Glossary of Christian & Religious Terms
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Strict Islamic sect in Saudi Arabia founded by Abdul-Wahhab (1703-92), which adheres closely to the Quran.


All-night vigil over a corpse before burial, often with festivities.


Sect of Roman Catholic dissenters founded by Peter Waldo around 1170 in the South of France, which now survive in the Alps of France and Italy.

Wandering Jew

In medieval folklore, a Jew condemned to wander the earth restlessly until the second coming of Christ because of their scornful attitude prior to the Crucifixion; trailing plants of the spiderwort family having white, red, blue, or purple flowers.


Old English for liar or traitor; sorcerer, wizard, or magician; one who practices black magic (male equivalent of a witch).


Medieval castle in Thuringia, Germany, where Martin Luther completed his translation of the New Testament (1521-22).


White Anglo-Saxon Protestant




Woman's Christian Temperance Union


German, "world view" -- a personal, comprehensive philosophy or conception of life or the universe, generally non-religious and based on rationale, proven science, or experience.

Wesley, John

(1703-91) English clergyman and evangelist, founder of Methodism, brother of Charles Wesley (1707-88, English clergymand and hymn writer). Wesleyan is a follower of John Wesley; Wesleyan Church is generally a Methodist Church.

Western Church

Primarily the Roman Catholic Church; generally any part of the Catholic Church that recognizes the Pope and follows the Latin Rite; broadly, all Christian churches of Western Europe and America.

Western Wall (Wailing Wall)

Hebrew ha-kotel ha-ma'aravi, "the Western Wall," or simply ha-kotel, "the Wall" -- a high wall in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount believed to be part of the western section of the wall surrounding Solomon's Temple (some believe it to be Herod's Temple), where Jews have traditionally gathered for prayer. Jerome described Jews on the Mount of Olives in the fourth century A.D. wailing and lamenting as they looked upon the ruins of the Temple on the ninth day of the Hebrew month Av, a day of mourning for the Temple. The traditional Arabic term for the wall is El-Mabka, "the Place of Weeping." The name "Wailing Wall" is predominantly a European term introduced by the British after their conquest of Jerusalem from the Turks in 1917. Jews traditionally gathered here on Fridays to mourn, however, after the Six-Day War in 1967 and the reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, many have considered this to be a place of celebration.

Westminster Abbey

Originally a Benedictine abbey in Westminster (metropolitan borough of London), a Gothic church where English monarchs are crowned and/or buried.

Whitewashed Tomb

Hypocrite (Matthew 23:27-28), also called a whited sepulcher; traditionally a burial vault whitened with a mixture of water, lime, chaulk, and glaze; to give a falsely virtuous appearance; gloss over.

Whitefield, George

English Methodist evangelist (1714-70).


White Sunday, day of baptism, so called because of the white garments traditionally worn by baptismal candidates.


Head covering worn by certain orders of nuns consisting of cloth wrapped around parts of the head, revealing only the face.

Winter Solstice

Time in the Northern Hemisphere when the sun is farthest south of the equator, December 21-22.

Wisdom of Solomon

One of the books of the Apocrypha.


From the Old English wicca, a sorceress

Witch Doctor

Medicine man of some African tribes who practices primitive forms of healing involving magic or witchcraft.


Sage; magician; sorcerer; conjurerer.

Word of God

The Bible.


Bitter; unpleasant; bitter, green oil used in making a liqueur called absinthe.


Reverent devotion; veneration; religious devotion.


From Scottish warth, a guardian angel; a ghost or the spectral figure of a person supposedly seen as a premonition just before death.


A twisted band or ring of leaves, branches, flowers, foliage, etc.; garland.

Wycliffe, John

(1324-84) English religious reformer who was the first to make a complete English translation of the Bible (from the Latin Vulgate).

        I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying tp pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galations 1:6-9)

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  Reference Sources: Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, published by Prentice Hall Press, ©1986 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.; Collier's Encyclopedia, ©1968 Crowell-Collier Educational Corporation; Larson's New Book of Cults, ©1982 and 1989 by Bob Larson, printed by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Jewish Virtual Library (