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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Temple

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The articles under this heading in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , and Encyclopaedia Biblica make another description of the Temple and its services unnecessary. What is relevant here is an indication of the significance of the sanctuary and its ritualin apostolic Christianity.

1. Jewish Christians and the Temple.-St. Luke evidently attached much importance to the fact recorded at the end of his Gospel, that after the resurrection of Christ the apostles ‘were continually in the temple, blessing God’ (Luke 24:53). Their assurance of Jesus’ Messiahship, proved by His victory over death, made no breach in the continuity of their Jewish faith and practice. It rather revealed to their minds a new wealth of meaning in the old ritual, and so fired themselves as worshippers with a new enthusiasm. A. C. McGiffert (History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age, Edinburgh, 1897, p. 64f.) thinks that ‘it may fairly be supposed that the effect of their Christian faith was to make all of the early disciples more devout and earnest Jews than they had ever been.’ ‘We have distinct evidence that Christian Jews like other Jews frequented the temple, the sanctuary of the nation, and thereby maintained their claim to be Jews in the true sense’ (F. J. A. Hort, Judaistic Christianity, London, 1894, p. 45). After the baptism of fire on the Day of Pentecost they are found ‘continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple’ (Acts 2:46). Peter and John went up into the Temple at the hour of prayer (Acts 3:1), and in the fulfilment of their commission as witnesses for Christ (Acts 1:8) they found their best audiences in the Temple-courts. At the Beautiful Gate-either the Gate of Nicanor leading into the court of the Israelites or the Eastern Gate of the outer court-they moved the crowd by performing an act of healing in Christ’s name; and in Solomon’s Porch-the long colonnade in the east of the Temple area-Peter testified to the raising of the Prince of Life whom the rulers had in ignorance killed. It is significant that two apostles were arrested not by the religious, but by the secular authorities, i.e. the head of the Temple police (στρατηγὸς τοῦ ἱεροῦ) and the Sadducees (Acts 4:1); and, if their freedom of speech was somewhat curtailed, this was not because of their attitude to the Temple and its services, which was evidently quite correct, but simply because they were said to be exciting the multitude and disturbing the peace. The reproof administered to them was as mild as their confinement was brief; and the Christian Jews, finding that they could not be excluded from the Temple precincts, continued to make Solomon’s Porch their ordinary rendezvous (Acts 5:12). A second arrest of apostles followed, but the report has it that the angel who released them bade them go and speak in the Temple all the words of this life (Acts 5:17-20), and accordingly they are again found standing there and teaching the people (Acts 5:25). Until the appearance of Stephen created a new situation, the apostles were daily in the Temple, teaching and preaching Jesus as the Messiah. Against so strict and thoroughgoing Jews the guardians of the national religion, as embodied in the Temple and its cultus, had no ground of complaint, and the apostles on their side ‘could still cherish the hope that the nation at large might be brought to turn and bow the knee to its true Messiah’ (Hort, op. cit., p. 45 f.). For the present the bearing of their teaching upon the Temple itself was but dimly, if at all, perceived, and wholly unexpressed.

