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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

(ἕσοπτρον,  1 Corinthians 13:12,  James 1:23; the classical word was κάτοπτρον, whence κατοπτρίζεσθαι, in  2 Corinthians 3:18; Lat. speculum , late Lat. miratorium , from mirari , whence Fr. miroir )

The mirrors of the ancients consisted of a thin disk of metal-usually bronze, more rarely silver-slightly convex and polished on one side. Glass mirrors coated with tin, of which there was a manufactory at Sidon (Pliny, Historia Naturalis (Pliny) xxxvi. 66, 193), were little used, and the art of silvering glass was not discovered till the 13th century. Corinthian mirrors were considered the best, and it is interesting that St. Paul’s two figurative uses of the word occur in his letters to Corinth.

1 . To bring home to the imagination the limitations of human knowledge, he says that in the present life we see only by means of a mirror darkly (διʼ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι,  1 Corinthians 13:12). In a modern mirror the reflexion is perfect, but the finest burnished metal gave but an indistinct image. To see a friend in a mirror, and to look at his own face, was therefore to receive two different impressions. So this world of time and sense, as apprehended by the human mind, imperfectly mirrors the true and eternal world, leaving many things ‘enigmatic.’ Mediate knowledge can never be so sure and satisfying as immediate. Plato ( Rep. vii. 514) in his well-known simile of the cave compares our sense-impressions to shadow-shapes that come and go, giving but hints of the real world beyond; and the figure of the mirror is found in such Platonists as the writer of Wisdom ( Wisdom of Solomon 7:26) and Philo ( de Decal. 21). J. H. Newman directed that his memorial tablet at Edgbaston should bear the words- Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem . Many writers have supposed that St. Paul refers not to a mirror but to a semi-transparent window-pane: ‘velut per corneum specular obsoletior lux’ (Tertullian, de An. 53). But a window of talc would be δίοπτρον (Lat. speculare ), not ἔσοπτρον. Tertullian has indeed the right interpretation in adv. Prax. 16, ‘in imagine et speculo et aenigmate.’

2 . St. Paul says that we all, with unveiled face mirroring (κατοπτριζόμενοι) the glory of the Lord, are transfigured (cf.  Mark 9:2) into the same image ( 2 Corinthians 3:18). While Moses, who saw God and for a little while outwardly reflected His glory, gradually lost the supernatural radiance, the disciples of Christ steadily beholding (cf.  John 1:14) and reflecting His moral glory, become daily more like Him: ‘the rays of Divine glory penetrate their innermost being and fashion them anew’ (Bousset, Die Schriften des NT , 1908, ii. 179). The older interpretation-‘beholding as in a mirror’-loses the parallel between Moses’ direct vision of God and ours (by faith) of Christ, and fails to do justice to the ‘unveiled face.’

3 . James ( James 1:23-25) compares the law of liberty-a splendid paradox-to a mirror in which a man sees himself as he is. The mere hearer of the law is like a person who gives a hasty glance at his face in a mirror and then turns his attention to other things; but he who continues to look into the mirror of the law till the moral ideal fascinates him and the categorical imperatives win his passionate assent, so that his own will is more and more conformed to the will of God-that man shall learn the secret of true happiness.

James Strahan.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [2]

1: Ἔσοπτρον (Strong'S #2072 — Noun Neuter — esoptron — es'-op-tron )

rendered, "glass" in the AV, is used of any surface sufficiently smooth and regular to reflect rays of light uniformly, and thus produce images of objects which actually in front of it appear to the eye as if they were behind it. "Mirrors" in Biblical times were, it seems, metallic; hence the RV adopts the more general term "mirror;" in  1—Corinthians 13:12 , spiritual knowledge in this life is represented metaphorically as an image dimly perceived in a "mirror;" in  James 1:23 , the "law of liberty" is figuratively compared to a "mirror;" the hearer who obeys not is like a person who, having looked into the "mirror," forgets the reflected image after turning away; he who obeys is like one who gazes into the "mirror" and retains in his soul the image of what he should be.

 2—Corinthians 3:18Behold

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): ( n.) That which gives a true representation, or in which a true image may be seen; hence, a pattern; an exemplar.

(2): ( n.) See Speculum.

(3): ( n.) A looking-glass or a speculum; any glass or polished substance that forms images by the reflection of rays of light.

(4): ( v. t.) To reflect, as in a mirror.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

Mirror.  Exodus 38:8;  Job 37:18. The Hebrew women. On coming out of Egypt. probably brought with them mirrors like those which were used by the Egyptians, and were made of a mixed metal, chiefly copper, wrought with admirable skill, and susceptible of a bright lustre.  1 Chronicles 13:12.

Holman Bible Dictionary [5]

 Exodus 38:8 Job 37:18 1 Corinthians 13:12Glass

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [6]

Mirror See Glass.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

See Looking Glass

Morrish Bible Dictionary [8]


Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [9]

Fig. 254—Egyptian Metal Mirrors

Mirror . In the first of these passages the mirrors in the possession of the women of the Israelites, when they departed from Egypt, are described as being of brass; for 'the laver of brass, and the foot of it,' are made from them. In the second, the firmament is compared to 'a molten mirror.' In fact, all the mirrors used in ancient times were of metal; and as those of the Hebrew women in the wilderness were brought out of Egypt, they were doubtless of the same kind as those which have been found in the tombs of that country, and many of which now exist in our museums and collections of Egyptian antiquities. These are of mixed metals, chiefly copper, most carefully wrought and highly polished; and so admirably did the skill of the Egyptians succeed in the composition of metals, that this substitute for our modern looking-glass was susceptible of a luster which has even been partially revived at the present day in some of those discovered at Thebes, though buried in the earth for so many centuries. The mirror itself was nearly round, and was inserted in a handle of wood, stone, or metal, the form of which varied according to the taste of the owner.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Mirror'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/mirror.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.