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Temple

Temple [N] [E] [S]

While the temple certainly has a history and integrity of its own, it was created by extension of the tabernacle and is associated with such diverse topics as a mountain and a city, the cosmos and a person's body, and God's glory and name. The biblical authors from Moses through Ezekiel and Haggai to John of Patmos never describe a complete temple, but offer a vision of what the temple was to be: the locus of the presence of God.

Offering a vision rather than a blueprint for the temple is in keeping with the inherent ambiguity of the concept "temple of the Lord, " for how can the transcendent deity be localized in a building? The vision is also in keeping with the function of temple as a symbol. The temple is indeterminate literally and figuratively.

The Preexistence of the Temple. The foundation for temple is laid in the Pentateuch. Already in the patriarchs we find the promise of God's presence: "Do not be afraid, for I am with you, I will bless you" ( Gen 26:24 ). How and where will this presence be mediated?

Although various locales were deemed sacred by virtue of God's presence ( Gen 32:30 ), patriarchal religion did not put much importance on sacred space or the cultic practices that typify Mosaic Yahwism. Nevertheless, in various forms of foreshadowing, we find the usual lines of continuity with later persons, events, institutions, and practicesScripture's penchant for typology. Thus "Jerusalem, " where centralization of the cult eventually took place, figures prominently in two key texts that address "cultic" issues: in Genesis 22 with the "binding" (sacrifice) of Isaac ("Moriah" cf. 2 Chron 3:1 ) and in Genesis 14 with the tithe paid to Melchizedek.

With Mosaic Yahwism a change in perspective and practice occurs. God appears to the newly created covenantal community, a community formed by the exodus and, now at Sinai (which parallels Jerusalem as a place par excellence for "visions" of God), given an identity, including instructions where Yahweh's presencewith the full implication of both blessing and dangerwould be manifest (Exod. 24-26; 33:12-17 ).

How would God's presence in the covenant community and ceremony be evident? Inevitably certain symbols were necessary (despite the aniconic nature of Mosaic Yahwism Exod 20:4 ). The symbols appeal to the senses, but not simply as "visual aids." The ark, cherubim, and the tent of the meeting become the institutional representations of the Lord's presence among his people. Here, in this place, Yahweh appears and makes his will known ( Exod 33:7-11 ).

The tent of the meeting in the Pentateuch, and the priestly tabernacle, is not, however, a projection (or retrojection!) of the temple, but an independent dwelling reflecting the life of Israel prior to settlement and the centralization of worship. The tent is a "portable temple" of sorts, but not provisional nor simply a pattern; rather, the tent is a unique "dwelling."

With the ritual performances in the tabernacle/ temple complex, and the personnel and attendant appurtenances, we come to a theologically significant point about temple practice: coming into the presence of a holy God. In each change of location, vestment, instrument, or ritual act, with their various gradations of importance, the "needs" of the people and the holiness of God come together: I am holy, it is holy, you are (to be) holy.

The extensions and the symbolic associations began early in the canonical literature. As a commentary on the Torah, Deuteronomy expresses the presence of Yahweh in the cult devoid of some simplistic equation of Yahweh's presence constrained by the natural order of cause and effect by utilizing his alter ego, his "name, " as the manifestation of his transcendent reality. Even the ark itself is divested of its throne-like setting by its role as the "container" of the tablets of the law ( Deut 10:1-5 ). Yahweh is not seated on a throne like some dowager duchess.

The paradoxical and symbolic nature of the temple is thus seen as the author(s) construct the parameters of temple theology: the transcendent deity graciously appears before his holy people in the place of his choosing, a dwelling symbolically rich by virtue of its ability to generate varied metaphoric associations (fire, cloud, tent, ark, and most especially "name" in the Pentateuch).

The Construction of the Temple. The construction of the temple began with David to serve as, at least on sociopolitical grounds, a "media event" of divine support and favor. David, however, was deterred from completing the task. No doubt sociopolitical forces played their usual role in this. The biblical authors were not oblivious to these explanations ( 1 Kings 5:13-18 ), but characteristically pass theological judgment ( 1 Chron 22:8-9 ), or, more important, God himself divulges his feelings on the matter: "Did I ever say Why have you not built me a house of cedar'?" ( 2 Sam 7:7 ). God does not require an immutable dwelling, but the metaphoric associations are kept open, even those of monarchal justification (i.e., a "house" like the house in which the monarch resides).

