Abba — An Aramaic word for father, used by Jesus and Paul to address God in a relation of personal intimacy.
abomination — Anything associated with the worship of other gods and any behavior that perverts the lifestyle God intended human beings to live. Leviticus 18 contains a list of unlawful behaviors (e.g., incest, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality). As he demonstrated by sending the flood, the judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah, and various judgements on the Israelites, God will judge people who practice these behaviors.
Abraham — The father of the Jewish nation (Gen. 12-25). God called Abraham out of his home country and promised to give him the land of Canaan (Gen. 15). God also promised that all the people on earth would be blessed through Abraham; God's people today can learn from Abraham what true faith is.
Abyss — Means "bottomless pit." In the New Testament, the sea symbolized chaos, evil, and evil beings. The depths of the sea were seen as the home of demons, or the Abyss, according to Jewish tradition. At one point during his ministry, Jesus compared the fates of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum to that of Sodom and Gomorrah, saying that Capernaum would go down to the "depths." Most likely, the people understood this as a reference to hell itself. To them, Jesus' miracles on the sea meant more than simply that he had power over the forces of nature—they also symbolized his power over evil.
Achish — The king of the Philistine city of Gath, who twice gave refuge to David. (1 Sam. 21:10-15).
Acropolis — A fortified hilltop, often the highest hill in the area.
Adam — The first man God created. He did not obey God and brought sin and death into the world (Gen 1-5). Jesus is compared to Adam because Jesus is a new beginning for the human race. Jesus brings life to those who believe in him.
Aegean Sea — Body of water east of Greece dotted with many islands. Scholars believe the Philistines came from this area.
Aeolia Capitolina — Hadrian, the Roman emperor, destroyed Jerusalem after defeating the Jews during the Second Jewish Revolt (AD 132-135). He renamed it Aelia Capitolina and erected a temple to the Roman god Jupiter.
agora — Public square of marketplace.
Agrippa I — The grandson of Herod the Great, to whom Emperor Claudius gave Herod the Great's entire kingdom. He arrested Christians, had James put to death, and imprisoned Peter. Agrippa l died when he allowed people to treat him like a god (Acts 12:21—23).
Agrippa II — The great-grandson of Herod the Great. He discussed Paul's case in Caesarea with governor Festus, heard Paul's conversion testimony, and recognized that Paul was trying to persuade him to become a Christian (Acts 25:13—14, 23;26:1—29).
Ai — City near Bethel, north of Jerusalem, that was destroyed by Joshua. It controlled the approach to the mountain range from the east.
Aijalon Valley — Valley connecting the coastal plain and the Judea Mountains where Joshua made the sun stand still.
altar — A place where people would bring gifts to God. Altars were usually flat on top, and made of dirt, rocks, wood, or metal.
altar of Incense — Located in the holy place or priests' room of the tabernacle or temple, just outside the Holy of Holies. The altar was 1.5 feet square and 3 feet high. The incense symbolized the "sweet smell" of the worshipers' prayers going up to God.
altar of Sacrafice — Structure used for presenting sacrifices to God. A large altar of sacrifice stood in the outer court of the temple at Jerusalem. It symbolically stood before God's presence to indicate the need for forgiveness before approaching God.
amen — Means "Yes, this is true!" or "Let it be so!"
ampitheater — Elliptical or circularspace surounded by seats; used by Romans for gladiator contests.
Anatolia — Land of the rising sun or "the East" refers to the Asiatic part of Turkey.
annoint — To pour oil on a person's head. It meant that God's Spirit was helping that person to do a special job (1 Sam. 16:1—13, 1 John 2:20—21).
Antipas — Son of Herod the Great. He heard about Jesus, listened to John the Baptist's teachings, met Jesus but sent him to Pilate (Mark 6:14—20; Luke 23:8—12.
Antonia — Herod the Great rebuilt the Hasmonean foretress (Bira) in Jerusalem next to the Temple Mount and renamed it the Antonia after Mark Anthony. Roman troops were stationed here.
Aphrodite — Greek god of love and beauty. Daughter of Zeus and Dione (or did she spring from foam in the sea?)
Apollo — Greek god of light, music, and poetry. He is often pictured with bow and arrow; Son of Zeus and Leto.
apostles — The leaders that Jesus chose to bring his message to the world. Jesus first chose 12 men and then later Paul and some others became apostles.
apotheosis — A Roman emperor was declared to be divine when a witness came forward claiming to have seen the emperor ascend to heaven or claiming to have seen the emperor's father ascend to heaven (making the current emperor the "Son of God"). This process was called apotheosis.
apse — Semicircular recess in a wall, especially in a church or Roman law court.
Arad — Town 17 miles north of Beersheba at the edge of the Negev and the Hebron Mountains. It was an important fortress city and protected the southern approaches to Jerusalem.
Ares — Greek god of war. Son of Zeus and Hera.
ark of the Covenant — The Hebrew word means "box," or "chest." It contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The ark of the covenant was as sign to the people of Israel that God was with them, and the cover represented God's throne.
