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Biblical Gemstones and Moral Characteristics

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Question:  Sir, I have found your site to be very informative. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge. I have read in your writing that you mentioned the stones that were on the breastplate of the high priest. Similarly, precious stones are at other times also mentioned as coverings on individuals, including Satan. And in Revelation 21:19&20 the city's foundation is covered in these precious stones. Is it possible that these stones represent moral characteristics? Do you have some insight as to their meanings, and if so, please inform me so that I may continue past this wall that I have encountered. Thank you.

Response: Thanks for your kind comments. You propose an interesting thesis, and one which was addressed in secular antiquity. I am not an expert in these matters, but it is my understanding that in the ancient world the idea of characteristics adhering in or represented by precious stones was a well-known one. The best collection of ancient Greek writings on the various characteristics of gemstones is, in my opinion, the Bude edition of Halleux and Schamp: Les Lapidaires grecs (Paris 1985). The Greek (and at times Latin) text is translated into French of the facing pages (as is customary in this series). At the very least, this book would give you pertinent bibliography to start your research. However, these are mostly Orphic writings, having nothing to do with Bible. Nor am I aware of anything in scripture which makes the connection you ask about. In fact, the composing of "areteologies" (lit. "virtue lists/catalogs") was a commonplace in antiquity and people have (wrongly in my view) tried to find this sort of thing accomplishing an identical purpose in the Bible (e.g., 2Pet.1:5-8). Now the Bible most certainly does contain lists of virtues (1Cor.13 being the most famous of these lists). But, inevitably, these are dynamically used, not proscriptively used (as in the Peter example; see "the progression of virtues" in Peter's Epistles lesson #17). That is to say, they can overlap, be repetitive, and not be a complete picture of everything the Bible endorses from the point of view of conduct elsewhere. So these lists are truly helpful for real people, rather than attempting to set up some final philosophical system of virtues (as happens in the late middle ages, for example). While what you are suggesting is not prima facie impossible, during some rather extensive research of all these passages you mention (for the Satanic Rebellion series), I found no indication of any sort of symbolism in the gemstones that might be specifically keyed to any listing of corresponding moral characteristic.  Perhaps this is one of those cases where it is best "not to go beyond what is written" (1Cor.4:6).

You can find my treatment of these gemstones at the following links:

The Foundations and the Gates of the Wall of New Jerusalem and their Gemstones

The Jewels on the High Priest's Breastplate

Hope this is of some help to you.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill


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