Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Pectoral
("pectoral of judgment").
The original meaning of the Hebrew term has been lost, and little light is thrown upon it by the early translations. The prevailing equivalent in the Sept. is logion; the Vulgate has rationale, whence the literal "rational" of the Douai version; the rendering in the Authorized Version is "breastplate".
In the minute directions given for the distinctive official dress of the high priest in Exodus, xxviii, a section belonging to the priestly code (cf. also Exodus, xxxix, 8-21), special prominence is given to the breastplate or pectoral. The divergent description of the same recorded by Josephus ("Antiq.", III, vii, 5 and "Bell." V, v, 7) is considered less reliable. The main reason of the importance attached to the construction of the pectoral seems to be the fact that it was the receptacle of the sacred oracular lot, the mysterious Urim and Thummim, a consideration which renders probable the tentative etymological signification of the original term proposed by Ewald ("Antiquities of Israel", 294), viz., "the pouch of the Oracle". From Exodus we learn that the material employed was the same substantially as for the ephod, viz., gold, blue, purple, and scarlet on a ground of fine twined linen, which are the finest and most artistic textile fabrics (cf. also Ecclus., xlv). The form of the pectoral was a square made by the folding in two of the material measuring a cubit in length and half a cubit in breadth. Into this square were fitted by means of gold settings four rows of precious stones, three in a row. On each jewel was inscribed the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, whose memory was thus borne continually before the Lord by the high priest in his official functions (see Exodus, xxviii, 29).
Besides the ordinary Commentaries on the Book of Exodus, see Ancessi, L'Egypte et Mo=95se (Paris, 1875), chap: Les Vétements les Grande Pr=90tre; KENNEDY in HASTINGS, Dict, of the Bible, s. v. Breastplate of the High Priest; BRAUN, Vest. Sacerd. Heb. (Amsterdam, 1680).
James F. Driscoll.