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The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple (Hebrew: בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, Modern: Bet HaMikdash, Tiberian: Beṯ HamMiqdāš, Ashkenazi: Beis HaMikdosh; Arabic: بيت القدس: Beit al-Quds or بيت المقدس: Beit al-Maqdis) was one of a series of structures which were located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. These successive temples stood at this location and functioned as a site of ancient Israelite and later Jewish worship.
The Hebrew name given in the Hebrew Bible for the building complex is either Beit YHWH (House of Yahweh, or Jehovah), Beit HaElohim "House of God," or simply Beiti "my house", Beitekhah "your house" etc. The term hekhal "hall" or main building is often translated "temple" in older English Bibles. In rabbinical literature the temple is Beit HaMikdash, "The Sanctified House", and only the Temple in Jerusalem is referred to by this name.
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The Hebrew Bible reports that the First Temple was built in 957 BCE by King Solomon (reigned c. 970-c. 930 BCE). According to Deuteronomy, as the sole place of Jewish sacrifice (Deuteronomy 12), the Temple replaced the portable sanctuary (aka The Tabernacle) constructed in the Sinai Desert under the auspices of Moses, as well as local sanctuaries, and altars in the hills. This temple was however sacked a few decades later by Sheshonk I, Pharaoh of Egypt. However, according to 1 Kings 12, after the northern secession from Judah ca. 930 BCE to establish the independent kingdom of Israel, King Jeroboam built new temples at Bethel (on Israel’s southern border) and at Dan (on the northern border). At each of these shrines, he set up a golden bull calf, calling them Elohim.
Although efforts were made at partial reconstruction, it was only in 835 BCE when Jehoash, King of Judah in the second year of his reign invested considerable sums in reconstruction, only to have it stripped again for Sennacherib, King of Assyria c. 700 BCE. The First Temple was totally destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE when they sacked the city.
According to the Book of Ezra, construction of the Second Temple was authorized by Cyrus the Great and began in 538 BCE, after the fall of the Babylonian Empire the year before. It was completed 23 years later, on the third day of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the Great (12 March 515 BCE), dedicated by the Jewish governor Zerubbabel. Despite the fact that the new temple was not as extravagant or imposing as its predecessor, it still dominated the Jerusalem skyline and remained an important structure throughout the time of Persian suzerainty. The temple narrowly avoided being destroyed again in 332 BCE when the Jews refused to acknowledge the deification of Alexander the Great of Macedonia. Alexander was allegedly “turned from his anger” at the last minute by astute diplomacy and flattery. After the death of Alexander on 13 June 323 BCE, and the dismembering of his empire, the Ptolemies came to rule over Judea and the Temple. Under the Ptolemies, the Jews were given many civil liberties and lived content under their rule. However, when the Ptolemaic army was defeated at Panium by Antiochus III of the Seleucids in 198 BCE, this policy changed. Antiochus wanted to Hellenize the Jews, attempting to introduce the Greek pantheon into the temple. A rebellion ensued and was brutally crushed, but no further action by Antiochus was taken. When Antiochus died in 187 BCE at Luristan, his son Seleucus IV Philopator succeeded him. However, his policies never took effect in Judea, since he was assassinated the year after his ascension.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes succeeded his older brother to the Seleucid throne and immediately adopted his father's previous policy of universal Hellenisation. The Jews rebelled again and Antiochus, in a rage, retaliated in force. Considering the previous episodes of discontent, the Jews became incensed when the religious observances of Sabbath and circumcision were officially outlawed. When Antiochus erected a statue of Zeus in their temple and Hellenic priests began sacrificing pigs (the usual sacrifice offered to the Greek gods in the Hellenic religion) their anger began to spiral. When a Greek official ordered a Jewish priest to perform a Hellenic sacrifice, the priest (Mattathias) killed him. In 167 BCE the Jews rose up en masse behind Mattathias and his five sons to fight and win their freedom from Seleucid authority. Mattathias' son Judas Maccabeus, now called "The Hammer", re-dedicated the temple in 165 BCE and the Jews celebrate this event to this day as a major part of the festival of Hanukkah.
The temple was rededicated under Judas Maccabaeus in 164 BCE. During the Roman era, Pompey entered (and thereby desecrated) the Holy of Holies in 63 BCE, but left the Temple intact. In 54 BCE, Crassus looted the Temple treasury, only for him to die the year after at the Battle of Carrhae against Parthia. When news of this reached the Jews, they revolted again, only to be put down in 43 BCE. Around 20 BCE, the building was renovated by Herod the Great, and became known as Herod's Temple. During the Roman occupation of Judea, the Temple remained under control of the Jewish people. It was later destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE during the Siege of Jerusalem. During the last revolt of the Jews against the Romans in 132–135 CE, Simon bar Kokhba and Rabbi Akiva wanted to rebuild the Temple, but bar Kokhba's revolt failed and the Jews were banned from Jerusalem (except for Tisha B'Av) by the Roman Empire. The emperor Julian failed to have the Temple rebuilt in 363 CE.
