1. Introduction
2. Herod's Temple
    2.1. Introduction
    2.2. Situation and Dimensions

    2.3. Outer Courts

        2.3.1. Temple Walls
        2.3.2. Temple Gates

        2.3.3. Beyond the Walls
    2.4. The Inner Courts

3. Attitudes Towards the Temple in the Second-Temple Period


1. Introduction

Solomon's Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. After years in exile, King Darius allowed some Jews to return to Judea in order to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, but the Temple paled by comparison with the first Temple. The second Temple underwent many partial renovations until it was almost completely dismantled and rebuilt by Herod the Great.

2. Herod's Temple

2.1. Introduction

In 20-19 BCE, in the eighteenth or the seventeenth year of his reign, Herod announced that he planned to renovate the Temple (Ant. 15.11.1-2; 380-90 = War 1.21.1; 401). Actually, it seems that what he intended was its replacement, so that one could call it a new Temple. Some feared that Herod would pull down the old structures but would not be able to rebuild them, and so were reluctant to cooperate with Herod in this building project (Ant. 15. 388-89). Josephus records Herod's speech to the people on the eve of his massive renovation project (Ant. 15. 382-87); probably Josephus copied it from the court archives.

For this was the Temple that our fathers built to the Most Great God after their return from Babylon, but it lacks sixty cubits in height, the amount by which the first Temple, built by Solomon, exceeded it. And yet no one should condemn our fathers for neglecting their pious duty, for it was not their fault that this Temple is smaller. Rather it was Cyrus and Darius, the son of Hystaspes, who prescribed these dimensions for building, and since our fathers were subject to them and their descendents after them to the Macedonians, they had no opportunity to restore this first archetype of piety to its former size. But since, by the will of God, I am now ruler and there continues to be a long period of peace and an abundance of wealth and great revenues, and—what is of most importance—the Romans, who are, so to speak the masters of the World, are (my) loyal friends, I will try to remedy the oversight caused by the necessity and subjection of that earlier time, and by this act of piety make full return to God for the gift of this kingdom.

In preparation to carry out his building project, Herod acquired a thousand wagons (with oxen) to transport the stones from the quarry to the building site, hired 10,000 skilled workmen and trained 1,000 priests as masons and carpenters, for only priests could work on the sanctuary (hykl) and the Court of the Priests, since only they were allowed to enter that part of the Temple (Ant. 15.11.2; 389-90). Herod's Temple was under construction from c. 20/19 BCE until 63, just before its destruction by the Romans, but most of the work was completed earlier rather than later. Josephus says that the inner courts (ho naos) was completed after a year and a half, whereas the construction of the stoa and the outer courts took eight years (Ant. 15.11.5-6; 420-21). The rest of the time was spent finishing up the work and doing renovations. He also claims that during the time the inner courts (ho naos) were under construction, no rain fell during the day, but only at night, so as not to hinder progress (Ant. 15.11.7; 425). The Roman historian Tacitus describes the Temple as "possessing enormous riches," which is credible since the Jews only had one Temple, so that all their resoruces were directed to that structure (Histories 5.8.1).

* John 2:20

The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?"

When Jesus said that he would rebuild the Temple if destroyed in three days, his hearers said that it had taken forty-six years to build the Temple to that point. If one begins from 20/19 BCE, then Jesus' conversation took place around 26/27.

Simon the Temple Builder

One of the ossuaries found in a tomb in the Old City of Jerusalem bore the inscription in Aramaic of "Simon the Temple [hklh] Builder" on two sides. Presumably, this man was involved in the construction of Herod's Temple, a fact for which he wanted to be remembered.

No one knows for certain what Herod's temple looked like in all its detail, nor its exact dimensions, but one can form a general idea of its layout from recent archaeological excavations (see M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple), accounts of authors contemporary with Herod's Temple and from the Mishnah. The major literary sources are Josephus (War 5.5.1-8; 184-247; Ant. 15.11.5-7; 410-25) and the Mishnaic tractate Middot (m. Mid.), as well as other tractates. The problem with the literary sources is that they are incomplete and even contradictory at points. The Mishnah is suspect on some counts because it was written long after living memory of the Temple. In this study, where the literary sources diverge, either both are given as options or one of the two options is determined to be the most likely. In many cases Josephus' descriptions are given precedence since he was an eyewitness.

* Mark 13:1 = Matt 24:1 = Luke 21:5

As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!"

One of Jesus' disciples marveled at the grandeur of the Temple complex; he was impressed in particular by the size of the stones used in construction. No doubt, most pilgrims to Jerusalem responded in this way to the sight of the Temple.


2.2. Situation and Dimensions

The Jerusalem Temple was situated on top of the Temple Mount, also known as Mt. Moriah. Josephus explains, "The hill was a rocky ascent that sloped gently up towards the eastern part of the city to the topmost peak" (Ant. 15.397). To the west of the Temple was the Tyropoeon valley and to the south and east was the Kidron valley, possibly identical to the Hinnom valley (Gehinnom). The north provided easiest access to the Temple, since the approach from that direction was relatively level.

Temple Mount

Beginning in 19/20 BCE, Herod the Great began to enlarge the existing Temple Mount to be able to accommodate larger crowds of Jewish festival pilgrims.

