Phylactery

Phylactery

(φυλακτήριον, a receptacle for safekeeping), a small square box, made either of parchment or black calf-skin, in which are enclosed slips of parchment or vellum with Ex 13:2-20,11-17; De 6:4-9,13-22, written on them, and which are worn on the head and left arm by every strict Jew on week-day mornings during the time of prayer.

1. Name and its Signification. — The Greek term (φυλακτήριον =phylactery, is a later expression used in the N.T. for the O.T. word טוֹטֶפֶת, plur. טוֹטָפֹת, "frontlets," which is rendered תּפַילַּין., prayer- fillets, by the Chaldee paraphrases of Onkelos and Jonathan b.-Uzziel, as well as by the unanimous voice of Jewish tradition. It is now generally agreed by lexicographers that, according to the analogy of בָּבֶל, which stands for בִּלבֵּל, and כּוֹכָב: which stands for כָּבכָּב, and which are formed by the reduplication of the chief two radical letters, טוֹטֶפֶת stands for טָפטֶפֶת, from טוŠ, to bind round (Ewald, Lehrbuch der Iebarischen Sprache, § 158, c), ant that it denotes a tie, a band, a frontlet. The Sept. in all the three instances in which עני ִלטוטפת בין occurs (Ex 13:16; De 6:8; De 11:18), renders it by ἀσάλευτον πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν σου, a fixture before thine eyes. with which Symmachus and Theodotion agree. The rendering of Aquila, εἰς ἀτίνακτα, obr ain inwmovable (comp. Montfaucon, Hexapla, nota ad vers.), is to the same effect. Philo (2:358), however, translates it σειόμενα πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν, and afterwards adds that it is to be a constant- pendulum (σάλον ἐχέτω ταῦτα κινούμενον) to summon the sight by its motion to a very clear inspection. Herzfeld (Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 2:224) infers from this that Philo must either have read σάλευτον in the Sept., or taken the a before it as intensitive, and assigns to טוŠ the sense of to move backwards and forwards, vindicating for טוטפות the meaning of pendulum, pendent ornament. Herzfeld, moreover, maintains that this rendering is more in harmony with the little houses, or square boxes, constituting the phylacteries, and that it escapes the following objections to the current rendering of it by binding round: (1) In the phylacteries the box in the front is the principal part, and not the strap round the head which holds it; and (2) the טוטפת is to be "between the eyes," which does not tally with forehead tie (Stirnbinde). The name תפילין, prayer-fillets, by:which the Chaldee paraphrases and the Syriac version render טוטפות, and which is the common appellation for the phylacteries among the Jews to the present day, owes its origin to the fact that the phylacteries are worn during prayertime. Hence the plural תפילין has the masculine termination to distinguish it from the feminine תפילות, which denotes prayers, just as the plural masculine תהלים denotes psalms, in contradistinction to the fem inine plural תהלות, praise.

Bible concordance for PHYLACTERY.

2. The Manner in which the Phylacteries are Made and Used. — As the Mosaic law (Ex 13:16; De 6:8; De 11:18) gives no specific directions how the phylacteries are to be made, but simply says that they are to be of a double nature, viz. for the hand and between the eyes, the Jewish canons have enacted minute regulations about the arrangement and use of them. A piece of leather is soaked, stretched on a square block cut for the purpose. sewed together with gut-strings while wet, and left on the block till it is dried and stiffened, so that when it is taken off it forms a (בית) square leather box (Jerusalem Megilla, 4:9). As the Mosaic code enjoins one for the hand and another for the head, two such boxes (בתים) are requisite for making the phylacteries. The box of which the phylactery for the hand (תפלה של יד) is made has no inscription outside, and only one cell inside, wherein is deposited a parchment strip with the four following sections written thereon in four columns, each column having seven lines. On column "is written" Ex 13:1-10, treating on the sanctification of the first-born, and containing the injunction about the phylacteries; on Col 2; Ex 13:11-16, which also treats on the sanctification of the first-born, and repeats the injunction about the phylacteries; on Col 3; De 6:4-9, enjoining that the law and the command about the phylacteries should be inculcated into the minds of the rising generation; and on col. 4 is written De 11:13-21, describing the blessing attached to the keeping of the law, and to the observance of the command about the phylacteries. The order, therefore, of the passages of Scripture is as follows:

