Bible Terms

Listed in alphabetical order

Apo words (apocalypse, apocrypha, apologetics, apostle). 1) Apocalyse. Apo in Greek means “away from.” Calyps means a covering or lid, so apocalypse means “taking the lid off,” which is applied to the last book of the Bible, which “takes the lid off” so we can see future events. The use of symbolism and numbers in this book has become part of the connotation of the word, so its adjective form, apocalyptic, is used for books like Daniel and Ezekiel which also tell about future events in a symbolic way. 2) apocrypha. Crypha means hidden, so apocrypha means “hidden away.” It is applied to the writings produced in Greek by Jews in the centuries just before Christ which were then inserted into the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. The name comes from the fact that they were “hidden way” within these books. (Roman Catholicism calls these books “deuterocanonical,” which means a second authoritative list of books). Some Protestant Bibles include these books, but set them apart in a separate section rather then leaving them scattered within the Old Testament. 3) apologetics. The “log” refers to Greek “logos,” which means word. The term is used for words which provide counter-arguments against critiques of Christianity. 4) apostle. The “stl” is a shortened form of the Greek word that means “send.” An apostle therefore is someone who is “sent out,” which implies the person is on a mission. Apostle is a shortened form of the Greek word “apostolos.” Jesus calls himself an apostle in Hebrews 3:1, since he was sent to earth by the father. Another word with “stl” is epistle. The “epi” means “upon,” so an epistle is something that is written down and then sent. It is shortened from the Greek word “epistolos.”

Atonement. In English Bibles, this translates a word that means “sins are forgiven by blood.” The background is that the Old Testament temple had a box (the covenant box, also called the ark of the covenant.) Once a year the high priest would pour blood taken from a sacrificed animal onto the cover of that box, and the people’s sins would then be forgiven. In the Hebrew language, the consonants for the name of the cover, KPR, were the same as the consonants for the resulting forgiveness. You can see these consonants in the Jewish holiday that continues to this day called “yom kippur.” “Yom” means “day,” and “kippur” is that Old Testament term about sins being forgiven by blood. In Greek language, the same word is also used for the cover and for the resulting forgiveness. This word is used in 1 John 2:2 to describe how Jesus takes care of our sins. Type that reference into the search box at Biblehub and note the many different words that English translators have used to express that concept.

Christ. John 1:41 says that Christ is the Greek word that corresponds to the Hebrew-based word Messiah. Both these words mean “anointed one.” In the Old Testament, it usually refers to becoming a king. For example, Samuel anointed David to be king. God promised David that one of his descendants would be king forever. After the Jews were conquered in 586 BC, the people longed for this king, the “promised Messiah,” to appear.  When we say “Jesus Christ,” we mean “Jesus the King.” Many characteristics of the Messiah are mentioned in Psalm 2: he is called God’s son, he will rule over the nations, (this comes true in Revelation 19:15) and he is the way to avoid Gods wrath – verse 12 uses the phrase “kiss the son,” that is, to be in a relationship of dependence on the Messiah, as Jesus teaches about himself in John 14:6, “no one comes to the Father but by me.”

Church. This English word is used to represent the Greek word ekklesia. The “ek” means “out,” and the “kl” is a shortened for of the Greek root “kal,” which means “call.” The ekklesia are the “called-out ones.” Some Bible verses containing this word use it to mean the entire body of all people who believe in Jesus. (for example, Colossians 1:24). Other passages use it to refer to a local gathering of believers (for example, Philemon verse 2). (For another word with the root “kl,” see paraclete.) The English word “church” has an interesting background. The underlying Greek word is not found in the Bible, but was used in early centuries to represent believers as a group. The word is Kyriakos. Kyrios means Lord, so the word means “those who belong to the Lord.” In the process of language change through the years, the K became pronounced as ch, the Greek y is often changed into the English u, and the ending was dropped, resulting in the word “church.”

