Exhaustive, of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism

Glossary Prepared initially by Robert A. Kraft, University of Pennsylvania, and intended to be used freely in the public domain in this and any updated versions (based partly on materials from introductory textbooks by Phillip Sigal, Jacob Neusner, Michael Fishbane, Sandra Frankiel, R. Dean Peterson, Frederick Denny, Kenneth Cragg, F. E. Peters; see also Cyril Glasse/, The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam [Harper, 1989]).


* indicates that the word/term that follows is a glossary entry, except that such frequent terms as Jew(ish)/Judaism, Christian(ity), and Islam/Muslim are not so identified.

<t>...</> indicates the title of a book or similar work.
<a>...</> Arabic word, especially used in Islamic studies.
<h>...</> Hebrew (or Aramaic) word, especially used in Judaism.
<g>...</> Greek word, especially used in Christianity.
<l>...</> Latin word, especially used in Christianity.

Diacritics follow the letter to which they pertain.

Note that in the Semitic languages (Heb., Arabic), the apostrophe and reversed apostrophe distinguish between two different "a" letters.

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early Judaism, also sometimes called "formative," "proto-," "middle," and even "late" Judaism

Refers to Judaism in the intertestamental period (and slightly later) as a development from the religion of ancient Israel, but prior to the emergence of its classical, rabbinic form in the early centuries CE.


The most ancient Christian annual special day, commemorating the (death and) resurrection of Jesus/Joshua in the spring, at the time of Jewish Passover/Pesach (thus not a fixed day on the solar calendar). See also lent.

Ebionites, Ebionism

A Judeo-Christian sect (or category) in the 2nd-4th centuries CE; accepted much of Mosaic Torah (circumcision , sabbath, etc.) but rejected sacrifices; accepted Jesus/Joshua as messiah but not his divinity; some Ebionites opposed the doctrines of Paul.

ecclesiastical (Greek <g>ekklesia</>, "summoned group")

Pertaining to the Christian church and things associated with its governance and activities.

eclectic (from Greek, "selected")

A general term used to refer to an approach that selects particular components from different sources to create a new configuration. See also syncretism.

ecumenical (from Greek for "household," thus considering the world as a household)

Having to do with the whole Christian church. The Christian Ecumenical Councils of the 4th (see Nicea) through the 7th centuries were representative bodies that helped formulate classical Christian beliefs.

ecumenism (from Greek <g>oikoumene</>, "the inhabited world")

Ecumenism (also known as the Ecumenical Movement) is a Christian initiative to promote worldwide cooperation (with the ideal of unity) within that religion and with other faiths as well.


The name of paradise in the Jewish biblical account in Genesis 1, where Adam and Eve were created.

ein sof (Heb., "without limit")

In Jewish kabbalism, a designation for the divine -- "the unlimited one."


Generally, a term of respect often used to distinguish a "senior" person from someone younger with the same name. As a Christian church office, see presbyter.


In early Judaism and Christianity, refers to those considered to be chosen by God for a specific purpose; in some Christian predestinarian schemes (e.g. Calvinistic), "the elect" are those whom God has chosen (in advance) to have eternal life.


A term used theologically in Judaism to indicate God's choice of Israel to receive the covenant -- a choice not based on the superiority or previous accomplishments of the people, but on God's graciousness (see covenant). In Christianity, the concept of election was applied to the "new Israel" of Jesus' followers in the last times.

elevation of the host

The classical Christian priestly practice of raising the eucharistic bread above the head so that the laypeople (*laity) behind the priest can see it, at the moment of transubstantiation.

Elohim, El

Hebrew general term for deity. See also YHWH


emuna(h) (Heb., "faith"; see Arabic <a>iman</>)

See faith.

episkopos/episcopos (adj. episcopal; from Greek "overseer")

Became a technical term for the chief clergyman in charge of a city or district in classical Christian church organization. Thence the modern denominational name "Episcopal" to signify that authority is viewed as the responsibility of the bishops, not the general membership (*laity) or a single pope figure.

eretz Yisrael/Israel (Heb., "land of Israel")

In Jewish thought, the special term for the Palestinian area believed to have been promised to the Jewish people by God in the ancient covenant.

eschatology (adj. eschatological; from Greek <g>eschaton</>, "last" or "the end-time")

Refers in general to what is expected to take place in the "last times" (from the inquirer's perspective); thus the study of the ultimate destiny or purpose of humankind and the world, how and when the end will occur, what the end or last period of history or existence will be like. See also chiliastic/millenarian, apocalypse/apocalyptic, judgment, messiah, mahdi, satan.

essence (Latin, from the verb "to be")

A philosophical term used to identify that without which something would not be what it is (its "sine qua non"). For Aristotle, the distinction between the essence of a thing and its "accidents" (incidental qualities) was basic; see transubstantiation, for example.


