The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
|breastplate of the high priest|
If he passed the strict examination, he was anointed with olive oil on his head in the form of the Greek letter χ, as the Kings of Israel had been anointed by the prophets. 1 Then the oil was poured on his head till it flowed down his hair and beard. 2 The ceremonies of investiture lasted for seven days.
The high priest's vestments are given in the four last Books of Moses, 3 as these Books of the Old Testament are called by the Jews. His vestments were double the number worn by the priests, the first four being the same as those of the priests namely, the linen breeches, the seamless cassock, the girdle and the miter. In addition to these the high priest wore the embroidered tunic called the Meil, " the Robe," like a dalmatic; the ephod with its magnificent girdle, all being of fine linen, white, violet, blue, scarlet, and cloth of gold.
This ephod, was made entirely of woven work, and ended at the knees by alternate blossoms of pomegranates in white, blue, violet, and scarlet, with seven-two gold bells, which tinkled as he walked, thus he was clothed in the colors of the sanctuary, and his vestments were all interwoven and embroidered with threads of gold.
On his breast they placed the massive sculptured gold breast-plate, with its twelve magnificent precious stones, each representing one of the twelve tribes of Israel—each being called after one of the Hebrew letters. It is said that before Israel fell into idolatry, from Moses to Solomon's time, God spoke to the high priest by making these stones shine one after the other. But we are not sure of this.
On his head he wore the golden miter as a crown, called the Za'z. The royal pontiffs of the Machabean priest-kings put on the miter three crowns, forming a triple crown like the Pope's tiara worn to-day.
Across his forehead he wore a gold band engraved with Hebrew words: " Holiness Unto Jehovah." The inferior priest's miter was like an inverted calyx of a flower.
The vestments of both the common priest and of the high priest resembled very much the vestments of priests and bishops of the Church. The Romans kept the high priest's vestments in the Antonia tower. When the Legate Vitellius came to Jerusalem at the time of the Passover he allowed the Jews to retain their vestments. But when Herod rebuilt this fortress, he retained the vestments, his son Archelaus doing the same. They were deposited in a stone chamber in the tower, an ever-burn ing lamp before them. Seven days before a festival the Roman guard delivered them up. 4
According to Jewish writers, the vestments of the high priest were of the most costly materials, and of fabulous value. Most beautiful purple and byssus formed his cas sock and robe of linen. The day of the Atonement, his white garments were of Pelusian linen, which cost $180, and for the evening service of each day it was of Indian linen worth not less than $100 5 His purple cassock was made of the finest wool dyed in Tyrean purple, costing about $15 for the weight of a Roman pound, for the cloth was so rare it was only sold by weight. 6
No clergyman of our time is clothed in greater splendor than was the high priest at the time of Christ; and the vestments worn by the Pope himself on the great feasts are far lower in value. The vestments of the common priests were also of the finest materials. For the vast wealth flowing into the Temple treasury enabled them to obtain the most magnificent priestly garments the world could furnish, and they stopped at no cost. As they stood there, to the number of nearly five hundred, clothed in white, purple, scarlet, and gold, with Caiphas at their head, surrounded with his ministers and aides, they formed a striking scene.
1 Eidersheim, The Temple, High Priest.
2 Psalm cxxxii, 2.
3 Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.
4 Josephus, Antiq., Book xviii, Chap, iv., n. 3.
5 Jer, Yoma, iii., 6, p. 40 d.
6 See Edersheim,.Life of Christ, Vol. II., p. 278,