Can You Match These Bible Words to Their Definitions?

By: Torrance Grey
Image: stevepb / Pixabay

About This Quiz

Who lives in the "nether" regions of the cosmos? What does that word, "maranatha" mean; you see it all the time on banners at the front of your church's sanctuary. And is an "ephod" related to an "ephah"?

Let's face it, it takes years of study to truly understand the Bible: the historical context, the theological concepts and the lessons to be found in the lives of its saints and sinners. And before you can do any of that, you have to understand the words being used. OK, that doesn't have to be hard: There are extremely modern translations of the Bible. However, maybe you love the poetic sound of the King James Bible. Many people do. But you've set yourself a real task, in that case -- the King James Bible was being translated at about the same time that Shakespeare was writing his plays. 

Are you a scholar of these traditional Bible terms? Do you feel confident you can define both "chastity" and "chasteneth"? If so, try our quiz and prove it!

Finally, we'd like to give a shout out here to "preservedwords.com," whose detailed list of Biblical terms was very helpful to us in putting this quiz together, and recommended if you'd like to learn some more. Now, set your mind to the quiz!

"Now we see in a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face." (1 Cor. 13:12). What does "glass" mean in this verse?

The apostle Paul is saying that at present, we see God as if reflected in a dark or tarnished mirror, not very clearly. In the afterlife, we will see God face to face. This verse is from the famous reflection on love in 1 Corinthians 13.

"Alms" are important in the Bible. What are they, though?

Today, we've largely replaced the word "alms" with "donations," but the idea is essentially the same. Throughout the Middle Eastern world, in both Judaism and Islam, almsgiving is very important, and it's not frowned on to give directly to a poor person or beggar. In contrast, in modern, Western Christianity, the prevailing idea is that it's better to give through a structured charity instead.

Found in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah, what does "battlements" mean?

If you look this up in the dictionary, you'll likely see a picture of alternating stone "teeth" on the wall of a castle rooftop. It's a very medieval image, but the use of the word in Deuteronomy suggests the idea of these fortifications has been around a long time.

On the cross, Jesus said, "Abba, into your hands I commend my spirit." What did he mean by "Abba"?

"Abba" is the Aramaic word for "Father," and when it appears in the Bible, it is a reference to God. Arabic has a similar term, "Abu." This also means "Father," and is often an honorific before an older man's name.

What's the definition of the Biblical word "flagon"?

We didn't quote a Bible verse here because the ones we found would have given away the definition, like "to every one a cake of bread ... and a flagon of wine," in 2 Sam. 6:19. But if you enjoy sword-and-sorcery fantasy, you might not have needed a verse for context. "Flagons" frequently appear in fantasy novels, holding mead or cheap "firewater" for the heroes to drink after their adventures.

Which of these would you "whet"?

Edged weapons are "whetted," meaning they are sharpened. The "whetstone" is the object you use to sharpen the weapon. You can still find a whetstone in a kitchen-supplies store, thought nowadays they're just called sharpening stones, and are used for cooking knives.

"And God made the firmament, and divided the waters that were under the firmament from the waters that were above ..." What does "firmament" mean in Gen. 1:7?

Although the first syllable, "firm-," might suggest something that can be stood upon, meaning the ground, this is not the case. "Firmament" is an old-fashioned word for "sky" or "heavens," and is used several times in the creation story.

What does the Biblical term "adjure" mean?

This is another term you'll find in medieval- or Renaissance-inspired fantasy fiction. The leaders of covens, for example, can "adjure" younger witches to do something, and those witches have no choice but to obey.

What does it mean to be "astoned"?

Whenever we see this old-fashioned variant of "astonished," we're reminded of one of our favorite Bible-related witticisms (not blasphemous, don't worry): "And when Jesus had finished speaking, the people were astoned and said 'Can you put that in Evernote?' "

In the Bible (not the bar), "gin" means ... ?

Speaking of a wicked man, one of Job's friends predicts, "The gin shall take him by the heel, and the robber shall prevail against him." (Job 18:9). This meaning of the word persisted well into 19th-century English, turning up in novels and poems.

Today, we say a "chamois" is a cloth for cleaning. What was it in Biblical times?

The chamois we modern people might use to polish wood or a car is usually made from some kind of hide, though today, it's often sheep. Still, it's probably no surprise that its name is derived from a deer-like or antelope-like creature. The chamois is mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy.

In older Bible, you'll see books called "epistles." What are they?

"Epistle" is an old-fashioned term for "letter" or "missive," and they make up much of the New Testament, after the four gospels and the book of Acts (which is generally considered a history). The names by which we call some of the best-known books of the New Testament, like "Corinthians" or "Galatians" are actually the recipients of those letters from the apostle Paul.

"Firstlings" occasionally appear in the Old Testament. What, though, are they?

The word "firstlings" usually refers to the offspring of livestock animals, not humans. For example, Deuteronomy 13:12 requires that "every firstling of a beast which thou hast, the males shall be the Lord's." We're assuming this means it was to be sacrificed, though the verse doesn't explicitly say that.

To "forbear," mentioned more than 20 times in the Bible, is a good thing. But why, exactly?

This word appears in its noun form, "forbearance," as well. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians, "When I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labor be in vain." In other words, he had to know if the Thessalonians had lost their faith.

In the scriptures, what does it mean to be "hoar"?

You might know this word better as "hoary," but it means the same thing. Likewise, you might have heard of "hoarfrost," which is the delicate crystalline frost that makes its patterns on flat surfaces, especially windows. The meaning of "pale whiteness" is consistent in all these terms.

"And their word will eat as doth a canker ..." (2 Tim. 2:17) What is a "canker"?

