glossary

613 commandments Jewish law construes the Torah as prescribing 248 positive  (visiting the sick, hospitality etc.) and 365 negative commandments, imagined as corresponding to the limbs of the human body.
Abbot (from Hebrew for Abba, or Father) designates the elected leader of a community of  monks.
Abraham This biblical hero may never in fact have existed historically; the stories about him, however, illustrate the ideal of faithful obedience held by the Jews who canonized the tales.
Abu Bakr the first caliph after Muhammad’s death and father of his wife Aisha
AC Anno Creationis (Year of the Creation, Jewish calendar)
AD Anno Domini (Year of the Lord)
Adab (Ar.)  means manners and refers to the social norms Muslims are expected to follow
Advent refers to the period before Christmas. Used to be a fast period.
Aggadah (Hebr.)  “narration,” refers to non-legal teachings associated with an interpretation of the Bible.
AH Anno Hijra (Year of the Hijra, Muslim calendar)
Akedah Genesis 22. The “Binding of Isaac”, a story known to all three Abrahamic religions, in different interpretations and versions.
Albigensians see Cathars.
Allah (Ar.)  means God and is also the name of a pre-Islamic deity.
Amidah (Hebr.) “standing” refers to a central Jewish prayer said standing and thrice daily.
Anointing of the Sick was called Extreme Unction. This ritual, sometimes called “anointing of the sick,” is the seventh sacrament in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity. Originally used for all who were ill it has  become a ritual enabling a person to pass from this life into the next.
Anthropomorphism refers to descriptions of the deity using human traits (stretched out his arm), often explained metaphorically rather than literally. Huge problem for the Mutazilites.
Apostle’s Creed one of the oldest Christian prayers, written between 150 to 300 CE.
Arianism (3rd/4th c.) refers to the teachings of Arius who thought that God could not have become Incarnate in the human Jesus. Rejected by Athanasius.
Ashkenazic Now refers to Jews of European descent in general, but originally referred to Jews of German descent. Plural: Ashkenazim. Term is of biblical origin, where Ashkenaz was the first son of Gomer and brother of Riphath & Togarmah (Genesis 10:3, 1 Chronicles 1:6).
Avodah (Hebr.) “work” or “service,” now refers to prayer and religious actions. Also used for sacrifices in the Jerusalem Temple.
Avot. (Hebr.) “fathers” refers to a book in the Mishna recording many ethical ideas of the Rabbis.
Ayatollah (Ar.) means  sign of God,  a Shi’ite title for highly regarded religious teachers.
Babylonia Center of Jewish life, especially in the Rabbinic Period, beginning with the first exile after the destruction of the First Temple.
Bachya Ibn Pakuda wrote, in Arabic, a mystical work The Duties of the Heart that continues to be important.
Bar Mitzvah (Hebr.) “son of the commandment” refers to the moment when a Jewish boy becomes an adult with regard to his religious obligations. Today usually at age 13 and often lavishly celebrated.
Bat Mitzvah (Hebr.) “daughter of the commandment” refers to the moment when a Jewish girl becomes an adult with regard to her religious obligations. Today usually at age 12 or 13 and often lavishly celebrated.
Battle of Badr when Muhammad’s much smaller army finally defeated the Meccans. Also the Egyptian code name for the Yom Kippur War.
BC Before Christ
BCE Before the Common Era
Benedict of Nursia was the 6th c. founder of the Benedictines. His monastic rule became central for monastic rules throughout Europe.
Bernard of Clairvaux a 12th c. monk and mystic supported e.g. the crusades while rejecting their excesses. Preached against anti-Jewish pogroms and was a great admirer of the Virgin Mary.
Bet haknesset (Hebr.) “house of assembly,” refers to the synagogue and study hall.
Bida’ (Ar.) for innovation without precedence and as such rejected by many. Today, some speak of bida hasana, a kind of bida that enables Islam to survive in the modern world.
