For an Answer Home Commentary Index Bibliography Glossary
The Bible Gateway The Blue Letter Bible The Greek New Testament (NA26) Greek & Hebrew Lexicons

powered by FreeFind

The Apologists  Bible Commentary




Glossary of Grammatical, Philosophical, and Theological Terms


Legend:    GR = Grammatical Term

                TH = Theological Term

                PH = Philosophical Term


Anarthrous GR Without the article.  In reference to a noun.  Anarthrous nouns are generally translated in English with the indefinite article ("a, an").  However, some anarthrous nouns are qualitative and are often translated without an article.  See Articular.
Annihilationism TH A heterodox doctrine teaching that Hell is not a place of eternal torment for the lost.  Instead, following judgment, the souls of the lost are said to be destroyed by God in the "lake of fire."  Annihilationists believe that the orthodox view of Hell is incompatible with a loving God.  For a scholarly critique of Annihilationism and some Evangelicals who espouse it, please see the two part article by Professor Alan W. Gomes in the Christian Research Journal (Part 1, Spring 1991; Part 2, Summer 1991).
Arius / Arianism TH Fourth-Century bishop who advocated a view of Christ rejected by the Council of Nicea.  Arius believed Jesus to be a created being, a lesser "god," who acted as mediator between the Ineffable Creator God and His creation.  Influenced by an extreme application of Platonic thought, Arius taught that not even the Son could know the Father perfectly.  The Son was a created being - in words attributed to Arius:  "There was a time when He [the Son] was not."  While Arianism was condemned as heretical by the Council of Nicea, Arius' followers continued to promote his Christological view for many years.  Some modern sects, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, hold many of the same beliefs about Jesus Christ, and are often termed "Arian," though there are significant differences as well.  
Arthrous GR Synonym for "articular."
Articular GR With the article.  In reference to a noun.  Greek does not have an indefinite article.  Nouns either occur with the article (hO) - and are thus articular - or without it.  Greek often uses the article in places where the definite article would be awkward in English, and translators generally omit the article in translation in these cases.  See Anarthrous.
Chiasm GR A rhetorical device used in ancient writings, including Biblical Greek, in which key words in a phrase, verse, or series of verses is repeated in an inverse pattern.  It is sometimes called "inverse parallelism."

This device takes its name from the Greek letter chi, (X), because it has a structure that resembles the letter 'X.' 

The repeated elements are often designated with letter and superscripts, such as A, A'; B,B', and so on.. In a chiasm, these elements are related to each other in parallels so that the first and the last are parallel, the second and the second from the last are also parallel, and so on. There can be two or more elements.

The device is generally used to draw attention to the repeated words, to give them a special emphasis.  The repeated words or phrases - while they may differ slightly in grammatical or syntactic form - always exhibit the same meaning.

An example of chiasm is the familiar saying of Jesus: "The first shall be last and the last shall be first." The chiasm is: "first...last ; last...first," forming the pattern, AB B'A'.  The structure can be extended to include many repeated elements in complex patterns, stretching over many verses. 

