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(Greek: step) Raised stone platform originally used in Athens as a tribunal where orators addressed the citizens and courts of law. In modern times it is usually a rectangular wooden platform. The bema became a standard fixture in Eastern Orthodox churches, functioning as a stage for the altar and clergy. In synagogues, the bema (or bimah) is a raised platform with a reading desk from which the Torah and passages from the Prophets are read.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on bema, visit Britannica.com.