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.

Click Here to go up the previous section of the glossary.


maariv (from Heb., "evening")

Jewish synagogue evening prayer or service. See also liturgy.


See Hasmoneans, hasidim, Hannuka.

maggid (Heb., "a speaker")

A kabalistic notion of how the holy spirit is mediated to the mystic; later meant a preacher among the eighteenth-century Hasidim.

magen David (Heb., "shield of David")

The distinctive six-pointed Jewish star, used especially since the 17th century.

Mahdi (Arabic, "guided one")

An eschatological, messianic figure expected in Sunni Islam.

mah.ram (Arabic)

In Islam, mahram designates the bounds of close blood relationship within which it is unlawful to marry, and thus lawful for members of the opposite sex to associate socially (as between brothers and sisters aunts and nephews and so forth).

Maimonides, or Moses ben Maimon

A major medieval rabbi, physician, scientist, and philosopher (1135-1204), known by the acronym RaMBaM (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon). Born in Spain, Maimonides fled from persecution to Morocco and finally settled in Egypt. His Major works include a legal commentary on the Mishnah, a law code called <t>Mishnah Torah</>, and the preeminent work of medieval Jewish rational philosophy, <t>The Guide of the Perplexed</>.


Refers to what now appears to be, or to have been, the influential majority (or dominant authority) in a continuum; see classical, orthodox, traditional.

Mani, Manicheism

Mani began a consciously eclectic religious movement in the 3rd century CE in Persia that built to some extent on Jewish and Christian foundations (including a gnostic dualistic outlook) and rapidly spread throughout the inhabited world from Spain to China, surviving in some areas for several centuries.


A 2nd century Christian (and his followers) who was considered heretical by his opponents because of certain dualistic and gnostic ideas.


An old Spanish term meaning "swine," used to execrate medieval Spanish Jews who converted to Christianity but secretly kept their Judaism.

martyr (Greek, "witness")

A general term for persons who endure persecution, usually leading to death, for the sake of their religious "witness" (profession, position).

masjid (Arabic, "place of prostration")

See mosque.

maskilim (Heb., "the enlightened ones")

Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Jews who engaged in secular rationalistic studies and facilitated the acculturation of Jews to Western society; members of the haskalah.

Masoretes, Masoretic text

Derived from <h>masorah</>, meaning "tradition"; the Masoretes were the rabbis in ninth-century Palestine who sought to preserve the traditional text of the Bible (hence called the Masoretic text), which is still used in contemporary synagogues. The Masoretes were scholars who encouraged Bible study and attempted to achieve unlformity by establishing rules for correcting the text in matters of spelling, grammar, and pronunciation.

mass (from Latin for "send")

In classical (Roman Catholic) Christianity, the entire set of liturgical prayers and ceremonies surrounding the eucharist. See also Christmas.


A modern perspective in which everything is considered to be actually or potentially reducable to physical matter.


Jewish unleavened bread used at Passover.

mawlid or maulid (Arabic)

"Birthday" celebration, especially used in connection with Muhammad (<a>Mawlid al-Nabi</> = birthday of the Prophet; compare Christmas) and the saints of Islam.


The city in the west-central Hejaz area of the Arabian penninsula from which Muhammad came, and to which he returned in triumph in the hijra from Medina. The location of the sacred Kaba, central to Islamic worship (see hajj).

Medina (Arabic, "the city" [of the Prophet])

The city of Yathrib, about 200 miles north of Mecca along the Hejaz (western mountain belt) of the Arabian penninsula, in which Muhammad achieved political success (see ansar) and from which the hijra to Mecca was launched.

megillah (Heb., "scroll")

Usually refers to the biblical scroll of Esther read on the festival of Purim. Or, if indefinite, one of the five megilloth.

megilloth (Heb., plural of megillah, "scrolls")

One of five biblical scrolls in the Ketuvim: Ruth, Esther, Qoheleth, Song of Songs, and Lamentations. One of the scrolls is read on major feast and fast days; for example, Esther is read on the festival of Purim and the Song of Songs is read during Passover.

melakah (Heb.)


