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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]


1. Healing property of shadow. -The shadow of St. Peter had the property of healing the sick ( Acts 5:15). Similarly, articles of clothing touched by St. Paul caused disease and evil spirits to depart from the afflicted ( Acts 19:12), just as those who touched the border of Christ’s garment were healed ( Mark 6:56,  Luke 8:44). Even the name of Jesus was effectual in some cases ( Acts 3:6;  Acts 4:10). The therapeutic power of suggestion in all such instances is recognized by modern psychology.

2. The metaphysical use of the term ‘shadow.’ -This use occurs in Hebrews ( Hebrews 8:5;  Hebrews 10:1), affording an interesting link with the Epistle to the Colossians, where St. Paul declares that the Jewish ceremonial observances were but ‘a shadow of the things to come (σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων); but the body is Christ’s’ ( Colossians 2:17). Here ‘shadow’ is contrasted with ‘body,’ or substantial reality. The ‘things to come’ are the Christian dispensation, which from the Jewish standpoint, was yet in the future. Christianity embodies the Divine reality, whereas Mosaism was only a ‘shadow’ cast temporarily into human history by the ‘body,’ the eternal fact of the heavenly Christ yet to be revealed. The interpretation of Calvin, that ‘shadow’ means the sketch of which Christianity is the finished picture, is unlikely when the occurrence and significance of the term in Hebrews are taken into consideration. The fundamental conception of this Epistle is the Alexandrian one that there are two worlds or orders of things, a higher and a lower-the one heavenly, eternal, and real; the other earthly, temporal, and merely phenomenal. The material, sensible world is not the real, but only the shadowy copy of the heavenly pattern. This conception the writer of Hebrews takes up and fills with a religious content. The Mosaic Law, so reverenced by the Jews, has only ‘a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things’ ( Hebrews 10:1). Here ‘shadow’ (σκιά) is contrasted with ‘image’ (εἰκών). Judaism is the ‘shadow,’ Christianity is the ‘very image’ of the good things. The Christian religion gives us possession of the reality only dimly foreshadowed in the Jewish system. The Law is a shadow, inseparable indeed from the eternal image; but in comparison with that reality, it is only a dim flickering and transient outline, lacking the abiding substantiality and content of that which cast it. Furthermore, the priests of the Levitical system only ‘serve a copy’ (ὑπόδειγμα) and shadow (σκιά) of the heavenly things’ ( Hebrews 8:5). The tabernacle itself was made by Moses only according to the ‘pattern’ (τύπον) of the heavenly original, the ‘true tabernacle’ pitched by God ( Hebrews 8:2). Like every other part of the Levitical system, the tabernacle was only a ‘copy,’ the ‘pattern’ (τύπον) of which exists eternally in heaven. This use of the term ‘shadow’ in contrast with ‘image’ is more than an illustration taken from articleIt may well be that, but it seems rather an explanation of Christian truth by means of the categories of Platonic and Philonic philosophy. Plato’s famous allegory of the Cave (Rep. vii. 514), wherein men are described as seeing on the wall of the den but the shadows of real objects passing outside, illustrates his theory of Ideas. The relation of eternal realities (archetypal Ideas) to visible things is like the relation between substantial bodies and their transient shadows. This theory was taken up by the Alexandrian philosophy, and the OT is explained by Philo in terms of this Hellenistic speculation. The writer of Hebrews, who shows many signs of Alexandrian influence, uses throughout his Epistle this Philonic form of thought to show the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. Judaism is but a ‘shadow,’ Christianity is the very ‘image’ embodying and expressing God’s eternal purpose concerning mankind.

M. Scott Fletcher.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [2]

I should not have paused at this word by way of explaining the word itself, had that been all. Every one knows what it means, and the Scriptures frequently use it. We meet with life, represented under the figure of a shadow; and we read of the shadow of death, and the like. But I rather fear that when the word shadow is used in reference to the things of the law, when it is said, "the law was a shadow of good things to come, but the body is of Christ," ( Colossians 2:17) the full sense is not so generally understood as it were to be wished. I beg therefore to offer a short observation upon the subject.

Now it is and must be, very plain to common sense, that before there can be formed a shadow, there must be a body that is somewhat of substance to form that shadow. Let that shadow be what it may, suppose the shadow of a man, or of a tree, or of a house, plain it is, that the man, tree, or house, must have been before the shadow; it could not be formed before the substance which gave birth to the shadow was formed; that would be impossible. A shadow, strictly and properly speaking, is formed from some substance, no matter what, standing between the shadow formed and light of any kind forming that shadow, by shining upon the substance. If I stand between the light of the sun, or the light of the moon, or any lesser light than either, and the earth which is behind me, my shadow will be formed upon the earth in consequence of that shining. If there be no substance between, or if there be no light shining upon that substance, there will be no shadow. All this is so abundantly plain that it can need no farther proof.

