A glossary of Christian terms
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Unlike the other glossaries most of the words below are in English. The historic languages of Christianity are Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The Old (Jewish) Testament was written in Hebrew with some texts in Aramaic and Greek, although many words and passages have their origin in Greek. Latin increasingly became the language of the bible in the Western half of the Roman Empire from the 5th century and in the last few hundred years has been translated in the local or secular language. The bible remains the most printed and most popular book in the world.


Abraham The father of the Jewish nation. He and his group left Ur and started a new life in Canaan.
Adam and Eve  The first people according to the book of Genesis. They lived in the Garden of Eden. 
Advent  The beginning of the church year. Starts on the Sunday nearest November 30th (St. Andrew's day) until Christmas. Advent is from the Latin meaning coming or arrival. 
Acts of Apostles  The second of the books in the bible written by Luke
Agnostic Someone who says we cannot know whether God exists.
Altar  The place of sacrifice in church or chapel which represents the table where Jesus shared the last supper with his disciples
Amen  The final word of a prayer; means "so be it". 
Annunciation  When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was pregnant with Jesus
Anglican  (Communion) - A worldwide branch of the Protestant church led by the Archbishop of Canterbury
Angel A heavenly being. A messenger of God
Apocrypha  A section of the Bible not accepted by all Christians
Apostles  The twelve followers of Jesus; means "a person who is sent to preach the gospel". 
Apostles' creed  The oldest statement of belief in the church, based on the teachings of the Apostles
Aramaic  One of the languages used by people in Jesus' time, probably the language that Jesus and the disciples would have spoken to each other. 
Archbishop A clergyperson who is responsible for a group of diocese
ASB  The alternative service book. The prayer book used by the Church of England. It contains the order for all the services. It also contains many prayers
Ash Wednesday  The first day of Lent. The day after Shrove Tuesday
Ascension  When Jesus went back to heaven, 40 days after the resurrection
Atheist Someone who does not believe there is a God
Atonement  Making amends for your sins or wrong deeds. Trying to put things right. 
aumbry  The little cupboard where the reserved sacrament is kept.
Baptism  The entry rite into the Christian church, which can take place as a baby or as an adult. 
Baptistery The place where baptism takes place. 
Basilica  A word for a large church
Beatitudes  A section of writing from the New Testament, each of which starts with "Blessed are the ...." (Matthew 5). 
Bethlehem  A small town in the north of Palestine where Jesus was born. 
Bible  The Holy Book of the Christians, contains the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the New Testament and sometimes the Apocrypha 
Bishop  A senior minister, usually in charge of an area or diocese
Blasphemy  Words that are spoken against God
Blessed  Rewarded by God
Calvin(ism)  John Calvin (1509-1564) was an important part of the Reformation and his followers started a movement called Calvinism, a branch of the Protestant church
Celibate  In many Christian sects the priest or bishop is not allowed to be married or have sex. 
Chastity  The state of being sexually pure. 
Christ  Another name for Jesus Christ
Christening  Another word for Baptism
Christian(s)  Those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Christianity  The faith of the Christians
Christmas  The festival which celebrates the birth of Jesus
Church  (1) A building which is used for worship. (2) The community of Christians
Church of England  The part of the Anglican Communion in England. 
Clergy  Those people who are appointed to work in the church. The three types of clergy are deacons, priests and bishops
Commandments  Rules given by God. The most famous are the 10 commandments given to Moses
Communion  The most important of the Christian services. It acts out the events of the last supper which Jesus had with his disciples. 
Confession  Words spoken about your sins, asking God for forgiveness.
Confirmation  When people who were baptised as babies confirm the promises made by their parents. 
Conscience  Our internal 'voice' which tells us right from wrong, some people believe that this is the voice of God within us. 
Consecration  When the bread and wine are turned into the body and blood of Jesus Christ
Contemplation  Thinking about God, time spent in prayer and meditation
Covenant  An agreement between an individual or people and God
Creation  When God made the world. 
Creed  A statement of religious beliefs agreed by the church to be true. There are 2 main creeds in the Christian church: the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed
Cross  The most important Christian symbol. 