2. Stephen and the Temple.-It was the protomartyr that brought Christianity into open conflict with Judaism. His attitude to the Temple has been variously understood. He was accused of speaking ‘blasphemous words against Moses, and against the law’ (Acts 6:11), of ceasing not ‘to speak words against this holy place and the law’ (v. 13). C. von Weizsäcker (Apostolic Age, Eng. translation , i.2 [London, 1897] 64) holds that his speech does not by any means refute the grounds of complaint. On the contrary, it is at least in part equivalent to a substantial justification of the doctrine complained of, since it declares at its close that the worship of God in this temple ‘made with hands’ had never been in accordance with the will of God. F. Spitta (Die Apostelgeschichte, Halle, 1891, p. 105 f.) also thinks that the building of the Temple is represented by Stephen as an unauthorized and presumptuous act. Teaching of such a kind, however, would have brought Stephen into collision not only with the Hellenistic Jews, but with the whole body of Christians in Jerusalem. It seems much more likely that he made no theoretical attack upon the Mosaic Law, while his declaration that ‘the Most High dwelleth not in houses made with hands’ (Acts 7:48-50) was so far from being new that it merely echoed the words of Solomon at the dedication of the first Temple (1 Kings 8:27). It was not the worship but the spirit of the worshippers that aroused his scornful indignation. Warning them, in the manner of the old prophets, that no amount of attention to outward ordinances could ever secure the favour of God, he demanded a spiritual as opposed to a mechanical religion. If he was in the habit of repeating Christ’s prediction of the destruction of the Temple at the Parousia-and this was probably what gave colour to the charges made against him-he interpreted that threat not as an abrogation of the Mosaic Law, but as a judgment upon the nation for its sin. The third Temple might fall as the first had fallen, and yet the Torah itself remain intact. ‘To call Stephen a forerunner of Paul, and to think of him as anticipating in any way Paul’s treatment of the Jewish law and his assertion of a free Gentile Christianity, is to misunderstand him’ (McGiffert, op. cit., p. 89). For him, as for every other Jewish Christian in Jerusalem, the Law, without distinction of moral and ceremonial precepts, was ‘ordained of angels’; in his view the nation’s treatment of its prophets and its Messiah was the supreme proof that the Law had not been kept; and the burden of his preaching was a call to Jerusalem not to close her Temple and abolish her ritual, but to take the lead in a national repentance for a broken Law.

3. St. Paul and the Temple.-The recognition of the validity of a Christianity to which Jerusalem and the Temple were negligible quantities was the result of a protracted controversy in which St. Paul was the champion of freedom. For him the observance of the ancient ritual laws and traditions, which had so long been a matter of principle, becomes at last one of indifference. He is consequently accused of ‘teaching all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses’ (Acts 21:21). This he never did, and, to prove that the charge was groundless, he was advised, during his last visit to Jerusalem, to conciliate the great mass of Christian Jews by performing the vow of a Nazirite in the Temple. Weizsäcker thinks that in the whole narrative of this episode ‘practically nothing is historical’ (op. cit., ii. [London, 1895] 14; but McGiffert holds ‘that Paul may well have done just what he is reported to have done’ (op. cit., p. 343). Had he been advised by James to prove that he habitually observed the Law as a matter of conscience, he could never have consented. But he had long been in the habit of identifying himself in things non-essential now with Jews and now with Gentiles in order that he might ‘win some of them’ (1 Corinthians 9:20), and the last instance of conformity was merely the most striking. What impression the object-lesson actually made upon the law-abiding Christian Jews for whom it was specially intended is not recorded; but it clearly had other results which were not anticipated, for the Jews rose in arms against St. Paul as a profaner of the Temple, and the Romans arrested him as a disturber of the peace.

4. St. James and the Temple.-James the Just, the Lord’s brother, represented two ideas-the continuance of the Church in union with the Temple, and the hope of the conversion of Israel. He was the acknowledged leader of those Christians who were zealous for the Law (ξηλωταὶ τοῦ νόμου, Acts 21:20). If he conceded the principle of Gentile Christian freedom, he did it reluctantly. He was the staunch defender not only of the primacy but of the permanence of Judaic Christianity. After his martyrdom (Euseb. Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.) ii. 23) his spirit and ideal survived for a time, but the swift and dramatic evolution of events made the position of the Christian Church in the Jewish nation and under the Law more and more untenable. When the excitement of the conflict with Rome gradually became intense, and the inevitable crisis approached, the Christians found it necessary (about a.d. 67) to quit Jerusalem and migrate to the Hellenistic city of Pella, beyond the Jordan. Their hope of a Jewish national Church, centralized in the Temple and giving both law and gospel to mankind, had at least to be postponed. But in this instance postponement meant ultimate abandonment. In three years the Temple was destroyed, Jewish nationality shattered, and St. James’s theory of a hegemony of Judaic Christianity confuted by the remorseless logic of history. But a far higher ideal could then be realized. ‘The hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father’ (John 4:21). ‘And he showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.… And I saw no temple therein’ (Revelation 21:10; Revelation 21:22).

Literature.-A. Hausrath, History of the NT Times, London, 1895, ii. 176 ff.; E. F. Scott, The Apologetic of the NT, do., 1907, p. 78 ff.

James Strahan.


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

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Friday, December 13th, 2019
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