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Understanding The Holy Temple Jesus Knew

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 14:01

Carta, the well-known Jerusalem publishers, offers an introductory price on our latest, and eighth, Carta book, valid until June 30, 2017 (make sure to put in the discount code: “25-off”):

This title is part of the “Understanding” series of Carta:

“This book is a companion volume to Understanding the Holy Temple of the Old Testament. Its aim is to provide a backdrop to the Gospel scenes which depict the Lord Jesus moving through the Temple Courts, a place where he performed many of his most significant acts. Although the Temple complex that Jesus knew was a very different one to that rebuilt by the returning Jewish exiles fro Babylon, the site retained the name of Second Temple. This was because its builder, the Edomite King Herod the Great, was not allowed by the religious Jewish authorities to make any substantial changes to the Temple building proper. However, in the vastly enlarged and embellished platform on which the Temple stood, Herod was able to express his passion and creative genius for building.

Beginning at the Holy of Holies, the central focus of the complex, we follow Jesus and his contemporaries through the great Sanctuary of Israel. Stopping off at many points along the way, we reflect on scenes such as the Presentation in the Temple, Jesus’ visit at age twelve and the rending of the veil between the Holy and the Most Holy at his crucifixion. Our exploration is facilitated by the richly detailed reconstructive drawings that accompany the lively text of this latest publication by the Ritmeyers.”

Inside this book you will find this new new drawing of the widow with the two mites:

Reconstruction drawing showing three of the thirteen trumpet-shaped receptacles for monetary offerings that were placed under the colonnades that surrounded the Court of the Women (Treasury). The widow, who is mentioned in Mark 12.42 and Luke 21.2, and who put in the two mites is shown next to the box in the middle.

In a previous post we showed another new drawing of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple at Passover that also appears in this new book:

In Luke 2.41-52 we read of Jesus’ first visit to the Temple. In this reconstruction drawing, we see young Jesus (in blue) on the steps of the Temple Terrace (hel) with the rabbis. This terrace bounded the wall of the Temple Courts on its southern, western and northern sides. It was 10 cubits (5.25m, 17 feet) wide, and was reached by a flight of steps of half a cubit high and deep. According to Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 88b, members of the Temple Sanhedrin would come out of the Chamber of Hewn Stone on Sabbaths and festival days to teach on the hel. Young Jesus must have eagerly made use of this opportunity.

Virtual Jerusalem

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 15:45

Two new apps have been developed to help visitors visualize ancient Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. The BYU has developed a free app, which can be downloaded here.

The Virtual New Testament app is one of the most accurate digital recreations of first-century Jerusalem. It’s purpose is to enhance scripture study by allowing you to experience the city, engage with the environment, and immerse yourself in the world of Jesus’ mortal ministry.

This app works for both Mac and Windows desktops and can be downloaded for mobile devices at the Apple App Store or at Google Play.

 

The Jewish News Online reported on another app that was developed by Lithodomos VR. This app only costs a couple of dollars and is worth getting if you have a Virtual Reality headset. An introduction can also be viewed on YouTube.

Young and old alike now have the chance to wander the streets of ancient Jerusalem, after archaeologists recreated the city at the time of King Herod in a virtual reality headset.

Half a million pounds of investor funding helped created the Android app, called Lithodomos VR, based on the archaeology of Temple Mount in 20BC, before it was destroyed some 90 years later.

The app (at £1.59 or S2.00) and headset let the user experience market streets, the Western Wall, the temple precinct, and the Jewish and Roman period districts, with buildings virtually reconstructed based on the latest archaeological evidence.

 

Twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple at Passover

Sat, 04/08/2017 - 18:03

On Sunday, the 10th of April, 2017, the Jewish people begin celebrating Pesach – Jewish Passover. That is one week earlier than Easter. However, in this blog post we would like to remember the time that Jesus as a twelve-year-old visited the Temple during Passover for the first time in his life.

Reconstruction drawing showing young Jesus (in blue) on the steps of the Temple Terrace (ḥel)  with the rabbis.

The Temple in the time of Christ was a magnificent building. From the Temple Court (azarah), 12 steps led up to the Porch that was as high as the Temple itself. In front of the entrance to the Sanctuary, a Golden Vine was attached to four columns.

According to Josephus, Herod’s Temple looked like a snow-clad mountain, for all that was not overlaid with gold was of the purest white and it lacked nothing that could astound either mind or eye. 
No wonder that some of Jesus’ disciples remarked “how the Temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God” (Matthew 24.1; Luke 21.5).