Armageddon — Transliteration of the Hebrew har megiddon, which means literally the "hill of Megiddo." Revelation 16:16 uses this place to symbolize the final great battle between good and evil. Many battles were fought at this location because the main trade route went through a mountain pass nearby.
Artemis — Greek god of marriage, chastity, hunting, and moonlight. Twin sister of Apollo, daughter of Zeus and Leto.
Asclepius — Greek and Roman god of healing. Son of Apollo and Coronis (the daughter of King Phlegyas in Thesaly). He has four daughters: Iaso, Aceso, Panacea, and Hygeia.
Ashdod — Philistine city-state on the Mediterranean Sea.
Asherah — Canaanite goddess of fertility. She is portrayed as a nude female, sometimes pregnant, with exaggerated breasts that she holds out as symbols of her fertility. The Bible indicates that she was worshiped near trees and poles, called Asherah poles.
Ashkelon — Philistine city-state on the Mediterranean Sea and the Via Maris trade route.
ashlar Stones — Hand-shaped stones (found near the Temple) brought from a quarry nearly a mile away. One 45-foot-long stone weighs nearly 600 tons.
Ashtoreth — Canaanite goddess of fertility and love. She is thought to be the daughter of the fertility goddess Asherah.
Assyria — Nation in Mesopotamia that became a large empire in the time of the kings of Israel and Judah. Its capital was Ninevah. The Assyrians were extremely cruel and God used them to punish the northern kingdom for its Baal worship.
astragal — Molding on top of base or column.
Athena — Greek goddess of wisdom and skill. Daughter of Zeus.
atonement — A payment or offering to remove or forgive sins. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel sacrificed animals to show that atonement must be made for their sins. When Jesus came, he gave up his own life to make atonement for the sins of his people.
atonement Seat — Slab of gold on top of the ark of the covenant on which the golden cherubim stood. It symbolized God's throne.
atrium — Court of a Roman house, roofed at the sides and open in the middle; also the entrance to a Byzantine church.
Azekah — Small city above the Elah Valley where David fought Goliath.
Baal — Canaanite god of fertility. He is often portrayed as the god of storms, lightning, thunder, and rain. He was worshiped in horrible ways. The name means "lord" or "master." Israel was seduced into worshiping him.
Babylon, Babylonians — Hebrew Babel. Capital city of Mesopotamia, located on the Euphrates River and neighbor to Assyria. Considered at the time of the prophet Jeremiah to be the greatest and most beautiful city of the Near East. An enormous political and economic power that held great influence over the Israelites. In 586 BC, the Babylonians took the children of Israel into an exile that would last 70 years. The return from this exile established a people to whom Jesus would be born and a kingdom in the land of Israel.
Bacchus — Roman god of wine, fertility, and vegetation, god of the theater. Son of Zeus and Semele, the Theban princess.
baptize — To wash, dip, or immerse in water. Baptism shows that a person's sins are washed away. He or she has joined the family of God and is united with Jesus in dying to sin and rising to a new life.
Bar Kochba Revolt — Another name for the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (AD 132-135). The leader of the revolt was a man named Bar Kochba.
Barclay’s Gate — Provided access to the Gentile Court from Tyropean Street.
basalt — Hardened lava from volcanic eruption.
basilica — "From the king"; Roman public hall built with side halls lower than the center hall.
beatitude — Any of the declarations of blessedness pronounced by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
bedouins — Nomads who live mainly in the wilderness areas of the Middle East. They speak Arabic and are generally Muslim. They retain a lifestyle much like that of the early biblical characters Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Beelzebub — Corruption of the word "Beelzebul," meaning "lord of the flies." It was used by Jesus to refer to the prince of demons, the devil.
Beelzebul — Philistine god worshipped at Ekron. It means "Prince Baal."
Beersheba — City in the central Negev. It was settled before 3000 BC. Abraham and Isaac lived here. Abraham gave it the name Beersheba, which means "well of the oath" or "well of the seven." Often used to refer to the southern end of the Promised Land.
Belial — Hebrew meaning "useless." Came to be applied to the devil by the Essenes and the early Christians (2 Cor. 6).
bema — Raised platform; the Seat of judgment. Also, place from which scripture is read in the synagogue.
Bernice — The great-grandaughter of Herod the Great. She accomponied Agrippa ll and heard Paul's conversion testimony (Acts 25:13—14,23; 26:1—29).
Beth Horon — Two cities (Upper and Lower Beth Horon) guarding the Beth Horon pass. The main west-east road from the coastal plain to the mountains to Jericho went through this pass. Here God made the sun stand still for Joshua.
Beth Shean — City at the eastern entrance to the Valley of Jezreel. The Philistines hung Saul's and Jonathan's bodies from its walls.
Beth Shemesh — City in the Soreq Valley near where Samson lived. The Philistines returned the ark of the covenant here.
Bethlehem — Located at the border between the mountains and the wilderness, its inhabitants benefited from the fertile mountain valleys and pastures the wilderness provided for the shepherds' flock. Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Micah prophesied that the Messiah would come out of Bethlehem. Jesus—the Son of God, the King of the universe—would be from the line of David and would rule on the throne of David forever. Bethlehem links Jesus to the lineage and family of David.