The name of a Jewish sub-group in the 1st century CE according to Josephus, Philo and other sources. See also Qumran.

ethics (Greek, "customs"; see Latin mores [morals])

A general designation for value systems governing human activities considered to be "right" or "wrong," usually with reference to some "higher" authority (as in "you have no ethics" or "what are the ethics of this situation?"); also refers to the study of such systems.

etiology (also aetiology), from the Greek for "cause or origin"

A term used to describe or label stories that claim to explain the reason for something being (or being called) what it is. For example, in the old Jewish creation story (Genesis 2.23), woman (<h>ishshah</>) is given that name because she has been "taken out of (the side or rib of) man" (<h>ish</>).


A citron; "the fruit of goodly trees" (Leviticus 23.40) carried in procession in the synagogue with the lulab during the festival of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).

eucharist (from Greek for "prayer of thanks")

The Christian sacrament of receiving bread (usually unleavened) and wine as the body and blood of Christ (or as symbols thereof). This term is more often used for the sacrament in the Roman Catholic (see also mass) and Eastern Orthodox churches, while communion or "Lord's supper" is more common in the Protestant traditions.

evangelical, evangelizing, evangelistic (from Greek for "gospel," thus, gospel-centered)

Those Christian churches or movements that emphasize preaching that leads to repentance and conversion; in modern Christianity, evangelical beliefs usually include salvation by faith based on a personal conversion experience and emphasis on the authority of the canonical scriptures (see also fundamentalism).

In the context of Germany or Lutheran Christianity, "Evangelical" (Evangelische) refers to the Lutheran Church; for example, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

ex cathedra (Latin, "from the chair/throne")

An important term in Roman Catholic Christianity to designate the circumstance in which the pronouncement of the pope is considered infallible in matters of f aith and/or morals -- when he speaks "ex cathedra" (officially).


The act of religious authorities to deprive a person of membership or participation in the group; in Christianity, specifically exclusion from holy communion.

exilarch (from Greek, "ruler of the exile"; corresponds to Aramaic <h>resh galuta</>, "head of the exile")

A term used in early rabbinic Judaism for the head of the Jewish community in exile in Babylonia. The exilarch was depicted as an imperial dignitary, a member of the council of state, living in semi-royal fashion, who appointed communal officers and judges and was a descendant of the house of David.


See galut.


A modern philosophical position that has influenced Jewish and Christian thought significantly, with emphasis on the idea that meaningfulness must be created by people, to whom only existence is given.

Exodus (from Greek "to exit or go out")

Refers to the event of the Israelites leaving Egypt (see also Passover) and to the biblical book (see Pentateuch) that tells of that event.


Name of a person in the Hebrew Bible with whom the reestablishment of Judaism in Jerusalem in the 5th century BCE is associated. The events are recorded in a biblical book known by his name, and he is also associated with apocryphal books and traditions.


A general term for religious belief used both of an attitude (to have faith) and of a collection of doctrines (the faith). See also emuna, iman.

faqi^r (Arabic, "poor person")

In Islamic Sufism, a faqir is a mendicant who pursues spiritual as well as economic poverty.

fast, fasting

A general term for the religious rite or practice of going without food at certain times or for certain periods. See asceticism, Ramadan, sawm, Yom Kippur.

Fa^tih.a(h) (Arabic, "opening")

Al-Fatiha(h) is the title of the initial sura of the Quran, which serves Islam as a prayer used in various contexts. Compare Lord's Prayer in Christianity, kaddish in Judaism.


A daughter of Muhammad and his first wife, Khadija, and herself wife of `Ali (see also "rightly guided caliphs"). Her name was used by the impressive Shiite "Fatimid" dynasty in Egypt in the 10th and 11th centuries.

fatwa (Arabic)

In Islamic law, an advice rendered by an appropriate authority (see mufti). See also responsa in Judaism.

fiqh (Arabic)

"Understanding" in matters of religious law (sharia); Islamic jurisprudence as developed by the several schools of law (Hanbalite, Shafiite, Hanafite, Malikite). See also ijma, < A HREF="glossmr.html#qiyas">qiyas, ray.

fitnah (Arabic, "trial, testing")

A term used of early antagonism to individual Muslims, and later of threats to the health of the state (umma) as well.

fit.ra (Arabic)

In Islam, fitra is the original constitution or nature of humans as created by God, and is considered healthy.


