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The Temple in Jerusalem or the Holy Temple (Hebrew: בית המקדש, transliterated Bet HaMikdash) was built in ancient Jerusalem in c. 10th century BC and was subsequently rebuilt twice, after the Babylonian Captivity and during Herod the Great's renovation. It was the center of Israelite Jewish worship, primarily for the offering of sacrifices known as the korbanot. It was located on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, was the center of ancient Judaism, and has remained a focal point for Jewish services over the millennia. Orthodox and Conservative Judaism anticipate the Third Temple being built in the future.

According to the Hebrew Bible, the Temple was built by Solomon. It replaced the Tabernacle of Moses.


A drawing of Ezekiel's Visionary Temple from the Book of Ezekiel 40-47

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The hebrew name given in Scripture for the building is Beit HaMikdash or "The Holy 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 Adonai (House of God) or simple Beiti (My house) or Beitechah (Your House)

First and Second Temples[]

Main article: Solomon's temple

A model of Herod's Temple adjacent to the Shrine of the Book exhibit at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

As many as five distinct temples stood in succession on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem:

  • King David's Altar was the first construction on the site of the temple. Second Samuel 24:18-24 only describes a sacrificial altar on the temple site, but it is possible that some preliminary version of a temple was already functioning at the time of David's death, before Solomon's construction began.
  • Solomon's Temple, was built in approximately the 10th century BCE to replace the Tabernacle. It was destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE.
  • The Second Temple was built after the return from the Babylonian Captivity, around 536 BCE (completed on March 12, 515 BCE). This Temple was desecrated by the Roman general Pompey, when he entered it after taking Jerusalem in 63 BCE. According to Josephus, Pompey did not remove anything from the temple or its treasury.
  • Herod's Temple was a massive renovation of the Second Temple including turning the entire Temple Mount into a giant square platform. Herod the Great began his expansion project around 19 BCE, dismantling the Second Temple in order to build a larger, grander version. Herod's Temple was destroyed by Roman troops under general Titus in 70 CE.
  • During the Bar Kochba revolt in the c.135 CE, and during the early part of the Sassanid Persian occupation of most of the Byzantine empire from 610 to 620 the Kohanim priesthood began anew the temple service, including animal sacrifice, and small buildings were erected. However, these two temples are hypothetical, and their existence is contested.

By custom, Herod's Temple is not called the "Third Temple" because the Kohanim priesthood kept the animal sacrifices and other ceremonials (korbanot) going without interruption during the entire reconstruction project.

While Herod's temple itself was subsequently destroyed, the mammoth Temple Mount platform complex still exists and currently supports the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques.

Rebuilding the Third Temple[]

The Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, by Francesco Hayez

Main article: The Third Temple

Ever since its destruction in 70 CE, Jews have prayed that God will allow for the rebuilding of the Temple. This prayer is a formal part of the thrice daily Jewish prayer services.

The question surrounding the status of The Third Temple is compounded by much mystery, uncertainty, controversy, and debate, but it does have roots in Hebrew Biblical texts and in both Judaic scholarship and the traditional Jewish prayers.

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 alter) on which portions of most offerings were burned and blood was poured or dashed. An edifice contained the Ulam (antechamber), the Haiechal, and the Kodesh Kodashim (Holy of Holies. The Heichal and the Kodesh Kodashim were separated by a wall in the First Temple and two curtains in the Second Temple. The Heichal contained the Menorah, the table of Showbread and the Incense alter.

The main courtyard had thirteen gates. On the south side, beginning with the southwest corner, there were four gates: Shaar Ha'Elyoun (the Upper Gate); Shaar HaDelek (the Kindling Gate), where wood was brought in); Shaar HaBichorot (the Gate of Firstborn, where people with first-born animal offerings entered and fathers and children entered for the Pidyon HaBen ceremony); 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 Yechonyah, where kings of the Davidic line enter and Yechonyah/Yehoyachin 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 Azaryah or main courtyard to perform offerings[1]); and Shaar Hashir (The Gate of Song, where the Levites entered with their musical instruments). On the east side was Shaar Nikanor, the Nikanor Gate between the Women's Courtyard and the main Temple Courtyard, which had two minor doorways, one on its right and one on its left. On the western wall, which was relatively unimportant, there were two gates that did not have any name.

