Can You Give Us the Definition of These Words You Would Find in the Bible?



By: Beth Hendricks

6 Min Quiz

Image: PeopleImages / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

From nearly its opening verse, when the Bible describes the world as "formless and void," to its conclusion in The Resurrection, where verses allude to some unknown "bride," the book that consistently makes both "best seller" and "most read" book lists can be a confusing narrative to navigate.

We all think we know what words like "compass," "flag" and "mail" mean, but these definitions are vastly different in the Bible from the way we use those words today. Getting mail today means you've received a letter in your postal box; "mail" in Bible times was equivalent to body armor. So, an individual wearing a "coat of mail" didn't have letters and magazines taped to his body! Rather, he was outfitted for war. 

That's just one example of many where a definition for a Biblical term may be obscure or have been changed in the few thousand years that followed the authorship of the book. Test your Bible vocabulary skills in this quiz by seeing how many definitions of these ancient words you can successfully nail. We'll crown you potentate (That's a good thing!) if you can decipher a majority. So, stanch your activities and sojourn with us through these questions. Test your vocabulary prowess now.

In Biblical times, if you were ill, a doctor might check you for ague. What is "ague?"

The term "ague" survived from Biblical times and was even used in the colonial period to denote someone with flu-like symptoms of a fever and chills. The Bible references a "burning ague" that consumes the eyes in the Book of Leviticus.


If you were "amerced" in Biblical times, what was happening to you?

Amercement was a common financial punishment levied against an individual in the Middle Ages. It was often imposed in place of an individual doing jail time. Deuteronomy discusses someone being amerced in 30 shekels of silver.


We'd encourage you to answer this question "anon." What does "anon" mean?

"Anon" is used in the Bible to discuss a sickness that had befallen Simon's wife's mother. The text says, "Anon they told him of her," showing urgency regarding her dire condition.


You might first think of dogs when we mention the term "barked," but in the Bible, it means something quite different. What does it mean?

The concept of barking in the Bible referred to the process of removing bark from a tree, a concept discussed in Joel: "... barked my fig tree." Barking a tree, known today as girdling, will actually kill the tree.


The Bible mentions that "Abraham begat Isaac." What does "begat" mean?

The Bible is full of verses talking about one person who "begat" another. This simply represents a lineage, as "begat" refers to one generation having children and bringing forth the next generation.


If someone gave you a "carbuncle" in Biblical times, you'd probably have a pretty strong reaction. What is a "carbuncle?"

Though "carbuncle" is used today to represent a skin infection or group of boils (ouch!), the Biblical use was meant to refer to something precious: a glittery red gem similar to January's birthstone, the garnet.


A "churlish" man might not have been someone you would've wanted to hang around. What does it mean to be "churlish?"

The Bible describes Nabal and his wife, Abigail, in I Samuel. Abigail was beautiful and understanding, but Nabal was not described so positively, being called "churlish and evil in his doings."


Abraham's wife, Sarah, might have used "crisping pins" back in the day. What are they?

In Biblical times, women may have used crisping pins, or pins designed to help curl the hair, to enhance their appearance. Today, we would equate those to hair curlers or a curling iron.


Today, we might sit on the deck with an iced tea. What does the word "deck" mean in the Bible?

Maybe you've heard someone say, "He was decked out to the nines!" All they meant was that he was covered or clothed with fine apparel. The same holds true in the Bible, where multiple references to the word "deck" refer to covering something with tapestries or silver and gold.


The Bible uses the word "divers" in several instances, and we don't think it's referring to swimming. What does it mean?

Perhaps short for "diverse," the word "divers" in the Bible is used to describe a variety of places or different things. In Deuteronomy, gardeners are planting "divers seeds," or seeds of various types.


Imagine you're walking through Bethlehem and children "environ" you. What has just happened?

The Bible discusses the concept of the word "environ" in Joshua when the book's namesake is bemoaning the plight of his people. Joshua's complaint is that the Canaanites will "environ" them and essentially kill them.


If someone sent you out to "espy" the land in Biblical times, what were you being asked to do?

Asking someone to "espy" something in the Bible was akin to asking them to catch a glance of it or view it. Bible great Moses sends someone out in the Book of Joshua to "espy the land."


In the Book of Luke, someone was "fain" to fill his belly with the same food the pigs were eating. What does "fain" mean?

In the parable of the lost son, the Bible speaks to how destitute the son was, so much that he "would fain have filled his belly" with the swines' food. Now, that's been pretty hungry!


It wasn't your traditional "flag" that Job was referring to when discussing what the cows were eating. What was he talking about?

Cattle would munch on the "flag," a water-based plant likened to a reed or grass. Many Bible scholars today compare it to a type of papyrus, the same plant that early types of paper were created out of.


If you were caught by a "gin" in Biblical times, who or what had captured you?

The Bible describes a "gin" as a type of trap or snare one could be caught in. In Job, an individual is caught by the heel in a gin, giving a robber the upper hand against him.


The Bible says, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." What does "impute" mean?

