Terms Definitions Links
1 & 2 Kings The biblical books of 1 and 2 Kings portray the history of the Israelite and Judaean monarchies from the reign of Solomon until the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.
Abbassid period 750-969 CE
Abbassid The Abbasids were a Baghdad-based Islamic dynasty who ruled Palestine from 750-970 CE.
Aelia Capitolina Aelia Capitolina is the name that Hadrian gave to Jerusalem after he expelled the Jews and made it a Roman colony in 135 CE. The name lasted until the time of Constantine.
Ahab Ahab was the son of Omri and king of the northern kingdom of Israel from ca. 869-850 BCE. He led the consolidated forces against Shalmaneser III at the Battle of Qarqar.
Akkadian Akkadian is a cuneiform (wedge-shaped) language that was used primarily in Mesopotamia between ca. 2,500 and 700 BCE. A bizarre piece of trivia is that the last known Akkadian text dates from the Hellenistic-Roman period.
Al-Aqsa Mosque The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the only mosque on the Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif. It sits on the southwest corner of the platform and has a gray dome. Its name translates to “The Furthest Mosque.” Muslims believe that Muhammad was transported from Mecca to the place where the Al-Aqsa Mosque sits during his Night Journey.
Alexander Jannaeus Alexander Jannaeus was the first of the Hasmonaean (Maccabaean) rulers to declare himself King (as opposed to High Priest). He ruled from 103-76 BCE.
Alexander the Great Alexander the Great was a Macedonian leader who established Greek hegemony over the Near East beginning in 332 BCE.
Allenby Edmund Allenby was a British Field Marshall in World War I who was in charge of the forces that captured Palestine from the Ottomans. He is known for having entered Jerusalem on foot (in contrast to the Kaiser Wilhelm II’s entry on horseback, which was perceived as arrogant) out of respect for Jerusalem as a Holy City.
Ammonites The Ammonites were a Semitic Iron Age tribe and people group who had their capital in Ammon (modern Amman, Jordan).
Antiochus Epiphanes Antiochus Epiphanes was a Seleucid ruler who is often identified as the evil instigator of the Maccabean Revolt (168 BCE).
Apocrypha The word “Apocrypha” is a Greek word meaning “from that which is hidden.” It is a corpus of Second Temple Jewish literature that has been adopted by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions as canonical scripture, but which does not appear in the Protestant Bible.
Arab League The Arab League was an organization of Arab countries which has sought to provide a unified Arab voice on the key issues impacting the Arab peoples living throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Aramaic Aramaic is a Semitic language from the region of modern-day Syria, which became the common language in the Near East from the Persian Period onwards. The biblical books of Ezra and Daniel have major Aramaic portions.
Archelaus Herod Archelaus (23 BCE – 18 CE) was one of the three sons of Herod the Great. When his father died in 4 BCE, Archelaus was given the regions of Judaea, Samaria, and Idumaea. He ruled these regions from 4 BCE – 6 CE, at which time the Romans deposed him and made these regions subject to direct Roman rule.
Aristobulus I Aristobulus I was one of the Hasmonaean (Maccabaean) rulers, he was High Priest from 104-103 BCE.
Ashdod Ashdod is a coastal city in the southern part of the land of Israel/Palestine, north of Ashkelon.
Ashkelon Ashkelon is a coastal city in the southern part of Israel/Palestine, a few mile north of the Gaza Strip.
Ashtaroth Ashtaroth was a Canaanite goddess of love and procreation. She is, to one degree or another, and at one time or another, equivalent to the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar and the Phoenician goddess Astarte.
Asshurbanipal Asshurbanipal was the son of Esarhaddon and the King of Assyria from 685-627 BCE.
Assyria Assyria was a major Mesopotamian empire which ruled over Palestine in the 8th-7th centuries BCE.
Astarte Astarte is the Greek name for an originally Mesopotamian goddess (Ishtar). Astarte is best known as a principal Phoenician goddess in the Iron Age and was associated with fertility, sexuality, and war.
Ayyubids The Ayyubids were an Islamic dynasty centered in Cairo. They reigned over one part of Palestine or another from the defeat of the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin in 1187 until 1290. Their most famous leader was Saladin.
Babylonia Babylonia was a major Mesopotamian empire which ruled over Palestine in the late 7th to early 6th centuries BCE.
Baghdad Baghdad was built by the Abbasids in 734 CE. It was the capital of the Abassid Empire.
Balfour Arthur Balfour was a British foreign secretary who approved, in a written statement to Zionist leaders, of a Jewish state in Palestine. This statement is known as the Balfour Declaration. The endorsement of the Jewish state was possible in light of the fact that the British controlled Palestine subsequent to their victory against the Ottomans.
