Terms that will help you to understand your reading in our Three World Religions unit - I have tried to include them in order of your reading in the packets:

Table of Contents


Abraham - Jews, Christians, and Muslims regard Abraham as an important prophet, who first taught people to worship one God.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah - the religious initiation ceremony of a Jewish boy (Bar Mitzvah) or girl (Bat Mitzvah) who has reached the age of 13 and is regarded as ready to participate in public worship.

Conservative Judaism - a branch of Judaism whose followers believe that Jewish laws should be upheld, but allow for some modifications as long as they are in line with the development of Jewish laws over the centuries.

diaspora - the dispersion of any people from their original homeland. In our study of the origins of Judaism, many Jews scattered to different lands after foreign rulers conquered their land. This includes places in the Middle East, but also in what is now Spain, France, Germany, India, China, and countries in Africa.

Hanukkah - The Festival of Lights, celebrated by Jews over eight nights in December. On each night, a candle is lit in a menorah.

Kosher - Describes food that is permissible to eat under Jewish dietary laws. In general, kosher means that food should be clean. Meat and milk dishes are not eaten together or prepared using the same utensils or dishes. Many Jews also do not eat pork, shellfish, or animals that have not been ritually slaughtered. Jews have different practices regarding these rules.

Orthodox Judaism - a major branch within Judaism that teaches strict adherence to Jewish law and its traditional observances. Orthodox means “correct in teaching.” In Orthodox synagogues, men and women worship separately and services are held in Hebrew.

Passover - This holiday celebrates Jewish freedom and retells the story of Moses leading the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Reform Judaism - a reform movement beginning in the 19th century for Jewish law and rituals to change with the times. This resulted in changes in worship and customs, and grew rapidly in size and strength. It continues to flourish in Europe and the US today. In Reform synagogues, men and women typically sit together in worship and both Hebrew and the local language are used for services and prayers.

Rosh Hashanah - The Jewish New Year, it begins a 10-day period of repentance leading up to Yom Kippur.

Shabbat - the Jewish holy day that lasts from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.

Synagogue - The Jewish place of worship where one can pray, listen to readings from the Torah, study, socialize, and celebrate with other Jews.

Talmud - A collection of writings that record the Jewish oral tradition to help interpret the Torah.

Ten Commandments - the divine rules of conduct given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, according to Exod. 20:1–17.

Torah - the first five books of the Hebrew Bible; also the scroll of parchment on which the first five books of the Hebrew Scripture is written. The Torah is read in a synagogue during services.

Yom Kippur - The Day of Atonement, which Jews spend fasting, praying and asking for God's forgiveness for wrongdoings.

Zionism - a movement that began in the late 1800s for the establishment of a Jewish state.

Secular - attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.


Bible - The Christian Bible is made up of the Old and New Testaments.

Christmas - the annual Christian festival celebrating Christ's birth, held on December 25.

Church -The Christian place of public worship where one can pray, learn about the Bible, study, socialize, and celebrate with other Christians.

Crucifix - A cross made of wood or other material. In Christianity, it is a symbol of the way Jesus died.

Easter - the most important and oldest festival of the Christian Church, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus - the central figure of the Christian religion. Christians believe Jesus conducted a mission of preaching and healing (with reported miracles) in Palestine in about 28–30 CE, which is described in the Gospels (New Testament). His followers considered him to be the Christ or Messiah and the Son of God, and belief in his resurrection from the dead is the central tenet of Christianity.

Holy Spirit - The Christian belief in the spirit of God.

Minister/Pastor - a Christian leader, often of a Protestant church.

New Testament - A collection of books in the Bible produced by the early Christian church that share the life and teachings of Jesus.

Priest - A Christian leader of a Roman Catholic or Episcopalian church.

Resurrection - In Christian belief, Christ's rising from the dead.


Allah - The Arabic word for God.

Ayatollah - A high-ranking Shiite religious leader who is regarded as an authority on religious law and its interpretation and also holds political power. We talked about this in connection with Ayatollah Khamenei who leads Iran's government.

Hadith - Traditions drawn from the life of the Prophet Muhammad.

Hajj - The spiritual pilgrimage, or trip, that Muslims try to make to Mecca (Saudi Arabia) at least once in their lifetime.

Hijab - The headscarf or veil that many Muslim women wear to maintain modesty.

Imam - The Muslim spiritual leader or cleric who leads prayers in the mosque and helps people to understand what is written in the Koran.

Islam - A world religion whose followers are called Muslims. Islam is a word which means submission to the will of God

Ka'aba - The cube-shaped building built by Abraham in Mecca toward which Muslims face when they pray. Is is also the focus of the Muslims' pilgrimage to Mecca.

Koran - The religious Holy Book of the Muslims that Muslims believe was revealed to Muhammad. The Arabic text has remained unchanged for 1,400 years.

Mecca - The city in what is now Saudi Arabia where the Prophet Muhammad was born. The Ka'aba is located here, and it is the spiritual center of Islam.

Medina - The city in what is now Saudi Arabia where the Prophet Muhammad lived during his exile from Mecca. Medina is the second most sacred city in Islam and is where the Prophet Muhammad is buried.

Mosque - The place Muslims go to pray or worship. Mosques also may be used for community gatherings and schools.

Muhammad - The man who Muslims believe was called by the angel Gabriel to be the last prophet of Allah and to whom God revealed the Koran

Ramadan - The holy month of fasting for Muslims. During this month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset each day. Muslims believe the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during this month.

Shari'a - Islamic law.

Shi'a (Shi'ite) - Branch of Islam that traces its leadership to Ali, Muhammad's cousin and the fourth Caliph (spiritual and political leader).

Sunni - Branch of Islam that traces its leadership to Abu Bakr, Muhammad's father-in-law and the first Caliph (spiritual and political leader).