Bema

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The bema is the raised floor or platform in the eastern end of Orthodox churches upon which the altar, with the altar table, is located. The word bema comes from the Greek, meaning a platform, step, tribunal, or judgment seat.

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The bema had its origin in antiquity as raised platforms used by Greeks and Romans for speakers addressing assemblies. In Greek law courts the two parties to a dispute presented their arguments each from separate bemas. Bema was also used as the name for a place of judgment, that is the raised seat of the judge, as described in the New Testament, in Matthew 27:19 and John 19:13, and further, as the seat of the Roman emperor, in Acts 25:10, and of God, in Romans 14:10, when speaking in judgment.

Bema, or Binah, was also used in reference to the raised platform in the synagogues of the Jews, upon which the Ark rests containing the Scrolls of the Torah, thus being a prototype for Christian churches where the platform supports the altar table upon which rests the Holy Gospel.

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