What are the…
phylacteries in the Bible

Greek: phulakteria —meaning: “defenses” or “protections”

Modern Jews called these tephillin (i.e., “prayers”). They are mentioned only in Matthew.

But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. —Matthew 23:5 NASB

These consisted of strips of parchment on which were inscribed these four texts:

  1. Exodus 13:1-10
  2. Exodus 13:11-16
  3. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
  4. Deuteronomy 11:18-21

They were enclosed in a square leather case, on one side of which was inscribed the Hebrew letter shin ש, to which the rabbis attached some significance.

This case was fastened by certain straps to the forehead just between the eyes.

The “making broad the phylacteries” refers to the enlarging of the case so as to make it conspicuous.


Another form of the phylactery consisted of two rolls of parchment, on which the same texts were written, enclosed in a case of black calfskin.

This was worn on the left arm near the elbow, to which it was bound by a thong. It was called the “Tephillah on the arm.”

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Article Version: May 24, 2024