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.