Bishop from Greek “overseer,” refers to the official within the church who has the power to ordain clergy.
Brit milah also called Bris (milah) see Circumcision
Caliph (Ar.) means successor, and often used for the successors to Muhammad’s leadership.
Cathars Also called Albigensians was an ascetic movement emphasizing a dualism between body and spirit, denying that Christ had taken on an actual human body. They were the dry run for the Inquisition and the first target of the newly founded Dominican Order.
CE Common Era
Chabad An acronym applied to a Hasidic group that hopes to hasten the coming of the messiah by encouraging fellow Jews to perform mitzvot.
chametz are leavened products (bread, pasta, for Ashkenazim also legumes).
Charisma refers to “the gift of the spirit” and characterizes Christians who claim that the Holy Spirit moves within them.
Christ (Gr.) for Hebrew messiah which means “anointed.” While Christians apply this title to Jesus of Nazareth, Jews do not identify him as their messiah. Christians also define the messiah as a divine embodiment of God, an idea that Jews do not share either.
Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. Based on Roman celebrations of the Solar Solstice, some Protestant denominations reject the holiday. The New England Puritans outlawed its celebration.
Christology refers to the understanding of the nature of Jesus as Christ in relation to the other members of the Trinity.
Circumcision Both Muslims and Jews circumcise boys. For Jews: A biblical commandment marking the entrance of a boy into Israel’’s covenant with God. Usually performed at eight day’s. Girls are not circumcised in Judaism or in Islam.
Communion see Eucharist
Confession developed in Roman Catholicism as a way of enabling Christians to gain forgiveness for their sins. Required knowledge of sins, repentance, and the confession of every individual sin as well as the acceptance of a penance designed to bring forgiveness for it.
Confirmation Christianity: As a sacrament this refers to the receiving of the gift of the Spirit. Among the Orthodox it usually occurs at the same time as baptism; in Roman Catholicism it takes place when a child reaches what is considered “the age of reason.” Judaism: A rite of passage at about age 16, after Bar/Bat Mitzvah, mostly in Reform Judaism.
Conservative Judaism a religious movement in Judaism that developed in Germany and the US that sought to conserve tradition in a modern setting.
Corpus Christi  (Latin) “the body of Christ and refers to the consecrated bread of the Communion ceremony. By the Middle Ages in the West a holiday centered on this idea and called by this name had developed.
Council of Trent (1545-1563) began the Counter-Reformation and structured the reaction of the Catholic Church to the Reformation. It addressed a wide range of issues raised by the Reformers such as clerical discipline and formulated theological positions, affirming the authority of institutional tradition. Introduced liturgical changes.
Counter-Reformation see Council of Trient.
Covenant or brit refers to a contract between God and humans (e.g. Noah, Mount Sinai).
Creed (lit. belief)
Days of Awe 3 holidays: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot/ Shemini Atzeret.. Taken together they emphasize the need for repentance and self-examination in human life.
Deadly Sin indicates manner of sins which Roman Catholicism considers “deadly” and are thought to bar a person from attaining heaven in the afterlife. They are contrasted with venial sins which carry lesser penalties with them.
Diaspora A community that feels connected to a place, religion, language, or history other than their place of resident.
Docetism appearance” reflects a Christology which that thinks that Christ only appeared to become human. God, it was thought, could not really suffer and partake of this physical world.
Domneh Followers of Shabbatai Zvi who live outwardly as Muslims. They remained a distinct community well into the twentieth century and were parituclarly involved in Turkish journalism, education, and politics.
En Sof (Hebr.) “Infinite”  refers to God as the Unknowable in the mystical system known as Kabbalah.
Eucharist (literally: thanksgiving) denotes the central Christian ritual. Catholics believe in a literal presence of Christ in the taking of bread and wine while other churches have a more abstract understanding.  Connects the believer with her community.
