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MARBLE is limestone (calcium carbonate) or dolomite (calcium-magnesium carbonate) which has been recrystallized under metamorphic conditions, either by heat adjacent to a large igneous intrusion or by heat and pressure in the earth’s crust, particularly in mountain belts. However, the term marble often is also applied to some special types of non-metamorphic limestone. The stone is capable of high polish (Lat. marmor, “shining stone”) and was much used in architecture, as in the building of Solomon’s Temple (1 Chron 29:2), with pillars of marble being used as a representation of strength Song of Solomon. The use of marble as a paving stone also was widespread, although other polished material also was used for this purpose (q.v. “malachite”; Esth 1:6).

Marble was used for making jars and other ornamental vessels (Rev 18:12), particularly those varieties showing variegated patterns resulting from their formation with concentric color-zones in stalagmitic deposits. Such marble commonly was referred to as alabaster (q.v.) and used for making ointment jars (Matt 26:7; Mark 14:3). It also was referred to as onyxmarble (q.v. onyx) with Algerian onyx being used in buildings of Carthage and Rome.

Much of the marble for sculpture came from Greece, the Pentelic marble from Mount Pentelicus in Attica and the Parian marble from the isle of Paros being famous. Carrara marble which occurs in the Apuan Alps, Italy, and is used by many sculptors of the present day, was employed in Rome for architectural purposes in the time of Augustus.


H. H. Read, Rutley’s Elements of Mineralogy, 26th ed. (1970), 270-277.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

See also

  • Minerals