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Old Testament Glossary


Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) - King of Syria from 175 B.C. His policy of attaining political unity by propagating Greek culture met with violent resistance from the Jews. In 170 B.C. he attacked Jerusalem and spoiled the Temple, and in 168 B.C. made a renewed and fiercer onslaught in a determination to exterminate Judaism. This led to the Maccabean revolt, after which Antiochus retired to Persia, where he died (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Apocrypha - The biblical books received by the early church as part of the Greek version of the Old Testament, but not included in the Hebrew Bible, being excluded by the non-Hellenistic Jews from their canon. In date of writing, the Books of the Apocrypha derive from the period 300 B.C. to A.D. 100 (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Apodictic law (command law) - Commands that begin with "do" or "do not", such as "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field" (Fee & Stuart).

Aramaic - The Semitic language which was the vernacular in Palestine in the time of Christ, and which he himself almost certainly used (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Ark of the Covenant

"Army of the Lord"


Baal - Meaning "lord," Baal, the god worshiped by the Canaanites and Phoenicians, was variously known to them as the son of Dagon and the son of El. He was believed to give fertility to the womb and life-giving rain to the soil (NIV Study Bible).

Babylon (Chaldeans)

Ban (herem)

Canon - Denotes a collection or list of books accepted as an authoritative rule of faith and practice. The Christian canon varies according to Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox traditions (Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism).

Casuistic law (case law) - In Old Testament form criticism, the term casuistic is used to denote a class of case law, in contrast to apodictic or absolute prohibitions. It is characterized by an opening conditional clause in which the case is described followed by a statement of the penalty in the main clause (Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism).

Cherubim - The highest of the nine orders of angels. In the Old Testament they appear as God's attendants, e.g. they guard his presence from profanity, and representations of them were set up in Solomon's Temple at Jerusalem, overshadowing the ark (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).


Circumcision - A Jewish rite performed on male infants as a sign of inclusion in the covenant between God and Abraham (Webster's Dictionary).

Code of Hammurabi - A famous set of laws enacted by a Babylonian king in 1726 B.C. which is noteworthy because of the class distinctions built into them (Fee & Stuart).

Conditional covenant


Covenant - A bond entered into voluntarily by two parties by which each pledges himself or herself to do something for the other. The idea of the covenant between the God of Israel and his people is fundamental to the religion of the Old Testament (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Covenant Code


Dagon - The principal god of the Philistines and father of Baal in Canaanite mythology.

Dame Folly

Day of the Lord

Dead Sea Scrolls - The name given to mainly parchment and papyrus scrolls written in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, and discovered in 11 caves along the northwestern coast of the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956, generally dating from 250 B.C. to A.D. 68 and assigned to an Essene community located at the archaeological site known as Khirbet Qumran (Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism).

Decalogue - Another name for the Ten Commandments, which are the precepts divinely revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai and engraven on two tables of stone (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).


Deuteronomic Code

Divine council


Dynamic equivalence - The attempt to translate words, idioms, and grammatical constructions of the original language into precise equivalents in the receptor language. This type of translation keeps historical distance on all historical and most factual matters, but "updates" matters of language, grammar, and style (Fee & Stuart).


El - The chief god of the Canaanite pantheon; variously known as the father of Baal (NIV Study Bible).

Eschatological - The doctrine of the last things. The term connotes the part of systematic theology which deals with the final destiny both of the individual soul and of mankind in general. In the Old Testament, eschatological teaching is closely bound up with the Messianic hope (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Etiology - A branch of knowledge dealing with causes (Webster's Dictionary).

Exegesis - The careful, systematic study of the Scripture to discover he original, intended meaning, in other words, an attempt to hear the words of the Bible as the original recipients were to have heard them (Fee & Stuart).

"Father of Judaism"

Form Criticism - As applied esp. to the Bible, the attempt to trace the provenance and assess the historicity of particular passages by a close analysis of their structural forms. The success of the method depends largely on the assumption that the same forms recur in nonbiblical literature (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Former Prophets

Free theory of translation - The attempt to translate the ideas from one language to another, with less concern about using the exact words of the original. This is sometimes called a paraphrase and tries to eliminate as much of the historical distance as possible (Fee & Stuart).