Exodus refers to the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. The experience of slavery, receiving God’s word, and liberation became a model of covenantal experience. Central to Jewish self-understanding, and commemorated on Passover, Shavuot, and every Shabbat.
Extreme Unction see Anointing of the Sick.
Fatiha the Opening Sura of the Qur’an, and a central text, recited many times in daily prayer, and also at funerals and other occasions.
Filioque This Latin phrase adds the term “and the Son” to the description of how the Holy Spirit is derived. Its use was a rejection of Arianism by emphasizing the equal divinity of the Father, Son and the Spirit.
Fiqh (Ar.) means  understanding  but has come to be used to refer to a legal decision reached by a legal scholar or school of law.
First Testament Old Testament
Five Pillars Belief (Iman); Worship (Salat); Fasting (Sawm); Ramadan; Almsgiving (Zakat); Pilgrimage (Hajj)
Francis of Assisi was the 12th/13th c. founder of an order of mendicant friars, the Franciscans, that emphasized radical poverty and serving the poor and disenfranchised. Credited with “Oh Lord, make me an instrument of Your will” and the song to the sun.
Gabriel the angel who revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad.
Gaonim literally “Excellencies” refers to the leaders of academies of Jewish learning in Babylonia.
Geiger, Abraham a 19th century Jewish reformer who identified the “essence” of Judaism with universal humanistic ethics.
Gentile refers to non-Jews.
Gnosticism An artificial term used for texts. Taken to refer to a religious movement claiming secret knowledge. Recent scholarship rejects the term and instead insists on reading these texts as legitimate expressions of the followers of the Jesus movement before the establishment of the canon, theology, rite, or the Church.
Gospel (Greek: “Good News.”) refers to the story and teachings of Jesus. While the early church produced many written Gospels, only 4, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John became canonized in the New Testament.
Gospel of Mary The oldest surviving Gospel text. This text, preserved only in fragments and not part of the Canon, reflects a Christianity that is similar to that of the NT (traces of John perhaps), reflecting questions discussed there such as women’s leadership. Establishes spiritual maturity as a criterion for leadership.
Gospel of Thomas This 2nd c. (Gnostic) Gospel, not included in the canonical Christian Bible collects sayings attributed to Jesus, some similar, some strikingly different.
Hadith (Ar.) are text collections of the life of Muhammad, his teachings and his companions.  A hadith consists of a chain of transmitters (isnad) and a body of text (matn)
Hagar Abraham’s wife and mother of his eldest son Ishmael. The story of her search for water and its miraculous appearance is ritually reenacted during the Hajj.
Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca which every Muslim is called to perform at least once. It recalls the life of Abraham, his wife Hagar, and his son Ishmael.
Halakhah (Hebr.) “to walk” or “to go,” refers to the Jewish legal system.
Halal (Ar.) (Permitted) refers to the entire range of permissible things in Islam, incl. foods and behaviors. Opposite: haram
Haram (Ar.) forbidden , is also associated with the sacred which is set aside and kept apart. Opposite: halal
Hasidism (Hebr.) “the Pious” refers to an 18th century Jewish mystical movement that challenged traditional leadership by emphasizing new forms of worship and piety and by loyalty to a charismatic leader known as the Rebbe.
Havdalah Brief ceremony containing a blessing over spices, candle, and (not always) wine, marking the end of Shabbat or a holiday.
Hebrew Bible Old Testament
Hellenism refers to the acceptance of Greek as a language and culture  by non-Greeks.
Hermeneutics from Greek interpreter) refers to the process by which people develop an understanding of a written text.
Hevrutah study group. Traditionally, Jews study the Oral Torah in groups of 2.
High Holidays see Days of Awe
Higher Criticism This academic approach to the Bible begun in the 19th c. challenged biblical scriptures on the basis of their supernaturalism and the contradictions within them. This movement studied the Bible as just another historical book. Both liberal Christianity and Fundamentalism arose in response to Higher Criticism.
Hijra (Ar.) refers to Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Yathrib/Medina in 622 and marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.
