Stones of Heavens - In Ancient Books

Stones of Heavens - In Ancient Books

Here I list the ancient books that mention the stones of heavens by name.

I also list medieval books that preserve ancient traditions naming them.

I list the gem names in their original languages.

It is convenient to reference all of the evidence for the gem names in one place.

A reconstruction of the Khoshen, per Halakha, by R' Chaim Richman. The Temple Institute, templeinstitute.org.
Image closeup and enhanced: R' Chaim Richman. ©2011. From tour. Online: templemountjerusalem.blogspot.com.
(templemountjerusalem.blogspot.com/2010_06_01_archive.html, 2011.)

These gems are the holy stones of the twelve tribes of Yisrael.

The twelve gems bejewel the Khoshen חשן - the “Chestpouch” amulet that the Kohen Ha'Mashiakh כהן המשיח (“Priest the Anointed”) dons to enter the presence of God.

Each tribe has its own official kind of gem to represent it.

The Rabanim (Rabbis) of the book of Bamidbar Raba understand, each tribe has its own official color, and it is the color of the gem that makes that type of gem significant to the tribe.

For the Khoshen, the name of the tribe then engraves into the stone, apparently as a reverse intaglio, as a seal that can imprint the name properly on other surfaces.

The custom is to use the gem seal to emboss the wet clay around string that ties tight a container, so the clay dries to create an official seal that evidences if anyone tampers with the contents.

These twelve stones signify the official authority of each tribe.

Thru the Ages, Yisreli (Israeli) cultures continue to honor these stones.

The twelve stone seals originate during the Bronze Age. I suspect an early date. In my view, the nomadic tribal artisans carve the stones circa -1590. While still nomadic, they are familiar with the urban Mitsrayi (Egyptian) bureaucracy and technology.

The names for the gem types probably preserve the Hebrew language of the Iron Age. The Hebrew that the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) uses to identify the types of stones probably records the dialect of the later urban Tora scribes, circa -600s.

The gems vanish during the Classical Age in the destruction of the Temple in Yrushalayim (Jerusalem).

The Yisrael cultures continue to preserve and celebrate the memory of them - and the hope to restore them. These aborigines of the Land of Yisrael continue to celebrate their sacred tribal traditions, century after century after century, across thousands of years.

The stones are national heritage.

There are twelve different kinds of gems.

To specify the mineral and color of each historical gem is a puzzle.

There seems sufficient evidence to solve each identity, even definitively.

Below I strive to summarize all the ancient material that lists all twelve kinds of gems.

The information includes the Age, the language, the dialect, the century, the name of the book, the author when possible, an online link to that book, and finally the names of the twelve gem types in their original language.

A survey of the evidence suggests the identities of the gems remain more-or-less consistent, but their order can vary considerably.


Hebrew, Yrushalmit, circa -600s,
aka Jerusalemite Hebrew, Judahite Hebrew, Southern Canaanite, Biblical Hebrew.

Tanakh תנ״ך ,
aka Hebrew Bible, Jewish Bible, Mikra מקרא .

Tora תורה ,
ie “Instruction”, Law,
aka Torah, Khumash חומש , Pentateuch, Sifre Moshe, Books of Moses.

Shmot שמות ,
aka Shemot, Exodus.

(www.mechon-mamre.org/i/t/t0228.htm, 2011.)

אֹדֶם , פִּטְדָה , בָּרֶקֶת
נֹפֶךְ , סַפִּיר , יָהֲלֹם
לֶשֶׁם , שְׁבוֹ , אַחְלָמָה
תַּרְשִׁישׁ , שֹׁהַם , יָשְׁפֵה

The letters only.

אדם , פטדה , ברקת
נפך , ספיר , יהלם
לשם , שבו , אחלמה
תרשיש , שהם , ישפה


Greek, Koine, circa -200s,
Alexandria, Egypt.

aka Targum Ha'Shviim תרגום השבעים ,
aka Septuagint (Lxx), Greek Bible.