From the Latin word for brothers, members of one of the mendicant (begging) orders as distinct from the cloistered monks.


A term originally applied to conservative, Bible-centered Protestant Christians (many of whom now prefer to call themselves "evangelicals"), but more recently extended to apply to the religiously authoritarian of all sorts (including classical Christians, Jews, and Muslims) who interpret their scriptures literally and in general favor a strict adherence to certain traditional doctrines and practices.


An angel or archangel from Jewish tradition who is closely associated with the virgin birth in Christianity, and with the revelation of the Quran in Islam.

galut (Heb., "exile")

The term refers to the various expulsions of Jews from the ancestral homeland. Over time, it came to express the broader notion of Jewish homelessness and state of being aliens. Thus, colloquially, "to be in <h>galut</>" means to live in the diaspora and also to be in a state of physical and even spiritual alienation.

Gaon (pl. Geonim,; adj. geonic; Heb., "eminence, excellence")

A title given to the Jewish head of the Babylonian academy and then to distinguished talmudic scholars in the 6th to 12th centuries.

Geiger, Abraham (1810-1874)

Early Jewish reform advocate in Germany, noted for his scholarship, his modern prayer book, and his advocacy for Judaism as a "world religion."

gemara (Heb., "completion")

Popularly applied to the Jewish Talmud as a whole, to discussions by rabbinic teachers on Mishnah, and to decisions reached in these discussions. In a more restricted sense, the work of the generations of the amoraim in "completing" Mishnah to produce the Talmuds.


An interpretative device in rabbinic Judaism which focuses on the numerical value of each word.

genizah (Heb., "hiding")

A hiding place or storeroom, usually connected with a Jewish synagogue, for worn-out holy books. The most famous is the Cairo Genizah, which contained books and documents that provide source material for Jewish communities living under Islamic rule from about the 9th through the 12th centuries. It was discovered at the end of the 19th century.

gentile(s) (Latin for people, nation)

In pre-Christian times, used to refer to non-Jewish peoples; thereafter, for non-Jewish and non-Christian (roughly synonymous with "pagan"). See also kafir.


See Gaon.

gittin (Heb.; sing


Jewish practice related to divorce. A <h>get</> is a Jewish divorce.

gnostic, Gnosticism

Derived from the Greek <g>gnosis</>, meaning "knowledge." Refers to various systems of belief characterized by a dualistic view of reality -- the God who created the material, phenomenal world (see demiurge), is different from (often antithetical to) the ultimate (hidden) God of pure spirit. Possession of secret gnosis frees a person from the evil material world and gives access to the spiritual world. Gnostic thought had a great impact on the eastern Mediterranean world in the 2nd to 4th century CE, often in a Christian form. See also mystic, and hikma in Islam.


A general designation for the deity (Hebrew Elohim, Yhwh; Greek Theos; Arabic Allah).

gospel (from the German for "good news" = Greek <g>euaggelion</>; see evangelical)

A term used in *early Christianity for the message about Jesus, and fairly soon (by extension) for writings that contained information about Jesus ("gospel according to Mark," etc., became "gospel of Mark"); the NT contains 4 "gospels" (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), and there are other noncanonical gospels as well. In the Muslim Quran, "gospel" is the main term for Christian scripture.


In Christian thought, unmerited divine assistance on one's spiritual path; often conceived as a special blessing received in an intense experience, but also may include a sense of special direction in one's life.

great schism

Also known as the Eastern Schism. The "split" between the western Latin (Roman Catholic) Christian church and the eastern Orthodox churches, culminating in 1053 CE when mutual excommunications were hurled. The term is also used to describe the Great Schism of the West (also known as the Western Schism), the period of 1378 to 1417 during which there were two rival popes (one in Avignon and one in Rome).

habdalah (Heb., "separation")

The Jewish ceremony using wine, spices, and candles at the conclusion of the Sabbath. Smelling the spices signifies the hope for a fragrant week; the light signifies the hope for a week of brightness and joy.


