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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Pinnacle

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PINNACLE occurs only in Matthew 4:5 || Luke 4:9. The word (πτερύγιον) so rendered means ‘a little wing,’ and refers to some lofty point about the Temple, from which Jesus is said to have been invited by the tempter to cast Himself down. The word used for ‘temple’ in both passages (ἱερόν) denotes the whole enclosure, and not merely the Temple building proper (ναός). The ‘pinnacle ‘may therefore be sought for anywhere within the Temple precincts. It is evident, from the use of the phrase ‘the pinnacle of the temple,’ that there was a definite point well known by this name when the Evangelists wrote; but now we are in some uncertainty as to where it was situated. Some understand the apex of the roof of the Temple building to be meant. Others suggest the roof of Solomon’s Porch, on the east side of the Temple area. But if ‘the pinnacle’ was not the summit of the Temple proper, the most likely position for it is the battlement of the Royal Portico, which ran from east to west across the south end of the enclosure, on the precipitous edge of a deep valley. Josephus (Ant. xv. xi. 5) says of this portico: ‘While the valley was very deep, and its bottom could not be seen if you looked from above into the depth, this further vastly high elevation of the cloister stood upon that height, insomuch that if any one looked down from the top of the battlements, or down both these altitudes, he would be giddy, while his sight could not reach to such an immense depth.’ By ‘both these altitudes,’ it need hardly be said, Josephus means the height of the precipice plus the height of the portico which crowned it. As the top of the portico, according to Josephus, was 100 feet above the pavement, the drop from this elevation to the bottom of the Kidron Valley would be about 300 feet; and if ‘the pinnacle,’ as some suppose, was a turret or spire at the eastern end, marking the south-east corner of the enclosure, then its height would have to be added to this vertical distance.

The Church historian Hegesippus (a.d. 160), as quoted by Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica ii. 23), gives an account of the death of James the Lord’s brother, who, he says, was cast down by the Jews from the pinnacle of the Temple (ναός—the Temple proper). If this statement were reliable, it would be decisive in favour of the first supposition mentioned above; but the accuracy of the whole story is doubtful, and it may be questioned whether Hegesippus, writing nearly a century after the destruction of the Temple, knew any better than we do where ‘the pinnacle’ really was. There is still, therefore, a choice of views. On the one hand, the apex of the Temple proper would undoubtedly be the loftiest point of the whole group of buildings. On the other hand, the battlement of the Royal Portico would afford the deepest and sheerest fall, and, on the whole, it is most probable that ‘the pinnacle’ was situated here.

James Patrick.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Pinnacle'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/p/pinnacle.html. 1906-1918.

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