Important Latin and Greek Theological Terms

Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews

“And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him, ‘THIS IS JESUS [THE NAZARENE]: THE KING OF THE JEWS’.” ~ The Gospel According to St. Matthew 27:37 “Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.” ~ The Gospel According to St. John 19:20

Important Latin and Greek Theological Terms

(The value of learning Latin cannot be overestimated – anything said in Latin sounds profound!)

Agnus Dei – Latin, “The Lamb of God”.

Ante diluvian – From two Latin words, ante which means “before” and diluvium which means “deluge” or “flood”. The period before the Flood of Genesis chapter 7.

Articulus Stantis et Cadentis Ecclesiae – Latin, “The article by which the Church stands and falls”. Martin Luther’s statement concerning justification of the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith alone, rejected by Roman Catholicism.

Antithesis – Greek, from the words anti, meaning “to be opposed to, or against”, and thesis, meaning “to set, or lay down”; “a dissertation, viewpoint, or proposition”. (Antithesis is a belief or thesis that is ‘opposed’ to another belief or thesis.)

Biblia – Latin, “book” (English transliteration, “Bible”). Biblia Sacra – “Holy Bible”.

Christophany – Greek, from christos, “anointed one”, and phaninomai, “manifestation” or “appearance”. Thus a Christophany is the appearance of Jesus Christ (the anointed), the second person of the Trinity come to earth in another form (an angel, man, etc.)

Communio sanctorum – Latin, “Communion of the saints” (Catholic term describing the Church).

Consubstantiation – Latin, con, meaning “with,” and substantia, which means “substance”. Often attributed to Martin Luther’s interpretation of the Communion Supper, wherein the body and blood of Christ coexist or are present “with” the elements or “substance” of the bread and wine. This is in contrast to Transubstantiation where the bread and wine are believed to actually transform into the actual the body and blood of Christ. In Consubstantiation they are still literally bread and wine.

Coram Deo – Latin, “in the presence of God”, or “under the authority of God”.

Corpus Christi – Latin, “the Body of Christ”.

Creatio ex nihilo – Latin, “Creation out of nothing”.

Credendum – Latin, “things to be believed”.

Credo – Latin, “to trust in, believe, rely on”. The English word ‘Creed’ is derived from the Latin ‘Credo’.

Deo favente – Latin, “God’s favour”.

Deo gratias – Latin, “Thanks be to God”.

Deum verum et hominem verum — Latin, “truly God and truly man”.

Deus – Latin, “God”. Corresponds to the Greek word Theos. Root of our English word “Deity”.

Deus tecum – Latin, “May God be with you” (singular).

Deus vobiscum – Latin, “May God be with you” (plural).

Diaconate – Latin, from Diaconos – Greek, meaning “servant”. Root of the word “Deacon”.

Diaspora – Latin, “dispersion”, refers to the scattering of the Jews from Israel into foreign countries.

Dies Dominicus – Latin, “The Lord’s day”.

Dominus providebit – Latin, “The Lord will provide”.

Dominus vobiscum – Latin, “May the Lord be with you”.

Doxology – From the two Greek words, doxa, meaning “glory,or glorify”, and logos, meaning “to speak, or the word spoken”. Literally, doxology means “words to glorify.”

Ecumenical – from the Latin ecumenicus, meaning universal or of the whole. In theological terms it means promoting a universal or united Church.

Eisegesis – Greek, preposition “to bring into”. The process of reading into a text of scripture a meaning that is not there. A contradiction to sound exegesis.

Et Deus Erat Verbum – Latin, “and the Word was God.” From John 1:1.

Ex Cathedra – Latin, “from the chair” (of Peter). A Roman Catholic doctrine which teaches that the Pope is infallible when he pronounces a truth as dogma. This contradicts the Protestant Reformers position of Sola Scriptura.

Exegesis – From the Greek exegsis, meaning “to bring out of”. It is the analysis and understanding of a text of Scripture by getting the interpretation from ‘out of’ the Scripture itself.

Ex nihilo nihil fit – Latin, “Out of nothing, nothing comes”.

Ex opera operantis – Latin, “the benefits are received by faith” (the Protestant interpretation of the sacraments).

Ex opere operato – Latin, “through the working of the works “(the Catholic interpretation of the sacraments).

Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus – Latin, “Outside the Church there is no salvation”. A Catholic heresy that there is no salvation outside Catholicism. This would mean that none of the Hebrew Patriarchs and prophets are saved, and also contradicts the words of Peter in Acts 10:34-35, “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.’”

Extra nos – Latin, “from outside of us”. A term some theologians use to communicate a key concept about the work of salvation; that it is apart from ourselves.

Exurge, Domine! – Latin, “Rise up, O Lord!”

Filioque – Latin, “and from the Son, ” a term  referring to a clause inserted into the Nicence Creed to indicate that the Holy Spirit proceeds not from the Father only but also from the Son.

Finitum non capax infiniti – Latin, “The infinite cannot be contained”.

Fratres Seiuncti – Latin, “separated brethren”, a term sometimes used by the Roman Catholic Church and its clergy and members to refer to baptized members of other Christian traditions.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo – Latin, “Glory to God in the highest”. Taken from Luke 2:14 in the Vulgate.

Gratia – Latin, “grace, favor, goodwill, kindness; friendship”.

Historia salutis – Latin, “history of salvation”. The unfolding in history of God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

Hoc est Corpus Meum – Latin, “This is My Body”. From Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24; often used to support the doctrines of Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation, which teach that the elements of the Lord’s Supper are more than symbols.

Imago Dei – Latin, “image of God”.

Incarnare – Latin, “to make flesh” or, “to incarnate”. So reads the beginning of John 1:14, ‘And the Word was made flesh…’ Greek, Kai ho Logos sarx egeneto.