Mendelssohn, Moses (1729-86)

Important German Jewish thinker whose ideas helped lay the base for Reform Judaism (see haskala).


See Friars, faqir.


Jewish candelabrum with special religious significance; a nine-branched menorah is used at Hannukah, while the seven-branched was used in the ancient Temple.

merkabah (Heb., "chariot")

The "chariot vision" was an integral element of mysticism signifying a mystical vision of divinity.


Lit "anointed one"; Greek <g>christos</>. Ancient priests and kings (and sometimes prophets) of Israel were anointed with oil. In early Judaism, the term came to mean a royal descendant of the dynasty of David who would restore the united kingdom of Israel and Judah and usher in an age of peace, justice and plenty; the redeemer figure. The concept developed in many directions over the centuries. The messianic age was believed by some Jews to be a time of perfection of human institutions; others believed it to be a time of radical new beginnings, a new heaven and earth, after divine judgment and destruction. The title came to be applied to Jesus/Joshua of Nazareth by his followers, who were soon called "Christians" in Greek and Latin usage. Jesus is also "Messiah" in Islam (e.g. Quran 3.45). See also Mahdi.

mezuzah (pl. <h>mezuzot</>; Heb., "doorpost")

A parchment scroll with selected Torah verses (Deuteronomy 6.4-9; 11.13-21) placed in a container and affixed to the exterior doorposts (at the right side of the entrance) of observant Jewish homes (see Deuteronomy 6.1-4), and sometimes also to interior doorposts of rooms. The word <h>shaddai</> (almighty) usually is inscribed on the back of the container.

midrash (pl. midrashim)

From Heb. <h>darash</>, "to inquire," whence it comes to mean "exposition" (of scripture). Refers to the "commentary" literature developed in classical Judaism that attempts to interpret Jewish scriptures in a thorough manner. Literary Midrash may focus either on halaka, directing the Jew to specific patterns of religious practice, or on (h)aggada, dealing with theological ideas, ethical teachings, popular philosophy, imaginative exposition, legend, allegory, animal fables, etc. -- that is, whatever is not halaka.

mih.ra^b (Arabic)

The mihrab is the niche in the wall of the mosque that marks the direction (qiblah) to Mecca, and into which the imam prays.

mikveh or mikvah

See miqvah

milhemet mitzvah

From Heb, war of the covenant; see also jihad.


From the Latin for "1000" (see also chiliastic). Having to do with the expected millennium, or thousand-year reign of Christ prophesied in the NT book of Revelation ("the Apocalypse"), a time in which the world would be brought to perfection. Millenarian movements often grow up around predictions that this perfect time is about to begin. See esch atology.

millah (Arabic, "religion"; Turkish millet)

A general term usually used for one of the varieties of sects/religions (over against din, for the true religion of Islam), such as <a>millat Ibra^hi^m</> (the religion of Abraham). In Ottoman Turkey, millet was used for the religious groups within the empire, but is also used more generally for any major sub-group in society (people, nation, state).

min (pl. <h>minim</>; Heb.)

A heretic, sectarian, or schismatic, according to classical Judaism. The term was applied both to Christians, especially Christian Jews, and to people of "gnostic" tendencies, among others; see birkat.


Tower-like architectural feature of many mosques, from which the muadhdhin/muezzin recites the call (adhan) for prayer (salat).

minbar (Arabic)

The raised pulpit near the mihrab in a Muslim mosque, from which the Friday sermon (<a>khutba</>) is delivered. See also altar, bima.

mincha(h) (from Heb. for afternoon sacrifice)

Afternoon prayers in Jewish synagogue.


A quorum of ten Jews (for Orthodox Jews, ten males) above age thirteen necessary for public services and certain other religious ceremonies to be considered valid.

miqvah or mikveh (Heb.)

A Jewish communal bath (like baptism) for washing away ritual impurity by immersion.


A general term for special events that seem inexplicable by normal (rational) means. Miracle reports are frequent in Jewish and Christian scriptures and early traditions, while in Islam, the only "miracle" associated with Muhammad is said to be the reception and transmission of the Quran. See also *magic.