To apply this then to the shadow of the law, the law is said to be a shadow, but the body or substance is Christ. And consequently Christ the substance was before that shadow, yea, formed that shadow, when as the, lamb slain before the foundation of the world, Christ stood up at the call of Jehovah from everlasting. ( Revelation 13:8) But how stood up? Surely not openly revealed to men, but openly to and before JEHOVAH, when in the council of peace he was the Man, the Branch; and that in the ancient settlements, of redemption before all worlds. ( Zechariah 6:11-12) Hence, Moses was admonished of God "when he was about to make the tabernacle: for see, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the Mount." ( Hebrews 8:5;  Exodus 25:40) So then, the pattern or substance in the Mount preceded all the shadows that followed in the tabernacle service. And if Christ be indeed, as the Holy Ghost by Paul saith he is, the body, while all the services of the tabernacle were but shadows, ( Colossians 2:17) is it not plain that, however, not openly to the church, yet openly to God, the substance of the pattern must somehow have been before the shadow? Never could these shadows have had even the shadow of a being, had not the substance been before, and formed them. If we could go farther, and demand how these things could be, the only answer proper to be given is read to us by the prophet: "If it be marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvelous in mine eyes, saith the Lord of hosts?" ( Zechariah 8:6)

I will only detain the reader with a short observation upon the whole, namely, to say that it must be very blessed and very precious to the soul of the believer to discover in this instance, as in every other, that Jesus, as Christ, God, man, and mediator, was as the apostle saith he was, and is, "before all things, and by him all things consist." It was essentially necessary that he should be so, and the Holy Ghost bears witness by his servant Paul to it, that "in all things he might have the preeminence." ( Colossians 1:15 etc.) Hail! thou glorious Alpha, and Omega, of thy church's glory! Thou art indeed the substantially all of thy people's persons, safety, security, happiness, as well in grace as glory. All but thee are but as shadows, for thou alone art the body, and as thou hast said, "I will cause them that love me to inherit substance, and I will fill their treasures." ( Proverbs 8:21)

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

Old Testament The Hebrew tsel speaks of shadow as protection and as transitory, short-lived, and changing. The intensive heat, particularly in the summer, made shade and shadows important in Palestine. Travelers sought rest under a tree ( Genesis 18:4; compare  Job 40:22 ) or in a house ( Genesis 19:8 ). Especially at midday when shade virtually vanished, people looked for a shadow ( Isaiah 16:3; compare  Genesis 21:15;  Jonah 4;  Job 7:2 ). In the afternoon shadows lengthen ( Jeremiah 6:4; compare  Nehemiah 13:19 NIV). In the evening cool, shadows disappear (Song of   Song of Solomon 2:17 ). In the desert wilderness the traveler found little hope for shade but looked for shade or shadow from hills ( Judges 9:36 ), large rocks ( Isaiah 32:2 ), a cave ( Exodus 33:1 :  22;  1 Kings 19:9 ), or a cloud ( Isaiah 25:5 ).

Powerful people offer the shadow of protection and security (Song of  Song of Solomon 2:3 ). So does a king ( Lamentations 4:20;  Ezekiel 31:6 ). Still, Israel knew the false claims of kings to provide such protection ( Judges 9:15; compare  Isaiah 30:2;  Ezekiel 31:1 ). Biblical writers looked to the Messiah for needed shade or shadow ( Isaiah 32:2;  Ezekiel 17:23 ). God was the ultimate shadow of protection for His people ( Psalm 36:7;  Psalm 91:1;  Psalm 121:5;  Isaiah 25:4;  Isaiah 49:2;  Isaiah 51:16 ).

Human life itself is only a brief shadow ( Job 8:9;  Job 14:2;  Psalm 102:11;  Psalm 144:4;  Ecclesiastes 6:12;  Ecclesiastes 8:13 ).

New Testament The Greek skia can refer to a literal shadow (  Mark 4:32;  Acts 5:15 ). More often it refers to death or to an indication of something to come, a foreshadowing. References to death come from Old Testament prophecy— Matthew 4:16 and   Luke 1:79 picking up   Isaiah 9:2 . Dietary laws and religious festivals were only a shadow preparing Israel for the reality made known in Christ ( Colossians 2:17;  Hebrews 8:5;  Hebrews 10:1 ). James used a related Greek word to say that God is not a fleeting, changing shadow ( James 1:17 ).

Trent C. Butler

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [4]

1: Σκιά (Strong'S #4639 — Noun Feminine — skia — skee'-ah )

is used (a) of "a shadow," caused by the interception of light,  Mark 4:32 ,  Acts 5:15; metaphorically of the darkness and spiritual death of ignorance,  Matthew 4:16;  Luke 1:79; (b) of "the image" or "outline" cast by an object,  Colossians 2:17 , of ceremonies under the Law; of the tabernacle and its appurtenances and offerings,  Hebrews 8:5; of these as appointed under the Law,  Hebrews 10:1 .

2: Ἀποσκίασμα (Strong'S #644 — Noun Neuter — aposkiasma — ap-os-kee'-as-mah )

"a shadow," is rendered "shadow that is cast" in  James 1:17 , RV; the AV makes no distinction between this and No. 1. The probable significance of this word is "overshadowing" or "shadowing-over" (which apo may indicate), and this with the genitive case of trope, "turning," yields the meaning "shadowing-over of mutability" implying an alternation of "shadow" and light; of this there are two alternative explanations, namely, "overshadowing" (1) not caused by mutability in God, or (2) caused by change in others, i.e., "no changes in this lower world can cast a shadow on the unchanging Fount of light" [Mayor, who further remarks, "The meaning of the passage will then be, 'God is alike incapable of change (parallage) and incapable of being changed by the action of others'"].

