The Complete Library of Catholic Bible Word List

Catholic Bible

This Word List identifies many objects or cultural features whose meaning may not be known to all readers.

Abib The first month of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to the period from about mid-March to about mid-April. This month is also called Nisan.

Abyss The place in the depths of the earth where the demons were imprisoned until their final punishment.

Acacia A flowering tree, a type of mimosa, with hard and durable wood.

Adar The twelfth month of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to the period from about mid-February to about mid-March.

Agate A semiprecious stone of various colors, but usually white and brown.

Alabaster A soft stone of usually light creamy color, from which vases and jars were made.

Aloes A sweet-smelling substance, derived from a plant. It was used medicinally and as a perfume.

Amen A Hebrew word which means "it is so" or "may it be so." It can also be translated "certainly," "truly," or "surely." In Revelation 3:14 it is used as a title for Christ.

Amethyst A semiprecious stone, usually purple or violet in color.

Anoint To pour or rub olive oil on someone in order to honor him or to appoint him to some special work. The Israelite kings were anointed as a sign of their taking office, and so the king could be called "the anointed one." In a figurative sense, "The Anointed One" is the title of the one whom God chose and appointed as Savior and Lord.

Apostle Principally one of the group of twelve men whom Jesus chose to be his special followers and helpers. It is also used in the New Testament to refer to Paul and other Christian workers. The word may have the sense of "messenger."

Areopagus A hill in Athens where the city council used to meet. For this reason, the council itself was called Areopagus, even after it no longer met on the hill.

Artemis The Greek name of an ancient goddess of fertility, worshiped, especially in Asia Minor.

Asherah A goddess of fertility worshiped by the Canaanites; her male counterpart was Baal. After the Hebrews invaded Canaan, many of them began worshiping these two gods.

Astarte A goddess of fertility and war who was widely worshiped in the ancient Near East.

Atonement, Day of The most important of Israel's holy days, when the High Priest would offer sacrifice for the sins of the people of Israel (Leviticus 16). It was held on the 10th day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar (around October 1). The Jewish name for this day is Yom Kippur.

Baal The god of fertility worshiped by the Canaanites; his female counterpart was Asherah. After the Hebrews invaded Canaan, many of them began worshiping these two gods.

Baal-of-the-Covenant A name by which the god Baal was known by the people of Shechem.

Balsam A tree from which sweet-smelling resin was obtained; the resin was used for perfume and medicine.

Barley A cultivated grain similar to wheat, grown as a food crop.

Beelzebul A New Testament name given to the Devil as the chief of the evil spirits.

Beryl A semiprecious stone, usually green or bluish-green in color.

Breastplate Part of a soldier's armor made of leather or metal; it covered the chest and sometimes the back as a protection against arrows and the blows of a sword.

Bul The eighth month of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to the period from about mid-October to about mid-November.

Burnt offering A type of sacrifice in which all the parts of the animal were completely burned on the altar; in other sacrifices, only certain parts of the animal were burned.

Calamus A sweet-smelling reed-like plant. Capital The top part of a column supporting a roof

Carnelian A semiprecious stone, usually red in color.

Cassia A spice made from the bark of a tree; it closely resembles cinnamon.

Chalcedony A semiprecious stone, usually milky or gray in color.

Christ Originally a title, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word "Messiah." It means "the anointed one." Jesus was called the Christ because he was the one whom God chose and sent as Savior and Lord.

Circumcise To cut off the foreskin of the penis. As a sign of God's covenant with his people Israelite boys were circumcised eight days after they were born (Genesis 17:9-14).

City of refuge When the people of Israel moved into the land of Canaan they were told to name certain towns as cities of refuge. If anyone accidentally killed someone, he could escape to one of these cities and be safe from revenge (see Numbers 35:9-34; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; 19:1-13; Joshua 20:1-9).

Concubine A servant woman who, although not a wife, had sexual relations with her master, she had important legal rights, and her master was referred to as her husband.