Mishnah (Heb., "teaching")

The digest of the recommended Jewish oral halaka as it existed at the end of the 2nd century and was collated, edited, and revised by Rabbi Judah the Prince. The code is divided into six major units and sixty-three minor ones. The work is the authoritative legal tradition of the early *sages and is the basis of the legal discussions of t he Talmud. See also pilpul.

mitnaged (pl. <h>mitnagaim</>; Heb., "opposer(s)")

Traditionalist and rationalistic Jewish opponents of eighteenth-century Jewish Hasidism.

mitzvah (pl. <h>mitzvot</>; Heb., "commandment, obligation")

A ritual or ethical duty or act of obedience to God's will. See also commandments.


A general term used in discussions of religion to indicate the perspective that focuses on modern applicability of religious principles. See also liberal, conservative.

monarchianism (from Greek, for "sole ruler")

An early Christian position that took various forms in the attempt to protect monotheistic ideals (the unity and soverignty of God). "Dynamic" monarchians saw Jesus Christ as God's adopted son (see adoptionism), while "modal" monarchians considered the different names used in trinity discussions to be convenient designations for ways in which the deity was perceived under various historical conditions.

monastery (adj. monastic; from Greek for "secluded dwelling")

Especially in Christianity, an isolated institution in which monks (or nuns) gather and often live communally, in a disciplined quest of religious fulfilment. See also Abbot.


The way of life or tradition of Christian monastics (monks or nuns) living in monasteries.

monk (from Greek, "a loner, a solitary person")

Especially in Christianity, persons (normally male) who pledged their existence to what they considered to be God's highest purposes, to be pursued in relative isolation from otherwise usual human pursuits (e.g. in a monastery, practicing celibacy and religious discipline).

monolithic (Greek, composed of a single stone)

Usually used with reference to rigid, fixed, unchanging systems -- often in negative statements, such as "Judaism was by no means monolithic."

monophysite (Greek, "one nature")

A post-Nicea Christian position holding that Jesus Christ had but one, divine nature (rather than both human and divine natures, as classical Christianity decided).

monotheism (Greek, one deity)

The belief that there is only one real and ultimate deity.


An early Christian group (followers of the prophet Montanus and his female prophet companions, Priscilla and Maximilla, in Asia Minor, around 160 CE) that believed that divine revelations took place in their midst, looked for the arrival of the end times (see eschatology) and resisted the growing influence of emerging classical Christianity. Tertullian became a montanist in his later Christian life.

morals (Latin, "customs")

See ethics.

mortal sin

See sin.


The great biblical personality (c. thirteenth century BCE) who is credited with leading the people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and teaching them the divine laws at Sinai. He is also described as first of the Jewish prophets. Throughout Jewish history he is the exalted man of faith and leadership without peer.


English corruption of the Arabic word <a>masjid</>, "place of prostration" for performing the salat. See also mihrab, qiblah. Functionally, the mosque as an architectural entity is similar to synagogue and church.

mu'adhdhin (Arabic, "caller"; see adhan)

More popularly spelled and pronounced "muezzin," the muadhdhin serves to call the Muslim faithful to salat (prayer worship).

mufti (Arabic)

A Muslim legal scholar who can deliver a fatwa.

muha^jiru^n (Arabic, "emigrants"")

In Islam, used especially for those who accompanied Muhammad on the hijra. See also hajj.


Muhammad is the ultimate prophet/rasul of Islamic radical monotheism whose revelations are collected in the Quran and whose efforts in Arabia (died 11 AH = 632 CE) provided impetus for Islam to become a world religion.


Twentieth-century Indonesian Islamic reform movement emphasizing purity of faith and practices and service to fellow Muslims, especially through education.

mujtahid (Arabic)

A Muslim jurist who exercises ijtihad.

Muslim (Arabic, "submitter")

One who follows Islam. Also the name of a famous Islamic collector of hadith in the late 9th century.