Exodos ἔξοδος,
aka Shmot, Shemot, Exodus.


σάρδιον , τοπάζιον , σμάραγδος
ἄνθραξ , σάπφειρος , ἴασπις
λιγύριον , ἀχάτης , ἀμέθυστος
χρυσόλιθος , βηρύλλιον , ὀνύχιον

The letters only.

σαρδιον , τοπαζιον , σμαραγδος
ανθραξ , σαπφειρος , ιασπις
λιγυριον , αχατης , αμεθυστος
χρυσολιθος , βηρυλλιον , ονυχιον

Greek, Koine, circa 00s.

Greek New Testament.

Apokalupsis ἀποκάλυψις,
aka Apocalypse, Revelation.

All versions agree, including Codex Vaticanus (B). There seems no scribal variants.

(www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=re%2021&version=WHNU, Westcott-Hort, 2011.)

ἴασπις , σάπφιρος , χαλκηδών , σμάραγδος , σαρδόνυξ , σάρδιον , χρυσόλιθος , βήρυλλος , τοπάζιον , χρυσόπρασος , ὑάκινθος , ἀμέθυστος

The letters only.

ιασπις , σσπφιρος , χαλκηδων , σμσραγδος , σαρδονυξ , σσρδιον , χρυσολιθος , βηρυλλος , τοπαζιον , χρυσοπρασος , υακινθος , αμεθυστος

Greek, Koine, circa 75.

Yosef Matitya יוסף מתתיה ,
aka Titus Flavia Iosephus, Josephus Flavia.

Ioudaikou Polemos Ἰουδαϊκοῦ πόλεμος,
aka Lat. De Bello Iudaico,
aka Jewish War.

Book 5 Verse 234,
aka Book 5 Chapter 5 Section 7.

(www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=J.+BJ+5.234&fromdoc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0147, 2011.)

σάρδιον , τόπαζος , σμάραγδος
ἄνθραξ , ἴασπις , σάπφειρος
ἀχάτης , ἀμέθυστος , λιγύριον
ὄνυξ , βήρυλλος , χρυσόλιθος,

Greek, Koine, circa 93.

Yosef Matitya יוסף מתתיה ,
aka Titus Flavia Iosephus, Josephus Flavia.

Ioudaike Arkhaiologia ιουδαικη αρχαιολογια,
ie “Yhudi Sayings of the Beginning”, Jewish ancient lore,
aka Lat. Antiquitates Judaicae,
aka Antiquities of the Jews.

Book 3 Verse 168,
aka Book 3 Chapter 7 Section 5.


σαρδόνυξ , τόπαζος , σμάραγδος
ἄνθραξ , ἴασπις , σάπφειρος
λίγυρος , ἀμέθυσος , ἀχάτης
χρυσόλιθος , ὄνυξ , βήρυλλος

Aramaic, Syriac, circa 100s.

Pshitta פשיטתא ,
ie “Plain” Translation,
aka Syriac Bible.

aka Shemot, Exodus.

(www.peshitta.org/pdf/ot/Exodus.pdf, 2011.)

סָמְקָן , יָרְקָן , בָּרְקָן
איזמרגזין *אִזְמַרַגְדִּין , שַׁבְזֵיז , סַבְהְלוֹם *סַבְהַלוֹם
קנקירי *קַנְכֵרִי , טְרַקְיָא *טַרְקְיָא , עֵין עִגְלָא
כְּרֻום יַמָא , בֻּורְלָא , פַּנְתֵירִי

Greek, Koine, circa 100s-200s.

Hexapla ἑξαπλά.
Parallel Hebrew-to-Greek translations, circa 200s.

Edited by
Ȯrigenės ὠριγένης,
aka Origen Adamantius,
aka Origen of Alexandria.