Coral A brightly colored stony substance found in the sea; it was used as jewelry.

Council The supreme religious court of the Jews composed of seventy leaders of the Jewish people and presided over by the High Priest.

Covenant An agreement, either between persons or between God and a person or a people. God made a covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:8-17) and with Abraham (Genesis 17:1-8), but in the Old Testament, the term usually refers to the covenant made between God and the people of Israel at the time of Moses (Exodus 24:4-8).

Covenant Box The wooden chest covered with gold, in which were kept the two stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments. It has traditionally been called the Ark of the Covenant.

Cumin A small plant whose seeds are ground up and used for seasoning foods.

Cush The term "Cush" in the Old Testament Hebrew text normally designates the territory extending south from the First Cataract of the Nile River at Aswan. It was known in Graeco-Roman times as Ethiopia (Gk., Aithiopia), and later as Nubia. This extensive region included within its borders most of modern Sudan and some of present-day Ethiopia (Abyssinia). In Genesis 10, the Table of Nations, verses 8-12 are included under the genealogy of Egyptian Cush, yet all the peoples named are in Mesopotamia. Apparently, the Hebrew designation for the Babylonian Kassites was "Cush" as well, thus resulting in the mixing of the two regions. Genesis 2.13 may be another reference to Babylonian Cush.

Cymbals A pair of thin pieces of metal held in the hands and struck together rhythmically in music.

David's City In the Old Testament the reference is generally to that part of the city of Jerusalem which was captured from the Jebusites by King David. In the New Testament, the reference is to the town of Bethlehem, David's boyhood home, where Jesus was born.

Dedication, Festival of The Jewish festival, lasting eight days, which celebrated the restoration and rededication in 165 B.C. of the Temple altar by the Jewish patriot Judas Maccabeus. The festival began on the 25th day of the month Kislev (around December 10). The Jewish name for this festival is Hanukkah.

Defile To make ritually unclean or impure. Certain foods and practices were prohibited by the Law of Moses because they were thought to make a person ritually or ceremonially unclean. Such a person could not take part in the public worship until he had performed certain rituals which would remove the defilement.

Demon An evil spirit with the power to harm people; it was regarded as a messenger and servant of the Devil.

Dill A small garden plant whose stems, leaves, and seeds are used for seasoning food.

Dipper: Big Dipper and Little Dipper Two groups of stars which in the Northern Hemisphere are visible in the northern sky. The star at the end of the "handle" of the Little Dipper is Polaris, the North Star.

Disciple A person who follows and learns from someone else. In the New Testament, the word is used of the followers of John the Baptist and especially of the followers of Jesus, particularly the twelve apostles.

Divination The attempt to discover a message from God or the gods by examining such things as marked stones or the liver of a sacrificed animal.

Dragon A legendary beast thought to be like a huge lizard. It is also called a serpent and appears as a figure of the Devil (Revelation 12:3-13:4; 20:2, 3).

Elders In the Old Testament this is a name given to certain respected leaders of a tribe, nation, or city. In the New Testament three different groups are called elders: (1) in the Gospels the elders are influential Jewish religious leaders, some of whom were members of the Supreme Council; (2) in Acts 11-21 and the Letters the elders are Christian church officers who had general responsibility for the work of the church; (3) in Revelation the twenty-four elders are part of God's court in heaven, perhaps as representatives of God's people.

Elul The sixth month of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to the period from about mid-August to about mid-September.

Ephod The Hebrew term traditionally transliterated as "ephod" is of uncertain meaning in a number of contexts. Generally, it refers to some type of priestly garment which was worn over the shoulder by the High priest and With which the Urim and Thummim were associated, In certain contexts, however, the Hebrew term refers to an object of worship, and in some other passages, it evidently refers to an object used to foretell future events.

Epicureans Those who followed the teaching of Epicurus (died 270 B.C.), a Greek philosopher who taught that happiness is the highest good in life.

