma | the basic Greek silver coin, mentioned in the New Testament only in Luke 15:8-9 and approximately equal to the Roman denarius (see denarius); the two-drachma coin (double drachma or didrachmon, Matt 17:24) was used among the Jews to pay the half-shekel annual temple tax required of adult Jewish males
  • dragnet | a net drawn through the water to catch fish (also, a net used on the ground to capture small game)
  • dropsy | a condition that involves swollen limbs resulting from the accumulation of fluid in the body’s tissues, especially the legs
  • dross | the scum that forms on the surface of molten metal
  • Dumuzi | the Akkadian form of the name of an earlier Sumerian god, Dumu-zid, who is the god of the vegetation cycle and was believed annually to die and then rise again; Dumuzi is closely connected with the Babylonian god Tammuz
  • dynasty | a succession of rulers (or powerful or prominent people) from the same family (the same line of descent)

E

  • Edom | another name for Esau, son of Isaac and brother of Jacob (Gen 25:30); the name came to be used for Esau’s descendants and the land where they lived, a rugged mountainous area south and east of the Dead Sea
  • El | a basic name for God appearing in both Ugaritic texts and Canaanite religion as the high god, founding god, or creator god; the name was adopted by the patriarchs (Abraham met Melchizedek who was described as priest of El Elyon, “the Most High God,” Gen 14:18, 22) and frequently compounded with place names (El Bethel, Gen 35:7) or descriptive phrases (El Roi, “the God who sees me,” Gen 16:13)
  • Elam | a country east of the Tigris River in what is now southwestern Iran
  • election | (in biblical contexts) the act of choosing by which God picks out an individual or a group from a larger group of people for a purpose or destiny he has appointed or determined
  • electrum | a natural pale yellow alloy of gold and silver
  • elephantiasis | generally, an enlargement and thickening of body tissues; specifically, a condition in which a limb becomes grossly enlarged due to obstruction of the lymphatic vessels, especially when caused by parasites
  • emendation | a correction and/or revision of a text; when used of the biblical text (especially the Old Testament) this refers to a situation in which copyists and editors realize that the text as written is almost certainly not correct (due to errors in copying) and a correction (“emendation”) is proposed which may have no support from existing manuscripts
  • emery | a dark, granular mineral that consists mainly of corundum and is used for grinding or polishing because of its hardness
  • enigmatic | something obscure, or hard to understand or explain; mysterious
  • entrails | intestines or other internal organs; in biblical usage the term often occurs in the Old Testament in contexts dealing with the preparation of animal sacrifices
  • epithet | an adjective or descriptive phrase expressing a characteristic quality or attribute of the person or thing mentioned (for example, the phrase “a man of the soil” in Gen 9:20 is an epithet describing Noah)
  • Esarhaddon | king of Assyria ca. 681-669 B.C.; he was the son of Sennacherib and became king after his father was assassinated (2 Kgs 19:37 = Isa 37:38)
  • eschatological | having to do with eschatology, the branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humanity (specifically, concerned with the Christian doctrines of the return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, or the last judgment)
  • ET | an abbreviation for English Text, often used in referring to different verse division between the English Bible and the Hebrew Old Testament
  • eunuch | either (1) a castrated male placed in charge of a harem or employed as a chamberlain in a royal palace, or (2) a relatively highly-placed administrative official (who may or may not have been castrated)
  • euphemism | the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant; the term euphemism can also be used for the expression so substituted
  • Euraquilo | the name of a violent northern wind in the Mediterranean Sea, a sailor’s term made up of a combination of Greek and Latin (Acts 27:14)
  • exodus | (from the Greek word meaning “departure” or “the way out”) the departure of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt under the leadership of Moses
  • expiation | the act of making atonement for sin, or the means by which atonement for sin is made; the term “expiation” is sometimes used in modern English Bible translations as a substitute for the term “propitiation” (e.g., 1 John 4:10 RSV) on the grounds that “propitiation” means the appeasement of an angry God, an idea not found in scripture (however, “expiation” generally has a thing as its object, like “sin,” while “propitiation,” although occasionally found with “sin” as its object, is primarily a personal and relational word)
  • facet | one side of something which has many sides, especially a side of a cut gemstone

F

  • fasting | abstaining from food and/or drink
  • filly | a young female horse, usually less than four years old
  • firepot | a portable firepit or container in which a relatively small fire could be built
  • firstfruit | literally, the first portion of the harvest of grains, fruits, vegetables, etc.; figuratively, the first part of something (for example, in 1 Cor 15:20, 23 Paul refers to Christ as the “firstfruits” of those who have died, because Christ was the first to be resurrected)
  • flux | lead or other minerals added to molten metals in a furnace to prevent oxides from forming and to remove impurities from the melted metal
  • frankincense | a sweet-smelling incense made from the resin of certain trees native to Africa, Arabia, and India; it was one ingredient of the holy anointing oil used in the Old Testament (Exod 30:34) and was also burned with other substances during the grain offering (Lev 6:15); in the New Testament it was one of the gifts presented to the infant Jesus by the wise men (Matt 2:11)
  • future tense | in grammar, a tense of verbs expressing events that have not yet happened

G

  • Galilee | the regional name of the northern part of Israel, generally to the west and north of the Sea of Galilee; in the New Testament the scene of Jesus’ childhood and early public ministry, an area where Gentile influence was much stronger than in Judea to the south
  • gate (of a city) | in biblical times the location where the city elders met and where business transactions, legal judgments, and other public business was conducted; in many instances this was a gate complex consisting of several successive gates
  • gazelle | an antelope belonging to the genus Gazella, mostly found in the grasslands of Africa but also in southwest Asia; gazelles are known for their swiftness and can reach high speeds for long periods of time
  • Gehenna | a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew words ge hinnom (“Valley of Hinnom”), the valley along the south side of Jerusalem which in Old Testament times was used for human sacrifices to the pagan god Molech (Jer 7:31; 19:5-6; 32:35), and came to be used as a place where human excrement and rubbish were disposed of and burned; in the intertestamental period, it came to be used symbolically as the place of divine punishment, i.e., hell
  • gender (grammatical) | a class (usually masculine, feminine, common, or neuter) into which nouns, pronouns, and other words are placed in certain languages; the determination is partly arbitrary but also partly based on distinguishable characteristics like shape, social rank, or sexual gender, and the class determines agreement with and selection of other words or grammatical forms
  • genealogy | an account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor
  • genitals | the organs of the reproductive system, especially the external genital organs
  • Gennesaret | a fertile plain south of Capernaum (Mark 6:53); the Sea of Galilee was also sometimes known as the Sea of Gennesaret (Luke 5:1)
  • Gilead | a mountainous region on the eastern side of the Jordan River in what is today the country of Jordan
  • gladitorial contest | a staged battle or combat between trained warriors or soldiers
  • gluttony | habitual greed or excess in eating; overeating to the extreme
  • goads | sharp pointed sticks used to drive or direct draft animals like oxen
  • Golgotha | the place in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified (John 19:17-18); the Aramaic name was transliterated into Greek as Golgotha, which in turn is translated as “Place of the Skull” (Matt 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17); the site was outside one of the city gates, but not far away (Heb 13:12)
  • Goshen | the territory in Egypt assigned by Pharaoh to Israel and his descendants during their stay in Egypt; the exact location is uncertain but it was somewhere in the eastern Nile Delta
  • Great Sea | a typical designation in the Old Testament for the Mediterranean Sea
  • Great Syrtis | a gulf on the North African coast (modern Libya), known as a graveyard of ships and greatly feared by ancient sailors because of its shallow, treacherous waters and many sandbanks
  • Greek | the language in which the New Testament is written as well as the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament; the Greek language was carried to the Holy Land, Egypt, and the entire Near East as far as the Indus River by the army of Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C. and in the process became gradually simplified into the “common dialect” (koine dialektos) which was spoken throughout the Greco-Roman world in the 1st century A.D. and in which the New Testament is written
  • Gulf of Aqaba | a large gulf of the Red Sea located to the east of the Sinai Peninsula and west of the Arabian mainland

