Thursday, December 25, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Temple Shekel Coin Discovered

Conceptualizing the Son of God

Three recent books offer interesting insights into the way ancient Jews and Christians conceptualized the son of God as king, priest, mediator, etc. They also examine sacrifice and ascent. Idel's book looks at medieval Jewish mystical conceptualizations of the "Son." These works provide a number of fascinating insights.

A. Collins and J. Collins, King and Messiah as Son of God: Divine, Human, and Angelic Messianic Figures in Biblical and Related Literature, (Eerdmans, 2008), ISBN 0802807720

Levenson, Jon, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity, (Yale, 1993) ISBN 0300065116

Idel, Moshe, Ben: Sonship and Jewish Mysticism, (Continuum, 2007), ISBN 0826496660

Thursday, December 4, 2008

High Priest's Crown

For a number of years the Temple Institute in Jerusalem has been reconstruction the vessels and furnishings of the temple in the hope of the rebuilding of the temple. Here is the High Priest's crown (tzitz).

Something I never thought I'd see

Solomon's Temple restored, by the Legos. That's what I said, Legos, not Logos.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Herod's Tomb

National Geographic has an article on Herod in the Dec 2008 edition. It includes a large map insert with very nice drawings of the history of the Temple Mount.

Barker's Christmas book

Margaret Barker's new book, Christmas, the Original Story (SPCK Publishing, 2008, ISBN 0281060509), examines nativity traditions with an eye to temple theology. It has been available in England for over a month. However, I have not been able to find it available on any of the standard internet book dealers in the US.

For those of you who just can't wait 'til Christmas, it can be purchased from England via ABE Books

Then UK book distributor "TheBookCom" sells new copies for $11.81, with $10.33 for international shipping, which is about what you'd pay buying a new copy in the US given the exchange rate.

If anyone knows if the book is available in the US, let us know.

Herodian Temple Computer Model

This site has some nice screen snapshots and movies of a massive computer generated model of the Herodian Temple Mount.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Melchizedek Conference

Three of the four papers presented on Nov 8 in Oxford by the "Temple Studies Group" associated with Margaret Barker are now available online.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Book Notice: Liturgical Drama

Forthcoming in Summer of 2009, Paulist Press will publish:

Christine C. Schnusenberg, The Mythological Traditions of Liturgical Drama: The Eucharist as Theater (Paulist, 2009), ISBN 0809105446.

Its interesting thesis is described in the blurb:

This book, of unprecedented scope and richness, explores the multiple dimensions of the theater, open to detail and hermeneutic possibilities. It synthesizes an immense amount of cultural complexities. It arose out of the question about the problem of the polemics of the Church Fathers against the Roman theater and the subsequent manifestations of Western liturgical drama as a continuation of the Roman theater until Amalarius of Metz. She holds that theater was worship and worship was theater beckoning for participation in the mimetic repetition of the drama of a given cosmogonic myth. Having laid out a vast panorama, the book concludes with the argument that the beginning of the Christian theater, as embedded in the cosmogony of the Christ event, developed out of the same mimetic cosmogonic stream as those from times immemorial.

It is available on Amazon for pre-order.

Book Notice: Temple and Contemplation

The most recent number of an annual journal, Letter and Spirit, published by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, is entitled Temple and Contemplation. It contains a number of interesting articles of Catholic interpretations of the importance of the temple in the Bible and early Christianity. It can be purchased on Amazon by ISBN number 1931018529.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Temple Illustrations

The English Standard Version Study Bible (ESV) was recently published. It includes a number of very nice color illustrations of the Israelite tabernacle and temples based on designs by Leen Ritmeyer.

When you purchase the Bible you are given an access code which allows you to use their online materials, including nice digitized versions of the Temple illustrations.

Monday, November 17, 2008

SANE Temple Symposium update 2

Bryce Hammond on "Temple Study" has been keeping an updated list of the videos of the speakers at the SANE Temple Symposium. All but two are now available.

SANE Temple Symposium recordings.

Ritmeyer Blog

Leen Ritmeyer, author of The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (a must read!), has a blog focusing on Temple Mount history and archaeology.

Temple Studies Group in England

Margaret Barker and some other English scholars have formed a "Temple Studies Group" in England. They have a web page under construction:

Last weekend they held a Seminar on Melchizedek and temple traditions. The papers will be posted on the web page in the next week or two. I'll send an update when they are available.

Margaret Barker has her own web page:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More on Temple Mount Discoveries

This in fact confirms pilgrim testimony that there was a Christian church on the Temple Mount, that there was "a cross-shaped basilica" at the "pinnacle of the temple." (Brevarius, version B, from the sixth century, see J. Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims (2002), p 121)

Temple Mount discoveries

The Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation keeps a blog on their activities and discoveries in sifting through the earth dump from the construction projects the Waqf is undertaking on the Temple Mount/Haram.

Zachi Zweig, one of the directors along with Gabi Barkay, has written a summary of the brief archaeological discoveries of the past few decades

The full article is only in Hebrew, but includes pictures of the major archaeological finds on the Temple Mount, largely discovered during Muslim renovations.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Solomon's Temple video

Here's a brief computer generated recreation of Solomon's Temple for an upcoming Nova TV production.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New SANE Temple Symposium presentation online

Andrew Miller
"Ante-Nicene Mysteries in New Testament Sources"

Also, Bryce Hammond is making a complete list of all the presentations from the SANE Symposium, and links to those that were recorded.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

SANE Temple Symposium update

FAIR has begun to post videos of the SANE symposium speakers on its YouTube web page:
More will be coming in the next few days.
Right now the following presentations are available.

Ante-Nicene Mysteries by Andrew Miller
pt 1
pt 2

Early Christian Prayer Circles
pt 2
pt 3

SANE Temple Symposium

The BYU "Students of the Ancient Near East" sponsored a symposium yesterday on "Temples and Rituals in Antiquity." Many of the presentations were video taped, and will be put on Google Video in the next week or so. I'll provide a link when these are ready.

In the meantime, two presentations are available on the web as video podcasts:

William Hamblin
"What is the Merkabah (Chariot) in Ezekiel 1"

David Seely and William Hamblin
"The Hand of God: From Theophany to Apotheosis"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The One that Got Away?

Although it is about Solomon's Temple, for some reason I don't find this story completely convincing.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

New Book: Architecture of Herod

A new book on the buildings of Herod the Great includes a chapter on the Temple, as well as materials on archaeology, engineering and design that can help us visualize how the Temple may have looked.

Ehud Netzer
Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder
(Baker, 2008)
ISBN 0801036127

From the Blurb:
Herod the Great, one of the most famous builders of the biblical world, is a name well known to New Testament readers. Recently a team led by Ehud Netzer, a leading Israeli archaeologist of the Herodian period, discovered the tomb of Herod in one of his palaces two thousand years after his death. This volume highlights Herod's personal involvement with and contributions to his building projects, which benefited from his analytical mind, creative imagination, and deep understanding of the building and planning process. In many ways, the book presents the first comprehensive synthesis of Herod's enterprises from architectural and archaeological viewpoints.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Photos of 3000 year old inscription

Oct. 26: Archaeologist Yossi Garfinkel displays a ceramic shard
bearing a Canaanite inscription at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Garfinkel says the ceramic shard containing five lines of faded
characters written 3,000 years ago at the time of the Old Testament's
King David, was found in the ruins of an ancient fortified town south
of Jerusalem and is the oldest Hebrew inscription ever discovered.
Other scholars contend it's not clear whether the inscription was
Hebrew or another closely related Canaanite dialect from the time.,4644,5514,00.html#2_0,4644,5514,00.html#1_0

Thursday, October 30, 2008

7th century BC seal found near Temple Mount,israeli-archeologists-find-rare-ancient-stone-seal.html

The seal depicts an archer from this period, with the name HGB (Hagab) in paleo-Hebrew script.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Karnak Temple (Luxor, Egypt)

An excellent digital tour and explanation of the Karnak Temple of Amon at Luxor in Egypt can be found at:

Although not directly related to the Temple of Jerusalem, it provides important information on the broader ancient Near Eastern context of Israelite temple worship and theology.

New Finds in First Temple era Jerusalem

A water tunnel

This may be related to what the excavator thinks could be King David's palace.

And allegedly the oldest extant Hebrew text

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ezekiel’s Vision 5: The Characteristics of the Cherubim

In the previous section we noted that in Ezekiel’s first vision he sees four strange ḥayyôt. In a later vision he explicitly equates the ḥayyôt with cherubim (kĕrubîm) (10:15, 20). In Hebrew cherub is singular, while cherubim is plural (the “–im” suffix indicates masculine plural in Hebrew; the occasional English “cherubims” is an anglicized plurization of a transliteration of an already plural Hebrew word.).

Later Christian tradition sees cherubs as a class of angels, as systematized in the angelic hierarchies found in Pseudo-Dionysius’ Celestial Hierarchies (c. AD 500). However, as far as I am aware, cherubs are never explicitly said to be angels in the Hebrew Bible, where they were probably understood to be part of the “sons of God” (bĕnê ĕlōhîm), or council of God (ĕlōhîm, ĕlîm). (See, for example, Ps 8:5 (6), which says that Man is “a little lower” than the ĕlōhîm, which the LXX translates as angelous/angels, as it also appears in the KJV. The Vulgate keeps to the Hebrew better: “paulo minus a Deo,” “a little less than God.” Furthermore, biblical cherubs should not be confused with the small winged children that appear frequently in late Renaissance and Baroque art, which are technically putti, Italian for “children.”)

