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.

Why Does John Measure the Temple in Revelation 11:1-2?

In the first two verses of Revelation 11 John is commanded to measure the Temple of God, the altar and the people who worship there. This may seem unrelated to the rest of the chapter, but these verses serve as a transition between chapter 10 and 11. John ate a scroll representing the word of God at the end of chapter 10. This scroll is sweet but turns bitter in his mouth, a clear allusion to the call of the prophet Ezekiel at the beginning of his book (Ezek 1-3).

The end of book of Ezekiel is similar to Revelation 11:1-2. In Ezekiel 40 the prophet is taken to a high mountain from which he can observe events in Jerusalem. He meets an angel (a man with the appearance of bronze) with a measuring rod in his hands. The following chapters describe Ezekiel measuring the city and the temple area. After the measuring is complete, the glory of the Lord returns to the temple.

It is not coincidental both of these interludes between the sixth and seventh trumpet are related to Ezekiel, the first from the beginning of his ministry and the second at the conclusion. Ezekiel’s ministry was to describe the departure of the glory of the Lord from the temple at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B. C. and its return at the time of the establishment of the kingdom. Perhaps the patterning of these two sections after Ezekiel is to highlight the return of the glory of the Lord at the end of Revelation.

What does the act of measuring the Temple mean? There are parallels in the Old Testament implying both preservation (Zechariah 2:1-5) and destruction (Amos 7:7-9). In the context of Revelation 11:1-2, it appears the image describes preservation, since the outer court is not measured and is overrun by the Gentiles for 42 months. The Temple, the holy place, and the worshipers are all measured. It might sound odd to measure the worshipers, but the word (μετρέω) can mean measure, count, or mete out. David Aune suggests this is an example of the figure of speech known as zeugma, one verb with two direct objects, only one of which fits the verb.

Prior to A.D. 70, many Jews believed the temple area of Jerusalem would never fall to an enemy. During the Jewish War, zealots retreated into the Temple thinking they would be preserved because they were in the temple. Instead, 6000 died when the Romans destroyed the temple. Second Baruch 6:3-9 records a legend that an angel took all of the temple objects just before the fall of the city and buried them until the end times.

Second Baruch 6:3-9 And behold, suddenly a strong spirit lifted me and carried me above the wall of Jerusalem. 4 And I saw, and behold, there were standing four angels at the four corners of the city, each of them with a burning torch in his hands. 5 And another angel came down from heaven and said to them, “Hold your torches and do not light them before I say it to you. 6 Because I was sent first to speak a word to the earth and then to deposit in it what the Lord, the Most High, has commanded me.” 7And I saw that he descended in the Holy of Holies and that he took from there the veil, the holy ephod, the mercy seat, the two tables, the holy raiment of the priests, the altar of incense, the forty-eight precious stones with which the priests were clothed, and all the holy vessels of the tabernacle. 8And he said to the earth with a loud voice: Earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the mighty God, and receive the things which I commit to you, and guard them until the last times, so that you may restore them when you are ordered, so that strangers may not get possession of them. 9For the time has arrived when Jerusalem will also be delivered up for a time, until the moment that it will be said that it will be restored forever. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up. (OTP 1:622–623)

Why 42 months? This is the thrice repeated number that is associated with the time of the tribulation. 42 months of 30 days each = 1260 days, and 42 months are exactly 3 and a half years (a time, times and half a time.) That the Gentiles are allowed to overrun the outer court for 42 months is an indication Jerusalem will not be a city of peace.

 

Core Beliefs of Second Temple Judaism: Gentiles and the Temple

The prohibition of Gentiles in the main court of the temple during the first century is well known. Paul refers to a “dividing wall” of hostility between Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians 2:15, probably an allusion to the warning to Gentiles in the Temple courts that crossing into the Court of the Men would result in their death. Paul is accused of breaking this Law by sneaking a Gentile into the Temple courts (a false charge, but it nearly cost Paul his life).

Inscription from the Second Temple warning Gentiles from entering any closer to the Temple (Istanbul Museum)

But in the Torah a Gentile was permitted to bring a sacrifice in the same way any Israelite does, presumably right to the altar of the Tabernacle (Num 15:14-16).

