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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Pinnacle

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In the account of our Lord's temptation (Matthew 4:5), it is stated that the devil took him to Jerusalem, "and set him on a [rather the] pinnacle of the Temple" (ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ ). The part of the Temple denoted by this term has been much questioned by different commentators, and the only certain conclusion seems to be that it cannot be understood in the sense usually attached to the word (i.e. the point of a spiral ornament), as in that case the article would not have been prefixed. Grotius, Hammond, Doddridge, and others take it in the sense of balustrade or pinnated battlement. But it is now more generally supposed to denote what was called the king's portico, which is mentioned by Josephus (A nt. 15:11, 5), and is the same which is called in Scripture "Solomon's porch." Of this opinion are Wetstein, Kuinil, Parkhurst, Rosenmü ller, and others. Krebs, Schleusner, and some others, however, fancy that the word signifies the ridge of the roof of the Temple; and Josephus (Ant. 15:11,:5) is cited in proof of this notion. But we know that iron spikes were fixed all over the roof of the Temple to prevent the holy edifice from being defiled by birds (Joseph. Was, v, 5, 6), and the presence of these spikes creates an objection, although the difficulty is perhaps not insuperable, as we are told that the priests sometimes went to the top of the Temple (Midcoth, ch. 4; T. Bab. tit. Taanith, fol. 29). Dr. Bloomfield asks: "May it not have been a lofty spiral turret, placed somewhere about the center of the building, like the spire in some cathedrals, to the topmost lookout of which the devil might take Jesus ?" (Recens. Synopt. in Matthew 4:5). We answer, no: steeples do not belong to ancient or to Oriental architecture, and it is somewhat hazardous to provide one for the sole purpose of meeting the supposed occasion of this text. Lightfoot, whose opinion on this point is entitled to much respect, declares his inability to judge whether the part denoted should be considered as belonging to the holy fabric itself or to some building within the holy circuit. If the former, he can find no place so fitting as the top of the אולם, or porch of the Temple; but if the latter, the royal porch or gallery (στοὰ βασιλική ) is the part he would prefer. He adds that, above all other parts of the Temple, the porch thereof, and indeed the whole pronaos, might not unfitly be called τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ, the wing (for that is the literal meaning) of the Temple, "because like wings it extended itself in breadth on each side, far beyond the breadth of the Temple." If therefore the devil had placed Christ on the very precipice of this part of the Temple, he may well be said to have placed him "upon the wing of the Temple; both because this part was like a wing to the Temple itself, and because that precipice was the wing of this part" (Hot. Hebr. ad Matthew 4:5). Against this interpretation, however, it stems decisive that Jesus, not being a priest, could not have gained admittance to the Temple proper; unless, indeed, we understand that he was transported thither and back again miraculously. With regard to the other alternative, it is only necessary to cite the description of Josephus to show that the situation was at least not inappropriate to Satan's object: "On the south part (of the court of the Gentiles) was στοὰ βασιλική, the royal gallery,' that may be mentioned among the most magnificent things under the sun; for above the profoundest depth of the valley, Herod constructed a gallery of a vast height, from the top of which, if any one looked down, he would become dizzy, his eyes being unable to reach so vast a depth." The same Greek word is used in the Sept. version to render,

1. כָּבָ, kandah, a wing or border, e.g. of a garment (Numbers 15:38; 1 Samuel 15:27; 1 Samuel 24:4);

2. סְנִפַּיר , senappir, the fin of a fish (Leviticus 11:9. So Arist. Anim. 1, 5, 14);

3. קָצָה , katsdh, an edge; A.V. end (Exodus 28:26). Hesychius explains πτερύγιον as ἀκρωτήριον. Perhaps in any case τὸ πτερύγιον means the battlement ordered by law to be added to every roof. It is in favor of this that the word kandph is used to indicate the top of the Temple (Daniel 9:27; Hammond, Grotius, Calmet, De Wette, Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. ad Matthew 4). Eusebius tells us that it was from "the pinnacle" (τὸ πτερύγιον) that St. James was precipitated, and it is said to have remained until the 4th century (Euseb. Hist. Eccles. 2, 23; Williams, Holy City, 2, 338). (See TEMPLE).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Pinnacle'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/p/pinnacle.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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