H

  • Hades | the Greek term (appearing several times in the New Testament) for the underworld, the place of the dead; in the Greek Old Testament (LXX) the term almost always translated Sheol, so that Hades can be regarded as the New Testament equivalent of Sheol
  • Hanes | a city located somewhere in the southern region of Egypt south of Memphis; the exact location is uncertain
  • Hansen’s disease | leprosy, an infectious disease, historically considered incurable and disfiguring, caused by a bacterium; in the Bible the Hebrew term traditionally translated “leprosy” actually describes a wide range of skin conditions other than Hansen’s disease
  • Hanukkah | a Jewish holiday also known as the “festival of lights” or the feast of the dedication (John 10:22) which began in Maccabean times to celebrate the rededication of the Jerusalem temple following its desecration by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (1 Macc 4:36-61)
  • harlot | a woman who engages in unlawful or socially unacceptable sexual intercourse, often for material gain
  • harem | the part of an ancient Near Eastern palace where the king’s wives, concubines, and their servants and attendants lived (Esth 2:3, 9, 11, 13, 14, where the Hebrew expression is literally “the house of the women”); occasionally by metonymy for the wives and concubines who resided there (Eccl 2:8)
  • Hebrew | the Semitic language in which most of the Old Testament was originally written
  • Heliopolis | the Greek name for the city of On in Egypt (Gen 41:45; 46:20), located about 6 mi (10 km) northeast of modern Cairo; the name in Greek means “City of the Sun”
  • Hellenists | (frequently translated as “Greek-speaking Jews”) a term referring to Jews who had to a greater or lesser extent adopted Greek thought, customs, and lifestyle in addition to the Greek language; the city of Alexandria in northern Egypt was a focal point for these Jews, but they were scattered throughout the Roman Empire
  • hendiadys | the expression of a single idea by two words connected with “and” or its equivalent when one of the words could be used to modify the other (for example, “a leader and a great one” in 2 Sam 3:38 is a hendiadys for “a great leader”)
  • Hermes | a Greek god who (according to Greek mythology) was the messenger of the gods and the god of oratory (equivalent to the Roman god Mercury); he was the son of Zeus and the patron of travelers, herdsmen, merchants, and servants
  • Hezekiah’s Tunnel | a tunnel 592 yds (533 m) long dug by order of King Hezekiah of Judah in order to provide the city of Jerusalem with underground access to the waters of the Gihon Spring which was located outside the city walls, in preparation for the invasion of Sennacherib (2 Kgs 18:13-16)
  • high place | a frequent expression in the Old Testament for centers of Canaanite (pagan) worship, often consisting of an altar or shrine at an elevated location (it is debated whether this is a natural elevation such as a hilltop or a constructed elevation such as a platform or mound)
  • highwayman | a person who robs travelers on a road
  • Holy of Holies | the innermost sanctuary of the tabernacle and later of Solomon’s temple and the second temple in Jerusalem; the ark of the covenant was placed there in the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple (the ark disappeared during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. and there was no ark in the second temple)
  • Horeb | (or Mount Horeb) another name for Mount Sinai, the mountain where God appeared to Moses and gave the ten commandments
  • HT | an abbreviation for Hebrew Text, often used in referring to different verse division between the English Bible and the Hebrew Old Testament
  • Hyades | an open star cluster located in the constellation Taurus, distinct from a second and better known star cluster in Taurus, the Pleiades
  • hyperbole | deliberate exaggeration for the sake of emphasis, not meant to be taken literally (for example, “This book weighs a ton!” or “This assignment will take forever to complete!”)
  • hyssop | any one of several distinct plant species mentioned in the Bible; in the Old Testament hyssop was used as part of the Passover and the levitical purification rituals for sprinkling (generally considered to be Syrian marjoram, Origanum syriacum); in the New Testament the “hyssop” used at the crucifixion was probably a reed or stick (the reed-like cereal durra, Sorghum vulgare, has been considered the most likely plant)

I

  • ibex | any of several types of wild goats living mainly in high mountain areas and having large recurved horns (genus Capra, especially Capra ibex)
  • idiom | a group of words established by usage which have a meaning that cannot be deduced from the meanings of the individual words (for example, in Gal 2:6 “God does not receive the face of man” is an idiom meaning that God does not show favoritism or partiality); also, a form of expression natural to a particular language, person, or group
  • imprecation | a prayer or invocation for harm or injury to happen to someone
  • incantation | a series of words spoken as a magic spell or charm
  • inclusive | including rather than excluding a person or group of individuals (for example, in 2 Pet 1:19 the pronoun “we” is apparently inclusive, referring not only to the author but to his audience as well)
  • indictment | a formal charge or accusation of a crime; in a more general, less technical sense, an expression of strong disapproval (for example, “that sermon was an indictment of contemporary morals”)
  • inkhorn | a Hebrew term occurring only in Ezek 9:2, 3, 11 and probably referring to a pen case or writing kit rather than merely an ink container; such a case would have included reed pens, a small knife for erasures and for cutting papyrus, and in some cases a stylus for writing in cuneiform on a clay or wax tablet
  • Ishtar | the principal goddess of ancient Mesopotamia; both Ishtar and the Sumerian goddess Inanna were personifications of the planet Venus (Ishtar is also connected with the Canaanite goddess Astarte, though the two are not exactly the same)

J

  • jackal | a small omnivorous canine of Africa and Asia having large ears, long legs, and bushy tails (such as Canis aureus)
  • jamb | an upright piece or surface forming the side of an opening in a building (as for a door or window)
  • Jannes and Jambres | the names traditionally assigned to two of the magicians of Pharaoh who opposed Moses and Aaron just before Israel’s exodus from Egypt (Exod 7:11-12, 22); in the New Testament they are characterized as stubborn and persistent opponents to God and Moses (2 Tim 3:6-8); though the names do not appear in the Old Testament and only once in the New Testament, they occur frequently in Jewish, Christian, and pagan sources
  • javelin | a light spear thrown as a weapon of war or used in hunting
  • Jebusite | an original resident of the hill country of Judah, particularly in and around Jerusalem; “Salem” in Gen 14:18 is traditionally identified as the Jebusite stronghold of old Jerusalem
  • Joppa | a small harbor town on the Mediterranean coast not annexed by Israel until ca. 148 BC (see 1 Macc 10:76), so most of the population was non-Israelite
  • Josephus | a 1st century A.D. Jewish historian who lived through and recorded the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70; his works give very important insight into 1st century Judaism and provide invaluable background information for the study of the New Testament
  • Jubilee, year of | a year of celebration and forgiveness occurring every 50th year (Lev 25:10-12), that is, the year after seven sabbatical cycles of seven years (every 7th year Israelite farmers were commanded to let their land lie uncultivated, Lev 25:1-7)

