Revised: 18 October 2021

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aggadah (also haggadah) — the ethical sayings and scriptural exposition of the sages, in contrast to their halachic statements; the non-legal part of rabbinic literature, in contrast to halachah.

aggadic — pertaining to aggadah.

am haaretz — (plural: ame haaretz) a term used in rabbinic sources to describe a member of the Jewish community who was not scrupulous with respect to tithes and ritual purity. The term was originally used in contrast to haver, but eventually came to refer to anyone who did not carefully observe the halachah of the sages.

Amidah — (standing) one of the names of the Eighteen (see below) benedictions, the central prayer of Judaism.

amoraim — (singular: amora) the sages of the talmudic period, as distinguished from the earlier tannaim, the sages of the mishnaic period. Roughly speaking, the tannaim are the sages quoted in the Mishnah and contemporary rabbinic works, while the amoraim are the sages mentioned in the Gemara.

amoraic — pertaining to the amoraim.

apocalypse — a literary genre in which visions reveal a heavenly perspective on earthly events and in which mysteries of the universe are disclosed. Although there is a popular misconception that apocalypses are mainly concerned with future events, the historical surveys of the past, the heavenly tours that reveal the secret workings of creation, and the political messages encoded in symbolic language, which are typical of apocalypses, demonstrate that the real focus of apocalyptic literature is on how its readers are to understand and live in the present.

apocalyptic — pertaining to an apocalypse.

Apocrypha — books included in the Septuagint and Vulgate, but excluded from the Hebrew Bible and Protestant canon. The Apocrypha contains 1 and 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, additions to Esther, The Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (= Ben Sira), Baruch, The Letter of Jeremiah, The Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three Young Men, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, The Prayer of Manasseh and 1 and 2 Maccabees.

Aramaic — a northwest Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. The earliest Aramaic inscriptions date from the ninth-tenth centuries B.C.E. Its square script replaced the Hebrew archaic script, and by the time of Jesus was the normal script for writing in Hebrew.

Aramaism — the use of a non-Aramaic term in an unusually Aramaic sense or the use of a grammatical construction in a non-Aramaic language that resembles Aramaic usage.


B.C.E. — abbreviation of “Before Common Era,” corresponding to B.C. in Christian terminology. Jerusalem Perspective uses B.C.E. and C.E. in articles authored by Jewish scholars since many Jews feel unable to use B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (anno Domini, in the year of our Lord) without compromising their beliefs.

bar — the Aramaic word bar (“son,” “son of”). In the Second Temple period bar often was used together with the father’s name or a family nickname to distinguish males bearing the same personal name. Females with the same personal name often were distinguished by adding berat (daughter, daughter of) and the father’s name. The Hebrew equivalents of bar and berat are ben (“son,” “son of”) and bat (“daughter,” “daughter of”).

baraita — (literally, “outside”; plural: baraitot) a tannaic saying excluded from the Mishnah of Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi, that is, teachings that predate 230 C.E. Baraitot were incorporated in later rabbinic works such as the Talmud.

bat kol — (literally, “daughter of a voice”) a heavenly voice that communicates the will of God.

ben — (“son,” “son of”). In the Second Temple period there were relatively few personal names, and ben often was used together with the father’s name to distinguish males bearing the same personal name. Females with the same personal name often were distinguished by adding bat (daughter, daughter of) and the father’s name.

bet din — (“house of decision”) a rabbinic court.

bet Hillel — (“house of Hillel”) Hillel was a Pharisaic sage of the first century who represented the liberal wing of the Pharisaic movement. Hillel’s disciples and the disciples of his disciples were referred to collectively as “the house [i.e., school] of Hillel.”

bet keneset — (“house of assembly”) a synagogue.

bet midrash — (“house of study”) a center for study and teaching of the Torah. In the first century, the bet midrash was usually connected to a synagogue, and learning took place in the synagogue’s assembly hall or in a room adjoining it.

bet Shammai — (“house of Shammai”) Shammai was a sage of the first century who represented the conservative wing of the Pharisaic movement. Shammai’s disciples and the disciples of his disciples were referred to collectively as “the house [i.e., school] of Shammai.”

burial chamber — a central room of a burial cave into the sides of which may be cut loculi, or burial recesses.


