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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Temple (2)

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TEMPLE

i. Use of terms.—1. The word which is most frequently used in the Gospels for the temple is τὸ ἱερόν (בֵּית הַמִּקְרָּשׁ); it occurs nearly 50 times. Under this term is included, generally speaking, the whole of the temple area, i.e. the Court of the Gentiles, the Court of the Women, the Court of the Israelites, the Priests’ Court, and the Holy Place, together with the Holy of Holies. In this wide sense it is used in Matthew 12:6; Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 11:11; Mark 13:1; Mark 13:3; Mark 14:49, Luke 19:47; Luke 21:37-38; Luke 22:52; Luke 24:53; but in a number of passages it is used in a more restricted sense, viz.: in reference to the Court of the Gentiles, Matthew 21:12-16; Matthew 21:23, Mark 11:15-18; Mark 11:27, Luke 19:45; Luke 22:53, John 2:14-15; John 5:14; John 8:59; in reference to the Court of the Women, Mark 12:41, Luke 2:27; Luke 2:37; Luke 21:1; in reference to the Court of the Israelites, Matthew 26:55, Mark 12:33, Luke 2:46; Luke 18:10; Luke 20:1, John 7:14; John 7:28; John 11:56; John 18:20. The particular part of the temple referred to cannot always be ascertained with certainty, especially in the case of the Men’s Court (Court of the Israelites), but presumably the mention of ‘teaching in the temple’ would usually refer to Christ teaching the Jews (in view of such passages as ‘I am not sent save unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,’ Matthew 15:24), in which case the women, according to Jewish custom, would not be present. In a few instances ἱερόν is used of some particular part of the temple, viz. of the actual sanctuary, Luke 21:5, John 8:20; in this passage the treasury is spoken of loosely, as being in the temple (ἱερόν), strictly speaking it was in the Sanctuary (ναὁς). The same applies to the mention of Solomon’s Porch in John 10:23. In reference to the wing or pinnacle of the temple (Matthew 4:5, Luke 4:9) πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ is used; as to where this spot was precisely scholars differ. See Pinnacle. Once the phrase τὸ ἱερὸν τοῦ θεοῦ is used (Matthew 21:12), but the addition of τοῦ θεοῦ is not well attested.

2. The word ναός* [Note: It was that part in which God ‘dwelt’ (ναίω), and corresponded to what was originally also the most sacred part, i.e. bêth-’El (cf. the Hebrew name for the temple as a whole, בִּיִח ‘house’), the ‘house of God’; the early conception of a temple was that of being essentially a ‘dwelling-place’ for God (cf. 2 Samuel 7:5-7).] (הֵיכָל) denotes the Sanctuary, i.e. that part of the temple which was holy, and to which, therefore, none but the priests had access; it included the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies (see Luke 1:21-22). The ναός was built of white marble, overlaid in part with gold sheeting; this costliness is referred to in Matthew 23:16-17. Other references to the Sanctuary are: Matthew 23:18-19; Matthew 23:35, which speak of the altar; Matthew 27:5-6, the treasury (but see below); Luke 1:9, the altar of incense (here the phrase ὁ ναὸς τοῦ κυρίου occurs for the only time); Matthew 27:51, the heavy veil between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place (see also Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45). Finally, Christ speaks of His body as symbolizing the Sanctuary in John 2:19-21, cf. Matthew 26:61 (where the only occurrence of the phrase ὁ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ is found) Matthew 27:40, Mark 14:58; Mark 15:29. In John 2:20 ὁ ναός is inaccurately used in the words ‘Forty and six years was this temple in building’ (i.e. has this temple been in building up till now), for it was the whole temple area with all included in it that had so far been worked at for forty-six years; it was not finished until shortly before its final destruction by Titus in a.d. 70–71.

3. A few other expressions used for the temple may be briefly referred to: ὁ οἶκός μου,* [Note: ὁ οἶκος τοῦ θιοῦ (Matthew 12:4, Mark 2:26, Luke 6:4) is used in reference to the sanctuary at Nob, 1 Samuel 21:4-6.] Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46, John 2:17; οἶκος προσευχῆς, Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46; ὁ οἶκος τοῦ πατρός μου, John 21:6. All these expressions are used in the larger sense of τὸἱερον. The ‘Holy Place’ is specifically referred to in Matthew 23:35 ‘between the sanctuary (ναός) and the altar, i.e. the space between the outer veil (see below) and the altar for burnt-offerings; in Matthew 24:15, ἐστὸς ἐν τὸπῳ ἁγίῳ, but in the parallel passage (Mark 13:14) the reading is ἑστηκότα ὅπου οὐ δεῖ.† [Note: On this passage see Swete, in loc.] Lastly, the expression ὁ οἶκος ὑμῶν, Matthew 23:38 (‘Your house is left unto you desolate’),‡ [Note: ἴρημος is read by אCD OL, but omitted by all other authorities.] apparently also refers to the temple, for it is in the temple that these words were spoken, and it is to the temple that the disciples point when admiring the beauty of the building, in reply to which Christ says: ‘There shall not be left here one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down’; thus ‘your house’ evidently means the temple building in its external form, in contradistinction to the ‘house of God,’ the spiritual building not made with hands.