Bar Kokhba Simeon bar Kosiba, also known as “bar Kokhba” (“Son of the Star”), was the messianic leader of the second Jewish revolt from 132-135 CE.
Battle of Paneas The Battle of Paneas was a battle fought near the city of Paneas (modern Banias) between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids in 198 BCE. The Seleucids won, extending their control all the way to Egypt. Prior to 198 BCE the region of Israel/Palestine was under the control of the Ptolemies; after 198 BCE it was under the control of the Seleucids.
Baybars Baybars was the founder of the Mamluk dynasty. His greatest victory was against the Monguls at the Battle of Ein Galud in 1260 CE.
Bedouin “Bedouin” is a term used for a ethnically distinct, predominantly nomadic group of desert-dwelling Arabs, traditionally divided into tribes or clans.
Ben Gurion David Ben Gurion was the first Israeli prime minister. He proclaimed the independence of the State of Israel on May 14th, 1948.
British Mandate The British gained control of Palestine during the latter part of World War I. They subsequently oversaw the political affairs within this region until the years just after World War II. This period is known as the British Mandate (1917-1948).
Byzantine The word “Byzantine” refers to the time and culture of the Byzantine Period. The Byzantine Period is the period of the “Christian Roman Empire,” which is to say, from Constantine to the Islamic conquest (324-636 CE in our region). It is worth noting that some degree of the Roman Empire continued to exist until 1400 CE.
Byzantine Period 324-640 CE
Caesar Augustus Caesar Augustus was born Gaius Octavius in 63 BCE and lived until 14 CE. He was the adopted son of Julius Caesar and eventually succeeded him as Caesar of Rome (at which time he took the name “Augustus”). He then became the Emperor of Rome, reigning from 27 BCE-14 CE. He was responsible for great building projects in Rome and is famous for having said, “I found Rome a city of clay and leave it a city of marble.” His reign initiated a period of relative peace in the Mediterranean known as the Pax Romana (the Roman Peace).
Cairo Cairo is the capital city of modern Egypt. It was also the capital of the Fatimid Dynasty, who rule Palestine from 970-1099 CE.
Caliph The word “caliph” literally means “Successor” and was the title of the “rightly-guided” (i.e., Rashidun) leaders of the Islamic forces after Muhammad died in 632 CE. There were four in total: Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman, and Ali.
Canaan Canaan is the name of the Land of Israel/Palestine prior to period of the Israelite Monarchy (ca. 1000 BCE). The people who lived in the land prior to the Israelites are called “Canaanites” in the Hebrew Bible.
Canaanites The Canaanites were the people who lived in the Land prior to the Israelites (i.e., prior to ca. 1000 BCE). They continued to live in the Seashore Plains for centuries after the rise of David. We don’t know much about them; the only references to canaanites come from the Israelite/Judahite sources that are found in the Hebrew Bible.
Cassius Dio Cassius Dio was a 2nd-3rd century CE Roman historian.
Central Hill The Central Hill is the hilly region that runs north-south through the middle of the Land of Israel/Palestine. It is bounded by the Jezreel Valley to the north, by the Jordan River Valley to the east, by the Negev Desert to the south, and by the Seashore Plains to the west.
Chalcolithic period The term “Chalcolithic” comes from the Greek word for copper (kalkos) and stone (lithos). It refers to a time period from 5,000-3,200 BCE, before tin was added to copper to make bronze.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a church that was commissioned to be built in Jerusalem by Constantine’s mother Helen in 326 CE, ostensibly over the sites of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. It became the center of Byzantine Jerusalem.
City of David The City of David is the city that David created ca. 970 BCE from the Jebusite city Jebus, renaming it Jerusalem. It physically sits on the spur of hill south of (i.e., downhill from) the modern Old City and Temple Mount, near the Gihon Spring.
Clermont Clermont is a city in modern France where Pope Urban II preached a sermon in 1095 CE that started the First Crusade.
Coastal Plain The Coastal Plain is the part of the Land of Israel/Palestine that sits between the Mediterranean Sea and the Central Hill.
Constantine Constantine was a Roman emperor from 306-337 CE. He converted to Christianity and moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul). Through the efforts of his mother, Helen, Palestine was renovated into the “Holy Land”, as evidenced by the construction of many 4th century basilicas in places such as Jerusalem (The Church of the Holy Sepulchre) and Bethlehem (The Church of the Nativity).
Crusader period 1099-1291 CE
Crusades The Crusades were a series of nine Christian military expeditions against the Muslims (primarily) between 1099 and 1272 CE. Although many different groups were involved and they extended throughout the Mediterranean, they are best known for Christian campaigns to the “Holy Land” to liberate it from Muslim control.
