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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Shekinah

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SHEKINAH (Heb. שְׁכִינָה ‘that which dwells’ or ‘resides,’ the ‘dwelling’).—This term, together with ‘the Glory’ (יְקָרָא) and ‘the Word’ or ‘Memra’ (מֵימַר, מֵימְרָא), is used in the Targums as an indirect expression in place of ‘God.’ It denotes God’s visible presence or glorious manifestation which ‘dwells’ among men: the localized presence of the Deity. See art. ‘Shekinah’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible . In the NT the term Shekinah appears in more than one Greek form. The invisible Shekinah is also alluded to, as well as the visible. The visible Shekinah, though distinct from ‘the glory,’ was associated in the closest way with the Divine ‘glory.’ It was conceived of as the centre and source from which the glory radiated. In the NT this ‘Shekinah-glory’ is several times denoted by δόξα. The classical passage is Romans 9:4, where St. Paul, enumerating the list of Israel’s privileges, says: ‘whose is the adoption, and the glory,’ i.e. the Shekinahglory, ‘the visible presence of God among His people’ (cf. also Acts 7:2 where St. Stephen speaks of ‘the God of glory,’ i.e. the God whose visible presence, manifested in the Shekinah, had sanctified Jerusalem and the Temple). In the Gospels this ‘glory’ is referred to in Luke 2:9 ‘the glory of the Lord (δόξα κυρίου) shone round about them.’ There is also an obvious allusion to the Shekinah in the description of the theophanic cloud of the transfiguration-narrative (Matthew 17:5 ‘a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud, saying,’ etc.; cf. Mark 9:7, Luke 9:34 f.). Here the same verb (ἐπισκιάζω) is used as in the LXX Septuagint of Exodus 40:34-35 of the cloud which rested on the Tabernacle when it was filled with the ‘glory of the Lord,’ which in the Targum (pseudo-Jonathan) becomes the ‘glory of the Shekinah of the Lord.’ The ‘voice out of the cloud’ is also, doubtless, the voice of the Shekinah; cf. 2 Peter 1:17 where, in reference to the transfiguration, a ‘voice’ uttered by ‘the excellent glory’ (i.e. the Shekinah-glory) is spoken of.* [Note: Similarly in the Jerus. Targum to Genesis 28:13 the glory of J″ says, ‘I am the God of Abraham’ (Marshall in Hastings’ DB, loc. cit.).] In Hebrews 9:5 ‘the cherubim of glory’ must be explained in the same way, as meaning the cherubim on which the Shekinah was enthroned.

In three NT passages (all having reference to Christ)† [Note: See Marshall, ib.] an allusion to the Shekinah is probable, though disputed, viz. (a) Romans 6:4 ‘Christ was raised from the dead by means of (δοά) the glory of the Father.’ Here ‘glory’ prob. = the Shekinah-glory rather than ‘glorious power’ (cf. the Midrash Rabbe to Genesis 44:8, in which the Shekinah is said to release the bound in Sheol);‡ [Note: A similar idea may be implied in the words ascribed to our Lord in John 11:40, where, with reference to the release of Lazarus from the grave, Jesus says to Martha: ‘Said I not unto thee, that, if thou believedst, thou shouldest see the glory of God?’] (b) 1 Peter 4:14 ‘the (Spirit) of glory and the Spirit of God’ (τὸ τῆς δόξης καὶ τὸ τοῦ θιοῦ πνεῦμα). Here ‘glory’ may = Shekinah, which is identified with Christ. This identification may be seen more clearly, perhaps, in (c) James 2:1 τὴν κίστιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τῆς δόξης, which not improbably = ‘the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Shekinah’ (Mayor). For further doubtful reff. in the NT, see below.

There can be no doubt that the word σκηνή, ‘tabernacle’ (and its verb σκηνοῦν, ‘to tabernacle’), has been chosen for use in John 1:14 and Revelation 21:3 from its likeness both in sound and meaning to the word Shekinah, and conveys a direct allusion to the latter. The Revelation passage runs: ‘Behold the tabernacle (σκηνή) of God is with men, and he will tabernacle (σκηνώσει) with them.’ In John 1:14 ‘The Word (Logos) … tabernacled (ἐσκήνωσεν) among us, and we beheld his glory,’ etc., all the three Hebrew terms, Memra (מֵימְרָא = ὁ λόγος), Shekinah, and Yekara (δόξα = יְק֖רָא) are represented. ‘All the three entities became incarnate in Jesus.’* [Note: Dalman, Words of Jesus, p. 231. To these should be added the great passage in Hebrews 1:3, where the Son is said to be the ‘effulgence of the glory,’ i.e. of the Shekinah-glory as ‘the manifested Deity.’]

The identification of Jesus with the Shekinah has already been referred to above in connexion with 1 Peter 4:14 and James 2:1. Another example where the same idea may be implicit is Matthew 18:20 ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’; compare with this Pirke Aboth iii. 5: ‘Two that sit together and are occupied with words of Torah, have the Shekinah among them.’ Cf. also 2 Corinthians 4:6 ‘God that said, Out of darkness light shall shine, is he who shone in our hearts for the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in face of Jesus Christ.’ The last phrase may = the glory of God made manifest in the presence of Jesus Christ, i.e. Jesus is the Shekinah of God. Shekinah in these connexions is practically = Immanuel (‘God with us’).

Other passages worth examination in this connexion are Ephesians 1:17 (the remarkable phrase ‘the Father of the glory’ [ὁ τατὴρ τῆς δόξης] =? ‘the father of the Shekinah’ (incarnate in Jesus)’), Luke 2:32 (‘the glory of thy people Israel’). Cf. also 1 Corinthians 2:8 (Jesus ‘Lord of glory’). The representation of man as a temple in which God dwells (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16 ‘we are a temple of the living God,’ John 14:23 ‘we will come … and make our abode with him’) was probably suggested by the Shekinah-idea, which may also have influenced the language applied to Christ in Colossians 2:9 (‘for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily’).

In the identification of the Shekinah and cognate conceptions with the incarnate Christ, ‘a use is made of these ideas,’ as Dalman says, ‘which is at variance with their primary application.’ It marks a specifically Christian development, though the way had certainly been prepared by hypostatizing tendencies.

Literature.—Weber, Jüd. Theol.2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] esp. pp. 185–190; Gfrôrer, Das Jahrhundert des Heils, i. esp. p. 301 ff.; Langen, Judenthum zur Zeit Christi, 201 ff.; art. ‘Shekinah’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible and in JE [Note: E Jewish Encyclopedia.] ; the Lexicons, s.v. שכינה (Buxtorf, Levy, Jastrow, Kohut); Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , p. 43; the Comm. on Ep. of St. James by Mayor and Knowling (on James 2:1).

G. H. Box.

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

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