Epileptic A person who suffers from nervous disease-causing convulsions and fainting.

Ethanim The seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to the period from about mid-September to about mid-October; it was later called Tishri.

Ethiopia See “Cush.”

Eunuch A man who has been made physically incapable of having normal sexual relations. Eunuchs were often important officials in the courts of ancient kings, and the term may have come to be used of such officials in general, regardless of their sexual condition.

Exile, The In 722 BC the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, its capital Samaria, and the Israelite territory east of the Jordan River and forced many of the people to resettle in other parts of the Assyrian Empire (see 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:22). In 612 B.C., the Babylonians conquered the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, and became the dominant power in the Near East. In 586 BC, the Babylonians conquered the southern Israelite kingdom, Judah, and its capital Jerusalem, deporting many of its citizens and resettling them in Babylon (2 Kings 24:14; Jeremiah 52:24-30). The period of the Exile is usually understood to refer to the time between the fall of Jerusalem and the time when the Persian king, Cyrus, allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem, in 538 B.C.

Fast To go without food for a while as a religious duty.

Feldspar A colorful, rather hard rock, often glassy in appearance.

Fellowship offerings A type of sacrifice offered to insure the right relationship With God. Only a portion of the animal was burned on the altar; the rest was eaten by the worshipers or the priests.

Flax A small cultivated plant; the fibers of its stem are spun into thread used in making linen cloth.

Frankincense A valuable incense, made from the sap of a certain tree. This incense was probably imported from Arabia,

Garnet A semiprecious stone, usually red in color.

Gazelle A kind of antelope, known for its beauty and gracefulness.

Gentile A person who is not a Jew.

Hades Thé Greek name used in the New Testament to refer to the world of the dead.

Harrow A farm implement used to break up the ground and level it after plowing.

Harvest Festival The Israelite festival celebrating the wheat harvest, held in the latter part of May, fifty days after Passover. The Jewish name for this festival is Shavuoth (the Feast of Weeks). It has also been called Pentecost.

Hermes The name of a Greek god who served as messenger of the gods.

Herod's party A political party in New Testament times composed Of Jews who favored being ruled by one Of the descendants of Herod the Great rather than by the Roman governor.

High Priest The priest who occupied the highest office in the Jewish priestly system and was president of the Supreme Council of the Jews. Once a year (on the Day of Atonement), he would enter the Most Holy Place in the Temple and offer a sacrifice for himself and for the sins of the people of Israel.

Hyssop A small bushy plant, used in religious ceremonies to sprinkle liquids,

Incense Material which is burned in order to produce a pleasant smell. The Israelites used it in their worship.

Jackal A small wild animal resembling a fox.

Jasper A semiprecious stone of various colors. The jasper mentioned in the Bible was probably green, or else clear.

Javelin A short, light spear used by soldiers in ancient times,

Kislev The ninth month Of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to the period from about mid-November to about mid-December,

Law The name which the Jews applied to the first five books of the Old Testament, also called "The Books of Moses." Sometimes, however, the name is applied in a more general way to the entire Old Testament.

Leviathan A legendary animal associated with water, in some passages identified by some scholars as the crocodile. In a figurative sense, it may represent the chaos that existed before God created the world (Job 3:8; Psalm 74:14; Isaiah 27:1).

Levite (1) A member of the tribe of Levi; (2) a man who assisted the priest in the performance of religious duties.

Levitical priest A Hebrew priest descended from the tribe of Levi All priests were supposed to be members of the tribe of Levi, but in later times not all members of' the tribe of Levi were priests.

Living creatures See Winged creatures below.

LORD Where the Hebrew text has Yahweh. Traditionally transliterated as Jehovah, this translation employs LORD with capital letters, following a usage, which is widespread in English versions. See, for example, Genesis 2:4 and Exodus 3:14. This corresponds either to the occurrence of the name itself or to a pronoun standing for the name.

Lyre A kind of harp.

Mandrake A small plant; it was believed that eating its root or fruit would make a woman more easily able to have children.