The Temple in the writings of the Prophets[]

The Biblical prophets used florid and sometimes explicitly anthropomorphic imagery to describe visions of a mysterious presence of God occupying the Temple.

Isaiah wrote "I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the Temple." (Isaiah 6:1). Jeremiah implored "Do not abor us, for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of your glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us." (Jeremiah 14:21) and referred to "A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary" (Jeremiah 17:12). Ezekiel spoke of "the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory. And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face."

Talmudic view of the Temple in Jerusalem[]

Main article: Korban
Main article: Shekhinah

The rabbis of the Talmud referred to the Presence described in prophetic visions as the Shekhinah. The Rabbis saw the Temple offerings or Korbanot as central to Judaism, with much of the Talmud devoted to discussions of how they were performed. Prayer and good works came to substitute for the Temple ritual, although only partially.

Role in Jewish services[]

Main article: Jewish services

The Temple is mentioned extensively in Orthodox services, and, to a lesser degree, in Conservative ones as well.

Orthodox Judaism[]

Mentions in Orthodox Jewish services include:

  • A daily study session 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 Amdidah.
  • 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 sacrifices, and 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 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.

Conservative Judaism[]

Conservative Judaism retains mentions of the Temple but removes references to the restoration of sacrifices. The study session of Temple sacrifices is removed or replaced, the passages in the daily Amidah, the weekday Torah service, and elsewhere referring to restoration of the Temple are retained but references to sacrifices are removed. References to sacrifices on holidays are retained, but made in the past tense, and petitions for their restoration are removed. Special holiday services, such as special prayers at Yom kippur and Sukkot, are retained in Conservative prayer books, but are often abbreviated or omitted by Conservative congregations. Some Conservative Congregations omit all references to sacrifices, and the Conservative Sim Shalom prayer book has alternate versions of the Amidah prayer, a version mentioning sacrifices in the past tense and one without reference to sacrifices at all.

Conservative Judaism has retained the four fasts relating to the destruction of the Temple, although only Tisha B'Av is widely observed.

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism[]

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism have removed all direct references to the Temple, although some indirect or ambiguous references (e.g. "Happy are those who dwell in your House", Psalm 84:5) are retained.

The Reform movement in the United States has taken to calling its places of worship, not synagogues or shuls, but temples. This is due to their belief that when prayer replaced sacrifice as a the main mode of Jewish worship and that in a world where that is the case, there is no need for The Temple, only temples.

Critical scholarship perspectives[]

According to Professor Mary Ann Tolbert of the Pacific School of Religion, the Temple in Jerusalem was originally built as a house for Yahweh or the God of Ancient Israel. Priests in the sixth century B.C.E. believed the Temple was two miles below the heavenly dwelling of God [2]

According to Professor Stephen L. Harris of California State University, the ancient temple was seen as a place where Yahweh frequently visited and where he sat on his throne from the holy Ark of the Covenant. Disloyalty to this Ark and Yahweh's house would later be a reason why many Prophets condemned Israel, many individuals thought the Temple of Jerusalem would never fall due to the Angel that saved them of Assyrian conflict in 701 B.C.E.[3] According to the prophet Isaiah, Yahweh proclaimed he would save the city, and "The angel of the Lord went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp; when morning dawned, they all lay dead." (Isaiah 37:36). Professor Harris states that this account of the miraculous angel who saved the holy temple was later disputed when the Assyrian leader Sennacherib states his troops sealed Jerusalem, "like a bird in a cage".

According to Professor Harris, the Prophet Ezekiel also has visions of Yahweh seated in the temple of Jerusalem. Yahweh's seat had wheels accompanied by animals, "Each had four faces and each four wings; their legs were straight, and their hoofs were like the hoofs of a calf, glistening and gleaming like bronze. (Isaiah 1:6-7). Ezekiel also sees Yahweh leave the sacred temple before it's destroyed by the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C.E

Ezekiel then sees the "glory of Yahweh" rise from its traditional seat between the gold cherubim in the Temple's innermost sanctuary and pass through the city gates to the east. This strange event is probably meant to show that Yahweh's kavod (a Hebrew term that can be translated as "glory" or "influence") has permanently abandoned the Temple and now roams the world, operating in new and unpredictable ways. [3]

Modern controversy over location of the Temple site[]

To the trumpeting place

A stone (2.43×1 m) with Hebrew inscription "To the Trumpeting Place" excavated by Benjamin Mazar at the southern foot of the Temple Mount is believed to be a part of the Second Temple.