ii. Herod’s temple.—There are several admirable descriptions of Herod’s temple published and easily available;§ [Note: The most useful are those in Riehm’s HBA ii. pp. 1636–1645; the section ‘Tempel des Herodes’ in Nowack’s Heb. Arch. ii. pp. 74–83; the account in Guthe’s Kurzes Bibel-Wörterbuch, pp. 653–658. The best, however, is that in Hastings, DB; it is very full, and the excellent illustrations enable one to form a definite picture of what the temple looked like in the time of Christ; the art. in the Encyc. Bibl. is very useful; there is also an interesting art. in vol. xii. of the Jewish Encyclopedia. See, further, the literature at the end of this article.] all are based on the main; sources, viz. Josephus Ant. xv. xi., BJ v. 5., c. [Note: circa, about.] ap. 1. 22, and the Mishnic tractate Middoth.|| [Note: | ed. Surenhusius, see also Hildersheim’s description in Jahresbericht des Rabbiner-Seminars für das orthodoxe Judenthum (Berlin, 1876–1877). Middoth belongs to the 2nd cent. a.d., but its account of the temple is evidently based on reliable data. The original sources are not always in agreement, but taking them together a sufficiently accurate picture of Herod’s temple is obtainable.] It will, therefore, not be necessary to give a detailed account here, but a general outline to illustrate the Gospel references is necessary. Herod the Great [Note: reat Cranmer’s ‘Great’ Bible 1539.] commenced rebuilding the temple¶ [Note: It was not completed until the procuratorship of Albinus (a.d. 62–64). Its site is to-day occupied by the Haram es-Sherif, though this includes also part of the site formerly covered by the Tower of Antonia, which stood at the north-west of the temple area.] in the year b.c. 20 (the eighteenth year of his reign), on the site of the second temple; but the available space was insufficient for the much larger building which he intended to erect. He therefore constructed immense vaulted chambers** [Note: * Called by the Arabs ‘Solomon’s Stables’; opinions differ as to whether they belong to an earlier period, and were only renovated by Herod, or whether Herod constructed them himself, or whether they belong to a later date altogether.] on the south side of the hill on which the earlier temple stood; by this means the area at his disposal was doubled. A general idea of the whole will be best gained by indicating its main divisions:

1. The Outer Court.—This large space (two stadia†† [Note: † A stadium = 606¾ English feet.] in length, one in breadth, the perimeter being six stadia), which surrounded the temple proper, was enclosed by a battlemented wall. The main entrances to this enclosure were on the west, leading from the city; here there were four gates, the remains of one of which have been discovered.‡‡ [Note: ‡ Known, after the name of the discoverer, as Wilson’s Arch (see Warren and Conder’s Survey of Western Palestine, ‘Jerusalem,’ p. 196).] On the south side were the two ‘Huldah’ gates, remains of which have also been discovered. On the south-west corner there was a bridge which led from the city into the temple area; a huge arch which formed part of this bridge was discovered by Robinson, and is called after him. There was one gate on the east, which has been walled up; this was called the ‘Golden Gate,’ which tradition identifies with the ‘Beautiful Gate’ mentioned in Acts 3:2.* [Note: Possibly to be identified with the ‘Shushan Gate’ mentioned in Middoth.] On the north there was likewise one gate, called in Middoth the ‘Tadi Gate.’† [Note: The ‘private’ gate, used only by mourners and those who were ceremonially unclean.] All these gates led directly into the great temple area, or outer court; around the whole area, within the walls, were ranged porticoes with double rows of pillars; but the finest was that on the south side; here there were four rows of Corinthian columns made of white marble. All these porticoes were covered with a roof of wood. The eastern portico was called Solomon’s Porch (John 10:23, cf. Acts 3:11; Acts 5:12); it belonged to an earlier building which tradition ascribed to Solomon. On the north-west two sets of steps led up to the Tower of Antonia; the Roman garrison stationed here kept constant watch during the feasts and other occasions of great gatherings, in case of tumult (cf. Acts 21:35; Acts 21:40). This temple area was called the ‘Court of the Gentiles’; it was not part of the temple proper, and therefore not sacred soil, consequently any one might enter it. It is to this outer court that reference is made in Matthew 21:12-18, Mark 11:15 ff., Luke 19:45; Luke 19:48, John 2:13-17; the money-changers‡ [Note: The temple tribute was half a shekel annually; as this had to be paid in the form of the ancient coin, the money-changers who exchanged them for current coin had an opportunity, which they did not neglect, of making considerable profits on commission.] and those who sold animals for the temple sacrifices had free access here.