The "cedar house" is ultimately built. And in Solomon's great prayer of dedication the paradox of this dwelling is acknowledged once again by his classic statement: "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!" ( 1 Kings 8:27 ). The paradox is softened by "quoting" the Deuteronomic "name" formula: "My Name shall be [in this place]" (v. 29). (This terminology underscores the point that the correspondence between God's presence and his "dwelling"tabernacle or templeis more "textual" than physical.) But what does the Lord think of this structure?

Solomon, like Bezalel before him with the building of the tabernacle, is described as having "wisdom." Unlike Bezalel, however, Solomon sends straightaway for supplies and instructions from Phoenician artisans. Moreover, a labor force is needed to complete the project, a force not unlike what the Israelites experienced in Egypt. Finally, Solomon is portrayed as the central figure in the planning and implementation of the project: "As for this temple that you are building " ( 1 Kings 6:12 ). No editorial judgment from the author is forthcoming from these contrasts, but the reader is left with the impression that Solomon's project is equivocal before God.

The equivocal nature of the project is supported by the Lord's response to it in 1 Kings 9:3-5. The Lord does hallow the place, but it is still Solomon's doing: "I have consecrated this temple which you have built" (v. 3). A clear stipulation is also attached: "if you walk before me" (v. 4; the sanctity of the place must be preserved, at the very least).

Responses to the Temple. What responses do we find in Scripture to the building of the temple beyond those found in the immediate context of it being built?

Rather than "going up" to the mountain of the house of the Lord to hear the word of the Lord, as in the eschatological visions of Isaiah and Micah ( 4:1-2 ), the Babylonians "descend" upon the temple to break down its wall and carry off the temple treasures. After centuries of covenant disloyalty, the Lord withdraws his presence from this place ( Eze 10:18 ); in fact, he is driven from the temple because of the abominations of the people ( Eze 8:6 ). This destruction could be seen as one of the contingencies of history except for the interpretations put upon it; the theologian of Lamentations states the destruction of the temple in unequivocal terms: "The Lord determined to tear down the wall of the Daughter of Zion" ( 2:8 ). The destruction is purposed by God because the people failed to live before him.

Reconstructing the Temple. High on the agenda of the postexilic community was the rebuilding of the temple. Indeed, it was not long before all their troubleswhich were manywere attributed to the disrepair, the virtual absence, of the dwelling of God ( Hag 1:3-9 ). The question must surely be asked: Why? Why, after a stern critique by the prophets, an outmaneuvering in the wisdom tradition, and its abandonment by God and destruction, would the people rebuild this structure?

The most obvious and strongest answer is that the Lord commands its construction ( Ezra 1:2 ). But a further answer lies in the theological sophistication of the biblical authors themselves and in the power of this symbol to go beyond mere structure. The means for rebuilding temple theology are present in the preexilic theology itself, the selfsame theology that so thoroughly critiqued an overly literal-minded approach to the presence of God.

The temple was always symbolic, "textual" even before (and as much as) it was physical. To the extent that the metaphoric associations speak to the reality of our experience(s) before God, the symbol retains its power as a symbol. Although Jeremiah held little esteem for the ark/temple, he nevertheless prophesied that God's throne would be Jerusalem itself (3:17), and Torah would be written in their hearts ( 31:31-34 ). These extensions of the symbol are developed further in the New Testament ( Rev 21:22-27 : "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple Nothing impure will ever enter it." ). The relativizing of the temple and moral earnestness that we see in Jeremiah were precisely the points of the Deuteronomic theology that influenced the short-lived reforms of Josiah.

The most extensive view of the new temple comes from Ezekiel. The construction of the temple is once again more ideal than real. In Ezekiel's new temple a remarkable event takes place: water flows from the temple (in Jerusalem) with such abundance that it calls to mind the rivers of paradise (see also Psalm 46:4 ; Rev 21:6 ).