Manna A food eaten by the Israelites during their travels in the wilderness. It was white and flaky and looked like small seeds (Exodus 16:14-21; Numbers 11:7-9).

Medium A person who believes that he or she can communicate with the dead.

Messiah A Hebrew title (meaning "the anointed one") given to the promised Savior, whose coming was foretold by the Hebrew prophets; the corresponding Greek term "the Christ" has the same meaning.

Mildew A fungus that appears or various objects, especially in damp weather.

Millet A cultivated grain that was grown as a food crop.

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Molech One of the gods of the ancient people of Canaan.

Most Holy Place The innermost room of the Tent of the LORD) presence or the Temple. The Covenant Box was kept there. Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and he did so only once a year on the Day of Atonement,

Mustard A large plant, which grows a very small seed. The seeds were ground into a powder and used as a spice on food.

Myrrh A sweet-smelling resin that was highly prized. It served as a medicine (Mark 15:23) and was used by the Jews in preparing bodies for burial (John 19:39).

Myrtle A kind of evergreen shrub or tree.

Nard An expensive perfume made from a plant,

Nazarene Someone from the town of Nazareth. The name was used as a title for Jesus and also as a name for the early Christians (Acts 24:5).

Nazirite A person who took a special vow of self-dedication. Such a person was not to drink beer or wine, cut his hair, or touch a dead body (Numbers 6:1-21). The vow could be taken for a certain period of time, but some persons were dedicated to God as Nazirites front their birth.

New Moon Festival A religious observance held by the Israelites on the day of each new moon.

New Year Festival The Jewish name for this festival is “Rosh Hashanah.”

Nisan The first month of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to the period from about mid-March to about mid-April. The month is also called Abib.

Onyx A semiprecious stone of various colors.

Orion A group of prominent stars visible during winter evenings.

Outcasts In the Gospels this name, Which in many translations appears as "sinners," refers to those Jews who had been excluded from synagogue worship because they violated rules about foods that should not be eaten and about associating with people who were not Jews. Such outcasts were despised by many of their fellow Jews, and Jesus was criticized for associating With them (Mark 17; Luke 7:34; 15:1,2).

Parable A story which teaches spiritual truth; it was often used by Jesus.

Paradise A name for heaven (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:3).

Passover The Israelite festival, on the 14th day of the month Nisan (around April l), which celebrated the deliverance of the ancient Hebrews from their captivity in Egypt. The Angel of Death killed the first-born in the Egyptian homes but passed over the Hebrew homes (Exodus 12:23-27). The Jewish name for this festival is Pesach.

Pentecost, Day of The Greek name for the Israelite festival of the wheat harvest (see Harvest Festival above). The name Pentecost (meaning "fiftieth") comes from the fact that the feast was held fifty days after Passover.

Pervert One who commits unnatural sexual acts.

Pharisees A Jewish religious party during the time of Jesus. They were strict in obeying the Law of Moses and other regulations, which had been added to it through the centuries.

Pistachio nut A small greenish nut.

Pleiades A small group of stars visible during winter evenings.

Pomegranate A reddish fruit the size of a large apple; it has a hard rind and is full of tasty seeds.

Preparation, Day of The sixth day of the week (Friday), on which the Jews made the required preparation to observe the Sabbath (Saturday).

Prophet A person who proclaims a message from God. The term usually refers to certain men in the Old Testament, but the New Testament speaks of prophets in the early church. John the Baptist is also called a prophet.

Purim The Jewish religious holiday held on the 14th day of the month Adar (around March 1), celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from Haman by Esther and Mordecai. The story is told in the book of Esther.

Quartz A semiprecious stone of various colors, but usually clear.

Rabbi A Hebrew word which means "my teacher."

Rahab (l) A legendary sea monster which represented the forces of chaos and evil (Psalm 89:10) and was sometimes used as a symbol of Egypt (Isaiah 51). (2) A Canaanite woman who helped the Israelite spies escape from Jericho (Joshua 2; Hebrews 11:31).