In the Hebrew Bible cherubs usually play the role of guardians of the presence/throne of God. Indeed, they are never mentioned apart from the presence/throne of God, the Garden, or the Temple. In the Garden of Eden they guard the way to the Tree of Life (Gen 3:24). In Ezek 28:14-16 they are guardians of the “mountain of God.” God is “enthroned” upon cherubim (1 Sam 4:4; Isa 37:16; Ps 80:1, 99:1; 1 Chr 13:6, etc.), and “rides” upon them (Ps 18:10; 2 Kg 19:15; 2 Sam 22:11), exactly as described by Ezekiel. Images of cherubs are found on the curtains and walls of the Tabernacle and Temple (Ex 25:18-20; 1 Kgs 6:23-28), but no description of them are given in these texts, other than that they have wings. Most importantly, four cherubs are found in the Holy of Holies of the Temple; two on the ark of the covenant (Ex 25:20, 37:9), and another two large cherubs overarching the ark (1 Kgs 6:27, 8:6-7; 2 Chr 3:11-13, 5:7-8). Most importantly for an interpretation of Ezek 1 and 10, it is quite likely that the four cherubs Ezekiel saw are intended to be the four cherubs of the Holy of Holies of the Temple. Reinforcing this interpretation is the fact that only in the Holy of Holies and in Ezekiel’s vision are the wings of cherubs said to be touching each other (1 Kgs 6:27; 2 Chr 3:11; Ezek 1:9, 11). Thus, when Ezekiel enters the cloud and sees the cherubs, he is entering the Holy of Holies.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ezekiel’s Vision 4: The “Living Creatures”

Ezek. 1:5 (NRSV)
In the middle of it was something like four living creatures. This was their appearance: they were of human form.

Unfortunately, the Hebrew of Ezekiel is very terse and ambiguous, probably intentionally so. A more literal, though not necessarily more intelligible translation is:

And from the middle of it [were] the likenesses of four living [things] (ḥayyôt) and this was their appearance: the likeness of a human.

Ezekiel begins his description of the throne of God with reference to the “four living creatures,” in Hebrew, ḥayyôt. Ḥayyôt is the (grammatically feminine) plural of hayyāh, meaning something that is living or alive. In Gen 2:7, when God breathes of “breath of life” into Adam, he becomes a “living soul,” a nefeš hayyāh. In the Bible the term ḥayyôt generally refers to any kind of animal, but quite frequently wild animals or beasts of prey (HALOT = Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament). (Indeed, the Vulgate translates it as animalium; “animal” is a good semantic translation, since animal refers to something that is “animate” because it has an “anima,” Latin for soul.) It should be noted that Ezekiel 10:1-15 gives a lengthy description of the Cherubim (kĕrubîm), concluding that “these are the ḥayyôt” that he described in chapter 1. I’ll return to the question of the Cherubs later. When he first encounters them Ezekiel only knows them as strange “living beings” rather than Cherubim.

The next question raised by this passage is the location of the four “living things,” which I will call by the Hebrew word, ḥayyôt. The Hebrew says they are mit-tôk-âh, literally, “from the middle/midst of it [the cloud].” This can mean either that the four ḥayyôt came out of the middle of the cloud, or that they four ḥayyôt were inside the middle of the cloud. The same word is used in 1:4 referring to the amber light and fire. Are the light and fire in the middle of the cloud, or coming out of the cloud? Both ancient and modern translators have taken both positions. The LXX describe the ḥayyôt as en tō mesō (in the middle), while the Latin says ex medio (from out of the middle). This is an import distinction: is Ezekiel going into the cloud to see the throne of God? Or is God coming out of the cloud so that Ezekiel can see him? There is no way to know for certain in this case, but based on parallels with other biblical theophanies (Moses enters the cloud in Ex 24:18, vs. Ex 19:9 where the people only see God within the “dense cloud”) I believe that Ezekiel enters into the cloud to see the four creatures. This is, as I will later argue, the equivalent of entering into the Holy of Holies in the Temple.

Ezekiel first describes the four creatures as having the “form, shape, likeness” (dĕmût) of “living” things/beings/animals/creatures (ḥayyôt), and then in the very next line describes them as having the dĕmût of a human (ʾādām). At first glance this seems contradictory, but Ezekiel seems to be saying that these dĕmût have the general form of a human/ʾādām, but their wings, hoofs, and four faces (discussed later) mean they are not real ʾādām.

(It is worth noting that in Gen 1:25 the first human (ʾādām) has the shape/form/likeness (dĕmût) of God (ʾĕlōhîm), whereas here the ḥayyôt have the dĕmût of ʾādām. (The hidden implication of this may well be that these beings are part of the divine council to whom God said “let us make ʾādām in our dĕmût” in Gen 1:25. But that is another question.)

Finally, the LXX translates ḥayyôt as zōon (plural zōōn), from which our zoology, the study of living things. This same Greek term is used by John in Revelation to refer to the four creatures that surround the throne of God (Rev 5:6, 8, 11, 14; 6:1, 3, 5–7; 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4). In other words, John is saying that the beings he sees in his vision are the same ones Ezekiel saw in his. From this, the four ḥayyôt/zōōn pass into medieval Christian art as the four creatures that surround the throne of God with the heads of a lion, eagle, bull, and man. (See illustrations)

Image 1: Late 13C San Chapelle in Paris depicting Ezekiel in the center facing the four ḥayyôt (right). Above Ezekiel is Christ, the figure Ezekiel sees enthroned. Behind Ezekiel is Solomon's Temple at Jerusalem.

Image 2: 14C Winchester Bible (Winchester, England), showing on the right one of the ḥayyôt, and on the left, the four "wheels" (which I will discuss later).

Image 3: 6C Rabbula Gospel showing Christ (above) enthroned on the ḥayyôt with the "wheels within wheels".

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ezekiel’s Vision 3: The Storm Theophany

Ezek 1:4
And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire.

Ezekiel’s vision begins with a distant storm coming from the north to the south including a cloud and a flashing fire—probably lightening. This phenomena is known to scholars as a “storm theophany,” that is to say, a manifestation of God (theophania) in (or as) a storm.

It is important to note that at the time of his vision Ezekiel is in Mesopotamia on the Chebar River (1:3), a tributary to the Euphrates. The appearance of the storm from the north may be present an indirect indication that it is meant to come from Jerusalem, since at the time of Ezekiel communication between Mesopotamia was not direct from east to west (across the Syrian desert), but travelers would go north and then south, a longer but much easier root. More on the implications of this later. Another way to read “from the north” is from ṣāfôn, which does mean north, but is also the name of the sacred mountain of the Canaanites. Thus, the storm may be coming from the mountain of the gods.

Storm theophanies are quite common in the Bible, most prominent in Ex 19, where a God appears in a storm on Mt. Sinai (e.g. Nah 1:3; See Anchor Bible Dictionary “Theophany in the Old Testament”). The appearance of God in a cloud is also a common motif (eg. Ex 24:15-20, 40:34-38, Num 9:15-23, etc.), and is related to the appearance of God in a cloud at the Transfiguration of Jesus.

The cloud of the storm theophany is symbolically reproduced in the Temple by the burning of incense, so that God appears in the Holy of Holies “in the cloud upon the mercy seat” (Lev 16:2, 12-13). The important point to note here is that in the Temple or outside of the Temple, God frequently appears in a cloud, and to enter into the presence of God, one must pass into this cloud, either the cloud of incense in the Temple, or the storm cloud outside the Temple (Ex 24:15-18; Mt 17:5). In the Temple the flashing light or the shinning glory of the Lord (Mt 17:2) the light of the menorah and the burning coals of the incense altar, while the thunder of the storm is the sounding of the trumpets (šōfār) (Ex 19:16-19). Thus, in the Temple context, storm-cloud, lightening and thunder are incense-cloud, menorah/coals and trumpets.

On the context of importance of storm gods and storm theophanies in the ancient Near East, see:
Green, A. The Storm-god in the Ancient Near East, (Eisenbrauns, 2003)
Cross, Frank, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, (Harvard, 1997)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rebuilding the Temple?

The Jerusalem Post has a long article on Third Temple movements.

(PS I'm really not obsessing on this issue. Every year at the time of the fall Jewish holidays the Temple Movement do demonstrations and processions trying to get onto the Temple Mount, and so get in the news for a week or two.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Barker's Gate of Heaven

Margaret Barker's 1991 book The Gate of Heaven: The History and Symbolism of the Temple in Jerusalem, which has long been out of print, has recently been reprinted by Sheffield Phoenix Press (2008), ISBN 1906055424, available on Amazon.

Christian Zionists

Evangelical Christian Zionists celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles in Israel

Gershom Gorenberg, The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount (Oxford, 2002) gives an interesting account of the various Christian, Jewish and Muslim movements and their struggle for the Temple Mount.

Randall Price gives the Evangelical perspective on Third Temple movements in: The Battle for the Last Days Temple (2004) and The Temple and Bible Prophecy (2005).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ritual Golden Plates

The Orphic golden plates are ritual texts buried with initiates as a tool to facilitate passage to the afterlife. A recent book provides complete translations, commentary, and a study of these fascinating texts.

F. Graf and S. Johnston, Ritual Texts for the Afterlife: Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets (Routledge, 2007)

From the Blurb:
"Fascinating texts written on small gold tablets that were deposited in graves provide a unique source of information about what some Greeks and Romans believed regarding the fate that awaited them after death, and how they could influence it. These texts, dating from the late fifth century BCE to the second century CE, have been part of the scholarly debate on ancient afterlife beliefs since the end of the nineteenth century. Recent finds and analysis of the texts have reshaped our understanding of their purpose and of the perceived afterlife.

The tablets belonged to those who had been initiated into the mysteries of Dionysus Bacchius and relied heavily upon myths narrated in poems ascribed to the mythical singer Orpheus. After providing the Greek text and a translation of all the available tablets, the authors analyze their role in the mysteries of Dionysus, and present an outline of the myths concerning the origins of humanity and of the sacred texts that the Greeks ascribed to Orpheus. Related ancient texts are also appended in English translations. Providing the first book-length edition and discussion of these enigmatic texts in English, and their first English translation, this book is essential to the study of ancient Greek religion."