Cuneiform Cuneiform is a wedge-shaped non-alphabetic script that was used for the ancient languages of Akkadian, Sumerian, Babylonian, and Ugaritic. These languages were written on clay tablets, not paper, and the symbols were pressed into the clay with a stylus that was triangular in cross-section (thus creating wedge shapes when it was pressed into the clay)
Cyrus the Great Cyrus II, also known as “Cyrus the Great,” was a king of Persia who ruled from 557-529 BCE and conquered Babylon in 539 BCE.
Damascus Damascus is a city in modern Syria, just to the north of the Golan Heights. It was the capital of the Umayyad caliphate (661-750 CE).
Darius Darius II (not to be confused with “Darius the Great,” or Darius I, who was Darius II’s great grandfather) was the king of the Persian Empire from 423-405 BCE.
David David was the second king of Israel who founded Jerusalem as a new capital city. It was formerly known as Jebus. David ruled from ca. 1000-970 BCE and was suceeded by his son Solomon (970-931 BCE).
Davidic dynasty The “Davidic dynasty” refers to the reign of King David (ca. 1000-970 BCE) and his son Solomon (970-931 BCE), and the kings of the Southern kingdom of Judah. Not all of these kings were descended from David, but many portrayed themselves as descended from David in order to solidify their legitimacy.
Dead Sea The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth (1,388 feet below sea level) and is located to the east of the Central Hill, between the modern countries of Israel and Jordan. The soil under and around the Dead Sea is very rich in salts and minerals, and there is no outlet from the Dead Sea. Water from the Jordan River flows into it and the water soaks up the salts and minerals, making the salt content of the Dead Sea to be extremely high. As a result, very few things can live in the Dead Sea, hence its name.
Dead Sea Scrolls The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of Second Temple period texts which were preserved by the arid climate of the Dead Sea region. The caves wherein the scrolls were deposited have often been connected to the nearby settlement of Qumran, and the Scrolls themselves are generally thought to have been written and/or copied by the Essenes.
Deuteronomistic The word “Deuteronomistic” is used to describe the history of Israel as told by the books of Deuteronomy and Kings. These books essentially interpret history through the lenses of the laws outlined in Deuteronomy, which is to say, that tenure of the land of Canaan (generally Israel/Palestine) depends on following YHWH. Rejection of YHWH’s commands will result in exile.
Deuteronomy The fifth book of the Torah (the “Law” section of the Hebrew Bible).
Dome of the Rock The Dome of the Rock (Kubbat al-Sakhra in Arabic) is the golden-domed shrine that is located on the Temple Mount (or Haram esh-Sharif) in Jerusalem. It was built by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik in 691 CE. The dome sits over a piece of bedrock that Muslims believe is the location of the miracle of the Isra and Miraj (that is, when Muhammad was taken on his Night Journey).
Early Bronze Age 3,200-2,350 BCE
Early Bronze Age I 3200-2850 BCE
Early Hellenistic Period 332-198 BCE
Early Roman Period 63 BCE-135 CE
Edom Edom is the region where the tribe of the Edomites lived in the Iron Age. It is located in southern Jordan, on the other side of the Dead Sea and the Negev Desert from the Land of Israel/Palestine. In the Persian and Hellenistic periods some of the Edomites appear to have migrated west into the Negev Desert. These are the ancestors of the Idumaeans.
Egeria Egeria was a female pilgrim to Christian sites in Palestine during the 4th century CE.
Esarhaddon Esarhaddon was the King of Assyria from 681-699 BCE.
Essenes The Essenes were a sect of Jews who lived in many cities in the ancient world. However, they are best known from the desert settlement of Qumran, which is near the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. As a result, it is believed that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by the particular subset of Essenes who lived at Qumran between 150 BCE and 72 CE.
Ethnarchos Ethnarchos is the Greek word for patriarch. It was used by the Hasmoneans as a title of leadership and was later applied to the leader of the Jewish community in the Byzantine era.
Eusebius Eusebius was a 4th century CE Christian scholar and historian from Palestine. His works on emperor Constantine (The Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine) and on the ancient sites of Palestine (Onomasticon) are among some of the greatest contributions to our understanding of the Byzantine era.
Exodus Exodus is the second book of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and the name for the Israelite migration from Egypt in the days of Moses.
Ezekiel Ezekiel is the third book of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible and a book in the Christian Old Testament.
Ezra Ezra and Nehemiah are characters in the biblical books named after them. They were prominent Jewish leaders in the Persian period who oversaw the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple as well as the re-fortification of the city. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. They describe some of the events that occurred in Jerusalem after the Judahites returned from the Babylonian Exile.