The Songs of Zion in the Psalter are particularly rich in their celebration of the temple. With all their "sensuality"the reader is instructed to "behold" the beauty of the temple; walk about it; clap and shout; smell; bow down; and other sense-oriented activitiesthe Songs show that one is not to ponder the temple simply as a theological abstraction. The one who enters the temple not only receives spiritual blessings but material ones as well ( Psalm 36:7-9 ).

While we do not find much by way of extensions of this symbol, its paradoxical and metaphoric nature are everywhere testified to in what takes place in the life of the communicant. The most powerful statement of this sort comes in Psalm 73, where the psalmist cries out because his inherited beliefs are at odds with his personal experiences. Everything is "oppressive" (v. 16). "Till I entered the sanctuary of God " and what unfolds is a transformation of his character and his understanding of God. What happens in the sanctuary? It is, as it should be, unspecified. We are simply told at the end of the psalm that "as for me, it is good to be near God I will tell of all your deeds."

In sum, by building the temple and by extending the metaphoric associations with temple, a continuity between the pre- and postexilic community was established ( Ezra 1:7 ; Hag 2:9 ). For all the critique of the temple, in the final analysis, Yahweh takes pleasure in this place and it is a source of delight for those who assemble there ( Psalm 43:3-4 ; 65:4 ; 84:1 ).

Jesus, Paul, and Judaism. In Judaism the temple was the religious, cultural, and national center; indeed, the temple was a microcosm of the universe. The power of the temple as a symbol is especially seen in its ability to continue long after the temple building itself was destroyed in a.d. 70.

According to the Gospels, Jesus participated fully in the practices and ethos of the temple. Jesus' birth was announced in the temple ( Luke 1:17 ; 2:27-32 ), where he was also circumcised and studied with the rabbis as a lad ( Luke 2:46 ). Later, of course, Jesus taught in the temple himself ( John 7:14 ). It is not without significance that while Jesus is teaching in the temple precincts, he says, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me" ( John 7:37 ), and the next day offers forgiveness to the woman taken in adultery ( John 8:1-11 ). Blessing and forgiveness, priestly functions, are pronounced by Jesus in the shadow of the temple.

Jesus is not only a communicant and priest of sorts; he is also a prophet. Thus, when the temple practices are compromised, Jesus assails those who jeopardize the sanctity of the temple: "My house will be called a house of prayer But you have made it a den of robbers" ( Mark 11:17 ). They were not living before God. Jesus, while teaching in its precincts, preserves the sanctity of the temple by his ethical admonitions. Even the forgiven woman is told to sin no more ( John 8:11 ; see also John 4:23 ).

In the cleansing of the temple we also find a development and extension of the metaphoric associations of temple. Jesus employs a wordplay equivocating on the term "body" to break the parochial thinking of his audience ( John 2:19 ). John characteristically points out the error of their literal-mindedness: "But the temple he had spoken of was his body" ( John 2:21 ). Thus, in Jesus' acts and words we see the temple once again as a place of holiness, of danger (words of judgment; Jesus's own death) as well as blessing, and further extensions of the symbol are generated.

Paul also makes the correspondence between the temple and body: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?" ( 1 Cor 6:19 ; see also Rom 12:1-2 ). Of course, the believer can be called the temple of God only because Christ himself is the temple and the believer participates in Christ ( 1 Cor 3:9-17 ). The believer, like Paul himself, must be (cultically) pure in order to live in God's presence ( 2 Cor 2:17 ). If God can dwell in a holy place, by extension, he could dwell in a holy person!

After the destruction of the temple in a.d. 70, temple theology loses none of its living and healing power since the temple was always "beyond" its physical presence. A theology of temple answers the problem of how God's presence is mediated. Specifically, temple theology recognizes the importance of "sacred space." Its analogue is sacred timeSabbath, festivals, and appointed times of prayer. Humankind is oriented in time and space, thus Sabbath and temple testify to "eternity" beyond the confines of our usual orientation. Sabbath and temple redeem time and space.

Temple theology shows a high degree of theological sophisticationholding ambivalent attitudes/doctrines in tension, part of the mystery of faith, of paradox. Temple theology is most fruitful when it is functioning as a powerful symbol, with the ability to be fully grounded in (sacred) space and yet generate new metaphoric associationsa vision of life in the presence of the Lord. Even though the temple is both protological and eschatological, it is always grounded in the realities of our lives: it is a mere edifice, yet, Behold! Thy God.