K

  • Kaldu | a nomadic tribe, part of the ethnic Arameans, that roamed between the Euphrates River and the lands east of the Jordan (possibly mentioned in Job 1:17)
  • Kayamanu | an adjective meaning “the steady one,” another name in Mesopotamia for the god Saturn; this name appears in Amos 5:26 in the Hebrew form Kiyyun
  • Kedar | the name of the second son of Ishmael (Gen 25:13; 1 Chr 1:29); also the most powerful of the bedouin tribes of northern Arabia descended from the sons of Ishmael
  • Kethib | a variation in the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Old Testament between “what is written” (Kethib) in the consonantal text and “what is read” (Qere) according to the tradition of vocalization (vowels)
  • kiln | an oven or furnace for processing a substance by burning, firing, or drying it
  • King’s Highway | the name of the major road from the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea to Damascus in Syria, which ran east of the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley through the Transjordan; it was in use between the 23rd and 20th centuries B.C., and the Edomites and Ammonites prevented Moses and the Israelites from using it as they prepared to enter the land of Canaan (Num 20:17; 21:22; Deut 2:27)
  • kinsman redeemer | in the Old Testament, a near relative who serves as guardian of the family interests and pays off debts, defends the family, avenges a killing, and marries the widow of the deceased in order to carry on the family name and lineage of the deceased in a practice known as levirate marriage (see Ruth 2:20; 3:9-10, 12; 4:1, 3, 14)
  • Kittim | originally referring to the island of Cyprus but later used for the lands in the west, including Macedonia (1 Macc 1:1; 8:5) and Rome (Dan 11:30)

L

  • Lair | a city located in northeastern Babylon (2 Kgs 19:13)
  • Lamastu | the female demon of sickness and fever responsible for the death of children, on whose flesh and blood she was thought to feed; in Mesopotamian mythology Lamastu climbed in through windows of houses and over their walls to kill children and babies
  • lamp | in Old Testament times, a small open pottery bowl with one or more lips to hold wicks for the oil; in New Testament times the lamp’s rim curved inward completely enclosing the space for the oil except for a small opening at the top through which the oil was added; a long spout held the wick, and small handles were sometimes added
  • lapis lazuli | a semiprecious stone that is usually rich azure blue, often with flecks of iron pyrites
  • Leb-qamai | a code name for “Chaldeans” formed by substituting letters of the Hebrew alphabet in reverse order
  • leech | a parasitic or predatory worm with suckers at both ends, formerly used in medicine for bloodletting
  • legion | a division of approximately 6,000 soldiers (10 cohorts) in the Roman army
  • leprosy | an infectious disease known today as Hansen’s disease, historically considered incurable and disfiguring, caused by a bacterium; in the Bible the Hebrew term traditionally translated “leprosy” actually describes a wide range of skin conditions other than Hansen’s disease
  • lepton | a small copper or bronze coin worth one-half a quadrans or 1/128 of a denarius, and the smallest, least valuable coin in circulation in New Testament times (Luke 12:59)
  • Leviathan | in Ugaritic mythological texts a seven-headed monster of the deep or chaos described as a “wriggling serpent”; in the Old Testament defeated by Yahweh (Job 3:8; Ps 74:14; Isa 27:1), possibly to be identified with the Babylonian goddess Tiamat
  • levirate marriage | (from the Latin term levir, “brother-in-law”), a provision in the Mosaic law whereby a man who died without male descendants to carry on his name could have a son by proxy, that is, through a surviving brother who would marry his widow and whose first son would then be attributed to the brother who had died (Deut 25:5)
  • lime kiln | a furnace or oven used for heating lime to a high temperature to calcine it
  • loanword | a word adopted from a foreign language with little or no modification
  • locust | a large grasshopper which migrates in huge swarms and is very destructive to vegetation
  • lot (casting the) | a form of divination in which an outcome is determined by random means, such as rolling a die; in the Old Testament the sailors on Jonah’s ship cast lots (Jonah 1:7) to determine fault for the storm, while in the New Testament the soldiers who crucified Jesus cast lots for his clothing (John 19:24)
  • Lucianic recension | a revision of the Greek translation of the Old Testament made by Lucian the Martyr around the end of the 3rd century A.D. and long famous because in some Old Testament books (like 1-2 Samuel) it includes readings which appear to be based on a Hebrew text of better quality than the Masoretic Text
  • LXX | the standard abbreviation for the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament compiled and edited mainly in the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. by Jewish scholars and later adopted by Greek-speaking Christians as their Bible; the name means “seventy” and is derived from the tradition that 70 translators worked to complete it
  • Lydia | (1) a district in the center of the western slope of Asia Minor, with major cities Sardis, Thyatira, and Philadelphia (some of the coastal cities like Ephesus and Smyrna were sometimes considered Lydian as well); (2) a woman from Thyatira who at Philippi became Paul’s first convert in Europe (Acts 16:14-15, 40)

