Words Christians Use Explained: “B” Terms

An Angel Met Balaam with a Sword (illustration...
An Angel Met Balaam with a Sword (illustration from the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us by Charles Foster) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


This is the second in a series of “Words Christians Use,” or simply, the first section of a Christian dictionary/desktop encyclopedia.  Short phrases may occasionally be included, and some words or phrases have a Christian base but are used more often by the general public.  (Click  for >  “A” terms.)

(c) Vicki Priest________________________________________________________________

Babylon.  This word probably isn’t used as much as it should be.  Not for the historic city it was, but for the its symbolic Biblical meaning.  “Babylon” (or mystic Babylon) refers to the world system, containing religious and political aspects, that are corrupt, self-centered, and against God.  It is the global anti-God if you will.  Since the Bible tells us that Satan is the ruler of this world (a lot of folks seem to forget that; see John 12:31), mystic Babylon seems to be a simple way of referring to the physical manifestation of the Satanic world system.  Not all Christians interpret the symbolic use of Babylon so broadly, but view it as a term used for any corrupt commercial center that is or will be judged.  In any case, many who call themselves Christians today don’t recognize the anti-God nature and effects of modern global corporatism and such and appear to support “mystic Babylon”; this could explain the term’s relative non-use.

Bacon (and Biblical laws).  Just kidding.  Christians don’t use the term “bacon” more than anyone else, BUT, bacon can be the focal point of an important lesson.   Christians are often accused of “picking and choosing” which Biblical laws they follow.  Aside from certain sects and annoying individuals, the accusation itself is false or deceptive.  It is based on ignorance of the difference between a Jew and a Christian.  Christians don’t follow the Jewish laws–the laws of ISRAEL–because Christ’s work set believers free from them and from the Jewish nation.  Folks, it’s not a matter of “picking and choosing”; Christians are not Jews and so don’t need to follow the laws of Israel.  God told the Israelites not to eat pork, and He had good reason.  But Christians are free to eat pork.  There are some prohibitions that were maintained under the new covenant, however, that are reiterated as sin against God in the New Testament (like any sex outside of marriage [and marriage is maintained as heterosexual] and deceiving people).

Serious pot-o-bacon
Is there ever enough bacon? (Photo found on internet and is somewhere at http://www.foodown.com)

Balaam’s Donkey.  Balaam is an interesting and colorful biblical character all on his own, having been a well-known seer to pagan leaders but to whom God also spoke.   Sometime after God spoke to Balaam, he was killed along with Midianites at the order of Moses; he is said to have influenced female Midianites to cause Israeli men to turn from the Lord (Numbers 31:16).  As Halley (2000) wrote, “Balaam’s name became a synonym for false teachers” (p 173).

But, unsurprisingly, it’s Balaam’s donkey which is more often remembered.  Balaam was called from his town along the Euphrates by Moabites and Midianites who feared the arrival of the Israelites coming from Egypt.  Of course, the M&M leaders wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites on their behalf, but God told Balaam not to do it.  At first Balaam does what God tells him to do, even calling God “the Lord my God.”

Yet when Balaam was traveling to advise Balak, the Moabite king, God must’ve known Balaam’s intentions were less than obedient.  He had sent an angel to block the way of Balaam, but only Balaam’s donkey saw the angel.  Three times the donkey stopped in response to the Lord’s angel, and for that Balaam beat her.  Finally, after the third time,  God not only opened Balaam’s eyes to the angel, but He also let the donkey speak.  So she had a little conversation with the angry Balaam.  After that, God told Balaam that he would’ve killed him if his donkey hadn’t stopped.  Balaam owed his life to the seeing and talking donkey.

So, Balaam’s donkey had more spiritual sight than a famous seer, she did not act against her master when unjustly beaten, and the humble beast of burden made more sense speaking than a lot of people do.  You could say that Balaam’s donkey made an ass of Balaam.

Baptism.  In the New Testament, there are two types of baptism described: (1) a public act by the believer of water immersion, demonstrating a commitment to Christ (thus a cleansing from sin) and an identification with His death and resurrection (having been dunked under water, and then rising from it); and (2), an act of God wherein He cleanses the believer via the Holy Spirit.  John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water for repentance.  But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).  The second type of Baptism is also referred to as being “born again.”  As Jesus taught, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again [or “from above”] . . . no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:3, 5-6).

For a detailed analysis of why sprinkling infants as a form of baptism is not biblical or of spiritual value (an infant can’t make the commitment), see Is Sprinkling an Appropriate Mode of Baptism?

Baptist.  There are very many “Baptist” denominations and different sources provide different histories of Baptist origins.  The Baptist Church, in the more modern sense, began in 1609 when separatist (from the Church of England) pastor John Smyth decided to put into practice adult baptism.  This meant that, according to the bible, adults who desired to make a profession of faith were immersed in water publicly.  Baptism was only for those willing and able to make a commitment to Christ.  The first Baptist church in America was founded in 1639 by Roger Williams.  Today there are 65 or more Baptist groups in the United States, and they vary considerably in Christian practice and worldview.

