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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Rending of Garments

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RENDING OF GARMENTS.—The practice of signifying grief by tearing the clothes. There were four occasions on which rending of garments was enjoined by the Jewish Law: (1) death; (2) the apostasy of a member of the family; (3) the destruction, during persecution, of a copy of the Law; (4) blasphemy. In the case of a member of the family becoming apostate the clothes were rent as for his death, and the mourners sat for one hour on the ground and ate bread and ashes. The הלכות קדיעה (Laws of Rending) are very minute, and embrace no fewer than thirty-nine rules. For the dead the rending was to be performed just before the body was finally hid from view, and it was to be done standing. Both sexes were ordered to rend the clothes ‘to the heart,’ i.e. to the skin, but in supposed obedience to Joel 2:13 it was to be ‘no farther than the navel.’ For father or mother all the garments were rent till the breast was exposed, but a woman was enjoined to rend her under garment in private, and to wear it reversed. This was for the sake of decorum, and the outer garment was then rent in public without her skin being exposed. For other relations (brothers and sisters) the outer garment only was rent. For father and mother the rent was over the heart, but in the case of others on the right side. The rent garment was worn for thirty days. The rent was ordered to be of the size of a list (טפח). It was not to be repaired in the case of mourning for parents till the time of mourning was past, but for others it might be loosely drawn together, leaving a ragged tear, after seven days, and properly repaired after thirty days. A woman, however, might in all cases repair after seven days. The rending of clothes was not to take place on the Sabbath, but if it were done on that day in excess of grief, it was excusable on account of the piety it betokened. No rending of garments was obligatory unless news of the death were received within thirty days, except in the case of the death of parents.

The action of Caiaphas (Matthew 26:65, Mark 14:63) is an instance of the rending of garments for blasphemy. In this case the high priest was enjoined to rend ‘both his outer and his inner garments with a rent that could never be repaired.’

Literature.—Edersheim, LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Edersheim].] ; Mackie, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands; Thomson, LB [Note: The Land and the Book.] ; art. ‘Mourning’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible .

W. H. Rankine.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Rending of Garments'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/r/rending-of-garments.html. 1906-1918.

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Thursday, January 17th, 2019
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