Golden plates, afterlife, and ritual initiation! Who could ask for anything more?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Priestly Blessing at Western Wall

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Third Temple Movements

Small but vigorous Jewish movements are afoot in Israel seeking to rebuild the Temple, often with the help of eschatologically oriented evangelical groups. Nearly every year during the Jewish holy days surrounding Rosh ha-Shanah, some of these movements have demonstrations at or around the Temple Mount. This years demonstration is associated with attempts to make the bronze laver for the new temple, as described at

The two most active Third Temple movements are the Temple Institute

and the Temple Mount Faithful

For more information and bibliography see Hamblin and Seely, Solomon's Temple (2007), pp. 197-203

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The World's First Temple?

The Volume 61 Number 6, November/December 2008 issue of Archaeology, just off the press, has an article by Sandra Scham, entitled "The World's First Temple." An abstract of the article (with photos) can be found at:

It discusses the site of Göbekli Tepe near modern Urfa (ancient Edessa) in Turkey, not far north of the border with Syria. Additional information can be found at:öbekli_Tepe

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Was There a Biblical Esotericism?

The concept of esoteric—“inner”—teachings or practices has an important role in the history of religions. The fundamental idea is that there are certain exoteric beliefs and practices that are public taught and widely known, while there are other esoteric ideas and practices that are restricted to the prepared, enlightened, initiated, educated, or spiritually advanced.

The English terms esoteric and exoteric derive from Greek roots, but are cognate with the more straightforward Latinate interior and exterior, or more generally in English, inner and outer. The Greek terms esōteros and esōterikos, however, were rarely used for inner and out religious teachings in classical antiquity.

From the biblical perspective, however, the Greek term esōteros is a rare term with a very special technical meaning. This can be seen in its major occurrence of the word in the New Testament in Heb 6:19. Here Paul is discussing Christ, as the Great High Priest, entering the Holy of Holies of the celestial Temple.

In the KJV it reads: “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil

The NRSV reads: “We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain

The Greek for the bold face phrase here is esōteron tou katapetasmatos. Katapetasma is the technical term in both the LXX and the New Testament for the veil or curtain of the Temple. Esōteron means literally, as the KJV has it, “that [place/thing] which is within,” and, as noted earlier, is the Greek root from which we draw our word esoteric. (The meanings of these words are taken from the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed., and the Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, 2nd ed.)

However, as the NRSV rightly translates esōteron more technically as the “inner shrine behind” (or better “within) the curtain/veil (katapetasma).

The NRSV translates esōteron as the “inner shrine behind/within” because Paul is, in fact, quoting a technical use of that phrase from the description of the Day of Atonement ritual in Lev 16, where the Holy of Holies within the temple veil is consistently described in the Septuagint as esōteron tou katapetasmatos (Lev 16:2, 12, 15). In biblical Greek, then, esōteron tou katapetasmatos is a technical phrase meaning “[the place of the Holy of Holies] within the veil/curtain.”

Esoteric, then, in its original biblical meaning, refers to the teachings and practices done within the veil of the Temple. This concept helps us understand that in the biblical world view there were public, exoteric rites and teachings performed in the outer court of the Temple in view of all the people, and there were private, esoteric rites and teachings performed within the Temple building and restricted to the priests or even the High Priest alone.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ezekiel’s Vision 2: Preliminary Bibliography

I’m listing below some of the many articles and commentaries on Ezekiel that I may reference occasionally throughout the forthcoming series, which I will cite by author name and page number. Others will be added to this bibliography as my study progresses, so this bibliography will be periodically updated.

The most useful commentary I have found is Othmar Keel’s Jahwe Visionen und Siegelkunst, unfortunately only available in German. Keel is probably the greatest living scholar of ancient Near Eastern iconography, and his book includes illustrations of nearly all ancient Near Eastern parallels to the types of things Ezekiel seems to be discussing.

Allen, L. Ezekiel 1-19. Word Bible Commentary, vol. 28 (Dallas: Word, 1994).
Block, Daniel, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 1-24, (Eerdmans, 1997)
Greenberg, Moshe, Ezekiel 1-20, Anchor Bible, vol. 22, (Doubleday, 1983)
Joyce, Paul. Ezekiel: A Commentary, (T & T Clark, 2007)
Keel, O. Jahwe Visionen und Siegelkunst, (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwek, 1977)
Nicot, Daniel, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 1-24, (Eerdmans, 1997)
Zimmerli, Walther, Ezekiel 1, Hermeneia Commentary (Fortress, 1979)

Allen, L. C. “The Structure and Intention of Ezekiel 1” Vetus Testamentum 43 (1993) 145-161.
Barrick, W. “The Straight-Legged Cherubim in Ezekiel’s Inaugural Vision (Ezekiel 1:7a),” Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 44 (1982) 543-550.
Borowski, E. “Cherubim: God’s Throne?” Biblical Archaeology Review 21/4 (1995) 37.
Greenberg, M. “Ezekiel’s Vision: Literary and Iconographic Aspects,” in History, Historiography and Interpretation, ed. H. Tadmor and M Weinfeld (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1983), 159-168
Halperin, D. “Merkabah Midrash in the Septuagint,” Journal of Biblical Literature 101 (1982) 351-363

Ezekiel’s Vision 1: Introduction

The question of the interpretation of the meaning of the “Chariot/Throne” in Ezekiel’s Vision (Ezek 1:4-28 and 10:1-22) is one of the most vexing, yet important topics in biblical exegesis, with significant implications for understanding the “temple theology” of ancient Israel. Probably the first thing to note is that Ezekiel never actually uses the term “chariot” (merkābāh) in his visionary texts in chapters 1 and 10, though the term became the traditional way to reference Ezekiel’s vision in later Jewish esoteric traditions.

In the next few weeks I will be examining some of the temple motifs found in this extraordinary and difficult vision. But I must begin with a caveat that my interpretations here will necessarily be somewhat speculative, as in fact, all interpretations of these passages must be, due to the esoteric nature and ambiguity of the text. Nonetheless, I will try to base my interpretation squarely on contextualized ancient evidence, both biblical and non-biblical, and to clearly indicate when I am stepping beyond the bounds of the evidence.

My plan is to examine each of the elements of Ezekiel’s vision in the order he describes them, and then to attempt to synthesize all of the elements into a coherent symbolic and systematic whole. Unfortunately, many of the commentaries spend a great deal of time telling us what Ezekiel says, but far less time telling us what Ezekiel means, which is a much more complex, difficult, and important question. Ezekiel’s vision is so far removed from the world-view of modern readers as to render it almost incomprehensible, especially to non-Hebrew readers. (On the other hand, the Hebrew often makes the text even more inscrutable.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sarcophagus of High Priest family found

See Report here (with links to larger photos):

The Hebrew inscription reads ben ha-kohen ha-gadol = "son of the high priest"

Friday, October 3, 2008

Book on the Temple Veil

A new book includes a detailed study on the meaning of the veil in Israelite and Jewish religion.

Daniel M. Gurtner
The Torn Veil: Matthew's Exposition of the Death of Jesus
Cambridge University Press, 2007
ISBN-10: 052187064X

From the blurb:
Daniel M. Gurtner examines the meaning of the rending of the veil at the death of Jesus in Matthew 27:51a by considering the functions of the veil in the Old Testament and its symbolism in Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism. Gurtner incorporates these elements into a compositional exegesis of the rending text in Matthew. He concludes that the rending of the veil is an apocalyptic assertion like the opening of heaven revealing, in part, end-time images drawn from Ezekiel 37. Moreover, when the veil is torn Matthew depicts the cessation of its function, articulating the atoning role of Christ's death which gives access to God not simply in the sense of entering the Holy of Holies (as in Hebrews), but in trademark Matthean Emmanuel Christology: 'God with us'. This underscores the significance of Jesus' atoning death in the first gospel.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Location of Solomon’s Temple 10b: The Golden Thread

The transformation of Christianity into the imperial religion of Rome brought with it the transformation of the sacred geography of Jerusalem as the city was reconsecrated as a Christian holy place. Of course this transformation had begun with earlier Christian traditions, but culminated with the appropriation of the sacred geography and traditions of Jerusalem into Imperial Christianity. (Wilken, Land Called Holy; Walker, Holy City, Holy Places?) An important part of the new imperial Christian order was that the Temple Mount was not the site of any major Christian building activity. Its very desolation, however, rendered it holy, for was seen as a sign by Christians of the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy that “not one stone [of the Temple] will be left upon another” (Mt 21:12). This fact had two interesting implications. First, the site of the Temple was regularly visited by Christian pilgrims who left accounts of what they saw there. Second, the absence of any church on the site of the Temple left the place available for attempted Jewish rebuilding of the Temple, and ultimately the Muslim building of the Dome of the Rock (See Hamblin and Seely, Solomon’s Temple). The following are some of the major records of the site of the Temple from AD 325 until after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in AD 638.

• AD 333. The Bordeaux pilgrim, traveling around 333, reported that the Jews were allowed to come to Jerusalem every year to mourn the destruction of the Temple. During this mourning ritual, they would “anoint” (unguent) a “pierced stone” (lapis pertusus). This is almost certainly a reference to the eben šĕtîyyāh (“foundation stone”) mentioned in the Mishnah around AD 200 (Yoma 5.2). The fact that the stone is described as “pierced” quite likely has reference to the hole in the Rock in the current Dome of the Rock. He likewise saw the statue of Hadrian, undoubtedly the same statue that Origen saw on the site of the Temple 100 years earlier. (Origen was writing, it should be remembered, within living memory of the sages of the Mishnah.) The Bordeaux Pilgrim also saw the “blood of [the martyred] Zacharias” “before the altar [of the Temple],” perhaps a reference of the ruined survival of the altar. Finally, the Bordeaux Pilgrim mentions that on the Temple there is “a crypt where Solomon used to torture devils” (a reference to the Testament of Solomon, OTP 2:935-87) (Itinerary, 589-91 = Peters, Jerusalem, 143-4). We thus have mention of an altar, a stone the Jews venerate, a hole in the stone, and an underground chamber all on the Temple Mount, and all of which make perfect sense in relation to known features of the Rock of the Dome of the Rock, with its hole and cave underneath. The reference to the statue of Hadrian means the site the Bordeaux Pilgrim saw was probably the same one Origen knew.