2. The Court of the Israelites.—This inner court was raised fifteen cubits§ [Note: A cubit = 1 ft. 51/2 in. or 1 ft. 81/2 in., according to the shorter or longer measurement; see Hastings’ DB and Encyc. Bibl. art. ‘Weights and Measures.’] above the outer one just referred to; it was surrounded by a terrace (hêl), ten cubits in breadth, which was approached from the outer court by ascending fourteen steps; these steps ran round the whole terrace, and at the bottom of them there was a low wall or breastwork (sôrçg) which was the limit to which non-Israelites might approach; along it were placed, at intervals, inscriptions warning Gentiles not to pass beyond, on pain of death; they were written in Latin and Greek; one of the latter has been discovered by Clermont-Ganneau.|| [Note: | It runs: ‘No Gentile may enter within the balustrade and wall encircling the temple. Whosoever is caught (doing so) will have to blame himself for the consequence,—the death penalty’ (cf. Acts 21:26 ff.): see PEFSt, 1871, p. 132; cf. Jos. Ant. xv. xi. 5.] On entering this inner court, ‘holy’ ground was reached, which accounted for the prohibition just referred to; only the seed of Abraham might enter here, hence its name. It was divided into two portions:

(a) The Women’s Court.—This was the smaller division; it occupied the eastern part. The court received its name from the fact that it formed the limit to which women might advance towards the sanctuary, not because it was reserved for the use of women.¶ [Note: In modern Jewish places of worship a special gallery is reserved for the women.] It was on a lower level than the Men’s Court, which was entered through six of the nine gates belonging to the Women’s Court. Of these gates, three deserve special mention, viz. that presented by Alexander of Alexandria; it was one of the largest, and was covered with gold and silver; secondly, the Eastern gate, which was covered with Corinthian bronze; and, above all, the gate of Nicanor;* [Note: An interesting reference to the gate of Nicanor is to be found on a recently discovered bilingual inscription, in Greek and Hebrew, in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem; it was found inscribed on an ossuary from a sepulchral cave, and runs: Ὀστᾶ τῶν τοῦ Νεικάνορος Ἀλεξανδρέως ποιήσαντος τὰς θύρας נקנד אלכסא (‘The bones of [the children of?] Nicanor, the Alexandrian, who made the doors. Nicanor Aleksa.’). Prof. Clermont-Ganneau says that this inscription ‘can scarcely refer to any other than the family or descendants of Nicanor,’ and that the ‘doors’ must be understood as referring to ‘the famous door of the temple of Herod, known as the Gate of Nicanor, after the rich individual who had presented it to the Sanctuary’; see PEFSt, 1903, pp. 125–131.] this was called the ‘Great [Note: reat Cranmer’s ‘Great’ Bible 1539.] Gate’; it was fifty cubits high and forty broad; fifteen steps, semicircular in form, led up to it from the Women’s Court. Whether the ‘Beautiful Gate’ mentioned in Acts 3:2 referred to this or to the Eastern gate of the Outer Court (see above) is quite uncertain.

(b) But the Court of the Israelites proper was the western and larger court, called also the Men’s Court, and to this only men had access. It ran round the whole of the Sanctuary itself, in which was included the Priests’ Court (see below). In the Men’s Court were (according to Josephus) the treasury-chambers, where all the more valuable temple belongings were kept. The ‘treasury’ spoken of in Mark 12:41; Mark 12:43, Luke 21:1 was clearly entered by women; the discrepancy may, however, be explained by supposing that one of the trumpet-shaped receptacles into which offerings were cast, and which usually stood in the Men’s Court, was at certain times placed in the eastern portion of the court, so that every one, including the women, might have the opportunity of making the offerings; on such occasions the Women’s Court was, for the time being, a treasury. On the other hand, the treasury mentioned in John 8:20 would appear, from the context,† [Note: ταῦτα τὰ ῥήματα ἐλάλησεν ἑν τῷ γαζοφυλακίω διδάσκων ἐν τῷ ἰερῶ. It was teaching which, according to Jewish ideas, concerned men.] to refer to that in the Men’s Court, the word being used here in the strict sense (see, too, Matthew 27:5-6).

