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Bible Studies/shofar or salpinx in the N.T.


Some insist that when the word σαλπιγξ occurs in the N.T., it refers to the shofar rather than the metal horn the the word ordinarily denotes. Perhaps, but the case would be stronger if there was no other Greek word available to the writers to denote the horn of an animal used as a trumpet. My knowledge of Greek isn't strong enough to know if there is such a word. However, the Jewish encyclopedia complains that the Septuagint incorrectly renders Shofar as σαλπιγξ, and obviously such a complaint suggests that the editors of the Jewish Encyclopedia had a better translation in mind. And, of course, the situation is complicated by the fact that the N.T. writers often followed the Septuagint, and may have chosen to follow it in rendering the word Shofar as σαλπιγξ, even if a more accurate Greek word was available.

Dear Fred,

I've looked into this matter briefly and have concluded that the NT writers probably were able to indicate a ram's horn trumpet explicitly if they wished. In the great majority of instances in the LXX, even if the ram's horn is implied by the Hebrew, the ordinary Greek word σάλπιγξ (trumpet) and the verb σαλπίζω (to sound the trumpet) is used. Nonetheless, in a few verses, especially when trumpets AND horns are mentioned together, the term σάλπιγξ can be glossed with or replaced with the word κεράτινος, "made of horn." Here are the few verses that I found on a quick search that do that:

1 Kgs 1:39
NAS – Zadok the priest then took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, "Long live King Solomon!"
LXX – καὶ ἔλαβεν Σαδωκ ὁ ἱερεὺς τὸ κέρας τοῦ ἐλαίου ἐκ τῆς σκηνῆς καὶ ἔχρισεν τὸν Σαλωμων καὶ ἐσάλπισεν τῇ κερατίνῃ (made a trumpet blast with [the trumpet] made of horn) καὶ εἶπεν πᾶς ὁ λαός ζήτω ὁ βασιλεὺς Σαλωμων

2 Chron. 15:14
NAS – Moreover, they made an oath to the LORD with a loud voice, with shouting, with trumpets and with horns.
LXX – καὶ ὤμοσαν ἐν τῷ κυρίῳ ἐν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ ἐν σάλπιγξιν (with trumpets) καὶ ἐν κερατίναις (and with [trumpets made of] horn)

Ps. 98:6
NAS – With trumpets and the sound of the horn Shout joyfully before the King, the LORD.
LXX – [97:6] ἐν σάλπιγξιν (with trumpets) ἐλαταῖς καὶ φωνῇ σάλπιγγος κερατίνης (and with the sound of the trumpet made of horn) ἀλαλάξατε ἐνώπιον τοῦ βασιλέως κυρίου

What is the implication of all this? Context has to determine the probability in each case. Without doing a whole day's research in a theological library I can make the following comments on these NT verses mentioning trumpets from my general (and incomplete) knowledge of the cultural context of each:

Mat 6:2 "When you give to the needy, don't blow the trumpet ahead of you..." probably to be imagined as a metal trumpet rather than a Jewish ritual shofar.

Mat 24:31 "And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (ESV) Could be imagined as a shofar, depending on the eschatology imagined. Gentile readers would probably imagine a metal trumpet.

1Co 14:8 "And if the bugle (trumpet, σάλπιγξ) gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?" (ESV) Metal trumpet.

1Co 15:52 "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." (ESV) Paul and his Jewish readers could imagine this as a shofar, depending on the eschatology imagined. Gentile readers in Corinth would imagine a metal trumpet.

Heb 12:19 "...and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them." (ESV) No opinion except that the writer of Hebrews and his Jewish readers might well be more likely to imagine this as the sound of a ram's horn, because it was back in the old, rather primitive days of the Hebrews lately escaped from Egypt.

Rev 1:10 "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet" (ESV) I am inclined to think John imagined this as the ram's horn (shofar), but there is little way to be certain.

Rev 4:1 "After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this' (ESV) Same comment as previous example.

Rev 8:13 and all references to angels blowing trumpets in heaven: I am inclined to think John imagined these as metal trumpets, like those belonging to a king's heralds or to the administration of a city for warning purposes. These trumpets would be evocative of the idea of a public alarm, equivalent to today's air raid sirens. The meaning of the seven trumpets concerns an urgent and final warning to the peoples of the world to repent, because their actions are threatening to bring complete ruin on them.

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J. Webb Mealy


Qualified to answer questions about the New Testament, including ones that require expert knowledge of Greek, New Testament History, and New Testament Theology. Particular area of expertise is New Testament eschatology (teachings on the end of the world), the Book of Revelation, and the Gospel and epistles of John. Questions about English translations--how they are arrived at, whether they are accurate, and whether there are alternative possibilities. Textual criticism.


Have taught the Bible and New Testament to lay people for 20 years. Translator of the Spoken English New Testament (, author of After the Thousand Years: Resurrection and Judgment in Revelation 20 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992). Senior Biblical Studies Editor, Sheffield Academic Press, 1990-1995.

Instructor, Seminary of the Street, Oakland, CA

See my online publication,, which gives an easy-to-understand but thorough introduction to the Christian Good News. See, home of the Spoken English New Testament, the most accurate available translation of the New Testament into natural contemporary English.

PhD, Biblical Studies, Sheffield, UK MA (Honors), Humanities, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY BA (Cum Laude), Religious Studies/New Testament, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA

Awards and Honors
Research Paper, "Tracing the Rise of Modalism in Rome," named best graduate paper of the year, Western Kentucky University, 1981

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