Holy Orders A sacrament initiating a person into the clergy provides ordination into full sacramental powers and is a clerical equivalent to the sacrament of marriage.
Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity, also used for the divine presence that infused human beings with prophetic insight.
Hybridity refers to refers to a religious practice that absorbs different cultural influences.
Ihram (Ar.) refers to a state of consecration and to the rules a pilgrim going on Hajj must follow, most literally the donning of a plain garment during the hajj.
Ijma (Ar.) means  consensus is used by Sunnite Muslims to refer to agreement concerning the meaning of certain laws.
Ijtihad (Ar.) describes the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the legal sources, the Qur’an and the Sunna.
Imam (Ar.) refers, when applied to the carrying out of salat (prayer), to the leader of the praying congregation, usually but not always male. It is also a divinely inspired leader in Shi’a Islam.
Iman (Ar.) means belief.
Indulgences These documents guaranteed their holders to a relaxation in Purgatory of some of the punishments for their sins. The selling of indulgences was opposed by Martin Luther.
Ishmael was Abraham’s eldest son  through his wife Hagar. The Qur’an recounts that Ishmael was the son God told Abraham to sacrifice, an event celebrated in the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice.
Islam (Ar.) means  surrender or submission to God and indicates the idea that Islam calls people back to a religion that earlier traditions have forgotten.
Isnad (Ar) is the chain of traditions in a hadith
Jihad (Ar.) means  struggle  against external and internal adversaries.
Jinni refers to supernatural beings who can take possession of a human body and force it to speak strange words.
John Calvin a 16th c. Reformer sought to create an ideal kingdom of God in Geneva, creating a strict rule governed by Institutes.
Jonathan Edwards a Puritan preacher emphasized that morality depended upon piety and that only through recognition of the power of the divine could people be persuaded to ethical action.
Justification by Faith is a phrase characteristic of Luther’s approach, denies that human actions can earn a person divine favor. Only God’s grace provides people with an opportunity to come into right relationship with the deity.
Ka’aba the black cubic  building in Mecca. Traditionally built by Abraham and Ishmael.
Kabbalah (Hebr.) “tradition” refers mostly to mystical teachings of Judaism that are seen as supplements to the Oral Law (by Kabbalists).
Karaites rejected rabbinic tradition and substituted their own emphasis on scripture alone for it, creating their own halakha while doing so.
Kavanah (Hebr.) “intention”  refers to the inner direction of thought that accompanies the performance of a mitzvah or prayer.
Ketuvim (Hebr.)  “the Writings” refers to the last section of the Hebrew Bible.
Khadija was Muhammad’s first wife and his first convert. She loved, supported and protected Muhammad and is the only of his wives to bear him children.
Kiddush Blessing over wine.
Laity refers to non-clergy, or non-ordained, members of the Christian church.
Lecha Dodi This mystical poem is sung on the evening of Shabbat worldwide
Lent From being a fast of two or three days, this observance, in preparation for Good Friday, became, in the fourth century, a season of fasting in imitation of Jesus’ fast in the desert. Today often substituted by giving up TV, sweets, or Facebook.
Leon, Moses de This medieval Spanish Jewish kabbalist is thought to have composed the Zohar, a key text of the Kabbalah.
Liberation Theology developed by both Roman Catholic and Protestant thinkers, demands support for the oppressed, especially the poor, sexually ostracized, etc.
Lord’s Prayer see Our Father
LXX see Septuagint.
Maariv (Hebr.) refers to the evening prayer.
Maimonides, Moses see Rambam
Malak (Ar.) means  angel.
Marcion This early church leader wanted to sever all ties of Christianity to Judaism and rejected the Hebrew Bible, trying to establish a Christian canon purged from Jewish influences.
Martin Luther was a major 16th c. Reformer who pointed out abuses within the church. He came to reject a number of practices (indulgences, pilgrimage, clerical abuses of power, celibacy) and theological issues. He stressed the idea of justification by faith alone.
