:"For the Christian eschatological concept, see Bema Seat; for other uses see Bema (disambiguation)"

The Bema (from the Greek: "bema", “step”) means a raised platform. In antiquity it was probably made of stone, but in modern times it is usually a rectangular wooden platform approached by steps.

The original use of the bema in Athens was as a tribunal from which orators addressed the citizens as well as the courts of law (see Pnyx). 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 judgement, that is the raised seat of the judge, as described in the New Testament, in , and of God, in , when speaking in judgment.

The bema became a standard fixture in Jewish synagogues (see bemah) from which a selection ("parsha") from the Torah and the Haftarah are read. In Orthodox Judaism, the bema is located in the center of the synagogue, separate from the Ark. In other branches of Judaism, the bema and the Ark are joined together.

The ceremonial use of a bema carried over from Judaism into early Christian church architecture. It was originally a raised platform with a lectern and seats for the clergy, from which lessons from the Scriptures were read and the sermon was delivered. In Western Christianity the bema developed over time into the chancel (or presbytery) and the pulpit.

In Eastern Christianity "bema" remains the name of the platform which composes the sanctuary; it consists of both the area behind the iconostasion and the platform in front of it from which the deacon leads the ektenias (litanies) together with the the ambo from which the priest delivers the sermon and distributes Holy Communion. It may be approached by one or several steps. The bema is composed of the "altar" (the area behind the iconostasion), the "soleas" (the pathway in front of the iconostasion), and the "ambo" (the area in front of the Holy Doors which projects westward into the nave). Orthodox laity do not normally step up onto the bema except to receive Holy Communion.

ee also

*Ambo (liturgy)
*Tribune (architecture)

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