M

  • Magadan | the region on the shore of the Sea of Galilee to which Jesus went after feeding the 4,000 (Matt 15:39); in the parallel account in Mark (8:10) the place name Dalmanutha appears instead of Magadan; although the location of both sites is uncertain, it is more likely that Magadan was on the west side of the Sea of Galilee (it is sometimes identified as the hometown or birthplace of Mary Magdalene, but there is no supporting evidence for this)
  • mallow | an annual herb (Malva sylvestris) which grows about 3 ft (90 cm) tall; the fruit, leaf, and seed were all used as food
  • mammon | the Aramaic term for “wealth” or “possessions,” traditionally retained in some English translations (e.g., KJV, NKJV) in passages like Matt 6:24; Luke 16:13
  • mandrake | a perennial herb of the nightshade family (Mandragora officinarum) with a forked, torso-shaped taproot resembling a human body; this gave rise to many superstitions about the plant, including aphrodisiac properties, which explains the argument between Rachel and Leah in Gen 30:14
  • manna | the bread miraculously supplied by God for the Israelites during their wilderness wandering (Exod 16:1-30); it was provided daily until they arrived at the border of Canaan, and was described as a flakelike frost, like coriander seed, and had the taste of a wafer made with honey (Exod 16:14, 31; Num 11:8); it could be ground into meal, boiled in pots, or made into cakes
  • mantelet | a military technical term for a large moveable shelter used to protect soldiers attacking a fortified city from arrows, stones, or other objects thrown over the walls by the defenders
  • manuscript | a document written by hand, often (in biblical usage) by a professionally trained scribe
  • Marduk | (Hebrew Merodach) the primary god of Babylon, later called Bel (Baal, but not to be confused with the earlier Canaanite Baal); the Babylonian creation epic (Enuma Elish) commemorates Marduk’s victory over the forces of evil and honors him as “king of the gods”
  • marginal reading | a variant reading placed in the margin of a manuscript; in the Old Testament this generally refers to the Qere reading (see Qere)
  • maskil | a Hebrew term of uncertain meaning which occurs in the headings of six psalms (Pss 16, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60), always in connection with the phrase “of David”; suggested meanings include “inscription” or “prayer”
  • meadow saffron | a flower similar to a crocus but flowering in the autumn (Colchicum autumnale); its flowers emerge from the ground long after the leaves have died back (this is one of several flowers, along with the asphodel and narcissus, suggested as the referent for the Hebrew term traditionally translated “rose of Sharon” in Song 2:1)
  • mediator | one who intervenes between two parties in order to promote relations between them which the parties themselves cannot achieve
  • medium | an individual considered to be a channel of communication between the earthly world and the world of spirits (or between the living and the dead)
  • Memphis | (Hebrew Noph) an important city in Egypt, located 13 mi (22 km) south of modern Cairo on the west bank of the Nile River; throughout most of Egyptian history, Memphis was the principal residence and capital of the kings of Egypt
  • menial | as an adjective, describing work requiring little skill and lacking prestige
  • merism | a figure of speech that uses two things together to refer to a single thing for rhetorical effect; merism is a common feature of biblical Hebrew poetry, in expressions such as “when I sit down and when I get up” (Ps 139:2) meaning “everything I do”
  • Mesopotamia | an ancient region located in modern Iraq which included the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and extended from the mountains of eastern Asia Minor to the Persian Gulf
  • Messiah | a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew term meaning “anointed one,” usually translated in Greek as Christos (Christ); the term became the official title of the central figure of a deliverer and redeemer which the writers of the New Testament considered to be fulfilled in Jesus (Jewish messianic hope in the first century was considerably diverse, however, and different concepts of the Messiah were in circulation at the time of Jesus)
  • metonymy | a figure of speech where the name of one thing is used for that of another thing with which it is associated in some way, as when “Washington” is used by metonymy for the U.S. government
  • Milcom | a variation or alternative form of the name Molech, the pagan god worshiped by the Ammonites
  • mina | in the Old Testament, a unit of weight equal to 60 shekels (Ezek 45:12); in the New Testament, a Greek monetary unit worth one hundred drachmas (or denarii) or about four months’ wages for an average worker based on a six-day work week
  • minuscule manuscript | a manuscript written in lower case (minuscule) script as distinct from upper case (uncial) script
  • Mishnah | the first recording of the oral law (oral Torah) of Judaism, compiled and edited around A.D. 200 but containing far older material in some cases; it is written mostly in Mishnaic Hebrew with only a few verses in Aramaic
  • Moab | the name of the son of Lot by his oldest daughter (Gen 19:37); the descendants and the land they inhabited became known as Moab, a land lying east of the Dead Sea between the Wadi Arnon and the Wadi Zered, though the territory Moab controlled was larger at times
  • Molech | a pagan god worshiped in the ancient Near East in the 2nd millennium B.C. and associated with death and the underworld; Molech was worshiped by the Ammonites as their national deity (1 Kgs 11:7, 33) and especially associated with child sacrifice (Lev 18:21; 20:2-5; 2 Kgs 23:10); “Milcom” and “Malcam” are variations of the name Molech
  • Moloch | the form of the name Molech used in the LXX of Amos 5:26 as quoted in Acts 7:43
  • Mosaic covenant | the binding agreement between the Israelites and God instituted at Mount Sinai following the exodus from Egypt; since it was instituted under the leadership and mediation of Moses is is known as the Mosaic covenant
  • Mosaic law | the Torah, primarily referring to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible known also as the five books of Moses, although in a more general sense the term “Torah” can include both the written law and the oral law within Judaism
  • Mount Gerizim | the moutain from which blessings were pronounced at the solemn assembly described in Josh 8:30-35; later the Samaritans built a temple there in the 4th century B.C. which was later destroyed by John Hyrcanus ca. 128 B.C., but the site remained a place of worship for the Samaritans (John 4:20)
  • Mount Hermon | a high mountain in the far north of the Holy Land, part of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains (also known as Mount Sirion); its top is usually covered in snow year round
  • Mount Paran | a mountain mentioned in Deut 33:2 and Hab 3:3 which was possibly a prominent peak in the mountains on the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba
  • Mount Seir | (1) a mountain associated with Edom (Ezek 35:15); the terms “Edom,” “Esau,” and “Seir” were often closely associated or even interchangeable in various Old Testament texts (e.g., Gen 32:3); (2) a mountain referred to as a boundary landmark for Judah (Josh 15:10)
  • Mount Sinai | a mountain of uncertain location somewhere in the southern Sinai Peninsula also called Mount Horeb in the Old Testament, where God appeared to Moses and gave the ten commandments (many scholars identify Mount Sinai as the present day Jebel Musa)
  • MT | an abbreviation for the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible, the text approved for general use in Judaism and also widely used in translations of the Old Testament of the Christian Bible; the MT was primarily compiled and edited by a group of Jews known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. (it has numerous differences compared to earlier sources like the Septuagint or the Dead Sea Scrolls)
  • mustard seed | the seed of the mustard plant, about 1 mm in diameter, ground to produce a widely used spice; in the New Testament Jesus used the mustard seed as an example of something very small which developed into something very large, to illustrate how the kingdom of God began very small and seemingly insignificant but would grow and expand over time (Matt 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)
  • myriad | a term derived from Greek indicating a very large number, virtually countless; in some contexts it means more specifically 10,000
  • myrrh | a reddish-brown resinous material, the dried sap of the myrrh tree, Commiphora myrrha or Balsamodendron, an ingredient of perfumes and incense highly prized in ancient times and often worth more than its weight in gold; myrrh was also used as an ingredient in embalming ointment

N

  • Nablus | a major city on the West Bank, one of the largest Palestinian population centers of the Middle East; it lies 39 mi (63 km) north of Jerusalem between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, with ancient Shechem located in the eastern part of the modern city
  • Nabu | a Babylonian god who was the son of Marduk, the supreme god of Babylon
  • Nazarene | a designation for Jesus used mostly in the Gospel of Mark (1:24; 10:47; 14:67; 16:6) and generally understood today to mean “of Nazareth,” referring to the town in Galilee where Jesus grew up; the term also appears twice in Luke (4:34; 24:19) but a different Greek term with similar meaning is routinely used in Matthew, Luke, and John
  • Nazirite | in ancient Israel referring to someone who separated himself from others by consecration to God with a special vow which included leaving the hair uncut; the origin of the Nazirite vow is pre-Mosaic and obscure, but the detailed rules for observing it are given in Num 6:1-21
  • Nebo | a variant form of the name of the Babylonian god Nabu
  • Nebuchadnezzar | (alternate spelling Nebuchadrezzar) the greatest and most powerful of the Babylonian kings who reigned 605-562 B.C., famous for his conquests of Judah and Jerusalem and his role in the book of Daniel
  • Negev | the desert region of southern Israel (in biblical Hebrew Negev means “south”); the major city is Beer Sheba in the northern part of the Negev
  • Nicolaitans | a group mentioned in the book of Revelation (2:6, 15); by comparison with Balaam of the Old Testament (Num 31:16) the teaching of the Nicolaitans is defined as eating food sacrificed to idols and committing immorality (Rev 2:14); since the same two sins are mentioned in Rev 2:20-25 as the teaching of a self-proclaimed prophetess named Jezebel at Thyatira, some connect her with the Nicolaitans as well
  • Nineveh | the last capital city of ancient Assyria, located on the east bank of the Tigris River across from the modern city of Mosul, Iraq
  • Ninurta | a Sumerian and Akkadian god of the south wind and agriculture, hunting, and (especially during the Assyrian rule of the early 1st millennium B.C.) of warfare
  • Nisroch | an Assyrian god in whose temple Sennacherib was assassinated according to 2 Kgs 19:37; Isa 37:38, but there is no record in Assyrian sources of a god by this name; the Assyrian gods Enlil and Ninurta have been suggested but there is difficulty connecting either of these names with Nisroch
  • Nubia | a region along the River Nile in the south of Egypt (Upper Egypt) and in northern Sudan; in ancient times an independent kingdom
  • numerical ladder | a literary device frequent in wisdom literature in the Old Testament in which a number that should be sufficient for the point being made is increased by one, as if to say there is always one more (that is, the number given does not exhaust the list); for examples see Prov 6:16; Amos 1:3; Mic 5:5
  • Nusku | the god of fire and light in ancient Babylonia and Assyria; one of the centers of his worship was the city of Harran (also known as Carrhae), located in what is now southeastern Turkey

O

  • Old Greek | the oldest Greek translations of the Hebrew Old Testament
  • Old Latin | the oldest Latin translations of the Bible which predate the Vulgate; these are sometimes known collectively as the Itala
  • omen | an occurrence or phenomenon believed to indicate a future event
  • omniscience | the quality or state of knowing everything
  • Ophir | (1) the son of Joktan according to Gen 10:29 (= 1 Chr 1:23); (2) a location from which fine gold and other valuable items were imported to Judah, especially during the reign of King Solomon (2 Chr 8:18; 1 Kgs 10:11); the site of Ophir is uncertain (southern or southeastern Arabia, the East or South African coast, and India have all been proposed)
  • oracle | a word or message from the LORD (2 Chr 18:4; 34:21) or from a pagan god (2 Kgs 1:3, 6, 16); the means by which this was delivered was not always the same and could sometimes take the form of a prophecy (Nah 1:1; Zech 9:1)
  • Origen | a scholar and theologian who was one of the most distinguished fathers of the early Christian church, thought to have been born in Alexandria ca. A.D. 182; he died at Caesarea ca. A.D. 251 (however, due to some of the more extreme views held by Origen and his followers, he was declared a heretic at the Second Council of Constantinople, A.D. 553)

