the temple at the time of Jesus.

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Temple Warning Inscription - Entrance to the Inner Courts - 600x411 - 226kb.Temple warning inscription (right)

one of two warning inscriptions discovered,
stating in Greek,

"No Gentile may enter beyond the dividing wall into the court around the Holy Place;
whoever is caught will be to blame for his subsequent death."

1.Temple Mount - 1600x389 - 168kb.
The Temple. View from the northeast.
Temple: Inner Court - 600x520 - 124kb.
3. 4.>>
The Temple - 600x419 - 146kb.

KEY: 1.Antonia Fortress | 2.Portico | 3.Solomon's Porch | 4.Court of the Gentiles | 5.Temple | 6.Wailing Wall | 7.Huldah Gates | 8.Hasmonian Palace | 9.first wall (2nd.cent.BC) | 10.second wall (1st.cent.BC) | 11.upper market | 12.Court of the Israelites | 14.Court of the Women | 15.Wood store | 16.Oil & wine store | 17.Holy Place | 18.Nicanor or Beautiful Gate (where the Levites sang) | 19.slaughtering place | 20.altar | 21.laver | 22.Court of the Priests | 23.Porch | 32.Corinthian gate | 33.Golden gate.


The Temple area today, viewed from the south. (1600x1432 - 515kb.)

A BRIEF description of Herod's Temple in its general outlines is all that is here intended in order that some idea may be gained of this king's love of architecture.
[For fuller descriptions see Nowack, Hebräische Archäologie, ii. 74-83 (1894); Sanday, Sacred Sites of the Gospels, pp. 58-67, 106-17 (1903); see also Schurer in the Zeitschrift für die N. T. Wissenschaft, 1906, pp. 51-8.]

The sources from which our knowledge of the subject is derived are: Josephus, Antiq. xv. 380-425, Bell. Jud. i. 401, v. 184-247, Contra Ap. i. 197-9; the Mishnah tractate Middoth, and scattered notices in various other Talmudic tractates.

The differences in the descriptions given by the two main authorities are largely to be accounted for by the fact that Josephus is chiefly concerned with depicting the architectural beauty of the whole,
while Middoth concentrates attention on the Temple itself and its surrounding courts, &c.,
having a religious purpose in view.
Josephus gives a general plan and account of the whole Temple hill,
whereas Middoth ignores Herod's great buildings exterior to the sacred courts.
On the other hand, Middoth sometimes gives details not mentioned by Josephus.
The two authorities therefore supplement one another.

Solomon's Stables. (600x587 - 139kb.)It was in the eighteenth year of his reign, 20/19 B.C., that Herod began the building.
The area needed was double that on which the earlier temple had stood; [Bell. Jud. i.401.]
in order to obtain the larger space huge substructures had to be erected on account of the uneven ground.
[Ibid. v. 184-9. The immense vaulted chambers built on the south side of the Temple hill are called 'Solomon's stables' by the Arabs.]
The entire area was slightly under 400 yards from north to south,
and 330 yards from east to west,
the length of the southern boundary-line being a little less.
The Temple itself stood on an elevation 2,240 feet above sea-level.
The whole of this platform-area was surrounded by a wall with battlements at intervals; [Ibid. iv. 578.]
on the interior magnificent colonnades ran along all four sides.
Of these the one running along the south wall was the most grandiose;
this colonnade, called the 'royal porch', consisted of four rows of Corinthian pillars of white marble, forming three aisles;
the side aisles were 30 feet broad and 50 feet high, the centre one being 45 feet broad and 100 feet high. [Ibid. v. 193 ft.; Antiq. xv. 411-16.]
The colonnade on the east wall was called 'Solomon's Porch'. [Cp.John x. 23; Acts iii. 11, 12.]
On the west side of this great outer wall there was, according to the Mishnah, [Midd. i. 3.] one gate, the Kiphonos gate, but Josephus mentions four; [Antiq. xv. 410.]
on the south were the two Huldah gates [Midd. i. 3.] -
these are not mentioned by Josephus, who merely says that the south wall had gates 'in its centre'; [Antiq. xv. 411.]
at the northern end of the east wall there was the 'Golden Gate' or the 'Shushan Gate', [Midd. i. 3.]
while on the north wall was the 'Tadi Gate'.
[Ibid., 4; a northern gate is mentioned incidentally by Josephus, Bell. Jud. vi. 222.]
The court enclosed by this great wall was known as the 'Court of the Gentiles', as it could be entered by Gentiles as well as by Jews.
[But neither Philo, nor Josephus, nor the Mishnah give it this name.
The Rev. Dr. F. J. Hollis, of King's College, London, informs me that the earliest mention of it, so far as he has been able to find out, occurs in the Exercitatio Philologica of Hottingerus, p. 43 (1713-18), where the Atrium Gentium is spoken of; but the term is used as though well known.]