•AD 363. When Julian “the Apostate” became emperor of Rome, he reinstated paganism as the official state religion. In an attempt to undermine Christian ideology, he allowed the Jews to rebuild their Temple (Hamblin and Seely, Solomon’s Temple, 77 for bibliography). Construction efforts got underway, but were never completed because of an earthquake and the death of Julian in battle a few months later. However, a number of sources report that the site of the Temple was cleared of its ruins down to the foundations. John Chrysostom reports that the Jews told Julian, that if he would “restore the temple, open up the holy of holies for us, fix the altar, [then] we will sacrifice at that time.” This report indicates, at the very least, that the Jews believed they knew were the old Temple had been located. Sozomen (Church History, 5.22 = Peters, Jerusalem, 146) reported “when [the Jews] had removed the remains of the former building [of the Temple], they dug up the ground and cleared away its foundations. … On the following day, when they were about to lay the first foundation” for the new temple, an earthquake occurred, halting the work. John Chrysostom agreed: the Jews uncovered “the foundations [of the Temple] by removing masses of earth … You can see the bared foundations if you visit Jerusalem now” (Exp. in Psalms 110, cited in Shanks, Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, 57). These reports indicate that in 363, ruins of the old Temple were still standing, and its location was known the Jews. Secondly, however, it seems to indicate that the ruins of Herod’s temple were largely removed at this time so the new construction could begin. What this means is that if we were able to excavate on the Temple Mount today, it is quite likely that no remains of Herod’s central sanctuary (naos) would be found, although it is possible that some of the foundation stones may still be there.

• AD 381 Egeria mentions the Temple Mount, adding that “the rest of the Temple has been destroyed” (Wilkinson, Egeria’s Travels, 88).

• AD 395. The pilgrim account known as “Brevarius A,” agrees that there was reportedly nothing left of Solomon’s Temple “apart from a single cave (cripta)” (J. Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims before the Crusades, [2002], 121; Peters, Jerusalem, 155). This matches nicely with the cave/cistern mentioned sixty years earlier by the Bordeaux Pilgrim which can be visited under the Dome of the Rock today. The fact that the ruins seen a century earlier by Eusebius in 311 are now gone is probably because they were removed during the Jewish rebuilding project of Julian in 363. Thus, although the ruins were gone, the site could still be recognized because of the cave/cistern mentioned by the Bordeaux Pilgrim sixty years earlier.

• AD 410. Furthermore, Jewish mourning pilgrimage, also mentioned by the Bordeaux Pilgrim was still ongoing a century later. In the early fifth century Jerome reports that the Jews were still allowed to visit the site of the temple to mourn its destruction on the 9th of Ab. “Those miserable people [the Jews] groan over the ruins of their Temple … they groan over the ashes of the sanctuary, the destroyed altar” (C. Soph 1.15). This indicates both that the Jewish mourning ritual was still practiced at the site of the Temple, indicating a continuity of Jewish knowledge of its location. It may also indicate that the ruins of the altar were still visible.

• AD 430. Eucherius, bishop of Lyon, visited Jerusalem, reporting that the Temple “was once a world’s wonder, but of its ruins there stands today only the pinnacle of one wall, and the rest are destroyed down to their foundations.” He also notes that “the east wall of Jerusalem is also the wall of the Temple” (Peters, Jerusalem, 154). This is consistent with the fact that the east wall of the Temple Mount is also the east wall of old Jerusalem as a whole.

• AD 439. Jewish mourning on the temple site is mentioned again in the Bar Sawma incident some thirty years later. During the reign of Eudocia—a Byzantine empress {AD 421-440} who retired to live in Jerusalem from AD 440-460—the Jews were still permitted, for a fee, to come to worship in the ruins of the Temple. During one of these periods, a riot broke and, stones were thrown, and some of the Jews killed (Vita Bar Sawma 3.19 = Peters, Jerusalem, 158-61). These regular Jewish mourning pilgrimages to the site of the Temple means its location was still known to the Jews nearly a century after the abortive attempt at reconstruction in 363. It is not clear if the tradition of Jewish pilgrimage to the ruins of the temple continued unabated during the fifth and sixth centuries. However, the Talmud {late 6th century} mentions pilgrimage to the ruins of the Holy of Holies, in a commentary to Leviticus 19:30, “‘And revere My Sanctuary’ [Lev 19:30, means] one may not enter [the Temple Mount] with his [walking] staff, his shoes, with his money belt, or with the dust on his feet” [Yevamot 6b]. In other words, sixth century Jews still believed it was possible to go on pilgrimage to the site of the Temple—they apparently thought they knew where it was.

Subsequent fifth and sixth century pilgrims do not provide many details about the location of the Temple itself, although most of them mention the “Pinnacle of the Temple” where Christ was tempted and James the Brother of Jesus was martyred, and the “Gate Beautiful” (probably today’s “Golden Gate”). The “pinnacle” is clearly the southeast corner of the modern Temple Mount (e.g. Theodosius, in AD 518, Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims, 109; Piacenza Pilgrim 17, Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims, 138). Thus, although the location of precisely where the Christians believed the Temple once stood is not clear from these sources, the knowledge of the Temple Mount as a whole as the site of the Temple continued unabated.

• AD 615. The conquest of Jerusalem by the great Shah Khosraw in 614 inaugurated a very poorly documented incident in the history of the Temple Mount. The Persians initially supported a restoration of Jewish power in Jerusalem for a few years. The pseudepigraphic Apocalypse of Zerubbabel (probably written in this period) talks about the restoration of the Temple altar and the resumption of sacrifices. (See Hamblin and Seely, Solomon’s Temple, 77-8).

• AD 685. The tradition of early Christian pilgrim accounts culminates with Adomnan who writes, “near the wall on the east, in that famous place where once there stood the magnificent Temple, the Saracens have now built an oblong house of prayer” (Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims, 170), clearly linking the Haram al-Sharif with the Christian remembrance of the Temple Mount.

• AD 700. Epiphanius the Monk, writing in the early eighth century, in the last link in the golden thread I will discuss here. He mentions “the Holy of Holies … the hanging Rock, and the Temple of Solomon with its own special wall.” The important point is the association of the Holy of Holies with the “hanging Rock.” No details are provided. However, when we remember the “pierced stone” with the cave underneath mentioned by the Bordeaux pilgrim in 333, it seems very likely that the “hanging Rock” is the eben šĕtîyyāh and it is described as “hanging” because it rests above the cave. In other words, Christian tradition from the first Christian pilgrimage account of the Bordeaux Pilgrim in 333 through the early eighth century after the building of the Dome of the Rock, consistently associates a rock and a cave with the Holy of Holies.

The combination of all these interlinking factors—ruins of the building itself, the altar, the Rock, the hole in the Rock, the cave underneath, the equestrian statue, and the annual Jewish tradition of mourning at the ruins of the Temple—means that it is extremely unlikely that the general location of the Temple could have been lost between the time of the Mishnah and the building of the Dome of the Rock. This Golden Thread of eyewitness testimony and tradition, although often very thin, nonetheless stretches back 1200 years from the founding of the Dome of the Rock to Zerubbabel’s rebuilding of Solomon’s Temple after the Babylonian captivity. All in all, it makes it certain that the Temple Mount was the site of Solomon’s Temple. Although the precise location of the Temple on the Temple Mount remains uncertain, it is very likely that it was located roughly where the Dome of the Rock now stands.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Book on the Jewish Temple at Leontopolis

A new book (in Italian) on the Jewish Temple at Leontopolis in Egypt was published last year:

Livia Capponi, Il tempio di Leontopoli in Egitto: Identità politica e religiosa dei Giudei di Onia (c. 150 a.C-73 d.C.). Pubblicazioni della Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia dell'Università di Pavia 118. Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 2007. Pp. 255. ISBN 9788846719430.

It is reviewed at

See also
Gideon Bohak, Joseph and Aseneth and the Jewish Temple in Heliopolis, Atlanta, 1996.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Location of Solomon’s Temple 10a: The Golden Thread

Wherever Solomon’s temple was originally located, it clearly remained in the same place from its original construction around 960 BC until its destruction by the Babylonians roughly 400 years later in 586 BC. The question thus becomes: could the location of Solomon’s Temple have been moved, forgotten or legendarily transferred in the subsequent twelve centuries before the building of the Dome of the Rock in AD 685? We know from many historical examples that, in fact, transference or invention of sacred sites does occur, both by conflation and confusion of traditions, and by sheer invention. But do we have evidence of such a confusion or transference occurred in the case of the location of Solomon’s Temple? In fact, quite the contrary, we have what could be called a “golden thread” of evidence—thin, but nonetheless there—connecting the Temple Mount with the location of Solomon’s Temple. This golden thread begins in the Bible itself, and can be followed up to the time of Abd al-Malik and the building of the Dome of the Rock in the late seventh century.

• 538 BC. Between the destruction of the original Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC and the command of Cyrus the Persian to restore the temple in 538, only forty-eight years had elapsed (Ezra 1:1-4). Clearly there would have been surviving Jews who would have worshipped at the old Temple as young adults, and still be alive at the beginning of its rebuilding. Indeed, the Bible explicitly states that when the rebuilding of the Temple was completed in 516 BC (Ezra 6:15), Haggai asked, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Hag 3:16). In other words there were still old people at the rededication of the Temple in 516 BC who remembered the original Temple, and recognized that the newly rebuilt Temple lacked the magnificence of the former building. Ezra also makes it clear that the restored Temple was built on the foundations of the original Temple. Ezra 2:68 tells us that the returning Jews collected offerings “to erect the House of God on its site (mĕkônōt).” The Hebrew word mĕkônāh in Hebrew means “place or site” (HALOT), but it is plural here, meaning “places/sites;” KJV translates “bases.” Ezra 3:3 confirms this, saying that the Jews “set up the altar on its site,” again the plural mĕkônōt in Hebrew. Now, the clear implication of all this is that the altar and temple of Zerubbabel was rebuilt “on its site,” that is, on the same location and foundations of the Temple of Solomon. There where still priests alive who had served in the last days of the original Temple in 538 BC when the altar was rebuilt and sacrifices renewed, but before the temple building itself was rebuilt (Ezra 3:6). So the location of Solomon’s original temple would have been identifiable among the ruins of Jerusalem.