Covenant. A covenant is like an agreement or treaty. God made a covenant with Noah, in which God promised never again to destroy the world by water. Some Jewish scholars regard this as God’s covenant with the entire human race. But the covenant the Bible is most concerned about is the one that God made with Abraham, by which he constituted Abraham’s descendants as God’s people. This covenant was reaffirmed several times, for example, to Moses and to Joshua Jeremiah prophesied that there would be a new covenant. Jesus revealed that the new covenant had arrived when, in instituting holy communion, he said “this is my blood of the new covenant.” The main question is whether the new replaces the old, or whether the new is a continuation of the old. I will give reasons why I see it as a continuation. First of all, one statement in the covenant was repeated each time it was renewed: the statement that “I will be your God.” This is even repeated in Revelation 21:3 as the culmination of earth history. Secondly, gentiles are explicitly brought into the covenant with Abraham, for Galatians 3:14 says “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus,” Paul explains that it is not those with the DNA of Abraham but those with the faith of Abraham who carry on the promise of the covenant, for Romans 4:16-17 says “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” Gentiles are also explicitly given the titles that were used of the people of Israel. 1 Peter 2:9 calls Gentiles “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” There are also elements of the Old Covenant that were continued but transformed in the new. The old had priests and sacrifices that had to be repeated, while in the new those are transformed into one single sacrifice and a high priest who lives forever. The temple in the old was a brick and mortar building, but in the new Jesus is the temple (a temple is a place where God lives), and because we are united to Jesus, we are temples too. Jesus explicitly said he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfil it. Our being grafted into the covenant is what makes it possible for us to use the Psalms as our own expressions of worship, for the “steadfast love” spoken of there means the love that is guaranteed to people who are of the covenant.

Discipling. Christ commands us to make disciples of all nations. After someone confesses faith in Christ, the process of nurture and growth begins. See suggestions.

Evangelism. see gospel.

Faith. Faith and Belief are translations of one and the same Greek word, pistos, which means “having become convinced.” It is also the word that describes the kind of relationship with God, one of dependence and trust.  See more

Glory. This word has multiple uses in the Bible. In the Christmas story, it is sung by the angels as a word of worship. That meaning is expressed more fully in Psalm 29:2 “Give to the LORD the glory of His name,” where the following line makes that action synonymous with worship: “worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” The Greek word is doxa, and by adding logos, which means “word,”, the term doxology was formed, which means “words of glory.” But the word “glory” is used again in the Christmas story in another way, as something available to our sense experience. The glory of the Lord shown around the shepherds, and that made them afraid. In 1 Kings 8:11, the cloud of smoke in the temple was regarded as the glory of God, that is, His presence was made known by the smoke, and that made the priests afraid to enter the temple. In Psalm 19, God reveals how great He is by the things He has created: “The heavens declare the glory of God.” We are part of that created universe, and Ephesians 1:12 tells says that we also “exist for the praising of His glory,” that is, when people see us, they are supposed to get an idea of how wonderful God is. The most clear way that God has revealed himself is through his son Jesus. John 1:14 says, “we beheld his glory,” that is, we were able to look at Jesus and get an impression of the greatness of God. The verb form of Greek “doxa” is “dokein,” which means “to show,” which reinforces the idea that the word represents a “showing forth” of God. There are also verses where the word glory is used for the supernatural qualities of God that are beyond what we can experience with our earthly senses. In the John 17 prayer, Jesus speaks of “the glory I had with you before the world began. In Exodus 33:18-22, Moses asks to see God’s glory, but God tells Moses that “you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” God has to cover Moses’ face while His glory passes by here, even though elsewhere in Exodus Moses’ encounters with God are described as “face to face.”  What a wondrous turnabout will happen when we are “in glory,” that is, in heaven, where we will see him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).  The Hebrew word translated as “glory” is “kabod,” also spelled “chabod.” The name “Ichabod” starts with the prefix “I,” which negates the word, so 1 Samuel 4:21 says “she named the child Ichabod, because the glory of God departed from Israel which the ark was taken.”

