An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms


A collection of chants to be sung antiphonally by the choir in public worship. It is also known as an antiphonal. It originally provided chants for the eucharist and the Daily Offices of the church. The chants for the eucharist and for the Daily Offices were eventually separated. A chant-book for the eucharist is now […]


(c. 251-356). Early Christian desert hermit. He was raised in a Christian home. After his parents died he sold all his possessions and became a hermit or anchorite. He devoted himself to a life of asceticism. He retired to the desert where he lived in solitude, fasting, and prayer. Antony is said to have fought […]


From the Greek word for “hidden.” It normally refers to fifteen books not found in the Hebrew canon of the OT and includes the following: Tobit, Judith, Additions to the Book of Esther, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (the Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach), Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, the Prayer of Azariah and […]


Christological heresy of the fourth century, based on the teaching of Apollinarius, Bishop of Laodicea (c. 310-c. 390). Apollinarius held that Christ had no human spirit. The Divine Logos was believed to take the place of the human spirit in Christ. Christ thus was understood to be fully divine but less than fully human. Apollinarianism […]

Apologetics, Apologists, Apology

The theological discipline of defending the Christian faith against attack, often by use of the thought-forms of the attacker. An apologist is one who defends the faith by making an apology. The terms are derived from the Greek apologia, a “defense,” the reply to the speech of the prosecution.


A theological term which derives from a Greek word meaning a denial or negation. Its opposite is cataphatic, which means something that is made known or affirmed. As a theological term it has chiefly been used in the tradition of Byzantine or Eastern Orthodox theology to refer to the relation of human rationality to the […]


A Greek word that, literally translated, means “a thing uttered” or “something said.” The term is used by form critics who focus on the editing of the gospels. The English terms used include the words “paradigm,” “pronouncement story,” and “anecdote.” An apophthegm or pronouncement story refers to units in the gospels where Jesus is quoted […]


From the Greek apophthegm, meaning a terse or pointed saying, this term now usually refers to sayings and maxims of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, mostly from fourth- and fifth-century Egypt. Abbas Poemen, Antony, and Arsenius and disciples are featured. The apophthegmata are found in several collections in different languages, arranged either by particular Fathers […]


From the Greek apo, "away from," and stasis "standing," literally meaning a "standing apart," apostasy is used in Christian theology to speak of total renunciation of faith in Christ and abandonment of Christianity. It has always been considered to be among the most serious sins. Apostasy was regarded as unforgivable in the post-apostolic church. However, […]


See Apostasy.


A term based on the Greek word which means “someone sent out.” It is used seventy-nine times in the NT. It often refers to the disciples. The primary NT meaning seems to refer to someone who is a personal messenger of Jesus. This is emphasized in Acts when Matthias is chosen to replace Judas, the […]

Apostles’ Creed, The

Ancient formula of Christian belief in three sections concerning God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Although its authorship is attributed to the twelve apostles, opinions vary concerning its origin. Its title dates from the late fourth century, and it may be based on a shorter form of the creed in use at […]

Apostolic Blessing

Among Roman Catholics, a blessing given by the Pope. It may also be given by bishops or priests in the Roman Catholic Church under certain circumstances. It is not to be confused with the pontifical (or episcopal) blessing given by a bishop at the end of the eucharist.

Apostolic Constitutions

A document belonging to the genre of early Christian literature known as Church Orders. Contemporary scholarship generally recognizes that it was written in Antioch shortly before the Council of Constantinople in 381. It is dependent upon a number of earlier documents, including Didache, Didascalia Apostolorum, and Apostolic Tradition. Its compiler probably held semi-Arian theological views. […]

Apostolic Succession

The belief that bishops are the successors to the apostles and that episcopal authority is derived from the apostles by an unbroken succession in the ministry. This authority is specifically derived through the laying on of hands for the ordination of bishops in lineal sequence from the apostles, through their performing the ministry of the […]

Apostolic Tradition

The belief that the church continues the faith and work of the apostles. The apostles received the faith from Jesus Christ through his teaching as well as his death and resurrection. Their authority comes from Christ, who was sent by the Father. During their lifetime the apostles passed on the faith to communities of Christians, […]

Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (215)

See Church Orders; see Hippolytus.

Apostolicae Curae

The Encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII on Sept. 13, 1896, in which Anglican holy orders were condemned as invalid through defect of form and intention in the Ordinal of Edward VII. This ordinal was used for the consecration of Archbishop Matthew Parker on Dec. 17, 1559. The letter judged Anglican ordinations to be “absolutely […]


See Notes of the Church.


The raising of an emperor or other special person to the status of a god in pagan religion. Though initially done after death, from the time of Domitian (81-96 A.D.) the emperors were deified even during their lifetime. This concept is not to be confused with Christian notions of sanctification and canonization. See Theosis.

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Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.