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Temple (See also wiki article Temple_in_Jerusalem.)


Introduction | SOLOMON's temple | the temple building | interior | temple furniture | temple court & furniture | general idea & plan | temple of Ezekiel's vision | temple of Zerubabel | YHWH temples of Egypt | HEROD's temple | temple building | daily service in NT times | money changers | Porch-Portico | Model: Herod's Temple - animation (good!).


The first Temple mentioned in connexion with the worship of YHWH is that of Shiloh (1 S.1), 'where the ark of God was' (3.3) in the period of the Judges, under the guardianship of Eli and his sons. It was evidently destroyed by the Philistines after their decisive victory which resulted in the capture of the Ark, as recorded in 4.10ff; for the descendants of Eli are found, a generation afterwards, acting as priests of a temple at Nob (21.lff, 22.9ff). With the capture of Jerusalem by David, and the transference thither of the Ark, a new political and religious centre was provided for the tribes of Israel.


The site - The successive Temples of Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod were buildings of moderate dimensions, and were built, by every token, on one and the same site. Now, there is only one place in Jerusalem where this site is to be looked for, namely, on that part of the eastern hill which is now occupied by the large platform, extending to some 35 acres, known as the Haram esh-sharif or 'Noble Sanctuary' (see JERUSALEM, and below, 11). There has, however, been considerable difference of opinion in the past as to the precise spot within the Haram area on which the 'holy house' itself was reared. Thus a few British writers, among whom Fergusson, the distinguished architect, and W. Robertson Smith, in his article 'Temple' in the EBrit9, are the most influential, have maintained that the Temple and its courts occupied an area about 600 feet square in the SW. portion of the Haram. But the great majority of scholars, both in Britain and abroad, are agreed in placing the Temple in close connexion with the sacred rock (es-Sakhra) which is now enclosed in the mosque named after it 'the Dome of the Rock,' also, less appropriately, 'the Mosque of Omar.'

The remarkable persistence of sacred sites in the East, is a phenomenon familiar to all students of religion, and there can be little doubt that the Chronicler is right in identifying the site of 'the altar of burnt offering for Israel' (1 Ch.22.1) with the spot 'by the threshing-floor of Ornan (in 2 S.24.16 Araunah) the Jebusite,'where the angel of the plague stayed his hand, and on which David by Divine command erected his altar of commemoration (see further, 6 (b)). This being so, the location of the Temple immediately to the west of the rock follows as a matter of course. The only possible alternative is to regard the rock as marking the site, not of the altar of burnt-offering, but of 'the holy of holies' of the successive Temples?a view beset with insuperable difficulties.

3. The Temple building - Its arrangement and dimensions.

The Temple and its furniture are described in 1 K.6.1-38, 7.13-51 - two passages which are, unfortunately, among the most difficult in the OT. This is partly by reason of the perplexing technical terms employed, but mostly because of the unsatisfactory nature of the received text. This latter difficulty seems to be due to the fact that the details of Solomon's Temple have been 'corrected' by a scribe who knew the Second Temple and believed that the Second Temple was a replica of the First.

The most recent account of the Temple is A. Parrot, The Temple of Jerusalem (1957). Earlier books are G. A. Smith, Jerusalem (1908), vol. ii. (with plans), which deals fully with all the Temples, F. J. Hollis, The Archaeology of Herod's Temple (1934), Fathers Vincent and Abel, Jerusalem II (1926). Apart from the standard commentaries, the most useful of which for the textual difficulties is Burney's Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Kings (1903), there are many articles, the chief of which are Vincent's articles in RB, 1907 and 1954, and G. E. Wright's articles in BA, 1941 and 1955.

The Temple proper was an oblong building, 60 cubits in length by 20 in breadth (1 K.6.2), with a porch in front, facing eastwards, of the same width as the main building and 10 cubits in depth. These, however, are inside measurements, as is evident from vv.20, 24, 27. The corresponding outside measurements depend, of course, upon the thickness of the walls, which is nowhere stated. But inasmuch as Ezekiel, the Temple of whose vision is presumably, in part at least, a replica of that of Solomon, gives 6 cubits as the thickness of its walls (Ezk.41.5), except the walls of the porch, which were 5 cubits thick (40.48), those of the first Temple are usually assumed to have been of the same dimensions. Less they could scarcely have been, if, as will presently appear, rebatements of three cubits in all have to be allowed in the lower half, since a thickness of 3 cubits in the upper half seems necessary, in view of the thrust of a heavy roof of 20 cubits' span.

The interior was divided into two chambers by a transverse partition, implied in 6.31, but disregarded in the inside measurements given in v.2. The anterior chamber, called 'the house' and the hekhal (Temple), measured 40 cubits by 20. It has been equated by the editor with the holy place of the Second Temple. It was twice as large as the inner chamber, the d'bhir (EV 'oracle'), which was only 20 cubits by 20, and was identified by the editor with the most holy place (literally 'holy of holies'). The latter in fact formed a perfect cube, since its height was also 20 cubits, as compared with that of 'the holy place,' which was 30 cubits (6.2). Assuming that this was also the height of the porch, the whole building, we may conjecture, was covered by a flat roof of uniform height throughout leaving an empty space 10 cubits in height over the inner chamber.

On all sides, except the front which was occupied by the porch, the Temple proper was surrounded by a lateral building of three storeys, the whole 15 cubits high (so the emended text of v.11), each storey containing a number of small chambers for storage purposes. The beams forming the floors and ceilings of these side chambers were not let into the Temple wall, but were supported by making three successive rebatements of a cubit each in the wall (v.6). The chambers accordingly increased a cubit in width in each storey, from 5 in the lowermost storey to 6 and 7 in those above. The entrace to the side chambers was on the S. side of the building. The nature and position of the windows which were made 'for the house' are alike uncertain. Openings fitted with lattice work are probably intended (v.4). Their position was most likely in the side walls above the roof of the lateral building.

