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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Bowl

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The word is used in the Revised Version instead of ‘vial’ to translate φιάλη, which occurs 12 times in Revelation. The change was desirable, as the former word, a modification of ‘phial,’ has come to mean a small glass vessel or bottle, as in Milton’s ‘precious vial led liquors.’ φιάλη meant in classical Greek (after Homer, to whom it was a cinerary urn) a broad shallow bowl used in drinking or in offering libations. Its saucer shape allowed its contents to be poured out at once or suddenly. It was often of finely-wrought gold or silver (Herod. ii. 151; Pind. Nem. ix. 122), and it is a familiar object in classical article In the Septuagint φιάλη denotes a bronze bowl or basin (מִזְרָק) used in the sacrificial ritual of Tabernacle or Temple (Exodus 27:3)-the vessel in which the priest caught the warm blood of the victim, to dash it upon the altar. These uses of the word, with striking modifications, are reflected in Revelation. (1) In a single passage (Exodus 27:8) it is employed with its classical connotation, except that the offering which the vessel holds is not the pagan libation of wine, but the Levitical gift of incense. ‘The ζῶα and the πρεσβύτεροι [representing perhaps all Nature and all saints] fell down before the Lamb, having … golden bowls [φιάλας χρυσᾶς] full of incense,’ The Vulgate has ‘phialas aureas,’ but the proper Lat. equivalent of φιάλη was ‘patera,’ as in Virg. Geor. ii. 192, ‘pateris libamus et auro.’ The subjoined interpretation of the bowls and their contents as ‘the prayers of the saints’ is probably an editorial gloss suggested by Revelation 8:4 (see Incense). (2) In every other passage where the word occurs the φιάλη does not exhale a cloud of fragrant incense, sent up with the adoration of saints, but is filled with the hot, bitter, poisonous wine of the wrath of God, which earth is made to drink-a figure resembling the prophetic ‘cup of reeling’ (Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:22), but even more appalling. The seven angels who have the seven bowls are ‘laden with the seven last plagues’ (Revelation 21:9). Every emptied φιάλη means an added judgment falling on land or sea or air (Revelation 16:1 f.). Hence in common speech the words ‘vials’ and ‘wrath’ have become almost inseparably linked together.

James Strahan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Bowl'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/b/bowl.html. 1906-1918.

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