Fatimid period 969-1073 CE
Fatimid The Fatimid Dynasty was the third Islamic dynasty that we have studied. They ruled Palestine from Cairo until the First Crusade (970-1099 CE).
Galilee Galilee (or “The Galilee”) is the region north of the Central Hill in the Land of Israel/Palestine. It consists of two parts, Upper Galilee (the northern part with higher elevation) and Lower Galilee (the southern part with lower elevation). The Sea of Galilee is in Lower Galilee, and the Huleh Valley is in Upper Galilee. The Golan Heights form the eastern boundary of Upper and Lower Galilee.
Gihon Spring The Gihon Spring was the main water source for the City of David and Jerusalem from the Bronze Age until the Roman period, when at least two aqueducts were built to bring water to the upper city.
Golan Heights The Golan Heights are a high plateau that form the eastern boundary of the Galilee region. They are also a contested area in the modern period, as they belonged to the modern country of Syria prior to the war of 1967 (also known as the Six Day War), when Israel took them.
Greek The Greek language was spoken in ancient Greece and surrounding regions. It was spread throughout the Mediterranean world after the victories of Alexander the Great in 333-323 BCE.
Hadrian Hadrian was a Roman general and then Emperor from 117-138 CE. He is responsible for creating a Roman colony called Aelia Capitolina on the site of Jerusalem after Jerusalem was destroyed as a result of the Bar Kokhba revolt.
Haroon al-Rasheed Haroon al-Rasheed was a late 8th century CE Abbasid ruler.
Hasmonean The words “Hasmonaean” and “Maccabean” refer to the dynasty of independent Jewish rulers in the 2nd-1st centuries BCE (168-63 BCE) who came to power after the Maccabean Revolt.
Hebrew Hebrew is a Semitic language from the region of Judea and Samaria. Books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament were written in this language. While historically Hebrew was the liturgical language of the Jewish people, it was eventually revived through the influence of Zionism in the late 19th century as the common spoken language of modern-day Jews living in Israel.
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible is the Jewish Bible, traditionally divided into three sections: the Torah, Prophets, and Writings. It is known by the acronym Tanakh. The books of the Jewish Bible are the same as those of the Christian Old Testament, without the Greek addition (such as the Apocrypha and New Testament).
Hellenism Hellenism is a word that refers to the influence of Greek culture and language on Middle Eastern traditions. Hellenism and Hellenistic influences spread throughout the Mediterranean as the result of Alexander the Great’s conquests in 333-323 BCE.
Hellenistic The word “Hellenistic” refers both to a period (i.e., from Alexander the Great to the Romans, which is 332 – 64 BCE in our region) and the Greek culture that Alexander brought. So we can talk about the Hellenstic period, which is a very specific period of time or about, for instance, Hellenistic culture and influences. The latter refers to Hellenism – that is, the influence and adoption of Greek culture and language in the eastern Mediterranean.
Herod Antipas Herod Antipas was one of the sons of Herod the Great, also mentioned in the New Testament gospels. He was given the northern regions of Galilee and Peraea when his father died in 4 BCE and he ruled them until 39 CE. He built the city of Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee.
Herod the Great Herod the Great was a Jewish king of Palestine under Roman authority from 40-4 BCE.
Hezekiah Hezekiah was a self-assertive king of Judah who rebelled against the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, at the end of the 8th century BCE.
Hezekiah’s Tunnel Hezekiah’s Tunnel is a tunnel that was dug through the ridge on which the City of David sits during the reign of Hezekiah (in 701 BCE) to bring water from the Gihon Spring, which was outside the city walls of Iron Age Jerusalem, into the Pool of Siloam, which was inside the city walls. This project was undertaken to protect the city’s water source from the impending siege of the Assyrian king Sennacherib.
Hieratic Hieratic is a cursive script that evolved from hieroglyphics (and was easier and quicker to write than the cumbersome symbols of hieroglyphics).
Hieroglyphs Hieroglyphs and hieroglyphic writing is an ancient symbolic writing that was used by the Egyptians
Hinnom Valley The Hinnom Valley is one of the valleys that borders Jerusalem, on the east and south sides. The word “Hinnom” is connected to the Greek word “Gehenna,” which is the word in the New Testament that is translated as “hell.”
Holy of Holies Generically, the Holy of Holies is the holiest place in a temple. Specifically, the phrase refers to the inner room of the Temple in Jerusalem where God’s presence was manifest. It was considered to be so holy that only one person (the High Priest) could enter it only on one day each year (the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar), and only then after completely purifying himself. Legend has it that a rope and bells were tied around the High Priest so that if God struck him dead it would be known (the bells would stop making noise) and his body could be retrieved without anybody else having to enter the Holy of Holies.