Jewish women's zionist organization in the US.

h.adi^th (Arabic, "report, account")

A tradition about Muhammad -- what he said or did on a particular occasion; the hadiths were collected and they came to be a record of the Prophet's Sunna, which is second only to the Quran in authority for Muslims. See also isnad.

haftara(h)/haftorah (Heb.)

In Jewish liturgy, designates a specific section of the biblical prophets read in synagogue services immediately after the corresponding Torah (Pentateuch) section called the parasha(h).

haggada(h) (Heb., "narration"; see also Aramaic aggada[h])

In a general sense, in classical Jewish literature and discussion, what is not halaka (legal subject matter) is (h)aggada (pl. <h>haggadot</>). Technically, "the Haggada(h)" is a liturgical manual used in the Jewish Passover Seder.

H.ajj (Arabic)

Hajj denotes the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in the appointed sacred (12th) month (see calendar) and is one of the five pillars of Islam (din). One who performs hajj is called a muhajirun (Arabic). See also id, ihram, umra, aliya, liturgy.

hakam (pl. <h>hakamim</> or <h>hakmim</>; Heb., "the wise")

A Jewish title given to pre-70 CE proto-rabbinic sages/scholars and post-70 CE rabbinic scholars.

halaka(h)/halakha (adj. halakic)

Any normative Jewish law, custom, practice, or rite -- or the entire complex. Halaka is law established or custom ratified by authoritative rabbinic jurists and teachers. Colloquially, if something is deemed halakic, it is considered proper and normative behavior.


A ceremony related to the Jewish Levirate law of marriage, which frees the widow to marry someone other than her husband's brother. In this ceremony the widow removes a shoe from her brother-in-law's foot, which is symbolic of removing his possessive right over her. See also levirate marriage.

h.ani^f (Arabic; pl. <a>h.unafa^'</>)

In Islamic tradition, a hanif is a pre-Islamic (Arabian) monotheist whose beliefs are thought to have descended from the time of the hanif Abraham, independently of Judaism, Christianity or Quranic Islam.

Hanukka(h) (Heb., "dedication")

A Jewish festival ("of lights") that commemorates the rededication of the Jerusalem temple to more *traditional modes of Jewish worship by Judah the Maccabee around 164 BCE. See also calendar.

hasidim, hasidism (Heb., "pious ones")

The term may refer to Jews in various periods: (1) a group that resisted the policies of Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd century BCE at the start of the Maccabean revolt; (2) pietists in the 13th century; (3) followers of the movement of Hasidism founded in the first half of the 18th century by Israel Ba'al Shem Tov.

haskalah (Heb.)

Jewish rationalistic "enlightenment" in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe. See maskilim, Mendelson, reform.


Descendants of Hashmon, a Jewish family that included the Maccabees and the high priests and kings who ruled Judea from 142 to 63 BCE.

Hassan or Hasan

In Islamic history, a son of Ali (and brother of Husayn) who abdicated his claims to be calif in favor of the first Umayyad ruler Muawiyah; usually numbered as second Imam by the Shiites.


See cantor.


A term used variously to designate such locations as the abode of deity, or the place where those favored by God will ultimately arrive, or an area of (spiritual) activity above the material earth, or the place where spiritual/ideal realities abide. See also paradise.

Hebrew (from Heb. to pass over, cross over)

An old name given to the people of Israel, and also to their language.

hegira(h) (Arabic)

See hijra

hell (also hades [Greek])

Place of punishment for the departed dead who do not attain to heaven, especially in Christian eschatology. See also sheol, Satan.

hellenism (adj. hellenistic; Greek word for "Greekish")

The civilization that spread from Greece through much of the ancient world from 333 (Alexendar the Great) to 63 (dominance of Rome) BCE. As a result, many elements of Greek culture (names, language, philosophy, athletics, architecture, etc.) penetrated the Near East.

heresy (from Greek for "sub-group, sect")

See minim, heterodox, bid`a; also orthodoxy.

heretic, heretical

See heterodox, orthodox, schismatic, birkat.


Principles of interpretation (from the Greek, "to interpret, translate"). The term is often used with reference to the study of Jewish and Christian scriptures.

Herzl, Theodor

German Jewish author of <t>Der Judenstaat</> (The Jewish State) in 1896, which served as a catalyst to the development of modern zionism.


Greek for "other opinioned." Refers to opinions or positions that differ from what is considered "orthodox" or "traditional" at the time. A less judgmental term than "heretical," but with similar import.


The mountainous area along the western-central coast of the Arabian penninsula in which both Medina (Yathrib) and Mecca are located, and which gave rise to early Islam.