The central feature of this complex, the Holy of Holies, was located deep inside, at the west end of the Sanctuary. No one could enter this place of utmost sanctity but the High Priest once a year on the Day of Atonement. A veil separated the Holy of Holies from a place of lesser sanctity, the Holy Place.

The Temple Court lay in front of the Temple and it contained the Altar, the Laver and the Place of Slaughtering (or Shambles). This was the closest court to the Temple and out of bounds to anyone like Jesus who was not a priest.

This reconstruction drawing shows the Temple, viewed from the east. It was surrounded by a court, called the Temple Court or azarah in Hebrew. In front of the Temple stood the Altar, the Laver (Basin) and the pillars and tables that were used in the preparation of sacrifices. Several gates and other buildings stood to the north and south of the Temple.

This Temple Court was separated by the Nicanor Gate from the Court of Women, which lay to the east of the Temple. Buildings, called gates, surrounded this complex. In front of the gates was a terrace (ḥel – pronounced chel with the “ch” sounding guttural as in the Scottish “loch”) of 10 cubits wide, which was reached by a flight of steps of half a cubit high and deep. This terrace bounded the wall of the gate buildings on their southern, western and northern sides.

Reconstruction model of the Temple Mount, showing the southern terrace (ḥel) . The little blue figure at middle right represents young Jesus.

It is on this ḥel that we get our first glimpse of Jesus after the birth narratives in the Gospels. Scripture is silent about his youth although it is clear from the observations of nature and Biblical history later attributed to him by the Gospel writers that he absorbed every spiritual and historical lesson that was provided by his upbringing in the countryside around Nazareth.

Now he was twelve years of age and his first words are recorded for us (Luke 2. 41-52). Under the law, attendance at the feasts in Jerusalem was obligatory for boys from the age of thirteen, a birthday that was a milestone in the life of a Jewish boy, when they became a Son of the Commandment or Bar Mitzvah. In practice, this legal age was pushed forward by one or two years so that Jesus, after he had passed his twelfth year, came up to Jerusalem for the Passover with his family. Jesus’ first view of the Temple must have filled him with a great sense of the purpose he had been developing during the quiet years in Nazareth. Attendance at the Temple was obligatory only for the first two days of Passover, after which many of the pilgrims would have returned home again. It would appear that Joseph and Mary and their “company” did indeed start to return home and had travelled for a day. When they finally realized that Jesus was missing, it took them three days to find him and when they did, he was “in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions.” The ḥel is the only place in the Temple he could have been.

We learn this from a tractate of the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 88b, which tells us:

It has been taught; R. Jose said; Originally there were not many disputes in Israel, but one Beth din of seventy-one members sat in the Hall of Hewn Stones, and two courts of twenty-three sat, one at the entrance of the Temple Mount and one at the door of the [Temple] Court, and other courts of twenty-three sat in all Jewish cities.”  “The Great Sanhedrin] sat from the morning tamid (daily sacrifice) until the evening tamid [in the Hall of Hewn Stones]; on Sabbaths and festivals they sat within the ḥel.

So, Passover would have been one such festival when members of the Temple Sanhedrin would come out to teach in this area. Ordinary people, who normally had no access to the classrooms where young priests were taught, could come and question them. Jesus must have eagerly made use of this opportunity and never would they have had such a sharp student as him. During this visit to the Temple, he would have seen the preparations for sacrificing the Passover lambs and realized, perhaps for the first time in his young life, that the entire ritual pointed forward to his own sacrifice. He would have been so absorbed by all these experiences that he would not have wanted to leave. He forgot about his natural family, for here he was at home – in his Father’s house.

A Capital from Solomon’s Porch on the Temple Mount

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 13:55

The Israel Hayom newspaper reported yesterday that a capital of the 2nd Temple era has been found by the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP).

Photo credit: Vladimir Naychin

The capital of a carefully-adorned column that stood on the Temple Mount in the time of the Second Temple has been discovered through the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

The capital, whose size indicates that the column had a circumference of 75 centimeters (30 inches) at its top, is a section of one column that formed part of the double colonnade that surrounded the Temple Mount plaza.

Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, said that “this is a capital in the Doric style, one of the characteristics of the art in the time of the Hasmonean dynasty. This appears to be the capital of a column formed part of the eastern colonnade of the Temple Mount, which Josephus and even the New Testament called ‘Solomon’s Porch.’ A column like this is impressive testimony of the immensity of the structures on the Temple Mount in the Second Temple era, and fits in well with Josephus’ narrative, which describes what he saw with his own eyes.”