Josephus describes the city as laying before the Temple as a "theater," by which he means that the city was situated on the west and south sides of the Temple in a sort of semi-circle (Ant. 15.410). Archaeological investigation reveals that the outer wall of Herod's Temple itself was an irregular quadrangle: south wall = 280 m.; west wall = 485 m.; north wall = 315 m.; east wall 460 m. The total circumference of the temenos or sacred precincts, was 1,540 m., and the total area = c. 144,000 sq. m. (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 77). These dimensions were large by ancient standards; most temples in the ancient world were much smaller. Herod had the the old foundations of the Temple removed (Ant. 15.391). Archaeological evidence suggests, however, that he kept the eastern wall in tact, for there is a "seam" visible near the southern corner of the eastern wall separating the Herodian stonework and what is presumed to be the pre-Herodian eastern wall. From the seam southward is thirty-two meters of Herodian wall (out of a total of 460 meters), from which it may be inferred that Herod's builders extended the outer wall this distance to the south (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 101-103). There is also archaeological evidence of an elaborate drainage system, which would be indispensible to Temple operations.

In the Mishnah it is said that the Temple mount—the outer wall—was 500 cubits square (m. Mid. 2.1) (a cubit is c. 22 inches or 56.1 centimeters), and Josephus says that the east portico was 400 cubits long (Ant. 20.9.7; 221-22). Obviously there is a discrepancy between the archaeological and the literary evidence concerning the size of the Temple. (The Mishnah may base its measurements on Ezek 42:16-20, which specifies that the Temple should be 500 cubits square.)  In another place, Josephus said the circumference of the outer walls was four stadia (stadion = c. 607 ft. or 184 m.) with each side being one stadion, which would make the outer courts a square (Ant. 15.401). This also contradicts the archaeological evidence.



This mikveh (ritual bath of purification) is located to the south of the Temple close to the Huldah gates, and dates to the second-Temple period. Jews would cleanse themselves from ritual impurity in this mikveh in order to be qualified to enter the Temple (see Lev 14, 15; Num 19).

In Apion 2.8; 103-109, Josephus gives a brief description of the layout of the Temple. He says that the Temple had four courts, each with restrictions on who could enter. The outer court was open to all, including non-Jews, except menstruating women. Into the second court were allowed all Jewish men and menstrually-clean, Jewish women. Beyond the second court was the third court into which Jewish men could enter. Finally the fourth court was restricted to priests who were properly attired, which means essentially priests who were on duty. Josephus also indicates that only the High Priest dressed in his high priestly raiment could enter the inner sanctuary (adytum), by which is meant the holy of holies. Similarly, the Mishnah distinguishes degrees of holiness possessed by various areas of the Temple: the Temple mount was holier that the city, whereas the terrace surrounding the inner courts was holier than the Temple mount. The Court of Women was holier than the terrace and the Court of the Israelites was holier than it. Finally, the Court of the Priests was holier than all (m. Kelim 1.8-9). It should also be noted that, because the Temple was situated on the summit of a hill (Mt. Moriah), one ascended as one went up to the Temple and, once in the Temple, moved upwards towards the sanctuary (War 5.1.1; 9-11).

Of interest also is that there were no statues, votive offerings or plants in the Jerusalem Temple, a fact that gentiles found remarkable (see Hecataeus of Abdera [4th c. BCE] as quoted in Apion 1.199: "There is not a single statue or votive offering, no trace of a plant, in the form of a sacred grove or the like"). When they came to visit for festivals, some Jews in the second-Temple period brought to Jerusalem second-tithe money, ten percentage of their income after the first tithe was removed (see Deut 14:22-26; Jub. 32:11 Tobit 1:7; Ant. 4.205; m. Ma'aser Sheni). This meant that many Jews spent sizable sums of money in the city, which no doubt included purchases of types of sacrifices that they themselves could eat (fellowship and peace offerings).
2.3. Outer Courts

2.3.1. Temple Walls

The outer courts were surrounded by a high and thick wall. Josephus says that this wall was the "greatest ever heard of," which, although exaggerated, is not far from the truth (Ant. 15.11.3; 396). Parts of this wall still survive today and have recently been excavated down to their original ground level. The stones used are described by Josephus as "hard and white" (lithoi leukoi te kai krataioi) (Ant. 15.11.3; 392). Not surprisingly the limestone ashlars (blocks) used were large, especially those used in the lower courses and the corners. Josephus says that some of the stones were 40 cubits long (c. 20 m.) and six cubits (c. 3 m.) high (War 5.5.1; 189; Ant. 20.9.7; 221); the largest stone found to date is 12 m. x 3 m. x 4 m., weighing perhaps 400 tons or even more (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 88). Most of the other stones used were much smaller, between two and five tons each. The outer wall consisted of three rows of blocks and was about five meters thick (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 90-91); the huge blocks of stone were put into place by means of ramps and pulleys (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 84). The blocks were fitted together using the "dry construction" method, which means that no mortar was used in the construction; mortar would have required the use of lime, which was difficult and expensive to produce. Each block had a "marginal dressing," meaning that each had a frame or margin chiseled around its edge (M. ben Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 96). According to Josephus, the outer walls were so massive that Roman battering rams were unable to cause a breach in the outer western wall (War: 6.4.1; 220-22).


Marginal Dressing

The outer face of each block used in the construction of the outer wall was smoothed. Herod's masons then chiseled a margin around the edge of each block; in this way, anyone could easily see that the wall was composed of individual blocks. The margin varied from between one to two centimeters deep and nine to eighteen centimeters wide.