Anthony J. Petrotta

See also Altar; Israel; Offerings and Sacrifices; Priest, Priesthood; Tabernacle

Bibliography. B. Childs, Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context; R. E. Clements, God and Temple; idem, Wisdom for a Changing World; R. H. Gundry, Somain Biblical Theology; M. Haran, Temples and Temple Service in Ancient Israel; A. J. Heschel, Quest for God; A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms; M. E. Isaacs, An Approach to the Theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews; G. Josipovici, The Book of God; K. Koch, The Prophets: The Assyrian Period; C. Koester, The Dwelling of God; H. J. Kraus, The Theology of the Psalms; J. D. Levenson, Sinai and Zion; J. G. McConville, Law and Theology in Deuteronomy; W. McKane, ZAW94 (1982): 251-66; D. H. Madvig, NIDNTT, 3; R. Mason, Preaching the Tradition; C. Meyers, Ancient Israelite Religion; R. W. L. Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament; J. Neusner, Wrong Ways and Right Ways in the Study of Formative Judaism; W. Nowottny, The Language Poets Use; D. A. Renwick, Paul, the Temple, and the Presence of God; J. Z. Smith, To Take Place; W. R. Smith, The Prophets of Israel and Their Place in History; idem, The Religion of the Semites; J. Soskice, Metaphor and Religious Language; N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.


[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[J] indicates this entry was also found in Jack Van Impe's Prophecy Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Temple'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.

Temple [N] [B] [S]

first used of the tabernacle, which is called "the temple of the Lord" ( 1 Samuel 1:9 ). In the New Testament the word is used figuratively of Christ's human body ( John 2:19 John 2:21 ). Believers are called "the temple of God" ( 1 Corinthians 3:16 1 Corinthians 3:17 ). The Church is designated "an holy temple in the Lord" ( Ephesians 2:21 ). Heaven is also called a temple ( Revelation 7:5 ). We read also of the heathen "temple of the great goddess Diana" ( Acts 19:27 ).

This word is generally used in Scripture of the sacred house erected on the summit of Mount Moriah for the worship of God. It is called "the temple" ( 1 Kings 6:17 ); "the temple [RSV, 'house'] of the Lord" ( 2 Kings 11:10 ); "thy holy temple" ( Psalms 79:1 ); "the house of the Lord" ( 2 Chronicles 23:5 2 Chronicles 23:12 ); "the house of the God of Jacob" ( Isaiah 2:3 ); "the house of my glory" ( 60:7 ); an "house of prayer" ( 56:7 ; Matthew 21:13 ); "an house of sacrifice" ( 2 Chronicles 7:12 ); "the house of their sanctuary" ( 2 Chronicles 36:17 ); "the mountain of the Lord's house" ( Isaiah 2:2 ); "our holy and our beautiful house" ( 64:11 ); "the holy mount" ( 27:13 ); "the palace for the Lord God" ( 1 Chronicles 29:1 ); "the tabernacle of witness" ( 2 Chronicles 24:6 ); "Zion" ( Psalms 74:2 ; 84:7 ). Christ calls it "my Father's house" ( John 2:16 ).

These dictionary topics are from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[J] indicates this entry was also found in Jack Van Impe's Prophecy Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Temple". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .

Temple. [N] [B] [E]