Gilgamesh Epic - A long Babylonian epic poem, dating, at least in part, from c. 1198 B.C. and chiefly known from 12 tablets of the seventh century B.C., discovered at Nineveh by George Smith in 1872 (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Hanukkah - An eight-day Jewish holiday beginning on the 25th of Kislev and commemorating the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after its defilement by Antiochus of Syria (Webster's Dictionary).

Hebrew - One of the closely related group of languages, known as Semitic, which includes among others Arabic, Aramaic, and Syriac. It was the classical language in Israel, in which the Old Testament, except for certain chapters in the Books of Ezra and Daniel, was written (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Hebrew Scriptures

Hellenistic - Of or relating to Greek history, culture, or art after Alexander the Great (Webster's Dictionary).

Hermeneutics - Ordinarily covers the whole field of interpretation, including exegesis, it is also used in the narrower sense of seeking the contemporary relevance of ancient texts (Fee & Stuart).


Historical particularity


Holiness Code - Also "Law of Holiness." The collection of Mosaic legislation in Lev. 17-26 so named by A. Klostermann in 1877, and designated "H." The subjects dealt with are animal sacrifice and the prohibition of eating blood, laws of marriage and chastity, etc. (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Holy of Holies

Holy Place


Immanence - The omnipresence of God in His universe. The doctrine is a necessary constituent of the Christian conception of God, but when held without the parallel doctrine of Divine transcendence, it is commonly indistinguishable from pantheism (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Imprecatory Psalms - A term used for the Psalms which, in whole or in part, invoke the Divine vengeance (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).


Judas Maccabeus - Leader of the Jews in the revolt against the Syrians. He won a series of victories against the Syrians in the years 166-164 and purified the Temple and restored its worship in 165. In 163, he was able to obtain full religious liberty from Antiochus Epiphanes (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

King James (Authorized) Version - Authorized in 1611, this Bible is the most widely used translation in the world and is also a classic expression of the English language (Fee & Stuart).

"Knowledge of God"

Lady Wisdom


Latter Prophets

Literal theory of translation - The attempt to translate by keeping as close as possible to the exact words and phrasing in the original language, yet still make sense in the receptor language. This kind of translation will keep the historical distance intact at all points (Fee & Stuart).

Major Prophets

Masoretic Text - Refers to the received text of the Hebrew Old Testament as punctuated and furnished with vowel points by the Masoretes, the authoritative teachers of Scriptural tradition; it was developed between the 7th and the 10th cent. A. D. and is the basis of all modern critical texts of the Hebrew Old Testament (Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism).



Minor Prophets


Nebuchadnezzar - The son of Nabopolassar and the most powerful king of the Neo-Babylonian empire (612 - 539 B. C.), reigning 605 - 562 B. C. His victories over Pharaoh Neco and the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish and again at Hamath had far-reaching implications in the geopolitical power structure of the eastern Mediterranean world (NIV Study Bible).

"New covenant"

Old Testament - Term denoting the collection of Canonical Books which the Christian Church shares with the Synagogue. Traditionally it is divided into three parts, viz., the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).


Parallelism - A characteristic of Hebrew poetry that is ordinarily of three kinds: Synonymous Parallelism, which is the most usual form, consisting in the simple repetition of the same thoughts in slightly different words; Antithetical Parallelism, produced by contrasting the first member with the second; and Synthetic Parallelism, in which the first member is developed or completed by a similar thought in the second (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Parity treaty - A covenant between equals, binding them to mutual friendship or at least to mutual respect for each other's spheres and interests (NIV Study Bible).

Passover - A holy day celebrated in the spring to commemorate the exodus of the Jews from Egypt.

Pentateuch - A name derived from Greek for the first five books of the Old Testament commonly known in Hebrew as the Humash (Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism).