The height of the wall varied, but on the exterior to the south it extended more than thirty meters above ground level (Sanders, Judaism, 68). In some places, the actual height of the wall is fifty meters, because the foundation is twenty meters below ground level (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 77, 92). (Josephus says that  the actual height of the wall in some places was as high as 300 cubits (= c. 150 meters), but this seems to be in error; he is is correct, however, in noting in general that, "the whole depth of the foundations was not apparent; for they filled up a considerable part of the ravines, wishing to level the narrow alleys of the town" [War, 5.188].) On the top of the outer wall, there was a parapet on either side, in order to allow people safe access to the top of the wall. Josephus relates how once during a Passover celebration, a Roman soldier standing on the exterior Temple walls exposed himself to the Passover crowds, thereby causing a riot. As a result a massacre ensued as the Roman legionnaires attempted to restore order (Ant. 20.5.2; 104-12).

"Trumpeting Stone"

An inscription on what is probably part of the parapet of the outer wall is translated as "For [or to] the place of trumpeting to...." The last word may have been "to announce" (lhkryz). It was discovered during B. Mazar's excavations at the base of the Herodian wall at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. It probably served to indicate where a priest would stand to blow the trumpet to begin and end the Sabbath. Josephus explains the procedure, but seems to situate the place where it was done in the inner courts: "And the last [tower] was erected above the roof of the Priest's Chambers, where it was the custom for one of the priests to stand and to give notice, by the sound of a trumpet, in the afternoon of the approach, and on the following evening of the close, of every seventh day, announcing to the people the respective hours for ceasing work and for resuming their labors" (War 4.582-83).




Josephus describes how the outer wall was constructed (Ant. 15. 397-400). The outer walls were built around the base of the Temple mount, starting from the lowest point; the blocks were fastened to one another with lead (He also says that iron clamps were used on the inside of the blocks to join them together, giving the outer walls greater strength and stability). When the wall reached the designated height, the summit of the Temple mount was leveled off, and fill was brought in to fill up the empty space between the walls and the Temple mount, so that the outer walls functioned as retaining walls. This provided a level surface for the Temple complex. The result was that the ground level of the outer courts was higher than ground level outside of the Temple. Actually, the empty space between the summit and the outer walls was not completely filled in, for under the Temple complex towards the southeastern corner of the Temple are three stories of vaulted chambers, what is known today as "Solomon's Stables" (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 91). The empty space underground reduced the pressure exerted against the outer walls from within. These vaulted chambers were connected to the Triple Huldah Gate passageway and supported the floor of the Temple on the southeast side of the Temple complex (see also m. Para 3.3: "The Temple Mount and the Temple Courts had a hollow space beneath them in case there was a grave in the depths"). Obviously the outer wall would be almost impenetrable, especially since the Temple was surrounded on three sides by ravines; only the access from the north was relatively level. This explains why so frequently the Temple was used as a citadel.

Western or Wailing Wall

What is known as the Western Wall or the "Wailing Wall" is a portion of the outer western wall of the Herodian Temple; it is the traditional Jewish place of prayer. At present, the Western Wall measures c. 50 m. wide and c. 20 m high; the original ground level of this portion of the Herodian Temple, however, is several meters below present ground level.

2.3.2. Temple Gates

According to the Mishnah, one entered the Temple complex, surrounded by the outer wall, through one of five gates, two on the south and one each other side (m. Mid. 1.3); according to m. Mid. 2.3 the gates were ten cubits wide by twenty cubits high (c. five meters by ten meters). The gate on the west was known as the Coponius (Kiphonus) Gate (m. Mid. 1.3), which may correspond to what is today known as Barclay's Gate, named after the American J.T. Barclay, who identified the remains of the lintel and arch of this Herodian gate (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 116, 140-41). This gate took a person under the Temple and by means of stairs led up into the outer courts. Contrary to the Mishnah, however, archaeological evidence confirms that there was more than one gate on the west side, bordering the Tyropoeon valley. This is confirmed by Josephus who says that there were four gates leading into the Temple from the west (Ant. 15.11.5; 410); the Coponius (Kiphonus) Gate referred to in the Mishnah is the second gate from the southwest corner of the Temple. The most southerly of these four gates was situated twelve meters north of the southwest corner. In 1838, Edward Robinson identified the remains of an archway, now known as "Robinson's Arch," that once led to the place where this gate once stood; the supporting pier for the western edge of this arch was uncovered thirteen meters from the western wall.  

Robinson's Arch and Supporting Pier for Staircase

To the south of this pier, perpendicular to the archway, was uncovered the foundations of a row of vaults that rose gradually from south to north; these vaults supported a staircase connecting the street running along the Tyropoeon Valley with the Temple. Josephus may be describing this gate when he writes, "The last [gate] led to the other part of the city, from which it was separated by many steps going down to the ravine and from here up again to the hill" (Ant. 15.11.5; 410). It is clear both from Josephus' description and the archaeological evidence that one used this staircase in order to enter this southern-most gate on the western side of Temple complex. North of "Robinson's Arch" and "Barclay's Gate," which is probably the Coponius (Kiphonus) Gate, is located what is now known as "Wilson's Arch," named after the man who explored it in the late 1860's. This structure probably dates from the post-destruction period, but marks the location of another western gate similar to the most southerly gate (Robinson's Arch) (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 169-78). The northernmost gate along the western wall may have been situated at what is now known as "Warren's Gate," named after its discoverer, Charles Warren, who led the British expedition under the auspices of the Palestine Exploration Fund. What is visible at present is the upper portion of a blocked-up gate, which is probably a later Muslim reconstruction of a gate original to Herod's Temple (The arched lintel of "Warren's Gate" dates from the Muslim period, but the gate posts are probably from the second-Temple period [M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 145]). Like the Coponius (Kiphonus) Gate, this gate accessed the outer courts from underground. Josephus describes how, during the siege of the Temple, Titus burned some of the outer gates and how their silver plating melted to revealed a wooden interior, which soon caught fire; this fire soon spread to the porticoes, which had wooden components (War 6.4.2; 232-35). On the outside of the outer western wall of the Temple ran a street paved with stones; along the eastern side of the street, adjacent to the outer western Temple wall were many shops (see M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 80, 114).


