Acts 5:12 – Solomon’s Portico

In Acts 3:11 and 5:13 Luke reports Peter regularly taught at Solomon’s Portico. The word στοά (stoa) is often translated “colonnade,” columned- porch, usually enclosed on one side covered with a roof. According to Josephus, Solomon’s Portico was a double-columned porch on the east side of the Temple near the court of the Gentiles. It was about 23 feet wide (15 cubits) and the columns were about 40 feet tall (25 cubits). Josephus claimed they were white marble with cedar-panels for a ceiling (Antiq. 15.11.3-5, §391-420; JW 5.5.1 §184-185). Josephus may have exaggerated on the marble; Ehud Netzer suggests they were stucco over stone drums, based on columns found at Masada (Netzer, 165). In either case the Portico would have been impressive, although not as monumental as the Royal Colonnade at the southern end of the Temple Mount.

Solomon's Porch, Solomon's Portico

Most Greek temples had porches to provide shelter for people gathering to worship. Keener points out a portico would one way a city could display wealth, although often they were built through the generosity of a benefactor’s gift (1:1074). In this case, Herod the Great likely rebuilt an existing colonnade from the Hasmonean temple. People assumed the area had been a part of Solomon’s original temple, as the name indicates. But nothing of Solomon’s Temple survived the destruction of the city in 586 B.C., just as nothing remains of Solomon’s Portico today.

The Herodians spent a great deal of money on the Temple courts in order to demonstrate their wealth and power. Since Jerusalem had only one God, all funds could be spent improving the buildings around the Temple. Solomon’s Portico was therefore a beautiful public area for Jewish people to gather in sight of the Temple.

Why did Peter and the other disciples return to this location? On the one hand, it is a likely location for teachers to gather with their disciples to discuss the Scripture.  According to John 10:23 Jesus taught his disciples there, so Peter and the disciples are continuing the practice of Jesus by gathering on the Temple Mount. Perhaps that is the reason Jesus went there – it was simply a great place to find religiously inclined people!

Bibliography. Netzer, Ehud. Herod the Builder (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker 2006); Smith, Robert W. “Solomon’s Portico (Place),” ABD 6:113.

16 thoughts on “Acts 5:12 – Solomon’s Portico

  1. FWIW — Leen Ritmeyer, world class researcher on the Temple Mount, has a recent popular blog post on the location and remains of Solomon’s Portico. It seems that this portion of the eastern wall of the Temple Mount was named after Solomon and dates back at least to the Hasmonean Period (as you note)—if not earlier. But probably not back to the days of Solomon.
    http://www.ritmeyer.com/2014/12/19/where-on-the-temple-mount-was-jesus-during-hanukkah/

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    • Thanks for the link, I reviewed his book on the Temple Mount, there was very little on the Portico there (or in Keener’s otherwise exhaustive Acts commentary).

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  2. I would agree I think they meet there because Jesus had previously taught them in this location so it was familiar to them. It says in Acts 5:12-13 that they meet at Solomon’s Colonnade and performed many miracles. It also mentions that no one dared join them even though they were greatly esteemed by others. I think the believers had a greater sense of unity through the receiving of the Holy Spirit, and losing their teacher. This place would have significance to them so it would make sense for them to return there. I also believe that the disciples returned to this place because many people would be at the Temple Courts. Since it was obviously a common place to be it was not hard to find people. This would have aided in their ministry as disciples. It later says in Acts 5:17 that “Crowds gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick, and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.” The disciples had clearly gained attention through being at the Temple Courts if people from other towns were hearing about their behavior.

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  3. As you explained, the portico could very well have been a pleasant place to be and therefore would have been used by the different groups as a meeting place. They seemed to have met there regularly since the people lined the streets expecting Peter to pass by, perhaps on his way to the portico (5:15). They considered themselves Jewish. As you mentioned in class, they probably went to the temple very regularly. They understood Jesus as the Messiah not as the founder of some new sort of religion. Thus, it seems logical for them to meet in a place that is in close proximity to the temple. They hoped to enlighten the Jews with the truth. This place put them in a location where they had opportunity to meet Jewish people who were looking for the Messiah.

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    • I would add that it must have been a bustling place, with so many people and groups they needed the building to be 23 ft wide and 40 ft tall, a large worship center perhaps. I would also conclude that because it was such a large meeting place, as well as an area for worship, that that is why Jesus went there and the disciples continue to go there. For example, evangelists will often go to places that are busy, such as the mall or busy streets downtown, for there they can reach the most people, and be able to have large groups fit comfortably in the space (several times in Acts the disciples were giving sermons and the people filled the temple). I would argue that the disciples not only went there to continue Jesus’ message, but also to be able to reach a large population of people looking to worship.

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  4. It seems that the disciples go back to teach and continue the practice of what Jesus did, almost as if they are being tested by Christ. If we read further on in the John passage given, the Jews were having a Festival of Dedication (aka Hanukkah; footnote, John 10:22). Those who had not believed at the time were wanting an answer from Jesus. Jesus tells them “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Still they find his answer to be blasphemy as the “son of God,” to which Jesus flees to where John the Baptist originally was. The same goes with the disciples in Acts 5. If we read on further than just healing passage, the disciples get persecuted by the group of people who originally persecuted Jesus for blasphemy, only the disciples get jailed instead of getting rocks thrown at them. The Bible really shows a lot of parallelism. I would happen to think this is one of those moments.