Huleh Valley The Huleh Valley is a valley in Upper Galilee, to the west of the Golan Heights. Today it is a rich agricultural valley surrounded by steep heights to the east and west; however, in antiquity it was a swamp.
Hyrcanus I Hyrcanus I was a Hasmonaean (Maccabaean) High Priest (i.e., ruler) from 134–104 BCE.
Ibn al-Qalanisi Ibn al-Qalanisi was the mayor of Damascus and an Arab historian of the Islamic battle against the First Crusade.
in situ The latin phrase in situ, meaning “in the original place,” refers to objects that archaeologists find in the exact place where they were put in antiquity.
Iron Age II 900–700 BCE
Isaiah Isaiah is a character/prophet in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, and also the name of a book that describes Israel’s national punishment and restoration.
Israel The term “Israel” has many meanings, depending on the time periods and sources under discussion. It is attested in the Bible as the name of the patriarch Jacob. His twelve sons become the twelve tribes of Israel, thereby called “Israelites,” who God then leads out of slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land (i.e., land of Canaan). This communal/national designation came to refer broadly to the people of God, and those who identify themselves as such after the so-called biblical period (e.g., Samaritans, Essenes, and early Christ-followers refer to themselves as true “Israel”). Israel can also refer to (1) the geographic kingdom of David and Solomon (ca. 1000-930 BCE); (2) the northern kingdom during the late (divided) monarchy (930-723 BCE, at this time Israel is distinguished from “Judah,” the southern kingdom); lastly, (3) the modern state of Israel, which was created May 14, 1948.
Israelite Tribes The Israelites were, according to the Bible, descendents of the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel: Asher, Benjamin, Dan, Gad, Issachar, Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), Judah, Levi, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, and Zebulun.
Jebus Jebus is the name of the city of Jerusalem before David took it over and renamed it Jerusalem.
Jebusite period The Jebusite period was the period prior to the reign of David (i.e., prior to 1000 BCE), in which the Jebusites inhabited the city of Jebus. David overtook and transformed that city into the City of David and renamed it Jerusalem.
Jehoshaphat Valley The Jehoshaphat Valley is one of the valleys that surrounds Jerusalem, namely the valley to the city’s east. It connects with the Hinnom Valley (which comes from the west and around the south side of the city) to form the Kidron Valley (which flows south from that junction then east down to the Dead Sea).
Jehu Jehu was an Israelite king from ca. 841–814 BCE. He is mentioned in the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III.
Jeroboam II Jeroboam II was an Israelite king from ca. 786–753 BCE.
Jewish Agency The Jewish Agency was an organization associated with the Zionist movement whose purpose was and still is to support the migration of Jews to Israel and to provide educational resources on Jewish life.
Jewish Quarter The Jewish Quarter is one of the four quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem, located in the southwestern part of the Old City.
Jezreel Valley The Jezreel Valley is a valley that runs east-west from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee, just north of the Central Hill. The ancient city of Megiddo is located here.
Johnathon Johnathon was the Hasmonaean (Maccabaean) High Priest (i.e., ruler) from 160–142 BCE.
Jordan River The Jordan River has its source on the slopes of Mt. Hermon. It flows south into the Sea of Galilee, then through the Jordan River Valley, and into the Dead Sea.
Jordan River Valley The Jordan River Valley is a valley that divides modern Israel from Jordan, and sits between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea (east of the Central Hill). The Jordan River flows through this valley, and forms a natural geographic boundary throughout history.
Josephus Josephus was a Jewish historian from whom we know much about life in 1st century CE Palestine. His works include a history of the Great Revolt against the Romans (66–73/4 CE), entitled The Jewish War.
Joshua Joshua is the sixth book of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, which portrays the “Conquest of Canaan” by the Israelites (ca. 1250 BCE). It is named after the person Joshua Ben Nun, who is the central figure in the book and was the general of the Israelite army.
Judaea Judaea is the term for the administrative region around Jerusalem in the late Second Temple and Roman periods. It is more or less the same region as “Judah,” which is the term used for this region during the Iron Age (i.e., the time of the divided Israelite monarchy ca. 931-721 BCE). “Yehud” was the term used for the administrative district in this region during the Persian period (539–332 BCE). “Judah” and “Yehud,” however, were technically different entities, and so they are only used to refer to the region during their respective periods (i.e., Iron Age Judah; and Persian period Yehud).