3. The Court of the Priests.—Before entering the most sacred parts of the Sanctuary, the Priests’ Court had to be traversed. In this court there stood, in the centre, the great altar for burnt-sacrifices, and close to it the brazen laver for the priestly ablutions. On the right of these, on entering, was the place for slaughtering the animals brought for sacrifice. On either side of the court were the priests’ chambers; it is probable that one of these was the Lishkath parhedrin, ‘the Hall of the πρόεδροι’ (‘assessors’), in which the members of the Sanhedrin met in a quasi-private character before they met officially in the Lishkath ha-gazith,‡ [Note: The tribunal was called בֵּית רִּין הַגָּרוֹל (‘The great house of judgment’).] ‘the Hall of hewn stone.’ Where this latter was precisely, it is impossible to say, owing to the conflicting evidence of the authorities; the only thing that seems tolerably certain is that, while it was within the enclosure of the temple proper, it was not within the Priests’ Court; this is certain from the fact that none but priests might enter the court called after them; the only exception to this was that which permitted the entrance of those who brought offerings, for they had to lay their hands upon the sacrifice, in accordance with the prescribed ritual.

4. The Holy Place (hêkhâl).—This was separated from the Priests’ Court by a high porch (ʾûlâm, see above, i. 1), running north and south; it was a hundred cubits in height (the highest part of the whole temple) and breadth, but only eleven in depth. The Holy Place stood on a higher level than the surrounding court, from which twelve steps led up to it. Its furniture consisted of the altar of incense (see Luke 1:9), the table of the shewbread, and the seven-branched candlestick.

5. The Holy of Holles (dĕbîr).—No human foot might enter here, with the one exception of the high priest, who entered once a year, on the Day of Atonement, for the purpose of presenting sacrifice and incense before God. It was properly the place wherein the ark should have rested; but nothing is heard of the ark after the Captivity, and the Holy of Holies was, therefore, quite empty. The ‘foundation stone’ (אָבָן שְׁתִיָה) upon which, in the first temple, the ark had stood, was nearly in the centre of the Holy of Holies; in the second temple it was exposed to the extent of about six inches;* [Note: Encyc. xii. 92.] there is no mention of this anywhere in reference to Herod’s temple, but, as this was built on the site of the earlier temple, it is difficult to believe that it was not there. There was no means whereby any light could enter the Holy of Holies; it was, therefore, always in total darkness, excepting when artificially lighted. It was separated from the Holy Place by means of two veils, with the space of a cubit between them; in Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45 (cf. Hebrews 6:19; Hebrews 9:3; Hebrews 10:20, though it is not Herod’s temple that is referred to in these passages) only one veil† [Note: This must not be confounded with the ‘Babylonian’ veil, which hung before the Holy Place, and which is not referred to in the Gospels. See Warren and Conder, ‘Jerusalem,’ pp. 340–341.] is spoken of; but as the two were so close together, they were probably regarded as two parts of one whole.

iii. Christ and the temple.—1. The earliest mention of the temple in connexion with Christ is on the occasion of His being brought there for ‘presentation’ and ‘redemption’ thirty-one days after His birth, in accordance with Jewish law (Luke 2:22-39, cf. Exodus 13:1-16). This ceremony took place in the Court of the Women, as the presence of Mary and Anna shows; it was a simple one,‡ [Note: Probably more simple even than among modern Jews; see Firstborn.] consisting only of the formal presentation of the child to the priest, who offered up two ‘benedictions,’ or thanksgiving prayers, one on behalf of the child for the law of redemption, the other on behalf of the mother for the gift of the firstborn son.

From Luke 2:41 it may be assumed that Christ was brought annually to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration in the temple; there was no need for Him to be left behind,§ [Note: Josephus tells us that the provincial towns of Judaea were empty and deserted on the occasions of the annual feasts,—though there is an obvious exaggeration when he says that at the Passover in the year 63 there were no fewer than 2,700,000 Jewish people present in Jerusalem (Ant. xiv. xiii. 4, BJ vi. ix. 3).] and the presence of children in the temple was evidently of common occurrence (Matthew 21:15); the visit, therefore, recorded In Luke 2:42 was not the first time that Christ was present at the yearly Passover feast in the temple.|| [Note: | Against Edersheim, Life and Times, ii. 242. See also art Boyhood, vol. i. p. 225b.]