C.E. — abbreviation of “Common Era,” corresponding to A.D. in Christian terminology. Jerusalem Perspective uses B.C.E. and C.E. in articles authored by Jewish scholars since many Jews feel unable to use B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (anno Domini, in the year of our Lord) without compromising their beliefs.


A page from Codex Bezae.

codex — (plural: codices) a manuscript whose sheets of papyrus or parchment are fastened together in the form of a book, rather than rolled into a scroll.

Codex Bezae — late fifth-early sixth-century Greek-Latin manuscript of the Gospels and Acts.


darshan — a Jewish preacher who is particularly skilled in aggadah and gives sermons and expositions of the biblical text in accordance with midrashic exegesis.

Derech Eretz Zuta — later the basis for Seder Eliyahu, this work, according to Shmuel Safrai, is a repository of ancient Hasidic teaching.

Diaspora — the area outside the land of Israel settled by Jews, or the Jews who settled there.

Double Tradition (DT) — pericopae (story units) shared only by Matthew and Luke, for instance, the Beatitudes or the Lord’s Prayer.


“Eighteen” — (shemoneh esreh) the central prayer in Jewish life and liturgy. It is also known as Amidah (Standing) because it is said standing; or simply Tefilah (Prayer), the prayer par excellence. The prayer originally consisted of eighteen benedictions, and thus the name “Eighteen.” Its final version dates from about 90-100 C.E. when a nineteenth benediction was added. Every Jew is religiously obligated to pray the “Eighteen” daily; however, in times of emergency saying an abbreviated form of the prayer may fulfill this obligation.

eruv hatserot — (mixing or blending of courtyards) the symbolic union of a neighborhood or settlement’s private property (private dwellings) and public domain (e.g., common courtyards, alleys and streets). The new entity is considered private property, jointly owned by the residents. This transformation makes it legal for residents to transport things from one point in the fused neighborhood or settlement to another on the Sabbath. Ancient sources indicate that the practice of eruv hatserot was already well established in the Second Temple period.

eschatological — pertaining to eschatology.

eschatology — the study of the end times, including the hope of final redemption and the expectation of divine judgment in which the wicked are punished and the righteous are vindicated.

evangelist — the author of a Gospel.


genizah — (storing) a place for storing damaged or worn-out books or ritual objects containing the four-letter Tetragrammaton, the divine name of God. According to halachah, such objects could not be destroyed, but were hidden so that they would not be defiled. When the genizah could hold no more, its contents were buried in a cemetery. The genizah was usually a room attached to the synagogue. The most famous of these is the Cairo Genizah, discovered in 1896 in the attic of the Ezra Synagogue in Fostat (Old Cairo), where most of the lost Hebrew book of Ben Sira was discovered.

geonic — pertaining to the Geonim.

Geonim — (singular: Gaon) heads of the talmudic academies in Babylonia from the seventh to eleventh centuries C.E.

gezerah shavah — (גְזֵרָה שָׁוָוה) an exegetical principle employed by the rabbinic sages according to which two scriptural verses that shared identical words or phrases could be interpreted in light of one another.


haggadah — See entry “aggadah” above.

Hakhel — the assembly during the Feast of Tabernacles of “men, women, children and aliens” for the public reading of the Pentateuch (Deut. 31:10-13). This assembly was held in the Women’s Court every seven years (Mishnah, Sotah 7:8; Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 41b).

halachah — (plural: halachot) law, regulation; the legal ruling on a particular issue; the body of Jewish law, especially the legal part of rabbinic literature, thus often the opposite of aggadah.

halachic — pertaining to halachah.

Hallel — a portion of the Psalms (Ps. 113–118) recited on Jewish holidays, such as Passover.

Hasid — (pious one; plural: Hasidim) member of a sect of charismatic sages who shared the Pharisees’ ethical and religious values, but also were characterized by an extreme familiarity with God and a greater emphasis on deeds than study of Torah.

hasidic — pertaining to the Hasidim (pious ones) and their beliefs.

Hasmonean — pertaining to the Hasmoneans.