Mutazila(h) (Arabic, "standing aloof")

The Mutazilites in Islamic history (especially 9th century CE) are the "rationalist" and speculative theologians and philosophers (see kalam) against whom the emerging classical position reacted. The issues included the nature of the Quran (created or eternal) and the problem of human free-will in relation to predestination/determinism.

mystery religions

Designation used for a group of ancient Greco-Roman religions characterized by an emphasis on a central "mystery" (often concerning fertility and immortality). In many ways, both early Judaism and *early Christianity include characteristics of such "mysteries."

mystic, mysticism (adj. mystical; from Greek for "initiant" into religious "mysteries")

A vaguely used term to indicate certain types of behavior or perspective that goes beyond the rational in the quest of what is considered to be the ultimate in religious experience (often described as union or direct communion with deity). See also kabalah, gnostic, sufi/sufism, hikma, tariqa.

nabi or navi (Heb., pl. <h>nebiim</>; also Arabic)

A "prophet" in ancient Israel; also in Islam. Muhammad is the Muslim nabi par exellence (see also rasul). "Nevi'im" (or Nebiim) became a designation for a section of the Jewish scriptures; see TaNaK.

nasi (Heb., "prince, leader")

See Judah the Prince.


See nabi.


Designation for a modern Christian approach began among liberal thinkers who saw the need to revive commitment to traditional protestant ideas such as the centrality of God's word (both written and living) and of faith and of God's grace in providing salvation from sin without withdrawing from serious rational discussion of contemporary issues.


A line of development from the philosophy of Plato that emphasized the mystical dimensions of its dualistic view of reality, so that union with the ultimate One was a major goal. Influenced the development of mysticism in each of the three religious traditions.

New Testament (= NT)

The collection of Christian canonical writings that together with "the Old Testament" (see also Apocrypha) constitute the Christian Bible.


A place in northern Asia Minor (modern Turkey) where the first "ecumenical" council of Christendom was held in 325. See also creed (Nicene), Arius, Athanasius.


A modern position that holds that ultimately nothing (Latin <l>nihil</>) can be known or understood; life has no "meaning."

nomos (pl. <g>nomoi</>)

A Greek term meaning "law" that comes to be used in similar senses to "torah", referring to the Pentateuch, all of Jewish scripture, and even proto-rabbinic halaka; an expert in <g>nomos</> is termed a <g>nomikos</>.


See New Testament.


See monk, monastic, monastery.

observance, observant

Refers primarily to religious rules and practices, and to those who are rigorous about keeping them; see calendar, cult, liturgy, commandments, halaka, law, sharia, torah, tradition (etc.).

Old Testament (= OT)

The name traditionally given by Christians to the Jewish biblical writings that together with "the New Testament" constitute the Christian Bible. For most Protestant Christians, OT is identical to the classical Jewish Bible, while for classical (Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, etc.) Christianity, OT also includes "the Apocrypha."

omer (Heb., "sheaf")

In Judaism, the sheaf of grain offering brought to the temple during Passover, on Nisan 16; thus also the name of the seven-week period between Passover/Pesah and Shabuot also known as the Sephirah. See also calendar.

oral law

In traditional Jewish pharisaic/rabbinic thought, God reveals instructions for living through both the written scriptures and through a parallel process of orally transmitted traditions. Critics of this approach within Judaism include Sadducees and Karaites.


In classical Christianity, one of the sacraments is the taking of "holy orders," or entering full-time institutional service to God and the church. See priest, monk, nun, ordination.


In Christianity, the ceremony of "investing" a person with ministerial or priestly office and authority. Rabbinic Judaism has a similar process. See also orders, apostolic succession , semikah.


Historically, scholarship by Western experts on Asia; currently, distorted representation of non-Western culture by Western intellectuals, attributed to political bias and assumed superiority. Influentially used by Edward Said in Orientalism to criticize Western treatment of Arab culture as reflective of historical domination. For

original sin

In classical Christian thought, the fundamental state of sinfulness and guilt, inherited from the first man Adam, that infects all of humanity but can be removed through depending on Christ and the grace he provides (e.g. in baptism).