Masjid see Mosque
Mass see Eucharist
Matn (Ar.) is the body of a hadith.
Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula is where Muhammad was born. A pre-Islamic center of commerce and pilgrimage at the crossroads of international trade routes, it became a center of Islam and is the direction towards which Muslims pray.
Mendelssohn, Moses This 18th century German Jewish thinker began the tradition of emphasizing Judaism as a religion of ethical monotheism.
Messiah (Hebr.) “anointed.” Judaism: a consecrated person with a special mission from God. Came to signify the kings of the Davidic dynasty and especially a future “son of David” who will restore the glories of a former golden age and inaugurate the ingathering of Israel. Refers broadly to beliefs or theories regarding an ultimate improvement of the state of humanity and the world, or a final consummation of history. Christianity: Jesus (note: Jews do NOT believe the Jesus is the Messiah).
Methodism begun by John Wesley and George Whitfield in England and spread to the United States, emphasizes the accessibility of the Holy Spirit to all and illustrates both the tendency toward “enthusiasm” among some Christians and an anti-clerical aspect of many Christian movements.
Midrash (Hebr.) “to search out” refers to the process of discovering new significance to biblical passages, sometimes referred to as that that is in the text but not written down. Sometimes the new meaning discovered is halakhic, at other times it is concerned with lore or theology and thus aggadic.
Mihrab (Ar.) is a niche in a mosque’s wall indicating the direction of Mecca.
Mikdash (Hebr.) a “sanctuary” or Temple.
Minbar (Ar.) refers to the raised pulpit from which the Imam gives a sermon during Friday afternoon Salat.
Mincha (Hebr.) the afternoon prayer service was instituted as a parallel to the afternoon offering of sacrifices in the Jerusalem Temple.
Mishna (Hebr.) “to learn” or “to recite” refers to legal teachings of the Rabbis roughly organized by subject matter. The oldest Rabbinic document, it was traditionally compiled by Rabbi Judah the Prince around 200, organized in six categories. The Talmudim comment on the Mishna.
Mitzvah Commandment, a religious obligation.
Monasticism from monos (alone) was a central feature of the medieval church.  Refers to both hermits and communal living of men and women who usually make oaths of poverty, celibacy, and obedience.
Monotheism refers to belief in a single deity.
Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and is associated with the revelation of Torah at Mount Sinai. The Book of Deuteronomy emphasizes the covenantal aspect of Mosaic teaching.0 The Rabbis call Moses Moshe Rabbenu, “Moses, Our Teacher” and see him as a rabbinic teacher.
Mosque (Masjid) refers to the building where Muslims worship and refers to the prayer itself. Any place that a Muslim defines as a prayer area–by stones or a prayer mat, for example, becomes a mosque.
Muhammad ‘Abduh (1849-1905), an Egyptian follower of Al-Afghani who was exiled by the British and spent time in various countries, attempted to reform Islam, advocating a modernism that would adapt science for Islamic purposes.
Musar refers to ethics or morality and is the name given to a 19th century movement created as an alternative to Hasidism. Musar stresses self-awareness, the cultivation of moral attributes, and a psychological defense against the onslaughts of modernity.
Nevi’im (Hebr.) “Prophets” and refers to the second section of the Hebrew Bible: Joshua, Judges, and Kings as well as books assigned to named prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Amos.
Noachide Laws Rabbinic teachings interpret the biblical story of God’s post-flood covenant with Noah as having established a common ethical system for all human beings. 7 Noachide Laws: rejection of idolatry, prohibitions on incest and murder, and the requirement to establish courts of law.
Oliver Cromwell sought to establish God’s kingdom on earth through agovernment based on biblical principles. In this way his Protestant concerns paralleled those of John Calvin in Geneva.
Oral Torah According to the Rabbis, all of Israel, living, dead, and future, incl. converts, received on Mt. Sinai a Written and an Oral Torah that complements the Written Torah. The Oral Torah refers to teachings created in the past, presence or future that constantly update Judaism.