Street Along
Western Wall

In the 1990's, further excavations were carried out along the outer western wall of Herod's Temple. After the removal of much debris, the street that ran along the west side of the Temple was uncovered. The street is 10 m. wide, and is paved with stones.  Along the outer wall there are the remains of shops that opened onto the street. Across from "Robinson's Arch" there was uncovered a pier that once supported it; it contains four cells that were probably used for the purpose of commerce.  

Remains of Shops Along Western Wall

A staircase led to a walkway that ran along the top of the shops along the western wall; it led to the two lower gates through which one entered into the Temple underground.

Staircase along
the Western Wall



Reconstruction of Southwest Corner of Temple
Urban Simulation Team

The two sets of southern gates are known as the two Huldah Gates, the double Huldah gate and the triple Huldah gate. It seems that the southern gates became the de facto main entrance to and exit from the Temple, because they were the most used. A paved street seven meters wide ran along the southern outer wall of the Temple in front of the Huldah gates for a distance of 280 meters. Access to the both Huldah gates was by means of staircases.

View of the Temple
Mount from the South

Beginning in 1968, Benjamin Mazar excavated the southern wall of Herod's Temple down to its original foundation. He discovered paved street and a staircase that provides access to a set of gates leading called the Double Huldah Gates.

The staircase in front of the double Huldah gate was 65 m. wide, while that in front of the triple Huldah gate was 15 m. (The staircase in front of the double Huldah gate alone still exists.) The risers on the steps are low, between seven and ten inches, and the treads vary between twelve and thirty-five inches; this irregularity forces a person to adopt an slow and deliberate gate when using the staircase, as if in a procession. The double Huldah gate served as an exit from the Temple, while the triple Huldah gate was used as an entrance (m. Mid. 1.3; 2.2) (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 113). The Mishnah says, "They entered from the right and exited to the left" (m. Mid. 2.2). The staircase in front of the double Huldah gate was wider than that in front of the triple Huldah gate in order to accommodate the simultaneous exit of people from the Temple when ceremonies or festivities ended and perhaps their lingering for the purpose of socializing. Entrance into the Temple would be more staggered in time and so a more narrow staircase sufficed. Both gates opened into highly-decorated tunnels that led upwards into the outer courts (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 136-37). As indicated, the passageway of the triple Huldah gate was connected to the vaulted chambers beneath the southeastern part of the Temple, what is now called "Solomon's stables," where there were stalls for animals. Presumably, those entering the Temple from the south could buy animals for sacrifice that were certified as valid by the Temple authority.

Double Huldah Gates

At present only half of the the right wing of the double Huldah gate is visible from the exterior. The lintel is probably original to Herod's Temple, but the arch and ornamentation are likely from the early Muslim period (H. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 138).

Reconstruction of the Double Huldah Gate
Urban Simulation Team

Reconstruction of the Passageway Linking Outer Courts to Double Huldah Gate
Urban Simulation Team

Triple Huldah Gates

To the east of the Double Huldah Gates was situated a set of three gates, called the Triple Huldah Gates. Leading up to these gates was a staircase. The present gates are not original to the Herodian period, but were built on their ruins (H. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 138). All that remains of the Herodian gates is part of the doorjamb on the bottom left.

The eastern gate led to the Mount of Olives, whereas the gate on the north, the Tadi Gate, was not used (m. Mid. 2.1). There also are the remains of an arch near the "seam" on the eastern wall, indicating that there used to be a entrance into the Temple at this point and that there was a street that ran under this arch parallel to the eastern wall (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 115-16).

2.3.3. Beyond the Walls

The area inside the outer walls is known as the outer courts or, as Josephus expresses, "the first court" (ho prôtos peribolos) (The Mishnah refers to the outer courts as the "Mount of the House"); the largest area within the outer court was to the south, then the east, then the north and finally the west (m. Mid. 2.1). It was paved with stones no doubt similar to the ones used for the street along the western wall (War 5.11.2; 192-93). Any person who was ritually pure, including a gentile, could enter into the outer courts.

Looking Out from the Royal Portico
Urban Simulation Team

Looking South towards Royal Portico
Urban Simulation Team

* John 2:13-16

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the Temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"

* Mark 11:15-19 (= Matt 21:12-17 = Luke 19:45-48)

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'" The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, they went out of the city.

There are two accounts of Jesus' taking offence at the use of the Temple for selling sacrificial animals and for the the exchanging of foreign coinage for Syrian shekels in order to pay the annual half shekel temple tax (see Matt 17:24-27). According to John's account, dealers were selling large sacrificial animals (cattle and sheep) and doves, whereas the synoptic account says that the dealers were only selling doves. Where the selling of sacrificial animals and the exchange of' money was taking place is not stated, but probably it was somewhere in the outer courts, possibly in the Royal Portico.