Hijra(h) (Arabic; also "hegira")

The "emigration" of Muhammad and the Muslims from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE; the Muslim lunar calendar dates from that year (see AH, calendar).

hikma(h) (Arabic, "wisdom"; see Heb. <h>hokma</>)

In Islam, the highest level of human understanding, and especially the intuitive wisdom illuminating the mystic. See also gnostic.


Often called by the title "the Elder." Probably a Babylonian, Hillel was an important sage of the early Jewish period in Palestine around the turn of the era. His teachings convey the Pharisaic ideal, through many epigrams on humility and peace (found in <t>Sayings of the Fathers</> 1-2); and were fundamental in shaping the Pharisaic traditions and modes of interpretation. In rabbinic lore, Hillel is famous for a negative formulation of the "golden rule" (recited to a non- Jew): "What is hateful to you do not do to your fellow man. That is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. Go and learn it." His style of legal reasoning is continued by his disciples, known as *Beit Hillel ("House/School of Hillel"), and is typically contrasted with that of Shammai (a contemporary) and his school.

Hira (Arabic <a>h.ira^'</>)


In Islamic tradition, the mountain (and by extension, the cave or grotto there) where Muhammad began to receive the Quran.

holocaust (from Greek, entire burnt offering)

A term used in recent times to refer to the Nazi German policy to exterminate the Jewish people in the second world war period.

holy spirit (= "holy ghost" [archaic])

In Judaism, the presence of God as evidenced in the speech of the *prophets and other divine 'manifestations; in Christianity, understood more generally as the active, guiding presence of God in the church and its members.

holy water

In classical Christian tradition, water consecrated or blessed by a priest for liturgical purposes.

homoiousios and homoousios (Greek "similar" and "same" essence)

Terms used in the great Christian christological controversies of the 4th century in attempting to understand the relationship of God the father to Jesus Christ the son. See trinity. Homoousios came to be the approved term for classical Christianity.

host (from Latin for a "sacrifice")

Christian liturgical term for the element (normally unleavened bread or a bread-like wafer) in the eucharist that signifies the body of Christ. See elevation of the host.


A modern term used (sometimes pejoratively) of the position that focuses on human values and needs without special concern for arbitrary religious traditions or values. Also applied more traditionally to the embracing of classical Greek and Latin values, rediscovered through classical learning (as contrasted to late Medieval scholasticism; see also renaissance).

huppah or chuppah (Heb.)

In Judaism, the special canopy under which a marriage ceremony is conducted.


In Islamic history, a son of Ali and brother of Hassan who is martyred in 680 at Karbala and becomes a hero for Shiites.

hymn (from Greek, to sing praise)

A general term for poetic chants or songs of praise (usually to God); see piyyutim, yigdol, liturgy, prayer.

`Iba^da (Arabic)

Ibada is literally "service" to God through worship by means of the five pillars of Islam (din).

Ibli^s (Arabic, from Greek <g>diabolos</>, whence English "devil")

See Satan, angels.

ibn (Arabic, "son [of]"; Heb., ben; Aramaic, *bar)

Used frequently in "patronymics" (naming by identity of father); see also bat, bint.


Usually (in Eastern Orthodox Christianity) a painted religious image -- for example of Jesus Christ, his mother Mary, or a saint -- understood in Eastern Orthodoxy to be a copy of a heavenly image. See also aniconic.

iconoclastic ("icon smashing") controversy

A century or so, from mid-8th through mid-9th centuries, of inner Byzantine Christian contention over whether to continue to revere icons (as most monastics and unsophisticated believers tended to do) or smash them (as some political and ecclesiastical authorities proposed); the controversy was focused in Constantinople and influenced by the aniconic traditions of Judaism and Islam.

`id (Arabic, "festival, holy day")

Used in names of Muslim special days such as <a>`id al-fitr</> at the end of Ramadan or <a>`id al-adha</> during the hajj.