Crucifix  A model of the cross with the figure of Jesus upon it. 
Crucifixion  When Jesus was put to death on a cross. A form of capital punishment. 
Day of Judgment  At the end of the world when all people will be judged on their behaviour during their lives. 
Denomination  A group within the Christian church
Devil  Some Christians believe that the devil is an actual being. Others that 'he' just represents all things that are evil
Diocese A sub division of the church consisting of a number of parishes, the priest in charge is usually a bishop.
Disciple  A person who follows the teachings of Jesus
Easter  The major festival in the Christian church which celebrates the life, death and resurrection of Jesus
(Eastern) Orthodox  The Christian churches foumd mainly in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. (e.g. Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox). One of the three main denominations along with Roman Catholic and Protestant. Maintaining a separate existence since 1054 A.D. when Eastern and Western Christianity disagreed over doctrine.
Epistle  A letter. Part of the New Testament; many written by St.Paul. 
Eucharist  Comes from the Greek word meaning "Thanksgiving". It is based on the events that happened at the last supper. All Christian groups perform this service except Salvationists and Quakers
Euthanasia  The ending of life, by medical means, when there is no hope of recovery. 
Evil  Things that are not of God
Faith  A belief in God
Feminist theology   A movement in the church to get equal treatment for men and women. 
Festival  A special occasion during the church year. 
Free Church  A church which has no higher authority than the leaders of that church
Foetus  The developing baby while it is in the womb. 
Font  The place in the church where babies are baptised
Garden of Eden  The original home of Adam and Eve before the fall. 
Gethsemene  A garden where Jesus prayed before being arrested. 
Gender  Another word for sex; we all have a gender either male or female. 
God  The supreme being, who created the world. 
Godparents  When a baby is baptised Godparents promise to bring the baby up as a Christian. 
Golden Rule  quoted by Jesus as 'Love your neighbour as yourself' (Mark 12:31). 
Good Friday  The day on which Jesus was crucified
Gospel  The part of the New Testament about the life of Jesus. Gospel means 'good news'. 
Grace  The loving help that God gives to all human beings, an undeserved gift. 
Heaven  The place where God lives and where Christians go after their death. 
Hebrew Scripture   Called the Tenakh consists of 3 parts: the Torah (Law), the Nevi'im (Prophets) and the Ketuvim (Writings) Sometimes called the Old Testament. 
Holy  Special to God.
Holy Communion  Another name for the Eucharist
Holy matrimony  Another term for Christian marriage. 
Holy Spirit  One of the three forms of God. The Holy Spirit came down to the disciples at Pentecost and to Jesus at his baptism. Often shown as a dove. 
Hospice  A hospital for the care of people with terminal illnesses. They specialise in pain control, making life as comfortable as possible. 
Infanticide  The killing or murder of a small child (Infant). 
Incarnation When Jesus became human by being born to Mary
Jesus Christ  The founder of the Christian faith. Born in Nazareth and killed by crucifixion at the age of about 33. 
Jews  The people of Abraham. Jesus was a Jew. 
Joseph  The earthly father of Jesus
Kingdom of God  The new kingdom to be ruled over by God. 
Last supper   The last meal that Jesus had before the crucifixion. At this meal Jesus gave a special meaning to the bread and the wine, which is remembered at the Eucharist
Lent  The 40 days, from Ash Wednesday to Holy Week. Represents the40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. 
Lord's Supper  Another name for the Eucharist. 
Lord's Prayer  The prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples. 
Lutheran A denomination of the Protestant Christian church. Followers of Martin Luther after the Reformation.
Mary  The mother of Jesus, sometimes called the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is very important in the Roman Catholic church. 
Mass  Another name for the Eucharist
Messiah  Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah which means 'King' or 'Saviour' or "Anointed One'. 
Methodist  A branch of the protestant church founded by John Wesley
Miracle  An event that cannot be explained by normal or scientific means. 
Monotheism Belief in one God - The Christians, Jews and Muslims
Moses  The Jewish leader who led the Jews from slavery in Egypt, and was given the ten commandments by God on Mount Sinai.  