Hasmoneans — a family of Jewish priests who led a successful revolt that began in 168 B.C.E. against the Hellenized Selucid rulers of Syria. The Hasmoneans, nicknamed the Maccabees, ruled the land of Israel from 142 to 63 B.C.E.

haver — (member; plural: haverim) member of an order that was meticulous in observing the commandments concerning heave offerings, tithing and purity (e.g., washing one’s hands before eating and before touching ritually clean food). These regulations had already been laid down in the time of Hillel and Shammai (last quarter of first century B.C.E.). Women and slaves also could become haverim. In rabbinic sources the term haver often stands in contrast to the term am ha’arets (person of the land), someone who was not a member of the haverim fellowship.

Hebraism — the use of a non-Hebrew term in an unusually Hebriac sense or the use of a grammatical construction in a language other than Hebrew that resembles Hebrew usage.

hendiadys — a figure of speech whereby two words are used to refer to a single idea. “He stayed indoors because of the rain and the wet,” is an example of hendiadys.


kal vahomer — (קַל וָחוֹמֶר; “light and heavy”) term of logic applied to the inference from minor to major (a minori ad maius, or a fortiori, reasoning).

kashrut — (כַּשְׁרוּת‎) the dietary commandments the Torah enjoins on the people of Israel.

ketiv — There are places within the Masoretic Text where the written tradition diverges from the vocalized tradition. When such divergences occur, the written but unvocalized text is referred to as “ketiv.

kibbutz — a collective farm or settlement in Israel.


The entrances of Loculi II (on the left) and I, in the west wall of the Caiaphas tomb.

The entrances of Loculi II (on the left) and I, in the west wall of the Caiaphas tomb.

loculus — (plural: loculi) a recess or small chamber cut into a wall of a room in a burial cave for the reception of an ossuary or coffin.

LOY — an abbreviation for Life of Yeshua, the name David Bivin has assigned to the conjectured Hebrew source that ultimately stands behind the Synoptic Gospels.

Lukan Doublet — a saying of Jesus appearing twice in the Gospel of Luke, apparently the result of Luke’s copying from two sources, each of which had a different version of the saying.

Luke’s Greater Interpolation — a block of material in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 9:51-18:14) not found in the Gospel of Mark. Matthew has parallels to much of the material in Luke’s Greater Interpolation, but, unlike Luke, Matthew does not present this material in a single block.

Luke’s Lesser Interpolation — a block of material in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 6:20-8:3) not found in the Gospel of Mark. Luke’s Lesser Interpolation includes the Sermon on the Plain (largely parallel to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount) and much material that is paralleled elsewhere in Matthew, but not presented by Matthew in a single block.

LXX — See below under “Septuagint.”


ma‘amadot — delegations of representatives, including priests, Levites and ordinary Israelites, sent in turn to Jerusalem from twenty-four local districts to offer sacrifices in the Temple. The delegations served together with twenty-four parallel divisions, or mishmarot, of priests. The term now refers to a series of extra-liturgical prayers and extracts used daily in the synagogue.

Maccabees — nickname of the Hasmoneans, a family of Jewish priests who led a successful revolt, which began in 168 B.C.E., against the Hellenized Selucid rulers of Syria. The Hasmoneans ruled the land of Israel from 142 to 63 B.C.E.

Markan Cross-Factor Diagram“Markan Cross-Factor” — a term Robert Lindsey coined to refer to the phenomenon that in Triple Tradition contexts there is general agreement with respect to pericope order but low verbal agreement, whereas in Double Tradition contexts Matthew and Luke rarely agree with respect to pericope order but often achieve a high degree of verbal identity. Lindsey referred to this phenomenon as the Markan Cross-Factor because it is Mark that creates the distinction between Double and Triple Tradition. Lindsey argued that a viable solution to the Synoptic Problem must account for the Markan Cross-Factor.

“Markan freshness” — a term coined by Robert Lindsey to describe the colorful details found exclusively in Mark’s Gospel, for example, the detail that Jesus slept in a boat on a cushion while a storm raged (Mark 4:38; cf. Matthew 8:24 and Luke 8:23).