P

  • pageantry | elaborate display or ceremony
  • palanquin | a conveyance for one person consisting of an enclosed litter carried on two horizontal poles by four or more bearers
  • Paraclete | a Greek word unique to the Johannine literature of the New Testament which was used by Jesus in John’s Gospel (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) to refer to the Holy Spirit; English translations have used words like “Helper,” “Counselor,” and “Advocate” as an attempt to convey the meaning
  • paramour | a lover, especially the illicit partner of a married person
  • parapet | a low wall or railing to protect the edge of a balcony, roof, or bridge
  • passive (voice) | a voice of verbs in which the subject undergoes the action of the verb, the opposite of the active voice; for example, “the ball was hit” (passive) as opposed to “he hit the ball” (active)
  • Passover | the major Jewish annual festival beginning on the 14th of Nisan and commemorating the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt; the name originated when the houses of the Israelites were “passed over” on the night the firstborn of all the Egyptians were killed (Exod 12:13, 23)
  • patriarch | in the Old Testament, one of the fathers of the human race or of the Hebrew people, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
  • pedestal | the base or support structure on which a statue or column is mounted
  • Pelusium | a city in Lower (northern) Egypt just south of the Mediterranean coast which served as a point of entry into Egypt in both trade and warfare, mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy against Egypt (30:15-16); the name in Hebrew is Sin
  • Pentateuch | the five books of Moses in the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy
  • perpetual | continuing forever; eternal; continual
  • personification | the representation of an inanimate object or abstract concept as a person, for example, the personification of wisdom in Prov 8:1-36
  • Petra | an archaeological site in modern Jordan famous for its buildings carved from solid living rock, located east of the Arabah, the rift valley running from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea; in ancient times the capital of the Nabataeans and center of their caravan trade
  • Philistines | descendants of Mizraim son of Ham (Gen 10:14; 1 Chr 1:12) who were extensively settled along the coastal plain between Egypt and Gaza at the time of the exodus; following the conquest of Canaan under Joshua the Philistines had five major cities, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath (Josh 13:2-3), and for many generations God used the Philistines to discipline the Israelites
  • phylactery | a small leather box containing scripture passages written on pieces of parchment and traditionally worn on the left arm and on the forehead by Jewish men during morning prayers (Exod 13:9, 16; Deut 6:8; 11:18)
  • pilgrimage feast | one of the three major annual feasts of the Israelites in the Old Testament (the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Temporary Shelters) when a Jewish male was expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to appear before the LORD with appropriate offerings (Deut 16:16)
  • Pit | the Hebrew word translated “Pit” is often used as a title for Sheol (see Pss 30:9; 49:9; 55:24; 103:4); see Sheol
  • pledged (for marriage) | ancient Near Eastern betrothal was almost as binding as marriage itself; the betrothed woman was sometimes called “wife” and was under the same obligation of faithfulness as if married (Gen 29:21; Deut 22:23-24; Matt 1:18, 20); likewise the betrothed man was called “husband” (Joel 1:8; Matt 1:19)
  • plumb line | a line or cord that has a weight at one end (called a plumb bob) used to determine whether something is vertical or not
  • polemic | an aggressive attack on, or refutation of, the beliefs, opinions, or principles of someone else; in the Old Testament this often takes the form of an attack on the pagan gods or mythologies of the nations surrounding Israel
  • portent | an omen; a sign or warning that foreshadows a coming event
  • praetorium | the residence of a Roman provincial governor (Matt 27:27; Mark 15:16; John 18:28)
  • prefiguration | something that prefigures, that is, pictures something beforehand, or shows, suggests, or announces something future by an antecedent type, image, or likeness
  • prerequisite | something required as a prior condition for something else
  • presbyter | an English word derived from the Greek term for “elder,” referring to a person advanced in years, a person holding a particular position of leadership within the early church, or both (1 Pet 5:1, 5)
  • pronominal suffix | in Hebrew, a suffix (an element attached at the end of a word) which serves to indicate person, gender, and number (in English this is done by use of a separate pronoun, for example “she” is a third person, feminine, singular pronoun)
  • propitiation | the act of appeasing the wrath of God by offering an appropriate sacrifice, a primarily relational and personal term; the use of the word “propitiation” is sometimes criticized by those who consider Old Testament ideas of appeasing God through animal sacrifice as archaic and unworthy of God (however Rom 3:24-25 seems to reflect this very idea in relation to the death of Christ)
  • prototype | an original model on which something is patterned; an archetype
  • pruning hook | a short knife with a curved hook at the end, sharpened on the inside like a sickle, used to prune grapevines or trees
  • Pul | a nickname for the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (2 Kgs 15:19; 1 Chr 5:26)
  • Python | in Greek mythology the name of the serpent or dragon that guarded the Delphic oracle; the word came to be used for a person thought to have a spirit of divination

Q

  • Qere | a variation in the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Old Testament between “what is written” (Kethib) in the consonantal text and “what is read” (Qere) according to the tradition of vocalization (vowels); the Qere reading is sometimes referred to as the marginal reading (i.e., placed in the margin of a manuscript)
  • qesitah | a Hebrew word generally understood to refer to a unit of money, but the value and/or weight is unknown (Gen 33:19; Josh 24:32; Job 42:11)
  • quadrans | a Roman copper coin worth 1/64 of a denarius (Matt 5:26)
  • quiver | a case used by an archer for carrying or holding arrows

R

  • Rabbi | (in Hebrew, “my master”) used in biblical times as a term of address by Jews for a teacher or religious leader (used today to refer to the official leader of a Jewish congregation)
  • Rahab | possibly identified with Tiamat of the Babylonian creation epic (Enuma Elish), or the multi-headed sea monster Leviathan of the Canaanite myths; used in parallel with the Red Sea (Ps 74:13) Rahab came to symbolize Egypt (Ps 87:4)
  • Rameses | a city of Egypt mentioned along with Pithom, where the Israelites were oppressed with hard labor while slaves in Egypt (Exod 1:11; 12:37; Num 33:3); it was located in the eastern Nile Delta and was the place from which the Israelites departed at the exodus
  • Received Text | (abbreviated TR, from the Latin Textus Receptus) the Greek text of the New Testament descended from the Byzantine texttype and forming the textual basis for the King James Bible
  • referent | the thing in the real world that a word or phrase denotes or stands for (as an example, in Luke 13:32 the referent of “that fox” is Herod Antipas)
  • Rephan | (alternate spelling Rompha) a pagan god identified or connected with the planet Saturn and mentioned in Acts 7:43 (which is a quotation from Amos 5:26 LXX; in the Hebrew text of Amos 5:26 the form of the name is Kiyyun)
  • rhetorical | generally, something done in writing or speech for rhetorical effect, often intended to be persuasive (for example, a rhetorical question is a question asked for effect or to make a statement, with no answer expected)
  • Riblah | a strategic city on the Orontes River in Syria located at a crossing of the major roads between Egypt and Mesopotamia; Pharaoh Necho set up the Egyptian military headquarters there (2 Kgs 23:31-35) as did King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Jer 39:5)
  • Rimmon | (1) a title of the pagan storm god Hadad worshiped in Damascus whose emblem was a thunderbolt (2 Kgs 5:18); (2) the name of a Benjaminite from Beeroth who assassinated Ishbosheth (2 Sam 4:2, 9); a village in the tribal area of Zebulun mentioned as a boundary marker (Josh 19:13); (4) a rocky cliff with caves near Gibeah to which the Benjaminites escaped (Judg 20:45, 47)
  • ritual pit | the pit from which spirits of the dead are called up by a necromancer; in 2 Kgs 21:6-7 the witch of Endor is said to be the owner of a ritual pit (the Hebrew phrase “owner of a ritual pit” is often translated “a medium” by recent English versions)
  • rock badger | in biblical usage, a small, short-legged, furry animal about the size of a domestic cat, generally understood to be Hyrax syriacus; early English Bible translations often used “coney” (“rabbit”) for this animal because hyraxes were unknown in Europe at that time
  • rosette | a symbolized flower design; a carved or molded ornament resembling a flower