Red Sea Evidently referred originally to (l) a series of lakes and marshes between the head of the Gulf of Suez and the Mediterranean, the region generally regarded as the site of the events described in Exodus 13 and was also used to designate (2) the Gulf of Suez, (3) the Gulf of Aqaba.

Rephan The name of an ancient god that was worshiped as the ruler of the planet Saturn.

Resin A fragrant, gummy substance produced from the sap of certain trees and shrubs.

Restoration, Year of See Year of Restoration below.

Sabbath The seventh day of the Jewish week (from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday), a holy day on which no work was permitted.

Sackcloth A coarse cloth made of goats' hair, which was worn as a sign of mourning or distress.

Sadducees A small religious party in New Testament times composed largely of priests. They based their beliefs primarily on the first five books of the Old Testament and differed in several matters of belief and practice from the larger party of the Pharisees.

Samaritan A name used to refer to a native Of Samaria, the region between Judea and Galilee. Because Of differences in politics, race, customs, and religion (including especially the central place of worship), there was much bad feeling between the Jews and the Samaritans.

Sanctuary A building dedicated to the worship of God. Sometimes the word refers to the central place of worship and not to the whole building.

Sapphire A very valuable stone, usually blue in color.

Scepter A short rod held by kings to symbolize their authority.

Scorpion A small creature, which has eight legs and a long tail with a poisonous sting. It can inflict a very painful, and sometimes fatal wound.

Scribe A person whose business was to write documents to others or to copy written material. Some scribes were employed by ancient kings to prepare official documents, and some of them became important officials.

Scriptures In the New Testament the word refers to the collected body Of Hebrew sacred writings, known to Christians as the Old Testament. Various names are used: the Law (or the Law of Moses) and the prophets (Matthew 5:17; 7:12; Luke 2:22; 24:44; Acts 13:15; 28:23); the Holy Scriptures (Romans 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:15); the old covenant (2 Corinthians 3:14). The singular "scripture" refers to a single passage of the Old Testament.

Serpent A name given to the dragon, which appears in the New Testament as a figure of the Devil (Revelation 12:3-17; 20:2, 3).

Seventh year The year, coming every seventh year, when the ancient Israelites did not cultivate their fields and when debts were canceled.

Shebat The eleventh month of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to the period from about mid-January to about mid-February.

Shelters, Festival of A joyous festival celebrated by the Israelites in the fall after the completion of the harvest. In order to help them remember the years when their ancestors wandered through the wilderness, the Israelites constructed rough shelters to live in during the festival. The Jewish name for this festival is Sukkoth. It has been traditionally called the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths.

Shiloh The central place of worship for the people of Israel before the time of King David. It was here that the Covenant Box was kept in the time of the priest Eli (l Samuel 1:3). The city was most likely destroyed by the Philistines.

Sickle A tool consisting of a curved metal blade and a wooden handle, used for cutting wheat and other crops.

Sinai As the people Of Israel went from Egypt to Canaan, God revealed himself to Moses and the people at Mount Sinai, a mountain located somewhere on the Sinai Peninsula but whose exact location is uncertain. It was on this mountain that God gave the Law to Moses (Exodus 19:16-25; 31:18),

Sivan The third month of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to the period from about mid-May to about mid-June.

Snuffer The Hebrew word translated "snuffer" apparently identifies an implement used to trim the oil lamps used in the Tent of the LORD’s presence or the Temple.

Sorcerer A person who works magic for evil purposes.

Stoics Those who followed the teachings of the Greek philosopher Zeno (died 265 B.C.), who taught that happiness is to be found in being free from pleasure and pain.

Sulfur In the Bible this refers to a sulfur compound which burns with great heat and produces an unpleasant smell,

Synagogue A place where Jews met every Sabbath day for their public worship. It probably also served as a center for Jewish social life and a school for Jewish children,

Tambourine A small drum with pieces of metal in the rim, held in the hand and shaken. In biblical times it was generally used by women.