Judaean Desert The Judaean Desert is the arid region between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
Judah Judah (see also Judaea) refers to the southern kingdom during the period of the Divided Monarchy (931–721 BCE; the northern kingdom was called Israel). This area is not to be confused with “Yehud,” which was the administrative district demarcating a similar area during the Persian period, or “Judaea,” which was the administrative district in this area during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
Judges Judges is the seventh book of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. It deals with the era following the “Conquest of Canaan,” when the so-called twelve tribes were ruled by judicial leaders.
Julius Caesar Julius Caesar was a Roman general, statesman, consul, and author. Over the course of his military career he gained unmatched military power, and when the Senate ordered him to lay down his arms and return to Rome, he refused and instead led a legion back to Rome, illegally entering Roman territory under arms. A civil war ensued, from which Caesar emerged as the unrivaled leader. This set a precedent for a sole leader to rule the Roman empire (previously a republic). Julius Caesar’s reign marks the historical transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. He was famously assassinated on the Ides of March (March 15, 44 BCE).
Kidron Valley The Kidron Valley is the valley that runs south from the junction of the Jehoshaphat and Hinnom Valleys, on the south side of Jerusalem, and east down to the Dead Sea.
Late Hellenistic Period 198–63 BCE
Levant The Levant refers to regions of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, including the modern countries of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. The term is French for “rising,” with reference to the sun rising in the east.
Macedonia Macedonia is a region just north of Greece. It also refers to the kingdom from which Philip II and his son Alexander the Great rose to power.
Madaba Map The Madaba Map is a 6th century CE mosaic map of Palestine that was discovered in the floor of a Byzantine church in the modern-day town of Madaba, Jordan.
Mamluk period 1250–1517 CE
Mamluk Mamluk is the Arabic word for “owned.” The term was initially applied to the warriors who were servants of the Ayyubids, but was later used in reference to the Mamluk dynasty (1260–1517 CE) that was created by the rise of Baybars to power.
Mark The Gospel of Mark is most likely the earliest of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) that are contained in the New Testament. These are collections of stories of Jesus’ birth, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection.
MB I 2,200–1,750 BCE
Medieval period 700–1500 CE
Merneptah Merneptah was the Egyptian pharaoh who gave us the first extra-biblical reference to Israel found in the Merneptah Stele (ca. 1207 BCE).
Mesha Mesha was a king of Moab sometime before 840 BCE. His name is best known from the Mesha Stele, named after the king himself. This Stele tells of his victories over the northern Israelite kings, and attributes his success to Chemosh, the Moabite god, much like the Israelites attribute their success to YHWH.
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia is the region that surrounds the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, in modern-day Iraq and Iran. It is the “cradle of civilization,” so-called because the earliest cities and evidence of written language come from this area.
Messiah The word “messiah” comes from the Hebrew word mashiach, which means “the anointed one.” In the Second Temple period and onwards it came to connote the idea of a religious and/or political leader who would bring salvation to the Jewish people.
Mishnah The Mishnah is a compilation of Jewish law that has since become a Jewish religious text. It is a compilation of the views of various religious and legal authorities on the interpretation of the laws of the Hebrew Bible. It provides regulations for daily life and was compiled around 220 CE by Judah ha-Nasi.
Moab Moab is the region in which the Moabites lived in the Iron Age. It is located on the east side of the Jordan River. Ammon was to the north and Edom was to the south.
Moabites The Moabites were inhabitants of Transjordan (that is, the region on the east side of the Jordan River) in the vicinity of the Dead Sea. One noteworthy monarch was Mesha, in whose name the Mesha Stele was written in the 9th century BCE.
Mount of Olives The Mount of Olives is a hill immediately east of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. The Jehoshaphat Valley divides the two.
Mount Scopus Mount Scopus is a hill just north of the Mount of Olives, on which the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is located.
Mt. Zion Mount Zion is a very low hill within the Old City of Jerusalem (you wouldn’t know that it was a hill if you were there). It is located on western side of the Old City.
Muhammad Muhammad (ca. 571-632 CE) was the founder of Islam. He came from Mecca, an important city along a caravan route in Saudi Arabia.
Mycenaean The Mycenaeans were the last people to live in Bronze Age Greece, mostly on the islands of the Aegean Sea. They disappeared at the end of the Bronze Age, but there are similarities between their pottery and the pottery of the Philistines, leading scholars to think that the Philistines were one of the Sea Peoples and that the Sea Peoples came, in part, from the Aegean Sea.
Nabataeans The Nabataeans were a Semitic tribe of people who lived east of the Jordan River in the late Hellenistic and Roman periods. They are best known as traders, and for building the city of Petra (made famous by the movie Indiana Jones).
Negev Desert The Negev Desert is the desert region south of the Central Hill in the Land of Israel/Palestine.
