Matthew 4:5 and Luke 4:9 “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on A pinnacle of the temple.”
One bible critic was telling us that this is an error in the King James Bible because there is a definite article here before the word “pinnacle” and that it should be “THE pinnacle”.
The problem with this alleged error is the fact that most Bible commentators agree that there really is no agreement among the various scholars as to which specific high place or pinnacle the Scriptures refer to because there were several places that could be considered to be “the pinnacle” and it is not specifically identified in the text itself.
There were several different high places or pinnacles on the building that was called the temple. It is true that there was one specific pinnacle Christ was taken to, but to translate the passage as “THE pinnacle” does not clear up which one in particular was the pinnacle Satan took Him to. In fact, it would cause the very same confusion we see that exists among the Bible commentators.
Go to any site or article you wish to look up on the internet to find out what the temple of Herod looked like. Take a look at the drawings and pictures of this temple. Then see if you can identify “the” pinnacle Satan took Jesus to. There is no “the” pinnacle, but the definite article in the Greek is used to indicate a particular spot of great height, but which one is not identified. There were several of them. This is why the King James Bible and others correctly translated it as “to a pinnacle”.
Herod’s Temple. What did it look like?
It’s like choosing a number out of the multiple different numbers that exist. We can correctly say “Mike chose A number from 1 to 10.” Sure, it was a specific number out of the ten different numerical digits he could have chosen from, but we don’t know which one it was.
So to say “Mike chose THE number between 1 and 10” would leave us in confusion and wondering what in the world you are referring to. The King James Bible translators and many others who did the same thing were correct in translating the passage as “he setteth him on A pinnacle of the temple.”
Another grammatical point to consider is that the Greek definite article is not always used in the same way we use it in English. In fact, there are several passages in the synoptic gospels where when relating the same event and the same sayings from the same time, one gospel will have the definite articles and another will not.
ALL Bible translations including the modern ones like the ESV, NIV, NASB, NET, Holman, NKJV etc. OFTEN “add” definite articles when not there in the Greek and likewise OMIT them when they are there in the Greek. So for someone to claim that the KJB and others are in error here in Matthew 4 and Luke 4 for not translating the definite article only shows his own misunderstanding of how the Greek definite article is often used.
Bible translations that also read “and setteth him on A pinnacle” are Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587, Whiston’s N.T. 1745, Worsley N.T. 1770, Thomas Haweis N.T. 1795, the Amplified Bible 1987, the Worldwide English N.T. 1998, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, the Jubilee Bible 2000, the New Century Version 2005, Easy to Read Version 2006 and The Expanded Bible of 2011.
Vincent’s Word Studies - “Pinnacle, from the Latin pinnaculum, a diminutive of pinna or penna (awing )is a literal translation of πτερύγιον , which is also a diminutive (a little wing or winglet ) Nothing in the word compels us to infer that Christ was placed on the top of a tower or spire, which is the popular meaning of pinnacle. The word may be used in the familiar English sense of the wing of a building. Herod's temple had two wings, the northern and southern”
Robertson’s Word Pictures in the N.T. “Literally “wing:” the English word “pinnacle” is from the Latin pinnaculum, a diminutive of pinna (wing). “The temple ” (του ιερου — tou hierou) here includes the whole temple area, not just the sanctuary (ο ναος — ho naos), the Holy Place and Most Holy Place. It is not clear what place is meant by “wing.”
Schaff’s Popular Commentary on the N. T. “The word ‘pinnacle’ means either a wing, or a pointed roof or a gable. The roof of the temple itself was covered with spikes to prevent birds from defiling it. A portico of the temple is meant”
John Gill - “and setteth him upon a pinnacle, or "wing of the temple". In this place the Jews set James, the brother of Christ, and from it cast him down headlong: this was the ακρον "the summit", or "top" of it; and intends either the roof encompassed with battlements, to keep persons from falling off; or the top of the porch before the temple, which was 120 cubits high; or the top of the royal gallery, built by Herod, which was of such an height, that if a man looked down from it, he soon became dizzy. The view Satan had in setting him here appears in the next verse.”
