A Pronunciation Guide for Easter

Be ready for those long names and places in the Gospel text.

(c) Tina Marie Photography / Getty Images

The Easter story is one of the most well-known and beloved narratives in human history. But just because something is familiar doesn't mean it's easy to pronounce. (Just ask George Stephanopoulos.)

The events surrounding Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection from the grave took place almost two thousand years ago. In addition, those events were located exclusively in the Middle East. Therefore, we might benefit more than we realize from a crash course on pronouncing some of the tongue-twisters present in the biblical text.

[Note: click here for a quick overview of the Easter story as told in the Bible.]

Judas Iscariot

Pronounced: Joo-duss Iss-CARE-ee-ott

Judas was a member of Jesus' 12 apostles (often called the 12 disciples). He was not loyal to Jesus, however, and ended up betraying Him to the Pharisees and others who wanted Jesus silenced at any cost. [Learn more about Judas Iscariot here.]


Pronounced: Geth-SEMM-ah-nee

This was a garden located outside of Jerusalem. Jesus went there with His followers to pray after the Last Supper. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot and arrested by guards representing the leaders of the Jewish community (see Matthew 26:36-56).


Pronounced: KAY-ah-fuss

Caiaphas was the name of the Jewish high priest during Jesus' day. He was one of the leaders who wanted to silence Jesus by whatever means necessary (see Matthew 26:1-5).


Pronounced: San-HEAD-rin

The Sanhedrin was a kind of court made of of religious leaders and experts in the Jewish community. This court typically had 70 members and carried the authority to make judgments based on the Jewish Law. Jesus was brought to trial before the Sanhedrin after His arrest (see Matthew 26:57-68).

[Note: click here to learn more about the Sanhedrin.]


Pronounced: GAL-ih-lee

Galilee was a region in the northern part of ancient Israel. It was where Jesus spent a great deal of time during His public ministry, which is why Jesus was often referred to as a Galilean (GAL-ih-lee-an).

Pontius Pilate

Pronounced: PON-chuss PIE-lut

This was the Roman Prefect (or governor) of the province of Judea (Joo-DAY-uh). He was a powerful man in Jerusalem in terms of enforcing the law, which is why the religious leaders had to ask him to crucify Jesus rather than doing so themselves.


Pronounced: HAIR-ud

When Pilate learned that Jesus was a Galilean, he sent Him to be interviewed by Herod, who was governor of that region. (This was not the same Herod who attempted to have Jesus killed as a baby.) Herod questioned Jesus, mocked Him, and then sent Him back to Pilate (see Luke 23:6-12).


Pronounced: Ba-RA-buss

This man, whose full name was Jesus Barabbas, was a Jewish revolutionary and zealot. He had been arrested by the Romans for acts of terrorism. When Jesus was on trial before Pilate, the Roman governor gave the people the option to release either Jesus Christ or Jesus Barabbas. Goaded by the religious leaders, the crowd chose to free Barabbas (see Matthew 27:15-26).


Pronounced: PRAY-tor-ee-um

A kind of barracks or headquarters of the Roman soldiers in Jerusalem. This is where Jesus was flogged and mocked by the soldiers (see Matthew 27:27-31).


Pronounced: SIGH-reen

Simon of Cyrene was the man the Roman soldiers compelled to carry Jesus' cross when He collapsed on the way to His crucifixion (see Matthew 27:32). Cyrene was an ancient Greek and Roman city in modern-day Libya.


Pronounced: GOLL-guh-thuh

Located outside of Jerusalem, this is the place where Jesus was crucified. According to the Scriptures, Golgatha means "the place of the skull" (see Matthew 27:33). Scholars have theorized Golgatha was a hill that looked like a skull (there is such a hill near Jerusalem today), or that it was a common place of execution where many skulls had been buried.

Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?

Pronounced: el-LEE, el-LEE, lah-ma shah-beck-TAHN-ee

Spoken by Jesus near the end of His crucifixion, these words are from the ancient Arabic language. They mean, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (see Matthew 27:46).


Pronounced: AIR-ih-muh-thee-uh

Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man (and a disciple of Jesus) who arranged for Jesus to be buried after the crucifixion (see Matthew 27:57-58). Arimathea was a town in the province of Judea.


Pronounced: MAG-dah-lean

Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus' disciples. (With apologies to Dan Brown, there is no historical evidence that she and Jesus shared a closer relationship.) She is typically referred to in Scripture as "Mary Magdalene" to separate her from Jesus' mother, who was also named Mary.

In the Easter story, both Mary Magdalene and Jesus' mother were witnesses to His crucifixion. And both woman visited the tomb on Sunday morning to anoint His body in the tomb. When the arrived, however, they found the tomb empty. A short time later, they were the first people to speak to Jesus after His resurrection (see Matthew 28:1-10).

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Your Citation
O'Neal, Sam. "A Pronunciation Guide for Easter." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, learnreligions.com/a-pronunciation-guide-for-easter-3946241. O'Neal, Sam. (2023, April 5). A Pronunciation Guide for Easter. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/a-pronunciation-guide-for-easter-3946241 O'Neal, Sam. "A Pronunciation Guide for Easter." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/a-pronunciation-guide-for-easter-3946241 (accessed May 29, 2023).