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Sadducees
Means "righteous ones." Wealthy Jewish aristocracy, claiming descent and authority from the high priest Zadok. Oversaw Temple; theology based on the first five books of the Bible; did not believe that God interfered in human lives or in any afterlife. Notoriously corrupt; disliked by the common people; helped to preserve their own political power and wealth by collaborating with the Romans. As the majority of the 70-man religious council (Sanhedrin), they wielded great authority over the nation's everyday affairs. Had the most to lose by Jesus' ministry, as he challenged the temple authority. Many scholars believe the Sadducees were responsible for plotting to kill Jesushaving him arrested, interrogated, and then released to the Romans.

Samaria
Name of a city and a region, The city was founded by Omri, king of Israel c.a. 880 BC, and Ahab built a magnificent palace there. Samaria became a center for Baal worship. It was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC. During Jesus' time, it was a district of Israel.

Samaria Mountains
Northern part of the central mountain range in Israel.

Samaritan
A person from the country of Samaria (part of Palestine). The Samaritans were hated by the Jews because they had married non-Jews. They also worshiped God differently from the Jews. But Jesus showed his love for the Samaritans by going to them and teaching them about the kingdom of God.

Sanhedrin
Means "council." Jewish supreme court; highest religious council, composed of 70 members and the high priest. The number 70 traditionally was based on Moses' appointment of 70 elders (Num. 11:16) to administer Israel's affairs. Used by the Romans to administer daily affairs. Predominantly Sadducees, the religious faction most threatened by Jesus' ministry, who plotted against, interrogated, and released him to the Romans.

Scaenae frans
Elaborately ornamented front of the stage building in a Roman theater.

Scapegoat
A goat let loose in the wilderness on Yom Kippur after the high priest symbolically laid the sins of the people on its head (Lev. 16:8,10,26).

Scriptorium
Name given to a room in the Qumran community in which many scholars believe the Essenes wrote some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Excavation has revealed tables and benches similar to those used by scribes, as well as ink pots and basins in which the Essenes could ritualistically wash their hands before and after writing God's sacred name.

Scythopolis (Beth Sean)
One of the oldest Decapolis cities. Originally, Beth Shean, renamed Scythopolis, or "City of Scythians," following Alexander the Great's conquest. Reputation for abundant water and fertile land. Located on the road Galileans walked in the Great Rift Valley to Jerusalem.

Sea of Galilee
Freshwater lake filled by the Jordan river, located in the Great Rift Valley and site of the first-century commercial fishing industry; significant for a trade route on its northern shore. Jesus spent the majority of his ministry here, including the miracle of walking on water.

Sebastoi
In Greek means "revered one," same as Latin Augustus.

Second Jewish Revolt
In this revolt of AD 132-135, the Romans totally removed the nation of Israel. Also known as the Bar Kochba Revolt.

Secular humanism
Modern worldview based on an evolutionary model that considers human beings the ultimate life form and denies the existence or relevance of God. Right and wrong are determined by human standards, not God's.

Sepphoris
Greek for Hebrew zippor, meaning "bird," because the town perched like a bird on a mountaintop in Lower Galilee. Hellenistic city built as Herod Antipas' regional capital; a major urban center of Hellenistic culture and power, with 20,000 inhabitants. Built three and a half miles from Nazareth during Jesus' childhood and youth; likely that he and his father, Joseph, worked here as tektons (builders).

Septuagint
Means 70. Greek translation of the Old Testament made during the rule of the Ptolemies over the Jews. Frequently quoted by the authors of the New Testament.

Serapis
Egyptian god of fertility and medicine, ruler of the dead. Worshiped by the Greeks and Romans also.

Shavuot
Means weeks; also known as Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks. Its celebrated 50 days after the Sabbath following Passover.

Shephelah
Hebrew word for "lowlands." It refers to the area between the Judea Mountains and the coastal plain where the Israelites and Philistines met.

Shofar
A trumpet-like instrument made of rams horn blown by priests to announce sacred events such as time of sacrifice.

Sicarri
An extremist sect of the Zealots heavily involved in the First Jewish Revolt. They were named after their short, curved dagger (sica), which they used to assassinate Romans and Jewish collaborators.

Siloam Inscription
After workers built the tunnel of Hezekiah, they carved a description of its creation in the stone roof. The inscription tells how two teams of workers, digging from opposite directions, met in the middle. It is unusual because the story is told from the perspective of the workers and not the king. It is in a museum in Istanbul, Turkey.

Sinai Peninsula
Peninsula south of Israel. Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments, may be located here. The Israelites wandered here for 40 years.

sitting in the gate
Synonym for being a ruler, judge, or official, because the gate compartments functioned as courthouses.

Skene
Stage of Roman theater.

Smikheh
Authority given to a rabbi to proclaim his own interpretation of Torah, rather than simply referring to what other rabbis had said. The crowds were amazed at Jesus teaching, because he taught like one who had smikheh (Matt. 7:2829).

Sodom
City near the southern end of the Dead Sea that was destroyed by God because of its wickedness, which included oppression of the poor.

Solomon
The wisest king of all, and accomplished many great things (including the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem), but broke almost every command God gave for a king.

Sons of light
Name the Essenes gave themselves as followers of God. Their enemies (Romans and the apostate priesthood in Jerusalem), in their opinion, were the sons of darkness. The New Testament uses this language also (1 Thess. 5:5).

Soreq
The Soreq was a five-foot-tall stone wall that surrounded the inner courts of the consecrated temple area and was designed to keep Gentiles and ther "unacceptable" people out of the inner courts. Gentiles could not pass the Soreq on pain of death.

Soreq Valley
Valley linking the coastal plain and the Judea Mountains through the Shephelah. Samson lived here.

Southern kingdom
When Israel divided after Solomons death (926 BC), the tribe of Judah under Rehoboam became the southern kingdom, or Judah. In 586 BC, God punished the people for their sins by exiling them to Babylon for 70 years. Jesus was born of this tribe.

South Wall
This wall, located on the southern side of Jerusalem, was more than 900 feet long and more than 150 feet high. Pilgrims entered the temple primarily through this entrancethe Double Gatesafter climbing the Southern Stairsa broad staircase more than 200 feet wide.

Spring of Gihon
Spring in the Kidron Valley near Jerusalem. It was the main water source for the city during Old Testament times. Hezekiah built a tunnel that directed the spring's water inside the city walls. Gihon means "gushing out."

Stadium
Long building used for foot races and other athletic contests.

Standing stone
Large stone erected as a testimony to a significant act of God (or gods). Standing stones could serve pagan as well as God-honoring purposes.

State Agora
Large meeting place for meetings of the state.

Stele
Upright stone with writing or decoration. Our practice of placing tombstones over the graves of loved ones probably derives from this special standing stone.

Stoa
Porch not attached to a larger building.

Synagogue
A Greek word meaning "to gather." The Jews would gather at buildings called synagogues to worship God and to study the Scriptures. Each Jewish community also used the synagogue to teach young people.

Syncretism
Combining different forms of belief or practice. The Israelites practiced syncretism when they tried to worship both God and Baal.

Syria
Nation or area north and east of Israel. Old Testament: a bitter enemy of Israel. New Testament: large province (including Israel) under Roman control. At the time of Jesus, a large Jewish community lived in its capital, Damascus.