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MIRROR. Any smooth or polished surface as of glass or of metal that forms images by reflecting light. The mirrors of the serving women were made of brass (Exod.38.8) and so could be used as material for the laver. Elihu in Job.37.18 speaks of the sky as resembling “a mirror of cast bronze.” He was, no doubt, thinking of the brightness of the sky as like that of polished metal. Of the inadequacy of these ancient mirrors Paul says (1Cor.13.12) that “now we see but a poor reflection.” James compares a hearer of the word who is not also a doer to “a man who looks at his face in a mirror” (Jas.1.23-Jas.1.24) and then forgets what he looks like. “Mirror” is a better translation than “glass” or “looking glass,” because the material was metal, not glass.

MIRROR (רְאִי, H8023, מַרְאָה, H5262, Ησόπτρον). In Biblical times a mirror was a polished metal surface held in the hand to see the reflection of objects, esp. of the face. KJV trs., “looking glass” and “glass,” are anachronisms, since glass mirrors were not introduced until some time in the 1st cent. after Christ.

In the OT.

Women donated bronze mirrors to make the laver for the Tabernacle (Exod 38:8). Many ancient bronze mirrors have been found in Egypt, usually with a round or oval surface and a handle, which often is decorated. Excavations in Pal. have unearthed bronze mirrors imported from Egypt or influenced by Egyp. models. The bright yellow summer sky on a hot day before a wind storm is compared to a molten mirror (i.e. one made of cast bronze, Job 37:18). KJV trs. גִּלְיֹנִים, by “glasses,” but RSV by “garments of gauze” (Isa 3:23).

In the Apocrypha.

In Ecclesiasticus 12:11 the need of constantly watching to avoid harm from an enemy is compared to the necessity of continually polishing a metal mirror to keep away corrosion. Wisdom is said to be a spotless mirror of the activity of God (Wisd Sol 7:26).

In the NT.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12 compares our present knowledge of divine things to seeing indirectly and imperfectly in a mirror. The participle, κατοπτριζόμενοι (2 Cor 3:18), tr. “beholding as in a glass” (KJV), “beholding” (RSV text), and “contemplating” (JB mg.), can also be tr. “reflecting” (RSV mg., TEV, JB text, NEB), implying that Christians should be mirrors of Christ.


G. Bénédite, Catalogue general des antiquités égyptiennes du musée du Caire, Miroirs (1907); K. Galling, “Spiegel,” Biblisches Reallexicon (1937), cols. 493, 494; N. Hugedé, La metaphore du miroir dans les épitres de St. Paul aux Corinthiens (1957); D. H. Gill, “Through a Glass Darkly,” CBQ, XXV (1963), 427-429; W. C. van Unnik, “With Unveiled Face,” Novum Testamentum, VI (1963), 153-169.

See also

  • Looking-glass