De 11:13-21; De 6:4-9; Ex 13:11-16,1-10

Definition of phylactery

The slip is rolled up, put inside, tied with white and well-washed hairs of a calf or cow, generally obtained from the tail, and put into the box; a flap connected with the brim is then drawn over the open part and sewed firmly down to the thick leather brim, in such a manner as to form a loop on one side, through which passes a very long leather strap (רצועה), wherewith the phylactery is fastened to the arm. The box of which the phylactery for the head (תפלה של ראש) is made has on the outside to the right the regular three-pronged letter Shin, being an abbreviation for שדי, wthe Almighty, and on the-left side a four-pronged letter Shin (Sabbath, 28 b). In the inside are four cells, in which are deposited four slips of parchment, whereon are written the same four passages of Scripture as on the one slip in the phylactery for the hand. The box is closed in the same manner,:and a thong passes through the loop with which it is fastened to the head.

The phylacteries, like the Mezuzah, i.e., the scrolls on the door-posts, must be written in Hebrew characters, while the law may be written in Greek (Mishna, Megilla, 1:8). Every Jew, from the time that he is thirteen years of age, when he is considered a member of the congregation (בר מצוה), is obliged to wear the phylacteries during the time of morning prayer, every day except on Sabbath and festivals. Before commencing his devotions he first puts on one on the left arm through the sling formed by the long strap.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

Having fastened it just above the elbow, on the inner part of the naked arm, in such a manner that when the arm is bent the phylactery may touch the flesh and be near the heart, to fulfil the precept, "Ye shall lay up these words in your heart," he first twists the long strap three times close to the phylactery, forming a Shin, which stands for שדי, the A lmighty, pronouncing the following benediction: " Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast sanctified us with thy commandments and enjoined us to put on the phylacteries." He then twists the long leather strap seven times around the arm (in the form of two Shins, one with three prongs and the other with four), and puts on the phylactery on the head, placing it exactly in the centre between the eyes, so as to touch the spot where the hair begins to grow, and before he secures it pronounces the following benediction: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast sanctified. us with thy commandments, and enjoined upon us the command about the phylacteries;" and immediately after adjusting it says, "Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom forever and ever" (Maimonides, Iad Ha-Chezaka, Hilchoth Tephillin, 4:5). He then winds the end of the long leather strap three times around his middle finger, and the remainder around the hand, saying, " I will betroth thee unto me forever, yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercy, and thou shalt know the Lord" (Ho 2:19).

There is no special canon about the size of the boxes (בתים) which contain the slips, and thus constitute the phylacteries. They are generally made an inch and a half square, and are worn during morning prayer, except on Sabbath and festivals, because these days being themselves a sign (אות) require no other sign or pledge (Maimonides, ibid. 4:10). The pious Jews who are engaged in the study of the law, and in meditations also wear them during these hallowed engagements; they make the phylacteries a little larger than the ordinary ones to give more space, and hence more distinctness to every letter and word composing the writing inside, and walk with the phylacteries on from one place to another. The hypocrites among the Pharisees imitated this, and made their phylacteries more than ordinarily large, so as to make them conspicuous and visible to any one at a distance, thereby to indicate that they were praying or in holy meditation, which our Saviour rebuked (Mt 23:5). If the phylacteries are written by an infidel they must be burned; and if written by a Samaritan, an informer, a slave, a woman, or a minor, they are unlawful and must be shut up (Maimonides, ibid. 1:13). The Sadducees wore the phylacteries on the forehead or brow, and on the palm of the hand (Maimonides, ibid. 4:3).

3. Origin and Design of the Phylacteries. — It is the unanimous voice of Jewish tradition that the phylacteries are enjoined in Ex 13:9,16; De 6:8; De 11:18. It is true that Rashbam and Aben-Ezra (on Ex 13:9), who are followed by De Lyra, Calvin, bishop Patrick, H. Michaelis, Keil, etc., take the passages in question in a figurative sense. But against this the advocates of the usage urge that —

(1.) It is inconceivable that the same declaration should be used four times figuratively, there being no parallel for such a usage throughout the whole Pentateuch.