• 19 BC. The Temple of Zerubbabel remained in existence until the reconstruction efforts of Herod, beginning in the eighteenth year of his reign (Josephus, Antiquities, 15.380), which corresponds to about 19 BC. At that time, according to Josephus,

“But while they [the Jews] were in this disposition, the king [Herod] encouraged them, and told them he would not pull down their temple (naos) till all things were gotten ready for building it up entirely again. And as he promised them this beforehand, so he did not break his word with them, but got ready a thousand wagons, that were to bring stones for the building, and chose out ten thousand of the most skilful workmen, and bought a thousand sacerdotal garments for as many of the priests, and had some of them taught the arts of stone cutters, and others of carpenters, and then began to build; but this not till everything was well prepared for the work. So Herod took away the old foundations, and laid others, and erected the temple (naos) upon them, being in length a hundred cubits” (Antiquities, 15.389-391).

This text tells us two things related to our problem. First, Herod did not begin building his new temple until he had prepared all the materials necessary for its construction. Second, Herod tore down Zerubbabel’s temple to its very foundations, and laid a new foundation for his new Temple. (This was because his temple was bigger than Zerubbabel’s.) Neither of these things would have been necessary if Herod had been building his new temple in any location other than the precise spot of Zerubbabel’s old temple. In other words, the evidence clearly indicates that Zerubbabel’s Temple was built on the site/mĕkônāh of Solomon’s original, and that Herod’s temple was likewise built on the precise site of Zerubbabel’s—in other words, it, too, was on the site of Solomon’s original. Incidentally, the fact that Herod, in order to build his new bigger Temple, had to remove the earlier structures down to their foundations (that is, to bedrock), basically guarantees that no archaeological remains of Solomon’s Temple should be expected. (See below for a discussion of how Julian’s rebuilding efforts likewise removed the ruins of Herod’s temple.)

• AD 70. Herod’s temple remained in operation until destroyed by the Romans during the First Jewish war in AD 70 (Josephus, Wars, 6), expanding the continuity for nearly another century. The question now becomes: could the location of Herod’s Temple have been forgotten or confused between AD 70 and the building of the Dome of the Rock six hundred years later?

• AD 130. With Jerusalem and the Temple in ruins, in could in theory be possible that the exact location of the Temple could have been forgotten in subsequent decades and centuries. However, around AD 130 “at Jerusalem [the Roman emperor Hadrian] founded a city in place of the one which had been razed to the ground [by Titus in AD 70], naming it Aelia Capitolina, and on the site of the temple of the [Jewish] god (tou naou tou theou topon) he raised a new temple to Zeus” (Cassius Dio, Roman History, 49.12.1). (Note that the Greek term naos here has reference to the Temple building proper; the entire Temple Mount is the hieros, a distinction clearly used by both Josephus and the New Testament authors, but is often obscured in translation.) This text clearly states that a Roman temple was begun on the site of Herod’s Jewish temple some sixty years after the destruction of the temple by Titus in AD 70, well within living memory of Jewish teenagers who would have worshipped at Herod’s temple, and been in their seventies when Hadrian began building the Roman temple. There is, in fact, a Christian tradition that a synagogue survived in the “Mount Zion” area of southwest Jerusalem, (which some scholars link to the contemporary “Tomb of David,”) indicating a continuing limited Jewish presence in Jerusalem, which could have kept alive a knowledge of the location of the Temple (F. Peters, Jerusalem, 125-6). Rabbinic legends likewise confirm that Jews during this period visited the site of the Temple and remembered its location. Sifre Deuteronomy, complied in the third century AD, tells the story of the famous Rabbi Aqiba (died 135 AD) who visited the Temple Mount and saw a fox run out of the site of the Holy of Holies (Pisqa 43).

• AD 132. Hadrian’s attempted construction of a Roman Temple on the site of Herod’s Temple was a major factor instigating the second Jewish revolt (the Bar Kochba rebellion) from AD 132-135. Unfortunately, the evidence for the details of the rebellion is quite sparse. It seems that Bar Kochba controlled Jerusalem for a year or two, and perhaps renewed sacrifices on the altar, and initiated, or at least planned, the rebuilding of the Temple. This is most evident from his coins, which show the façade of the Temple. The point here is that renewal of Jewish control over the Temple Mount within the living memory of Herod’s Temple would have renewed the knowledge of the location of the altar and Herod’s Temple among contemporary Jews. It seems that after Hadrian had defeated Bar Kochba he abandoned his previous plans to build a Temple on the site of the Jewish Temple, not wanting to further fan the flames of the rebellion. However, he did set up an equestrian statue of himself on the spot that was seen by several later visitors.

• AD 200. The Mishnah, a Jewish work complied around AD 200, but reflecting traditions of the previous decades, includes detailed descriptions of the Temple Mount, Temple, and altar. Traditions concerning the location of the Temple found in the Mishnah are again within living memory of Jewish control of the Temple Mount and the possible attempted restoration of the Temple by Bar Kochba. The Mishnah has one of the earliest discussions of the “foundation stone” in Yoma 5.2: “Once the ark was taken away [from the Holy of Holies of the Temple], there remained a stone (eben) from the days of the earlier prophets, called Shetiyyah (šĕtîyyāh).” So, by AD 200 (and probably at least several decades earlier)—again within living memory of the Jewish occupation of the Temple Mount under Bar Kochba—the Jews were equating a rocky outcrop on the Temple Mount with the site of the Holy of Holies. This does not, of course, tell us precisely where that rocky outcrop is, but, wherever it was, it was almost certainly the site identified in the days of Bar Kochba as the place for the attempted reconstruction of the Temple. We thus, have a continuity of tradition from the destruction of the Temple by Titus in AD 70 to around 200. This makes it very likely that the Jews in 200 knew precisely where the Temple had stood 130 years earlier.

• AD 245. Origen, who died around AD 253, notes in his Commentary on Matthew (24.15, 254), that the ruins of the Temple had an equestrian statue of Hadrian. The site of the Temple known to Origen was thus probably related to the site of the Roman Temple had been begun by Hadrian about 100 years earlier.

• 311. Eusebius’s Proof of Gospel was written around 311 while he was Bishop of Caesarea, and before the conversion of Constantine in 312. As Bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius was an eyewitness of the situation in Jerusalem before the establishment of Christianity transformed the sacred geography of the city. In this text Eusebius observed: “It is sad for the eyes to see stones from the Temple itself, and from its ancient sanctuary and holy place, used for the building of idol temples, and of theaters for the populace” (8.3.12). In other words, Eusebius claims to have seen the ruins of the Jewish Temple being used as a quarry by the Romans. This again is within living memory of Origin, who saw an equestrian statue on by the ruins of the Temple. (Confirming Eusebius’ claim, archaeologists have found evidence of the reuse of Herodian ashlars—from the Temple or other Herodian buildings in Jerusalem—reused in various buildings in Jerusalem; see Shanks, Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, 37-45, especially p 43, note 10.)

(To be continued.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Israelite Temples outside Jerusalem

This is a list of biblical temple sites. Some of the sites in this list are built explicitly at God’s command. Others are built at the orders of legitimate prophets, such as Joshua. Others merely are said to exist (no explanation of their origin is given), and are used by legitimate prophets (such as Samuel). I assume that if a legitimate prophet either builds or uses a temple, that this implies the authorization and acceptance of God for that temple. Likewise I assume that if God appears at a temple it also demonstrates that that temple is acceptable to God. (As a general principle, the fact that a temple eventually falls into apostasy and is rejected is not an indication that it was never authorized or legitimate, since the temple at Jerusalem suffers exactly these same problems.)

Gilgal: God commanded the building of Gilgal in Joshua 4, especially verse 3. The temple at Gilgal was used by Samuel for the crowning of Saul (1 Sam 11:14-5) and the offering of Sacrifices (1 Sam 13-14); both activities were later done at the Jerusalem temple for later kings. Samuel’s actions occur while the Ark (and Tabernacle?) were at Kirjath-Jerarim. Later the site falls into apostasy and is rejected by the prophets (Amos 4:4, 5:5, Hos 4:15, 9:15, 12:11).

Ebal: The building of the altar at Ebal is expressly said to fulfill the command of God (Josh 8:30-35 fulfilling Deut 11:26-32, 27:1-26 (esp. 27:4).

Shechem: The temple at Shechem is not explicitly commanded by God to be built, but is the site of legitimate covenant making by Joshua (Josh 24). The temple of the Lord at Shechem is once called the “sanctuary of the Lord” (Josh 24:26). This shrine is probably the same site elsewhere called the “temple of El (God) of the covenant” (beit el berit) (Judg 9:46, which the KJV incorrectly translates “house of the god Berith”). The berit/coveant here refers to the covenant made in Josh 24. At any rate, the site used by Joshua is called the miqdash YHWH = “holy place of Yahweh,” a term used for the temple or tabernacle (Lev 5:15, Num 19:20, Ezek 48:10, 1 Chron 22:19). The beit/midqash at this site is not referring to the tabernacle, however, since that had been set up at Shiloh earlier (Josh 18:1), where it remained for a number of generations.

Shiloh: The ark and tabernacle were set up in Shiloh by Joshua (Josh 18:21); presumably with permission, if not command, of the Lord. The ark remained there until taken by the Philistines (1 Sam 4-5). Although it is ambiguous, there is evidence they built a permanent house (beit, 1 Sam 1:7, 1 Sam 1:24; 1 Sam 3:15) or temple (heikal, 1 Sam 1:9, 3:3) there; the terms are apparently interchangeable as they are with the Jerusalem temple. (Micah also brought an idol to “the house of God [that] was in Shiloh” (Jud 18:31). Some archaeological evidence which may be the remains of this temple may have been found (I. Finkelstein, “Excavations at Shiloh, 1981-1984” Tel Aviv 12 (1985):123-80). God's theophany to Samuel occurs here (1 Sam 3), implying His acceptance of the site.