There is perhaps no building of the ancient world which has excited so much attention since the time of its destruction as the temple which Solomon built by Herod. Its spoils were considered worthy of forming the principal illustration of one of the most beautiful of Roman triumphal arches, and Justinians highest architectural ambition was that he might surpass it. Throughout the middle ages it influenced to a considerable degree the forms of Christian churches, and its peculiarities were the watchwords and rallying-points of all associations of builders. When the French expedition to Egypt, int he first years of this century, had made the world familiar with the wonderful architectural remains of that country, every one jumped to the conclusion that Solomons temple must have been designed after an Egyptian model. The discoveries in Assyria by Botta and Layard have within the last twenty years given an entirely new direction to the researches of the restorers. Unfortunately, however, no Assyrian temple has yet been exhumed of a nature to throw much light on this subject, and we are still forced to have recourse to the later buildings at Persepolis, or to general deductions from the style of the nearly contemporary secular buildings at Nineveh and elsewhere, for such illustrations as are available. THE TEMPLE OF SOLOMON. --It was David who first proposed to replace the tabernacle by a more permanent building, but was forbidden for the reasons assigned by the prophet Nathan, ( 2 Samuel 7:5 ) etc.; and though he collected materials and made arrangements, the execution of the task was left for his son Solomon. (The gold and silver alone accumulated by David are at the lowest reckoned to have amounted to between two and three billion dollars, a sum which can be paralleled from secular history. --Lange.) Solomon, with the assistance of Hiram king of Tyre, commenced this great undertaking int he fourth year of his reign, B.C. 1012, and completed it in seven years, B.C. 1005. (There were 183,000 Jews and strangers employed on it --of Jews 30,000, by rotation 10,000 a month; of Canaanites 153,600, of whom 70,000 were bearers of burdens, 80,000 hewers of wood and stone, and 3600 overseers. The parts were all prepared at a distance from the site of the building, and when they were brought together the whole immense structure was erected without the sound of hammer, axe or any tool of iron. ( 1 Kings 6:7 ) --Schaff.) The building occupied the site prepared for it by David, which had formerly been the threshing-floor of the Jebusite Ornan or Araunah, on Mount Moriah. The whole area enclosed by the outer walls formed a square of about 600 feet; but the sanctuary itself was comparatively small, inasmuch as it was intended only for the ministrations of the priests, the congregation of the people assembling in the courts. In this and all other essential points the temple followed the model of the tabernacle, from which it differed chiefly by having chambers built about the sanctuary for the abode of the priests and attendants and the keeping of treasures and stores. In all its dimensions, length, breadth and height, the sanctuary itself was exactly double the size of the tabernacle, the ground plan measuring 80 cubits by 40, while that of the tabernacle was 40 by 20, and the height of the temple being 30 cubits, while that of the tabernacle was 15. [The readers would compare the following account with the article TABERNACLE] As in the tabernacle, the temple consisted of three parts, the porch, the holy place, and the holy of holies. The front of the porch was supported, after the manner of some Egyptian temples, by the two great brazen pillars, Jachin and Boaz, 18 cubits high, with capitals of 5 cubits more, adorned with lily-work and pomegranates. ( 1 Kings 7:15-22 ) The places of the two "veils" of the tabernacle were occupied by partitions, in which were folding-doors. The whole interior was lines with woodwork richly carved and overlaid with gold. Indeed, both within and without the building was conspicuously chiefly by the lavish use of the gold of Ophir and Parvaim. It glittered in the morning sun (it has been well said) like the sanctuary of an El Dorado. Above the sacred ark, which was placed, as of old, in the most holy place, were made new cherubim, one pair of whose wings met above the ark, and another pair reached to the walls behind them. In the holy place, besides the altar of incense, which was made of cedar overlaid with gold there were seven golden candlesticks in stead of one, and the table of shew-bread was replaced by ten golden tables, bearing, besides the shew bread, the innumerable golden vessels for the service of the sanctuary. The outer court was no doubt double the size of that of the tabernacle; and we may therefore safely assume that if was 10 cubits in height, 100 cubits north and south, and 200 east and west. If contained an inner court, called the "court of the priests;" but the arrangement of the courts and of the porticos and gateways of the enclosure, though described by Josephus, belongs apparently to the temple of Herod. The outer court there was a new altar of burnt offering, much larger than the old one. [ALTAR] Instead of the brazen laver there was "a molten sea" of brass, a masterpiece of Hirams skill for the ablution of the priests. It was called a "sea" from its great size. [SEA, MOLTEN] The chambers for the priests were arranged in successive stories against the sides of the sanctuary; not, however, reaching to the top, so as to leave space for the windows to