New Testament  Part of the Bible together with the Hebrew Scripture. The New Testament contains the Gospels, the Epistles and the book of Revelation
Old Testament  Another name for the Hebrew Scripture, part of the Bible 
Orthodox Church  See Eastern Orthodox
Palestine  The part of the Eastern Mediterranean where Jesus lived, part of modern day Israel. 
Palm Sunday  The day that Christians remember the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. 
Patriarch  Leader of one of the 14 Eastern Orthodox churches. 
Paul (Saint)  A Jew who was converted to Christianity and who took the gospel to the Gentiles. Wrote many of the epistles
Pentecost  The festival when the disciples received the Holy Spirit. Often thought of as the birth of the church
Peter (Saint)  The apostle who denied Jesus and who Jesus called 'the rock on which the church was built'; Peter was the first bishop of Rome, or Pope
Pharisee  A religious leader of the Jews at the time of Jesus
Polytheism Belief in many Gods.
Pope  The leader of the Roman Catholic church, lives in Vatican City.  
Prayer  Talking to God
Preacher  A person who delivers a sermon
Priest  A clergyperson who may celebrate the Eucharist, give blessings and forgive sins. 
Protestant  A form of Christianity after the Reformation. Protestant is used to describe the churches which do not belong to the Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches. 
Purgatory  The place between earth and Heaven, "Heaven's waiting room." 
Quakers  Protestant denomination started by George Fox who believed that a person should be guided by the Holy Spirit in silent meditation
Reconciliation  To get closer to God through the forgiveness of your sins
Reformation When the Western church split into the Catholic and Protestant denominations in the 16th century.
Repentance  To be sorry for the sins that you have committed.  
Resurrection  When Jesus came back from the dead three days after he had been crucified
Revelation  A message from God
[Roman] Catholic  The Christian denomination, based in Rome, that is headed by the Pope
Rome  The capital of Italy. Location of the Vatican City , the centre of the Roman Catholic church and the home of the Pope
Sabbath  The Jewish holy day, from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Also used by some Christian denominations for Sunday
Sacrament  An outward sign of something special and holy. The Roman Catholics, Orthodox and the Anglicans believe in 7 sacraments.Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, holy orders, forgiveness of sins, anointing of the sick, and Marriage. Most Protestant churches recognise only the first two of these. 
Sacred  Something which is holy or devoted to God
Salvation Army   A protestant church formed by William Booth to help the poor. It works to help people's physical needs as well as their spiritual ones. 
Samaritan  A group of people who lived in Samaria at the time of Jesus, considered by the Jews to be inferior. 
Satan  Another name for the devil
Saviour  Another title for Jesus. Used to show belief that he rescued people from their sins by dying on a cross
Secular  Anything that is not religious. 
Sermon  A talk given in church on a spiritual or moral theme. 
Sexism  Treating people differently because of their gender. 
Sin  Doing something wrong that separates you from God
Sunday  The Christian holy day; day of rest. 
Synoptic  A Greek word which means "to look at together". The synoptic gospels are Matthew, Mark and Luke. 
Temptation  Being persuaded to do evil or to sin
Ten Commandments  The rules given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. 
Theist Someone who does believe God exists.
Transubstantiation  A belief that the wine and the bread at the Eucharist actually turn into the body and blood of Jesus. Esp. in the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches. 
Trinity  The one God in the three parts; God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit
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Vatican City  A small country in the middle of Rome that is the centre of the Roman. Catholic church. Where the Pope lives. 
Virgin Birth  The belief that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. 
Virgin Mary  Another name for Mary
Vision  A dream like experience of God
Vows  Promises made in the sight of God
Worship  The act of prayer or actions dedicated to praising God
Worshipper  A person who is involved in an act of worship
Xylophones  Instruments played by angels when their harps are in for repair. 
Yahweh  Hebraic word for God. Used primarily by Roman Catholics 
Zygote  The joined sperm and egg from the moment of conception until the time it "beds" into the wall of the womb and develops an umbilical cord.