The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple (Hebrew: בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, Beit HaMikdash ; "House of the Holy"; Biblical: Beyth HaMiqdash), refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Historically, the two temples of the Jews stood at this location and functioned as the centre of ancient Jewish worship. According to classical Jewish belief, the Temple acted as the figurative "footstool" of God's presence and a Third Temple will be built there in the future.

Construction

The Hebrew Bible reports that the First Temple was built in 957 BCE by King Solomon (reigned c.970-c.930 BCE). As the sole place of Jewish sacrifice, the Temple replaced the portable sanctuary 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, Pharoah of Egypt. 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 in c700 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 wasn't 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 observance of the Sabbath and Circumcision were officially outlawed. When Antiochus erected a statue of Zeus in their temple and began sacrificing pigs their anger began to spiral. When a Greek official asked a Jewish priest to perform a pagan sacrifice, the priest (Mattathias), killed him. Predictably, Antiochus resorted to the same bloody reprisals. In 167 BCE the Jews rose up en masse behind Mattathias and his five sons to fight and win their freedom from Seleucid tyranny. Mattathias, 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. The temple was desecrated again in 54 BCE by Crassus, 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 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 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.

Recent history

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. 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 has administrative control of the Temple Mount.

Etymology

The Hebrew name given in Scripture for the building is Beit HaMikdash or "The Sanctified House", and only the Temple in Jerusalem is referred to by this name. The temple is also called by a variety of other names in the Hebrew Bible, such as Beit YHWH (House of God) or simply Beiti (My house) or Beitechah (Your House) or Heichal (Temple).

Location

There are three theories as to where the Temple stood:

  • The Temple was where the Dome of the Rock is now located.
  • The Temple was located a little to the north of the Dome of the Rock (Professor Asher Kaufman).
  • The Temple was located a little 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. Scholars generally reject more outlandish theories that claim the Temple was located someplace other than Jerusalem or even outside the Land of Israel.

Physical layout

According to the Talmud, the Temple had an Ezrat Nashim (Women's Court) to the east and main area to the west. The main area contained the butchering area for the sacrifices and the Mizbaeach (Outer Altar) on which portions of most offerings were burned and blood was poured or dashed. An edifice contained the Ulam (antechamber), the Heichal, and the Kodesh Kodashim (Holy of Holies). The Heichal and the Kodesh Kodashim were separated by a wall in the First Temple and by two curtains in the Second Temple. The Heichal contained the Menorah, 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:

  • Shaar Ha'Elyon (the Upper Gate)
  • Shaar HaDelek (the Kindling Gate), where wood was brought in
  • Shaar HaBechorot (the Gate of Firstborn), where people with first-born animal offerings entered.
  • Shaar HaMayim (the Water Gate), where the Water Libation entered on Sukkot.

On the north side, beginning with the northwest corner, there were four gates:

  • Shaar Yechonyah (The Gate of Jeconiah), where kings of the Davidic line enter and Jeconiah left for the last time to captivity
  • Shaar HaKorban (The gate of the Offering), where priests entered with kodshei kodashim offerings
  • Shaar HaNashim (The Women's Gate), where women entered into the Azara or main courtyard to perform offerings
  • Shaar Hashir (The Gate of Song), where the Levites entered with their musical instruments

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.

Temple services

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 Shabbat 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:

Isaiah spoke of the importance of prayer as well as sacrifice in Temple, and of a universal purpose:

In the Talmud

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? Because gratuitous hatred was rampant in society. This teaches that gratuitous hatred is equal in severity to the three cardinal sins: idol worship, licentiousness, and murder.

Role in contemporary Jewish services

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:

  • A daily recital of Biblical and Talmudic passages related to the korbanot (sacrifices) performed in the Temple (See korbanot in siddur).
  • References to the restoration of the Temple and sacrificial worships in the daily Amidah prayer, the central prayer in Judaism.
  • A traditional personal plea for the restoration of the Temple at the end of private recitation of the Amidah.
  • A prayer for the restoration of the "house of our lives" and the shekhinah (divine presence) "to dwell among us" is recited during the Amidah prayer.
  • Recitation of the Psalm of the day; the psalm sung by the Levites in the Temple for that day during the daily morning service.
  • Numerous psalms sung as part of the ordinary service make extensive references to the Temple and Temple worship.
  • Recitation of the special Jewish holiday prayers for the restoration of the Temple and their offering, during the Mussaf services on Jewish holidays.
  • An extensive recitation of the special Temple service for Yom Kippur during the service for that holiday.
  • Special services for Sukkot (Hakafot) contain extensive (but generally obscure) references to the special Temple service performed on that day.

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.

In other religions
In Christianity

In addition to the Hebrew Bible, the Temple is mentioned many times in the New Testament. In these scriptures, Jesus prays there (Mark 11:25–26) 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 first 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 first 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).

In Islam

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".

This view is not universally accepted. Assertions by Muslims that Jews never inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times and therefore have no claim to live in the land today and denial of the authenticity of Jewish claims to ancient holy sites—such as the Temple Mount and the Cave of Machpelah—appear to be on the increase. 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 ... aimed at undermining the Jewish claim to any part of the land" and compared the phenomenon to Holocaust denial.

Archaeological evidence

Archaeological excavations have found dozens of ritual immersion or baptismal pools dating to the first century in this area surrounding the Temple Mount. This is strong evidence that the area was considered one of the holiest sites at the time.

Building a Third Temple

Ever since the Second Temple's destruction, a prayer for the construction of a Third Temple has been a formal 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 initiation of reconstruction presently difficult, while the traditional physical location of the historic Temple is presently occupied by the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

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.