Gospel. This word is a shortened form of the older English Godspel. The “god” here means “good,” and the “spel” means story, as in the English word “spellbound “. This makes it a literal translation of the Greek term, which is evangelize: the “ev” means “good,” and the “angel” means “message.” (An angel is a messenger.) The message is spelled out in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: that Jesus died and rose, which gives us forgiveness and eternal life. See more

Holy. This word means “set apart from the commonplace.” Early in the Old Testament it was used to described special places (holy ground, holy temple). The cups used in worship in the temple were holy because they were set apart for God’s use. Then the word was used to describe the people of Israel, a “holy nation.” Then the word holy was used to describe God, since He is the most different from commonplace. In Isaiah 6:3, the angels use it as a worship term directed toward God. The impact of seeing God in his perfection caused Isaiah to be conscious of his imperfection.  This angel song is still sung by believers around the world.  John heard angels sing it again in Revelation 4:8. In the New Testament, those who believe in Jesus are again called a “holy nation.”  The word “saints” means “holy ones,” designating that believers are set apart from the commonplace for God’s use. Hebrew word: Kadosh. Greek word: Hagios.  Latin word: Sanctus.

Jehovah. This is an English version of the name that God told Moses to call Him at the burning bush. The Hebrew Bible was written using only consonants, and the consonants for that name were YHWH. No one can prove how that name was pronounced, but the commonly used way is “Yahweh.” That word was a form of the word that means “to be.” One could conclude that God here was calling himself  “the existent one,” as explained by Jesus in John 5:26: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” The first part of this name can be seen at the end of the names Isaiah and Zachariah, and at the beginning of the names Jesus and Joshua (see next article). As the years went by, the Jewish people stopped pronouncing this name, in order make sure that they did not disobey the commandment “do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Whenever they read the Bible aloud and came to the consonants YHWH, they said their word for Lord instead. That word is Adonai. In the middle ages, Jewish scholars devised a way to write vowels by putting symbols under the consonants. Under the consonants YHWH, they wrote the consonants for Adonai, since that was the word they were planning to say.  English scholars combined the consonants for YHWH with the vowels for Adonai, and produce the word Jehovah. They used J instead of Y at the beginning because In the course of language development, many words that began with ‘y” were changed to a ‘J” in English. The sound “v” was already an alternate way to pronounce the Hebrew consonant W.

Jesus. The “je” stands for God and the Sus stands for save, So Jesus’ name means “God saves,” or “God is Salvation.” This clarifies the sentence the angel spoke to Joseph in Matthew 1:21 “you shall call his name Jesus, BECA– USE he will save His people from their sins.” The Old Testament leader Joshua is based on the same two words.  In Hebrew, Jesus sounds like “yeshua,” and Joshua sounds like Yehoshua.” The “ye” is short for the name God told Moses to call him at the burning bush. See previous article, “Jehovah.”

Justify. Justify means to declare someone just (same Greek word as righteous). To “be justified” means that someone else has declared you just. In our case, God has declared us just, even though we don’t deserve it Romans 3:23-25 says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but have been justified as a gift of his grace through the setting free (see redeem) which is in Jesus Christ, whom God has set forth as an atonement (see atonement) through faith, in his blood.”  When God justifies you, he immediately begins to sanctify you (see sanctify), but the definitions must be kept distinct. God declares you righteous, and then He gradually changes your attitudes and behavior. You are made a Christian, and then you gradually begin to look like one.

Melchizedek. He was the king of Salem, which later became Jerusalem, at the time of Abraham. In Genesis 14:19 he is called a “priest of the most high God.” Abraham in the next verse makes an offering to him of one-tenth of the goods he had just received from a military victory. He is mentioned again in Psalm 110:4 where it calls the Messiah a priest in the line of Melchizedek. This suggests that when David captured Jerusalem he would have taken the right to carry on that priestly line. This idea is not explicitly stated in the Old Testament, but it helps to understand Hebrews chapter 7, where Psalm 110 is applied to Jesus, the everlasting King promised to David. Hebrews 7 says that Jesus is our great high priest, because even though he is not in the family of Levi, the ones designated by God to be Old Testament priests, Jesus is a descendant of David, and thus a priest of the most high God in the line of Melchizedek. As our high priest, Jesus continually offers intercession for us and acts as our go-between in our prayers to God (Hebrews 7:25) and most of all offered up an eternal sacrifice for our salvation (verse 27). The sacrifice as himself.