Priestly Code

Promissory covenant

Reformation - A term which covers an involved series of changes in Western Christendom between the 14th and 17th centuries highlighted by Martin Luther's posting of his 95 Thesis in 1517 (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Renaissance - The transitional movement in Europe between medieval and modern times beginning in the 14th century in Italy, lasting into the 17th century, and marked by a humanistic revival of classical influence expressed in a flowering of the arts and literature and by the beginnings of modern science (Webster's Dictionary).

Ritual Decalogue

Royal grant - A king's grant of land or some other benefit to a loyal servant for faithful or exceptional service. The grant was normally perpetual and unconditional, but the servant's heirs benefited from it only as they continued their father's loyalty and service (NIV Study Bible).

Sea of Reeds (Yam Suph) -

"Second Isaiah"

"Seek" or "Consult" the Lord


Septuagint - The name of the earliest Greek translation of the Hebrew Torah; it later came to include the whole Old Testament and the Apocrypha (Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism).

"Servant Songs" - The four passages in Deutero-Isaiah (Is. 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, and 52:13 - 53:12) describing the person and character of the "Servant of the Lord." Christian theology has traditionally interpreted them as a prophecy of the Incarnate Christ (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Shalom - Used as a Jewish greeting and farewell (Webster's Dictionary).

Shema - The Jewish confession of faith. Its name is derived from the first word of the first of the three Scriptural passages of which it consists, viz. Deut. 6:4-9, 11:13-21, Num. 15:37-41 (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Succession Narrative (or Court History)

Suzerain - A feudal lord; one member of the suzerain-vassal covenant popular in the Ancient Near East (NIV Study Bible).

Suzerain-vassal covenant - A covenant regulating the relationship between a great king and one of his subject kings. The great king claimed absolute right of sovereignty, demanded total loyalty and service and pledged protection of the subject's realm and dynasty, conditional on the vassal's faithfulness and loyalty to him. The vassal pledged absolute loyalty to his suzerain - whatever service his suzerain demanded - and exclusive reliance on the suzerain's protection (NIV Study Bible).

Syro-Ephraimite Alliance

Table of Nations

Tanak - A Hebrew abbreviation for the Old Testament derived from the initial letters of the names of its three divisions: Torah (Pentateuch), Nebiim (Early and Later Prophets), and Ketubim (Writings or Hagiographa) (Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism).

"Temple Sermon"

Textual Criticism - The science that attempts to discover the origin texts of ancient documents by examining both external and internal evidence. Although this science works with careful controls it is nevertheless not exact because it deals with too many human variables (Fee & Stuart).

Theophany - An appearance of God in visible form, temporary and not necessarily material. Such an appearance is to be contrasted with the Incarnation, in which there was a permanent union between God and complete manhood (body, soul , and spirit) (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Theories of Translation - This has to do with the degree to which one is willing to go in order to bridge the gap between the original and receptor language (for example, should "lamp" be translated "torch" in a culture where a torch serves the same purpose that a lamp does?) (Fee & Stuart).

Torah - Strictly and commonly speaking, Torah is defined as "law" and refers to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. More broadly, it may refer to the whole Old Testament or the whole of Jewish religious writing both ancient and modern (Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism).


Treaty - An agreement or arrangement made by negotiation (Webster's Dictionary).

Tyndale, William - Born in England, Tyndale was instrumental in translating the Bible into the vernacular and supported reform of the church. He insisted on the authority of Scripture and, like Luther, on justification by faith (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Ugarit (Ras Shamra) Tablets - A collection of cuneiform tablets with mythological poems and ritual prescriptions excavated at Ras Shamra (anciently Ugarit) in N. Syria from 1929 onwards. The tablets, probably dating from the 14th century B.C. or earlier, are in a hitherto unknown alphabetical script and in a Semitic dialect closely akin to Hebrew. They bear on the development of the alphabet and the language, literature, and religion of Canaan before the Israelite settlement (Cross, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church).

Vassal - A subordinate or dependent of a lord or kind; one member of the suzerain-vassal covenant popular in the Ancient Near East (NIV Study Bible).

Vulgate - The name given to the version of the Latin Bible translated by Jerome and recognized throughout the Middle Ages as the official Bible of the church (Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism).

Wycliffe, John - English reformer