“Markan pick-up” — a term coined by Robert Lindsey to describe the borrowed words and expressions that Mark substituted in Luke’s text as he rewrote it to form his own account. Mark “picked up” these synonyms from elsewhere in Luke, and from Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and James. Occasionally, Mark proliferated one of these synonymic replacements or “pick-ups” and it became, in Lindsey’s terminology, a “Markan stereotype.”

Markan Priorist — An adherents to the theory of Markan Priority.

Markan Priority — the theory that Mark is the earliest of the Synoptic Gospels and a source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Markan Priority is one aspect of the Two-source Hypothesis, the dominant solution to the Synoptic Problem among scholars today.

“Markan stereotype” — a term Robert Lindsey coined to refer to words that appear with unusual frequency in Mark (e.g., evthūs, “immediately”). Lindsey believed that the Markan stereotypes were a clue to solving the Synoptic Problem.

Masoretes — the Jewish scholars of the sixth to ninth centuries C.E. who compiled the Masorah, a body of notes on the textual traditions surrounding Scripture. In particular, the Masoretes devised vowel signs with which to vocalize the Bible’s consonantal text.

Masoretic Text — the text of the Bible produced by the Masoretes.

Matthean cross-pollination — an editorial technique of the author of Matthew by which he allowed parallel versions of a story or saying to verbally influence one another.

Megillat Ta‘anit — (scroll of fasting) a composition that includes a list in Aramaic of thirty-five Second Temple-period holidays during which public fasting was prohibited (on fourteen of these days public mourning also was forbidden), and a commentary in Hebrew. The list, which includes reasons for the prohibitions, was compiled sometime before the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. The commentary portion of the work was added not earlier than the seventh century C.E.

mezuzah — (plural: mezuzot) the Hebrew word for doorjamb, mezuzah also came to mean the encased parchment scroll inscribed with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 that is affixed to the gate and right-hand doorjambs of a Jewish home.

midrash — (plural: midrashim) literally, an inquiry or investigation, but as a technical term “midrash” refers to a rabbinic interpretation, or exposition, of biblical text. The term can also be applied to a collection of such expositions or, capitalized, to the whole midrashic literature written during the first millennium C.E.

mikveh — (plural: mikva’ot) a pool of water for immersing the body to purify it from ritual uncleanness. The mikveh is similarly used to purify vessels (Numbers 31:22-23). Immersion in a mikveh is also obligatory for proselytes, as part of their ceremony of conversion.

minor agreement — an instance of Lukan-Matthean verbal agreement against Mark’s wording in a Triple Tradition pericope.

Mishnah — (literally, “repetition,” from the root sh-n-h, to repeat) the collection of Oral Torah compiled and committed to writing around 200 C.E. by Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi. It records the sayings of sages who lived and taught during the previous several hundred years.

mishnah — (plur.: mishnayot) the smallest division of the Mishnah, usually consisting of a single halachic ruling or aggadic saying, roughly equivalent to a verse, the smallest division of Scripture. Note that mishnah in this sense is uncapitalized.

Mishnaic Hebrew — the Hebrew spoken in the land of Israel during the first centuries B.C.E/C.E., used loosely to refer to post-biblical Hebrew. Since this dialect is the language of the rabbinic works composed during the following centuries, it also is referred to as “rabbinic Hebrew.” Some scholars prefer the term “Middle Hebrew.”

mitzvah — (commandment; plural: mitzvot) a biblical commandment, or, more broadly speaking, a good deed or religious duty. Almsgiving is sometimes referred to as ha-mitzvah (the commandment).


Nabatea — ancient kingdom southeast of the land of Israel whose capital was Petra.

Nabatean — pertaining to Nabatea or the Nabateans; the language of the Nabateans.

Nisan — the first month of the ecclesiastical year in the Jewish calendar (Esther 3:7), roughly parallel to the month of April. The festival of Passover falls on the 15th to the 21st of Nisan.


omer — (sheaf of grain) the sheaf of barley offered in the Temple as a wave offering on the second day of Passover, the day that marks the beginning of seven weeks of counting; the fifty days counted from that day until Shavuot.