One other reference, prior to the time of Christ’s public ministry, but on the threshold of it, is contained in the parable of His Temptation, whose second scene (in Lk. the third) is represented as having taken place on the pinnacle of the temple.

2. By far the most important part of Christ’s connexion with the temple is His teaching given within its precincts. On a number of occasions we read of the representatives of different classes coming to Him in the temple, often, no doubt, with the genuine object of profiting by His teaching, but frequently also for a more sinister purpose (e.g. Matthew 16:1; Matthew 22:15). The most elaborate account of such teaching is probably that contained in the long passage Matthew 21:23 to Matthew 23:39; the whole of this discourse, addressed, as opportunity offered, to a variety of hearers, would appear to have been spoken in the large outer court (ii. 1). The many sided character of Christ’s teaching in the temple is well illustrated by this section; the first who are here mentioned as coming to Him were the chief priests and elders of the people, who asked Him by what authority He taught; the series of parables which constituted His reply to their question concluded with an appeal to Scripture: ‘Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?’ (Psalms 118:22); there was peculiar aptitude in the quotation being given in the temple, for ‘stone’ was a figurative expression for the leader of the people, which must have been familiar to His hearers (cf. Isaiah 19:13, Judges 20:2, 1 Samuel 14:33, Zechariah 10:4); a family, and also a nation, were conceived of as a building (cf. 1 Peter 2:5), the head of which was regarded as the most prominent feature—the part of the spiritual building which stood out most conspicuously. There is ample evidence to show that the Jews regarded the temple as, in a real sense, a. symbol of their nation. When Christ spoke of Himself as the ‘corner-stone,’ He was claiming for Himself the leadership of the people, i.e. He was, in effect, declaring Himself to be the Messiah.* [Note: The ‘corner-stone,’ as implied above, has nothing to do with the foundation of a building; this is quite clear from the Heb. רֹאשׁ פִּנִּה and from the Syr cur and Pesh. ܪܝܫܐ ܕܙܘܝܬܐ the root-idea of ܙܘܐ is that of ‘excrescence’ (see Brockelmann, Syr. Lex. s.v.). Literally, the phrase might be rendered, ‘the top of the highest point’; and the spot indicated would probably be the same as that referred to in the narrative of the Temptation.] Christ’s teaching was next addressed in turn to the Pharisees, the Herodians, the Sadducees, the lawyers, and, lastly, to the surrounding people; the whole section gives a vivid picture of the use He made of the temple for His teaching of all sorts and conditions of men. Other references to His teaching in the temple are Luke 19:47-48, from which it is clear, on the one hand, how exasperated the chief priests and scribes were, and, on the other hand, how the people flocked into the temple to hear Him (Matthew 26:55, Mark 14:49, Luke 21:37-38; Luke 22:53, John 18:20).

But perhaps the most impressive teaching of Christ in the temple was during the great festivals, when immense numbers of people from all parts of the country came up to Jerusalem. It is in the Fourth Gospel that the details of this teaching are, for the most part, preserved; thus in John 7:10 ff. we read that during the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus went into the temple and taught, so that the people marvelled at His teaching; and that on the last day of this feast a climax was reached; for, while on the one hand He was declared to be the Messiah, on the other this claim was disputed; and that the chief priests and Pharisees, believing that their opportunity had come, attempted to take Him, but in vain, for the majority of the people sided with Christ. The method of Christ’s, public teaching in the temple together with the way in which the learned Jews sought to combat it, is graphically described in such passages as John 7, 8; the whole of the episode dealt with in these chapters took place in the outer Court of the Gentiles, where the largest number of people congregated: this is clear from the fact that some of the people took up stories† [Note: The other courts were paved.] to cast at Christ (John 8:59). Again, at the Feast of Dedication, Christ was once more in the temple, teaching, with the like result, that the people threatened to stone Him: in this case we are definitely told (John 10:22-42) that it took place in ‘Solomon’s Porch,’ which was in the Court of the Gentiles (see above, ii. 1). Lastly, that Christ was again present in the temple, and teaching, during the other great feast, the Passover, seems tolerably clear from John 12:12-38.

It is certain, therefore, that Christ made every use of the opportunities afforded of pressing home His teaching in the temple;* [Note: also the activity of Jeremiah in this respect.] no other spot offered the same favourable conditions, viz. it was the most convenient centre for the gathering together of the multitude; the frequent presence of priests, Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers enabled Christ, in the hearing of the multitude, to contrast His teaching with theirs; there was also the fact that teaching in the temple naturally appealed to the multitude more than if given anywhere else, as the temple was the officially recognized place for instruction.

