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from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Judaism The platform from which services are conducted in a synagogue. Also called almemar.
  • n. Eastern Orthodox Church The area of a church in which the altar is located; the sanctuary.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A platform from which speakers addressed an assembly.
  • n. Raised area of worship in a synagogue upon which rests the Holy Ark containing Scrolls of Torah.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A platform from which speakers addressed an assembly.
  • n.
  • n. That part of an early Christian church which was reserved for the higher clergy; the inner or eastern part of the chancel.
  • n. Erroneously: A pulpit.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In Greek antiquity, a stage or kind of pulpit on which speakers stood when addressing an assembly.
  • n. In the Gr. Church, the sanctuary or chancel; the inclosed space surrounding the altar.
  • n. An architectural screen (iconostasis) with a curtain (amphithyra) at its doors, or, as was the case especially in early times, a curtain only, separates the bema from the body of the church. On either side of the bema are the para-bemata, called respectively the prothesis and the diaconicon. These regularly communicate with the bema, and in poor churches often have little more than an indication of separation from it. Rubrically they are often counted as part of the bema.
  • n. A step; a rough measure of length employed by the Greeks and Macedonians when stadia were paced off, and not merely estimated by shouting.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. area around the altar of a church for the clergy and choir; often enclosed by a lattice or railing


Ultimately from Greek bēma, step, platform; see gwā- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek βῆμα (bema, "a step") (Wiktionary)


  • The word altar (sometimes spelled oltar) is used in the Old Slavonic and Russian languages to denote the entire space surrounding what we know as the altar, which is included behind the iconostasis, and is the equivalent of the Greek word bema.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 1: Aachen-Assize

  • Microphones now dangle discretely over the pews, so the congregation can hear each other sing; the bema , or stage, has been lowered and the front rows made movable, so that the clergy can feel closer to the congregation.

    After Fire, Temple Rises

  • Bouyer drew attention to early Syrian church architecture, where the "Liturgy of the Word" was conducted on the bema, a raised platform in the centre of the nave.

    "Benedict XVI on Church Art and Architecture": Summary of the Papers Delivered

  • Chaim in fact suggested some changes in the design to make the area around the pulpit (bema) less austere, and Kahn agreed to a few.

    Lea Lane: A Tony Winner Sets Off a Chain of Memories

  • “Salam Alaikum bema sebastem,” answered the Fakir;

    The Surgeon's Daughter

  • Julia got to participate in the ceremony by opening the ark, and it was fun to see her on the bema with me.

    Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

  • I wanted my parents to stand on the bema in front of everyone and give a speech about how proud of me they were for having accomplished all the work that went into a Bat Mitzvah.

    Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

  • And I guess if it ` s going to be cool for this couple, then Michelle bema is half of that equation.

    CNN Transcript Dec 8, 2008

  • His friends and relatives tried in vain to stop him making himself ridiculous and being dragged down from the bema. 309 Socrates, who took a kindly interest in the youth for the sake of


  • And suppose that when you are ascending the bema, I pull you by the sleeve and say, Alcibiades, you are getting up to advise the Athenians — do you know the matter about which they are going to deliberate, better than they? —

    The First Alcibiades


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