S

  • Sabeans | (1) a race of tall people which probably refers to an African people living in Nubia (southern Egypt and northern Sudan today) mentioned in Isa 45:14; (2) in Joel 3:8, a distant nation to whom the Judeans will sell peoples captured from Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia, probably a reference to the inhabitants of the south Arabian kingdom of Sheba (modern Yemen); there may be some connection between the Arabian Sabeans and the African Sabeans described in (1); (3) in Job 1:14-15 the Sabeans are a north Arabian group in the vicinity of Tema (Job 6:19) who are raiders rather than traders
  • sackcloth | a coarse cloth often made of goat or camel’s hair worn as a sign of mourning or penitence
  • Sakkuth | the Mesopotamian star god Sakkuth, identified with Ninurta in an Ugaritic god list; in Amos 5:26 the Hebrew term sikkut apparently refers to Sakkuth; the LXX, however, reflects a Hebrew text which read sukkat, meaning “tent,” “tabernacle,” or “shrine,” and is followed by several English versions
  • Salt Sea | another name for the Dead Sea
  • Samaria | the name of the northern Israelite capital and the territory around it, constructed by King Omri of Israel in the early 9th century B.C. (1 Kgs 16:23-24); it was destroyed by the Assyrians in the late 8th century B.C. (ca. 721 B.C.) and the name then came to refer to the larger district in which the city had been located; the city of Samaria itself was rebuilt on a grand scale by Herod the Great and renamed Sebaste in honor of the Roman emperor (Greek Sebastos = Latin Augustus)
  • Samaritan Pentateuch | the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch) as edited by the Samaritans and differing in places both from the Hebrew Masoretic Text and the LXX; the Samaritan Pentateuch plays an important role in Old Testament textual criticism
  • Sanhedrin | in the intertestamental period and during the first century up to A.D. 70, the highest ruling council of the Jews which met in Jerusalem; originally composed of the Sadducean priestly aristocracy, the Sanhedrin’s membership changed from the days of Queen Alexandra (76-67 B.C.), when Pharisees and scribes were included as well; in New Testament times the Sanhedrin included the current and former high priests, the elders (tribal and family heads of the people and the priesthood), and scribes, and included both Sadducees and Pharisees (Mark 14:53; 15:1; Luke 22:66)
  • sarcophagus | a stone coffin generally used for above-ground burial, typically associated with ancient Egypt, Rome, or Greece but also used elsewhere in the ancient Near East; the name comes from two Greek words meaning “flesh-eating,” referring to the fact that some sarcophagi were made of limestone, which dissolved a corpse interred in it
  • Sargon II | king of Assyria (722-705 B.C.) mentioned once in the Old Testament (Isa 20:1), responsible for the conquest of Samaria, which had been besieged for three years by his predecessor Shalmaneser V, and for the deportation of the Israelites of the northern kingdom to Assyria (2 Kgs 17:5-6)
  • satrap | the name given to the governor or viceroy of a province in the Medo-Persian empire
  • Saturn | the sixth planet, identified or connected with the pagan god Rephan mentioned in Acts 7:43 (which is a quotation from Amos 5:26 LXX; in the Hebrew text of Amos 5:26 the form of the name is Kiyyun)
  • scales (for weighing) | in biblical times a weighing device consisting of a simple balance with pans or dishes to hold weights of known quantity on one side and the object to be weighed on the other
  • scall | a crusty, scabby skin disease often involving the scalp and affecting the hair itself
  • scepter | a staff or baton carried by a king or sovereign as a symbol of royal authority
  • scribe | a member of a learned class in ancient Israel through New Testament times who studied the Hebrew scriptures and served as a copyist, editor, teacher, and judge
  • scroll | a roll made of papyrus, leather, or parchment on which a document is written; it must be unrolled gradually in order to be read
  • Seba | one of the sons of Cush (Gen 10:7; 1 Chr 1:9); the territory known as Seba was located in Africa
  • Sebaste | the name of the city of Samaria after it was extensively rebuilt by Herod the Great; it was named in honor of the Roman emperor (Greek Sebastos = Latin Augustus)
  • secularize | to make secular, that is, to make non-religious
  • Sela | the capital city of Edom, located east of the Arabah, the rift valley extending from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea
  • selah | a Hebrew word occurring 71 times in the Psalms and 3 times in Habakkuk, generally agreed to be some sort of musical term or directions for worship, whose precise meaning is not known
  • Semitic | (1) referring to languages, a subfamily of Afro-Asiatic languages that includes Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, and Amharic, along with other ancient languages; (2) referring to people, a Semite, a member of a people group speaking a Semitic language (in particular Jews and Arabs)
  • Sepharad | the place to which captives from Jerusalem were exiled according to Obad 20, as yet not identified; the most likely place is probably the city of Sardis, the capital of Lydia in Asia Minor (the Targum of Jonathan identified Sepharad as Spain, so that Spanish Jews are known as Sephardim)
  • shackles | a pair of fetters (for the ankles) or manacles (for the wrists), often connected by a chain and used to fasten a prisoner’s wrists or ankles together
  • Sharon | a Hebrew term meaning “level place, plain” and referring in particular to the largest of the coastal plains in northern Israel, stretching some 50 mi (80 km) north from Joppa and the Valley of Aijalon and about 9 mi (15 km) wide
  • Sheba | (1) a descendant of Cush (Gen 10:7); (2) a son of Joktan (Gen 10:28); (3) the son of Bicri, a Benjaminite, who rebelled against King David (2 Sam 20:1); (4) the land whose queen visited Solomon (1 Kgs 10:1-13; 2 Chr 9:1-12), generally associated with the Sabaeans in southwest Arabia (the eastern part of modern Yemen)
  • Sheol | in biblical usage, the place where the dead go, but “Sheol” can have different categories of meaning: (1) death in general, (2) the grave, or (3) the realm of the departed spirits, generally the wicked (in the Bible when the righteous go to Sheol, the meaning is usually death or the grave)
  • Shephelah | a geographical term for the lowlands or low hilly country between the coastal plain of Israel and the higher central mountains; the region is about 50 mi (80 km) north to south and about 10 mi (16 km) wide west to east