3. It is extraordinary that no instance of a miracle of healing by Christ is recorded in the Gospels as having been performed in the temple; but in view of such passages as Acts 3:1-12; Acts 5:12 we cannot doubt that such did take place, especially as the Outer Court of the temple would be a natural spot for the lame and crippled to congregate for the purpose of arousing the pity of those going up to worship.

Only once is the temple the scene in a parable, namely, in that of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:10-14); while in one other, the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-36), temple officers are referred to.

4. There are, in the next place, a certain number of passages in the Gospels in which there are direct references to the temple, or something connected with it, though it is not mentioned by name. The temple and its furniture would have been so well known to the people that Christ could use both symbolically without actually mentioning them, and yet His hearers would perfectly understand the reference. The most striking instance of this is where the sanctuary is used as a symbol of Christ’s risen body (John 2:19-21; cf. Matthew 26:6 f., Matthew 27:40, Mark 14:58; Mark 15:29). But, as a rule, these references are not so obvious to modern ears as to those who heard them. The significance of these examples is enhanced in the case of those which were spoken in the temple itself; among them are: John 8:12 ‘I am the light of the world’; one may reasonably infer that there was a reference here to the seven-branched lampstand in the Holy Place;† [Note: But cf. Westcott, in loc.] but for this artificial light it was altogether in darkness; the context (‘he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness’) receives emphasis when one remembers this. Christ is drawing out the contrast between the Jewish teaching, according to which the close approach to God in the Holy of Holies meant darkness, and His own, according to which the nearer one approached to Him, the Son of God, the greater the light. Again, there is a reference to the temple service of praise when Christ quotes Psalms 8:2 (LXX Septuagint ): ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou has perfected praise’ (Matthew 21:16); here again was an implied contrast between the formalism of the temple-worship and the whole hearted praise of the children crying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’ A further and more direct reference to the worship of the temple is to be found in Mark 12:29, where Christ quotes the Shema‘: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One’; the Shema‘ (Deuteronomy 6:4) was one of the earliest portions of the temple liturgy,‡ [Note: See Box in Encyc. Bibl. iv. cols. 4953, 4954.] and was recited every morning and evening.§ [Note: Queen Helen of Adiabene fixed a golden candelabrum in the front of the temple, which reflected the first rays of the sun, and thus indicated the time of reciting the Shema‘ (Yoma, 37b, quoted in Jewish Encyc. xi. 266).] In the same section occurs a reference to the daily sacrifices in the temple, viz. that to love God and one’s neighbour is ‘more than whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices’ (Mark 12:33). Other references of this kind are in Matthew 5:22, where Christ speaks of the Sanhedrin (‘Council’); Matthew 5:23-24, where the offering on the altar in the Court of the Priests (see above, Matthew 2:3) is mentioned; Matthew 23:16 ff., which contains the prohibition of swearing by the temple or the altar; Mark 7:11, where Christ speaks against an abuse which was clearly of frequent occurrence;* [Note: See Ecclesiastes 5:2-5.] the word korban (see Corban) was a technical term used in making vows, and meant that a gift was made to God; the abuse arose when a man would say to another (who as a relative or the like had a claim upon him): ‘My property is korban to thee,’ for by this means he could prevent his relative from deriving any benefit from his possessions. Korban means lit. ‘offering’; it was used also of the sacred treasury in which gifts for the temple were kept; it is used in this sense in Matthew 27:6.† [Note: Jos. BJ ii. ix. 4, where it is spoken of as the ‘sacred treasure.’] In Matthew 23:2 Christ speaks of ‘Moses’ seat,’ i.e. the Rabbinic college, the official deliberations of which took place in the temple. Not all of these references were spoken in the temple itself, but it cannot be doubted that Christ had the temple, or something connected with it, in His mind when He spoke. Lastly, there are other passages which record sayings or actions of Christ in which a connexion of some kind with the temple is to be discerned, e.g. John 15:1 ‘I am the true vine’; golden vines, with immense bunches of grapes, were carved on the door leading into the Holy Place (Hêkhâl);‡ [Note: Westcott, ad loc. Jos. (BJ v. v. 4, cf. Ant. xiv. iii. 1) and Tacitus (Ann. v. 5) refer to this; the vine was the symbol of the Jewish nation, and is found as such on Maccabaean coins.] it is permissible to assume that Christ based His teaching here, as so often elsewhere,§ [Note: e.g. in Matthew 4:19; Matthew 22:19 etc.] on what was familiar to His hearers. Again, at the washing of the disciples’ feet, John 13:5 ff. recalls to mind the priestly ablutions at the brazen laver near the great altar in the Priests’ Court,|| [Note: | See above, ii. 3.] preparatory to their undertaking the duties of the priestly office; it must be remembered that Christ, in the episode referred to, was about to perform an act appertaining to His high-priestly office, and the disciples were being consecrated in a special manner to their future work.

