If We Give You a Biblical Word, Can You Give Us Its Meaning?



By: Brittany Rowland

6 Min Quiz

Image: boonchai wedmakawand / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

One of the fascinating things about reading the Bible today is that there are so many versions to choose from. Each translation has its own style, voice and vocabulary, even among all the versions written in modern English. When the King James Version came out in 1611, it purposefully used excessively formal language, with "thou" and "ye" and "verily" sprinkled liberally throughout. But while phrases like "And God spake unto Noah" might have sounded natural to readers in the 17th century, it might as well still be Greek to most modern readers!

Still, there are a number of words and expressions in the Bible that remain timeless. These are the words that have entered the vernacular, that people recognize as coming from the Bible even if they aren't well versed in the Scriptures themselves. For example, look at the origins of the word "scapegoat." Who would have guessed that in the Bible, a scapegoat was an actual goat that was forced to bear the sins of others? 

So how well do you think you know the Bible's special vocabulary? Do you know the difference between "idolatry" and "iniquity"? Or what about "parable" and "prodigal"? Start the quiz to find out, o ye of great knowledge!

God made a rule about this in the 10 Commandments. Can you define "idolatry"?

An idol is an image or physical representation of a god. More generally, idolatry can be a fervid devotion to anything other than God, which is why the Bible cautions against it frequently!


What is the "firmament"? God creates it on the second day of Creation.

The word "firmament" comes from the Latin word for "the sky." In the Creation story of Genesis, God created the firmament to go over the water like a dome. Later he'd add the sun and moon.


Altars appear throughout the Bible. Can you define the word "altar"?

In the Bible, people used altars to make sacrifices to God or perform other religious duties. Several central biblical figures, including Abraham, Isaac and Moses, built altars to God.


There's a lot of begetting going on in the Bible. What does "beget" mean?

The Bible includes many genealogies, tracing the lineage of its central people. For example, Matthew says that Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob and thus continues down to the birth of Jesus.


Yes, it's the name of a book of the Bible, but "exodus" also means what?

An "exodus" is the emigration of a large group of people from one place to another. In the Book of Exodus, Moses leads the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and on their journey to the Promised Land.


Jesus often told "parables," which are what?

When speaking to his followers, Jesus often used parables to teach an important lesson using a simple story. For instance, the parable of the lost sheep showed that God would always try to save the sinner.


If you've heard of the prodigal son, then you might know that "prodigal" means this.

A person who's prodigal spends money lavishly or recklessly. Jesus' story of the prodigal son describes a young man who burns through his inheritance, then comes back to his father asking forgiveness.


Do you know what the "Leviathan" is?

The Bible has dozens of verses referring to the Leviathan, a monstrous sea creature. Over time, the Leviathan came to symbolize great enemies, like Babylon or Satan, but now it can refer to any giant sea creature.


Do you know what a "scapegoat" is? Leviticus describes one.

In Leviticus, the high priest selects a goat and symbolically transfers the people's sins onto it before driving it into the desert. It's therefore a "scapegoat," a person or thing that bears the blame of others.


The Bible often describes God's "wrath," which means what?

"Wrath" means strong anger. Although it's considered a sin for people to show wrath, God displays wrath in a righteous way, to execute justice. For example, he shows wrath when the Israelites worship a golden calf.


Jesus uses this word on the cross. What does "forsaken" mean?

To "forsake" means to abandon. As he was dying on the cross, Jesus said, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Although it is a troubling phrase, Jesus is quoting Psalm 22:1, which foretells the crucifixion.


What does "mammon" mean as it is used in the New Testament?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, "You cannot serve both God and mammon." In other words, he cautions people that they cannot love God and their earthly riches at the same time.


Can you define a "publican"? Hint: Publicans were not well liked in biblical times!

"Publicans" were tax collectors. As the New Testament makes clear, people loathed publicans because they were often corrupt and worked for the Romans. Thus, they were shocked when Jesus was friendly to them.


A person in a sackcloth might cry, "Woe is me!" What is a "sackcloth"?

In the Bible, people who wanted to mourn or show repentance often wore a sackcloth, a garment made out of coarse goat's hair. Sometimes they would also put ashes on their heads to show their grief or remorse.


The Bible describes a period of "tribulation," which means what?

Several books of the Bible, including Matthew, Daniel and Revelation, describe the time of tribulation, which Christians believe is a period of suffering before the second coming of Jesus Christ.


Psalms 22:19 describes God as a "succor." What does that word mean?