(2.) In two cases out of the four (De 6:9; De 11:20), the injunction is: immediately followed by the command about the Mezuzah, which is generally admitted to be literal, SEE MEZUZAH, and it is against all sound rules of exegesis to take one command in a figurative and the other in a literal sense.

(3.) In every one of the four instances wherein the injunction is given, the expression אות is used, which in all other passages of Scripture invariably denotes a visible sign, given either to attest an event or doctrine stated in the foregoing passage, or to serve as a remembrance. Now, on the supposition that the whole commandment is to be taken figuratively, it would be no sign whatever, and the term לזכרון could not have been substituted for the technfcal expression לטוטפת, as it is in Ex 13:9.

(4.) The end of the external action enjoined in the first clause of Ex 13:9 is immediately introduced in the second clause by למען, "that the law of the Lord may be in thy mouth;" whereas, as Philippsohn rightly remarks, the simple conjunction ו would be required if the preceding words had the same internal figurative meaning.

(5.) It was a commonl custom in ancient days for those who engaged in military service, or devoted themselves to the worship of a special deity, to be marked either on the forehead or on the hand, or on both (Veget. de Milit. 2:5; Herod. 2:113; Lucian, De Syr. Dea, 59; Asiat. Res. 7:281 sq.). Thus the high-priest, as being especially consecrated to the service of Jehovah, had inscribed in the plate on the front of his head "Holiness to the Lord" (Ex 28:36), the ordinary servants of Jehovah were commanded to have a mark (Eze 9:4,6); and at the ingathering of Israel we are told that even the horses shall have written upon their bells "Holiness to the Lord" (Zecheriah 14:20); while the worshippers of the beast are represented as bearing his inscription on their foreheads and arms (Re 7:3; Re 13:16-18; Re 14:9-11; Re 16:2; Re 19:20; Re 20:4). The Moslems, Nusairieh and Bedawin Arabs, to the present day, either tie, or have tattooed, on their hands and foreheads select passages of the Koran. It was therefore natural that the Mosaic law, which forbids tattooing (Le 19:28), should appropriate, for the service of the Most High, the innocent and generally prevailing, custom, which the lawgiver could not eradicate, of wearing ornaments and tokens, with inscriptions declaring that they belonged to Jehovah, and that the Lord is their Redeemer. This universal custom would of itself be sufficient argument for taking the injunction in its literal sense, even if we had not the support of the ancient versions and the undeviating practice of the synagogue; and be it remembered that even the Sadducees, who rejected tradition and adhered to the simple meaning of the law, also wore phylacteries. As to the phrase ִכתבם על לוח לב (Pr 3:3, etc.), which is frequently quoted in support of the spiritual meaning, it must be observed that it too is to be taken literally, inasmuch as לוח does not denote the external front of the breast, but the tablet which the ancients wore on their hearts. It is the same as פנקס, which so frequently occurs in the Mishna (comp. Kelin, 24:7), and which the Greeks called Πίναξ, and the Romans Pugillares. This tablet, when made of wood, was called לוח (Isa 30:8; Hab 2:2); when of metal, it was termed גליון (Isa 8:1), and when it was of stone it was denominated אבנים. The argument of Spencer, that because the Sept. renders טוטפות by ἀσάλευτα, and not φυλακτήρια, therefore this version did not understand it literally, "inter eos (qui legem illam sensu tantum metaphorico exponendam censuerunt) LXX cum primis