By the third century B.C., however, Jews began to prohibit Gentiles from entering the Temple enclosure.  Antiochus III made a decree to this effect (Antiq. 12.145f) and even Herod the Great respected this when he was rebuilding the temple.  Priests were trained in masonry so that they could work on the sacred areas rather than the Gentile masons Herod used elsewhere (Antiq. 15.390).

What was the basis of the exclusion of Gentiles? The practice of exclusion seems linked to the results of the Maccabean Revolt.  After so much effort was expending in driving the Gentiles out of the Temple and re-dedicating it to the Lord, it would seem impure to allow any Gentile back into the holy places of the temple courts.  In 1 Maccabees 14:29-36 Simon Maccabees was praised for purifying the temple from Gentile impurity.

1 Mac 14:36–37 In his days things prospered in his hands, so that the Gentiles were put out of the country, as were also those in the city of David in Jerusalem, who had built themselves a citadel from which they used to sally forth and defile the environs of the sanctuary, doing great damage to its purity. 37 He settled Jews in it and fortified it for the safety of the country and of the city, and built the walls of Jerusalem higher.

One factor bearing on this issue is the long standing Jewish belief that purity laws did not apply to Gentiles even when they lived in Israelite territory. The “sojourner laws” in Deut 5:14 define these Gentiles as resident aliens and require only a few general commands for them while they are living within the nation of Israel.

Did Jews of the first century consider Gentiles impure and therefore exclude them from the inner courts of the temple? There are several Second Temple texts which indicate eating with Gentiles was a serious problem for some (many? most?) Jews.  Joseph and Asenath 7:1, “Joseph never ate with the Egyptians, for this was an abomination to him”

Jubilees 22:16  And you also, my son, Jacob, remember my words, and keep the commandments of Abraham, your father. Separate yourself from the Gentiles, and do not eat with them, and do not perform deeds like theirs. And do not become associates of theirs. Because their deeds are defiled, and all their ways are contaminated, and despicable, and abominable.

Tobit 1:10–12 (NRSV) After I was carried away captive to Assyria and came as a captive to Nineveh, everyone of my kindred and my people ate the food of the Gentiles, 11 but I kept myself from eating the food of the Gentiles. 12 Because I was mindful of God with all my heart,

Judith 12:1–2 (NRSV) Then he commanded them to bring her in where his silver dinnerware was kept, and ordered them to set a table for her with some of his own delicacies, and with some of his own wine to drink. 2 But Judith said, “I cannot partake of them, or it will be an offense; but I will have enough with the things I brought with me.”

Although Gentile exclusion was not a “core belief” of Judaism in the Second Temple period, it is clear that by the first century Judaism was not a particularly open religion nor were Gentiles welcome to participate fully in worship of the God of Israel.

 

 

Bibliography: Joseph Hellerman, “Purity and Nationalism in Second Temple Literature: 1-2 Maccabees and Jubilees” JETS 46 (2003): 401-422.

Core Beliefs of Second Temple Judaism: Temple

While the synagogue was a place for prayer and study of scripture, the Temple was a place for sacrifice. Just as sacrifice of animals is always a part of religion in the ancient world, it played an important part of the practice of religion in Jerusalem.

Judaism differed from other pagan religious ceremonies in some very important ways.  For example, unlike Greco-Roman religions, there is only one place in the world where and acceptable sacrifice can be made, the Temple at Jerusalem. This was not always the case for the Jews, even as late as the reign of Hezekiah in the 8th century B.C. there were still local shrines where sacrifices to the Lord were made.  Hezekiah attempts to reform this system with limited success. In the post-exilic period there are several examples of competing temples in Egypt (at Elephantine and Leontopolis).

Jewish sacrifices were more expensive than Greco-Roman sacrifices primarily because there was a class of priests who needed to be supported by the populace. There was no professional priesthood in Greece or Rome, anyone could function as a priest (Alexander the Great and the Caesars, for example, were priests). Priests in Israel were hereditary and were prohibited from working to support themselves outside of their role as priest.  See this previous post on the wealth of the Temple.