"Canker" can mean a spreading sore, or, in rare cases, a caterpillar that consumes plants in a similarly destructive fashion. If you guessed that the words "canker" and "cancer" are related, you are correct ... but why such sore or growths reminded the ancients of crabs (the original meaning of "cancer" in Greek) isn't entirely clear.

What's the meaning of "husbandry" in the Bible?

This term survives today in the guise of "animal husbandry," a term for the care of livestock. In King James's time, though, it was broader, and often implied frugality. See also a line in "Macbeth," where a character sees a starless sky and comments, "There's husbandry in heaven; the candles are all out."

What does it mean to "ordain" someone?

The word "ordain" is still used today in this ecclesiastical sense; when they finish seminary, clergy members are "ordained." Meanwhile, to become a Catholic priest is "taking orders," a related term.

In a Biblical sense, what does it mean to be "incontinent"?

This term survives today in the narrower meaning of bladder incontinence, which is literally not having control over urination. However, it used to be defined more broadly. If you had no filter on your speech, or no control over how you spent money, those were ways of being "incontinent."

Is "lasciviousness" a good thing?

Well, we suppose it could depend who you ask (for example, the late Hugh Hefner). But since this quiz is on the Bible, we're comfortable saying that "lasciviousness," meaning lewdness or lustfulness, does not put a check mark in the "plus" column.

The book of Hebrews says that "Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth." What does "chasteneth" mean here?

Maybe you've had a coach who said, "When I don't bother to yell at you, that's when you should start worrying." The apostle Paul is saying a similar thing here. God finds ways to scold or punish those He cares about, so they will improve in their faith and their morals.

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, what are "tares"?

In our experience, weeds just spring up without being planted. However, in Jesus' parable, an enemy of a farmer comes by night and actually sows tares among the wheat seeds. The farmer wisely decides to let both grow, until it's clear which is which, and then he'll separate them. The obvious parallel is to God, who will someday divide the good from the wicked, but not before letting humans mature and show their true colors.

"Meat" meant something different in the King James Bible. Specifically, it was ...

"Meat and drink" meant "food and drink" to the readers of the early Bible (and speakers of early English, in general). Only in recent times has it come to mean the flesh of a non-fish animal

You'll hear the word "nativity" around Christmastime. What does it mean?

Today, we almost exclusively use the word "nativity" to discuss the birth of Christ. But it used to refer to the circumstances surrounding someone's birth, especially their homeland -- note the resemblance to the word "native."

Who exists in the "nether" regions?

"Nether" is an old-fashioned term for "lower" or "below." In the Bible, it is used almost exclusively to refer to the Hebrew/Jewish concept of "sheol," or the Christian variant, which is hell.

What is an "ephod" in the Old Testament/Jewish Bible?

"And he made the ephod of blue, gold, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen." (Exo. 39:2). The pronoun "he" is unclear, possibly referring to Moses or to his brother-in-law Aaron. But the ephod is definitely to be worn by Aaron — he was the priest of the Hebrews who fled Egypt under Moses' leadership.

We say that God is "omnipotent." What does this mean he is?

"Potent" means "strong or powerful," so "omnipotent" means "all-powerful." Christians also refer to God as all-knowing (omniscient) and all-forgiving (which doesn't have a convenient single word, that we know of).

Jesus advised the disciples not to take "staves" with them as they went out to evangelize. What did he mean by "staves"?

In Luke chapter 9, Jesus tells the disciples to go out into the world with "neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread nor money." In other words, Jesus required the new apostles to really lean on God for their basic needs.

Is it a virtue or a sin to "vaunt"?

To "vaunt" is the brag or boast. It's still used today in its adjective form. For example, "You can expect the candidate's vaunted military service to come up in every stump speech or debate."

Would you want to live in "penury"?

"Penury" is a state of poverty or destitution, which most of us prefer to avoid. Proverbs 14:23 also suggests it's an undesirable outcome: "In all labor there is profit, but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury."

When it isn't an adjective meaning "intelligent," what is a "wise"?

If you think this meaning of "wise" has fallen completely out of use, you'd be wrong. It survives in the word "likewise," meaning "in a similar way." You'll also hear people say "contrariwise," meaning, "in the opposite fashion."

"Maranatha," used in the New Testament, means what?

This word is actually only used once in the Bible, in 1 Corinthians. However, it has been picked up by Christian churches, especially evangelical ones; you'll see it on banners or church bulletins. The definition is sometimes stretched from "He is coming" to "Rejoice, the Lord is coming soon."

If you are a worker in Biblical times, and your employer is "wroth" with you, how would you describe him?

This term is more familiar in its noun form, "wrath," which probably owes its longevity to being one of the seven deadly sins. However, you'll also see "wroth" in the Bible, meaning, "angry at."

How many gallons in the Biblical "ephah"?

This word is pretty obscure, so we gave you a head start by telling you that it's a measurement of liquid, usually water. Fun fact: A gallon of water weighs about 8 and a third pounds, so that "ephah" weighed about 65 pounds. Too heavy? Try an "omer," which was about 1/10 of an ephah.

"Whence" and "whither" get confused with each other a lot. Which is which?

In other words, you'd ask a friend "Whence that idea?" to ask "Where'd that idea come from?" And you'd say "Whither is this argument tending?" to ask "Where are you going with this argument?" Or, alternatively, we could just forget altogether that these two words exist.

About Zoo

Our goal at Zoo.com is to keep you entertained in this crazy life we all live.

We want you to look inward and explore new and interesting things about yourself. We want you to look outward and marvel at the world around you. We want you to laugh at past memories that helped shape the person you’ve become. We want to dream with you about all your future holds. Our hope is our quizzes and articles inspire you to do just that.

Life is a zoo! Embrace it on Zoo.com.

Explore More Quizzes