From the Greek for "correct opinion/outlook," as opposed to heterodox or heretical. The judgment that a position is "orthodox" depends on what are accepted as the operative "rules" or authorities at the time. Over the course of history, the term "orthodox" has come to denote the dominant surviving forms that have proved themselves to be "traditional" or "classical" or "mainstream" (e.g. rabbinic Judaism; the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christian churches; sunni Islam), although new, relative "orthodoxies" constantly emerge (and often disappear). See also neo-orthodoxy, orthopraxy.

orthopraxy (Greek, "correct action/activity")

In contrast to orthodoxy (right belief), the emphasis in this term concerns conduct, both ethical and liturgical. Historically, Judaism and Islam have tended to emphasize orthopraxy relatively more than orthodoxy, while classical Christianity tended to shift the balance in the other direction.

OT = Old Testament


A powerful Muslim clan that settled in what is now Turkey and established a Muslim dynasty that ruled from about the 13th century CE until 1924 (when it fell to the rebellious "young Turks"). It was the major preserver of "official" Islamic continuity in the Mediterranean and adjacent areas during most of that period.


A modern term for positions opposed to warfare (e.g. Quakerism).

pagan (from Latin for villiage peasant)

In a general sense, neither Jewish nor Christian (nor Muslim), traditionally with negative connotations (an irreligious person, heathen); see gentile, kafir. The term also has come to be adopted by some modern persons or movements that dissociate themselves from the "Judeo-Christian" tradition.

Palestine (Greek form representing "Philistines," for the seacoast population encountered by early geographers)

An ancient designation for the area between Syria (to the north) and Egypt (to the south), between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan; roughly, modern Israel.


See pope.

paradise (Greek, "park, garden"; possibly derived from Heb. <h>pardes</>)

Term used to describe the location of the creation of humankind (see garden of Eden) as well as the destination where those favored by God will ultimately arrive (especially in Islam). Also used in apocalyptic texts for one of the heavens or levels above the inhabited earth, near God.

parasha(h) (Heb., "section")

Prescribed weekly section of biblical Torah (Pentateuch) read in Jewish synagogue liturgy (ordinarily on an annual cycle). See haftarah.

pareve, or parve (Yiddish)

A Yiddish word identifying food that is neither milk nor meat. According to Jewish halakhah, foods that are pareve may be eaten with either dairy or meat. It now has the added connotation of bland or neutral.

parousia (Greek, "presence")

A technical term in Christian scholarship for the "second coming" or "return" of Jesus Christ in the end times (see eschatology).

passion (Latin, "suffering")

A technical term in Christian circles for Jesus' suffering and crucifixion.

A Passion Narrative is the part of each Gospel that tells the story of Jesus' passion. It's usually considered to begin with the anointing at Bethany and includes the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemene, the trials before the High Priest, Herod, and Pilate, the crucifixion, and the burial.

A Passion Play is a play that tells the story of the Passion. Andrew Lloyd Weber's rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar is a modern passion play.

Passover (Hebrew <h>pesah</>)

The major Jewish spring holiday (with agricultural aspects) also known as <h>hag hamatzot</> (festival of unleavened bread, <g>azyma</>) commemorating the Exodus or deliverance of the Hebrew people from Egypt (see Exodus 12-13). The festival lasts eight days, during which Jews refrain from eating all leavened foods and products. A special ritual meal (called the Seder) is prepared, and a traditional narrative (called the Haggadah), supplemented by hymns and songs, marks the event. See calendar, liturgy; also Christian Easter.


A popular name in Christian history, especially because of the significance of "the apostle" Paul in earliest Christian times. This Paul was not one of Jesus' original followers, but as a devoted Jew he at first persecuted the emerging "Christian" movement . After becoming an advocate of Jesus as messiah, Paul preached his gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, and perhaps beyond, focusing on gentile audiences. Several of the writings (letters) in the NT are attributed to Paul.


1. A common designation for the early founding figures of ancient Semitic tradition (before Moses) such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve tribal figureheads of Israel (Judah, Benjamin, etc.). 2. One of the bishops of the four major early Christian centers (or Sees) -- Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, or Alexandria, with Constantinople later added as a fifth. After the break with Rome (see great schism), the term may refer to the head of any of the national divisions of the Eastern church.

patristic (Latin, referring to the fathers)

A term used especially in Christian scholarship to designate important thinkers and/or authors who helped develop the classical position -- e.g. Irenaeus, Tertullian (see montanist), Cyprian, Augustine, John Chrysostom, etc.