In 1999 Dr. Ernest L. Martin published a controversial book called The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot based upon the idea of Ory Mazar, son of Professor Benjamin Mazar of Hebrew University. In 1995 Dr. Martin wrote a draft report to support this theory. He wrote: "I was then under the impression that Simon the Hasmonean (along with Herod a century later) moved the Temple from the Ophel mound to the Dome of the Rock area."

However, after studying the words of Josephus concerning the Temple of Herod, which was reported to be in the same general area of the former Temples, he then read the account of Eleazar who led the final contingent of Jewish resistance to the Romans at Masada which stated that the Roman fortress was the only structure left by 73 C.E. "With this key in mind, I came to the conclusion in 1997 that all the Temples were indeed located on the Ophel mound over the area of the Gihon Spring". This theory implied that Judaism was fighting to preserve the wrong location, which in turn sparked reactions from Muslims.

The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot by Dr. Martin was made even more controversial due to the fact that he had previously spent five years engaged in excavations near the Western Wall in a joint project between Hebrew University and Ambassador College, publisher of The Plain Truth magazine edited by Herbert W. Armstrong.

There are even more controversial theories that claim that the Temple was not in Jerusalem at all, but in Jericho, somewhere in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, or South America, etc. However, none of these theories is taken seriously by the vast majority of archaeologists, historians or theologians.

Archaeological evidence[]

Archaeological excavations have found one hundred mikvaot (ritual immersion pools) surrounding the area known as the Temple Mount or Har HaBayit. This is strong evidence that this area was considered of the utmost holiness in ancient times and could not possibly have been a secular area. However, it does not establish where exactly within the area was the Temple located.

Recent artifact controversy[]

On December 27, 2004, it was reported in the Toronto-based The Globe and Mail that the Israel Museum in Jerusalem concluded that the ivory pomegranate that everyone believed had once adorned a scepter used by the high priest in Solomon's Temple was a fake. This artifact was the most important item of biblical antiquities in its collection. It had been part of a traveling exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 2003. Experts fear that this discovery is part of an international fraud in antiquities. The thumb-sized pomegranate, which is a mere 44 mm in height, bears an inscription incised around the shoulder of the pomegranate in small paleo-Hebrew script. Only 9 characters remained complete, and were incomplete - if any sense were to be made of the inscription, it seemed likely that several more were missing. The surviving part of the inscription was transcribed לבי...ה קדש כהנם (Only the lower horizontal stroke of the yod and the upper horizontal stroke of the ה he remain).

The following restoration of missing letters was proposed: לבית יהוה קדש כהנם

This reconstruction resulted in the following transliteration, now accepted by the vast majority of scholars: lby[t yhw]h qdš khnm, which led to the translation: "Belonging to the Temp[le of Yahw]eh, holy to the priests."


Talmud Bavli (Schottenstein Edition), Masechet Shekalim, 6:2 (17a).

Further reading[]

Important Articles on the subject of the location of the Jerusalem Temple are found in the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review, in the following issues: July/August 1983, November/December 1989, March/April 1992, July/August 1999, September/October 1999, March/April 2000, September/October 2005. Several of these articles support the theory of Professor Asher Kaufman that the Temple was located on the Temple Mount, but a bit to the north of the Dome of the Rock (which actually was "The Stone of Losses" in the days of the Second Temple).

See also[]

  • Western Wall
  • Solomon's Temple, or First Temple.
  • Second Temple
  • The Third Temple


  1. Sheyibaneh Beit Hamikdash:Women in the Azarya?
  2. ``Reading the Bible``, By Mary Ann Tolbert
  3. 3.0 3.1 Understanding the Bible, The Sixth Edition, by Stephen Harris, McGraw Hill, 2003

External links[]

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