The question of the area covered by the complete building now described has usually been answered hitherto by a reference to Ezekiel's Temple, which was exactly 100 cubits by 50. But a careful comparison of the measurements of the two Temples makes it extremely probable that the numbers just given are due to Ezekiel's fondness for operating with 50 and its multiples. It is therefore most probable that the prophet has not only increased the depth of the porch from 10 to 12 cubits (Ezk.40.49 LXX), but has likewise added to the thickness of the walls of the side-chambers and of the interior partition wall. For if the former are taken as 3 cubits in thickness, as compared with Ezekiel's 5, i.e. of the same dimensions as the upper half of the Temple walls, and the partition as 1 cubit thick in place of 2 (Ezk.41.3), we find the area of the whole building to be 96 cubits by 48, the same relative proportion (2:1), it will be noted, as is found in Ezekiel. Similarly, the outside width of the naos or sanctuary proper (32 cubits) stood to the total width as 2:3.

In the existing uncertainty as to the length of the cubit employed by Solomon's architects, it is impossible to translate these dimensions into feet and inches with mathematical exactness. If the long cubit of about 20½ inches employed by Ezekiel (see Ezk.40.5 and cf 2 Ch.3.3) is preferred, the total area covered will be 164 by 82 feet, while the dimensions of 'the holy place' will be approximately 70 by 35 by 50 feet in height, and those of 'the most holy place' 35 by 35 by 35 feet. A serious objection to this adoption of the longer cubit, which was not foreseen when the article 'Weights and Measures' in Hastings' DB iv (see pp. 907 f) was written is presented by the detailed measurements of the interior of Herod's Temple in Josephus and the Mishnah (see below, 12). These are numerically the same as those of the first Temple. but the cubit employed in the 1st cent. was the short cubit of 17.6 inches, and this has been shown by an inductive study of the Herodian masonry (ExpT xx. [1909], p. 24 ff). Now, it is certain that the actual dimensions of Herod's Temple were not less than those of Solomon's, as they would be if the cubits were in the ration of 6 to 7. It is more than probable, therefore, that the dimensions above given should be reduced by one-sixth - the Chronicler notwithstanding; in other words, 140 by 70 feet will be the approximate area of the building, 60 by 30 feet, and 30 by 30 feet - that of the 'holy' and 'most holy place' respectively.

4. The interior of the Temple.

The entrance to the Temple was through the open porch or vestibule on the eastern front. 'For the entering of the temple' was provided a large folding-door of cypress wood (6.34), each leaf divided vertically into two leaves, one of which folded back upon the other. According to v.35 in its present form, the leaves were ornamented with carved figures of cherubim, palms, and flowers, all overlaid with gold (but see below). The stone floor was covered with planks of cypress wood. That the latter should have been plated with gold (v.30) is scarcely credible. The walls of both chambers were lined with boards (literally 'ribs') of cedar wood, 'from the floor of the house to the rafters of the ceiling' (so read v.15). There is no mention in this verse, it will be noted, of any ornamentation of the cedar panels, which is first found in vv.18 and 29; but the former verse is absent from LXX, and vv.28-30 are recognized by all as a later addition. The ceilings, as we should expect, were formed of beams of cedar (v.9, 15). Over all was probably laid an outer covering of marble slabs.

The inner chamber of the Temple (the oracle) was separated from the house, as has already been shown, by a partition wall, presumably of stone, which we have assumed above to have been a cubit in thickness. In it was set a door of olive wood, described obscurely in v.3l, which seems to say that its shape was not rectangular like the entrance door (see the Commentary on vv.31, 33), but pentagonal; in other words, the lintel of the door, instead of being a single cross-beam, consisted of two beams meeting at an angle. In the centre of the chamber, facing the entrance (2 Ch.3.13), stood two cherubim figures of olive wood, each 10 cubits high, with outstretched wings. The latter measured 10 cubits from tip to tip, so that the two sets of wings reached from the north to the south wall of 'the most holy place' (1 K.6.23-28). It is entirely in accordance with ancient practice that these symbolic figures should be overlaid with gold (v.28).

But with regard to the excessive introduction of gold plating by the received text throughout, including even the Temple floor, as we have seen, there is much to be said in favour of the view, first advanced by Stade, that it is due to a desire on the part of later scribes to enhance the magnificence of the first Temple. In the original text the gold plating was perhaps confined to the cherubim, as has just been suggested, or to these and the doors, which appear to have had a gold sheathing in the time of Hezekiah (2 K.18.16).

5. The furniture of the Temple.

If 1 K.7.48-51 is set aside as a later addition (see the Commentary), the only article of Temple furniture is the altar of cedar introduced in the composite text of vv.20-22. As there are good grounds for believing that a special altar of incense was first introduced into the second Temple (see 9), the former is now identified by most writers with the table of showbread (see SHOWBREAD; and TABERNACLE, 6 (a)). Its position is evidently intended to be in the outer chamber in front of the entrance to the inner shrine. The same position 'before the oracle' (d'bhir 7.49) is assigned to the ten 'candlesticks,' properly lampstands (TABERNACLE, 6 (6)), five probably being meant to stand on either side of the entrance. Although, from the date of the passage cited, we may hesitate to ascribe these to Solomon, they doubtless at a later time formed a conspicuous part of the Temple furniture (cf Jer.52.l9).