New Testament The New Testament is the Christian corpus of Greek writings from the 1st-2nd centuries CE that are considered canonical, in addition to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.
Old city Generically, the phrase “old city” refers to the old part of a modern city where ancient remains exist or where ancients walls separate the old structures from the new. The Old City of Acco/Acre, for example, still shows the remains of Crusader era structures interspersed among the modern city. The Old City of Jerusalem is studied most frequently in this course. The Old City walls were built by Suleiman between 1535 and 1538 CE, yet these walls preserve structures that go back to at least the 1st century BCE.
Omar Omar (also known as Umar) was the second Rashidun caliph. He conquered Jerusalem in 638 CE.
Omri Omri was the king of the northern kingdom of Israel from 880–847 BCE. He is mentioned in the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III and the Mesha Stele.
Ottoman The Ottoman Empire was the Turkish empire from the 16th-20th centuries CE.
Papyrus Papyrus was the ancient equivalent of paper. It was made from the stalk of the papyrus reed, which is best known for growing in the Nile River in Egypt. It is not to be confused with vellum, which was also used for writing material in antiquity, but which was made from animal skins. Both papyrus and vellum would be made in sheets that were stitched together into long rolls (scrolls). The bound book (called a “codex” when referring to ancient ones) was invented during the 1st century CE, or slightly later, and was not used widely until the 3rd-4th centuries CE.
Persia The Persian Empire was rooted in the lands east of Mesopotamia. It conquered the Near East in the mid-6th century. One of their greatest leaders was Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great), who is known for allowing the Israelites to return to Palestine after the Babylonian Exile.
Persian and Hellenistic periods 539–63 BCE
Persian Period 539–332 BCE
Philistines The Philistines were a group among the Sea Peoples who settled along the southern shores of Canaan around 1150 BCE.
Phoenicia The word Phoenicia refers to the northeastern coast of the Mediterranean (in modern Lebanon and Syria), and especially the region around the cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos. This was the Phoenician heartland.
Phoenician The Phoenicians were a seafaring people group who are most closely associated with the cities of Tyre and Sidon. However, they established colonies throughout the Mediterranean, the most well known of which was Carthage. They spoke a Semitic language (called Phoenician), and they are generally credited with giving the world the alphabet (indeed, the word “alphabet” comes from the first two letters of the Phoenician alphabet, “aleph” and “bet”).
Pope Urban II Pope Urban II was the 11th century CE ruler of the Roman Catholic church who called upon Europeans to liberate Palestine in the name of Jesus Christ, thereby inaugurating the First Crusade.
Pre-Potery Neolithic Period Before 8,500 BCE
Ptolemaic period 312–198 BCE
Ptolemies The Ptolemies were a Hellenistic empire based in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. The dynasty’s name is derived from the founder of the dynasty, Ptolemy, a general of Alexander the Great.
Qumran Qumran is a settlement and archaeological site on the northwest side of the Dead Sea. A Jewish sectarian group, likely Essene-related, lived there between 150 BCE and 71 CE and probably wrote and/or copied the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Ramses III Ramses III was the Pharoah of Egypt from 1184–1153 BCE. His mortuary temple at Medinet Habu in Thebes, Egypt, records his conquest of the Philistines.
Rehoboam Rehoboam was a son of King Solomon. Under his reign (931–913 BCE) the ten northern tribes rebelled and formed the Kingdom of Israel. Rehoboam became the king ruling over Judah.
Sabbath The Sabbath (also called Shabbat in Hebrew) is the weekly day of rest in the Jewish religious calendar from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.
Saladin Saladin was an Ayyubid ruler whose victories over the Crusaders in the late 12th century, particularly the Battle of Hattin in 1187 CE, greatly limited the Crusader presence in Palestine. Subsequently, the Crusaders were limited to the northern coast of Palestine.
Samaritans The Samaritans (also called Samarians) were the inhabitants of the former northern kingdom of Israel who, according to the Bible, competed with the Judeans in the Persian era.
Samuel Samuel was an Israelite judge and prophet who witnessed the beginning of the monarchy under the leadership of Saul. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel deal mainly with the kingships of Saul and David as well as the threat of the Philistines.
Saul Saul (ca. 1079–1012 BCE) was the first king of Israel. He fell out of favor with YHWH and sought to kill David.
Sea of Galilee The Sea of Galilee is located in the north of the Land of Israel/Palestine (Lower Galilee region). The Jordan River feeds it and flows out of it.
Sea Peoples The Sea People is a phrase used of an otherwise unknown people group (or, more probably, people groups) who colonized the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age. Their pottery looks very much like Mycenaean pottery, which suggests that they came from the Aegean. The Philistines were likely part of the Sea Peoples. A few ancient inscriptions (such as that on the Mortuary Temple of Rameses III) mentions Egyptian battles with them.