Barne’s Notes on the whole Bible - “Setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple - It is not perfectly certain to what part of the temple the sacred writer here refers. It has been supposed by some that he means the roof. But Josephus says that the roof was covered by spikes of gold, to prevent its being polluted by birds; and such a place would have been very inconvenient to stand upon. Others suppose that it was the top of the porch or entrance to the temple. But it is more than probable that the porch leading to the temple was not as high as the main building. It is more probable that he refers to that part of the sacred edifice which was called Solomon‘s Porch. The temple was built on the top of Mount Moriah. The temple itself, together with the courts and porches, occupied a large space of ground. See the notes at Matthew 21:12. To secure a level spot sufficiently large, it was necessary to put up a high wall on the east. The temple was surrounded with porches or piazzas 50 feet broad and 75 feet high. “
Jamieson, Faussett and Brown - “and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple —… Whether this refers to the highest summit of the temple, which bristled with golden spikes [Josephus, Antiquities, 5.5, 6]; or whether it refers to another peak, on Herod‘s royal portico, overhanging the ravine of Kedron, at the valley of Hinnom - an immense tower built on the very edge of this precipice, from the top of which dizzy height Josephus says one could not look to the bottom [Antiquities, 15.11, 5] - is not certain; but the latter is probably meant.”
Matthew Henry - Whether Christ went upon the ground, and so went up the stairs to the top of the temple, or whether he went in the air, is uncertain but so it was, that he was set upon a pinnacle, or spire upon the fane (so some), upon the battlements (so others), upon the wing (so the word is), of the temple.
The Pulpit Commentaries - “On a (the, Revised Version) pinnacle of the temple ( ἐπὶ τογιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ) What is exactly meant by this definite and evidently well-known term is not easy now to determine. "Some understand this of the top or apex of the sanctuary ( τοῦ ναοῦ) [cf. Hegesippus, in Eusebius,…others of the top of Solomon's porch; and others of the top of the Royal Portico" (Thayer).
William Burkitt Commentary - That is, Satan, by God's permission, took up his body and carried it in the air, and set it upon one of the battlements of the temple.
Cambridge Greek Testament - “some well-known pinnacle of the Temple, probably on one of the lofty porticoes overlooking the deep Valley of Kidron or Hinnom; or ‘the roof’ of the Temple or one of the porticoes”
Expositor’s Greek Testament - “some part of the temple bearing the name of “the winglet,” and overhanging a precipice. Commentators busy themselves discussing what precisely and where it was.”
Meyer’s Commentary on the N.T. - “τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ] the little wing of the temple is sought for by many on the temple building itself, so that it is either its battlement (Luther, Beza, Grotius), that is, the parapet surrounding the roof, or the ridge (Fritzsche, Winer), or the gable, pediment (Vulgate: pinnaculum; Paulus, Bleek), the two latter from their wing shape ( λ), or roof generally (Keim, and older expositors. The view, therefore, of those is to be preferred who, with Euth. Zigabenus, Olearins, Reland, Valckenaer, seek the πτερύγιον in an outbuilding of the temple area; where, however, it is again doubtful whether Solomon’s portico or the στοὰ βασιλική, the former (Josephus, Antt. xx. 9. 7) on the east side, the latter (Josephus, Antt. xv. 11. 5) on the south, both standing on an abrupt precipice, is intended.
Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Gospels -“Whether he placed him upon the Temple itself, or upon some building within the holy circuit, it is in vain to seek, because it cannot be found. If it were upon the Temple itself, I should reflect upon the top of the porch of the Temple: if upon some other building, I should reflect upon the royal gallery. “
The Fourfold Gospel - “It is not known exactly what spot is indicated by the word "pinnacle". Hence three places have been contended for the proper locality: (1) The apex of the temple structure itself. (2) The top of Solomon's porch. (3) The top of Herod's royal portico.”
The King James Bible is always right. Accept no substitutes.
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