Origen was an Alexandrian Church leader and prominent representative of the allegorical interpretation of the Bible. Every Biblical verse had three different meanings: the literal, allegorical, and moral.
Orthodox Judaism a religious movement in Judaism that rose in Germany. Emphasizes that loyalty to the Torah coexists with full participation in modern secular society. E.g. Samson Raphael Hirsch.
Our Father This prayer, attributed to Jesus in Matthew, quickly became the central Christian prayer and is shared by all Christian communities.
Passion refers to the suffering and death of Jesus and points to his resurrection.
Passover see Pesach.
Paul of Tarsus had a transforming life experience and turned from persecutor to the most prominent theologian of the Jesus movement addressing gentiles (non-Jews). Author of several letters in the NT, with additional letters ascribed to him.
Pentecostalism is based on the appearance of the Holy Spirit to the apostles on Pentecost. It refers a religious life that can include conversion experiences, religious healing, millennialism, prophecy, and spiritual ecstasies.
Pesach Passover” celebrates the exodus from Egypt. Celebrated with an elaborate ritualized meal, the Seder and by reading a haggada, a home manual recounting the interpretation of this history.
Pharisees were a Hellenistic Jewish group that decisively influenced rabbinic understandings of Judaism. Jesus was close to the Pharisees (hence the animosity the Gospels note between the Pharisees and Jesus).
Pilgrimage Christianity: This practice of journeying to places associated with relics that were thought to provide a a connection with the divine. Islam: s. hajj.
Pilgrimage Festivals refers to 3 biblically ordained holidays (Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot) and combines a celebration of agricultural cycles with historical significance.
Polemics Practice of disputation or controversy, often used about theological topics, often aggressive.
Polytheism recognizes the diversity of human experience and identifies the various forces working on people as emanating from separate supernatural beings.
Purgatory denotes an idea of purgation, or cleansing, in the afterlife, a kind of in-between period after death in which the soul receive punishment.
Qibla (Ar.) is the direction of prayer, originally towards Jerusalem, and changed to Mecca in the Medinan period.
Qiyas (Ar.) is an analogy from one case to another represents one of the basic sources of Muslim Law.
Qur’an (Ar.) stresses the act of reading and refers to the revealed text.
Quraysh a leading Meccan trading tribe into one of whose clans Muhammad was born.
Ra’ka (Ar.) refers to the ritual postures Muslims assume during prayer. Their number varies.
Rabbi (Hebr.) “my master” has come to be the title for any qualified master of the Oral Torah in general and halachic tradition in particular.
Rabi’a was a female Sufi (d. 801 CE) and teacher of Ibn al-Arabi.
Ramadan is the month of fasting in Islamic practice and is distinguished as the month during which Muhammad received his first revelation. Since the Muslim calendar is a lunar one, the month can fall during any season of the year.
Ramah is an acronym for Rabbi Moses Isserles who adapted the Sephardic Shulkhan Arukh for Ashkenazic Judaism. His work shows how both Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews adapted halakhic ethics to meet the needs of different social and historical communities.
Rambam is an acronym for Rabbi Moses Maimonides, the great Sephardic Jewish thinker, physician, and community leader who was born in Spain and lived mostly in Cairo. Wrote the Guide to the Perplexed and the Mishneh Torah (Code of Maimonides).
Rashi is an acronym for Rabbi Solomon Isaac, the great French Rabbi who commented on the Bible and most of the Talmud.
Rasul (Ar.) means messenger  and represents a particular type of prophet or  nabi,  one who has a special message for a particular community. Muhammad is known as the last messenger, and therefore, *the* ultimate rasul.
Reconstructionist Judaism This American form of Judaism broke off from Conservative Judaism and emphasizes that Judaism is a civilization. It identifies God with all the possibilities that life holds for human self-fulfillment.