After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century, Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ordered the construction of an Islamic shrine, the Dome of the Rock, on the site of the Temple. The shrine has stood on the mount since 691 CE; the al-Aqsa Mosque, from roughly the same period, also stands in the Temple courtyard.
The Temple Mount, along with the entire Old City of Jerusalem, was captured from Jordan by Israel in 1967 during the Six-Day War, allowing Jews once again to pray at the holy site. Jordan had occupied East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount immediately following Israel's declaration of independence on May 14, 1948. Israel officially unified East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, with the rest of Jerusalem in 1980 under the Jerusalem Law, though United Nations Security Council Resolution 478 declared the Jerusalem Law to be in violation of international law. The Muslim Waqf, based in Jordan, has administrative control of the Temple Mount.
There are three theories as to where the Temple stood; where the Dome of the Rock is now located, to the north of the Dome of the Rock (Professor Asher Kaufman) and to the east of the Dome of the Rock (Professor Joseph Patrich of the Hebrew University). Other theories have the Temple either to the north or to the south of the Temple Mount.
According to the Talmud, the Temple had an Ezrat HaNashim (Women's Court) to the east and main area to the west. The main area contained the butchering area for the sacrifices and the Outer Altar on which portions of most offerings were burned. An edifice contained the ulam (antechamber), the hekhal (the "sanctuary", the main building), and the Holy of Holies. The sanctuary and the Holy of Holies were separated by a wall in the First Temple and by two curtains in the Second Temple. The sanctuary contained the seven branched candlestick, the table of showbread and the Incense Altar.
The main courtyard had thirteen gates. On the south side, beginning with the southwest corner, there were four gates:
On the north side, beginning with the northwest corner, there were four gates:
On the east side was Shaar Nikanor, between the Women's Courtyard and the main Temple Courtyard, which had two minor doorways, one on its right and one on its left. On the western wall, which was relatively unimportant, there were two gates that did not have any name.
The Temple was the place where offerings described in the course of the Hebrew Bible were carried out, including daily morning and afternoon offerings and special offerings on Sabbath and Jewish holidays. Levites recited Psalms at appropriate moments during the offerings, including the Psalm of the Day, special psalms for the new month, and other occasions, the Hallel during major Jewish holidays, and psalms for special sacrifices such as the "Psalm for the Thanksgiving Offering" (Psalm 100).
As part of the daily offering, a prayer service was performed in the Temple which was used as the basis of the traditional Jewish (morning) service recited to this day, including well-known prayers such as the Shema, and the Priestly Blessing. The Mishna describes it as follows:
|“||The superintendent said to them, bless one benediction! and they blessed, and read the Ten Commandments, and the Shema, "And it shall come to pass if you will hearken", and "And [God] spoke...". They pronounced three benedictions with the people present: "True and firm", and the "Avodah" "Accept, Lord our God, the service of your people Israel, and the fire-offerings of Israel and their prayer receive with favor. Blessed is He who receives the service of His people Israel with favor" (similar to what is today the 17th blessing of the Amidah), and the Priestly Blessing, and on the Sabbath they recited one blessing; "May He who causes His name to dwell in this House, cause to dwell among you love and brotherliness, peace and friendship" on behalf of the weekly Priestly Guard that departed.||”|
Isaiah spoke of the importance of prayer as well as sacrifice in Temple, and of a universal purpose:
- Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make joyful in My house of prayer,
- Their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar
- For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isaiah 56:7, JPS translation).
The Talmud (Yoma 9b) provides theological reasons for the destruction: Why was the first Temple destroyed? Because the three cardinal sins were rampant in society: idol worship, licentiousness, and murder… And why then was the second Temple – wherein the society was involved in Torah, commandments and acts of kindness – destroyed? And because gratuitous hatred was rampant in society. This teaches that gratuitous hatred is equal in severity to the three cardinal sins.
Part of the traditional Jewish morning service, the part surrounding the Shema prayer, is essentially unchanged from the daily worship service performed in the Temple. In addition, the Amidah prayer traditionally replaces the Temple's daily tamid and special-occasion Mussaf (additional) offerings (there are separate versions for the different types of sacrifices). They are recited during the times their corresponding offerings were performed in the Temple.
The Temple is mentioned extensively in Orthodox services. Conservative Judaism retains mentions of the Temple and its restoration, but removes references to the sacrifices. References to sacrifices on holidays are made in the past tense, and petitions for their restoration are removed. Mentions in Orthodox Jewish services include:
The destruction of the Temple is mourned on the Jewish fast day of Tisha B'Av. Three other minor fasts (Tenth of Tevet, 17th of Tammuz, and Third of Tishrei), also mourn events leading to or following the destruction of the Temple. There are also mourning practices which are observed at all times, for example, the requirement to leave part of the house unplastered.