Incurvatus in se – Latin, “to be turned in toward yourself, or curved inwards” I.e. “selfish, self-centered”. This is how Luther would define sin.

In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti – Latin, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. From the Greek text of Matthew 28:19, “Eis to onoma tou Patros kai tou Huiou kai tou Hagiou Pneumatos”. Called the Trinitarian Formula.

Institutio Christianae Religionis – Latin, “Institutes of the Christian Religion”. John Calvin’s work on Christian Theology.

Iustia Imputata – Latin, “imputed righteousness”.

Laos tou Theou – Greek, “The people of God.”

Leitourgia – Latin, “Celebrating the sacraments”. Root of our English word “Litergy”.

Mysteria fidei – Latin, “Mysteries of the faith”. Doctrines known by revelation that transcend the grasp of reason or general revelation.

Non Posse non Peccare – Latin, “Not able not to sin”. Total inability to obey God or resist sinning. This is the state of fallen and unregenerate Man. This theory is related to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Non Posse Peccare – Latin, “Not able to sin”. God alone is unable to sin.

Norma normans et sine normative – Latin, “The standard having no equal or, peer” (referring to the Scriptures).

O Iisoús eínai o Kýrios – Greek, “Jesus is Lord”; as opposed to: Kaísara eínai o Kýrios – Greek, and Ceasar est Dominus – Latin, “Ceasar is Lord”. “O Iisoús eínai o Kýrios”, i.e., “Jesus is Lord” was the first ‘creed’ of the Christian Church and was a statement which consequently brought upon the Church persecution from the Roman government on the grounds of treason.

Ordo salutis – Latin, “the order of salvation”. From Romans 8:29-30; an ordered list intended to describe the logical order of the saving benefits of Christ’s work which are given to those who are being saved.

Pactum salutis – Latin, “covenant of redemption”. An agreement made in eternity past among the persons of the Godhead (Trinity), in which they plan to save sinners.

Parousia – Greek, “coming” or “presence”. Another term for the second coming of Christ.

Persona – Latin, “person”. Originally referred to the masks characters would wear in a performance on stage. It later came to have a much more substantial meaning and was used by the early Church Fathers to describe God as three persons, one in being.

Posse non Peccare – Latin, “Able not to sin”. Adam’s state before the Fall, and theoretically, the new state of a regenerated Christian.

Presbyterii fidelium  –  Latin, “The Priesthood of all believers” is a doctrine taught by Protestant Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin.

Prex – Latin, “to pray” or, “request”. Originating from the Latin verb precari – “beg, implore, entreat, supplicate”.

Protoevangelium – Latin, “the first Gospel”. The first revelation of the Gospel was Gen. 3:15.

Redimere – Latin, “to buy back, recover, replace by purchase, ransom”. The Latin word sheds light on what is meant by “redemption”. This is what Christ did. He paid the price for our sins and ransomed us back from Satan.

Reformata sed Semper Reformanda – Latin, “Reformed and always reforming”. The Protestant principle that the Church should always be striving to conform to Scripture.

Sacra – Latin, “sacred, holy”.

Sacramentum – Latin, “something sacred”, “sacrament”.  Sacramentum is the Latin translation of the Greek mysterion, meaning “mystery”.

Salvare – Latin, “to save”. Related to the adjective salvus – “well, unharmed, sound, alive, safe, saved”. Our English word “salvation” is derived from this word.

Sanctus – Latin, “consecrated, sacred, holy”. Related to the verb sancire, meaning to “confirm, sanction, fulfill, ordain, dedicate”. The English word “Saint” has its origins in the Latin sanctus.

Scripturam ex Scriptura explicandam esse – Latin, “Scripture is to be explained by Scripture”.

Sensus divinitatis – Latin, “sense of the Deity”. The innate knowledge of God that all human beings have because they are created in the image of God.

Servus servorum Dei – Latin, “Servant of the servants of God” (a title for a Pope or Bishop).

Simul justus et peccator – Latin, “Simultaneously just and sinful”. A formula Martin Luther used to communicate the objective reality of justification by faith alongside the Christian’s continual struggle against sin.

Sola – Latin, “alone” or “only”. There were five Solas of the Protestant Reformation: sola gratia “grace alone”; sola fide “faith alone”; solus Christus “Christ alone”; sola scriptura “Scripture alone”; soli Deo gloria “glory to God alone”.

Substantia – Latin, “nature, substance”, from which are derived the doctrines of Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation, in relation to the elements of Communion, or, the Lord’s Supper.

Summa Theologica – Latin, “Sum of Theology”. Title of the famous systematic theology by Thomas Aquinas.

Testimonium Spiritus Sancti internum – Latin, “internal testimony of the Holy Spirit”.

Textum Receptum – Latin, “Received Text”. The New Testament text-type compiled by Erasmus which represents the readings of the New Testament as they have been received by the Church through centuries of copying by scribes; often misspelled and mispronounced as “Textus Receptus”. The Textum Receptum was the basis for the translation of the King James Version, Luther’s German Bible and William Tyndale’s English New Testament.

Theologica – Latin, “Theology”. (Based on the Greek words for God and science.)

Trinitatem – Latin, a “term for the number three” i.e. “Trinity”. Trinity as a term describing God was unknown to the Christian world during its first two centuries.  The term was first coined by the Latin Father Tertullian, writing in the early part of the third century.

Ut unum sint – Latin, “that they may all be one” (Gospel According to St. John 17:21).

Verbum Dei – Latin, “Word of God”.

Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum – Latin, “the Word of the Lord endures forever”.

Vox Dei – Latin, “Voice of God”


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