The outer court was surrounded by a portico adjacent to the inside of the walls (War 5.5.2; 191-93; Ant. 15.11.5; 410-416) (A portico is a porch, or walkway with a roof supported by columns). The portico consisted of three rows of columns, except along the southern wall where there were four rows of columns (Acts 2:46). The outermost columns were pilasters, columns set into the Temple wall (M. ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple, 93). The portico consisting of four rows of columns on the south was called the Royal Portico. Another one of these porticoes is called Solomon's Portico, which probably was situated along the east side of the outer court (John 10:23; Acts 3:11; Acts 5:12). Josephus gives an account of how Samaritans once during Passover scattered human bones in the porticoes and throughout the Temple, when the priests were accustomed to throwing open the gates of the temple after midnight; this had the effect of ritually contaminating the Temple (Ant. 18.2.2; 29).

Stoa of Attalos in Athens

The stoa of Attalos was originally built along the Athenian Agora in 150 BCE. It functioned as a commercial center and a shelter for wealthy and influential Athenians. The photograph above is of the lower level of a modern reconstruction of this ancient structure. The stoa of Attalos consisted of two stories with a Doric colonnade on the ground floor, and an Ionic upper colonnade with a balustrade. On both levels, there exist rooms behind the colonnades. The stoas in Herod's Temple no doubt resembled the stoa of Attalos in many respects.

* Luke 2:36-38

And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher....She never left the Temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.

The prophetess Anna, who recognizes Jesus as the Messiah when Mary brings him to the Temple to be presented to God as her firstborn and to purify herself after childbirth. It is said Anna was continually in the Temple fasting and praying. It is improbable, however, that she actually had a residence at the Temple.

* Luke 2:46

After three days they found him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

The teachers probably used the porticoes in the Temple as places of instruction, which means that Jesus was probably sitting in one of the porticoes of the Temple when this event occurred.

*Luke 24:51-53

While he [Jesus] was blessing them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the Temple praising God.

Between Jesus' ascension after Passover and the Day of Pentecost (Weeks), the disciples frequented the Temple, where they praised God.

*Acts 2:46

Every day they continued to meet together in the Temple. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

The earliest church met together in the Temple. Where exactly these first believers gathered is not certain, but it was probably in one of the porticoes.

With the exception of those along the southern wall, each column was twenty-five cubits high and made of a single piece of white marble; the ceiling of the portico was lined with cedar. On the three sides of the outer court the portico was thirty cubits wide (c. 30 x c. 18 inches =  45 feet or 30 x .5 m. = c. 15 m.) (War 5.11.2; 190). As indicated, the  portico on the south side of the Temple, the Royal Portico, consisted of four rows of columns, thereby creating three aisles; the two outer aisles were thirty feet (podes) wide and over fifty-feet high, whereas the middle aisle was one and half times wider than each of the outer aisles (i.e., forty-five feet wide) and twice as high (100 feet high). (Josephus uses the "foot" as a unit of measurement in this section rather than the cubit; this foot is approximately equal to the English foot.)  This implies that the columns used in the construction of the Royal Portico were taller than those used in the other porticoes. The wooden ceilings of the Royal Portico were decorated with carvings of different figures (Ant. 15.11.5; 413-17). Josephus says that there were 162 columns used in the Royal Portico, each with an impressive Corinthian capital; each of these columns was so wide that "it would take three men with outstretched arms touching one another to envelop it" (Ant. 15.11.5; 413). (Whether this was true for the columns used in the other porticoes is not said.) According to War 5.11.2; 192, the total circumference of the stoa adjacent to the inner wall of the outer court was six stadia (i.e., 6 x c. 607 feet or 184 m.), and in Ant. 15.11.5; 415, the length of the Royal Portico was one stadion (c. 607 feet or 184 m.). (His other statement that each side of the wall was one stadion conflicts with this.) These porticoes are not mentioned in the Mishnah, possibly because these were typically Greek architectural feature; but archaeologists have uncovered parts of the columns used in the construction of the porticoes (Sanders, Judaism, 59). According to Josephus, if one stood on the roof of the Royal Portico and looked down into the Kidron valley one would become dizzy, so great was the height (Ant. 15.11.5; 410). He also relates how, during the Roman attack on the Jewish revolutionaries who were in the Temple, some 6,000 women and children took refuge on the top of the one remaining portico not yet on fire; without orders, some Roman soldiers set fire to this portico, resulting in the deaths of those who had taken refuge there (War 6.5.1 277-78; 6.5.2; 283-85).

Reconstruction of the Royal Portico
Urban Simulation Team

* John 10:23; Acts 3:11; Acts 5:12

John 10:23: And Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Portico

Acts 3:11: While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Portico.

Acts 5:12: The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Portico.

Jesus is said to have walked in Solomon's Portico (John 10:23). Solomon's Portico is the place where people came to see the crippled beggar whom Peter healed and to hear Peter's explanation of this event (Acts 3:11). Solomon's Portico is the place the church met there in its earliest beginnings (Acts 5:12).

* Matt 4:5-7 (see Luke 4:9-12)

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the Temple. 6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "`He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' " 7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

It is possible that the highest point of the Temple could have been the roof of the Royal Portico, since ground level would be the bottom of the Kidron valley at the southeast section of the outer wall.


2.4. The Inner Courts

The inner courts were situated within the outer courts, to the southwest of it. Around the inner courts was a partition separating it from the outer courts. Josephus says that this partition was three cubits high, whereas m. Mid. 2.3 says that it was only ten handbreadths high, or almost half as high. This partition is called the soreg in the Mishnah, which derives from the verb srg, which means to interlace or plait, so that it seems to refer to some type of lattice work, the implication possibly being that it was made of wood. Josephus, however, calls this balustrade a druphaktos, by which is meant a railing or balustrade, and says that it was made of stone. So the two sources are divergent about the nature of this partition. Since he was an eyewitness, Josephus' account should be preferred. It is possible that the partition was a free-standing structure, but it may also have formed part of the vertical extremity of the terrace that lay beyond it. Regardless, it had warning signs regularly spaced along it advising gentiles that entrance into the inner courts was forbidden on pain of death (War 5.193; m. Mid. 2.3) (see also Josephus, War 6.124-26; Ant. 15. 417; Philo Leg. ad Gaium 212).