Reform Judaism a religious movement in Judaism that rose in Germany that rejected halakha and stresses the right to adapt and change Jewish tradition to make them more relevant to each generation.
Relics were material remains of saints, including objects associated with saintly figures who left no bodies on earth such as Mary and Jesus.
Revivalism are waves of enthusiastic and intense religious feelings that swept entire regions and countries. It often combines a vivid description of reward and punishment with a call for repentance. There were 4 great Awakenenings in the US, each of which gave rise to new religious movements, practices, and beliefs. Some think that we live in the aftermath of a 60s/70s Awakening.
Ritual Washing is an act of purification before prayer and whenever a Muslim might become ritually impure.
Rule of St. Benedict see Benedict of Nursia
Rumi Persian poet and mystic emphasized the humility of declaring that one has become annihilated in the essence of God. He supported the mysticism of Al-Hallaj.
Sabbath see Shabbat
Salat (Ar.)  means prayer and most often refers to the five daily prayers.
Sawm (Ar.) refers to the fast during the month of Ramadan.
Second Temple is the Jerusalem Temple established after the exile in Babylonia and greatly enhanced by Herod. Destroyed in 70 CE.
Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was called out to renew the Catholic Church. It established many new standards in practice and theology, noticeably a return to the medieval liturgy, the use of the vernacular in worship, as well as the relationship between Catholics and non-Christians.
Sefirot (Hebr.) “spheres of being,” refers to the emanations that the kabbalists identify as God’s presence in the world. While God in itself is unknowable, kabbalists feel that they can influence these sefirot and hasten the coming of the messiah.
Sephardic Jews are Jews claiming descent from Spain and Portugal who were expelled beginning in 1492.
Septuagint (Seventy, often abbreviated with LXX) is a Greek translation of the Bible, used by Jews and later also Christians for centuries. Since some copies of the Septuagint are older than the Hebrew texts, these texts often preserve early readings of the Biblical text.
Shabbat commemorates the seventh day of Creation and the Exodus. Traditionally, acts associated with agriculture and work  in general are forbidden,  including cooking, driving, electricity. Many non-orthodox Jews do not adhere to these prohibitions but continue to mark the day as special.
Shabbatai Zvi This 17th century Turkish messianic contender arose a wave of enthusiastic followers and had profound influence on modern Jewish life.
Shacharit (Hebr.) the morning prayer service was instituted as a parallel to the morning sacrifices offered in the Jerusalem Temple.
Shahadah (Ar.) refers to the declaration that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his divine messenger, pronounced in prayer, during life-cycle events, and in a person’s conversion to Islam
Sharia (Ar.) means straight road or path and refers to the systems of Muslim law setting the framework for a Muslim life.
Shavuot Weeks” or “Pentecost” occurs fifty days after the first night of Passover. It commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai and also the wheat harvest.
shaygatz derogative term for a non-Jewish man.
Shema (Hebr.) “hear,” refers to the central study session during most Jewish worship services. Its content emphasizes the unity of God–an idea which philosophers discuss and mystics struggle to experience. The Shma is recited morning and evening, but not in the afternoon worship service.
Shi’ites consider leadership traced through Ali as the true succession to Muhammad.
shiksa derogative term for a non-Jewish woman.
Shulkhan Arukh (Hebr.) “the Set Table” refers to the work of halakhic ethics which Joseph Karo developed on the basis of earlier Jewish legal texts. As adapted by Moses Isserles this work became normative for Ashkenazic as well as Sephardic.
Siddur (Hebr.) “order” is a prayer book
Sinai the mountain at which Moses and Israel received the Torah from God. In Rabbinic teaching Sinai is not only the source of the written Bible but also for every authoritative tradition developed by later rabbis.
Social Gospel is associated with Walter Rauschenbusch, and was a movement arguing that Christianity, following the model of Jesus, must combine religion and social justice.