Bethel: Bethel simply means house/temple of God. This temple was founded by Jacob after a theophany (Gen. 28:10-22, 35:7). Samuel visited the temple there on his circuit, so its cult (in the technical sense of the term as a system of ritual and practice, not in the colloquial sense of "a religion I don't like") must have been acceptable to the Lord (1 Sam 7:6). In 1 Sam 10:3 Samuel prophesies that: “three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you [Saul] there (at the Oak of Tabor), one carrying three kids, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine." This passage strongly suggests they were going up to worship and sacrifice at the temple there. This is confirmed in Judges 20 and 21, which describes the Israelite going to Bethel (remember, literally the "temple of El," or "house of God") to seek an oracle (20:18,23—which is answered, indicating the Lord's acceptance of this temple), and to offer sacrifice (20:26, 21:4). All of this is while the tabernacle and ark are at Shiloh. This temple is usurped by Jeroboam, when the worship is corrupted (1 Kg 12:25-33, 13:1-10). At that time at Bethel there was an authentic "old prophet" of the temple. He had apparently been residing at the temple while Solomon's temple was in operation (1 Kg 13:11-32), implying its authenticity was accepted during the early years of Solomon's temple. (Judg 20:26-27 implies that the Ark of the Covenant may have been kept in Bethel for a while, although Bethel/house of God is ambiguous and could be either the temple at Bethel, or the temple of God [at Shiloh].)

Bethlehem. Judges 19:18 may imply that there was a "house/temple of Yahweh" at Bethlehem.

Kirjath-jearim. The ark was kept there for twenty years after its return from the Philistines (1 Sam 6:21-7:2) from which it was taken to Jerusalem after David captures the city (2 Sam 6:1-11, 1 Chron 13:5-14). Priests were there continuing the temple ritual for the Ark (1 Chron 16:37-38).

Nob. 1 Samuel 21:1-9 describes a temple at Nob (a small settlement north of Jerusalem) which David visited while the ark was at Kirjath-jearim. The priests of this temple were massacred by Saul for helping David (1 Sam 22:16-19).

Gibeon. Some very interesting things are associated with the temple at Gibeon. While the Ark is at Kirjath-jearim, the Tabernacle is apparently kept at Gibeon; the appropriate rituals are apparently carried out at both sites (1 Chron 16:37-42). Thereafter, David established a sacrificial shrine at the threshing floor of Ornan (Aurunah) the Jebusite (1 Chron 21:28) on the future site of the Temple of Jerusalem. This is apparently where he brought the Ark of the Covenant to a new tabernacle he had built, while the old tabernacle was still in operation at Gibeon (1 Chron 15:1-16:6, 2 Sam 6:12-19). David did not sacrifice or seek oracles at the old tabernacle at Gibeon (1 Chron 21:30), but only at his own tabernacle/Ark at Jerusalem (1 Chron 21:28-22:1), which site is eventually chosen by God for Solomon to build the new Temple (1 Chron 22:2-19, 1 Chron 28). While preparations are being made to build the temple, and while David’s new tabernacle with the Ark rests in Jerusalem, Solomon returns to Gibeon, where the old tabernacle (but not the ark) is kept (2 Chron 1:3-5)—and where David had refused to inquire of the Lord or sacrifice (1 Chron 21:30). There Solomon offers a massive sacrifice, seeking an oracle, and receives his great theophany (2 Chron 1:1-13; 1 Kg 3:1-15). Immediately thereafter Solomon returns to Jerusalem and makes offerings at David’s tabernacle (1 Kg 3:15). It is quite clear here that there are two simultaneously operating royal cultic centers both authorized and accepted by God. (Note that the Kings version is mildly critical of Solomon for offering sacrifice at this “high place” (3:3-4), but does not deny the theophany that occurred there.)

What has been demonstrated up to this point is that there were several different simultaneously operating temples which received prophetic acceptance. None of the cultic activities at these sites are condemned until the apostasy of Jeroboam, after Solomon’s temple has been in operation for several decades. Two other temples (Dan and Mt. Gerizim) are never mentioned as acceptable to Yahweh or his prophets.

The following Israelite temples from the monarchy period are known only from archaeology: Megiddo, Arad, Lachish, Beer-Sheba, and possibly a small shrine at Hazor. They are clearly functioning Israelite temples where sacrifice was offered, broadly paralleling the form of Solomon’s temple. These temples are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, and therefore it is impossible to say if they were understood as being commanded by God, accepted by him, as practicing unacceptable worship of the Lord, or as indulging in apostate ritual and worship of other gods. Indeed, the story of Naaman seems to indicate that the worship of the Lord by converted pagans outside the land of Israel was also acceptable (2 Kg 5:15-19).

It is true that many Israelite temples, including Jerusalem, went through phases of syncretism and apostasy when non-Israelite gods were worshiped and Canaanite rites practices. This does not demonstrate that all non-Jerusalem temples were always considered apostate at all times and in all their practices. Indeed, from the overview of the evidence, above, it is quite clear that many temples were acceptable to the Lord before the building of the Jerusalem temple.

Did the Lord accept worship at non-Jerusalem temples after the building of the temple of Solomon? As noted above, Bethel, at least, seems to have remained acceptable until Jeroboam introduced idols; a legitimate prophet of Yahweh lived there until the days of Jeroboam. It is also quite clear that many other temples of Yahweh continued to operate until the days of Hezekiah (715-687 BC), a quarter of millennium after Solomon built his temple. These temples were dedicated to Yahweh, not to pagan gods (2 Chron 32:12, 2 King 18:22, Isa 36:7). The Assyrian commander Rab-saris mocks the Judahites’s reliance on the Lord because “has not he, Hezekiah, removed his [Yahweh’s] high places and his altars and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘Before one altar you shall bow yourselves down and upon it you shall offer incense.’” (2 Chron 32:12). In other words, before Hezekiah the Israelites had been worshipping Yahweh at many different temples.

Nonetheless, by the time of Hezekiah pagan deities were worshipped in these temples along with Yahweh. By the time of Hezekiah, all temples in Israel were viewed by some as being apostate, including Jerusalem. Hezekiah’s response is twofold: first, the purging of all apostate ritual and worship from the temple of Jerusalem, and its purification and reconsecration (2 Chron 29:3-36), and second, the closing of all apostate temples and shrines of Yahweh, both in Jerusalem (2 Chron 30:14), and outside Jerusalem (2 Chron 31:1, 2 Kg 18:4, 2 Chron 32:12, 2 King 18:22, Isa 36:7). These attempted reforms were not successful, since Manasseh falls into apostasy (2 Chron 33, 2 Kg 21), and Josiah (640-609 BC) is forced to again destroy all pagan temples outside Jerusalem and purifies of the temple of Jerusalem from pagan accretions (2 Chron 34:3-7; 2 Kg 23:4-20).

The problem here is not described as worshipping the Lord outside of Jerusalem, but worshiping pagan gods outside and inside Jerusalem. Non-Jerusalem temples of Yahweh were considered legitimate until the time of Hezekiah.

It is also clear from the archaeological evidence that the Israelite temples at Megiddo, Arad, Lachish, and Beer-Sheba were destroyed during the reforms of Hezekiah and/or Josiah.

One last note: although the Lord was worshipped in Temples outside Jerusalem, this does not undermine the supremacy of Jerusalem as the city chosen by the Lord, where the Ark and the Lord’s glory was to reside. The two ideas are in not incompatible. Besides the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah another important reason for the decline of non-Jerusalem temples after 586 BC was the fact that Judah was reduced after the Babylonian conquests to a small province. Other temples were not needed because most Jews in Judea were within easy access of the temple at Jerusalem.

For the Jews in the Diaspora, however, matters were quite different. At least two Diaspora temples are known: Elephantine/Aswan and Leontopolis/Tel Yehudia (near Heliopolis), both in Egypt. The Elephantine temple was apparently built before Cambyses’ conquest of Egypt (525 BC), and was destroyed by about 410 BC by the Egyptians. They had correspondence with the High Priest of Jerusalem to whom they looked for guidance, and were therefore apparently not unacceptable to the temple elites of Jerusalem. Leontopolis was founded around 160 BC and lasted over two centuries until 73 AD (after the temple at Jerusalem had been destroyed.). There is no biblical condemnation or acceptance of either of these two temples.

Another interesting, though ambiguous passage is Ezra 8:15-20, which may point to a Jewish temple in Babylon. There Ezra is making preparation to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. But before he does so, he stops at Casiphia in Babylon to recruit the help of the Nethinim, a technical term meaning “temple servants” (Ezra 2:43), literally, “those given” to the Temple. At Casiphia, Iddo is rosh (“head,” or “head [priest]”) of the “maqom [place] of Casiphia” (8:17). Maqom is a common term for sacred site (HAL 1:626-7), although it can be just a generic place; but grammatically there is no need for the word maqom with place name. Many scholars understand this phrase to mean: “Iddo was the chief [priest] at the temple (maqom) at Casiphia. At any rate, these nethinim apparently either know or do something related to the temple that Ezra’s group doesn’t know or can’t do.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Location of Solomon’s Temple 9: The Waters of Life

One argument put forth by some for a northern Silwan/City of David location for the Temple is the location of the Gihon spring. This is based not on any explicit statement that the Temple was built above or by the Gihon. Rather it is based on allegorical interpretation conflating the eschatological River of Life following from the Temple with the Gihon Spring.