The Book of Romans describes the man who will not be charged with his sins as "blessed." In short, this man will not pay for the many vile acts or offenses he may have committed; he has been forgiven.


Joseph did not "know" Mary when she gave birth to Jesus. What does "know" mean in this context?

When they Bible referencing two people not knowing it each, it meant they did not know each other sexually (or had not had a sexual relationship). Joseph did not "know" Mary in a sexual sense, an important tenant of the virgin birth.


A "laver" was used to facilitate washing something in the Bible. What is a "laver?"

A "laver" would be a modern-day bowl or basin that was used in Biblical times for washing. In Exodus, the laver is described as being made of brass "to wash withal." Lavers were common in tabernacles and temples.


If you were after "lucre" in the Bible, what exactly did you have your sights set on?

The Bible mentions "filthy lucre" four times, alluding to its dishonorable or illegal collection. The Bible also issues criteria who one who would be a bishop, stating that he not be "given to filthy lucre."


The Bible's "matrix" doesn't have anything to do Keanu Reeve's matrix. What does the Biblical version mean?

Five times the word "matrix" shows up in the Scriptures, and each time, the act of "opening" is referenced. In several instances, the firstborn that emerges from the matrix is intended to be set aside for the Lord.


If you were looking at "ouches" in the Biblical sense, what would have been in front of you?

The word "ouches" in the Bible doesn't refer to something that hurts. Rather, it refers to settings that hold precious stones. In Exodus, the ouches being discussed were made of gold.


The widow in the Bible who only gave two mites was in "penury." What state was she in?

The Bible discusses the gift of the impoverished widow as being worth more than what the wealthy gave. Why? Because she gave everything she had, even though it was a small amount, when everyone else was more capable but greedy.


The woman who touched the hem of Jesus' garment navigated the "press" to do so. What is the "press?"

In the Bible, a "press" was a throng of people, typically observed whenever Jesus was around. The woman who sought healing from him came "in the press" behind and touched his robe.


In Daniel, Melzar took the food and wine away from the people and replaced it with "pulse." What is "pulse?"

The Bible describes "pulse" as a type of grain, seed or bean that was used in place of food. Pulse would have been a lesser meal than a more traditional diet of meat and vegetables.


If your "reins" were searched in Biblical times, what was being examined?

In The Book of Revelation, in a letter to the church, the Lord is making it clear that the church will understand that it is he "which searcheth the reins and hearts." This would include searching an individual's emotions and feelings.


"Sackbut" is a pretty humorous-sounding word, but you'll probably never guess what it actually means ...

It's hard telling how the "sackbut" received its name, but it was often accompanied a flute, harp, psaltery, dulcimer and other instruments in providing music and entertainment for royalty.


David carried a "scrip" during his famous battle with Goliath. What was he carrying?

A "scrip" was a type of bag or satchel used to carry things in Biblical times. The account of David's battle with Goliath mentions that he placed the five smooth stones in a shepherd's bag inside a scrip.


Olive Garden might give you breadsticks, but in Biblical times, they'd give you "sop." What is "sop?"

"Sop" in the Bible was a type of bread that could be dipped into a liquid before being eaten. At the Last Supper, Jesus served sop to his disciples, including Judas, his betrayer.


If two people got together to "sup" in the Bible, what were they actually doing?

The idea of "supping" in the Bible refers to a communing together to gather food and eat. In The Revelation, Jesus talks about supping with any man who hears his knock at the door and opens the door to let him in.


"Targets" have changed since Biblical times. What was meant by the term "target" in the Bible?

We're accustomed to targets being used as bullseyes for practicing archery or shooting in today's time, but years ago, a "target" was a shield, often made of gold, worn between a soldier's shoulders.


In Exodus, when people were worshiping Baal, leaders called for everyone to have "vestments." What were they?

"Vestments" were deemed necessary for all of the worshippers of the false idol Baal, but that wasn't the only mention of the term in the Bible. Pharaoh saw fit to array Joseph in vestments of fine linen in Genesis.


If you'd lived during Biblical times and someone asked you for "victuals," what were they seeking?

"Victuals" derives from the Latin word, "victus," which means "nourishment," according Merriam-Webster. In II Chronicles, an army is observed fortifying its strongholds and store victuals, oil and wine.


Today, we equate the word "wise" with someone who is extremely smart. What did "wise" mean in the Bible?

The Bible says, in Exodus 22:23, "If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry." This is referencing what will happen if someone is afflicted in any "way or manner."


The children of Israel "wist" not when the discussion turned to manna. What does "wist" mean?

Other instances of the word "wist" in the Bible also refer to individuals who didn't know something, such as not knowing what to say in a particular circumstance or not knowing that Jesus "must be about my Father's business" in Luke 2.


"Yonder" isn't just a Southern term; the Bible uses it several times to describe what?

You may have heard someone say, "It's over yonder." That's not just a Southern term. The Bible uses the word "yonder" to describe a location known only to the one speaking or giving direction, such as Abraham saying, "... and I and the lad will go yonder and worship , and come again to you."


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