Temple Warning Sign

One complete and two fragmentary copies (all in Greek) of the warning to gentiles to proceed no further have been discovered. The inscription translates as follows: "No foreigner is to enter within the balustrade and terrace around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which follows." Both Greek (above) and Latin versions of this warning were posted at regular intervals around the balustrade (soreg).

* Acts 21:28-29

28 "Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place." 29  (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the Temple area.)

The Jews were very serious about keeping gentiles out of the inner courts, as is evidenced by the placement of these signs. It is no wonder that a riot ensued when Paul's opponents thought that he had violated this restriction by bringing Trophimus "into the Temple area" (eis ton hieron), i.e., beyond the soreg.

Beyond the balustrade (soreg) were stairs leading up to a terrace (called the chel in m. Kelim 1.8), ten cubits wide, which was bounded by the walls of the inner court. According to Josephus, there were fourteen steps leading up to the terrace, while the Mishnah states that there were only twelve steps (m. Mid. 2.3). The number in the Mishnah, however, is suspect because of the symbolic importance of the number twelve. Josephus explains that beyond the terrace lay other sets of five steps leading up to gates opening up into the inner courts (War 5.5.2; 196-97), but the Mishnah describes the terrace as bounded by the walls of the inner court with no additional steps (m. Mid. 2.3). On the exterior, the height of the wall (including the steps) separating the two courts was forty cubits (c. 20 meters), while on the inside it was twenty-five cubits (c. 12.5 meters), since the inner courts were elevated above the outer courts. According to the Mishnah, when Nisan 14 fell on the Sabbath (when carrying the sacrificed paschal offering out of the Temple was forbidden) the first group to offer the Passover remained in the outer court, the second group on the terrace surrounding the inner courts, inside of the soreg, whereas the last group waited where they sacrificed their lambs until sundown, when the Sabbath was concluded (m. Pesah. 5.10).

* John 5:14

14 Later Jesus found him at the Temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."

After he has healed a lame man at the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus finds him somewhere in the Temple and speaks to him.

* John 7:14-15

14 Not until halfway through the Festival did Jesus go up to the Temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?"

During the Festival of Tabernacles Jesus went into the Temple and taught. Exactly where he went in the Temple, however, is not stated.

According to Josephus, there were ten entrances into the inner courts, four on the south, four on the north, one on the east and one leading east to west from the Court of Women to the Court of the Israelites, called the Nicanor Gate (War 5.5.2; 198; m. Mid. 1.4). This is confirmed by the Mishnah, for m. Sheqal. 6.3 and m. Mid. 2.6 both indicate that there are four gates each on the south and north sides of the inner courts, in addition to the Nicanor Gate. According to m. Sheqal. 6.3 and m. Mid. 2.6, on the south side, from west to east, are found the Upper Gate, the Fuel Gate, the Firstling Gate and the Water Gate; on the north side, from west to east, are located the Jeconiah Gate, the Offering Gate, the Women Gate and the Song Gate. Only three of these gates actually lead into the women's court from the outer courts, one from the east, which may have been the Beautiful Gate (see below), the Song Gate from the north and the Water Gate from the south. There is a discrepancy in the Mishnah, however, concerning the number of gates leading into the inner courts. M. Mid. 1.4-5 says that there were only seven gates, three on the south, three on the north and one on the east. But this text may refer only to the gates on the north, south and east sides that lead into the Court of the Priests or the Court of the Israelites (what Josephus calls the "sacred [court]" and the "third court" Ant. 15.11.5; 419), omitting to mention that there were three more gates, one on the north, one on the south and one on the east, each of which led into the Court of Women. In addition, there is some disagreement on the names of the gates in this parallel passage. According to m. Mid. 1.4, the gates on the south were called the Fuel Gate, the Firstling Gate and the Water Gate. As indicated, these three names also occur in m. Sheqal. 6.3 and m. Mid. 2.6. Only one of the names of the three gates on the north side in m. Mid. 1.5, however, matches the names of the four northern gates mentioned in m. Sheqal. 6.3 and m. Mid. 2.6: the Offering Gate. The other two gates on the north side in m. Mid. 1.5 are called the Light Gate and the Gate of the Chamber of the Hearth. In m. Mid. 1.5, the Light Gate is said to be a peristyle (court enclosed by columns, or a portico) on the ground level with an entrance onto the surrounding terrace and also an upper story that the priests and Levites used to keep watch over the inner courts. With the exception of the Nicanor Gate, these gates were thirty cubits high and fifteen wide, and each had two doors and a gate room. (In Apion 2.8; 119, Josephus says that the gates were sixty cubits high and twenty wide, which seems to be an exaggeration.) The Nicanor Gate was forty-cubits wide and fifty cubits high. The nine gate rooms (exedra) were thirty cubits wide, thirty cubits deep and forty cubits high, each supported by two columns (War 5.5.3; 202-203). Elsewhere, Josephus says that these gate rooms each consisted of three rooms (Ant. 15.11.5; 418). According to m. Mid. 1.4 (see m. Mid. 2.6), the Nicanor Gate had two gate rooms, one on either side of it; one was called the Chamber of Phineas where the priest responsible for the distribution of priestly raiment carried out his duties, while the other room was used for the preparation of the meal-offering cakes. In m. Mid. 1.6, the Chamber of the Hearth, connected to the gate by the same name, is said to have four rooms opening into a reception room (Heb. trqlyn = Lat. torcularium), which were used for different purposes. The room to the southwest was the "Chamber of the Lamb Offerings," the one to the southeast the "Chamber of Shewbread," the one to the northeast the place where the Hasmoneans hid the defiled altar stones, and the room to the northwest was a chamber that led down to the "Chamber of Immersion," where priests would ritually cleanse themselves ritually when needed. The two rooms on the south were considered to be on sacred ground, whereas the two on the north were in non-sacred ground. The Chamber of the Hearth also had two gates, one opening onto the terrace and the other on to the Priest's Court. The gate that opened onto the Priest's Court had a small wicket (pšpt), i.e. a small door, built into or near a larger gate, that allowed priests access to the Priest's Court for the purpose of inspecting the Priest's Court (m. Mid. 1.7). It also had a vault and a large room, presumably the reception room referred to in m. Mid. 1.6, which was surrounded by what is called stone rwbdyn, which seem to be steps. The room served as sleeping quarters for the elders of the priests' divisions who had in their possession the keys to the Priest's Court (m. Mid. 1.8).