On the completion of the Temple, the sacred memorial of earlier days, the already venerable Ark of YHWH was brought from the tent in which David had housed it and placed within 'the oracle,' where it stood overshadowed by the wings of the cherubim (1 K.8.5f). Another sacred object of like antiquity, the brazen serpent (see SERPENT [BRAZEN]), found a place somewhere within the Temple.

6. The court of the Temple and its furniture.

(a) The court and gates. - The Temple of Solomon formed part of a large complex of buildings, comprising an arsenal, a judgment-hall, the palace with its harem, and finally the royal chapel, the whole surrounded by 'the great court' of 1 K.7.9-l2. Within this enclosure, at its upper or northern end, was 'the inner court' of 6.36, 7.12 within which, again, stood the Temple (8.64). K is of importance to note that this single court of the Temple was open to the laity as well as to the priests (8.62), as is specially evident from Jer.35.1f, 36.10 etc.

Solomon's Temple - Steven

(after Stade and Benzinger).
1. The great court. 2. The 'other' or middle court. 3. The inner (or Temple) court. 4. House of Lebanon. 5. Porch of pillars. 6. Throne porch. 7. Royal palace. 8. Harem. 9. Temple. 10. Altar.

Several gates of this court are mentioned by later writers, but their precise position is uncertain. The main entrance was doubtless in the east wall, and may be indicated by 'the king's entry without' of 2 K.16.18, and 'the king's gate eastward' of 1 Ch.9.18. The 'gate of the guard' (2 K.11.19), on the other hand, may be looked for in the south wall separating the Temple court from 'the other court' (1 K.7.8) in which the royal palace was situated (cf Ezk.43.7f). There were also one or more gates on the north side (Ezk.8.3, 9.2, Jer.20.2 'gate of Benjamin,' etc.). Cf JERUSALEM, GATES OF.

(b) The altar of burnt-offering. - It is surprising that no reference is made in the early narrative of 1 K.7 to the making of so indispensable a part of the apparatus of the cult. In the opinion of most critics, this omission is due to the excision from the original narrative of the relative section by a much later editor, who assumed that the brazen altar of the Tabernacle accompanied the Ark to the new sanctuary (but see Burney, Notes on Heb. Text, etc., 102f). The Chronicler, whether informed by his text of 1 Kings or otherwise, tells us that Solomon's altar of burnt-offering (1 K.9.25) was of brass (cf the 'brazen altar,' 8.64), 20 cubits in length and breadth and 10 in height (2 Ch.4.1). Its position was on the site of the earlier altar of David (2 Ch.3.1), which, it may be asserted with confidence, stood somewhere on the sacred rock still to be seen within the Mosque of Omar (see 2 above). The precise position which the altars of the first and second Temples occupied on the surface of the rock, which measures at least some 50 by 40 feet, must remain a matter of conjecture. Herod's altar was large enough almost to cover the rock (11 (c)). This question has been made the subject of an elaborate investigation by Kittel in his Studien zur heb. Archaologie (1908, 1-85). Solomon's altar was superseded in the reign of Ahaz by a larger altar of more artistic construction, which this sovereign caused to be made after the model of one seen by him at Damascus (2 K.16.10-16).

(c) The brazen sea. - In the court, to the south of the line between the altar and the Temple (1 K.7.39), stood one of the most striking of the creations of Solomon's Phoenician artist, Huram-abi of Tyre. This was the brazen sea (7.23-26, 2 Ch.4.2-5), a large circular basin or tank of bronze, 10 cubits 'from brim to brim' and 5 in depth, with the enormous capacity of 2000 baths, or more than 16,000 gallons. Even should this prove an exaggerated estimate, the basin must have bulged very considerably in the middle, and the medial diameter must have been at least twice that of the mouth. The brim curved outwards like the calyx of a flower, and underneath it the body of the 'sea' was decorated with two rows of gourd-shaped ornaments. The basin rested on the backs of twelve bronze oxen, which in groups of three, faced the four cardinal points. Notwithstanding 2 Ch.4.6, written centuries after it had disappeared (Jer.52.17-20), recent writers are inclined to give the brazen sea a purely symbolical signification. But whether it is to be interpreted as a symbol of the primeval abyss (Gn.1.2) and of YHWH's power as Creator, or in the terms of the Babylonian mythology as symbolizing the upper or heavenly sea, bounded by the zodiac with its twelve signs (the 12 oxen), or otherwise, must be left to the future to decide (cf G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, ii, 65 f).

(d) The brazen lavers. - A similar symbolical significance is probably to be assigned to the ten layers of bronze (1 K.7.27-39). These were smaller editions of the brazen sea, being only 4 cubits in diameter, holding only 40 baths (about 325 galls.), and resting on wheeled carriers, or bases. The peculiarly difficult description of the latter has been the subject of special study by Stade (ZAW, 1901, 145 ft, with which cf Haupt's SBOT), and more recently by Kittel (op. cit. 189-242). It must suffice here to say that each carrier was 4 cubits in length and breadth and 3 cubits in height. The sides were open frames composed of uprights of bronze joined together by transverse bars or rails of the same material, the whole richly ornamented with palm trees, lions, oxen, and cherubim in relief. Underneath were four wheels of bronze, 1½ cubits in diameter, while on the top of each stand was fitted a ring or cylinder on which the laver directly rested.

(e) The pillars Jachin and Boaz. - Nowhere is the symbolical element in these creations of Huram-abi's art more apparent than in the twin pillars with the mysterious names Jachin and Boaz, which were set up on either side of the entrance to the Temple porch. They have been discussed in the article JACHIN AND BOAZ (where ' chapiter ' is explained) (see also Kittel's article 'Temple' in PRE3 xix [1907], 493 0.

