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Subject specific vocabulary: Christianity

The following subject specific vocabulary provides definitions of key terms used in our A-level Religious studies 7062 specification. Your students should be familiar with and gain understanding of all these terms.


The Greek word for ‘unconditional love’, and the basis for the Golden Rule for Christians, and of Jesus’ sacrificial crucifixion.


A means of reading the Bible in a non-literal way, or in other words that the Bible is not to be taken as absolutely factual, but rather that Christians should read the Bible for the deeper meaning hidden within its texts and stories.


A member of the Anglican Church, or the adjective used to describe Anglican practices or beliefs. The Church of England is one part of the Anglican Communion.

Anointing of the Sick

One of the seven sacraments for Roman Catholics (and some Anglo-Catholics, or Church of England Christians who use the seven sacraments as part of their worship), where the priest will use oil to anoint the head (and/or hands) of a person who is sick or suffering. Can accompany the laying on of hands, where the priest physically touches the head (or shoulder) of the person and prays for them.


From the Greek word meaning ‘emissary’, usually used to refer to the Twelve Disciples.

Apostolic Succession

A Roman Catholic belief, shared by Anglo-Catholics, that those who are ordained as deacons, priests, and bishops share a physical link back to the first apostles through the laying on of hands which occurs during ordination (being made a deacon or priest) or consecration (being made a bishop).


The belief of Arius that Jesus was not fully divine, nor co-eternal with God the Father, but rather was created or made by God the Father at some point before the creation of the world.


Making amends for sin, usually referring to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross which Christians believe was the ultimate act of atonement, to remove all of humanity’s sin.


The rite of initiation for Christians, in which water is used to symbolise the washing away of sin and to welcome the person into the Christian church. For some Christians (such as Roman Catholics), this is usually paedobaptism, which is the baptising of a baby or child usually by pouring a small amount of water over their head, at a font, three times in the name of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Other Christians (such as Baptists) prefer adult baptism, or believer’s baptism, which usually involves full immersion of the person into a baptistery or pool.


The holy book for Christianity, made up of the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament is found in Judaism and Islam in various formats, whereas the New Testament focuses on the life and works of Jesus, and various letters (or Epistles) written by early Christians about the new Christian faith.

Biblical Criticism

The academic exercise of examining the authorship of different aspects of the Bible to identify any potential bias or context from the writer(s).


The most senior order of ordination (above deacons and priests), who are a focal point of unity for their diocese, and are able to perform confirmations and ordinations.


The doctrine of Christianity which follows the teachings of Calvin, including predestination and sola scriptura.


The texts which are found in authorised versions of the Bible.


The Roman Catholic Church’s summary of its doctrine and moral code.


If spelt with a small ‘c’, catholic means universal, and can refer to the worldwide church. With a capital ‘C’, Catholic refers to an adherent to Roman Catholicism, or the adjective used to describe Roman Catholic practice and doctrine.


Refraining from sexual intercourse or other sexual activity, for example to fulfil a vow made as a religious monk, nun, or Roman Catholic priest.


The study of the identity of Jesus Christ, and his status as divine, human, the Messiah, and/or the Son of God for Christians.


One of the seven sacraments for Roman Catholics (and some Anglo-Catholics, or Church of England Christians who use the seven sacraments as part of their worship), where a Christian will tell the priest their sins, will receive advice and/or a penance (something to do to make amends). The priest will usually absolve their sins by pronouncing absolution.


An agreement between God and humans.

Creatio ex nihilo

The Latin for ‘creation from nothing’, referring to the belief that God created the universe from nothing as an act of omnipotence and grace (love).


The belief that God created the world according to the accounts in Genesis. Progressive creationism (also known as old earth creationism) is the belief that the ‘days’ in the first Genesis account might refer to ‘epochs’ and not 24 hour segments of time. Six day creationism (also known as young earth creationism) is the more conservative Christian belief that the ‘days’ in Genesis refer to actual 24 hour segments, and that the earth’s timespan since creation can be traced through Old Testament ages of humans all the way to the time of Jesus, making the earth between 6000 and 7000 years old.


The belief, prevalent in Process Theology, that God is not fully omnipotent, but rather is confined by the laws of the universe and must act in accordance with them.


A branch of Christianity, for example Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, or the various Orthodox churches.


Also known as inter-denominational dialogue, this refers to different denominations of Christians trying to find common ground and unity.


One of the letters in the New Testament from a writer to one of the early groups of ‘Christians’ with guidance on how to live in line with the new teachings of Jesus.


The study of the ‘end times’, or of the end of the world, which Christians believe will occur, and which is depicted in the book of Revelation (also known as the book of the Apocalypse).


From the Greek for ‘thanksgiving’, it is another word for Holy Communion or mass, the central practice of most Christian worship, involving the eating of bread (and, for some Christians, the drinking of wine).


The belief that the Bible is inerrant and contains the exact truth of God. Fundamentalist Christians will, for example, be against homosexuality due to its outlawing in the book of Leviticus, which must be the infallible word of God.


An account of the life of Jesus Christ, meaning ‘good news’. In the (canonical) Bible, there are four gospels, three of which are similar and known as the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). The fourth Gospel, John, is written in a more poetic style and is believed by most biblical critics to have been written later than the other three gospels.


The belief that God intervenes and is active in the world, for example by performing miracles or through the Incarnation of God, Jesus, for Christians.

Immortality of the Soul

The belief that, when a person dies, the immaterial soul will continue to exist, either within or outside of a body.


‘God becoming flesh’, for Christians this refers to the birth of Jesus as the incarnation of God, being both fully divine and fully human.