One has but to bear in mind the part that the temple and its worship played among the Jews, not only of Palestine but also of the Diaspora, to realize that the references indicated above are not fanciful.

iv. Christ’s attitude towards the temple worship.—The Gospels present to us two elements in Christ’s attitude towards the temple and its system of worship which appear, at first sight, to be contradictory; but they can, nevertheless, be satisfactorily accounted for.

On the one hand, Christ evinces a great love and reverence for the temple; His frequent appearance there cannot have been only for the purpose of teaching the people, for, while it is true that the Gospels never directly record an instance of His offering sacrifice, there can be no reasonable doubt that He fulfilled the duties incumbent upon every true Israelite; this the following considerations will bear out:

The keynote of Christ’s subsequent observance of the Law (cf. Matthew 5:18) was already sounded at His presentation in the temple (Luke 2:22-24); from boyhood He was taught to observe the Passover (Luke 2:41-42), and it is inconceivable that He should, later on, have omitted what was a sacred duty in the eyes of every Jew, viz. taking His share in the family sacrifice in the temple at the Passover feast.¶ [Note: Although the Passover was celebrated in the home in our Lord’s time as well as at the present day among Jews, yet the Paschal lamb might be killed only in the temple, the central sanctuary. At the Passover even laymen were permitted to kill the sacrificial animals, on account of the immense number that were offered. But, in any case, every Jew had to take part in the offering, by means of the consecrating act of laving the hand upon the victim on the altar.] Moreover, all Jews took a direct share in the ordinary services and worship of the temple; a crowd of worshippers was always present at the daily morning and evening sacrifice which was offered up on behalf of the congregation; they waited either in meditation or in prayer while the high priest entered into the Holy Place to present the incense-offering, and when he came forth they received, with bowed head, the priestly benediction; they listened to the chant of the Levites, and at the conclusion of each section, when the priests sounded their silver trumpets, the whole multitude prostrated themselves.* [Note: See Bousset, Religion des Judentums, p. 94.] That Christ, furthermore, observed the Jewish feasts has already been shown, and His own words as to the celebration of the Passover (Luke 22:7 ff.) clearly show His attitude towards the sacrificial system generally. Then, again, several occasions are recorded of His distinctly enjoining the fulfilment of the law of sacrifice: Matthew 8:4 (cf. Mark 1:44, Luke 5:14) Matthew 5:23-24; Matthew 23:2, Luke 17:14. (cf. John 5:46; John 7:23); and His reference to the shewbread in Mark 2:26, Luke 6:4 is also to the point. Indeed one has but to recall His instinctive desire to be ‘in his Father’s house’ (Luke 2:49), His zeal for the ‘house of prayer’ (Luke 19:45-46), His sense of the holy character of the sanctuary (Matthew 23:17), His insistence on the need of paying the temple tax (Matthew 17:24 f.), to realize how fully He acquiesced in the contemporary conceptions regarding the temple and its worship.

But, on the other hand, there are references, equally decisive, though fewer in number, in which both the temple and its worship are regarded as of quite subordinate importance. Thus in Matthew 12:6, where Christ speaks of Himself as ‘greater than the temple,’ He was uttering words which, at all events to Jews, must have implied a depreciation of the temple; in the same passage the quotation from Hosea 6:6 ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice’ (repeated in Matthew 9:13) pointed distinctly to the relative unimportance of sacrifice. Again, the parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates what Christ thought of the priesthood (Luke 10:31); and most striking is His reply to those who lavished praise on the beauty of the temple: ‘Verily, I say unto you, There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down’ (Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:1; Mark 13:3, Luke 21:5-6), in connexion with which must be taken John 4:21 ‘Neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father.’† [Note: This attitude of Christ towards the temple and its worship receives corroboration in an exceedingly interesting fragment of a lost Gospel, discovered at Oxyrhynchus, which contains an account of a visit of Christ and His disciples to the temple; they meet there a Pharisee who reproaches them with neglecting to perform the usual purification ceremony before entering the ‘holy place’ (presumably the Court of the Israelites is meant). Christ, in reply, emphasizes the need of inward purity, compared with which the outward ceremonial is as nothing (cf. Matthew 23:25-26, Luke 11:37-40).]