Beelzebub, Beelzebul, Baalzebub. One of the names of Satan, used in Matthew 12:24 and corresponding texts.  It literally means “Lord of the fly/flies (or dung)” and relates to Satanic idolatry/worship.  The name originally referred to a Philistine god and is spoken of in 2 Kings 1:2-4.

Bethlehem.  The town, also known as Ephrath, south of Jerusalem where Jesus was born.  Being the Messiah’s birthplace, it is often heard spoken of at Christmastime.  Boaz was from Bethlehem and King David was anointed there.  Because of political turmoil in recent decades, the population there has declined.

Bible.  The Christian canon, or sacred scriptures, contains the Old Testament (or Covenant)–what Jews call the Tanakh (or more specifically, the Greek translation called the Septuagint)–and the New Testament (or Covenant), which was written either by Jesus’ close followers or their associates.  (Some bibles contain apocrypha, writings that are primarily from between the Old and New Testaments.)  However, a major NT author is the apostle Paul.  He hadn’t been a disciple of Jesus but actually persecuted Christians right after Jesus’ death.  Jesus appeared to Paul, however, questioning his persecutions and calling him to be a witness instead.

Historically, the OT starts with the beginning of creation and chronicles the formation and history of Israel up until about 400 BC.  Then there was a long dry period (“intertestamental”), until the books of the NT were written down.  The historical accounts that make up the apocrypha of this period were not considered canonical by the Jews nor by most early church fathers.  The NT gospels, letters, etc., started to be written formally starting about 15 or so years after Christ’s crucifixion (AD 30 or 33).  The book of Galatians seems to be the earliest that was written, dating between AD 48 and 53.  The last book of the NT, Revelation, was also written last, probably around AD 96.  After centuries of use and recognition, the books of the NT were formally “canonized” in the late 300s.

Bible Belt. The term “Bible Belt” was first used by HL Mencken in 1925.  It refers to the biblically conservative region of the southern United States, basically, but the boundaries shift and were never actually clear to begin with.  Historically, the majority of Christians in the Bible Belt were Baptist, and their political alliance was Democrat (surprising, right?).  Based on the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Study (2015), the south still holds the highest Christian population, with 76% professing (midwest 73%, northeast 65%, and west 64%).  A Gallup study from 2012 more specifically asked pollsters if they were “very religious.”  The states with the most “very religious” were all grouped together in the southeast, with the exception of Utah.

Blaspheme, blasphemy.  Generally speaking, to “blaspheme” refers to the slandering of God or sacred things.  More importantly for the Christian is what Jesus said about it, which is referred to as the “unpardonable sin”:  “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.   Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32).  Jesus said this to a crowd of Jews who were accusing Him of doing the work of Satan (Beelzebul) instead of God.

Born Again.   See “Baptism.”

Bride of Christ.  The Bride of Christ is the church.  It’s not A church, a church building or group, but THE (real) church.  It is the church of actual believers that Christ knows; after all, Jesus Himself said that there will be false “believers” in the visible church on Earth.  There are other terms used in the NT for the church, so what significance does “bride of Christ” have?  It is a term of encouragement, and it is even prophetic.  First, it is indicative of Christ’s great love for, and anticipation in uniting with, his believers; and second, as the bride, we are waiting for our husband’s promised arrival to take us to the wedding.  There are actually a great many analogies with Jewish betrothal and wedding practices and the present and future church in Christ (to read more, see 10.1 The Jewish Wedding Analogy).

Mozes and the bronze Serpent by Giovan Frances...
Moses and the bronze Serpent by Giovan Francesco Nagli (c. 1600- 1675) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Bronze Serpent.  A serpent (or snake) coiled on a stick is a traditional symbol of the medical profession.  Many attribute it to the Greek mythological God Asclepius and call it the rod or staff of Asclepius.  However, the symbol has earlier precedent.  God directed Moses to make a snake image and put it on a pole, so that anyone who had been bitten by a snake in the desert would be healed (Numbers 21:5-9).  According to the New Testament, this snake symbol and its healing power is a foreshadowing of Christ’s crucifixion and its resulting healing power for believers.  As John wrote (3:14-15), “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”


Major Sources

Enns, P. (2008). The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Halley, H. H. (2000). Halley’s Bible Handbook with the New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Hindson, E., & Caner, E. (Eds.). (2008). The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers.

Powell, D. (2006).  Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics.  Nashville: Holman Reference.

Question: “In what year did Jesus die?” (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2015, from GotQuestions.org: http://www.gotquestions.org/what-year-did-Jesus-die.html

Shelley, B. L. (1995). Church History in Plain Language. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Zondervan. (2005). NIV Archaeological Study Bible . Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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