The sacramental rite, in Christian Roman Catholicism, consisting of repentance, confession to a priest, payment of the temporal penalty for one's sins, and forgiveness.


Especially in classical Christianity, one who does penance; also one involved in a special prolonged period of seeking forgiveness through prescribed acts.

Pentateuch (from Greek for "five books/scrolls")

The five books attributed to Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; known in Jewish tradition as <h>Torat Mosheh</> (the teaching of Moses), or simply the Torah.

Pentecost (Greek for "50th [day]")

See Shabuot/Shavuot, calendar.


See Pharisees.


See Passover, calendar.

Pharisees (Hebrew <h>perushim</>, lit. "separatists" (?); adj. pharisaic)

The name given to a group or movement in early Judaism, the origin and nature of which is unclear. Many scholars identify them with the later sages and rabbis who taught the oral and written law; Sigal and some others see them as a complex of pietistic and zealous separatists, distinct from the proto-rabbis. According to Josephus (see also NT), the Pharisees believed in the immortality of souls and resurrection of the dead, in a balance between predestination and free will, in angels as active divine agents, and in authoritative oral law. In the early Christian materials, Pharisees are often depicted as leading opponents of Jesus/Joshua and his followers, and are often linked with "scribes" but distinguished from the Sadducees.

Philo Judeus (= "the Jew") of Alexandria

Greek speaking (and writing) prolific Jewish author in the 1st century CE. Provides extensive evidence for Jewish thought in the Greco-Roman ("hellenistic") world outside of Palestine.

phylacteries (Greek for "protectors")

See tefillin.


A general term for religious devotion.


A general term for religiously motivated visit to a site considered religiously significant. In Islam, this is a central pillar (see hajj, also umra), but the practice is also extended in various directions in all three traditions (see aliya, Jerusalem, Rome); often pilgrimages are made to sites associated with saints or relics of veneration.

pillars of Islam (arkan ad-din)

The five basic devotional-ritual duties of Islam (see ibada): shahada, testifying that "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God"; salat, five daily prayer services; zakat, almsgiving; sawm, fasting during daylight in the month of Ramadan; hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca (see also umra).


Dialectical rational method of studying Jewish oral law as codified in the Talmud(s).

Pittsburg Platform

Early statement of American Reform Jewish principles. See class handout.


Medieval Jewish synagogue hymns and poems added to standard prayers of the talmudic liturgy.


Ancient Greek philosopher (4th century BCE), student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle, whose identification of reality with the non-material world of ideas ("the ideal world") played an enormous role in subsequent philosophy and religion (see neo-Platonism, dualism). Father of "Platonism" and the Platonic Academy as a philosophical institution in Athens.


See Plato.


A general term for situations in which a variety of perspectives are accommodated, or at least tolerated, within the recognized system; e.g. America as a pluralistic society.


From the Russian word for "devastation"; an unprovoked attack or series of attacks upon a Jewish community.

pondok pesantren

An Islamic boarding school in Indonesia with a traditional curriculum based on the Quran.

pope (adj. papal; from the Latin for "father")

In Christian history, a mode of addressing important church leaders, and especially the bishop of Rome; thence it became a technical term for that bishop, as leader of the entire Catholic (universal) Church. The term is still used less restrictively in eastern orthodox Christianity. For a collection of writings and pronouncements by Roman Catholic Popes Click Here


A general term used for addressing petitions (or praise) to the deity. See amida, birkat, dhikr, dua, eucharist, Fatiha, kaddish, Lord's Prayer, maariv, mincha, salat, shemoneh esreh. See also hymn, liturgy, siddur.