Barkay explained that a 25-cubit column would have stood 12.5 meters (41 feet) high.

It is of course wonderful news that a capital of a column that most likely stood on the Temple Mount was found. I would agree with Barkay that the capital could have belonged to one of the columns that formed the eastern Hasmonean (pre-Herodian) colonnade. This colonnade was indeed known as Solomon’s Porch, where Jesus walked during Hanukkah (John 10.23). It was also the place where Peter and John  healed the blind man (Acts 3.11) and where the apostles did many signs (Acts 5.12).

One must, however, be careful with dimensions. In the article it says that the circumference of the Doric column that supported the capital was 75 cm. That is probably a mistake. According to simple mathematics, a column with a circumference of 75 cm (30 inches) has a diameter of less than 24cm (9 inches). In ancient architecture, Doric columns had a 1:8 ratio between diameter and height. According to that rule, this column could not have been higher than 2m (6 feet, 6 inches), which would not have been exactly monumental. Barkay therefore probably meant that the column had a diameter of 75cm. In that case, the column would have been about 6m (20 feet, 11.4 cubits) high. Barkay estimated that a 25-cubit column would have stood 12.5 meters (41 feet) high, but this one would have much smaller, about half the size.

An additional problem is the use of units of measurement by Josephus. In War, he uses cubits and in Antiquities (Roman) feet. As a rule, his measurements in feet are more accurate than those in cubits, which are often exaggerated.

Josephus writes in War 5.190-192, that the columns of the Herodian porticoes were 25 cubits, which according to the Royal Cubit of 52.5 cm (20.67 inches), would be 13.12m, (43 feet) high, but in Ant. 15.413 he says that the columns of the porticoes were 27 feet high (8.23m, 15.67 cubits). Let us first look at the 25 cubits high columns and then at those of 27 feet high.

According to the Doric ratio of diameter and height, the diameter of a 25 cubit high Doric column must have been 1.64m (5 feet, 5 inches). Archaeological remains of parts of such thick columns have been found in secondary use in the Temple Mount excavations in front of a gate of an Umayyad palace. A complete column with a diameter of 1.46m (4 feet, 9 inches) has been preserved in the Double Gate underground passageway. Josephus mentions in Ant. 15.415 that the height of the Corinthian columns (which have a ratio of 1:10) of the Royal Stoa were 50 feet (15.24m or 29 cubits) high, probably including the capitals. This measurement is somewhat similar to the 25 cubits high columns of War 5.190-192 and must therefore relate to the columns of the Royal Stoa and not to those of the porticoes. Columns of that height could only have belonged to the Royal Stoa.

A north-south section through the Royal Stoa that stood at the southern end of Herod’s Temple Mount. The Royal Stoa was the largest structure on the Temple Mount and was built in the style of a basilica. It had a central nave and two side aisles with four rows of 40 columns. Josephus calls this stoa more deserving of mention than any structure under the sun.

Going back to Ant. 15.413, where Josephus writes that the columns of the porticoes were 27 feet (8.23m) high, we found that this measurement is indeed correct for the Herodian porticoes. The preserved sockets of the northern portico can still be seen in the south wall of the Antonia Fortress (see drawing). They are located 8.84m (29 feet) above ground level. As the beams that were laid on top of the capitals were fixed in these sockets, Josephus’ measurement of 27 feet appears to be accurate.

The Antonia Fortress that stood at the northwest corner of the Herodian Temple Mopunt had four towers, three of which were 50 cubits (86 ft./26.25 m) high and the fourth, the southeast tower, 70 cubits (120 ft./36.75 m) high. The view from this highest tower, that, according to Josephus “commanded a view of the whole area of the Temple” (War 5.242), must have been spectacular. The location of the sockets for the northern portico are indicated in the drawing.

The reconstructed height of the newly found Hasmonean column of 6m (20 feet) is a little lower than those of the Herodian columns. The older Hasmonean portico, also known as “Solomon’s Porch”, was apparently not as high as the Herodian colonnades, as indicated in this reconstruction model.

An overall view of a model of the Temple Mount looking from the northwest. In the foreground is the Antonia Fortress, while the Temple with its surrounding buildings stood close to the centre of the Temple Mount. The lower portico above the Eastern Wall (upper centre) was known as Solomon’s Porch.