A post-biblical Hebrew word meaning Divine Presence, used mostly in the talmud as a substitute for the name of yahweh. In the Old Testament growing reverence for God's transcendent holiness had already led to a reluctance to refer directly to Him. Thus the introduction of various roundabout expressions: the angel of God (Ex 14.19; cf. 13.21); Yahweh's face (Dt 31.11; "to appear before" is literally "to behold the face of"); Yahweh's spirit (Is 63.14), Yahweh's word [Ps 32 (33).6], etc. The rabbis later preferred the word š ekînâ, whose Hebrew root šākan, to pitch a tent, was suggestive of the tent of meeting in the wilderness where God's glory abode. Various allusions in the New Testament draw on this notion and connect Jesus with the Shekinah. In Mt 18.20 there seems to be an allusion to a sentence in the mishnah: "If two men are met together and words of the Torah are spoken between them, the Shekinah dwells among them" (Ob 3.2). Also, Jn 1.14 may be translated "and the Word was made flesh and pitched his tent among us," a clear reference to the Tent of Meeting. Paul seems also to have the Shekinah image in mind in Col2.9: "For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
Bibliography: w. j. phythian-adams, The People and the Presence (New York 1942). j. abelson, Immanence of God in Rabbinical Literature (London 1912). s. terrien, The Elusive Presence: Toward a New Biblical Theology (1978, 1984).
[j. t. burtchaell]