7. General idea and plan of Solomon's Temple.

The building of the Temple occupied seven years and six months (1 K.6.37f). After standing for three centuries and a half it was burned to the ground by the soldiers of Nebuchadnezzar in 587-586 BC, having first been stripped of everything of value that could be carried away. Before passing to a study of its successor, it may be well to note more precisely the purpose for which it was erected, and the general idea underlying its plan. As expressly implied by the term 'the house' (bayith) applied to it by the early historian, the Temple was intended to be, before all else, the dwelling-place of Israel's God, especially as represented by the Ark of YHWH (see, for this, 2 S.7.2, 5ff). At the same time it was also the royal chapel, and adjoined the palace of Solomon, precisely as 'the king's chapel' at Bethel was part of the residence of the kings of Israel (Am.7.13). There is no reason for supposing that Solomon had the least intention of supplanting the older sanctuaries of the land - a result first achieved by the reformation of Josiah (2 K.23).

As regards the plan of the new sanctuary as a whole, with its threefold division of court, holy place, and holy of holies (to adopt, as before, the later terminology), its origin is to be sought in the ideas of temple architecture then current not only in Phoenicia, the home of Solomon's architects and craftsmen, but throughout Western Asia. Syria, as we now know, was influenced in matters of religious art not only by Babylonia and Egypt, but also by the so-called Mycenaean civilization of the Eastern Mediterranean basin. The walled court, the porch, fore-room, and innermost cella are all characteristic features of early Syrian temple architecture. Whether or not there lies behind these the embodiment of ideas from the still older Babylonian cosmology, by which the threefold division of the sanctuary reflects the threefold division of the heavenly universe (so Benzinger, Heb. Arch.3, 328 f, following Winckler and A. Jeremias), must be left an open question. In certain details of the furniture, such as the wheeled carriers of the lavers and their ornamentation, may also be traced the influence of the early art of Crete and Cyprus through the Phoenicians as intermediaries.


Although the Temple of Ezekiel remained a dream, a word may be said in passing regarding one of its most characteristic features, on account of its influence on the plan of the actual Temples of the future. This is the emphasis laid throughout on the sacrosanct character of the sanctuary?a reflection of the deepening of the conception of the Divine holiness which marked the period of the Exile. The whole sacred area covered by the Temple and its courts is to be protected from contact with secular buildings. One far-reaching result of this rigid separation of sacred and secular is the introduction of a second Temple court, to which the priests alone, strictly speaking, are entitled to access (Ezk.40.28ff). For the details of Ezekiel's sketch, with its passion for symmetry and number, see the Commentary and Witton Davies' article 'Temple' in Hastings' DB iv, 704 ff.


The second Temple, as it is frequently named, was built, at the instigation of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, under the leadership of Zerubbabel. According to the explicit testimony of a contemporary (Hag.2.18), the foundation was laid in the second year of Darius Hystaspis (520 BC)?a date now generally preferred to that of the much later author of Ezr.3.8ff. The building was finished and the Temple dedicated in 516 BC. We have unfortunately no description of the plan and arrangements of the latter, and are dependent for information regarding it mainly on scattered references in the later canonical and extra-canonical books. It may be assumed, however, that the altar of burnt-offering, previously restored by the exiles on their return (Ezr.3.3), occupied the former site, now consecrated by centuries of worship, and that the ground-plan of the Temple followed as nearly as possible that of its predecessor (cf G. A. Smith, op. cit. ii, ch. xii).

As regards the furnishing of Zerubbabel's Temple, we have not only several notices from the period when it was still standing, but evidence from the better known Temple of Herod, in which the sacred furniture remained as before. Now, however scantily the former may have been furnished at the first, we should expect that after the introduction of the Priests' Code under Ezra, the prescriptions therein contained for the furniture of the Tabernacle would be carried out to the letter. And this is indeed to a large extent what we find. Thus only one golden lampstand illuminated 'the holy place' (1 Mac.1.21) instead of ten in the former Temple. The table of showbread succeeded 'the altar of cedar' of 1 K.6.20 (for which see 5 above). The golden altar of incense, which belongs to a later stratum of P (TABERNACLE, 6 (c), was most probably introduced at a somewhat late date, since pseudo-Hecataeus in the 3rd cent. BC, quoted by Josephus (c. Apion. i. 22 [198 f]), knows only of 'an altar and a candlestick both of gold, and in weight two talents' - the former presumably the altar or table of showbread. There is no reason, however, to question the presence of the incense altar by the 2nd cent., as attested by 1 Mac.1.21ff (cf 4.49), according to which Antiochus Epiphanes robbed the Temple of 'the golden altar and the candlestick of light ... and the table of showbread,' where the first of these must be identified with the altar in question (see, against the scepticism of Wellhausen and others, the evidence collected by Schurer, GJV4 ii [1907], 342 f [=3 285 f]).

In one point of cardinal importance the glory of tha second house was less than that of the first. No attempt was made to construct another Ark; 'the most holy place' was empty. A splendid curtain or veil replaced the partition wall between the two divisions of the sanctuary, and is mentioned among the spoils carried off by Antiochus (1 Mac.1.22). In another way the second Temple was distinguished from the first; it had two courts in place of one, an inner and an outer (4.38, 4.9, 9.54), as demanded by Ezekiel. This prophet's further demand, that the laity should be entirely excluded from the inner court, was not carried out, as is evident from the experience of Alexander Jannaeus. Having given offence to the people while officiating at the altar on the occasion of the Feast of Tabernacles, he was pelted with the citrons which they carried. Alexander in consequence had the altar and Temple railed off to keep the worshippers henceforth at a more respectful distance (Jos. Ant. xiii. xiii. 5 [372 ff]).