light the holy and the most holy place. We are told by Josephus and the Talmud that there was a superstructure on the temple equal in height to the lower part; and this is confirmed by the statement in the books of Chronicles that Solomon "overlaid the upper chambers with gold." ( 2 Chronicles 3:9 ) Moreover, "the altars on the top of the upper chamber," mentioned in the books of the Kings, ( 2 Kings 23:12 ) were apparently upon the temple. The dedication of the temple was the grandest ceremony ever performed under the Mosaic dispensation. The temple was destroyed on the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, B.C. 586. TEMPLE OF ZERUBBABEL. --We have very few particulars regarding the temple which the Jews erected after their return from the captivity (about B.C. 520), and no description that would enable us to realize its appearance. But there are some dimensions given in the Bible and elsewhere which are extremely interesting, as affording points of comparison between it and the temple which preceded it and the one erected after it. The first and most authentic are those given in the book of Ezra, ( Ezra 6:3 ) when quoting the decree of Cyrus, wherein it is said, "Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof three-score cubits. and the breadth thereof three-score cubits, with three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber." Josephus quotes this passage almost literally, but in doing so enables us to translate with certainty the word here called row as "story" --as indeed the sense would lead us to infer. We see by the description in Ezra that this temple was about one third larger than Solomons. From these dimensions we gather that if the priests and Levites and elders of families were disconsolate at seeing how much more sumptuous the old temple was than the one which on account of their poverty they had hardly been able to erect, ( Ezra 3:12 ) it certainly was not because it was smaller; but it may have been that the carving and the gold and the other ornaments of Solomons temple far surpassed this, and the pillars of the portico and the veils may all have been far more splendid; so also probably were the vessels and all this is what a Jew would mourn over far more than mere architectural splendor. In speaking of these temples we must always bear in mind that their dimensions were practically very far inferior to those of the heathen. Even that of Ezra is not larger than an average parish church of the last century; Solomons was smaller. It was the lavish display of the precious metals, the elaboration of carved ornament, and the beauty of the textile fabrics, which made up their splendor and rendered them so precious in the eyes of the people. TEMPLE OF EZEKIEL. --The vision of a temple which the prophet Ezekiel saw while residing on the banks of the Chebar in Babylonia, in the twenty-fifth year of the captivity, does not add much to our knowledge of the subject. It is not a description of a temple that ever was built or ever could be erected at Jerusalem, and can consequently only be considered as the beau ideal of what a Shemitic temple ought to be. TEMPLE OF HEROD. --Herod the Great announced to the people assembled at the Passover, B.C. 20 or 19, his intention of restoring the temple; (probably a stroke of policy on the part of Herod to gain the favor of the Jews and to make his name great.) if we may believe Josephus, he pulled down the whole edifice to its foundations, and laid them anew on an enlarged scale; but the ruins still exhibit, in some parts, what seem to be the foundations laid by Zerubbable, and beneath them the more massive substructions of Solomon. The new edifice was a stately pile of Graeco-Roman architecture, built in white marble gilded acroteria . It is minutely described by Josephus, and the New Testament has made us familiar with the pride of the Jews in its magnificence. A different feeling, however, marked the commencement of the work, which met with some opposition from the fear that what Herod had begun he would not be able to finish. he overcame all jealousy by engaging not to pull down any part of the existing buildings till all the materials for the new edifice were collected on its site. Two years appear to have been occupied in preparations --among which Josephus mentions the teaching of some of the priests and Levites to work as masons and carpenters --and then the work began. The holy "house," including the porch, sanctuary and holy of holies, was finished in a year and a half, B.C. 16. Its completion, on the anniversary of Herods inauguration, was celebrated by lavish sacrifices and a great feast. About B.C. 9 --eight years from the commencement --the court and cloisters of the temple were finished, and the bridge between the south cloister and the upper city (demolished by Pompey) was doubtless now rebuilt with that massive masonry of which some remains still survive. (The work, however, was not entirely ended till A.D. 64, under Herod Agrippa II. So the statement in ( John 2:20 ) is correct. --Schaff.) The temple or holy "house" itself was in dimensions and arrangement very similar to that of Solomon, or rather that of Zerubbabel --more like the latter; but this was surrounded by an inner enclosure of great strength and magnificence, measuring as nearly as can be made out 180 cubits by 240, and adorned by porches and ten gateways of great magnificence; and beyond this again was an outer enclosure measuring externally 400 cubits each way, which was adorned with porticos of greater splendor than any we know