As indicated, the gate to the east leading into the Court of Women may have been the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:1-10) and was the principal entrance into the inner courts. (The inner courts were situated along an east-west axis, although the main entrance into the outer courts was from the south and west.)  Women were required to enter through the north or south gates (War 5.5.2; 199). Like the other gates, they that were overlaid with silver and gold (War 5.5.3; 201). This gate led into the Court of Women, where all Jews could enter, except those who were ritually impure (Apion 2.8; 104). The walls of the Court of Women were lined by porticoes, thereby creating a corridor from east to west (War 5.5.2; 200); along the walls of the Court of Women were storage chambers where Temple property or perhaps private property was stored (War 5.5.2; 200). When Herod was thought to be on his death bed, Josephus says that some youths, at the instigation of their teachers Judas and Matthias, pulled down a golden eagle that Herod had erected over the great gate of the Temple as a dedicatory offering (Ant. 17.6.1-3; 151-63 = War 1.33.2-4; 649-55). The Temple gate referred to is probably the Beautiful Gate. In their view, the biblical prohibition against images justified their action. The youths responsible climbed onto the roof, lowered themselves and cut the image down with axes.

* Acts 3:1-10

One day Peter and John were going up to the Temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2  Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the Temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the Temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10  they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the Temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

It was on the steps of the Beautiful Gate that Peter met the lame man and healed him.  The man sat there because this was the principal entrance into the inner courts and therefore the place with the greatest potential for receiving money.

  Somewhere among the chambers in the Court of Women was located the Temple treasury (gazophulakia), a place where money donated to the Temple or deposited privately was kept (War 5.5.2; 200; 6.5.2; 282; see Ant. 19.6.1; 294). According to the Mishnah there were located in the Temple thirteen horned-shaped depositories (shoparoth) designated for different types of offerings; people would deposit money in these depositories for different purposes (m. Sheq. 2.1; 6. 1, 5). It is probable that these thirteen depositories were located near the Temple treasury; the contents of these depositories were periodically emptied and stored in the Temple treasury.  (The same name is used for these depositories as for the Temple treasury itself.)  Probably, another name for the Temple treasury is "Storehouse of God" (tou theou thesauros) (see Ant. 17.10.2; 264; War 2.3.3; 50). Josephus relates how, when Archelaus was in Rome petitioning Augustus to confirm the last will of his father, Herod, a riot broke out in the Temple during the Festival of Weeks; Varus, proconsul of Syria, attempted to quell the disturbance. According to Josephus, the rioters climbed on top of the porticoes surrounding the outer court and attacked the Roman legionnaires from above. In retaliation, the Romans burned the porticoes feeding the fire with combustible materials until the porticoes collapsed (Josephus says that the porticoes had some wooden components, no doubt its beams, and even gold ornamentation). Pushing their way through the fire, the Romans made their way into the Temple treasury, which they proceeded to plunder (Ant. 17.10.2; 254-64 = War 2.3.2-3; 45-50). Josephus also says that when he was procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate illegally expropriated funds from the Temple treasury to build an aqueduct (Ant. 18.3.2; 60-62 = War 2.9.4; 175-77).

* John 8:20

He spoke these words while teaching in the Temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come.

Jesus taught somewhere near the Temple treasury, in the women's court, during the festival of Tabernacles.

* Luke 21:1-4

1 As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins [two lepta]. 3 "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

This event probably took place in the court of women, where there were depositories for different types of offerings; the rich and then this woman put their respective offerings in these depositories.

According to the Mishnah, which may be correct, there were four unroofed chambers in the four corners of the Court of Women. One was the place where unclean priests inspected the firewood removing wood that was worm-eaten; another was the room where those taking the Nazarite vow would cut their hair and cook their peace-offerings. A third was the place where lepers would cleanse themselves before presenting themselves before the priest (see Lev 14; Mark 1:44). According to t. Neg. 8:9 and m. Neg. 14:8, the leper who came to the Temple for final cleansing would immerse himself in "the chamber of the lepers" (lshkth hmtswr'im). This means that there must have been a ritual bath (mikveh) in this chamber. The Mishnah seems to refer to this chamber as being one of the two chambers closest to the eastern (i.e., Beautiful) gate; if so, in addition to the inspection of lepers, this chamber was also used for women to be purified after childbirth (Lev 12) and for the carrying out the ordeal for the suspected adulteress (Num 5:5-31) (m. Sotah 1.5; m. Tamid 5.6). (How often the latter was done is not known.) The fourth of these chambers was the place where drink offerings and grain offerings were kept (m. Mid. 2.5). Also, according to the Mishnah, which again may be correct, there was an elevated gallery in the Court of Women, probably on top of the portico roof on the south, east and north sides. It was meant for women to use in order to keep men and women from commingling (m. Mid. 2.5).