Messiah. See Christ

Paraclete. The “para” means “alongside, and the “cl” (Greek kl) is short for the Greek root “kal,” which means call. This combination, “one who is called alongside,” was used in the secular Greek world as a word for “lawyer.” That makes it easy to see why this word is sometimes translated into English as “advocate.” The verb form, parakalao, is used four times in Second Corinthians 1: 2. After calling God the God of all COMFORT, Paul continues: “the one COMFORTING us in all our afflictions, so we are able to COMFORT those in every affliction with the COMFORT with which we have been COMFORTED by God. Thus it is easy to see why the word paraclete is sometimes translated as “comforter.” Jesus was a comforter, which is why in John 14:16 He calls the Holy Spirit “another comforter, who will be with you forever.” In, click that verse to see the variety of ways it has been translated. In common usage, therefore, paraclete is a word that refers to the Holy Spirit.

Redeem. This word translates the Greek term “set free.” It was chosen by the Jews who translated the Old Testament into Greek to describe the event of escape from Egypt. When Jesus rose from the dead, that same word was seen as a good one to describe the freedom Jesus gives us from sin and death. God to Biblehub and see the many different ways peoples have translated Colossians 1:13-14: who (ie, the father of light) rescued us from the oppression of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his the son he loves, in whom we have the setting-free (redemption), the forgiveness of sins.”

Repent. The underlying Greek word is metanoia. “Meta” means “change,” and “noia” refers to your thinking process. Repentance expresses that your viewpoint toward your sins has changed from your old way of trying to excuse it to looking at it the same way God does: God hates it. See more

Sanctify.  Sanct is the Latin word for holy. When God declares us just (justifies us) he also begins to sanctify us, that is, to transform our attitudes and behavior toward Christ-likeness. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says “this is the will of God, your sanctification (Greek term here is based on hagios, which means holy. See Holy, above), that you reject sexual sin.” Your rate of progress in sanctification does not cancel your position as a justified one, as someone totally accepted by faith in Christ. That’s because your justification was never based on your behavior in the first place. Therefore, when we have a moral failure, we do not think, “what can I do so that God will accept me again,” but rather, “since I am already accepted by God, I can depend on God to forgive me and to be on my side in my fight against wrong behavior.”

Son of God. When Jesus is called Son of God, two themes come into view. For one thing, that term is a description of the Messiah, for in Psalm 2:7 God says to the anointed one “you are my son.” In the second place, it was regarded as Jesus claiming to be equal with God. In John 5:7, the Jews wish to kill Jesus “because you called God your Father, thereby making yourself equal with God.”   In John 17:4 Jesus talks about “the glory he had with the father before the worlds began.” This equality with God is reflected in the formula to be used at baptism: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28: 19). Here Son does not mean Messiah, but means “God the Son.”

Son of Man. Jesus often called himself  “son of man.”  It may be that he wanted his hearers to associate him with someone Daniel saw in a vision, and called “son of man.” This vision is in Daniel 7:13-14. Jesus explicitly applies some themes in this vision to himself. For example, he says he will “come with the clouds of heaven” in Matthew 24:30 and Matthew 26:64.. Having authority over all is reflected in the sheep and goats saying (Matthew 25:32). this authority was prophesied about the Messiah in Psalm 2, and is seen as coming true in Revelation 19.

Worship. This word is a shortened version of an older English word worth-ship, so it means showing worth to someone. In England, noblemen were therefore addressed as “your worship.” When referring to God, the Hebrew words express the physical posture of bowing down in submission. The Greek word is “kiss,” that is, the kiss given to the one in authority to express submission, as in Psalm 2:12.  In the book of Psalms, a worship sentence often includes why the worship is being given, either as an expression of what God is like, or what God does. Two songs of worship in Revelation well express the intent of worship by starting with words “you are worthy.”  In Revelation 4:11, God is worshipped for being creator. In Revelation 5:9-12, Jesus is worshipped for dying for our sins.

Yahweh. See Jehovah.

See the Glossary of Bible terms on Wikipedia

Return to Bible Menu page