With regard to the use of the veil, it is important to observe that it was by no means so general in ancient as in modern times. Much of the scrupulousness in respect of the use of the veil dates from the promulgation of the Koran, which forbade women appearing unveiled except in the presence of their nearest relatives. In ancient times the veil was adopted only in exceptional cases, either as an article of ornamental dress, ( Song of Solomon 4:1 Song of Solomon 4:3 ; 6:7 ) or by betrothed maidens in the presence of their future husbands, especially at the time of the wedding, ( Genesis 24:65 ) or lastly, by women of loose character for purposes of concealment. ( Genesis 38:14 ) Among the Jews of the New Testament age it appears to have been customary for the women to cover their heads (not necessarily their faces) when engaged in public worship.
The following words are so translated in English Versions of the Bible (sometimes the King James Version vail):
(1) miTpachath, Ruth 3:15 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) "mantle." As the material was strong enough to serve as a bag for a large quantity of grain the Revised Version (British and American) is certainly right; compare Isaiah 3:22.
(2) macweh, Exodus 34:33-35. Paul in his quotation of the passage in 2 Corinthians 3:13-16 uses kalumma, following Septuagint. The covering worn by Moses to conceal the miraculous brightness of his face, although, according to Massoretic Text, he seems to have worn it only in private.
(3) macckhah, Isaiah 25:7; in 28:20 translated "covering." The use in 25:7 is figurative and the form of the "veil" a matter of indifference.
(4) tsammah, the Revised Version (British and American) Song of Solomon 4:1,3 (margin "locks" (of hair)); 6:7; Isaiah 47:2, the King James Version "locks." The meaning of the word is uncertain and the King James Version may very well be right. If, however, the Revised Version's translation is correct, a light ornamental veil is meant.
(5) tsa`iph, Genesis 24:65; 38:14,19. A large wrap is meant, which at times was used to cover the face also. In 24:65 Rebekah conformed to the etiquette which required the veiling of brides (see MARRIAGE). In Genesis 38 one motive for Tamar's use of the veil was certainly to avoid recognition, but it seems clear from the passage that veils were used by courtesans. Why is unknown, perhaps partly to conceal their identity, perhaps partly in parody of the marriage custom.
(6) redhidh, Song of Solomon 5:7 (the Revised Version (British and American) "mantle," margin "veil"); Isaiah 3:23. A light mantle is certainly meant. In Song of Solomon 5:7 it is torn from the maiden in the watchmen's endeavor to detain her.
(7) parakalumma, The Wisdom of Solomon 17:3 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) "curtain."
(8) Verb katakalupto, 1 Corinthians 11:6, with akatakalupto, "unveil" in 11:5; the King James Version has "cover" and "uncover"; kalupto, 2 Corinthians 4:3 (twice), anakalupto, 2 Corinthians 3:18; the King James Version "hid" and "open."
It will be seen that there is a certain reference to what in modern times would be termed a "veil" only in (2) above. For a possible additional reference see MUFFLER.
The use of the face veil as a regular article of dress was unknown to the Hebrew women, and if "veil" is to be understood in Song of Solomon 4:1, etc., it was worn as an ornament only. The modern oriental custom of veiling is due to Mohammedan influence and has not been universally adopted by Jewesses in the Orient. In New Testament times, however, among both Greeks and Romans, reputable women wore a veil in public (Plutarch Quaest. Rom. xiv) and to appear without it was an act of bravado (or worse); Tarsus, Paul's home city, was especially noted for strictness in this regard (Dio of Prusa, Tarsica prior, section symbol 48). Hence, Paul's indignant directions in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, which have their basis in the social proprieties of the time. The bearing of these directions, however, on the compulsory use of the hat by modern women in public worship would appear to be very remote.
For the Veil of the Tabernacle and the Temple see next article.
Burton Scott Easton
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(1) (parokheth; katapetasma; the King James Version vail):
In Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, the veil that hung between the two holy chambers of the tabernacle is mentioned 23 times (Exodus 26:31, etc.). In several places it is termed "the veil of the screen" and it is distinguished from "the screen for the door of the tabernacle" (Exodus 35:12,15; 39:34,38). By the latter is meant the curtain that hung outside the holy place, i.e. at the tabernacle entrance. Exodus 26:31 informs us that the veil was made of fine-twined linen, and that its colors were blue and purple and scarlet. It was embroidered with cherubim. At each removal of the tabernacle the veil was used to enwrap the ark of the testimony (Numbers 4:5). From its proximity to this central object of the Hebrew ceremonial system, the veil is termed "the veil of the testimony" (Leviticus 24:3), "the veil which is before the testimony" (Exodus 27:21), etc. In Solomon's Temple the veil is mentioned but once (2 Chronicles 3:14). It was protected by doors of olive wood (1 Kings 6:31). In the later temple it is alluded to in 1 Macc 1:22. Its presence in Herod's temple is attested by the statement in each of the Synoptists that at the time of Christ's death the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom, or in the midst (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; compare in Mishna, Mid. ii. 1; iv.7). This fact is the basis of the profound truth expressed by the writer to the Hebrews that Jesus, by His sacrificial death, opened for all believers a way into the holiest "through the veil, that is to say, his flesh" (Hebrews 10:20). See TABERNACLE; TEMPLE.
(2) See the preceding article and DRESS, V.
W. Shaw Caldecott
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