Seashore Plains The Seashore Plains are the part of the Land of Israel/Palestine that sits between the Mediterranean Sea and the Central Hill.
Second Temple Period 519 BCE – 70 CE
Seleucid The Seleucids were a Hellenistic dynasty based in Syria in the Hellenistic period. Their name is derived from the founder of the dynasty, Seleucus, a general of Alexander the Great.
Sennacherib Sennacherib was the King of Assyria from 704–681 BCE.
Septimius Severus Septimius Severus was the Emperor of Rome from 193–211 CE.
Septuagint The Septuagint, often abbreviated as LXX, is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible that began in the mid-3rd century BCE, under the Ptolemies.
Shalmaneser III Shalmaneser III was the King of Assyria from 858–824 BCE. He defeated a coalition of tribes led by Ahab at the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BCE, which we know about from the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser
Shephelah The Shephelah is the foothill region between the Seashore Plains and the Central Hill in the Land of Israel/Palestine
Sidon Sidon is a Phoenician city on the coast of modern day Lebanon. It and the city of Tyre were the two main Phoenician cities in antiquity.
Siloam pool The Pool of Siloam is the pool into which the water from the Gihon Spring runs after it flows through Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
Simon Simon was a Hasmonaean (Maccabaean) high priest/ruler from 142–134 BCE.
Sinai Desert The Sinai Desert is a very large desert south of the Land of Israel/Palestine. It sits between Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba.
Solomon’s city Solomon’s city is the expansion of the City of David to the north (where the Temple Mount now sits) that was undertaken during Solomon’s reign.
Suleiman the Magnificent Suleiman I, also known as Suleiman the Magnificent, was the longest-reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He ruled from 1520–1556. He is known for building the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, which still stand today, among other monuments.
Sumer Sumer was an ancient city in southern Mesopotamia from which come the earliest writing and language (Sumerian), as well as the earliest known texts and myths.
Synagogue The word “synagogue” is Greek and means “to come together.” Although synagogues appear as Jewish religious and social institutions in the late Second Temple Period, they become central in Judaism following the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) as the primary buildings for prayer and studying the Jewish scriptures.
Temple Mount The Temple Mount, also known as the Haram esh-Sharif (Arabic for “Noble Sanctuary”), is the site where the Jewish Temple stood and where the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque now stand. The massive Temple Mount compound that exists today was built by Herod the Great in the late 1st century BCE.
Theodore Hertzl Theodore Hertzl was the most prominent member of 19th century CE Zionism.
Tiglath-Pileser III Tiglath-Pileser III was the King of Assyria from 745–727 BCE. He is responsible for the conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel in 732 BCE.
Titus Titus was a Roman general during the First Jewish Revolt, and shortly after, the second emperor of the Flavian Dynasty. He is especially well known for his role in the conquest of Jerusalem in 70 CE. A triumphal arch erected in Rome after his victories depicts Jewish captives and the menorah that was housed in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Tobiad The Tobiads were a rich Jewish family known as philhellenes because of their love for Greek culture. They held power in Jerusalem at the beginning of the Hellenistic period.
Tyre Tyre is a Phoenician city on the coast of modern day Lebanon. Tyre and Sidon were the two main Phoenician cities in antiquity.
Tyropoeon Valley The Tyropoeon Valley (i.e., “Valley of the Cheesemakers”) is a very shallow valley that runs through the middle of the Old City of Jerusalem; it empties into the Hinnom Valley (on the south side of the city).
Umayyad period 636–750 CE
Umayyad The Umayyads were the first Islamic dynasty after the period of the caliphs (661–750 CE). Their capital was in Damascus.
Vespasian Vespasian was a Roman emperor from 69–79 CE. Prior to this he was sent by Nero to subdue the Jews of the First Jewish Revolt (66-73/4 CE)
Via Maris The Via Maris (“Way of the Sea”) was the main “highway” that ran through the Land of Israel/Palestine along the coast.
Wadi A wadi is a seasonal riverbed (i.e., a dry riverbed in which water runs only during rainstorms). They are widespread in the Judaean Desert.
Warren’s Shaft Warren’s Shaft is a tunnel and vertical shaft that was used during the early Israelite period (i.e., before the building of the Siloam Tunnel/Hezekiah’s Tunnel) so that the inhabitants of the City of David could retrieve water from the Gihon Spring, which was far below the level of the city.
William of Tyre William of Tyre was a 12th century CE historian and Archbishop of Tyre.
Zionism Zioinism was the 19th – 20th century CE European political movement which encouraged the development of a modern Jewish state.
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