Christianity: Glossary of terms

Apostle: One of the earliest missionaries to preach the news of Jesus; traditionally numbered at twelve (Jesus' twelve disciples) plus Paul, "apostle to the Gentiles".

Apostolic Succession: In the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, the belief that there is an unbroken chain of authority from the apostolic age to the present: apostles, bishops, priest, laity

Atonement: the reconciliation of God and man through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ

Apocalypse: A genre of Jewish and Christian writings of 200 B.C.E. to 150 C.E. which describe the expectation of an imminent cosmic cataclysm in which God destroys the ruling powers of evil and raises the righteous to life in a messianic kingdom. Generally, the belief that the world is heading toward a cataclysmic end in which the powers of evil will finally be destroyed.

Baptism: The rite of immersion which initiates a person into the Christian church.

Catholic Christianity: "Universal". The Christian tradition which emphasizes unbroken continuity from apostolic times, apostolic succession and authority of bishops, a distinction between priesthood and laity, and claims that Christianity is undivided and that salvation is universally accessible through the Church

Christian: One who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ

Creed: a brief authoritative formula of religious belief. Two important Christian creeds are the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.

Eucharist: Etymology: from Greek, Eucharist, gratitude. The Christian sacrament of receiving bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. This term is more often used for the sacrament in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, "Communion" in the Protestant. In the Catholic and Orthodox tradition, the Eucharist is viewed as both a communal feast and a daily re-enactment of Christ's sacrifice upon the cross, whereas some Protestant traditions view Communion as a symbolic commemoration of Christ's last meal with his disciples. Other Christian traditions take a stance somewhere between (for example, Lutheranism).

Faith: belief and trust in and loyalty to God, implying also belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion

Gospel: "Good news". The stories of Jesus' life circulated in the early churches. Eventually four came to be accepted as scriptural: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Grace: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

Heresy: dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice, perceived by the majority as an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards

Incarnation: the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form; capitalized : the union of divinity with humanity in Jesus Christ

Justification: The state of being released by God from the guilt of sin

Messiah: Hebrew, "the anointed one". In Christian thought, the messiah is identified with Jesus and defined as a divine savior rather than a human king who inaugurates an earthly reign of peace and justice. The term "Christ" is the Greek equivalent of "messiah".

Mystical Body of the Church/Christ: The analogy that the earthly church is Christ's body, with head, arms, legs and trunk representing different societal groups.

New Testament: The Christian scriptures, consisting of the 4 gospels, letters attributed to Paul and other disciples, and the book of Revelation. The Hebrew scriptures were retained and re-named the Old Testament. The Christian Bible thus consists of the Old and New Testaments.

Original Sin: The fundamental state of sin, inherited from the first man Adam, which according to most Christian theology infects all of mankind if not saved by faith in Christ.

Priesthood of all believers: The Protestant belief that there is no division between lay people and priests; that all Christians have the ability to read and understand the Bible

Protestant Christianity: a member of any of several church denominations denying the universal authority
of the Pope and affirming the Reformation principles of justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, and the primacy of the Bible as the only source of revealed truth

Resurrection: the rising of Christ from the dead; also, the rising again to life of all the human dead before the final judgment

Sacrament: A formal religious rite regarded as sacred for its perfect ability to convey divine blessing; in some traditions (especially Protestant) it is regarded as not effective in itself but as a sign or symbol of spiritual reality. Protestant churches count two sacraments (Baptism and Communion), while Catholic churches recognize seven sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist, Penance, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Last Rites of death).

Salvation: deliverance from the power and effects of sin

Satan: In the New Testament the prince of evil spirits, the inveterate enemy of God and of Christ, who takes the guise of an angel of light. Among early Christian writers, the figure of Satan played a larger part in the discussion of the nature of evil, the meaning of salvation, and the purpose and efficacy of the atoning work of Christ.

Sect: Religious group which separates from the larger group, demands conformity, and claims possession of exclusive truth

Sin: An offense against God's laws or wishes; more generally, a continuing state of estrangement from God

Trinity: the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead according to Christian dogma elaborated in the fourth century