Definition of bema in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈbēmə/

noun (plural bemas or bemata /-mətə/)

1The altar part or sanctuary in ancient and Orthodox churches.
Example sentences
  • At the far end of every ancient pagan basilica there was an elevated area called the bema.
  • Nothing to date has been found in them to indicate ritual space, such as the bema of the Byzantine-period synagogues.
  • Further, Loosley has initiated discussion on an even bigger problem: much more work needs to be done on all of the churches of northern Syria, not just those containing bemata.
1.1 (bima, bimah) Judaism The podium or platform in a synagogue from which the Torah and Prophets are read.
Example sentences
  • Just prior to Ne'ilah (the concluding service of Yom Kippur), one of the Chassidic masters ascended the bimah and said tearfully, ‘My dear brothers and sisters!’
  • When Ellen read it from the bimah on Shabbat, I was deeply moved.
  • The interior remains faithful to the traditional Sephardic liturgy, with the congregation seated face to face and the Rabbi standing on the bimah opposite the Ark.
1.2 historical The platform from which orators spoke in ancient Athens.
Example sentences
  • The crowd laughed at any speaker's awkwardness or mispronunciations; it hated hearing any speaker going off the topic; it whistled and clapped loudly to force the speaker from the bema.
  • This is the "Bema," the orator's stand, whence speak the "demagogues," the molders of Athenian public opinion.
  • His first attempt to speak in public proved a failure, and he retired from the bema amidst the hootings and laughter of the citizens.


Late 17th century: from Greek bēma 'step, raised place'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: be·ma

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