The Temple was central to the life of the “common Jew.”  As N. T. Wright puts it, “At the heart of Jewish national life, for better or worse, stood the Temple” (N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 224).  The impression one gets from reading the more extreme views of the Essenes or Jesus’ sharp critique in the New Testament is that the Temple was viewed negatively in the first century. Despite politically ambitious High Priests and possible corruption in the first century, most Jews supported the Temple through offerings willingly given.  Diaspora Jews even supported the Temple through the half-shekel “Temple Tax,” a practice the Romans required to be continued after the revolts, although the money was diverted to Rome (War 7.218; Dio Cassius, 66.7).

Sanders warns us it is possible to have too positive of a view of the Temple based on Josephus (a priest), Philo (a pilgrim, in this case) and other early writers (Judaism, 54). There were wealthy, powerful priests and others who lived in poverty.  The critiques of the Temple by the Essenes and the Gospels may therefore be taken as a corrective to the positive material in the Jewish sources.

Yet in the New Testament the Temple is impressive to the Disciples (Matt 24:1-2) even if the current leadership is under God’s judgment and about to be replaced (Mark 12:1-12). It is still the main place for the apostolic preaching in Acts 2 and 3, although by Acts 7 Stephen is accused of attacking the Temple. Both Paul (Eph 2:19-22) and Peter (1 Peter 2:4-5) refer to believers as stones in a living Temple.

Book Review: J. Daniel Hays, The Temple and the Tabernacle

Hays, J. Daniel. The Temple and the Tabernacle. A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2016. 208 pp. Pb; $19.99. Link to Baker.

In this richly illustrated book Daniel Hays presents a biblical theology of the Temple. The book is written at the popular level and will serve as an excellent introduction for the layman or pastor seeking a deeper understanding of how the Temple functions throughout the Bible. More importantly, Hays avoids allegorical excesses which tend to find too much in the symbolism of the Tabernacle and the Temple.

hays-templeThe first chapter sets the agenda for the book by introducing the reader to the vocabulary used for temples in the ancient world. Although many of these terms refer to specific buildings, Hays points out this vocabulary often refers to a heavenly tabernacle or temple. In Hebrews 8-9, for example, there is a heavenly sanctuary in which Jesus completes the final sacrifice. From this it is clear Hays is interested in the theological importance of temple.

Hays argues Genesis presents Eden as “God’s Garden Temple.” This brief chapter is similar to “garden as temple” studies such as John Walton, Lost World of Genesis (IVP 2015) or Greg Beale, Temple and the Church’s Mission IVP, 2004). Hays lists nine features of the garden which indicate “Eden was indeed very much like a temple of God” (9). To be evicted from the garden was to be sent out of the presence of God. In the later Old Testament, the Tabernacle and Temple represent God’s physical presence as he dwells among his people.

Three chapters are dedicated to the Tabernacle and Temple in the Old Testament. Hays begins with a survey of the construction of the Tabernacle, including the Ark of the Covenant. This discussion deals with the long section in Exodus describing the command to construct the Tabernacle and the construction of the shrine. He includes sections on the various furniture in the tabernacle including the Table of the Bread of the Presence, the Golden Lampstand, the incense holders, and other architectural features. With respect to the history of the Tabernacle, Hays could have included the movement of the shrine in the early part of Samuel and the so-called Ark Narrative (1 Sam 4-6) and the shrine at Nob (1 Sam 21). In addition, David’s restoration of the Ark of the Covenant to a shrine in Jerusalem (2 Sam 6) merits more attention since in anticipates later the building of the Temple. Given the parameters of the book, the omissions are understandable. Not every text can be covered in equal detail in a popular level book.

Hays concludes the chapter with a comment on the appropriate use of typology in the study of the Tabernacle. Popular preachers and teachers have often gone crazy in their interpretations of the curtains and the colors in the Tabernacle in order to tease out some characteristic of Jesus Christ or the Gospel. Although the worship conducting in the Tabernacle anticipated the sacrifice of Christ, the Tabernacle itself should not be allegorized.

