The mantle is always a sign of authority and power. In the East it is called "The mantle of authority" worn by priests.
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As a convert to Christianity from Hinduism, Bishop K.C. Pillai came to the Western world on a singular mission: to teach the Eastern culture of the Bible. Although Christianity is generally considered a western religion, the Bible itself was written and set in the Orient, and it must be viewed through the light of that eastern window. The Bible is filled with passages that perplex the Western mind, and yet they were readily understood by the Easterner. When the reader becomes knowledgeable of the oriental idioms, customs, and traditions of the Biblical setting, these Scriptures become clear. God called Bishop K.C. Pillai to reveal these Biblical truths he called Orientalisms. At the time of the Bishop’s early life, his native India had remained an isolated country for thousands of years. Therefore, the customs and manners of the people were still aligned with the Eastern, Biblical culture. For over twenty years, Bishop Pillai taught these Orientalisms, bringing great enlightenment to the Christian world. His crusade of imparting this light of the Eastern Culture carried him to numerous universities and seminaries, as well as every major denomination throughout the United States, England and Canada. Still today, his teachings remain the foremost authority on the rare gems of Biblical customs and culture. Bishop K.C. Pillai’s conversion to Christianity is a witness of God’s heart, as well as a lesson in one of the most significant Eastern customs found in the Bible. The Bishop was raised as a Hindu. When a Hindu child of the ruling class is born, a little salt is rubbed on the baby who is then wrapped in swaddling cloth. This custom invoked one of the oldest and strongest covenants in the Eastern world, the “salt covenant.” In this particular instance, the child was salted for a lifetime of dedication to the Hindu religion. The “salt covenant” is used in like manner throughout the Bible to seal the deepest commitment. As a result of the salt covenant it is difficult for Hindus to convert to Christianity. When they do, their family actually conducts a funeral service to symbolize that the individual is dead to their family, the community and Hinduism. Their family will carry a portrait of the “deceased” to the cemetery and bury it. Many times Bishop spoke of his “burial day” when he was disinherited by becoming a Christian; the only Hindu willing to break that covenant of salt in his community during that time. K.C. Pillai answered God’s call and served as Bishop of North Madras in the Indian Orthodox Church. Sent on a special mission to the United States, he spent the last twenty years of his life acquainting Christians with the Orientalisms of the Bible. The interest Bishop Pillai generated in the field has led to numerous further studies by other scholars in the field of manners and customs in the Bible, as well. His books and teachings continue to illuminate and inspire students of the Bible throughout the world. A solid understanding of Orientalisms is essential to “rightly dividing” the Word of truth, and Bishop K.C. Pillai’s works remain an indispensable reference.
A mantle is usually a piece of white cloth three or four yards long and eighteen to twenty inches wide. They fold it over and over until it is 4 to 6 inches wide yet still the same length. They wear it folded about the neck and let it hang down to the knees or even below. When this cloth or garment is folded it is technically called a mantle in the Bible. The mantle is always a sign of authority and power. In the East it is called "The mantle of authority" worn by priests. No priest would think of preaching or administering the sacraments unless he had on the "mantle of authority" which in the Christian Church is called the stole. Many times in the East the mantle is unfolded and worn on the body like a shawl, or a shirt or it may even be called a sheet. The poorest use the mantle to cover with during the night. The Eastern people dress with their underclothing and then with a long piece of clothing that hangs from the shoulders to the ankles called the robe or cloke. Over this they wear a garment that hangs from the shoulders to the knees only and this is called the coat. Then over this they still wear or hang the mantle. Jesus instructed his followers that if any men should ask them for their coat they were to give their robe also. According to Bible customs when you get rid of your coat and robe you still are not naked although in the Bible it is called naked. You still have your "under clothes," but it is an indication of giving your all. For in the East many times a man has no other possession than what he wears.
The twelfth chapter of II Kings describes the translation of Elijah and the beginning of the ministry of Elisha, his successor. Elijah had just been taken up to heaven by a whirlwind.
II Kings 2:12:
And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father,…and he took hold of his clothes and rent them in two pieces.
To rent clothes, garments or mantle is all one and the same thing. People rent the mantle in two pieces at times of death, sorrow, distress or anger, showing thereby, that the authority is broken, gone. There by the Eastern people indicate to those round about them as to what is going on inside of their hearts. To rend the clothes, garments or mantle is always a sign of some great calamity or happening. Elisha saw the ascension of Elijah and the word Elijah means "God himself" so Elisha did what every Oriental of Bible times would do, tore his mantle in two pieces and threw it away, indicating great sorrow of heart and the authority of Elijah gone.
Bishop K.C. Pillai, D.D.