Webster's Dictionary [5]

(1): ( n.) That which follows or attends a person or thing like a shadow; an inseparable companion; hence, an obsequious follower.

(2): ( n.) An uninvited guest coming with one who is invited.

(3): ( n.) A small degree; a shade.

(4): ( n.) To protect; to shelter from danger; to shroud.

(5): ( n.) An imperfect and faint representation; adumbration; indistinct image; dim bodying forth; hence, mystical representation; type.

(6): ( n.) To represent faintly or imperfectly; to adumbrate; hence, to represent typically.

(7): ( n.) To cloud; to darken; to cast a gloom over.

(8): ( n.) A spirit; a ghost; a shade; a phantom.

(9): ( n.) To conceal; to hide; to screen.

(10): ( n.) To mark with gradations of light or color; to shade.

(11): ( n.) A reflected image, as in a mirror or in water.

(12): ( n.) A shaded place; shelter; protection; security.

(13): ( n.) Darkness; shade; obscurity.

(14): ( n.) Shade within defined limits; obscurity or deprivation of light, apparent on a surface, and representing the form of the body which intercepts the rays of light; as, the shadow of a man, of a tree, or of a tower. See the Note under Shade, n., 1.

(15): ( n.) To cut off light from; to put in shade; to shade; to throw a shadow upon; to overspead with obscurity.

(16): ( n.) To attend as closely as a shadow; to follow and watch closely, especially in a secret or unobserved manner; as, a detective shadows a criminal.

King James Dictionary [6]


1. Shade within defined limits obscurity or deprivation of light, apparent on a plane and represtnting the form of the body which intercepts the rays of light as the shadow of a man, of a tree or a tower. The shadow of the earth in in an eclipse of the moon is proof of its sphericity. 2. Darkness shade obscurity.

Night's sable shadows from the ocean rise. Denham.

3. Shelter made by any thing that intercepts the light, heat or influence of the air.

In secret shadow from the sunny ray,

On a sweet bed of lilies softly laid. Spenser.

4. Obscure place secluded retreat.

To secret shadows I retire. Obs. Dryden.

5. Dark part of a picture. Obs. In the last two senses, shade is now used. 6. A spirit a ghost. Obs. In this sense, shade is now used. 7. In painting, the representation of a real shadow. 8. An imperfect and faint representation opposed to substance.

The law of having a shadow of good things to come.  Hebrews 10 .

9. Inseparable companion.

Sin and her shadow, death. Milton.

10. Type mystical representaion.

Types and shadows of that destin'd seed. Milton.

11. Protection shelter favor. 12. Slight or faint appearance.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

Sometimes denotes intense darkness and gloom,  Psalm 23:4 , and sometimes a cool retreat,  Isaiah 33:2 , or perfect protection,  Psalm 17:8   Isaiah 49:2   Daniel 4:12 .

The long shadows cast by the declining sun are alluded to in  Job 7:2   Jeremiah 6:4 . The swift, never ceasing motion of a shadow is an emblem of human life,  1 Chronicles 29:15   Psalm 102:11 .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 Colossians 2:17 Hebrews 8:5 10:1

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [9]

( צֵל , Tsl, or צֵלֶל tselel; Σκία , either simply or in composition), the privation of light by an object interposing between a luminary and the surface on which the shadow appears. The light of the sun may be obscured; but "with the Father of light there is no parallax nor tropical shadow;" no interposing bodies can change his purposes or for a moment intercept and turn aside his truth, because he is equally present everywhere ( James 1:17). A shadow falling on a plate follows the course of the body which causes it; and, as it is often extremely rapid, the fleetness of human life is often compared to it ( 1 Chronicles 29:15;  Job 14:2). Shadow is also used in the sense of darkness, gloom, "the shadow of death" i.e. death-shade, a season of severe trial, heavy sorrow (Psalms 23), or depicting a state of ignorance and wretchedness ( Matthew 4:16;  Luke 1:79). Hackett ( Illust. Of Script. p. 46 sq.) thinks that David's image of the valley of death's shadow may have been suggested by such wild, dreary ravines as the Wady Aly. Shadow is also used for covering and protection from the heat for repose, where the word Shade would be preferable. The Messiah "is as the shade of a great rock in a weary land" ( Isaiah 32:2;  Isaiah 49:2;  Song of Solomon 2:3;  Psalms 17:8;  Psalms 63:7;  Psalms 91:1) (comp. Hackett, Illust. of Script. p. 50 sq.). Shadow is used to indicate that the Jewish economy was an adumbration, or a shadowing forth, of the things future and more perfect in the Christian dispensation ( Hebrews 8:5;  Hebrews 10:1;  Colossians 2:17). On the curative power of Peter's shadow ( Acts 5:15), see Engelschall, De Umbra Petri (Lips. 1725); Krakewitz, Id. (Rost. 1704).