Hays offers a detailed contrast between the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple. Here he lays out a great deal of Scripture to show that Solomon’s temple was the product of human design in contrast to the Tabernacle, which was designed by God. He argues it is “clear and undeniable that the Solomon story in first Kings 1-11 is intertextuality connected to the story of the Exodus” (85). Hays provides a detailed description of the various items of furniture and architectural features of the Temple. There are several accompanying charts and graphs to illustrate this section.

Just as the key theological point of the Tabernacle was the presence of God, the departure of the presence of God from the Temple is the key theological point of Ezekiel 8-11. Ezekiel has a vision of God’s presence leaving the Temple, allowing Babylon to destroy it. But Ezekiel’s prophecy concludes with a future restoration of the Temple. Hays deals with the differences between Solomon’s Temple in this future temple. Certainly Ezekiel is a key prophet with respect to the theology of the Temple, Hays could have improved his discussion of the Temple by including Isaiah’s call (which Hays does mention briefly but does not deal with the details of the vision or discuss whether Isaiah sees a heavenly Temple). In addition, Jeremiah’s condemnation of Jerusalem’s confidence in the Temple (esp. Jer 7) is critically important for understanding the disaster of the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C.

The Old Testament material concludes with a discussion of the Cherubim. He compares these angelic beings to other ancient near Eastern creature appearing in various temples in the Ancient Near East. He also briefly wonders what happened to the Ark of the Covenant and deals with several of the legends it developed as a result of the disappearance of the Ark.

Hays describes the rebuilding of the Temple in the intertestamental period (chapter 6). He begins with the return from exile in the struggle of as Ezra and Haggai to rebuild the temple. (This is the order given in the heading on page 127, despite the fact Haggai was active when the temple was first rebuilt, before 515 B.C. Ezra does not arrive in Jerusalem until 458 B.C.) The bulk of this chapter describes the splendor of Herod’s temple. This section is richly illustrated with photographs from Jerusalem as well as the model of Jerusalem at the Israel Museum. Since he is interested in the theology of the Temple, Hays is quick to point out there is “no evidence the presence of God ever resided in the most Holy Place in Herod’s Temple” (165).

In the New Testament, the Temple (chapter 7) Hays begins by surveying the references to the Temple in the Gospels and Acts. As he puts it, “the presence of God did not return to the temple until Jesus Christ walked through its gates” (167). During his final week teaching in the Temple, Jesus functioned like an Old Testament prophet, condemning the worship there as hypocritical.

With respect to how New Testament authors understood the Temple in the present age, with Paul’s description of the church as the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3, Eph 2:21-22). Although he has used Hebrews 8-9 the book of Hebrews which uses tabernacle and temple imagery to describe Jesus his work in providing atonement. It is at this point in the book he discusses Ezekiel’s temple vision and deals with the very difficult problem of the fulfillment of the prophecy. As he says, “scholars are widely widely divided over the meaning of Ezekiel’s vision” and the details “are problematic if interpreted literally” (181). For example, Hays understands Jesus’ “living water” (John 7:38) as an allusion to the river flowing out of the mountain in Ezekiel.

It is disappointing that there is only two pages devoted to the temple in the book of Revelation, and then focusing only on the final two chapters of the book. There is more Temple imagery in Revelation than just those two chapters. For example, the Ark of the Covenant appears in Rev 11:19 and there are several references to the altar of God (14:18). Some of the imagery of worship seems to evoke the Old Testament temple. Since the subtitle of this book includes “Genesis to Revelation” one would expect more attention to the final book of the New Testament and temple imagery.

Finally, Hays offers a short meditation on the meaning of the Temple for modern Christians. This chapter has a pastoral emphasis, focusing on the church as the presence of God. If the church is in fact the “temple of the Holy Spirit,” then there are implications for our worship.

Conclusion. The book includes photographs, illustrations and other charts which will assist the reader in visualizing the Tabernacle and Temple. The book is printed on heavy, glossy paper so the full-color illustrations clear. Hays includes a great deal of Scripture in each chapter. This is significant since his goal is a biblical theology of Temple.  Because this is a popular level biblical theology, there are some frustrating omissions, but these ultimately do not distract from the overall value of this book. Hays has contributed a useful introduction to the history and theology of the Temple which will provide important background for students of both the Old and New Testament.

 

NB: Thanks to Baker for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.