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  5. I agree with what Alyssa and Mary both said. As you pointed out, on one hand it may have just been a nice place for people who were seeing religious enlightenment to gather. That being said, I think that another reason that this spot may have been used could be because that is just where it was always done. Maybe Peter and the disciples returned to this place because they knew that other people knew that this was a famous place for religious teaching and they did not want to move and confuse people and possibly make it harder for people to come to know Truth. A reason why I think that this could be true is because, as it is somewhat eluded to later (15:19) a concern of the disciples is to never make it harder for people to come to Christ if they desire. Essentially, if you are looking for good coffee and have always been told that Madcap has great coffee, then you will probably go looking for Madcap because you know the good coffee will be there. I feel like this could be along the same lines as that.

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  6. Throughout Acts, we see several little similarities between the ministry of Jesus and that of the apostles and I think this is just another one of them. Jesus’ followers were first called ‘Christians’ in Acts 11, but in order to earn the name of ‘little Christ’, the apostles must have served the same way that Jesus had. By teaching at a place where Jesus commonly did, you target the sort of audience that would have come to listen to Jesus and, in a way, continue on his ministry even after his death, resurrection, and ascension. It’s not a completely seamless transition, but even today, Christians are called to be the only Christ that the world will ever see.

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  7. The apostles were individuals who performed actions in the name of Jesus and constantly proclaimed the good news. In Acts the name Christians is first proclaimed and following under that titles brings great responsibility and great honor. The apostles were encouraged to be the light of Christ and to constantly seek Him during times of trouble and times of joy. Jesus came to the world, without sin, and brought the good news to the world. even after His death, his followers continued to spread the good news because of the truth that it brings as a whole. We are encouraged to be the light in the darkest places and to not fall to things that will put our light out. “God is fulfilling his messianic and eschatological blessings for His people now; therefore, the people must repent and turn to God so that they do not miss out on what God is doing” (Jipp 55). We need to constantly have our eyes set on Christ so he can lead us down the right path, towards a life of promises.

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  8. The place of worship doubling as a place of academia/argument is very odd to me. I’ve read over and over again in scripture examples of the apostles going up to the synagogues to convert Jews; like in Acts 5. But that must mean the religious climate was much different back then as opposed to now. It makes sense for the apostles to return to it at the end of the chapter because of the sheer volume of people. Not to mention it was simply an act that they picked up from Jesus himself. He always taught in temples and synagogues, like in John chapter 6, so why not keep the tradition going? However, I cannot think of a single person that would tolerate someone entering their suburban Church in 2019 looking to speak in front of crowds and convert them all! Granted, the apostles were appealing to the hope of a Messiah that the Jews already had. But none the less, I would be greatly interested to learn more about what the average day in places like Solomon’s Portico was like. Because those religious centers sound vastly different from the ones we have today, and frankly I might enjoy a more academic atmosphere as opposed to the typical “Church Experience”.

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  9. We see the disciples hanging out by Solomon’s portico in Acts 3:11, when Peter was questioning a man about staring leading into him talking about Jesus death. We see a situation kind of similar with Jesus at the temple in Luke 20:2, as those in the crowd, question his authority. We know it was not always the easiest place for the disciples to hang out at, which may have given them a challenge they enjoyed (Jipp, 57-58). This must have been a hot spot to teach and have responses from people listening, instead of them ignoring the teaching. My first thought in the disciples returns to Solomon’s Portico is the thought of tradition and not changing something that is not broken. I have a favorite coffee shop that my friends and I meet at, sometimes we talk about changing it up, but typically end up at the same one. Part of it is convenience, doing what you’ve always done and not trying something new. They were comfortable with this part of the temple and confident in teaching in this environment. People tend to follow traditions and keeping things the way, they are. Part of it could be for consistency, having a specific place to meet, that everyone knows and will not get confused about. It could also be that it was a beautiful place to be, maybe even a good view. It was designed so specific to be made just right. Not that Jesus or the disciples in any way was looking to be seen above others, it was a beautiful place to be surrounded by. Another reason could be, just caring on their time with Jesus, and not moving forward somewhere else, because that is where the good old days happened. There is a lot of reasons why the disciples may have chosen to stay there, there is not anything wrong with teaching here. It was a choice we try to understand what went through the disciple’s minds.

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  10. Just through reading the passage, I think one of the reasons why they returned to this place was because the disciples had a reputation with the people. In verse 13 is says that the people held the disciples in “high esteem.” This may have done a few things that benefited the disciples. One thing that it could have done was protect them from religious rulers, at least to some extent. Later on, in verse 26 we see that the officers went to capture them, “but not by force” for fear of the people. The disciples may have known that they would have been safe because of the crowd in this place.

    Another possible reason for the return, as you mention, is this place likely drew a large crowd. You give the dimensions of the portico, and it seems like it has a large capacity. You also mention that these people were more religious. This may have meant that they were more susceptible to theological matters and would potentially better receive the message. Whether it was because of their ‘religiousness’ or not, many did listen, as seen in verse 14.

    I am curious if the disciples gathered to this place more than once to teach. Because, if this was the case, they would have a reputation for being in this location. This could have meant that they simply returned (or possibly kept on returning) because the disciples knew they would draw a crowd that would be willing to listen. Just from looking through the verses, I am not sure whether or not this is the case. If anyone has an answer, I would love to hear it!

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