A Greek term for t he worship of what are perceived to be "idols" or false "gods," forbidden in the biblical traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. See also shirk.

ih.ra^m (Arabic)

Ihram denotes the state of ritual purity and dedication entered into by the pilgrim on hajj to Mecca; also the special clothing worn for the hajj.

ijma^` (Arabic)

Ijma or "consensus" (of legal scholars, representing all Muslims) is one of the four sources of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence (fiqh; see also sharia).

ijtiha^d (Arabic)

Intellectual "effort" of Muslim jurists to reach independent religio-legal decisions (thus producing ijma), a key feature of modern Islamic reform; one who exercises ijtihad is a mujtahid.

ima^m (Arabic)

"Leader," specifically of the salat prayer service in the mosque; in Shiite Islam, imam also refers to one of the revered (early) leaders of the community (a designated descendant of `Ali) who both ruled in the political sense and also interpreted doctrine with infallible, God-given wisdom.

i^ma^n (Arabic, "faith"; see Heb. <h>emuna</>)

A highly regarded religious virtue in the Quran. One who has iman (faith) is a <a>mu'min</>, "believer."

imitatio Christi (Latin, "imitation of Christ")

A Christian devotional book by Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471) and also the specific religious goal of imitating Jesus Christ.

immaculate conception

In classical Christianity, the claim that the Virgin Mary was conceived under a special dispensation of God so that she remained pure, without the original sin usually transmitted through the sexual act. Feasts celebrating her conception were popular in the middle ages, although the act of recognizing this as an official doctrine (dogma) of the Roman Catholic church was not formalized by the pope until 1854. Not to be confused with the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus.

incarnation (Latin)

A term in Christianity applied to the "becoming flesh" (human birth) of Jesus Christ.


In classical Christian doctrine, an indulgence can be obtained to help remove the required "temporal" punishment for sin, of oneself or of another; one of the catalysts of the reformation was Luther's objection to the inappropriate sale of indulgences.


See circumcision, baptism.


Refers especially to the Christian Roman Catholic court for investigating and punishing heresy. The first papal inquisitions began in the late twelfth century and were centralized under pope Innocent III; another notable court was the Spanish inquisition in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

intertestamental period

The period in which early Judaism develops, between about 400 BCE (the traditional end date for Jewish Bible = Christian "Old Testament") and the 1st century CE (composition of the Christian "New Testament"). The Jewish intertestamental literature includes the Apocrypha (mostly preserved in Greek) and the Pseudepigrapha (works from this period ascribed to ancient authors like Enoch, the patriarchs, and Moses). This literature provides important background for understanding the period of Christian origins.


One of the Israelite patriarchs, son of Abraham and father of Jacob, in the accounts in the book of Genesis.

Isla^m (Arabic, "surrender, submitting")

Islam is the name of the true religion, according to the Quran; one who submits to God is a Muslim.

isna^d (Arabic, "support")

In Islam, the isnad of a tradition (see hadith) is the chain or linkage of human reporters that authenticate the material as deriving from the time of Muhammad and his companions. Compare Christian "apostolic succession" and Jewish validation of oral law.


A name given to the Jewish patriarch Jacob according to the etiology of Genesis 32.38. In Jewish biblical times, this name refers to the northern tribes, but also to the entire nation. Historically, Jews have continued to regard themselves as the true continuation of the ancient Israelite national-religious community. The term thus has a strong cultural sense. In modern times, it also refers to the political state of Israel. Christians came to consider themselves to be the "true" Israel, thus also a continuation of the ancient traditions.


A major city in Muslim Turkey, in the area formerly called Constantinople and even earlier, Byzantium.


One of the Israelite patriarchs, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, in the accounts in the book of Genesis.

ja^hili^ya (Arabic)

Al-Jahiliya is the pre-Islamic Arabian age of "ignorancce," marked by barbarism and unbelief; Islam came to end this evil age, according to its view. The period is subdivided in some Islamic traditions -- e.g. the period of Abraham, of Jesus (or alternatively, of infidelity, of corruption, etc.).


From the religious viewpoints of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the main city in ancient Palestine (= modern Israel), where the Temple of David/Solomon had been located, Jesus/Joshua had been crucified/resurrected, Muhammad had journeyed to heaven (his <a>miraj</>), among other significant things. Thus for all three religions, in some senses Jerusalem is a or the "holy city."


Mechanical attempt to represent the special Jewish name for deity, YHWH.


Common designation for (members of) the Roman Catholic order called the Society of Jesus (abbreviated SJ), founded in the 16the century by Ignatius of Loyola.

Jesus/Joshua ("Jesus" is the Greek attempt to transliterate the Semitic name "Joshua")

The somewhat mysterious Palestinian popular figure from the 1st century CE whose death and alleged resurrection as God's Messiah/Christ became foundational for an early Jewish sub-group known as Nazarenes, from which "Christianity" ultimately developed as a separate religion.