"Succor" is help or aid, or a person who offers it. Several Bible verses describe God as providing succor to those who need it. For example, Psalm 79:8 says, "Let thy tender mercies speedily succor us."


Joseph and Mary were "betrothed," which means what?

"Betrothed" means engaged. Joseph and Mary were betrothed when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would bear the Son of God. Luckily, Joseph was an upright man who didn't leave her!


"Verily" is a popular adverb in the Bible, meaning what?

"Verily" means "in truth." Jesus used the word "verily" many times to emphasize what he was saying, as in "Verily, I say unto you ..." Shakespeare was another person who used this word a great deal.


As described in the Bible, what does it mean to "give alms"?

"Giving alms" means giving money or other help to the needy. In Matthew 6, Jesus instructs people not to give alms in a showy way so as to receive praise and attention. The only reward they should seek is from God.


This word appears in a famous prayer. What does "hallowed" mean?

"Hallowed," meaning "regarded as holy," appears in the Lord's Prayer: "hallowed be thy name." The Bible also states that God "hallowed" the Sabbath day, the seventh day of creation on which he rested.


As seen in religious ceremonies, what does it mean to "anoint" someone?

To "anoint" someone is to rub oil on them in the name of the Lord. In the Bible, people were anointed to show their dedication to God. The word Christ comes from the Greek for "anointed one."


The Book of Job refers to "Behemoth," which is what?

Job 40:15 - 24 describes Behemoth as a strong, powerful creature that "drinketh up a river." Biblical scholars have wondered if the Behemoth was a hippopotamus, buffalo or some mythological creature.


In Revelation 22:13, God refers to himself as "the alpha and the omega." What do these words mean?

Alpha and omega are literally the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Therefore, with this pronouncement, God says that he is the first and the last, and everything in between.


When the Bible talks about a "covenant," it means what?

Several times throughout the Bible, God forms "covenants," or special agreements, with people. For example, God made a covenant with Noah promising never to flood the whole earth again.


One of the gifts of the wise men is "myrrh." Do you know what that is?

Myrrh is a resin taken from a tree that historically has been used in incense, perfumes and medicine. In many of the religious rituals described in the Bible, people used oil from myrrh.


Do you know the meaning of a "bondman" in the Bible?

In the Bible, slaves were called "bondsmen." In Exodus 20:10, the Lord commands that no one should do any work on the Sabbath, the day of rest, including any bondsmen in the household.


The Bible uses the word "cleave" to mean what?

Matthew 19:5 explains that a man will leave his parents and "cleave" to his wife. In other words, they become like one flesh. Ruth 1:14 also used "cleave" to describe Ruth's sticking with Naomi, her mother-in-law.


What are "lamentations," besides a book of the Old Testament?

"Lamentations" are expressions of grief or sorrow. Biblical scholars attribute the Book of Lamentations to the prophet Jeremiah. It's made up of poems lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem.


In the Bible, people used the title "Rabbi" to refer to whom?

In the Bible, "Rabbi" was a title of respect used for Jewish teachers or scholars. Jesus' disciples and followers often addressed him as "Rabbi," such as in Mark 9:5 and John 6:25.


When the Bible refers to "iniquity," it means what?

"Iniquity" is a sin of great wickedness, or a conscious decision to cause harm to others. For example, in Genesis 44:16, Judah refers to his iniquity of selling his brother into slavery.


Do you know what "messiah" means?

In Judaism, the messiah is a leader descended from King David who will save the Jewish people. Christians believe Jesus Christ is the messiah, the savior promised by God in the Old Testament.


Acts of the Apostles is one of the books of the New Testament. Can you define an "apostle"?

"Apostles" may refer to the original 12 disciples of Jesus or more generally to the early Christian missionaries who spread the gospel following Jesus' death. The word comes from the Greek for "messenger."


One of Jesus' miracles is healing a centurion's servant. What is a "centurion"?

In the Roman army, a centurion commanded a century, or a group of 100 soldiers. The centurion showed remarkable faith by asking Jesus to merely say that his servant will be healed rather than come in person.


The "cherubim" who appear throughout the Bible are what?

"Cherubim" is the plural form of "cherub," a type of angel who performs tasks on earth for God. For example, after God evicts Adam and Eve from Eden, he places cherubim at the entrance to keep people out.


The word "gospel" means what?

The word "gospel" literally means "good news." It describes Jesus' teachings, which formed the basis of Christianity. When capitalized, it also refers to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the books about Jesus.


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