The altar was no longer of brass but of unhewn stone (1 Mac.4.47), as required by Ex.20.25, and attested by the earlier writer above cited (ap. Jos. c. Apion., I.e.), who further assigns to it the same dimensions as the Chronicler gives to the brazen altar of Solomon (6 (b)). In 168 BC, Antiochus iv., as already stated, spoiled and desecrated the Temple, and by a crowning act of sacrilege set up a small altar to Zeus Olympius on the altar of burnt-offering. Three years later, Judas the Maccabee, after recapturing Jerusalem, made new sacred furniture - altar of incense, table of showbread, the seven-branched candlestick, and other 'new holy vessels.' The stones of the polluted altar were removed and others substituted, and the Temple dedicated anew (1 Mac.4.41ff). With minor alterations and additions, chiefly in the direction of making the Temple hill stronger against attack, the Temple remained as the Maccabees left it until replaced by the more ambitious edifice of Herod.

10. Egypt

If only for the sake of completeness, a brief reference must be made at this point to two other temples for the worship of YHWH erected by Jewish settlers in Egypt during the period covered by the previous section. The earlier of these came to light through the discovery of certain Aramaic papyri on the island of Elephantine (q.v.). These describe this temple of Yahu (Yahweh), which existed at Elephantine before Cambyses invaded Egypt in 525 BC, and had been destroyed at the instigation of Egyptian priests in 411 BC. It was probably rebuilt soon after 408 BC. The story of the other, erected at Leontopolis in the Delta by Onias, son of the Jewish high priest of the same name, in the reign of Antiochus iv., has been told by Josephus, who describes it as a replica 'but smaller and poorer,' of the Temple of Zerubbabel (BJ vii. x. 2 ff [420 ff]. Ant. xiii. iii. 1 ff [62 ff]). This description has recently been confirmed by the excavation of the site, the modern Tell el-Yehudi-yeh, by Flinders Petrie (Petrie and Duncan, Hyksos and Israelite Cities, 1906, 1927, with plans and models, plates xxiii.-xxv.); not the least interesting feature of this temple in partibus infidelium is the fact that it seems to have been built according to the measurements of the Tabernacle. This is altogether more probable than the view expressed by Petrie, that Onias copied the dimensions of the Temple of Jerusalem (op. cit. 24).


The Temple area today.PLAN OF HEROD'S TEMPLE AND COURTS | but see also THIS WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE for another conjectural layout.

It was in the eighteenth year of his reign that Herod obtained the permission of his suspicious subjects to rebuild the Temple of Zerubbabel. The Temple proper was rebuilt by a thousand specially trained priests within the space of eighteen months; the rest of the buildings took years to finish, indeed the last touches were given only six or seven years before the final catastrophe in AD 70, when the whole was destroyed by the soldiers of Titus. For a fuller study of several of the points discussed in this section, see the articles on 'Some Problems of Herod's Temple' in ExpT xx (1908-09), 24 ff, 66 ff, 181 ff, 270 ff.

(a) The outer court, its size, cloisters, and gates. - It is advisable in this case to reverse the order of study adopted for the first Temple, and to proceed from the courts to the Temple proper. In this way we start from the existing remains of Herod's enterprise, for all are agreed that the Haram area (see above, 2) and its retaining walls are in the main the work of Herod, who doubled the area of Zerubbabel's courts by means of enormous substructures (Jos. BJ I. xxi. 1 [401 f]). There are good grounds, however, for believing that, as left by Herod, the platform stopped at a point a little beyond the Golden Gate in the eastern wall, its northern boundary probably running in proximity to the north wall of the present inner platform of the Haram. (The latter has been considerably extended in this direction since Herod's day, and is indicated by double dotted lines on the accompanying plan). This gives an area of approximately 26 acres compared with the 35 acres, or thereby, of the present Haram. The measurements were, in round numbers, 390 yards from N. to S. by 330 yards from E. to W. on the north, and 310 yards E. to W. on the south. If the figures just given represent, with approximate accuracy, the extended area enclosed by Herod, the outer court, called in the Mishnah 'the mountain of the house,' and by later writers 'the court of the Gentiles,' will have appeared to the eye as almost a square, as it is stated to be, although with divergent measurements, by our two chief authorities, the Mishnah treatise Middoth (literally 'measurements') and Josephus (BJ v. v.. Ant. xv. xi. and elsewhere).

The climax of Herod's architectural triumphs was reached in the magnificent colonnades which surrounded the four sides of this court. The colonnade along the south wall, in particular, known as 'the Royal Porch' (or portico, stoa), was exceeding magnificent' (1 Ch.22.5). It consisted of four rows of monolithic marble columns of the Corinthian order, forming three aisles; the two side aisles were 30 feet in breadth and 50 feet in height, while the central aisle was half as broad again as the other two and twice as high (Jos. Ant. xv. xi. 5 [401 ff], but see ExpT, I.e.). The ceilings of the roofs were adorned with sculptured panels of cedar wood. On the other three sides of the court the colonnades had only two aisles, that along the east wall bearing the name of Solomon's Porch (Jn.10.23, Ac.3.11, 5.12), probably from a tradition that it occupied the site of one built by that monarch.

The main approaches to the court were naturally on the west and south. The principal entrance from the west was by the gate of Kiponos (Midd. i. 3), the approach to which was by a bridge over the Tyropoeon, now represented by Wilson's arch. On the south were the two gates represented by the present 'double' and 'triple' gates, and named the Huldah (or 'mole') gates, because the visitor passed into the court by sloping tunnels beneath the royal porch. These ramps opened upon the Court of the Gentiles about 100 feet from the south wall (see plan and, for details, ExpT, I.c.).

