One of the first problems I encountered as a theological student was the sheer quantity of new words. Although, theology, like most other disciplines appears to suffer from a great deal of jargon, the use of precise technical terms does actually help, mitigating the need for (equally frustrating) long paragraphs of explanation. I am seeking here to provide a friendly (or as friendly as possible) glossary of terms to help you negotiate your way round this new landscape. Having started, I have quickly realised that this is no easy job and I am keen to point out that these definitions are far from definitive or exhaustive. Christology is in itself a whole branch of study and a fairly simple entry such as Nomina Sacra has been the subject of numerous articles, books and papers. Consequently please view each entry as painting an introductory description using the broadest of brush strokes.    



Apocalyptic    From the Greek apokalypsis meaning revelation or disclosure. Apocalyptic is a genre of literature that is characterised by visions, symbolism, (often codified) descriptions of eschatological (end time) events. It is generally thought that Daniel 7-12 constitute the first instance of Jewish apocalyptic writings. Following their circulation (150-100 BCE) they gave rise to a large amount of inter-testamental apocalyptic writings. Daniel's influence can be found in the Gospels as well as the more classic New Testament apocalyptic work, Revelation. Apocalyptic writing is generally seen as the product of massive civil and national insecurity and crisis, providing a means to interpret catastrophic events. It also tends to indicate a shift in perspective. The focus of God's work becomes heaven rather than earth - in order to understand what is happening on earth we need to have what is happening in heaven(s) revealed (apokalypsis) to us   



Catholic Epistles   James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John and Jude. The title refers to the characteristic that these letters are not addressed to a specific church, but generally to the church at large. They are sometimes also referred to as the General Epistles. 


Christocentric     Christ centred. Christianity can be said to have a Christocentric theology in that Christ is central to its theology. 



Christology        Thoughts and writings about the person and nature of Jesus Christ. Christology can be described as being 'High' or 'Low'. A high Christology tends to accentuate the divinity of Christ whereas low Christology either presents Christ as a man or accentuates his humanity. The New Testament writings can be seen to reflect the underlying tensions between these two positions. 




Eisegesis            The act of reading meaning into a text. It can be argued that the Pistis Xristou debate has suffered its share of eisegesis, with the question being answered in line with the reader's own soteriological position, rather than what the text itself says. It tends to be seen as being the opposite to exegesis. In the past it has often been used pejoratively, however, more recent reader-response approaches have highlighted how the context of the reader can be used to inform new meaning to a text.  


Eschatology        The study and understanding of the 'end times' (from the Greek eschaton - final or last). The term generally refers to God's future intervention in the world. Some scholars describe Jesus as an eschatological teacher whose central message relates to a future age. Other scholars have questioned this, arguing that the message of Jesus was located in the present world.


Exegesis            The act of establishing meaning of a text from the text itself. It attempts to determine the intended meaning of the text.




General Epistles    See Catholic Epistles


Genitive       A grammatical case in Greek. In English, if we wish to denote possession we can either say 'The book of the girl' or 'The girl's book'. The second phrase demonstrates how, in English, a noun (girl) can be inflected to indicate possession. By adding an 's to the end of 'girl' expresses the relationship between 'girl' and 'book'. In Greek, words are also inflected to denote possession. However, although the genitive case often does denote possession (genitive of possession), it can also express agency, comparison, direction, source and so on. The Pistis Xristou debate concerns the objective and subjective genitives.



Hermeneutic       In its broadest terms, the act and method of interpretation.



Koine (Greek)     Koine (also known as Hellenistic) Greek was the form of Greek language in common use in the Mediterranean area during the Hellenic period (c300 BCE - c300 CE). Koine (meaning 'common') was the product of a convergence and amalgamation of several different dialects. It is less refined than Classical or literary Greek.



LXX    (70 in Roman numerals) See Septuagint



Nomina Sacra   (pl. of nomen sacrum, lit. 'sacred name'). A characteristic of early Christian manuscripts was to shorten words with particular divine or sacred associations. This was done either by contraction (retaining the first and last letters), suspension (retaining the first two letters) or a combination of both. A horizontal line is also placed above these letters. Attempts have been made to link this practice with the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, where four letters are used to express the Divine Name. However, there is still no real consensus with many scholars arguing for it to have been a separate and distinctly Christian practice.  



Pastoral Epistles   These refer to the letters of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. They are so called because of the 'pastoral' nature of their advice which they contain. Many scholars argue that the letters (in their current form) are pseudonymous and not written by the Apostle Paul.



Redaction    The process or the result of modifying, shaping or editing a text. This web page has experienced a number of redactions; the original text has been altered and expanded, some items have been reworded or deleted. As each book of the Bible was copied and passed on, it has undergone some form of redaction - even if it was unintended. Many of these (extant) revisions or versions are detailed in our Critical Editions. See also Redaction Criticism.


Redaction Criticism  This is when scholars examine the deliberate re-workings of an existing text (Redaction Criticism). This is particularly apparent in the case with some Old Testament books. For example, it is claimed that a more recent (in Biblical terms) account of the Flood has been woven into the earlier account. It is believed that a group known as the Deuteronomists (D), named after the book Deuteronomy, reworked some of the history books. Within the New Testament, Redaction Criticism tends to concern the use of a particular author's use of existing material (oral or written).




Septuagint        (Latin Septuaginta, 'seventy' and often abbreviated as LXX) The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible produced circa 200 BCE. Originally it comprised the Hebrew Torah, but then included intertestamental writings such as 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, 1 and 4 Maccabees, Wisdom and Sirach. It should also be noted that while some books appear to have been fairly carefully translated others are rather free in their presentation. For example the book of Daniel in the LXX is a much expanded version of that found in the Hebrew texts. The Septuagint became the primary text of synagogue worship and Jewish instruction. It is perhaps, therefore, not surprising that when the New Testament writers quote the 'Old Testament' it is often (although not exclusively) the Septuagint text they cite. The Greek used in the Septuagint has a particular style or characteristic by which it imitates the Semitic languages of the Hebrew texts. These are referred to as Septuagintisms and can also be found in New Testament writings (for example Luke's birth narrative; Lk 1-2). 
            To access the English translation of the Septuagint - click here ; 
            To access the Greek text of the Septuagint - click here


Soteriology         Soteriology is the branch of theology which is concerned with the understanding of salvation. It deals with questions relating to how one is saved, what is salvation etc.


Synopsis  (also called a Gospel Parallel)     A book or website that displays parallel passages of the Synoptic Gospels alongside each other - this should not be confused with a 'Parallel Bible', which places different translations of the same verse beside one another. It is essential for studying the Synoptic Gospels in order to view similarities and differences between the Gospels. Some Synopses also include the Gospels of John and Thomas. Although only Greek text synopses provide accurate information, a good English language synopsis can offer the beginner an indication of parallel and verbatim material. For links to Internet based Synopses click here.  


Synoptic Gospels    This refers to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke because of the large amount of similar (often word for word) material that they share. One further important characteristic of the Synoptic Gospels which is often overlooked is that there is also broad agreement concerning the order of stories or sayings. If displayed in parallel commons (as in a synopsis) they can be "seen together" which is the meaning of "synoptic".


Synoptic Problem    In general terms, the question arises from the amount of verbal agreement and shared order of material in the Synoptic Gospels and relates to the problem of their literary relationships. For example, which was the first Gospel to be written and whether the authors of the later Synoptics used it as a source. The Synoptic problem is often associated with whether and to what extent other sources (such as Q) were used. 




Revised: August 11, 2008 .