This case file on the Jewish Temple, will concentrate on the significance of this grand and holy structure, at the time of Jesus. The discussion will consider how central this place of worship was for Jerusalem, and for the whole Ancient world. In addition, the case file will link the Jewish Temple, with Christian worship and theology.
The Temple complex consisted of an area of five hundred yards. The whole ancient world spoke of the Temple with reverence, admiration and praise. It was grand, and outstanding - with the stones being an astonishing fifty yards in length, and the gates apparently having to be closed by two-hundred men.1 We are reminded of the sheer size and beauty of the Temple in Mark’s Gospel, ‘And as He came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to Him “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings?” ’ ( Mark 13.1 ) However, the Temple’s appearance was probably not its main attraction, but rather the sacredness and holiness. It is important to note that this was seen as being the only Temple that was devoted to worshipping the one God of Israel. It was where the animal sacrifices took place, and this was a practice that was a vital prescription of the Torah. The Temple was the unique place where these offerings could be made to God, on behalf of all the people. God Himself dwelt in the Temple, like nowhere else on earth. This great structure was where blessing and mercy was granted to the people of Israel, and more specifically in ‘The Holy of Holies’, which was where the High priest would perform the sacrifice for the sins of the world - thus the most sacred and glorious spot. The Day of Atonement was the only day out of the year that the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies, to offer the sacrifice in God’s presence. 2
The Gospel of Matthew shows us that Jesus entered the Temple, and ‘turned the tables’ ( Matthew 21:12) , emphasising that He will bring about change and cleansing - and through His own sacrifice this was done, bridging the gap between God and man.
Christian Orthodox Churches are to this day modeled after the Temple, and by explaining the link between Orthodox worship and the Jewish temple, we are able to see the significance of Jesus living at that time , and how He has renewed worship in the houses of God. The Holy of Holies, or commonly referred to as ‘ιερον’ , simply meaning Holy, to this day separates the clergy from the laity, and is where the ultimate sacrifice takes place - which is the Eucharist. It is no longer the animal that is sacrificed, but the greatest sacrifice was Christ Himself on the cross, shedding His blood for mankind. The Epistle to the Hebrews confirms that the crucifixion, was far superior than that of the preparatory temple sacrifices. Jesus Christ Himself becomes the New Temple through this self sacrifice - and so He is where Divinity and humanity truly meet, and worship is renewed.
To conclude, the Temple of Jerusalem was of great significance, not only to the historical Jesus, but to ‘the Son of Man’, to the Christ Who ‘shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease’(Daniel 9:27) because of His own self sacrifice and love.
1 Bart D Ehrman, The New Testament ( Oxford : New York, 2012 ) 53-54
2 Ehrman, The New Testament, 53-54