1 Hebrew: Masorti, aka Masoretic text.
2 Secunda: Hebrew-to-Greek transliteration.
3 Aquila עקילס , of Sinope, Pontus. circa 130. Word-for-word translation.
4 Ebionitės Summakhos συμμαχος, Symmachus. circa 200. Verse-for-verse paraphrase.
5 Septuagint. circa -200s. Circa 200s Origen marks Non-Hebrew expansions.
6 Theodotiȯn θεοδοτίων. circa 150.

aka Shmot, Shemot, Exodus.

(www.archive.org/stream/origenhexapla01unknuoft#page/130/mode/2up, 2011.)

All agree - Septuagint, Aquila, Theodotion - except Summakhos varies:

σάρδιον , τοπάζιον , σμάραγδος [Summakhos: κεραύνιος]
ἄνθραξ , σάπφειρος , ἴασπις
λιγύριον , ἀχάτης , ἀμέθυστος
χρυσόλιθος [Summakhos ὑάκινθος], βηρύλλιον , ὀνύχιον

Aramaic, Bavlit, circa 200s-300s.
aka Jewish Babylonian Aramaic.

Targum Onkelos תרגום אונקלוס ,
aka Targum Onqelos, Targum Bavli תרגום בבלי , Babylonian Targum.

Nkudot per the Masoret Ha'Temanim נקודות לפי מסורת התימנים ,
ie “vowel-points per the tradition of the Yemenites”.

aka Shemot, Exodus.

(www.mechon-mamre.org/i/t/u/up0208.htm, 2011.)

סָמְקָן , יָרְקָן , בָּרְקָן
אִזְמַרַגְדִּין , שַׁבְזֵיז , סַבְהֲלוֹם
קַנְכֵּרִי , טְרַקְיָא , עֵין עִגְלָא
כְּרוּם יַמָּא , בֻּרְלָא , פַּנְתֵּירִי

Latin, Vulgate, circa 385.

aka Versio Vulgata,
aka Vulgate Bible, Latin Bible.

Translated by Eusebios Sȯphronios Hierȯnumos, Εὐσέβιος Σωφρόνιος Ἱερώνυμος,
aka Lat. Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus,
aka Jerome, Hierom.

aka Apocalypse, Revelation.

(http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Revelation+21&fromdoc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0060, 2011.)

Iaspis , Sapphyrus , Carcedonius , Zmaragdus , Sardonix , Sardinus , Chrysolitus , Berillus , Topazius , Chrysoprassus , Hyacinthus , Amethistus

Compare modern standardized spelling.

(www.veritasbible.com/lvb/read/Apocalypsis_21, 2011.)

Iaspis , Sapphirus , Calcedonius , Smaragdus , Sardonyx , Sardius , Chrysolithus , Beryllus , Topazius , Chrysoprasus , Hyacinthus , Amethystus .

Latin, Vulgate circa 390.

aka Versio Vulgata,
aka Vulgate Bible, Latin Bible.

Translated by Eusebios Sȯphronios Hierȯnumos Εὐσέβιος Σωφρόνιος Ἱερώνυμος,
aka Lat. Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus,
aka Saint Jerome, Saint Hierom.

aka Shmot, Shemot.

(www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Exodus+28&fromdoc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0060, 2011.)

Sardius , Topazius , Zmaragdus
Carbunculus , Sapphyrus , Iaspis
Ligyrius , Achates , Amethistus
Chrysolitus , Onychinus , Berillus

Compare modern standardized spelling.

(www.veritasbible.com/lvb/read/Exodus_28, 2011.)

Sardius , Topazius , Smaragdus
Carbunculus , Sapphirus , Iaspis
Ligurius , Achates , Amethystus
Chrysolithus , Onychinus , Beryllus


Aramaic, Syriac, circa 600s.

Pshitta פשיטתא
aka Syriac New Testament.

Glina גלינא ,
aka Apocalypse, Revelation 21'19-20.

(Seeking online link.)

ישפה , ספילא , קרכדנא , זמרגדא , סרדון־וטפרא , סרדון , כאף־דהבא , ברולא , טופנדיון , כרוספרסא , יוכנתוס , אמותסס

Aramaic, Yrushalmi, circa 600s.