Oral Torah — (torah she-be-al peh) in contrast to the Written Torah (torah she-bichtav), the instruction God gave to Israel at Sinai contained in the five books of Moses. The Oral Torah consists of forty-two verbal commandments given to Moses at Sinai, and the precepts and interpretations implied in the Written Torah. It also came to include the legal decisions of rabbinical courts and the oral traditions received from earlier generations of Torah scholars.

Stone ossuaries (burial boxes for bones) near the Dominus Flevit church on the Mount of Olives. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

Stone ossuaries (burial boxes for bones) near the Dominus Flevit church on the Mount of Olives. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

ossuary — a “bone box,” a depository for the bones of the dead. According to Jewish burial practices in the land of Israel at the time of Jesus, the bones of the deceased were collected one year after an initial interment and reinterred in a small container usually carved from stone. Ossuaries were generally decorated with geometric or other designs, and often inscribed with the name(s) of the deceased. Sometimes the bones of several members of the same family were collected and placed in the same ossuary. The average size of these boxes was 50 cm. long, 30 cm. wide and 30 cm. high. About nine hundred ossuaries have been found in the vicinity of Jerusalem alone.


pericope — (plural: pericopae) an episode or story unit in the Synoptic Gospels; a division of a synopsis.

pesher — (interpretation; plural: pesharim) a style of commentary on Scripture attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls, according to which the biblical text is interpreted as referring to recent events. Among the pesharim discovered at Qumran are the pesher to Habakkuk (1QpHab), the pesher to Isaiah (4QpIsaa-e [4Q161-165]), the pesher to Hosea (4QpHosa-b [4Q166-167]), the pesher to Nahum (4QpNah [4Q169]), and the pesher to the Psalms (4QpPsa,b [4Q171, 4Q173]).

Pseudepigrapha — (literally, “falsely ascribed”) a title scholars have given to various Jewish writings of the third century B.C.E. to the second century C.E. not found in the Hebrew Bible or Apocrypha, but known to scholars prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The diverse collection of writings scholars refer to as Peseudepigrapha (such as James H. Charlesworth’s, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha [2 vols.; Doubleday, 1983-1985], which includes fifty-two documents) did not exist as a collection in ancient times. Thus, Pseudepigrapha is an artificial (and somewhat arbitrary) category created by scholars. Fragments of some pesudepigraphical works, such as Enoch and Jubilees, have been found in Hebrew or Aramaic at Qumran. Many of the works included in collections of Pseudepigrapha falsely purport to have been written by famous biblical figures (e.g., Enoch).


Q — a conjectured Greek work believed by some scholars to be the source of Matthew and Luke’s non-Markan sayings. The designation “Q” is usually thought to be an abbreviation of the German Quelle, meaning “source”; however, the designation may have been chosen because Markan material was once thought to be from Peter, or P, and thus some second source would be Q.

qere — There are places within the Masoretic Text where the written tradition diverges from the vocalized tradition. When such divergences occur, the vocalized tradition at variance with the written text is referred to as “qere.


R. — an abbreviation used in rabbinic literature for the honorific titles, “Rabbi,” “Rabban,” “Rav” and “Rabbenu.”

Rashi — acronym for Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak; Rashi’s eleventh-century commentary on the Bible.

redact — the act of reworking the wording or structure of a source on the part of a copyist, editor or author.

redaction — the process or result of redacting a text. Redaction may be as innocuous as a minor stylistic improvement that results in little or no change to the meaning conveyed by the original source. On the other hand, redaction may introduce details or concepts alien to the original source (or conversely, details or concepts that were integral to the original source may be omitted). Such editorial activity could affect the meaning of the redacted source to a greater or lesser extent. All solutions to the Synoptic Problem that allow for any kind of literary dependence between the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke presume some level of redactional activity on the part of the synoptic evangelists.

redactor — a person who reworks the wording or structure of a source.

responsa — (Latin plural of responsum; answer, reply, opinion) the usual English designation for the rabbinic expression she’elot u-teshuvot (questions and answers), the term responsa refers to the halachic correspondence of rabbinic authorities, especially the written rulings of Geonim in response to halachic queries written by Jews living outside Babylonia.