notandi veniunt, qui quod in Moisi est טוטפות ipsi non φιλακτήρια sed ἀσάλευτα transtulerunt" (De Leg. Hebraeor. ritual. lib. 4, c. 2), ignores the fact that φυλακτήρια is a term which obtained at a much later period as an equivalent for תפלין. Josephus, too, who like all the ancient and modern Jews takes the injunction literally, does not render טוטפות by φυλακτήρια (Ant. 4:8, 13). The fact is, that in very early days there was no fixed and technical term for those frontlets. Hence Herzfeld (Gesch. des Volkes Israel, 2:223) has pointed out that the phylacteries are meant in 2Ki 11:12, where the high-priest is said to have put upon Joash "the crown and the עדות; and Duschak (Josephus und die Tradition, page 85) supposes that the Tephillin are meant by צור תעודה (Isa 8:16). The injunction about the phvlacteries was so generally observed among the Jews after the Babylonian captivity, that the Writers of them found it a most lucrative business. Ience we are told that "twenty-four fast days were ordained by the Great Synagogue, in order that the writers of the scrolls of the law, the phylacteries, and the mezuzahs, might not grow rich, inasmuch as they were not allowed to write them on these days" (Pesachinm, 50 b). In harmony with the design of the phylacteries, Maimonides propounds their utility, when he remarks: "The sacred influence of the phylacteries is very great; for as long as one wears them on his head and arm he is obliged to be meek, Godfearing, must not suffer himself to be carried away by laughter or idle talk, nor indulge in evil thoughts; but must turn his attention to the words of truth and uprightness" (Kitto). Nevertheless, the fact that these appendages, being regarded more or'less in the light of amulets, engender superstition, has led interpreters generally to view the sacre-d injunction as a spiritual or figurative precept. This is the opinion of the Karaites, Grotius, Schottgen (Her. Heb. 1:194), Rosenmuller, Hengstenberg (Pent. 1:458 sq.), and most others. In Mt 23:5 only they are called φυλακτήρια, either because they tended to promote observance of the law (ἀεὶ μνημὴν ἔχειν τοῦ θεοῦ, Just. Mart. Dial. c. Tryph. page 205, for which reason Luther happily renders the word by Denkzettel), or from the use of them as amulets (Lat. praebia, Gr. περιαπτά, Grotius ad Mt 23:5). Φυλακτήριον is the ordinary Greek word for an amn ulet (Plutarch, 2:378, B, where φυλ. = the Roman bulla), and is used apparently with this meaning by a Greek translator (Eze 13:18) for כֵּסָתוֹת, cushions (Rosenmiller, Schol. ad loc. 1; Schleusner, Lex. in N.T.). Jerome (on Mt 23:5) says they were thus used in his day by the Babylonians, Persians, and Indians, and condemns certain Christian " mulierculae" for similarly using the Gospels ("parvula evangelia," βίβλια μικρά, Chrys.) as περιάμματα, especially the Prooem. to St. John (comp. Chrysost. Horn. in Matt. 73). The Koran and other sacred books are applied to the same purpose to this day (Hottinger, Hist. Orient. 1:8, page 301; De numinis Orient. 17. sq.; "The most esteemed of all Chegabs is a Milshaf, or copy of the Koran," Lane, Mod. Egypt. 1:338). Scaliger even supposes that phylacteries were designed to supersede those amulets, the use of which had been already learned by the Israelites in Egypt. SEE AMULET. There was a spurious book called Phylact. Angelorum, where pope Gelasius evidently understood the word to mean "amulets," for he remarks that Phylacteria ought rather to be ascribed to devils. In this sense they were expressly forbildden by pope Gregory ("Si quis '. . . phylacteriis usus fuerit,' anathema sit," Sixt. Senensis, Bibl. Sanct. page 92; comp. Can. 36, Concil. Laod.).