This twofold, and apparently contradictory, attitude of Christ towards the temple and its worship has also a twofold explanation. There can be little doubt, in the first place, that Christ’s realization of the relatively minor importance of the temple and its worship stood in the closest relation to His second coming (παρουσία) and the doctrine of the last things. This is very distinctly seen in that it is immediately after the prediction of the destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:1, Luke 21:6)‡ [Note: On the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ see Cheyne in Encyc. Bibl. i. cols. 21–23.] that He recounts the signs which shall precede His second coming (see esp. Matthew 25:31 ff., cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12); the near approach of the end (Matthew 24:14) emphasized the temporary character of the temple and all that pertained to it.§ [Note: This was in direct contradiction to the Jewish belief in the inviolability of the temple, see Jos. BJ vi. v. 2; cf. Bousset, op. cit. p. 97; cf. Acts 7:48 f.] In the second place, it is to be explained by the ever-widening conceptions which Christ experienced regarding His Person and work. In the early part of His ministry the influence of Jewish up-bringing and environment was strongly marked; but as the realization of His own Divine Personality and the world-embracing character of His work grew more and more clear, all that was distinctively Jewish and of local colour receded into comparative insignificance. The evolution of Christ’s Divine consciousness brought with it a new perspective, which revealed Him to Himself not merely as King of the Jews, but also as the Divine Saviour of the world (cf. Matthew 24:14).

Cleansing of the temple.—This episode, together with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, is one of the few events (apart from the story of the Passion) recorded by all four Evangelists; this is significant, for its importance can scarcely be exaggerated. There are slight variations in the four accounts, but the substantial fact is identical in each (Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-18, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:14-21). It is necessary to realize clearly that this act of ‘cleansing’ (the expression is quite misleading) belonged to a definite course of action marked out by Christ for Himself, and that it formed the last great act [the narrative in Jn. being misplaced] of His public ministry prior to the Passion. It is therefore important to connect it with the leading events of the few months preceding it.

According to Mk., which may be regarded as offering the earliest and most strictly historical account, that which definitely and irrevocably marked the final breach between Christ and the ecclesiastical authorities was the question of Sabbath observance (cf. Burkitt, The Gospel History and its Transmission, p. 68 ff.); the controversy on this subject culminated in the healing of the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1 ff.). This occurred in the country under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas, i.e. during the Galilaean ministry, which had as one of its most notable results the adhesion to Christ of the masses. It was on account of this popular support that the religious authorities deemed it advisable to get help from the secular arm, if this movement, so dangerous from their point of view, was to be checked. For this reason they appealed to the Herodians (Mark 3:6); their appeal was evidently successful, for Christ found it necessary to leave Galilee, and to remain in such parts of the country as were outside the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas; thus freeing Himself from the molestations of the Herodians. During this time the multitudes flocked to Him; but His main purpose consisted in preparing His disciples for what was to come. This preparation went on for some months. Then Christ determined to go up to Jerusalem for the Passover and appear publicly once more,* [Note: As Judaea was not under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas, Christ would be more unfettered in His action there.] though He knew what the result must be, and did not hide it from His disciples (Mark 10:32-34). He thereupon entered Jerusalem publicly, accompanied by His followers (Mark 11:7 ff.), and the next day the ‘cleansing’ of the temple took place. That is to say, in the cycle of events just referred to, the ‘cleansing’ formed the climax. Now, the essence of practical Judaism, according to the ideas of the religious official classes, consisted, above all things, in the strict observance of the Sabbath, and the due and regular carrying out of the sacrificial system. Christ had dealt with the former of these, as referred to above; and, in making it a real blessing, had of necessity run directly counter to the traditional rules of observance; that is to say, while holding firmly to the spirit of the Law, He abrogated the Sabbath in the old Jewish sense of the word. The ‘cleansing’ of the temple denotes His intention of doing the same with the other prime mark of practical Judaism, viz. the sacrificial system. That this is really the inner meaning of the ‘cleansing’ of the temple, the following considerations will show:

(i.) Excepting on this supposition, there was no meaning in Christ’s action; the Outer Court, or ‘Court of the Gentiles,’ where the ‘cleansing’ took place (see above, ii. 1), was not ‘sacred’ soil; it cannot, therefore, have been on account of profanation of the temple that Christ acted as He did. The sheep and oxen, doves, and money-changers, were all absolutely essential for the carrying on of the sacrificial system of the time; Christ’s action was too significant to be misunderstood.—(ii.) The stress laid in each of the three Synoptics on the temple being a ‘house of prayer,’ seems to point in the same direction


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Temple (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/t/temple-2.html. 1906-1918.

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Saturday, December 7th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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