International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
1. Bible References:
This word is found only in Matthew 23:5 in our Lord's denunciation of the Pharisees, who, in order that their works might "be seen of men," and in their zeal for the forms of religion, "make broad their phylacteries and enlarge the borders of their garments." The corresponding word in the Old Testament, טוטפת ,
The phylactery was a leather box, cube-shaped, closed with an attached flap and bound to the person by a leather band. There were two kinds: (1) one to be bound to the inner side of the left arm, and near the elbow, so that with the bending of the arm it would rest over the heart, the knot fastening it to the arm being in the form of the Hebrew letter
3. Interpretation of Old Testament Passages:
The passages on which the wearing of the phylacteries is based are as follows: "It (i.e. the feast of unleavened bread) shall be for a sign unto thee upon thy hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the law of Yahweh may be in thy mouth" (Exodus 13:9 ); "And it (i.e. sacrifice of the firstborn) shall be for a sign upon thy hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes" (Exodus 13:16 ); "thou shalt bind them (i.e. the words of Yahweh) for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes" (Deuteronomy 6:8 ); "therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul; and ye shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes" (Deuteronomy 11:18 ). It is evident that the words in Exodus are beyond all question used figuratively; a careful reading of the verses in Deuteronomy in close relation to their contexts, in which are other figures of speech not to be taken literally, is sufficient proof of their purely figurative intention also. Only the formalism of later ages could distort these figures into the gross and materialistic practice of the phylactery. Just when this practice began cannot accurately be determined. While the Talmud attempts to trace it back to the primitive, even Mosaic, times, it probably did not long antedate the birth of Christ. In conservative Jewish circles it has been maintained through the centuries, and at present is faithfully followed by orthodox Judaism. Every male, who at the age of 13 becomes a "son of the Law" (
In the New Testament passage (Matthew 23:5 ) our Lord rebukes the Pharisees, who make more pronounced the un-Scriptural formalism and the crude literalism of the phylacteries by making them obtrusively large, as they also seek notoriety for their religiosity by the enlarged fringes, or "borders." See FRINGES; FRONTLETS; PHARISEES .
The various commentaries. on Ex and Dt: tractate
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Phylactery'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/p/phylactery.html. 1915.