  • shekel | a unit of weight in the Old Testament the exact value of which varied somewhat in different times and places but was generally between 11 and 12.25 grams; later in the reign of Darius I silver shekel coins first appeared
  • Sheshach | a code name for Babylon formed by substituting letters of the Hebrew alphabet in reverse order
  • Shiloh | a place north of Bethel (Judg 21:19) where the tent of meeting was set up at the time of the conquest of Canaan (Josh 18:1) and which became the main sanctuary of the Israelites during the time of the Judges (Judg 18:31); the use of the term “Shiloh” in Gen 49:10 is a major interpretive problem with at least four major options (with many variations and less likely alternatives): (1) Some prefer to leave the text as it is, reading “Shiloh” and understanding it as the place where the ark rested for a while in the time of the Judges; (2) by repointing the text (replacing the Hebrew vowels) others arrive at the translation “until the [or “his”] ruler comes,” a reference to a Davidic ruler or the Messiah; (3) another possibility that does not require emendation of the consonantal text, but only repointing, is “until tribute is brought to him” (so NEB, JPS, NRSV), which has the advantage of providing good parallelism with the following line, “the nations will obey him”; (4) the interpretation followed in the NET Bible, “to whom it [belongs]” (so RSV, NIV, REB), is based on the ancient versions; again, this would refer to the Davidic dynasty or, ultimately, to the Messiah
  • Shinar | the land in which the great cities of Babylon, Erech, and Akkad were located (Gen 10:10) and the plain where the city and tower of Babel were built (Gen 11:2); the term eventually came to be used for the region of Babylonia
  • shrine | a place where a deity is worshiped (Josh 24:26), especially a pagan god (Isa 44:13)
  • shuttle (weaver’s) | a device used in weaving for passing the thread of the weft between the threads of the warp
  • sibling | either of two or more children who have one or both parents in common; a brother or a sister
  • Sidon | (1) the firstborn son of Canaan (Gen 10:15); (2) a major walled city and port in ancient Phoenicia, a principal Canaanite stronghold, located on the coast of modern Lebanon (the Greek geographer Strabo mentions Sidon as one of the most ancient of the Phoenician cities)
  • siege ramp | ramps made of earth or rubble leading up to a city’s walls or fortifications, constructed by an attacking army to gain access into a fortified city; such ramps were a preferred method of assault by the Romans but were also used by other ancient Near Eastern armies including David’s, under the command of Joab (2 Sam 20:15)
  • signet ring | a ring seal with which the king verified all his legal and political transactions
  • Sinai Desert | the desert covering almost all of the Sinai Peninsula which is situated between Africa and Asia; Mount Sinai (the traditional site where God appeared to Moses and gave the ten commandments) is located in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula
  • sinew | a piece of tough fibrous tissue which connects muscle to bone; a tendon or ligament
  • Sirion | another name for Mount Hermon (Deut 3:9)
  • sirocco | a hot wind blowing from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to southern Europe; any hot or warm wind from an arid or desert region
  • slag | the by-product of smelting ore to purify metal; when the ore is melted at high temperatures these impurities separate from the molten metal and can be removed
  • sling | a projectile weapon used to throw a blunt missle like a stone
  • sluggard | a person who is habitually lazy
  • sluice gate | a sliding gate for stopping or regulating the flow of water, as along a river or canal
  • spelt | an important wheat species in Europe from the Bronze Age to Roman times; however biblical spelt is now generally identified with domesticated emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccon); emmer wheat and barley were the dominant crops of the ancient Near East
  • spindle | a slender rounded wooden rod with tapered ends used in hand spinning to twist and wind thread from a mass of wool held on a distaff
  • squall | a sudden violent wind, often accompanied by driving rain or snow
  • stade | (also spelled stadium; plural stadia) an ancient Greek and Roman unit of length equal to about 607 feet (185 meters)
  • stater | a Greek silver coin worth four drachmas (Matt 17:27; see drachma), that is, about four days’ wages
  • stern (of a ship) | the back end of a ship, originally the location of the steering oar
  • subjugate | to bring under control as a subject; to conquer
  • Sumerian | the language of the people of Sumer, a civilization which flourished along the Euphrates River in the 3rd millennium B.C.; the Sumerian language was written in cuneiform script, is not a Semitic language, and is not related to any known language
  • superfluous | not needed or unnecessary
  • Syene | a location in Egypt associated with modern Aswan
  • Symmachus | a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament dating from the end of the 2nd or beginning of the 3rd century A.D. by Symmachus, who according to Christian tradition was a Jew converted to Ebionite Christianity; he produced an independent translation of the Old Testament noted for the quality of its Greek
  • synagogue | an assembly or congregation of Jews for worship and study of the law of Moses (Acts 13:43); also used of the building where such an assembly met (Luke 7:5)
  • synecdoche | a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole (such as “hands” for workers, “head” for cattle, etc.); other types of synecdoche include the whole put for a part, the species for the genus, the genus for the species, or the material for the thing made
  • syntax | in a language, the way in which elements (like words) are put together to form larger elements (such as phrases or clauses)
  • Syriac | the version of the Hebrew Old Testament translated into Classical Syriac (Eastern Aramaic) and known as the Peshitta, the standard version of the Syriac Churches (Syrian Orthodox, Maronite, and Church of the East); the translation was probably completed by the 3rd century A.D., but the date and place where it was done remain uncertain; the Peshitta is an important resource for Old Testament textual criticism
  • Syro-Arabian desert | the northern part of the Arabian desert to the east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, home to a number of bedouin and seminomadic tribes
  • Syrtis | an area of the North African coast characterized by shallow, treacherous waters and numerous sandbanks; see Great Syrtis