Tassel A group of threads or cords fastened together at one end and loose at the other. The Israelites were commanded to wear these their clothes (Numbers 13:37-11).

Teachers of the Law Men who in New Testament times taught and interpreted the teachings of the Old Testament, especially the first five books.

Tebeth The tenth month of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to the period from about mid-December to about mid-January.

Tenant A man who grows crops on land owned by someone else, and turns over a part of the harvest to the owner to pay for the use of his land.

Tent of the LORD's presence The large tent described in detail in Exodus 26, where the Israelites worshiped God until Solomon built the Temple, It has traditionally been called the Tabernacle or Tent of meeting.

Threshing, threshing floor, and threshing sledge Threshing is the process by which farmers separate the edible grain from the husks of crops like wheat and rye. First, the stalks are placed on a hard surface called a threshing floor. The farmer then beats the stalks or uses animals to trample them in order to separate the grain from the husks. Sometimes farmers would ride a sledge pulled by oxen over the stalks to speed up the process. These sledges often had bits of iron or stone fastened beneath them. The farmer then used a winnowing shovel to complete the process of separating and gathering the grain (see Winnowing Shovel below). See also 1 Chronicles 21:18-30; Isaiah 41:15.

Tithe A tenth part of a person's produce or income, given for religious purposes. See Numbers 18:25-32; Deuteronomy 14:22-29.

Topaz A semiprecious stone, usually yellow in color.

Turban A head covering worn by men, made by cloth wrapped around the head.

Turquoise A semiprecious stone, blue or bluish-green in color.

Unleavened Bread, Festival of The Israelite festival, lasting seven days after Passover; it also celebrated the deliverance of the ancient Hebrews from Egypt. The name came from the practice of not using leaven (yeast) in making bread during that week (Exodus 12:14-20). It was held from the 15th to the 22nd day of the month Nisan (around the first week of April).

Urim and Thummim Two small objects used by Israelite priests to determine God's will; it is not known precisely how they were used (Numbers 27:21).

Vow A strong declaration or promise, usually made while calling upon God to punish the speaker if the statement should prove to be not true or if the promise was not kept.

Winged creatures (also referred to as "living creatures" and traditionally called "cherubim") Symbols of God's majesty and associated with his presence. For a description of such creatures see Exodus 25:18-20; Ezekiel 1:5-13; 10; Revelation 4:6-9.

Winnowing shovel A tool like a shovel or a large fork used to separate the Wheat from the chaff. See Threshing, threshing floor, and threshing sledge above and Matthew 3:12.

Wreath Flowers or leaves arranged in a circle, to be placed on a person's head. In ancient times a wreath of leaves was the prize given to winners in athletic contests.

Year of Restoration Every fifty years, all Israelites were required to give freedom to any Israelites who had become slaves because of debts; they were also to give back to the original owner, or his heirs, any ancestral land that had been sold for debt (Leviticus 25:8-55; Ezekiel 46:17).

Yeast Substance also called leaven, which is added to dough made from the flour Of Wheat or barley to make it rise before being baked into bread.

Yoke A heavy bar of wood fitted over the necks of two oxen to make it possible for them to pull a plow or a cart. The word is used figuratively to describe the moral lessons that a teacher passes on to his Pupils.

Zeus The name of the supreme god of the Greeks.

Zion Originally a designation for "David's City," the Jebusite stronghold captured by King David's forces. The term "Zion" was later extended in meaning to refer to the hill on which the Temple stood.

Ziv The second month of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to the period from about mid-April to about mid-May.


Word List. (n.d.). In May They Be One Bible: Good News Translation, Catholic Commemorative Edition 2013 / Philippine Commemorative Bible / Pope Francis / Imprimatur: Cirilo R. Almario, Jr. / Nihil Obstat: Efren O. Rivera (2013 ed., pp. 1714-1723). Bible Society (1972).

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