The command "And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes" (Deut. 6:8) was practiced by Jews from early times. In the Second Temple period the sages established that tefillin (phylacteries; amulets in Greek) would include four scriptural passages inscribed on parchment placed in box-like containers made of black leather. One of the phylacteries was worn one on the left arm and the other on the forehead. These served "as a sign upon your hand and as a symbol on your forehead that with a mighty hand the Lord freed us from Egypt" (Exodus 13:9, 16).
The Dead Sea region has now yielded the earliest phylactery remains, both of the leather containers and the inscribed strips of parchment. As a rule, phylacteries include the same four selections, two from the book of Exodus (Exod. 13:1-10; 13:11-16) and two from Deuteronomy (Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-21). The scriptural verses were penned in clear minuscule characters on the elongated writing material, which was folded over to fit the minute compartments stamped into the containers.
- Milik, J. T. "Textes Hebraux et Arameens." In Les Grottes de Murabba`at, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, II, pp. 80- 85. Oxford, 1961.
Yadin, Y. "Tefillin (Phylacteries) from Qumran [XQ Phyl 1-4])" (in Hebrew), Eretz-Israel 9 (1969):60-83 and plates.
English Translation of the Phylactery (Tefillin) ScrollMur 4 Phyl Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (3)
- (1)And spoke
- the Lord to
- saying, (2)"Consecrate
- to Me every first-born
- the first issue of every womb of the
- Israelites, man
- and beast is Mine."
- (3)And Moses said to the people,
- "Remember this day
- on which you went (free)
- from Egypt, the house of bondage,
- how with a mighty hand
- the Lord freed you from it; no
- leavened bread shall be eater. (4)This day
Transcription by J. T. Milik; translation adapted from "Tanakh," pp. 103-4. Philadelphia, 1985.
- Dead Sea Scrolls