Bethsaida — One of the three main towns of Jesus' ministry in Galilee. This small, prosperous fishing village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee was renamed Julias and rebuilt by Herod Philip. Home of apostles Peter, Philip, and Andrew. Near this village, Jesus performed the miracle of feeding 5,000 people. Its location was uncertain until recently, when archaeologists excavated the ruins.
bless, blessing — When God blesses someone, he makes things go well for him or her. A blessing is a gift from God. When people bless, they ask God to bring good to someone.
Boule — City council.
Bouleuterion — Meeting place of the Boule.
Bronze Sea — Bronze basin at the entrance to the tabernacle used for ceremonial purification before sacrifices were made. It also symbolized God's forgiveness after sacrifices were made. Solomon commissioned a large basin for the temple at Jerusalem. It was over 14 feet in diameter and seven feet high: it weighed over 25 tons and held 13,000 gallons of water. It sat on the backs of 12 oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east.
Business District — Although not named by many ancient sources, this district inside the Second Wall held many shops and markets. Jesus walked through the area on market day on his way to the cross.
Caesarea — Port city and provincial capital of the Roman province of Judea. Herod built a spectacular man-made harbor with two breakwaters to link the country with world commerce.
Caesarea Philippi — Large Hellenistic city rebuilt and renamed by Philip the Tetrarch. Located on Mount Hermon in the upper Jordan Valley near the spring of Panias, one of the three headwaters of the Jordan River, and the site of a great pagan temple dedicated to Pan, the Roman fertility god.
Caiaphas — A high priest of the Jews who presided over the assembly that condemned Jesus to death. (Matt. 26).
Caldarium — Hot room in Roman baths.
Calvary — Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified (Luke 23:33).
Canaan — Old Testament name for the Promised Land. It means "land of purple," referring to the color of the dye produced from shellfish along Canaan's coast. Canaan is at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea where Asia, Europe, and Africa come together.
Canaanite — The word originally meant "merchant" or "trader." Eventually it came to refer to the people of the region.
capital — The topmost part of a column.
Caravenserai — Courtyard with rooms for lodging.
caryatid — Column in the form of a female figure.
Cella — The great hall of a temple which contained the cult statue.
central mountains — Region made up of three mountain ranges: Hebron in the south, Judea in the center, and Samaria in the north.
centurion — An officer in the Roman army in charge of 100 soldiers.
Ceres — Roman god of earth. Daughter of Cronus and Rhea.
cherem — Hebrew word meaning "totally given to the Lord," often through destruction. Only God's judgment could reclaim anything placed under this curse.
Christ — The title of Jesus that means "annointed" or "chosen one" in Greek. The Hebrew word is "Messiah." Jesus Christ is God's chosen one to bring salvation to his people.
church — A group of the followers of Jesus that meets in a certain place. Jesus calls the church his body. Most of the books of the New Testament are letters to churches.
cistern — Because water in Israel is hard to come by, most ancient cities, towns, and even households used cisterns to catch and store rain runoff from rooftops, courtyards, and even streets. Cisterns were dug by hand out of solid rock and were plastered so they would hold water. They needed constant care because the plaster tended to fall off, which allowed the precious water to leak out. When a cistern failed to hold water, it created a desperate situation for the people who depended on it.
city gates — During Biblical times, city gates protected the entrance to the city and functioned as the center of city life. In vaious chambers inside the gatehouse, people paid their taxes, settled legal matters, and even met the king. The city gates also provided a gathering place for prophets, kings, priests, judges, and other city leaders.
city of refuge — A place of safety for people who had accidentally killed someone (Deut. 19:1-21).
coastal plain — Flat, fertile area of Israel along the Mediterranean Sea that comprises the Plain of Sharon in the north and Philistine territory in the south.
colonnades — Rows of columns spaced evenly apart that support arches or a roof. First-century Roman streets often had colonnades on both sides.
commandment — A rule or teaching that people should obey. God gives his people commandments to help them live a good life.
Copper Scroll — One of the Dead Sea Scrolls, etched on copper, claiming to identify a great treasure that had been hidden before the Temple was destroyed.
covenant — An agreement or set of promises made between two parties. When forming a covenant in ancient days, two parties gathered animals, cut each into two parts, and then placed them on the ground so their blood flowed into one stream. Each party walked through the blood, symbolizing that they would pay with their life if they broke the terms of the covenant. God made his covenant with Abram in this familiar way. But instead of making Abram walk the bloodpath, God, in the form of a blazing torch, walked through the path for him. Knowing Abram couldn't keep his end of the covenant, God's actions effectively said, "If either you or I break this covenant, I will pay for it with my own blood" (Gen. 15). Jesus fulfills this covenant promise.
creation — God created, or made, the world and the entire universe; it is all his creation. The Bible says every-thing God made was very good. All creation is now hurt by the sin in the world. But one day God will make creation perfect again.
creche — Nativity scene.
crucify — To nail or tie a person to a cross until that person died. A cross was made of rough beams of wood nailed together in a "t" shape. Jesus died by this method, which was usually used for criminals.