T

  • tabernacle | the portable sanctuary used by the Israelites to house the ark of the covenant during their wilderness wanderings, during the conquest of Canaan, and up until the construction of the temple by King Solomon
  • Tahpanhes | an important fortress city on the northern border of Egypt in the northeastern Nile Delta
  • talent | a measure of weight varying from about 57 to 79 lbs (26 to 36 kg); then a unit of coinage the value of which varied considerably in different times and places, but was always comparatively high (it also differed with the metal involved, which could be gold, silver, or copper); in the New Testament the estimated value was 6,000 drachmas or denarii to the Tyrian talent (Matt 18:24; 25:15-28)
  • Tammuz | the Babylonian god of the vegetation cycle, believed to die annually, descend to the netherworld, and then rise again, corresponding to the changing of the seasons; Tammuz originated as a Sumerian god Dumu-zid or Dumuzi and in Babylonia a month was named in honor of Tammuz
  • Tanis | the Greek name for the Egyptian city known in the Old Testament as Zoan, located near the southern shore of Lake Menzaleh in the Nile Delta, about 29 mi (48 km) south of the Mediterranean Sea
  • Targum | an Aramaic translation or paraphrase of some part of the Old Testament (targums exist for every Old Testament book except Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel); originally the targums represented oral translations of the Hebrew text read in the synagogues, often with interpretive comments added; these translations eventually came to be written down and sometimes provide important information about the standard Jewish and rabbinic interpretations of certain Old Testament texts
  • Tarshish | a distant seaport of uncertain location; perhaps somewhere in southern Spain or identified with Carthage in North Africa
  • Tartarus | a term used in 2 Pet 2:4 with the meaning “hell”; in classical Greek mythology Tartarus was the place of punishment for the Titans and for disobedient gods, pictured as the lowest part of the underworld, a gloomy place deep under the earth
  • Tassel | the blue tassel on the corner of a Jewish man’s garment that symbolized his obedience to the Mosaic law (Num 15:37-41)
  • tel | a mound where successive layers of occupation have been built on top of previously destroyed ones; often used in modern times to refer to an archaeological site
  • Tema | (1) the name of the son of Ishmael, also used for the group of descendants (Gen 25:15; 1 Chr 1:30); (2) the name of the region they lived in (Job 6:19), mentioned along with Dedan and Buz as a remote place (Jer 25:23) and as an oasis on a main trade route through Arabia (Isa 21:14); generally identified with Tayma, one of the major caravan oasis cities of northern Arabia
  • Teman | one of Esau’s descendants, the name of an Edomite clan, and the name of the region where they lived (Gen 36:11, 15, 34); in Jer 49:7, 20 it is used poetically for all of Edom
  • teraphim | generally regarded as “household gods” or personal idols; although they were associated with divination it is unclear how they were consulted or even what their appearance was (Gen 31:34 suggests they were small objects, though 1 Sam 19:13-16 suggests a larger, almost life-size, object)
  • terebinth | a small tree (up to about 30 feet or 9 meters in height) occurring frequently in the hills of Palestine also known as the pistachio nut tree (pistachio nuts are mentioned in Gen 43:11); several species are found in Israel (Pistacia lentiscus, Pistacia terebinthus) along with the much larger Atlantic terebinth (Pistacia atlantica) which resembles an oak (some English Bible translations use “oak” and “terebinth” interchangeably, but note Hos 4:13 where they are mentioned together)
  • tetrarch | originally a Greek term denoting the ruler of a fourth part of a region; the Romans used the term for any ruler of part of an Oriental province; in New Testament times Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (Matt 14:1; Luke 3:19; 9:7; Acts 13:1)
  • Thebes | the capital of Upper Egypt and the center for the worship of the Egyptian god Amon
  • Theodotion | a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament produced around A.D. 180 by Theodotion, a Jewish proselyte from Asia Minor; he used a Hebrew text closer to the later Masoretic tradition than the Hebrew text behind the LXX, and his version of the book of Daniel came to replace the LXX version, possibly due to the influence of Origen
  • throw net | a casting net, a net with weights around the edges thrown by fishermen standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee or wading in the shallows, used for fishing during the day (Matt 4:18)
  • Tiamat | the Babylonian mother goddess who in the Babylonian creation epic (Enuma Elish), in the midst of battle against Marduk, recited charms and cast spells; Tiamat is possibly to be identified with Leviathan and Rahab
  • Tiberias Caesar | the stepson of Augustus Caesar who was adopted as his heir and became emperor at the death of Augustus (A.D. 14) at age 56; Tiberius ruled for 23 years, continuing the policies of Augustus, until he retired to the island of Capri until his death; he is mentioned by name in Luke 3:1
  • Tiberias, Sea of | another name for the Sea of Galilee (John 6:1; 21:1), acquired because of the city of Tiberias on the western shore founded by Herod Antipas around A.D. 20 and named after the Roman emperor Tiberias
  • Tiglath-pileser III | (alternatively spelled Tilgath-pilneser) the king of Assyria (745-727 B.C.); King Ahaz of Israel paid tribute to him and became his vassal but got little in return (2 Chr 28:19-21; 2 Kgs 16:7-16)
  • tillage | the preparation and cultivation of land in order to grow crops
  • Topheth | a place near Jerusalem used as a burial ground (Jer 7:32; 19:11)
  • Torah | primarily referring to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible known also as the five books of Moses (see Mosaic law)
  • TR | an abbreviation for the Latin Textus Receptus (see Received Text)
  • Transjordan | the region east of the Jordan River; the term means literally “across the Jordan” but from the perspective of Israel would refer to the lands across the Jordan River to the east
  • transmission (of a text) | the process of “transmitting” a handwritten text by making copies over and over again throughout a long period of time; inevitably in this process errors are introduced into some of the copies
  • truism | a statement that is obviously true, especially one that is too obvious to mention
  • Tyre | an ancient Phoenician city located in modern Lebanon about 23 miles (38 km) north of Acre; in ancient times the city was in two parts, one on a heavily fortified island about half a mile (1 km) off the coast, and the other some distance away along the shore; when Alexander the Great conquered Tyre in 332 B.C. he constructed a causeway from the mainland to the island for his troops and siege engines to cross

U

  • Ugaritic | a Semitic language from the city of Ugarit in Syria; since its discovery by French archaeologists in 1928 it has become extremely important for Old Testament scholars in clarifying Hebrew texts
  • Urim and Thummim | two objects used by the Israelites in the Old Testament for determining God’s will; there is no clear evidence of their size or shape or the material from which they were made, but they were stored in a pocket in the high priest’s breastpiece
  • Uz | (1) a son of Aram (Gen 10:23); (2) a son of Nahor (Gen 22:21); (3) a descendant of Seir (Gen 36:28); (4) the land where Job lived (Job 1:1), probably east of Israel and northeast of Edom (Uz is connected with Edom in Lam 4:21)

V

  • verbatim | word for word, or in exactly the same words
  • Vulgate | the principal Latin version of the Bible, translated from Hebrew and Greek by Jerome toward the end of the 4th century A.D.

W

  • wadi | an Arabic term for a seasonal stream, a dry riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain
  • Warren’s Shaft | the name for Jerusalem’s earliest strategic underground water system, discovered by Charles Warren in 1867, consisting of an entrance area, a dead-end shaft, a cavernous underground tunnel 120 ft (36 m) long, a 41 ft (12.3 m) vertical shaft, and a feeder tunnel linking the Gihon Spring to the bottom of the vertical shaft; people from inside the walls of Jerusalem could reach the top of the vertical shaft through the underground tunnel and draw water up through the shaft like a well
  • Way, the | a designation for the early Christian movement (early Christianity) frequently used in the book of Acts (9:2; 18:25-26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22)
  • winnowing | the process of tossing threshed grain into the air using a winnowing fork so the wind can blow away the chaff, leaving only the kernels of grain
  • winnowing fork | a pitchfork-like tool used to toss threshed grain into the air during the process of winnowing
  • wordplay | a play on words which takes advantage of the overlap in meanings and the ambiguities of words; for example, in the book of Ruth, Naomi’s name (which means “my pleasant one”) becomes the subject of a wordplay when in Ruth 1:20-21 Naomi laments that she is no longer “pleasant” but “bitter” because of the loss of her husband and two sons
  • wormwood | one of several species of plant that grow in Palestine (the biblical references are to Artemisia herbaalba or Artemisia judaica); all have an extremely strong, bitter taste which led to the figurative use of the term to refer to bitterness, sorrow, and calamity; wormwood was also thought to have medicinal value and was used in folk remedies, one of which was as a treatment for intestinal parasites (which probably accounts for the plant’s popular name)

X-Y

  • Xerxes I | king of Persia (485-465 B.C.); the Hebrew form of the Greek name Xerxes is Ahasuerus (Esth 1:1-2)
  • yoke | a wooden bar or frame that joins two draft animals; sometimes for the two animals themselves, as “a yoke of oxen”; also used figuratively in the New Testament for restrictions a teacher would put on his followers (Matt 11:29-30)
  • Yom Kippur | the Day of Atonement the tenth day of the seventh month, the most solemn holy day of ancient Israel when once a year the high priest made atonement for all the sins of the people of Israel (Lev 16:11-19); the Old Testament ritual is interpreted by the author of Hebrews as a type of the atoning work of Christ (Heb 9:11-12)

Z

  • Zaphon | (1) a town near Succoth and Beth Nimrah east of the Jordan River taken by the Israelites from King Sihon of the Ammonites and given by Moses to the tribe of Gad (Josh 13:27); (2) a mountain located near the mouth of the Orontes River in northern Syria, according to Ugaritic texts the sacred mountain of the storm god Baal (Baal-Hadad in ancient Canaanite mythology) and the location where the gods assembled (Isa 14:13), similar to Mount Olympus in Greek mythology
  • Zarephath | a Phoenician coastal city located about 10 mi (16 km) south of Sidon (in modern Lebanon) and thus in Gentile territory (1 Kgs 17:9-24); the Greek and Latin form of the name, mentioned in Luke 4:26, is Sarepta
  • Zeus | in Greek mythology, the king of the gods, the god of the sky and thunder, husband of Hera (Zeus was known as Jupiter to the Romans)
  • Zoan | an Egyptian city located near the southern shore of Lake Menzaleh in the Nile Delta, about 29 mi (48 km) south of the Mediterranean Sea (Num 13:22; Ps 78:12); the Greek name for the city was Tanis  

Related Topics: Bibliology (The Written Word), Text & Translation