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I have a vague recollection of hearing that in Jewish tradition, it was not possible to view God directly because of his holiness/ majesty/ awe. The only way to survive seeing his face was if it were reflected nine times through mirrors. I'm sure I heard of this tradition in some commentary on the NT passage, "now we see dimly through a mirror..." Q: Is there such a tradition?

But I cannot remember the source. I recently repeated this to some knowledgable friends at a bible study and they were flabbergasted. I cannot seem to find it at Google, but their results seem to pick 2-3 words at random from your query.

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closed as off topic by David, Affable Geek, Pavel, Narnian, Andrew Jan 28 '13 at 18:52

Questions on Christianity Stack Exchange are expected to relate to Christianity within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This would be a better fit at – David Jan 27 '13 at 14:29
But I found a Christian answer.. This question could be easily edited to be on-topic for this site of you wanted to. Would you mind if I took a crack at editing it? – David Jan 27 '13 at 18:09
I actually think this a good question related to the Jewish culture at the time of Christ as it illustrates the Haggadah styled interpretations that existed at the time, which the Apostles did not use in the New Testament. You could get a Jewish answer on judaismSE but it also works well for illustrating New Testament Jewish culture which is why Christian commentaries and lexicons often refers to these curious little beliefs to better understand the context of the New Testament audience. – Mike Jan 28 '13 at 5:12
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Yes this is true

Jewish traditionalism is distinguished into the “Halachah” and the “Haggadah.” The Halachah were the settled legal determinations, whereas the Haggadah, according the Alfred Edresheim:

was legend, or story, or moral, or exposition, or discussion, or application—in short, whatever the fancy or predilections of a teacher might choose to make it, so that he could somehow connect it either with Scripture or with a “Halachah.” of these rules—the “Gematria” (geometry, calculation)—allowed the interpreter to find out the numerical value of the letters in a word—the Hebrew letters, like the Roman, being also numerals—and to substitute for a word one or more which had the same numerical value. Thus, if in Num. 12:1 we read that Moses was married to an “Ethiopian woman” (in the original, “Cushith”), Onkelos substitutes instead of this, by “gematria,” the words, “of fair appearance”—the numerical value both of Cushith and of the words “of fair appearance” being equally 736. By this substitution the objectionable idea of Moses’ marrying an Ethiopian was at the same time removed. Similarly, the Mishnah maintains that those who loved God were to inherit each 310 worlds, the numerical value of the word “substance” (“Yesh”) in Prov. 8:21 being 310. (SKETCHES OF JEWISH SOCIAL LIFE IN THE DAYS OF CHRIST BY ALFRED EDERSHEIM, P289)

There were various other similar extravagant rules legitimized virtually any superstition and magical interpretation under traditional Rabbinical exegesis.

With respect to this fanciful idea the TDNT makes mention:

ἔσοπτρον. “To see in a glass” also means “to see prophetically.” The Rabbis, when they compare Moses’ knowledge of God with that of other prophets, explain that the latter saw God with the help of nine mirrors (Ez. 43:3) whereas Moses needed only one (Nu. 12:8),2 and that the latter saw Him in clouded mirrors, but Moses in a clear one. (THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT,GERHARD KITTEL GERHARD FRIEDRICH, p1.178)

Apparently the Haggadah styled interpreation arises from the noun ראה, which signifies mirror. The idea of the one and nine mirrors is deduced from the fact that in Nu. 12:8 מַרְאֶה occurs only once, whereas in Ez. 43:3 this and other forms of ראה are found nine times.

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I don't know about Judaism, but I did run across something that sounds like what you're looking for. It's not nine mirrors, but two mirrors, the first with nine facets, and that we can't see God directly or clearly through either of the individual facets, or even in the first mirror.

A TALE OF TWO MIRRORS An Exposition of I Corinthians 13:8-13

An Examination of the Biblical Basis of the Charismatic Movement

by B. L. Turner

It can be found at

Note that it is from a Cessationist point of view, a view rejected by those in the Charismatic Churches.

It's an interesting read. It speaks of two mirrors. The first has nine facets. Each of these facets represents a gift, through which we see God, but not fully or partly.

The complete mirror consisted of a mosaic of nine pieces, that is, the nine gifts. Paul asked a series of rhetorical questions which make it quite certain that no one person had all the segments of that first mirror. He asked, “Are all workers of miracles? Have all gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (I Corinthians 12:29-30). If the advocates of today’s Tongues Movement could impose their will, all Christians would indeed speak with tongues even though that was never the divine intention. Because no one person had all the segments of that mosaic mirror, sometimes Christians in New Testament times could not use that part of the mirror which they did possess. Paul’s command about that issue makes the point clear. He charged, “If any man speaketh in a tongue...let one interpret: but if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:27-28) Obviously, had every recipient of those special gifts received all the parts of the mirror, that is, all the gifts, an interpreter would always have been present.

To have used one isolated part of that mirror would simply not have given a complete enough reflected image to have been spiritually beneficial or useful. Therefore, it would only have been a novelty or a curiosity. It would have qualified, perhaps, at least, for a short while, as an amusement to the idly curious, such as the Athenians who sought only to hear or tell some novel thing. (Acts 17:20-21) The use of one isolated part of the mirror would not have contributed to the edifying of the church. Since that was the purpose for which the gifts had been given (I Corinthians 14:5), such a perverted use of those gifts was understandably prohibited.

The second mirror is Scripture, which is, per the teaching, teh perfect mirror, which allows us to make sense of what we see in the first.

From James’ statement it is clear that it is the word of God, not the temporary spiritual gifts which shows the entire image as it truly is and gives complete insight into spiritual reality. If there is any lack of perception where the Scripture is available, it is not because the reflected image is defective. It is because people make a habit of going away (The verb form “goeth” in the older English translations of James 1:24 expresses the habitual or continuous present tense of the verb) and do not habitually continue to look into the word. Similarly, the eth ending of the verbs “looketh” and “continueth” in James 1:25 express the continuous present tense of each verb.

The teaching ends with this:

A Tale of Two Mirrors, then, becomes a story of one beautiful, complete and perfect mirror which exists and is available to anyone who wishes to know the truth. It is the written form of the perfect law of liberty, that is, the New Testament. The other mirror used to exist, but even then it was partial and inadequate. Therefore we should not regret its removal nor seek to have it restored, especially since no one can restore it anyway. The alleged restorations are totally anti-scriptural and are, therefore, fraudulent with no more reality than a mirage.

Every sincere seeker who uses the Perfect Mirror will be able to see the whole picture, the true picture, the past picture and the future picture. Let us, therefore, press on unto perfection! Let us not try to become heirs of those gifts which have passed away, but heirs of “the gift” (Acts 2:38-39) which will abide as long as God is calling sinners to himself, the gift without which, according to Rornans 8:9, no one is a true Christian.

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