See Judaism.

jiha^d (Arabic)

In Islam, jihad denotes "exertion" or struggle in the work of God, including, sometimes, armed force (thus, "holy war").

jizyah (Arabic)

The special tax levied on dhimmi in Islam.

Josephus or Flavius Josephus

Jewish general and author in the latter part of the 1st century CE who wrote a massive history ("Antiquities") of the Jews and a detailed treatment of the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66-73 CE (and his involvement in it), among other things.

Judah the Prince (Heb., haNasi)

Head of the rabbinic Jewish community in Palestine around 200 CE. Credited with publication of the Mishnah.

Judaism, Jew

From the Hebrew name of the patriarch Judah, whose name also came to designate the tribe and tribal district in which Jerusalem was located. Thus the inhabitants of Judah and members of the tribe of Judah come to be called "Judahites" or, in short form, "Jews." The religious outlook associated with these people after about the 6th century BCE comes to be called "Judaism," and has varying characteristics at different times and places: see especially early Judaism, rabbinic Judaism. See also Hebrew(s)rael">Israel.

judgment, final

See eschatology, <a>yawm al-din</>, hell, satan.


Personal name (Heb. Yohanan; Greek Yohannes) found frequently in Judaism in the Greco-Roman period and in early Christianity. For example, John Hyrkan/Hyrcanus (Jewish king, died 104 BCE), John the Baptizer/Baptist (contemporary of Jesus), John son of Zebedee (one of Jesus' apostles), John "the theologian" (author of the NT book of Revelation/Apocalypse), John Chrysostom (4th century church *father), John of Damascus (8th century church father). Also the name given to one of the NT gospels and to t hree letters in the NT.


In Christian thought, the state (or judicial act) of being released by God from the guilt of sin.

Ka`ba (Arabic)

The sacred cubical shrine in Mecca, toward which Muslims face in prayer and to which they make pilgrimages (see hajj); Islamic traditon claims the Kaba (or Kaaba) was built by Abraham and Ishmael (see Quran 2.124-127).

Kabala(h) or Kabbala(h) (Kabalism) (Heb. qabbala, "receiving, tradition")

A system of Jewish theosophy and mysticism. See also kavanah, Zohar.


A classical Jewish prayer (mostly in Aramaic) with eschatological focus extolling God's majesty and kingdom recited at the conclusion of each major section of each liturgical service; a long version (called rabbinic kaddish) follows an act of study; also a prayer by mourners during the first year of bereavement (see shiva,*sheloshim) and on the anniversary of the death of next-of-kin. Compare the Christian "Lord's Prayer," Islam's Fatiha.

ka^fir (Arabic)

In Islam, kafir means "infidel"; see also pagan.

kahal (qahal) (Heb., "congregation, gathering")

Used to refer to the corporate Jewish community of medieval Europe. See also synagogue, church, umma.

kala^m (Arabic, "speech")

In Islam, kalam refers especially to speculative theology (see also Mutazilite).

kalima (Arabic)

The formal content of the shahada(h) witness is called the Kalima. See also creed.

Karaism, Karaites

Derived from Heb. <h>qara</>, "scripture." A Middle Eastern heterodox Jewish group that arose in opposition to Rabbinism in the 8th century CE, and emphasized the written scriptures while criticizing the rabbinic use of "oral law."

Karbala^' (Arabic)

Karbala is the place in Iraq where Husayn, grandson of Muhammad and son of `Ali and Fatima was ambushed and killed on his way to assume leadership over the Shiites in Iraq, a tragic event commemorated each year on the tenth (<a>`A^shu^ra^'</>) of the Muslim month of Muharram (see calendar).

kasher, kashrut

See kosher.

kavanah (Heb., "intention")

A mystical instrument of the Jewish kabalists; a meditation which accompanies a ritual act.

kehilla(h) (Heb., "community")

Jewish sense of community, in a particular sense, within the larger kneset Israel.

keneset Israel (Heb.)

"Assembly of Israel," or the Jewish people as a whole. See kehilla; Muslim umma; compare Christian church.

kerygma (Greek, "proclamation")

Term used technically for the content of early Christian preaching as reconstructed by modern scholars.

ketuva(h) or ketuba(h) (Heb.)

The classical Jewish religious marriage certificate. See also *get.

Ketuvim or Ketubim (Heb., "writings")

The third and last division of the classical Jewish Bible (TaNaK), including large poetic and epigrammatic works such as Psalms and Proverbs and Job as well as a miscellany of other writings (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Qohelet, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles).