The warning inscription in the Temple.

(b) The inner courts and their gates. - The great court was open to Jew and Gentile alike, and, as we learn from the Gospels, was the centre of a busy life, and of transactions little in accord with its sacred purpose. The sanctuary in the strict sense began when one reached the series of walls, buildings, and courts which rose on successive terraces in the northern half of the great enclosure. Its limits were marked out by a low balustrade, the soregh, which ran round the whole, and was provided at intervals with notices warning all Gentiles against entering the sacred enclosure on pain of death (cf Paul's experience, Ac.21.26ff). From the soregh, flights of steps at different points led up to a narrow terrace, termed the hel (XYZ in plan), 10 cubits wide, beyond which rose a lofty retaining wall enclosing the whole sanctuary, to which Jews alone had access.

The great wall by which the sanctuary was converted into a fortress, was pierced by nine gateways?H 1-9 on the plan?over which were built massive two-storeyed gate-houses 'like towers' (Jos. BJ v. v. 3 [203]), four in the N., four in the S., and one in the E. wall. The most splendid of all the gates was the last mentioned, the eastern gate, which was the principal entrance to the Temple. From the fact that it was composed entirely of Corinthian brass, and had been the gift of a certain Nicanor of Alexandria, it was known as 'the Corinthian gate' (Jos.), and 'the gate of Nicanor' (Mish.). There is little doubt that it is also 'the Beautiful Gate of the temple' (Ac.3.2, 10), as shown by Schurer in his exhaustive study (ZNW, 1906, 51-58). The other eight gates were 'covered over with gold and silver, as were the jambs and lintels' (Jos. BJ v. v. 3 [201]), at the expense of Alexander, the Jewish alabarch of Alexandria (c AD 20-40). All the gates were 20 cubits high by 10 wide, according to the Mishnah (Josephus says 30 by 15).

Entering by the 'Beautiful Gate,' H 5, one found oneself in the colonnaded court of the women?so called because accessible to women as well as men. This was the regular place of assembly for public worship (cf Lk.1.10). The women were accommodated in a gallery which ran round the court (Midd. ii. 5), probably above the colonnades as suggested in the plan. Along by the pillars of the colonnades were placed thirteen trumpet-shaped boxes to receive the offerings and dues of the faithful. These boxes are 'the treasury' into which the widow's mites were cast (Mk.12.42).

The west side of this court was bounded by a wall, which divided the sanctuary into two parts, an eastern and a western. As the level of the latter was considerably higher than that of the eastern court, a magnificent semicircular flight of fifteen steps led up from the one to the other. At the top of the steps was an enormous gateway, 50 cubits by 40, allowing the worshippers an uninterrupted view of the altar and the Temple. The leaves of its gate were even more richly plated with silver and gold by Alexander than the others, and hence many have identified this gate with ' the gate that was called Beautiful' (but see Schurer, loc. cit. and ExpT. xx [1908-09]).

(c) The court of the priests and the great altar. - There is some uncertainty as to the arrangements of the western court, which we have now reached, owing to the divergent data of our two authorities, Josephus and the Mishnah. The simplest solution is perhaps to regard the whole western court as in one sense the court of the priests, 'the court' par excellence of the Mishnah (Midd. v. 1, etc.). Alexander Jannaeus, we learned (9), railed off the Temple and altar, and restricted the male Israelites to the outer edge of the then inner court. This arrangement was retained when the courts were laid out anew by Herod. In Middoth ii. 6 a narrow strip by the entrance - only 11 cubits in width, but extending the whole breadth of the court from N. to S. - is named the court of Israel. Josephus, however, is probably right in representing the latter as running round three sides of the western court (as on plan BBB). Its small size was a reminder that the laity - apart from those actually taking part in the sacrifices, who had, of course, to be allowed even within the still more sacred precincts of the priests' court - were admitted on sufferance to the western court; the eastern court, or court of the women, was, as has been indicated, the proper place of worship for the laity. Along the north and south walls of the enclosure were built chambers for various purposes connected with the Temple ritual (Midd. v. 3, 4), chambers and gatehouses being connected by an ornamental colonnade. Those whose location can be determined with some degree of certainty are entered on the plan and named in the key thereto.

The inner court is represented in the Mishnah as a rectangle, 187 cubits by 135, the outer or women's court as an exact square, 135 cubits by 135 (and so on most plans, e.g. DB iv, 713). But the rock levels of the yaram, the oblique line of the east side of the platform - due probably to the lie of the rock required for the foundation of the massive east wall - and the repeated appearance of 11 and its multiples (note that 187=11x17) in the details of the totals in Middoth v. 1, all combine to justify a suspicion as to the accuracy of the figures. On the accompanying plan the whole inner court, B and c, is entered as 170 cubits long from E. to W., and 160 broad. The outer court. A, has a free space between the colonnades of 135 by an average of about 110. The total dimensions of the sanctuary, including the surrounding buildings and the terrace (hel) are as follows: (1) length from W. to E. across the rock, 315 cubits or 462 feet; (2) width from N. to S. 250 cubits or 367 feet. The data on which these measurements are based will be found in the essays in the Exp. Times, already frequently referred to.