of as attached to any temple of the ancient world. The temple was certainly situated in the southwest angle of the area now known as the Haram area at Jerusalem, and its dimensions were what Josephus states them to be --400 cubits, or one stadium, each way. At the time when Herod rebuilt it, he enclosed a space "twice as large" as that before occupied by the temple and its courts --an expression that probably must not be taken too literally at least, if we are to depend on the measurements of Hecataeus. According to them, the whole area of Herods temple was between four and five times greater than that which preceded it. What Herod did apparently, was to take in the whole space between the temple and the city wall on its east side, and to add a considerable space on the north and south to support the porticos which he added there. As the temple terrace thus became the principal defence of the city on the east side, there were no gates or openings in that direction, and being situated on a sort of rocky brow --as evidenced from its appearance in the vaults that bounded it on this side --if was at all later times considered unattackable from the eastward. The north side, too, where not covered by the fortress Antonia, became part of the defenses of the city, and was likewise without external gates. On the south side, which was enclosed by the wall of Ophel, there were notable gates nearly in the centre. These gates still exist at a distance of about 365 feet from the southwestern angle, and are perhaps the only architectural features of the temple of Herod which remain in situ . This entrance consists of a double archway of Cyclopean architecture on the level of the ground, opening into a square vestibule measuring 40 feet each way. From this a double funnel nearly 200 feet in length, leads to a flight of steps which rise to the surface in the court of the temple, exactly at that gateway of the inner temple which led to the altar, and is one of the four gateways on this side by which any one arriving from Ophel would naturally wish to enter the inner enclosure. We learn from the Talmud that the gate of the inner temple to which this passage led was called the "water gate;" and it is interesting to be able to identify a spot so prominent in the description of Nehemiah. ( Nehemiah 12:37 ) Toward the west there were four gateways to the external enclosure of the temple. The most magnificent part of the temple, in an architectural point of view, seems certainly to have been the cloisters which were added to the outer court when it was enlarged by Herod. The cloisters in the west, north and east sides were composed of double rows of Corinthian columns, 25 cubits or 37 feet 6 inches in height, with flat roof, and resting against the outer wall of the temple. These, however, were immeasurably surpassed in magnificence by the royal porch or Stoa Basilica, which overhung the southern wall. It consisted of a nave and two aisled, that toward the temple being open, that toward the country closed by a wall. The breadth of the centre aisle was 95 feet of the side aisles, 30 from centre to centre of the pillars; their height 50 feet, and that of the centre aisle 100 feet. Its section was thus something in excess of that of York Cathedral, while its total length was one stadium or 600 Greek feet, or 100 feet in excess of York or our largest Gothic cathedrals. This magnificent structure was supported by 162 Corinthian columns. The porch on the east was called "Solomons Porch." The court of the temple was very nearly a square. It may have been exactly so, for we have not the details to enable us to feel quite certain about it. To the eastward of this was the court of the women. The great ornament of these inner courts seems to have been their gateways, the three especially on the north end south leading to the temple court. These according to Josephus, were of great height, strongly fortified and ornamented with great elaboration. But the wonder of all was the great eastern gate leading from the court of the women to the upper court. It was in all probability the one called the "beautiful gate" in the New Testament. immediately within this gateway stood the altar of burnt offerings. Both the altar and the temple were enclosed by a low parapet, one cubit in height, placed so as to keep the people separate from the priests while the latter were performing their functions. Within this last enclosure, toward the westward, stood the temple itself. As before mentioned, its internal dimensions were the same as those of the temple of Solomon. Although these remained the same, however, there seems no reason to doubt that. the whole plan was augmented by the pteromata , or surrounding parts being increased from 10 to 20 cubits, so that the third temple, like the second, measured 60 cubits across and 100 cubits east and west. The width of the facade was also augmented by wings or shoulders projecting 20 cubits each way, making the whole breadth 100 cubits, or equal to the length. There is no reason for doubting that the sanctuary always stood on identically the same spot in which it had been placed by Solomon a thousand years before it was rebuilt by Herod. The temple of Herod was destroyed by the Romans under Titus, Friday, August 9, A.D. 70. A Mohammedan mosque now stands on its site.


[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[J] indicates this entry was also found in Jack Van Impe's Prophecy Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Temple'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.