Restoration of Zion — the return to Jerusalem of the Jewish exiles in Babylonia during the days of Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah (6th-5th centuries B.C.E.), accompanied by the rebuilding of the Temple. The term shivat tsiyon (the return, or restoration, of Zion) is taken from Psalm 126:1.


scale disease — a skin lesion that imparts severe ritual impurity, second only to that generated by a human cadaver. Often misleadingly translated as “leprosy,” which today refers to Hansen’s disease and is the result of a bacterial infection, scale disease may be the result of a variety of ailments, not necessarily including or limited to leprosy.

Second Commonwealth — a synonym for “Second Temple period.”

Second Temple period — literally, the period from the rebuilding of the Temple (536-516 B.C.E.) to its destruction by the Romans in 70 C.E. However, the term usually refers to the latter part of this period, beginning with the Hasmonean Uprising in 168 B.C.E., and often extending to the end of the Bar-Kochva Revolt in 135 C.E.

Seder Eliyahu — also known as Tanna d’ve Eliyahu, this work is composed of Seder Eliyahu Rabbah and Seder Eliyahu Zuta.

Semitism — the apparent imitation of Semitic grammar in a non-Semitic language or the use of a non-Semitic word in a particularly Semitic manner. Semitic languages include (among others) Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic. Scholars typically refer to “Semitisms” in the New Testament when they do not wish to commit to which language (Hebrew or Aramaic) may have been behind the Semitic usage.

Septuagint — the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures completed in Egypt between approximately 250 and 100 B.C.E. The earliest extant manuscripts of the Septuagint date from the 4th century C.E. “LXX” is a common abbreviation for the Septuagint in scholarly literature.

Septuagintism — (or sometimes “Septuagintalism”) a turn of phrase or grammatical construction used in imitation of the Septuagint. Many of the Hebraisms in the Gospels are explained away as Septuagintisms.

Shavuot — (weeks) the annual festival of the firstfruits celebrated at the conclusion of the seven weeks of counting the omer (Leviticus 23:15-21; Deuteronomy 16:9-12); also known as Pentecost from the Greek pentekoste (fiftieth day).

Shechinah — (“dwelling”) the divine presence that traveled with Israel in the wilderness and that inhabited the Temple in Jerusalem.

The opening words of the Shema' ("Hear, O Israel"; Deut. 6:8) from a mezzuzah parchment. The tagin ("crowns") are visible on the top left corners of the letters ש (far right), ע (the large letter in the middle) and ש (fourth letter from left). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The opening words of the Shema (“Hear, O Israel”; Deut. 6:8) from a mezzuzah parchment. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Shema — (Hear!) the first word of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear [Shema], O Israel! The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” In Judaism this verse is the supreme affirmation of God’s oneness and uniqueness. Since at least the second century C.E. the Shema has consisted of three passages: Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21; and Numbers 15:37-41, plus the accompanying benedictions that were recited before and after the three passages.

Song of Songs Rabbah — a midrash on the book of Song of Songs.

sotah — (a straying or errant woman) a woman suspected of adultery by her husband and who underwent the trial of “bitter water” (Numbers 5:11-31). Capitalized, “Sotah” refers to one of the tractates of the Mishnah.

“string of pearls” — a term LOY researchers have coined to refer to small collections of originally unrelated sayings of Jesus that lack a narrative that occur in the Synoptic Gospels, especially in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 8:16-18; 9:23-27; 16:16-18; 17:1-6).

synopsis — a book in which the first three Gospels of the New Testament are arranged in parallel columns.

synoptic — an adjective derived from sūnopsesthai, a Greek word meaning, “to view together, or at the same time”; specifically, the adjective refers to the first three Gospels of the New Testament.

Synoptic Apocalypse — a Triple Tradition discourse (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) in which Jesus prophesies future events. The Synoptic Apocalypse is sometimes referred to as the Olivet Discourse since Mark and Matthew locate the discourse on the Mount of Olives.

Synoptic Gospels — Matthew, Mark and Luke. The Synoptic Gospels are so similar in form and content that it is convenient to view them together. The three are often printed in parallel columns; such a book is called a synopsis. With the aid of a synopsis, the Synoptic Gospels can be studied synoptically, that is, studied by comparing the similarities and differences between them. The Gospel of John is so unlike the Synoptic Gospels that there is limited value in trying to view it “synoptically” with the other three Gospels.