Merchant widow who became the first wife (and business partner) of Muhammad, and mother of Fatima. Khadija was an important influence in encouraging and supporting Muhammad.

Kha^rijites (Arabic <a>khawa^rij</>, "those who split off or depart")

The name of a reactionary Islamic group that emerged during the fighting between `Ali and the Umayyad founder and tried to establish its own purified caliphate to enforce justice and a more Quran oriented Islam. They rejected "compromising" Califs such as Uthman, and `Ali in the latter part of his rule. The Kharijites never became a major force in overall Islamic history after the death of `Ali, who was murdered by a Kharijite.


See Kharijites.

khila^fah or khalifa (Arabic)

See caliph.


An Indonesian Muslim term for a religious teacher of high status.


A communal settlement in modern Israel.

kiddush (Heb., "sanctification"; derived from <h>kadosh (qadosh)</>, "holy")

A ritual of Jewish sabbath and other holy days, usually accompanied by a cup of wine, which proclaims the holiness of the day.

kiddushin (Heb., "consecration")

Denotes Jewish betrothal for marriage, signifying the sanctity of the relationship.


A Jewish headcovering worn for worship, religious study, meals, or at any other time; also called yarmulke.

Kingdom of God

The state of the world in which God's will is fulfilled; expected to be brought into being at the end of time when Christ returns.

kohen or cohen (pl. <h>kohanim</>; Heb.)

An Israelite priest, generally descended from the tribe of Levi.


See Quran.

kosher (Heb., <h>kasher</>)

"Proper" or "ritually correct"; <h>kashrut</> refers to ritually correct Jewish dietary practices. Traditional Jewish dietary laws are based on biblical legislation. Only land animals that chew the cud and have split hooves (sheep, beef; not pigs, camels) are permitted and must be slaughtered in a special way. Further, meat products may not be eaten with milk products or immediately thereafter. Of sea creatures, only those (fish) having fins and scales are permitted. Fowl is considered a meat food and also has to be slaughtered in a special manner.


See torah, commandments, oral and written law, halaka, Shulhan Aruch, nomos, shariah, fiqh.


A fermenting substance used to make bread dough rise, making it lighter with air bubbles. In Jewish ritual, leaven is not premitted at passover time, when "unleavened" bread (matzah) is a major symbol. Classical Christianity has also been influenced by this prohibition in its Easter and eucharist practices (see host).


In the Christian liturgical calendar, the period of 40 days between "Ash Wednesday" and Easter.

levirite marriage

From the Latin <l>levir</> for the Hebrew <h>yabam</>, brother-in-law; a biblical system of marriage in which the levir marries his brother's widow (Deuteronomy 25.5-10).

liberal (from Latin, "free [thinker]")

A general term used in religion discussions to indicate a person or view that breaks significantly from the conservative traditional position(s). See also modernist.


A general term used in religion discussions to indicate a person or view that attempts to interpret the scriptures and other recognized classical religious authorities in a straightforward, literal manner. See also fundamentalism, verbal inspiration, allegory.

liturgy (adj. liturgical)

Rites of public worship, usually institutionalized in relation to temple, synagogue, church, kaba, or mosque locations and traditions, but also in other formalized observances (see, e.g., pillars of Islam, calendar). See also eucharist, hajj, hymn, mass, passover, prayer, shema, sukkot, siddur.

logos (Greek, "word," "speech"; divine reason)

A Greek term found in various connections in hellenistic thought, including the philosophy of Philo the 1st century CE Alexandrian Jew where it is comparable to the Hebrew <h>hokmah</> ("wisdom"; Greek <g>sofia</>). In the Christian Gospel of John, <g>logos</> is equated with the divine functions of Jesus Christ (John 1.1-18).

Lord's Prayer (or "the Our Father")

A familiar Christian prayer attributed to Jesus/Joshua (NT Matthew 6.9-13) and comparable to the Jewish kaddish (see also Islam's Fatiha).

love feast

See agape.


The palm branch used with other plants in the Jewish Sukkot (Tabernacles) celebration.


Martin Luther (1483-1546, Germany) was the most celebrated of the protestant Christian reformers, who is credited with igniting the reformation by challenging Roman Catholic positions in his "95 theses" posted in 1517 at Wittenberg, Germany. The Lutheran denominati ons take their name from him. See also indulgence, consubstantiation.

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