The idea that one's eternal destiny is determined beforehand, from the beginning of time, by the will and plan of the deity.

presbyter (from Greek for "elder person")

In *early Christianity, one of the leaders of a community/church, sometimes synonymous with episkopos. In Protestant Christianity, the Presbyterian denomination follows the guidance of the representatives (called presbyters, the presbytery) of the affiliated congregations.

priest (see also kohen)

A functionary usually associated, in antiquity (including early Judaism), with temples and their rites (including sacrifice). In classical< /A> Christianity, the office of priest was developed (see ordination, clergy) in connection with celebration of the mass and eucharist, and with celibacy as an important qualification especially in Roman Catholicism. Islam has no equivalent for priests.

priesthood of believers

A principle of Luther and the protestant Christian reformation, that each individual believer has direct access to deity, without needing special intercession by a priest.


A general term for precedence, used especially in Christianity to refer to the position of the pope in relation to other bishops (he is sometimes called the "primate").

prophet (from Greek, to "speak for" or "speak forth")

Name given to accepted spokespersons of God (or their opposites, "false prophets"). Became a designation for a section of the Jewish scriptures; see nabi, rasul, TaNaK.


The name given to the Christian groups produced by the reformation, as opposed to Roman Catholicism (and classical Christianity in general).


early Judaism


Pre-70 CE sages who set the foundations of post-70 CE rabbinic Judaism before the ordination of rabbis became formalized in its classical sense.

pseudepigrapha (adj. pseudepigraphical), from Greek <g>pseudos</>, "deceit, untruth," and <g>epigraphe</>, "writing, inscription"

A name given to a number of intertestamental apocryphal writings that are implausibly attributed to an ancient worthy such as Adam/Eve, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Ezra, etc.


In classical (Roman Catholic) Christian thought, an intermediate state after death where one can finish satisfying the temporal punishments for one's sins and purify one's soul before being admitted to heaven.

Purim (see also, megillah

A Jewish festival commemorating the deliverance of Jews in Persia as described in the biblical book of Esther. Held in late winter (between Hannukah and Passover), on the 14th of Adar. See calendar.


The name given to a movement in early 17th century English Christianity that aimed at "purifying" the church (along Calvinistic lines), which was perceived to be failing in certain respects. Some puritans left England for the "new world" in search of greater religious freedom and founded the Massachusetts colony. See also congregationalism.

qabbala (Heb.)

See kabala.

qadar (Arabic)

In Islamic thought, divine determination of human actions and events; predestination by the decree of God.

qadi (Arabic)

An Islamic religious judge.

qaraite (Heb.)

See karaite

qiblah (Arabic, "orientation")

The direction towards Mecca in which Muslims situate themselves for prayer (salat), marked by the mihrab in the wall of each mosque.

qiya^s (Arabic, "analogy")

In Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), qiyas is one of the four accepted Sunni methods of deriving law (see also sharia). Legal principles from Quran or hadith can be extended by analogy to cover other similarly appropriate situations; see also ijtihad.


Nickname for "the Society of Friends," a form of protestant Christianity first associated with George Fox and his followers in 17th century England, with emphasis on the subjective spiritual aspects of religion. See also pacifism.

Qumran or Khirbet Qumran

The site near the northwest corner of the Dead Sea in modern Israel (west bank) where the main bulk of the Jewish "Dead Sea Scrolls" were discovered abound 1946. The "Qumran community" that apparently produced the scrolls seems to have flourished from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE, and is usually identified with the Jewish Essenes, or a group like them.

Qur'a^n (Arabic, "recitation")

Quran (or "Koran") is the name given to the collection of Islamic scriptures, consisting of 114 suras (sections), believed to have been revealed verbatim orally to Muhammad over a period of time through the angel Gabriel.


The leading Meccan tribe, to which Muhammad belonged.

Rabb (Arabic, "Lord")

In Islam, a frequent title for God (Allah). From the same Semitic root as Hebrew rabbi.

rabbi (adj. rabbinic)

Hebrew, "my master," an authorized teacher of the classical Jewish tradition (see oral law) after the fall of the second Temple in 70 CE. The role of the rabbi has changed considerably throughout the centuries. Traditionally, rabbis serve as the legal and spiritual guides of their congregations and communities. The title is conferred after considerable study of traditional Jewish sources. This conferral and its responsibilities is central to the chain of tradition in Judaism.