Christology TH The study of the Person and Nature of Christ.
Gnosticism TH A prevalent heresy in the early centuries of the Christian era.  Gnosticism was a complex philosophical system which held that God was ineffable and pure.  Matter, on the other hand, was corrupt and evil.  The God of Gnosticism could not interact directly with His creation, but only indirectly though a series of emanations.  In Christian Gnosticism, the Son was the highest emanation of the Father.  Gnosticism also entailed the belief of "secret" knowledge (gnosis = Greek: knowledge), which, if obtained, could free mortals from the corrupt and evil physical world and lead them into the divine reality.
Henotheism TH A form of polytheism in which a pantheon of gods exists under the supreme authority of a "High God."  Henotheism holds that only the High God may rightfully receive prayer and worship.
Modalism TH The view that the Son and the Holy Spirit are 'modes' of the Father, or aspects of the One God.  Modalism was the first major heresy with which the Early Church contended.  Modalism appeared in various guises in the first two centuries of the Church.  The Early Church Fathers argued firmly against this view of Christ, which denied a separation of Person between Father, Son, and Spirit.  In recent years, Oneness Pentacostal Churches and the "Jesus Only" movement have promoted a Modalistic Christology, arguing that Jesus is actually the Father and the Spirit, not personally distinct from them.
Necessary Presupposition PH In logic, any presupposition whose denial would involve a contradiction and therefore render the argument fallacious.  For example, the necessary presupposition of the Jesus Seminar arguing that the Disciples did not believe Jesus to be God is that the Gospel record is not infallible and inspired, but rather the work of an original author and several later redactors who added verses like John 20:28 many years after the original version of the Gospel was written.  Denying this necessary presupposition creates a contradiction, for Thomas (and John) were Disciples, and if John's Gospel accurately reflects their words, Thomas came to believe that Jesus was his God.
Panentheism PH Not to be confused with Pantheism.  "Panentheism says that all is in God, somewhat as if God were the ocean and we were fish. If one considers what is in God's body to be part of God, then we can say that God is all there is and then some. The universe is God's body, but God's awareness or personality is greater than the sum of all the parts of the universe. All the parts have some degree of freedom in co-creating with God. At the start of its momentary career as a subject, an experience is God--as the divine initial aim. As the experience carries on its choosing process, it is a freely aiming reality that is not strictly God, since it departs from God's purpose to some degree. Yet everything is within God" (New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality, pp. 89).
Pantheism PH The view that everything is of an all-encompassing immanent God; or that the universe, or nature, and God are equivalent.
Predicate Nominative GR In Greek, the subject of a sentence is determined by it's case - the nominative - not by word order.  Similarly, most predicates can be identified by being in the accusative case.  So, when translating from Greek into English, the first task is to look for a noun in the nominative case, for it will most likely be the subject of the sentence.  Next, find a noun in the accusative case, for it will probably be the direct object, or predicate of the sentence.  However, sentences containing a form of the verb "to be" are somewhat different.  Strictly speaking, the predicate in a sentence with this verb is not a direct object (it "predicates" something about the subject, rather than receiving an action).  It is called a predicate nominative, and appears in the nominative case.  Determining the subject in such a case is based on context and (often) the placement of the article.  "To exist" and "To become" are two common verbs in Greek which also take a predicate nominative.
Presupposition PH Initial assumptions upon which all thought is based. Presuppositions are often difficult to observe or prove because they stand prior to proof and become the standard by which other ideas or arguments are tested. A presupposition may be fundamental to all inquiry ("I exist") or simply agreed upon by the parties to a discussion without prior proof ("For the purposes of this debate, let us assume . . . . ").  All arguments are based upon presuppositions, such as the uniformity of nature (in the case of scientific proofs) or the universality of the laws of logic (a contradiction today will remain a contradiction tomorrow).
Preverbal GR A noun occurring before the verb in a clause or sentence.  In Greek, preverbal nouns, particularly when they are anarthrous predicate nominatives often highlight the qualities or characteristics of the subject, rather than the person or the class of the subject.
Sebellianism  TH An early form of Modalism.
Socinianism TH A 16th Century Antitrinitarian religious movement, named after its two founders.  Faustus Socinus, in his work "De Auctoritate Scripturae Sacrae", rejected all purely natural religion. Thus for him the Bible was everything, but it had to be interpreted by the light of reason. God, the Socinians maintained, is absolutely simple; but distinction of persons is destructive of such simplicity; therefore, they concluded the doctrine of the Trinity is unsound. Further, there can be no proportion between the finite and the infinite, hence there can be no incarnation, of the Deity, since that would demand some such proportion.  Socinians also denied the doctrine of Hell, the Atonement, and original sin.
Trinity TH The doctrine stating that the One God exists eternally in Three distinct Persons.  Trinitarianism acknowledge differing roles and authority within the Godhead, but Father, Son, and Spirit each share a single, unique, Divine Nature.  Whatever it is that makes the Father God, the Son and Spirit also possess.
Unitarianism TH Not to be confused with Unitarian/Universalism.  A heterodox belief system generally embraced by such groups as the Christadelphians, The Way International, Spirit and Truth International, and others.  The core beliefs of Unitarians are: The is One God, the Father, who unipersonal.  Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  He came into existence at his birth in Bethlehem; he did not pre-exist.  The Holy Spirit is another name for God, not the Third Person of the Trinity.  The Devil is not a personal entity, but a personification of evil.  Humans do not have a soul and do not survive death.  However, God will resurrect believers to rule with Him in His eternal kingdom.
Universalism TH A heterodox doctrine espousing the ultimate salvation of all men (and in some cases fallen angels, including Satan).  For Universalists, Hell is a place of penance in which the lost are 'refined' by metaphorical 'fire,' eventually to be reconciled to God.  Universalists believe that a loving God would not consign the lost to eternal  punishment, but rather wishes to bring all creature into a right relationship with Him.  For a thoughtful evangelical response to Universalism, click here.