The Temple is mentioned many times in the New Testament. In these scriptures, Jesus prays there (Mark 11:12–19) and chases away money changers and other merchants from the courtyard, turning over their tables and accusing them of desecrating a sacred place with secular ways. According to the New Testament Gospels, it was to the Temple Court that Jesus was brought as a child, to be presented at the Temple (Luke 2:22) and to attend festivals (Luke 2:41). Jerusalem historian Dan Mazar reported in the Jerusalem Christian Review on the numerous archaeological discoveries made at this location by his grandfather, Prof. Benjamin Mazar, which included the 1st century stairs of ascent, where Jesus and his disciples preached, as well as the "mikvaot" (or baptismals) used by both Christian and Jewish pilgrims. The events of Pentecost, which are recorded in the Book of Acts, also took place at this location. At the area in which Jesus cleanses the Temple of the moneychangers, chasing various commercial traders of doves necessary for the sacrificial rituals away from the sacred precincts (Mark 11), remarkable findings were uncovered by the elder Mazar, such as a 1st-century vessel with the Hebrew word "Korban", meaning sacrifice(s). It was believed by Benjamin Mazar that inside this vessel, merchants would have stored the sacrifices sold at the Temple Court.
Jesus predicts the destruction of the Second Temple (Matthew 24:2) and allegorically compares his body to a Temple that will be torn down and raised up again in three days. This idea, of the Temple as the body of Christ, became a rich and multi-layered theme in medieval Christian thought (where Temple/body can be the heavenly body of Christ, the ecclesial body of the Church, and the Eucharistic body on the altar).
The mount bears significance in Islam as it acted as a sanctuary for many Hebrew prophets. Islamic tradition says that a temple was first built on the Temple Mount by Jacob and later renovated by Solomon, son of David. In addition, it is considered to be the site of the Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey (Isra and Mi'raj) and his ascent into Heaven - one of the most significant events recounted in the Qur'an. According to the prolific Muslim scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University, Jerusalem has the significance as a holy site for Muslims primarily in three ways ("The Spiritual Significance of Jerusalem: The Islamic Vision. The Islamic Quarterly. 4 (1998): pp.233-242). First, while in Mecca, Prophet Muhammad used the Temple in Jerusalem as his first qiblah (prayer direction); then, after Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina, Allah permitted his prophet to turn towards Mecca in prayer sixteen months after he arrived (Sura 2:144, 149-150). Second, while Prophet Muhammad was still living in Mecca, he reports that he took a Night Journey to Bait-ul-Maqdis (i.e. Temple in Jerusalem) which is considered as a very auspicious event in Islam known as Isra. The third factor, says Nasr, is the Muslim belief in the Second Coming of Christ to Bait-ul-Maqdis (i.e. Temple in Jerusalem).
Imam Abdul Hadi Palazzi, leader of Italian Muslim Assembly, quotes the Qur'an to support Judaism's special connection to the Temple Mount. According to Palazzi, "The most authoritative Islamic sources affirm the Temples,". He adds that Jerusalem is sacred to Muslims because of its prior holiness to Jews and its standing as home to the biblical prophets and kings David and Solomon, all of whom he says are sacred figures also in Islam. He claims that the Qur'an "expressly recognizes that Jerusalem plays the same role for Jews that Mecca has for Muslims".
In his 2007 book, The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City, Ambassador Dore Gold calls such claims "Temple Denial". Israeli intellectual David Hazony has described the phenomenon as "a campaign of intellectual erasure [by Palestinian leaders, writers, and scholars] ... aimed at undermining the Jewish claim to any part of the land" and compared the phenomenon to Holocaust denial.
Ever since the Second Temple's destruction, a prayer for the construction of a Third Temple has been a formal and, by some authorities, optional part of the thrice-daily Jewish prayer services. However, the question of whether and when to construct the Third Temple is disputed both within the Jewish community and without; groups within Judaism argue both for and against construction of a new Temple, while the expansion of Abrahamic religion since the 1st century CE has made the issue contentious within Christian and Islamic thought as well. Furthermore, the complicated political status of Jerusalem makes reconstruction difficult, while Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock have been constructed at the traditional physical location of the Temple. When the Umayyad Caliph Abdel-Malik ibn Marwan built the Dome of the Rock, some reports indicated that the Jews were filled with elation. Some even believed that this Islamic shrine was the third temple. For a century, Jews had full access to this holiest of sites.
In 363 CE, the Roman emperor Julian ordered Alypius of Antioch to rebuild the Temple as part of his campaign to strengthen non-Christian religions. The attempt failed, perhaps due to sabotage, an accidental fire, or an earthquake in Galilee.