Radical Reformation

See anabaptist.


In Islam, the 9th month, Ramadan, is the holy month of fasting, during which the Quran was first revealed. See calendar.


Acronym for Rabbi Solomon (= Sholomo) ben Isaac (1040-1105), a great medieval sage of Troyes, France. He is the author of fundamental commentaries on the Talmud, and one of the most beloved and influential commentaries on the Bible. Characterized by great lucidity and pedagogy, his comments emphasized the plain, straightforward sense of a text.

rasu^l (Arabic, "messenger")

In the Muslim shahada, rasul has specific reference to Muhammad as the special prophet (nabi) of God entrusted with a divine message: "There is no god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is God's rasul." Rasul is a type of nabi/prophet, or apostle.


A general term for the perspective that holds that everything is actually or potentially understandable by human reason. See also agnosticism, atheism, mysticism.

ra'y (from Arabic, "to see")

In Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), ray indicates personal opinion in adapting law (see sharia).


The title of the spiritual leader of the Hasidim; see zaddik. To see a picture of the former Rebbe for the Lubavitcher Community, Click Here


A dissenting movement in ancient Israel generally devoted to certain ascetic practices and a simple lifestyle (see Jeremiah 35.1-19).

Reconstructionist Judaism

Founded by Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1982), this represents a recent development in American Judaism, and attempts to focus on Judaism as a civilization and culture constantly adapting to insure survival in a natural social process. The central academic institution is the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in the Philadelphia suburbs. See also Reform and Conservative Judaism.


An editor, especially with reference to ancient books such as the Jewish and Christian scriptures.


A term from ancient economic vocabulary concerning the freeing of slaves by purchasing (manumission), applied to the religious concept (especially in Christianity) of salvation from slavery to sin (being "redeemed").== in judaism?

Reform Judaism

Modern movement originating in 18th century Europe that attempts to see Judaism as a rational religion adaptable to modern needs and sensitivities. The ancient traditions and laws are historical relics that need have no binding power over modern Jews. See Pittsburg Platform, Geiger. The central academic institution of American Reform Judaism is the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and it is represented also by the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Compare Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism.


Name given to the protestant Christian movements (and the period itself) in the 16th century in which Roman Catholicism was opposed in the interest of "reforming" Christianity to what was considered its earliest known form (found in the New Testament). See Luther, Calvin, Anabaptists.


The modern position that affirms that everything (except this statement!) is relative to the particularities of the given situation.


In popular Christian religiousity, objects or parts of the body (e.g., clothing, teeth, bones) left behind after the decay of the corpse, which are venerated for saints of the Roman Catholic and Eastern churches.


A general term for a system of beliefs and/or practices thought to enhance human contact with realities otherwise inaccessible or unperceived.

renaissance (Latin)

Name usually given to the "rebirth" of classical knowledge that erupted in the 15th century and provided background for the protestant reformation and associated events in Europe. The term is also used in other connections.


A term used especially in protestant Christianity to indicate the subjective state of sorrow and concern over sin, on the way to salvation. See also penance.


Also called <h>teshubot</>, from <h>sheelot uteshubot</> (questions and answers); answers to questions on halaka and observances, given by Jewish scholars on topics addressed to them. They originated during the geonic period, and are still used as a means of modern updating and revision of halaka. See also fatwa.


The idea that dead persons who have found favor with the deity will ultimately (in eschatological times) be raised from the dead, with restored bodily form.


A general term for self-disclosure of the divine (God reveals to humans), which is often considered to be focussed in the revealed scriptures. Also the name of a specific Christian biblical book, the "Apocalypse" (Greek, "uncovered") or "Revelation" (Latin).


Events of spiritual awakening or high religious involvement; specifically in modern Christianity, commonly in evangelical circles, special meetings to encourage such awakening or interest.


A term to describe the modern perspective that focusses on subjective feeling in relating to art and nature.

Rosh Hashanah (Heb., "beginning of the year")

Jewish New Year celebration in the fall of the year, the month of Tishri. See also calendar.

Rosh Hodesh (Heb., "beginning of a lunar month")

The New Moon Festival. See also calendar.

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