The expression "they make broad their phylacteries" (παλτύνουσι τὰ φυλ. αὐτῶν, Mt 23:5) refers not so much to the phylactery itself, which seems to have been of a prescribed breadth, as to the case (קציצה) in which the parchment was kept, which the Pharisees (among their other pretentious customs, Mr 7:3-4; Lu 5:33, etc.) made as conspicuous as they could (Reland, Ant. 2:9, 15). Misled probably by the term πλατύνουσι, and by the mention of the צַיצַת, or fringe (Nu 15:38, Sept. κλῶσμα ὑακίνθινον ἐπὶ τὰ κράσπεδα τῶν πτερυγίων) in connection with them, Epiphanius says that they were πλάτεα σήματα πορφύρας, like the Roman laticlave, or the stripes on a Dalmatic cloak (πὰ δὲ σήματα τῆς πορφύρας φυλακτήρια εἰώθασιν οἱ ἠκριβωμένοι μετονομάζειν, c. Haer. 1:33; Sixt. Sen. l.c.). He says that these purple stripes were worn by the Pharisees with fringes, and four pomegranates, that no one might touch them, and hence he derives their name (Reland, Antiq. 2:9, 15). But that this is an error is clearly shown by Scaliger (Elench. Trihaer. 8:66 sq.). It is said that the Pharisees wore them always, whereas the common people only used them at prayers, because they were considered to be even holier than the ציוֹ, or golden plate, on the priest's tiara (Ex 28:36), since that had the sacred name once engraved, but in each' of the Tephillin the tetragrammaton recurred twenty- three times (Carpzov, App. Critic. 196). Again the Pharisees wore the tephillah above the elbow, but the Sadducees on the palm of the hand (Goodwyn, l.c.). The modern Jews only wear them at morning prayers, and sometimes at noon (Leo of Modena, l.c.). In our Lord's time they were worn by all Jews, except the Karaites; women, and slaves. Boys, when (at the age of thirteen years and a day) they become, בני מצות (sons of the commandments), were bound to wear them (Baba Berac. fol. 22, 1, in Glossa), and therefore they may have been used even by our Lord, as he merely discountenanced their abuse. The suggestion was made by Scaliger (l.c.), and led to a somewhat idle controversy. Lightfoot (Hor. Hebr. ad Matthew 24:5) and Otho (Lex. Rab. page 656) agree with Scaliger, but Carpzov (l.c.) and others strongly deny it, from a belief that the entire use of phylacteries arose from an error.

The rabbins even declared that God wore them, arguing from Isa 62:8; De 33:2; Isa 49:16. Perhaps this was a pious fraud to inculcate their use; or it may have had some mystic meaning (Zohar, part 2, fol. 2; Carpzov, l.c.), but the rabbins disapproved the application of them to charm wounds or to lull children to sleep (Id. Leg. 253; Maimonides. De Idol. 2). He who wore them was supposed to prolong his days (Isaiah 38:f6), but he who did not was doomed to perdition, since he thereby broke eight affirmative precepts (Maimonides, Tephil. 4:26). We have a specimen of this style of interpretation in the curious literalism of Kimchi's' comment on Ps 1:2. Starting the objection that it is impossible to meditate in God's law day and night, because of sleep, domestic cares, etc., he answers that for the fulfilment of the text it is sufficient to wear tephillin! In spite of these considerations, Justin (Dial. c. Tryph. l.c.), Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact, and many moderns (Baumgarten, Comm. 1:479; Winer, s.v. Phylact.), prefer the literal meaning. It rests, therefore, with them to account for the entire absence of all allusion to phylacteries in the O.T. The passages in Proverbs (ut sup.) contain no such reference, and in Eze 24:17, פּאֵר means not a phylactery (as Jarchi says), but a turban (Gesen. Thesaur. page 1089).

4. Literature. — Besides the authors already quoted (Sixt. Senensis, Reland, Lightfoot, Schottgen, Carpzov, Hottinger, Goodwyn, Rosenmuller, etc.), see the following, to whom they refer: Surenhusius, Mishna ad Tract. Berachoth, pages 8, 9; Beck, De Judaeorum ligamentis precativis, and De usu Phylact. (1679); Basnage, Hist. des Juifs, V, 12:12. sq.; Braunius, De Vest. Sacerd. page 7 sq.; Buxtorf, Synag. Jud. page 170 sq.; Maimonides, Yad Hacash. pages 2, 3; Ugolino, De Phylacter. Hebraeor. in Thesaur. tom. 21; Townley, Reasons for the Laws of Moses, page 350; Bodenschatz, Gottesdienstl. Verfassung d. Juden, 4:15 sq.;

Gropp, De Phylact. (Leips. 1708); Otho, Lex. Rabbin. page 756; Wagenseil, Sota. c. 2, page 397 sq.; Spencer, De Leg. Hebr. IV, 1-7; Herzfeld, Gesch. d. Jul. 2:223 sq.; the Dermech ha-Chayimn (Vienna, 1859), page 24 sq.; Hochmuth, in Ben Chananya, page 215; and the nionographs cited by Volbeding, Index Programmatum, page 130. SEE FRONTLET.

 
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