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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Trump Trumpet

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(σάλπιγξ, from σαλπίζειν ‘to sound a trumpet’)

The word appears once in the Gospels, in the eschatological discourse of Jesus (Matthew 24:31), where we learn that the elect are gathered by trumpet-call for the final judgment. There are three references to trumpet in the Pauline Epistles, one in Hebrews, and six in Revelation. σαλπιστής (classical Greek, σαλπιγκτής) appears only in Revelation 18:22.

‘The sound of a trumpet’ (Hebrews 12:19) occurs in the description of the scene at Sinai, and is illustrative of the awe-inspiring character of the Jewish dispensation. The passage from which it is taken (Hebrews 12:18-29) doses the main argument of the Epistle, and ‘offers a striking picture of the characteristics of the two Covenants summed up in the words “terror” and “grace” ’ (cf. B. F. Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews 3, London, 1903, p. 411 f.). In 1 Corinthians 14:8 St. Paul continues his illustration from music to criticize an unedifying speaking with tongues. 1 Corinthians 15:52 develops his eschatological doctrine. The verse is part of the climax of the Pauline argument which bases the future resurrection on the resurrection of Christ. The trumpet blast seemed to his Jewish mind a fitting accompaniment of an unparalleled scene of Christian triumph. The reference in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 is also eschatological. Once again the trumpet betokens majesty and command, and it may be that St. Paul had in his thought the Jewish tradition of archangelic music (cf. Judges 1:9; Judges 1:14; and B. Jowett, Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, Galatians, and Romans , 2 vols., London, 1855, i. 73-75).

The other references to trumpet appear in Revelation. In two of these it is used as a figure of speech to define the voice of the angel (Revelation 1:10), just as ‘the sound of many waters’ describes the speech of ‘one like unto the Son of man’ (Revelation 1:15). In Revelation 8:2; Revelation 8:6; Revelation 8:13; Revelation 9:14 we read of the seven angels who sounded their seven trumpets to the discomfiture of the earth. The imagery of the Apocalypse is in keeping with Jewish tradition, which saw in the trumpet-call the music appropriate to angels. H. B. Swete holds that the picture in Revelation 8 has as its basis the scene of law-giving described in Exodus 19:16 f., and he sees possible allusions to Joshua 6:13 and to Joel 2:1 (cf. The Apocalypse of St. John 2, London, 1907, p. 107).

Thus the trumpet, which was so closely connected with Jewish ceremony in war and religion, acquired definitely Christian associations in the Apostolic Age. In the Authorized Version , ‘trump,’ ‘trumpet,’ and ‘cornet’ (cf. S. R. Driver, Joel and Amos, Cambridge, 1897, p. 144) are the translations of the two Hebrew wind instruments, שׁוֹפָר and חֲצֹצְרָה. In early Hebrew history they were used for secular purposes, such as signalling the approach of an enemy (Hosea 5:8, Amos 3:6), but in later days their use became increasingly religious. This is especially true of the latter. But, however they may have been confused in earlier times (cf. Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iv. 816), they were different instruments in use, shape, and material. The שׁוֹפָר was made of horn, usually that of a ram (Driver, op. cit., p. 144), and was blown at certain Jewish festivals. The הֲצֹצְרָה, unlike the Roman tuba, was recognized as a priestly instrument. We read of it, for example, in Josephus (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) IV. ix. 12). From Numbers 10:1-10 we learn that Moses made two trumpets of silver, which the priests sounded on occasions of assembly, pilgrimage, and festival. The mention of seven trumpets in 1 Chronicles 15:24 and Nehemiah 12:41 is interesting in view of Revelation 8:2. Josephus (Ant. III. xii. 6) gives a description of a trumpet, in which he mentions that it was about one yard long and a little wider than the flute, that at its mouthpiece it was somewhat expanded, and that, like the war-trumpet, its extremity was bell-shaped. This description is borne out by a coin struck in the days of the Emperor Hadrian. On the relief of the Arch of Titus there is a representation of two trumpets which appear similar to those of Egyptian origin, but are longer than those described by Josephus (ib.). For these representations compare J. Wellhausen, ‘Psalms’ in R. Haupt’s PB [Note: B Polychrome Bible.] , p. 220.

Archibald Main.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Trump Trumpet'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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