Inter-faith dialogue

Different religions (rather than different Christian denominations) coming together to discuss matters and to potentially find common ground between them.

Ius ad bellum

A part of St Thomas Aquinas’ ‘Just War Theory’, ius ad bellum refers to the criteria that must be satisfied before a war can be declared and be considered justified and moral (for example, it must be declared by a legitimate authority).

Ius in bello

The second aspect of St Thomas Aquinas’ ‘Just War Theory’, ius in bello refers to the criteria that must be followed during warfare in order for it to continue being justified and moral (for example, trying to avoid harming innocent civilians).

Justification by faith

The belief that Christians achieve salvation and can enter heaven through their faith in Jesus and God, rather than due to their actions. This relates to the doctrine of sola fides.

Justification by works

A member of the Anglican Church, or the adjective used to describe Anglican practices or beliefs. The Church of England is one part of the Anglican Communion.


A way of reading the Bible as the exact words of God, rather than symbolically as a more representative or analogical text.


The form in which Christians worship, usually in a Church, and which can follow a set structure and wording.


Martin Luther, a prominent figure in the Protestant Reformation, who whilst a Catholic monk wrote ‘The 95 Theses’ which outlined his criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church’s practices (for example, around the selling of indulgences) and nailed these to the castle church in Wittenberg.


Literally this means ‘anointed one’, referring to the idea of the Messiah being a king (even today the monarch of the United Kingdom is anointed when they are crowned king or queen). For Jews, the Messiah will be a king and/or warrior figure who will usher in a new Messianic Age. For Christians, Jesus was the anticipated Messiah (the chosen one of God), and they now await his return or second coming.


The title given to leaders of some Protestant Christian denominations who tend to be less liturgical in their worship.


‘All loving’, Christians believe that God is omnibenevolent and is a personal God, caring deeply for humanity which he has made in his own image.


‘All powerful’, Christians believe that God is omnipotent, for example he was able to create all of creation from nothing (or ex nihilo) as recounted in the Book of Genesis.


‘All present’, or a God who is present in all places at all times.


‘All knowing’, Christians believe that God is omniscient and is aware of all things, be they past, present, or future.


The belief that all religions describe and worship the same God, just in different ways and from different perspectives. All religions have access to the Truth of God.


A means by which Christians attempt to interact with God, either in silence or aloud, and either alone or in a group. The Lord’s Prayer is an example of a set prayer that many Christians say in order to attempt a connection with God.


Calvin argued that God, due to his omniscience and sense of justice, must be aware of those Christians who, already, are predestined to enter heaven as the Elect, and those who are predestined to enter hell. God predestines this from before birth.


In ancient civilisations, the priest was the person authorised to offer sacrifices (of plants or animals) to the gods. For Christians, particularly within Roman Catholicism and parts of the Church of England, a priest is the man (although for some Anglicans this can be a woman) who represents Jesus at the altar and offers his sacrifice again for the congregation. The priest is also the figure able to offer the sacraments for these Christians, and would have been ordained by a bishop.

Prosperity Gospel

A belief that God gifts those who are faithful to him with prosperity, for example money, wealth, and status. This is particularly prominent within various Christian denominations in the United States of America.


The raising of the body back to life; Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected on the 3rd day after his crucifixion. Christians differ in their views on whether their own resurrections after death will be bodily and physical or else more metaphysical and spiritual. All Christians believe in the resurrection of the body, as outlined in the Nicene Creed.


Something that reveals God to humans. Special revelation is direct, for example a miracle or a vision of God. General revelation is indirect, for example looking at a sunset and getting a numinous experience of there being a God or something greater than yourself. Different Christians believe that God reveals himself in different ways and forms, including Jesus, the Bible, preaching, the sacraments, healings, prayer, miracles, and the creation of the world itself.


‘Being saved’, and therefore able to enter heaven. Christians believe that Jesus is the source of salvation as the Saviour and the way to conquer evil, resist temptation, and join him in the Kingdom of God.

Sanctity of Life

The belief that all life is sacred and belongs to God.


Something that is not connected with religion, nor impacted by religious or spiritual concepts.


An action that goes against the laws of God, for example by not following the Golden Rule or the Decalogue (10 Commandments).

Sola Fide

‘Only faith’; the belief that a Christian is justified (shown to be righteous and a good Christian) before God only by their faith in him and Jesus, rather than by their actions or ‘works’.

Sola Scriptura

‘Only Scripture’; all that Christians need in order to understand God, Jesus, and their faith can be found in the Bible, which contains the inerrant words of God and must be the sole source of authority for Christians.


Technically this is the ‘study of salvation’, or the ways by which Christians can go to heaven after death.


The metaphysical aspect of a person, according to Christianity. Some Christians believe that the soul lives on after death even though the body dies (a dualist approach). The concept of the soul links to the accounts of Creation where God makes humans in his own image (the Imago Dei, Genesis 1.26) and where God breathes life into the body of Adam (Genesis 2.7)


The opposite of Dominion, Stewardship is the belief that the world has been created by God and that humans are now its stewards or caretakers, who have a duty to look after it (rather than exploit/conquer it) and hand it back to God at the end of time.


An argument that attempts to defend God against the Problem of Evil and Suffering.


From the Greek ‘theos’ (God) and ‘logos’ (word), so ‘talking about God’, or the study of God.


The belief that during the Liturgy, when Holy Communion is being celebrated, the bread and wine take on the real presence of Jesus. This is mainly held by Roman Catholics, some Anglo-Catholic parts of the Church of England, and various Orthodox Christians.


The three persons of the one God in Christianity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christians believe in a Triune God.

Universal Salvation

The belief that all people will attain salvation and be with God in heaven in the fullness of time. This is also known as universalism.