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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Two terms, πύλη and πυλών, are rendered ‘gate’ in English Version , but in certain cases the latter is differentiated by ‘porch,’ ‘portals’ (Matthew 26:71, Revelation 21, Revised Version margin passim). The distinction between the two seems to turn upon architectural features. Where the entrance alone is contemplated, πύλη is used; but where the whole complex of buildings bound up with the entrance is present to view, πυλών is the term employed. The pylon is associated mainly with Egyptian Temples, and consists of the imposing towers flanking the gate by which access was given to the court. When the space between these towers was filled in above, the entrance became a portal, and in this sense the term is employed for private houses as well. An interesting example falling within this period is Acts 12:13, where mention is made of τὴν θύραν τοῦ πυλῶνος. This shows that the portal or gateway was closed by means of a door placed at the end fronting the street. The passage may have been closed in similar fashion at the other end, which opened on the court (see, further, Door). A similar use with reference to a private house occurs in Acts 10:17. In each case the singular is used. With these we have to contrast Acts 14:13, where the plural is found. Opinion is divided as to whether a private entrance, or the city gate, or the sanctuary precincts should here he understood. The most reasonable interpretation is that the πυλῶνες go together with the Temple buildings outside the city (Lystra), being near the point where sacrifice was wont to be made. Barnabas and Paul ‘sprang forth,’ or ‘rushed out,’ as probably from the city gate as from a private house. The remaining instances may be classed together (Revelation 21:12-13; Revelation 21:15; Revelation 21:21; Revelation 21:25; Revelation 22:14), where the marginal reading ‘portals’ gives the best conception of what is represented.

In cases where the gate of a city is referred to, πύλη is the usual term. It is used thus of Damascus (Acts 9:24) and Philippi (Acts 16:13 -here Authorized Version renders ‘city’-a not unnatural substitution). With these instances may be ranked Hebrews 13:12 -Christ suffering without the gate (of. Jerusalem). We remark the singular form in all but one instance (Acts 9:24, where the plural is warranted). There is one example to be classed alone, which shows how an entrance was filled up. It is found in Acts 12:10, where the epithet ‘iron’ applied to gate is attached to πύλη (it would not suit πυλών). Modern structures lead us to think of iron throughout, but it is more likely the gate was of wood and faced with iron. That the more solid form was not impossible we gather from the Temple doors (Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) vi. v. 3; cf. discoveries at Pompeii, and Vergil, aen. vi. 552-4). If we accept the addition of Cod. Bezae, seven steps led down from this gate to the level of the street.

The Beautiful Gate of the Temple (Acts 3:2; Acts 3:10) has been treated under article Door. Although it is spoken of as a gate (πύλη), we have reason to think this was a portal of ft very elaborate type (Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible , article ‘Temple’).

W. Cruickshank.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Gate'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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