First, it is important to note that the Gihon is never explicitly connected with the Temple in any way. It is likely that the Gihon is not the original Jebusite name of the spring (unless one assumes the Jebusites had parallel oral traditions to those of the Israelites about the names of the Rivers of Paradise). Rather, the Israelites probably renamed the spring Gihon after their conquest of the city, based on one of the four Rivers of Paradise described in Gen 2:13. (Likewise, the traditional Arab name of the spring is ʿAyn Sittī Maryam = “The Spring of Lady Mary”; the Israelis renamed it with the old biblical name when they gained power in Jerusalem.) At any rate, the only explicit ritual context that mentions the Gihon is the crowning of Solomon (1 Kgs 1), before the Temple had been built. (The other two major references to the Gihon—Hezekiah in 2 Chr 32:30, and Manasseh in 2 Chr 33:14—are about military engineering to supply the city with water.) In 1 Kgs 1:28-53 we read that David, on his death bed, ordered his prophets, priests and ministers to crown Solomon king before he died in order to thwart an attempted coup of Adonijah. They were commanded to “go down to Gihon” (1:33) and crown Solomon there. Zadok, the High Priest “took the horn of oil from the Tent (ʾohel) and anointed Solomon” (1:39). This is presumably the Tabernacle, or, more likely, a restoration of the Mosaic Tabernacle. Remembering from the discussion in our previous section that David had placed the Ark in “the Tent (ʾohel) that David had pitched for it” (2 Sam 6:17) in the “City of David” within the walls of old Jebusite Jerusalem, the most obvious interpretation here is that Zadok took the horn of oil from the restored Tabernacle/Tent in the City of David on the Silwan ridge and “went down to Gihon” to anoint Solomon. In other words, the supposed cosmic relationship between the Gihon spring and the Temple was, in reality, established as a relationship between the restored Davidic Tabernacle in the City of David, which was set up directly above the Gihon spring, which was probably renamed Gihon at the time to reemphasize the cosmological relationship between Eden and the Tabernacle. Remember, too, as discussed in the previous section, that Solomon did not build the Temple where David had pitched the Tent for the Ark, since “Solomon gathered the people together ‘to bring up (haʿălôt) the Ark of YHWH’s covenant from Zion, which is the city of David’ to Solomon’s new Temple (1 Kgs 8:1), after which ‘the priests took the Ark, and they brought up (yaʿălû) the Ark of YHWH’ to the Temple (1 Kgs 8:3-4).” Thus Solomon’s Temple was not built in the City of David, but in a place higher (meaning further north up the ridge) than the City of David. The cosmological relationship, however, had been established earlier between David’s Tent in the City of David and the Gihon.

There are also a number of eschatological passages in the Bible that speak of the River of Life flowing from the Temple to restore the world. The most important passages in this regard are Ezek 47.1-12, Zech 14.8, and Rev 22.1. Ezekiel describes the water flowing from the threshold of the Temple, past the altar (47:1-6). Zechariah describes half the waters flowing west (14:8). Revelation describes the waters flowing from the Throne of God (22:1). Of course none of these can be equated literally with the waters of the Gihon since even if the Temple had been built on the Silwan ridge directly above the Gihon, the waters would still not be flowing from within the Temple itself, but from a spring near the base of the ridge. Thus insisting that the Temple must have been literally over the Gihon ignores the evidence of the relationship between David’s Tent and the Gihon, and engages in special pleading by insisting that part of the River of Life passages must be understood as literally related to the existing Gihon, while other parts of the same passage must be eschatological or metaphorical.

Another important association of water with the Temple comes from the Letter of Aristeas (c. 200-150 BC), sections 89-91. (See Harward, The Jewish Temple, 28 for text, 31-32 for commentary; and Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha 2:18.) Aristeas wrote “there is an endless supply of water [at the Temple], as if indeed a strong flowing natural spring were issuing forth from with [it].” If, indeed, the Gihon were directly connected with the Temple, as Silwan theorists claim, why would he say “as if” instead of “because.” He goes on to say “there exist marvelous and indescribable reservoirs underground—as they showed me—for five stades [a stade is about 200 yards] around the foundation of the Temple; and each of them had numberless channels such that the streams join up together with each other from different sides.” First, it is important to note that five stades is about 1000 yards. Allowing for hyperbole and assuming it was roughly 500 yards north and 500 years south of the Temple, this description encompasses the massive know complex of underground tunnels and cisterns on the current Temple Mount. (Gibson, Shimon, and David Jacobson. 1996. Below the Temple Mount in Jerusalem: A Sourcebook on the Cisterns, Subterranean Chambers and Conduits of the Haram al-Sharif. Oxford: Tempus Reparatum.) On the other hand, no similar massive conduit or cistern system has been discovered on the Silwan ridge. These waters, in fact, literally flowed from underneath the Temple itself, precisely as the eschatological texts mentioned earlier describe. This water system was used in part to wash away the sacrificial blood (Aristeas 90).

Taken together, then, the evidence of the site of the Gihon, the cosmic waters of Life, and the archaeologically identifiable system of channels and cisterns, the Temple Mount once again matches all the known data—both textual and archaeological—better than the Silwan Ridge.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Location of Solomon’s Temple 8: “Let us Ascend”

Biblical texts consistently describe going to the Temple as an ascent. The narrative of David’s capture of Jerusalem is a good starting point. The “city of David” (ʿîr Davīd) in the tenth century BC is explicitly said to be the citadel of the old Jebusite city on the Silwan ridge that David captured as described in 2 Sam 5. After conquering Jerusalem (2 Sam 5:6-8), “David captured the citadel/fortress of Zion (meṣudāh ṣîyôn), which is the city of David (ʿîr Davīd)” (2 Sam 5:7, 1 Chr 11:5). “So David dwelt in the citadel/fortress (meṣudāh, from which the name Masada), and called it “the city of David” (2 Sam 5:9, 1 Chr 11:7). This citadel/city of David is also distinguished from “the rest of the city” (1 Chr 11:8). Now in ancient fortification strategies, the meṣudāh/citadel was an independent fortress (often including a palace complex) within the city walls, but designed to be independently defensible. That is to say, citadels were designed so that if the city itself fell, the citadel could still be independently defended. It was invariably on the highest point within a city so that, if the city itself fell, the enemy would not have an elevated position from which to shoot down onto the walls of the citadel. What this means is that ancient fortification strategy dictated that the meṣudāh/citadel of Jebusite Jerusalem was on the northernmost and highest part of the Jebusite city, on the top of the modern Silwan ridge.

Thereafter, David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the “city of David,” meaning, into the citadel. The text specifically states that David “brought up” (or more literally, “caused to ascend”) the Ark into the “city of David” (2 Sam 6:12 yaʿal ʾet; 2 Sam 6:15 maʿălîm ʾet, a participle form of ʿlh)—not just into Jerusalem, but specifically into the citadel of Jerusalem, that he called the city of David. The verb ʿlh in Hebrew means “to ascend,” and refers to literally going from a lower place to a higher place.

The tale of Aruana, which we discussed in the previous post, provides another clue as to the location of the Temple. David’s spatial relationship with Arauna is clearly described as David “going up” to Arauna’s threshing floor. That is to say, Arauna’s threshing floor is higher than David’s palace/citadel, the “city of David” described above. In 2 Sam 24:18-20, Gad tells David to “go up” (ʿălēh) to Arauna (18). The next verse says David “went up” (yaʿal) (19), and Arauna saw David “come up” (ʿālāy) towards him (20). This tells us that the threshing floor of Arauna was either higher in elevation than the city of Jerusalem, or, more minimally, that the threshing floor was higher within the city than David’s palace. (This later interpretation is unlikely, however, since, as noted earlier, placing a threshing floor within the city walls blocks the wind, thereby undermining the efficiency of the winnowing process, and the citadel was almost always the highest place in a city.)

The relationship between the city of David/citadel and the site of the Temple is further clarified in the discussion of Solomon installing the Ark of the Covenant within his new Temple (1 Kgs 8, 2 Chr 5). Here the relationship is also explicit. Solomon gathered the people together “to bring up (haʿălôt) the Ark of YHWH’s covenant from Zion, which is the city of David” to Solomon’s new Temple (1 Kgs 8:1), after which “the priests took the Ark, and they brought up (yaʿălû) the Ark of YHWH” to the Temple (1 Kgs 8:3-4). Notice that the narratives are all consistent here. David “brought up” the Ark into the citadel/city of David, after which Solomon “brought up” the Ark from the city of David to the site of the Temple. The only conclusion that can be drawn here is that the Temple site was higher than the citadel/city of David. This is consistent with the assumption that the Temple was built on the contemporary Temple Mount, but doesn’t make sense if we assume the Temple was built in old Jebusite Jerusalem on the Silwan ridge. Indeed, it is clear that the Temple was not built on the same place where David had installed the Ark within the citadel/city of David, since they carried the Ark from the place where David put it in a tabernacle, to a higher place where the Temple had been built.

That the Temple was higher than the rest of the city of Jerusalem is confirmed by numerous incidental references in biblical texts; only a few will be given here. Isaiah 2:3, declared “let us go up (naʿăleh) to the mountain of YHWH, to the temple of the God of Jacob.” Likewise, Ps 24:3 asks “who shall ascend (yaʿăleh) to the mountain of the Lord?” Jeremiah also describes the inner court of the priests as the “upper [or higher] court” (Jer 36:10), implying that the Temple and court of the priests was higher than the surrounding plaza. As far as I am aware, there is no text that describes anyone “going down” to the Temple. All of this data is consistent with the location of the Temple higher than old Jebusite Jerusalem, and probably on the highest place on the Temple Mount, but requires significant special pleading to make sense with a location on the Silwan ridge.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Location of Solomon’s Temple 7: The Threshing Floor

The background narrative about the selection of the site for Solomon’s Temple provides some more interesting bits of evidence on its location. Near the end of his life David decided to conduct a census of his kingdom (2 Sam 24; 1 Chr 21). But the angel of death appears and a plague sweeps over Israel (2 Sam 24:10-15). The angel stands on the “threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” preparing to destroy Jerusalem with this plague, but God stops the angel and saves Jerusalem (2 Sam 24:15-17). (Note that according to 2 Chr 3:1 this is site is equated with Mt. Moriah, where Abraham was prepared to offer his son Isaac as sacrifice, but was stopped by the Lord (Gen 22:2, 14). The incidents were obviously meant to be parallel, where the Lord saves Isaac on the one hand, and Jerusalem on the other.) David is ordered to build an altar and offer sacrifice on the site of “the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” where the Lord appeared and saved Jerusalem from destruction (2 Sam 24:18), which he does. This is the site upon which the Temple will eventually be built (2 Chr 3:1)

No specific details are given about the location of Araunah’s threshing floor, but several hints are provided. 2 Chr 3:1 states that Solomon built the Temple “on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” First, note that the location is on a mountain, a har in Hebrew. This certainly matches the geography of the Temple Mount, but Silwan is a ridge attached to the higher mount, and is lower in elevation than the Temple Mount itself.