Cairo Genizah Fragment Targums.

From the Gniza (burial “stash” for worn books) of Bate Kneset Ben-Ezra. Includes different Targumim, three probably dating to 600s.


Aramaic, Glilit,
aka Galilean Aramaic.

Targum Neofiti, תרגום נאופיטי .

Colophon of copy dates to 1500s, Spain, ספרד , after the expulsion of Yhudim. Content seems early, possibly even 300s. But possibly sectarian, as some content opposes Halakha. Possibly a medieval compilation.

aka Shemot, Exodus.


Hebrew, circa 1000s.

Midrash Raba שמות רבה ,
aka Midrash Rabbah.

Shmot Raba שמות רבה ,
aka Shemot Rabbah, Exodus Rabba.

Numerous scribal variants, even in these modern copies that I cite here. I standardize them per Jastrow to determine the critically attested forms.

(www.tsel.org/torah/midrashraba/titsaveh.html, 2011.)
(www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14385&st=&pgnum=352, 2011.)
(he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%93%D7%A8%D7%A9_%D7%A8%D7%91%D7%94_%D7%A2%D7%9C_%D7%AA%D7%A6%D7%95%D7%94, 2011.)

שדרגנין , שימפוזין , דייקינתין , ברדינין , סנפרינון , אסמרגדין , כוחלין , אבאטיס , הימיסיון , קרומטסין , פראלוקין , מרגליטוס

Aramaic, Glilit, circa 1200s,
aka Galilean Aramaic.

Targum Yrushalmi Ktaim תרגום ירושלמי קטעים ,
aka Targum Ktaim, Fragment Targum, Fragmentary Targum.
aka Targum Yrushalmi B, Targum Yerushalmi 2.

Fragments difficult to date but includes early content associating Targum Neofiti, and possibly represents its variants. Probably medieval, probably after 1000s as its gem list seems to derive partly from Shmot Raba gem list.

aka Shemot, Exodus

(he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%AA%D7%A8%D7%92%D7%95%D7%9D_%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%A9%D7%9C%D7%9E%D7%99_(%D7%A7%D7%98%D7%A2%D7%99%D7%9D)_%D7%A2%D7%9C_%D7%A9%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%AA#.D7.A4.D7.A8.D7.A7_.D7.9B.D7.97, 2011.)

סַמְקָתָא , יַרְקָתָא , בַּרְקָתָא
כַּדְכְּדָנָא , סִמְפּוּלְיָנָא , עֵין עִיגְלָא
זוֹזוּן , בִּירְזְלִין , זְמַרְגְּדִין
כְּרוּם יַמָא , בְּדוֹלְחָא , מַרְגְּלִיתָא

Aramaic, Glilit, circa 1300s,
aka Galilean Aramaic.

Targum Yrushalmi Yonatan תרגום ירושלמי יונתן ,
aka Targum Myukhas L'Yonatan תרגום מיוחס ליונתן , Targum Psevdo-Yonatan פסבדו-יונתן , Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Targum Yonatan Ben Uziyel תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל .
aka Targum Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Targum, Targum Erets Yisrael תרגום ארץ ישראל , Land of Israel Targum,
aka Targum Yrushalmi A, Targum Yerushalmi 1.

Medieval origin, circa 800s-1500s, after 700s (mentions Aisha spouse of Muhamad and Fatima his child, after Islam), after 800s (alludes conquest of Constantinople קוסטנטיני קרתא חייבתא ), probably after 1100s (after Gonim and Rashi who dont refer to it).

aka Shemot, Exodus.


סִמוּקְתָּא , יַרְקְתָא ,בַּרְקְתָא
אִיזְמוֹרַד , סַפִּירִינוּן , כַּדְכוֹדֵי
קַנְכִּירִינוּן , עַרְקִין , עֵין עֵיגָל
כְּרוּם יַמָא רַבָּא , בִּירְלֵיוַות חַלָא , מַרְגְּנִיַית אַפַּנְטוּרִין