To the north-west of this court lay the Temple itself, rising terrace above terrace, each enclosed court becoming holier and holier. [So described in the Mishnah tractate, Kelim, i. 8.]
The Temple enclave was surrounded by a balustrade (soreg), along this were placed at intervals Greek and Latin inscriptions forbidding any Gentile, on pain of death, to enter within the sanctuary.
[Bell. Jud. v. 193 f., cp. vi. 124 ff.; Antiq. xv. 417; Midd. ii. 3.
This is also mentioned by Philo, Leg. ad Gaium, xxxi. 212.
One of the inscriptions, in Greek, was discovered by Clermont-Ganneau; see 'Pal. Explor. Fund', Quarterly Statement, 1871, p. 132. It is now in the Tschinili Kiosk Museum in Constantinople.]

Within this balustrade a terrace (chel) [Bell. Jud. v. 195 f.; Midd. ii. 3.] ran round on the north, east, and south, having four gates on the north as well as on the south, and one gate on the east;
this latter was called the Nikanor, [Ibid. i. 5.] or Beautiful, Gate; [Acts iii. 2, 10.]
it was made of brass, and formed the main entrance to the Temple;
it was also the largest of all the gates, being fifty cubits [A cubit was approximately a foot and a half.] in height and forty wide. [Bell. Jud. v. 204 f.]
All the other gates within the actual Temple area were plated with gold, [Ibid., 201.] their height and width being thirty cubits by fifteen. [Ibid., 202; Midd. ii. 3 says twenty by ten.]
The Nikanor Gate led into the court of the women;
this had colonnades along the north and south, and a gallery for the women (hence the name of the court) ran round the north, east, and south, [Ibid., 5.] as this court was where the ordinary worship was offered; [Cp. Luke i. 10.]
women did not take part in the worship.
Along the west side of the women's court there was a wall dividing it from the court of Israel;
a gate which was approached by a semicircular flight of fifteen steps led into this court.
The gate was fifty cubits high by forty broad, and it was plated with gold. [Bell. Jud. v. 204-6.]
The variations in our sources makes it difficult to ascertain the nature of the division between the court of Israel and the court of the priests; [See Bell. Jud. v. 207 ff.; Midd. ii. 6, 7; iv. 1.]
but within what, in any case, was the court of the priests stood the altar of burnt-offering,
[Bell. Jud. v. 225, cp. Contra Ap. i. 198; Midd. iii. 1.]
covering the sacred rock (2 Chron. iii. i);
it was approached by an inclined plane from the south. [Cp. Exod. xx. 26.]
Within only a few paces to the west from this altar twelve steps led up to the actual Temple 'the Holy Place' {hekal), separated from the court of the priests by a high porch ('ulam), [See Midd. iii. 6.] a hundred cubits both in height and breadth;
included in the breadth were twenty cubits projecting on either side beyond the main building, these two 'shoulders' being lower than the central porch. [Bell. Jud. v. 207. Josephus does not give the height of these 'shoulders'.]
The door of the porch was covered with gold;
and above was spread out a golden vine with its branches hanging down 'from a great height'. [Antiq. xv. 394 f.; Bell. Jud. v. 210; Midd. iii. 8.]
The furniture here consisted of the altar of incense, [Cp. Luke i. 9.] the table of shew-bread, and the seven-branched candlestick. [Bell. Jud. v. 215-18.]
Finally, there was the 'Holy of Holies' (debir), twenty cubits in height, length, and breadth, and separated from the holy place by another veil;
there were, thus, two veils with the space of a cubit between them. [Midd. iv. 7; Bell. Jud. v. 219; this is the 'veil of the temple' mentioned in Matt. xxvii. 51.]
The height of this building, which included the 'Holy Place' and the 'Holy of Holies', was 100 cubits. [Bell. Jud. v. 221.]
When one pictures this wonderful series of buildings, set upon the great mass of supporting walls, with terraces and colonnades, and with one court within another, and rising, as it were, one from the other, all of white marble, with splashes of gold covering the gates, one realizes that it must have been one of the most beautiful buildings ever constructed; and one feels the truth of Josephus' words when he says that, as seen from a distance, the whole gorgeous pile looked 'like a mountain covered with snow'. [Ibid., 223. Tacitus says of it that 'it is distinguished by its wealth, no less than by its magnificence' (Hist. v. 8).]

ILLUSTRATIONS adapted from the following:
1. "The Holy Land," Sami Awwad, (page 76). Golden Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1997.
2. "The Glory of the New Testament," Gen ed: Georgette Corcos, (page 32). GG. Jerusalem Publishing House Ltd. 1983.
3. "The Bible as History," Ian Wilson (page 210). Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 1999.
4. "The Lion Handbook to the Bible" ed: David & Pat Alexander (page 567). Lion Publishing. 1973.
Illustrations (1, 2 & 3) are of the 1/50th scale model by the late Prof. Avi Yonah of the Hebrew University, in the Holyland Hotel, Jerusalem. (4) is a model of the sacrificial area by Alex Gerrard.
Temple area today: "Picture Archive of the Bible," ed: C Masom & P Alexander, Lion Publishing, 1987.
Solomon's Stables: "Jerusalem - die lebendige stadt," Armon, Jerusalem, 1969.
TEMPLE DESCRIPTION: "A History of Israel" vol.2, by W O E Oesterley, Oxford University Press, 1932 (additional note L, pages 376-8.).