An understanding of the nature of the ancient threshing process can also help us envisage its location. Threshing in the process of separating the grains of wheat from the stalks and sheaves, of chaff that contain it. It was often done by beating, stamping, or dragging weighted sledges over the stalks of wheat or barley. Once the stalks were separated from the grains, the result was a mixture of grain and dry chaff, which needed to be further separated by the winnowing process, since the chaff is inedible to humans. This usually involved taking the mixture of grain and chaff, throwing it into the air on a windy day, and letting the wind blow the light chaff away, while the heavy grains fall back to the earth. This process is generally undertaken in high places with direct exposure to a strong wind. Inside Jebusite Jerusalem on the Silwan ridge, the power of the wind would have been constrained by both the higher ridges to the north, west, and east, and by the walls of the city. Having a threshing floor inside a city wall, below a larger hill that would serve as a windbreak would make no sense from an ancient point of view. On the other hand, a rocky outcrop on the undeveloped top of a hill directly exposed to the wind would have been an idea place for a threshing floor.

Another important hint is provided by the story of David paying for the threshing floor. Araunah offers to give King David the site for free (2 Sam 24:19-23). But David refuses the offer, insisting: “I will buy them from you at a price. I cannot sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24:24). David emphasizes that the site of the future Temple must be paid for; that is to say, the offering to the Lord must come from David himself, not from something others have given to him. Now, if the Temple were built within the city walls of old Jebusite Jerusalem, it would have necessitated the purchase and demolition of a number of houses that were already there. But no mention is made of purchasing other houses, nor of their confiscation or demolition, even though this type of activity was condemned by the biblical authors (e.g. 1 Kgs 21 where Ahab is condemned for confiscating the vineyard of Naboth.) The account implies that purchase of the threshing floor of Araunah provided sufficient space to eventually build the Temple. This would make sense if it were an empty rocky outcrop such as the Temple Mount was at that time, but would not make sense if the location were inside a densely populated Middle East city.

Location of Solomon’s Temple 6: The Royal Palace

The location for Solomon’s Temple must also include space for the royal complex, described in 1 Kgs 7:1-12 (no parallels in 2 Chr). The “House of the Forest of Lebanon”—which was designed for administrative, judicial and court functions (1 Kgs 7:7)—was alone nearly twice the size of the Temple: 100x50c, and 30c high (1 Kgs 7:2), while the Temple was only 60x20c (1 Kgs 6:2, 2 Chr 3:3). In addition there was a “porch of the pillars,” which was 50x30c (1 Kgs 7:6), a “Portico of the Throne,” Solomon’s personal palace, and the palace of his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh, all of unknown dimensions (1 Kgs 7:7-8). Finally, there were courtyards surrounding these palaces (1 Kgs 7:8-9, 12).

Neither the precise location of the royal complex, nor its relationship to the Temple is provided. However, we do know that there was a “great court” or plaza around the royal complex, just as there was around the Temple complex. Furthermore, “the great court [of the royal complex] had three courses of hewn stone around [it], and one row of cedar beams, like the inner court of the house of YHWH and the porch of the house” (1 Kgs 7:12, cf. 1 Kgs 6:36). Although not certain, this implies to me that the courts were adjacent, and had one large wall encompassing the combined great courts of both the royal and Temple complexes. However this may be, the royal complex had to be somewhere. The location for the Temple must include space for both the Temple complex and the royal complex.

By looking at the previous maps we can see that trying to build the royal complex (twice the size of the Temple complex) and Temple complex both within the old Jebusite walls of Jerusalem would have taken more than half the pre-Davidic Jeubsite city, all of which was urbanized. This would require the displacement of half the population. Now this is not impossible, but seems much more likely the new building projects would have simply expanded the city north into the empty space, rather than demolish half the old town, and displace its population. As we shall see in the next part, this is exactly what the biblical narratives describe in the story of David and the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (2 Sam 24:16-25; 1 Chr 21:15-27).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Altar scene from St. Denis

(Click on image for larger view.)
This scene, from the same panel at St. Denis (directly below the previous one), shows the altar of the Celestial Temple from the Book of Revelation. The altar is in the middle, flanked by a lamb and lion together, fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy. The altar is surrounded by the same four cherub-creatures as the previous scene--eagle, man, lion and bull. Above the hand of God reaches down to either bless the worshippers or accept the offerings. (The hand of God reaching through the clouds to symbolize divine interaction is quite common in medieval art.) The Latin text at the bottom reads: "Deo fit caro, iuncta Deo" = "God became flesh joined with God."

Ezekiel's Divine Chariot

(Click on image for larger view.)
The Cathedral of St. Denis in Paris has a remarkable stained glass panel mixing a number of different Temple motifs. First, it represents Ezekiel's celestial chariot, with the four cherub/hayyot in the four corners. The central figure is the chariot with the four wheels. It is also, however, associated with the Ark of the Covenant (Latin: "arca foederis Domini"). Christ is represented as the figure on the divine chariot. Finally, the Green cross in the center of the image is a representation of the Cross as the living Tree of Life. Thus we have a symbolic conflation in the sanctuary of St. Denis's Cathedral of chariot, cherubs, ark of the covenant, cross and Tree of Life.

Location of Solomon’s Temple 5: Orientation

Ezekiel’s description of the Temple also provides us with two other important clues. First, the door of the Temple was oriented towards the east. This is apparent from Ezekiel 8:16, which reads: “And he [God] brought me [Ezekiel] into the inner court of the house of the LORD; there, at the entrance of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east, prostrating themselves to the sun toward the east.” (NRSV)

The objection here seems to be that the priests were praying towards the sun (and perhaps worshipping the sun), rather than facing the Holy of Holies to pray to the LORD. But from the perspective of the location of the Temple this tells us that the “the entrance of the temple of the LORD” faced east, since men facing east had their backs to that entrance. In and of itself, this doesn’t tell us much about the size of the Temple, but it does tell us that the Temple did not have a north-south alignment, which would have made an easier fit on the Silwan Ridge.

More importantly, another passage in Ezekiel describes the Glory of Yahweh (the LORD) leaving the Holy of Holies “from the middle of the city” and going to “mountain east of the city” (Ezek 11:23). This is generally assumed to have reference to the Mount of Olives, which in Zechariah’s day, “lay before Jerusalem on the east” (Zech 14:4), and likewise faced the Temple in Jesus’ day (Mk 13:3). This is also the mountain from which, according to Acts, Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:12), and on which you can still visit the Mosque/Church of Ascension, which is a converted crusader shrine on the site of an ancient Constantinian basilica. Later Rabbinic tradition in the Mishnah likewise remembers that “all the walls [of the Temple] were high, save only the eastern wall, because the [High] Priest that burns the [Red] Heifer and stands on the top of the mount of Olives should be able to look directly into the entrance of the Sanctuary when the blood is sprinkled” (Middot 2.4).

This map shows the geographical relationship of all of these elements. The red oval shows the Temple Mount, the red line giving its due east orientation. The blue oval shows the Silwan ridge, with the blue line given its east orientation (from a presumed northern Silwan site of the Temple). The black oval to the north is Mount Scopus. The white oval in the middle is the Mount of Olives, while the green oval to the south is the “Mount of Offense.” The yellow square is the site of the Mosque/Church of the Ascension, which is roughly the top of the Mount of Olives. Notice that the natural dividing lines between these three mountains are clearly indicated by the gray east-west roads to the north and south of the Mount of Olives, which follow the least steep topography.

What this map shows is that a Temple Mount location for Solomon’s Temple more clearly matches the both biblical traditions of the Mount of Olives being to the east of the Temple, and the Rabbinic tradition that the High Priest could see the gate of the Temple from the “top of the Mount of Olives.” While it is not impossible that a Silwan temple location could broadly match these criteria, this relationship is much more clear and consistent with a Temple Mount location.

The “Mount of Offense” (KJV “Mount of Corruption,” NRSV “Mount of Destruction,” JPS “Mount of the Destroyer”; 2 Kgs 23:13, cf. 1 Kgs 11:7), marked in green on the map, is linked with ancient idolatry. “The king [Josiah] defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the Mount of Destruction, which King Solomon of Israel had built for Astarte the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites” (2 Kgs 23:13 NRSV). This passage describes the reforms of Josiah, who destroyed the pagan shrines that Solomon had earlier permitted (1 Kgs 11:7; the implication that pagan shrines had existed there for three centuries is also interesting). This is described as being southeast of Jerusalem, which matches the contemporary location of the Mount of Offence; the mount gets its name from its traditional association with these events.

In Hebrew the term “Mount of Destruction” is har ha-mašḥît, (cf. Jer 51:25), which seems to be a play on words with har ha-mašḥah, “the mount of anointing,” with mašḥah “anointing” derived from the same root māšaḥ “to anoint,” from whence māšîaḥ, “one who has been anointed,” the “anointed one,” or the messiah (with Christ as an Anglicized version of the Greek christos, which is simply Greek for “anointed one.”) Hence there is an apparent antitype between the Mount of Destruction/the Destroyer, and the Mount of Anointing/the Anointed One/the Messiah, which may illuminate Christ’s associations with the Mount of Olives in the New Testament.