In the latest, and in some respects the best, plan of Herod's Temple by Waterhouse in Sanday's Sacred Sites of the Gospels, the data of the Mishnah are set aside, and a large 'court of men of Israel' is inserted in the western court in addition to those above described. Against this view it may be urged, (1) that it requires its author to remove the eastern court, which was an essential part of the sanctuary, from a place on the present inner platform of the Haram; (2) the consequence of this is to narrow unduly the space between the Beautiful Gate and Solomon's Porch. If there is one statement of the Mishnah that is worthy of credit, it is that 'the largest free space was on the south, the second largest on the east, the third on the north, and the smallest on the west' (Midd. ii. 1). But, as the plan referred to shows, this is not the case if the court of the women is removed so far to the east by the insertion of a large 'court of Israel.' The plan is also open to criticism on other grounds (cf G. A. Smith, op. cit. ii, 508 ff).

The altar of burnt-offering, D, was, like that restored by Judas the Maccabee, of unhewn stone, and measured at the base 32 cubits by 32 (47 feet square, thus covering almost the whole of the sacred rock, see 6 (b)), decreasing by three stages till the altar-hearth was only 24 cubits square. The priests went up by an inclined approach on the south side in accordance with Ex.20.26. To the north of the altar was the place where the sacrificial victims were slaughtered and prepared for the altar. It was provided with rings, pillars, hooks, and tables. A laver, O, for the priests' ablutions stood to the west of the approach to the altar.

The Temple of Herod.

12. The Temple building.

A few yards beyond the great altar rose the Temple itself, a glittering mass of white marble and gold. Twelve steps, corresponding to the height (12 half-cubits) of the massive and probably gold-covered stereobate on which the building stood, led up to the porch.

The porch was probably 96 cubits in height and of the same breadth at the base. The Mishnah gives its height, including the 6 cubits of the podium or stereobate, as 100 cubits. The real depth was doubtless, as in Solomon's Temple (3), 10 cubits in the centre, but now increased to 20 cubits at the wings (so Josephus). As the plan shows, the porch outflanked the main body of the Temple, which was 60?the Mishnah has 70?cubits in breadth, by 18 cubits at either wing. These dimensions show that Herod's porch resembled the pylons of an Egyptian temple. It probably tapered towards the top, and was surmounted by an Egyptian cornice with the familiar cavetto moulding (cf sketch below). The entrance to the porch measured 40 cubits by 20 (Middoth, iii. 7), corresponding to the dimensions of ' the holy place.' There was no door.

The 'great door of the house' (20 cubits by 10) was 'all over covered with gold,' in front of which hung a richly embroidered Babylonian veil, while above the lintel was figured a huge golden vine (Jos. Ant. xv. xi. 3 [395], BJ v. v. 4 [210]). The interior area of Herod's Temple was, for obvious reasons, the same as that of its predecessors. A hall, 61 cubits long by 20 wide, was divided between the holy place (40 by 20, but with the height increased to 40 cubits [Middoth, iv. 6]) and the most holy place (20 by 20 by 20 high). The extra cubit was occupied by a double curtain embroidered in colours, which screened off 'the holy of holies' (cf Midd. iv. 7 with Yoma, v. 2). This is the veil of the Temple referred to in Mt.27.51 and || (cf He.6.19 etc.).

As in Solomon's Temple, three storeys of side-chambers, probably 30 cubits in height, ran round three sides of the main building. But by the provision of a passage-way giving access to the different storeys, and making a third outside wall necessary, the surface covered by the whole was now 96 cubits in length by 60 in breadth, not reckoning the two wings of the porch. Over the whole length of the two holy places a second storey was raised, entirely, as it seems, for architectural effect.

The total height of the naos is uncertain. The entries by which the Mishnah makes up a total of 100 cubits are not such as inspire confidence; the laws of architectural proportion suggest that the 100, although also given by Josephus, should be reduced to 60 cubits or 88 feet, equal to the breadth of the naos and lateral chambers. On the plan the lowest side chambers are intended to be 5 cubits wide and their wall 3 (both as in 3), the passage-way 3, and the outside wall 3, giving a total width of 14+6+20+6+14=60 cubits (Jos. v. v. 4 [207 ff]; cf DB iv, 715 for the corresponding figures of Midd. iv. 7). The result of taking the principles of proportion between the various parts as the decisive factor when Josephus and the Mishnah are at variance, is exhibited in the diagram on p. 968, which combines sections through the porch and the holy place.

The Temple: the Holy Place

The furniture of 'the holy place' remained as in former days. Before the veil stood the altar of incense; against the south wall the seven-branched golden lampstand, and opposite to it the table of showbread (Jos. BJ v. v. 5 [216 f]). A special interest attaches to the two latter from the fact, known to every one, that they were among the Temple spoils carried to Rome by Titus to adorn his triumph, and are still to be seen among the sculptures of the Arch of Titus.

'The most holy place' was empty as before (Jos. ib.), save for a stone on which the high priest, who alone had access to this innermost shrine, deposited the censer of incense on the Day of Atonement (Yoma, v. 2).

All in all, Herod's Temple was well worthy of a place among the architectural wonders of the world. One has but to think of the extraordinary height and strength of the outer retaining walls, parts of which still claim our admiration, and of the wealth of art and ornament lavished upon the porticoes and buildings. The artistic effect was further heightened by the succession of marble-paved terraces and courts, rising each above and within the other, from the outer court to the Temple floor. For once we may entirely credit the Jewish historian when he tells us that from a distance the whole resembled a snow-covered mountain, and that the light reflected from the gilded porch dazzled the spectator like 'the sun's own rays' (Jos. BJ v. v. 6 [222]).