Synoptic Problem — the scholarly debate concerning the order in which the Synoptic Gospels were written and the literary sources used by each.


Talmud — a collection of Jewish halachah and aggadah comprising the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Gemara, commentary on the Mishnah, is printed section by section following each verse of the Mishnah. “Gemara” can be used in its narrow sense, the commentary on the Mishnah found in the Talmud, or in its wider sense as a synonym for “Talmud.” There are two Talmuds: the Jerusalem (or Palestinian) Talmud was completed about the end of the fourth century C.E.; the Babylonian Talmud, which became authoritative, was completed about a century later.

tannaic — pertaining to the tannaim. (Sometimes also written “tannaitic.”)

tannaim — (singular: tanna) sages from Hillel’s time (died about 10 B.C.E.) until the generation after Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi (about 230 C.E.), the compiler of the Mishnah.

targum — (plural: targumim or targums) an Aramaic translation of a portion of the Hebrew Scriptures. The targumim not only provided a translation for those who did not understand the original language, but also provided an interpretation of the biblical text. Since the inspired text could not be changed or altered in even the smallest way, the targum made possible the insertion of various explanations and clarifications that amplified the text. The targum dramatizes and adds additional information. According to the Targum of Ruth 1:1-2, for instance, “there was a mighty famine in the land, and a certain great man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab; his two sons were chief Ephrathites who, when they came to Moab, were governors there” (italics highlight the differences in the Aramaic text of the targum compared to the Hebrew original).

tell — a mound created by the debris of successive levels of human occupation.

Tetragrammaton — the four-letter, unutterable, divine name of God (often transliterated in English as “YHWH”).

tevul yom — (immersed on that day) a person who has incurred one of the uncleannesses for which Scripture ordains “he shall be unclean until evening,” has immersed him or herself in a mikveh, and now awaits the day’s end to be ritually pure (see Mishnah Kelim 1:8).

Therapeutae — (healers) a semi-monastic Jewish sect in Alexandria, Egypt (first century C.E.). The Therapeutae were ascetics, but not celibates—they had wives and children. According to Shmuel Safrai, they appear to have been older men who, although not wealthy, had the means to devote their time to Scripture study, prayer and contemplation. In ancient sources they are mentioned only in Philo’s De vita contemplativa.

Tosefta — (the addition) a collection of Oral Torah supplementing the Mishnah; compiled about 220-230 C.E., a generation after the Mishnah.

translation Greek — Greek that has been translated quite literally from Hebrew or Aramaic.

Triple Tradition (TT) — pericopae (story units) shared by all three Synoptic Gospels (e.g., the Baptism of Jesus or the Calming of the Storm).

Markan Priority or the Two-source Hypothesis.Two-source Hypothesis — the dominant solution to the Synoptic Problem among scholars today. The Two-source Hypothesis proposes that Mark is the source of the Triple Tradition in Matthew and Luke, and that a separate sayings source, usually referred to as Q, is the source of the Double Tradition. The Two-source Hypothesis maintains that Matthew and Luke used both of their shared sources independently.


unique Lukan material — pericopae (story units) found only in Luke’s Gospel.

unique Matthean material — pericopae (story units) found only in Matthew’s Gospel.


verbal identity — use of the same words, sometimes implying the same forms or sequence of words.

verbal relic — use of a linguistic feature (e.g., word, grammatical structure) carried over from an earlier source that no longer serves a specific function in its new context.

vorlage — (German: “that which lies before,” i.e., model, template) a term used by scholars to refer to a source document used by a translator, editor, or copyist. Often a text’s vorlage is a source that is no longer extant, but it can be reconstructed to some degree from clues in the text. For example, at many points the translators of the LXX used a vorlage different from the MT.


Zealots — a fanatical sect of Jewish extremists during the Great Revolt (66-73 C.E.) who urged a war to the death against the Roman occupiers of the Land, and ruthlessly persecuted Jews who held more moderate views.