Sola Scriptura Latin for “Scripture Alone” was used by John Wycliffe and Martin Luther to reject tradition as the basis of faith. This idea later (under the Pietists) came to suggest that the laity could interpret scripture on their own.
Spinoza, Baruch A Jewish philosopher, often called the first secular human, was excommunicated. His investigations of the Bible as literature laid the foundations for modern biblical studies.
Sufi (Ar.) refers to Islamic mysticism.
Sukkot booths” initiates an 8-day festival period culminating in Shemini Atzertet (the Eight Day of Assembly) and Simhat Torah (rejoicing in the Torah). It is a pilgrimage festival celebrating experience of Israelite wandering.
Sura (Ar.) refers to a chapter in the Qur’an, most are organized by length. A distinction is made between Meccan and Medinan suras.
Synagogue (Gr.) “assembly” refers to the please where Jews got together for learning and prayer.
Syncretism refers to a religious practice that absorbs different cultural influences. Today often called hybridity.
Synoptic Gospels refers to the three Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke that share several common features and differ from the Gospel of John.
Tabernacles, Feast of: see Sukkot
Tafsir (Ar.) applies to (traditional, rational, and mystical) commentaries of the Qur’an.
Talmud (Hebr.) “study” refers to a collection of writings also known as “Germara” or “conclusion”  that comment on the Mishnah and expand its meanings through various interpretations and diverse alternative decisions. There are two Talmudim-a Babylonian (finished around 600) and an earlier and incomplete Jerusalem one, reflecting differences among Jewish communities.
Tanakh Acronym for (Hebr.) Torah (Pentateuch), Nevi’im (Prophets), Ketuvim (Writings), the divisions of the Hebrew Bible.
Taqwa (Ar.) means fear of God
Tawhid (Ar.) means unity and refers to the absolute Oneness of God. This radical monotheism finds its expression in many Islamic teachings such as the insistence on equality, and the call for social justice.
Tefillin (Hebr.) “phylacteries,” or protective amulets worn by Jewish men (and women in non-orthodox communities) on head and arm during morning prayers. They contain texts from the Bible.
Teshuvah (Hebr.) “repentance” refers to self-examination.
The Book of Mormon Revealed to Joseph Smith by an angel, adds new material to extend the stories from both the Old and New Testaments.
The Fundamentals were series of pamphlets distributed in the early 20th c. to aid in religious revivalism as a response to higher criticism.
Torah (Hebr.) “teaching” or “guidance,” refers to the first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible, the entire biblical corpus and Jewish learning.
Transubstantiation refers to the idea that the bread and wine in the Eucharist literally become the flesh and blood of the Christ.
Trinity
Tzedakah (Hebr.) “justice” but has come to mean that charity which an individual gives to preserve social solidarity and in which the powerful protect the weaker.
Ulama are religious specialists in Islam.
Umar was the 2nd caliph, or successor to Muhammad.
Umma (Ar.) refers to the community of all Muslims.
Unitarianism began in Poland in the late sixteenth century but became most successful in England and the United States and asserts the unity of a single God while denying the Trinity.
Uthman was the 3rd caliph, or successor to Muhammad.
Vulgate
Wahabism was a reform movement begun by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahab in the 18th c. Rejects many practices such as veneration of saints as un-Islamic and idolatry. It is the official brand of Islam in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Wali (Ar.) translates as  friend  or  patron  and suggests that emotion of love and intimacy which accompanies the fear with which a believer approaches God. Often used for particularly holy people.
Written Torah refers to the Hebrew Bible and is part of the revelation given on Mt. Sinai.
Wycliffe, John led the Lollards who were declared heretics for promoting the translation of the Bible
Yathrib a city in the  Hijaz that invited Muhammad as an arbitrator and that became Medina.
Yawm al-din is the day of judgment.
YHWH the consonants of God’s name. The name is considered so secret that it is never pronounced by Jews even today.
Zakat (charity) is one of the five pillars of Islam.

 

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