13. The daily Temple service in NT times.

This article may fitly close with a brief account of the principal act of Jewish worship in the days of our Lord, which centred round the daily or 'continual' (Heb. tamidh. Ex.29.42) burnt-offering, presented every morning and every evening or rather mid-afternoon,, throughout the year, in the name, and on behalf, of the whole community of Israel (see Ex.29.38-42, Nu.28.3-8). A detailed account of this service, evidently based on reliable tradition, is given in the Mishnah treatise Tamid (cf also the full exposition given by Schurer, GJV3 ii, 288-299= 4 345-357 [HJP II. i, 273-299]).

The detachment of priests on duty in the rotation of their 'courses' (Lk.1.8) slept in the 'house Moked' (K on plan). About cock-crow the priests who wished to be drawn for the morning service bathed and robed, and thereafter repaired to the chamber Gazith (M) in order to determine by lot those of their number who should 'officiate.' By the first lot a priest was selected to remove the ashes from the altar of burnt-offering, and prepare the wood, etc., for the morning sacrifice. This done, 'the presiding official said to them. Come and draw (to decide) (1) who shall slay, (2) who shall toss (the blood against the altar), (3) who shall remove the ashes from the incense altar, ''4) who shall clean the lampstand, (5)-(10) who shall carry the parts of the victim to the foot of the altar [six parts are specified], (11) who shall prepare the (meal-offering) of fine flour, (12) the baked offering (of the high priest), and (13) the wine of the drink-offering' (Mishnah, Tamid, iii. 1).

At the hour of dawn the preparations here set forth were begun, and the Temple gates thrown open. After the victim, a yearling lamb, had been slain, the incense altar prepared and the lamps trimmed, the officiating priests assembled in the chamber Gazith for a short religious service, after which there commenced the solemn acts of worship in which the tamidh culminated - the offering of incense and the burning of the sacrificial victim. The priest, chosen as before by lot (Lk.1.9), entered the Temple with a censer of incense, and, while the smoke was ascending from the altar within the Holy Place, the worshippers without prostrated themselves in adoration and silent prayer. After the priestly benediction had been pronounced from the steps of the porch (Tamid, vii. 2), the several parts of the sacrifice were thrown upon the altar and consumed. The pouring of the drink-offering was now the signal for the choir of Levites to begin the chanting of the Psalm for the day. At intervals two priests blew on silver trumpets, at whose sound the people again prostrated themselves. With the close of the Psalm the public service was at an end, and the private sacrifices were then offered.

The order of the mid-afternoon service differed from the above only in that the incense was offered after the burning of the victim instead of before. The lamps, also, on the 'golden candlestick,' were lighted at the 'evening' service.

[Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963 - A.R.S.K. - N.H.S.]


How indispensable were the services of the 'money-changers' (Mt.21.12, Mk.11.15, Jn.2.14-16) and 'bankers' (Mt.25.27) in the first century of our era in Palestine may be seen from the varied currencies of the period alluded to in the preceding article (6, 7). The Jewish money-changer, like his modern counterpart the sarraf (see PEFSt, 1904, pp. 49 ff for a well known and graphic account of the complexity of exchange in modern times) changed the larger denominations into the smaller, giving denarii, for example, for tetradrachms, silver for gold, and so forth. An important department of his business was the exchange of foreign money and even money of the country on any non-Phoenician standard for shekels and half-shekels on this standard, the latter alone being acceptable in payment of the Temple dues (cf MONEY, 4, 6). It was no doubt mainly for the benefit of the Jews of the Dispersion that the changers were allowed to set up their tables (in Greek they are 'table-men') in the outer court of the Temple (Mt.21.l2ff). Some members of the profession, the bankers of Mt.25.27 (cf Lk.19.23) received money on deposit for purposes of investment, on which usury was paid (see USURY).

The money-changers had constantly to be on their guard against false money (to which there are many references in ancient literature, especially e.g. by Philo). This gives weight to the often quoted unwritten saying (agraphon) of our Lord to his disciples 'show yourselves expert money-changers' - be skilful in distinguishing true doctrine from false.

[Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963 - A.R.S.K. - H.St.J.H.]


This word is a doublet of 'portico' (from Lat. porticus), both originally denoting a covered entrance to a building. When the front of this entrance is supported on pillars, the porch becomes a portico. Porticus, like the Greek stoa, was extended to signify a roofed colonnade running round a public building such as a temple, or enclosing an open space, like the cloisters of a mediaeval monastery. The most famous of these 'porches' - a sense in which the word is now obsolete - were the 'painted porch' - the Porch par excellence - at Athens, and Solomon's porch at Jerusalem (see below).

In the OT a porch is named chiefly in connexion with the Temple (see below), or with the palace (q.v.) of Solomon. The pillars of the temple of Dagon at Gaza which Samson pulled down, or rather slid from their stone bases, were probably two of those supporting the portico, as ingeniously explained by Macalister, Bible Sidelights, etc., ch. 7 (see HOUSE, 5). The word rendered 'porch' in AV and RV in Jg.3.23 (RSV 'vestibule') is of quite uncertain meaning and even of doubtful authenticity.

In the NT, in connexion with the trial of Jesus, mention is made in Mk.14.68 of a 'porch' or, as RVm, 'forecourt' (RSV 'gateway'), as distinguished from the 'court' (v.66 RV; RSV 'courtyard') of the high priest's palace, for which Mt.26.71 (EV 'porch') has a word elsewhere rendered 'gate.' In both cases the covered gateway leading from the street to the court is probably meant.

Solomon's porch (Jn.10.23, Ac.3.11, 5.12; RSV 'portico') was a covered colonnade or cloister running along the east side of the Temple enclosure (for details see Exp T, November 1908, p. 68). A simple colonnade enclosed the pool of Bethesda (Jn.5.2).

[Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963 - A.R.S.K.]