VEIL (See Dress; Temple)

VEIL (פָּרֹ֫כֶת, H7267, cf. Akkad. parâku, to bar or shut off and parakku, apartment or shrine in a temple; καταπέτασμα, G2925, to spread over, to cover [LXX for פָּרֹ֫כֶת, H7267], tr. “curtain,” RSV). The inner curtain which divided the Holy Place from the holiest of all in the Tabernacle; a technical term not applied to any other curtain. It was a symbol of God’s unapproach-ability.

Josephus records that when Pompey conquered Jerusalem and entered the Temple (63 b.c.), the place was empty and the secret shrine contained nothing (War I. vii. 4; Antiq. XIV. iv. 4).


A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East (1927), 102, 103; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (1943), 1126-1128; D. W. Gooding, The Account of the Tabernacle (1959).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

val: The following words are so translated in English Versions of the Bible (sometimes the King James Version vail):

(1) miTpachath, Ru 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 Isa 3:22.

(2) macweh, Ex 34:33-35. Paul in his quotation of the passage in 2Co 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, Isa 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) So 4:1,3 (margin "locks" (of hair)); 6:7; Isa 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, Ge 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, So 5:7 (the Revised Version (British and American) "mantle," margin "veil"); Isa 3:23. A light mantle is certainly meant. In So 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, 1Co 11:6 f, with akatakalupto, "unveil" in 11:5; the King James Version has "cover" and "uncover"; kalupto, 2Co 4:3 (twice), anakalupto, 2Co 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 So 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 1Co 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.

(2) See the preceding article and DRESS, V.

W. Shaw Caldecott