1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Shekinah
SHEKINAH, a Hebrew word meaning “that which dwells” or “the dwelling.” It is one of the expressions used in the Targums in place of “ God.”
In the Targums.—The word “Shekinah” is of constant occurrence in the Targums or Aramaic paraphrases of the Biblical lections that were read in the synagogue-service to the people. Great care was taken by the scribes in these renderings to mitigate the anthropomorphic expressions applied to God in the Scriptures, and by paraphrase, the use of abstract terms and indirect phraseology, to prevent such expressions from giving rise to erroneous views as to God's personal manifestation in the popular mind. Whenever, e.g. any indication of local limitation or action was implied or expressed, in the Hebrew text, of God the Targumists were careful to substitute some expression involving the use of “ Shekinah.” In these connexions “ Shekinah ” thus becomes the equivalent of “ God ” or its synonyms. One or two examples will make the Targum-usage clear. Thus Ex. xxix. 45 (“ and I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God ”) is rendered in the Targum (Onkelos): “ And I will cause my Shekinah to dwell in the midst of the children of Israel, and I will be their God.” All expressions implying God's local presence are similarly rendered: thus e.g. Habak. ii. 20 (“Jehovah is in His holy temple”) is rendered “Jehovah was pleased to cause His Shekinah to dwell,” &c. “To see” God is similarly paraphrased. Thus Is. xxxiii. 17 (“thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty”) is rendered (Targum of Jonathan): “ Thine eyes shall see the Shekinah of the king of the worlds in His beauty.” So too “hiding the face” when used of God is regularly paraphrased “ remove His Shekinah ” (Is. lvii. 17, viii. 17, lix. 2; Jer. xxxiii. 5; cf. Is. i. 15, &c.).
Closely connected with the idea of the Shekinah, but distinct from it, is that of “the glory of the Lord.” “Glory,” indeed, in this connexion was conceived of as a property of the Shekinah (as, in fact, it is of God for whom “ Shekinah ” is the equivalent). For the divine “ glory ” as a property of the ~Sheki nah, cf. e.g. Is. vi. 5 (“mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord .of hosts ”), which is rendered in the Targum: “mine eyes have seen the glory of the Shekinah of the King of the worlds the Lord of hosts.”
In the New Testament.—In the New Testament both the term and the idea are referred to in various ways. The close association of the divine “glory” with the visible Shekinah has already been referred to. This Shekinah-glory is several times denoted in the New Testament by δόξα. The most notable passage is Rom. ix. 4 where St Paul, enumerating the list of Israel's privileges, says: “ whose is the adoption, and the glory” (i.e. the Shekinah-glory, the visible presence of God among His people), &c. cf. Luke ii. 9. There is also an obvious allusion to the Shekinah in the description of the theophanic cloud of the transfiguration narrative (St. Matt. xvii. 5: “ a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud, saying ” &c.; cf. St Mark ix. 7; St Luke ix. 34), the same verb being used as in the LXX. of Exod. xl. 34, 35, of the cloud which rested on the tabernacle when it was filled with “ the glory of the Lord.” There can be no doubt, too, that the word rendered “ tabernacle” (axm/iy) with the corresponding verb “ to tabernacle " (amy:/oiiv) has been chosen for use in St John i. 14 and Rev. xii. 3, from its likeness both in sound and meaning to the term “ Shekinah.” The passage in Revelation runs: “ Behold the tabernacle (0'K7']1/751) of God is with men, and He will tabernacle (axnvdxret) with them.” In St John i. 14 there is an allusion to the Word (=mernra of the Targums), the Shekinah, and the Shekinah-glory, all of which the writer declares became incarnate in Jesus. Cf. also Heb. i. 3 (“effulgence of the [Shekinah] glory”).
In Talmud and Midrash.—It is remarkable that the memra ( = Logos or “Word”) of the Targums almost entirely disappears in the Midrashic literature and the Talmud, its place being taken by Shekinah. The Rabbis apparently dreaded the possibility of such terms becoming hypostasized into personal entities distinct from God. Against this they emphasized the Shekinah-ideal. It is safe to say that wherever Shekinah is mentioned in Rabbinic literature it is God's direct action or activity that is thought of. Independent personality is never imputed to it. It is probable that the use of the term was often in Rabbinic writings polemical (against Jewish Christians or gnostic sects).
See under “Shekinah” in Hastings' Dict. of the Bible, and Dict. of Christ and the Gospels, and in the Jewish Encyclopedia; also Weber, Jüdische Theologie, 2nd ed., especially pp. 185–190. For the Targums in English, cf. Etheridge, The Targums on the Pentateuch (2 vols., 1862 and 1865); and Pauli, The Chaldee Paraphrase of the Prophet Isaiah (London, 1871). (G. H. Bo.)
- ↑ Maimonides, however, regarded the Shekinah, like the memra and “the glory,” as a distinct entity.