*Luke 2:22-25

And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord) [Exod 13:2, 12, 15], and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, "a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons" [Lev 12:8]. And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the Temple forty days after his birth for Mary to be purified by means of the sacrifice of doves or pigeons and for Jesus to be redeemed as the firstborn. It was during this time that they meet Simeon. This may have taken place in one of the four unroofed chambers in the Court of Women.

* Acts 21:26

Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the Temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, when the sacrifice would be offered for each one of them.

When Paul was in Jerusalem after his third missionary journey he went to the Temple (after purifying himself) with other men in order to give notice that they wanted to bring their Nazarite vow to an end (see Acts 18:18). This would require a sacrifice to be offered for each of them, the expense of which Paul agreed to assume. Where in the Temple this took place is not stated, but possibly it took place in the Court of Women near the unroofed chamber used for the completing of the Nazarite vow.

* Acts 22:17-18

17 It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the Temple, that I fell into a trance, 18 and I saw him saying to me, "Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me."

Paul explains that when he was in Jerusalem for the first time after his conversion that he was in the Temple praying when he fell into a trance and had a vision of Jesus telling him to leave the city. Where Paul was exactly when this event occured is unknown.

The Court of Women led into the Court of the Israelites via a curved staircase of fifteen steps, which led up to the Nicanor Gate (m. Mid. 1.4; 2.6). As indicated, according to Josephus, this gate was larger than the other nine gates (being fifty cubits high with doors forty cubits wide); its doors were supposed to have been made of Corinthian bronze (War 5.201) and it took twenty men to open and close it (War 6.5.3; 293). The Levites would stand on these steps when they sang the Song of Ascents (Pss 120–134), sung during the three pilgram festivals (m. Mid. 2.6). One first entered into the Court of Israelites, where only ritually pure Jewish men could enter (Ant. 15.11.5; 419). (According to Josephus, during the Roman attack on the revolutionaries who had taken refuge in the Temple, the Nicanor Gate opened of its own accord after having been closed and bolted [War 6.5.3; 293-94].) Under the Court of the Israelites there were chambers that opened out into the Court of the Women; these underground rooms were used for storage of equipment and musical instruments used by the Levites (m. Mid. 2.6). According to the Mishnah, the Court of the Israelites was 135 cubits wide and eleven cubits deep, and was separated from the Court of the Priests by a low balustrade, which was elevated above the Court of the Israelites by a few steps (War 5.5.6; 226; m. Mid. 2.6). The Mishnah also claims that the Court of Priests was 135 cubits wide and eleven cubits deep, whereas the entire Temple Court (seemingly excluding the Court of Women) was 135 cubits wide and 187 cubits deep (m. Mid. 2.6). If true, then probably what is referred to as the Court of Priests ("Hall of Priests") in m. Mid. 2.6 does not include the area in which the altar is found, because the altar would seem to be too large to fit comfortably into a space of eleven cubits; rather the eleven cubits is probably a space separating the altar from the Court of Israelites (see below).

The Mishnah indicates that there were six chambers (lškwt) along the north and south sides of the Court of Priests, three on the north side and three on the south side, corresponding to the six gates, set aside for special purposes. These are in addition to the Chamber of the Hearth on the north, connected to the gate of the same name. On the north side there was the "Salt Chamber" where salt used for sacrifices was stored, the Parvah Chamber where the hides of the sacrifices were salted and the "Rinsing Chamber" where sacrifices were rinsed (probably the innards of sacrifices). On the south side, were located the "Wood Chamber," the function of which was forgotten, the "Diaspora Chamber," where the water supply for the Temple was controlled, and the "Gazith Chamber" (i.e., Hewn Stone Chamber) where the Sanhedrin used to meet to judge the priesthood (m. Mid. 5.3-4). There may have been more chamber than these, but they are not named in the sources. Around the courtyard and between the gates there were porticos (War 5.200).

    In the Court of Priests stood the altar, the ramp, the shambles, and the laver among other things needed for sacrifice (War 5.5.6; 225; m. Mid. 3.1, 6; 5.2; m. Tamid 1.4). (There is also a reference to the "Chamber of Utensils" in m. Tamid 3.4.) According to m. Mid. 3.1, the base of the altar was thirty-two cubits square, rose one cubit from the ground and had a one cubit wide ledge around it; on the base stood the altar itself, five cubits high with a one cubit ledge around it. Josephus, who may be more credible, however, indicates that the altar was fifteen cubits high and fifty cubits square (War 5.5.6; 225). On each corner of the altar there were four "horns." Leading up to the altar on the south side was a ramp; on the west side of the ramp was a "cavity" where disqualified bird offerings were thrown (m. Mid. 3.3). The Letter of Aristeas describes a drainage system connected to the altar in the pre-Herodian Temple for the purpose of washing away sacrificial blood (89-90); since the Mishnah also refers to a system for the elimination of sacrificial blood (m. Mid. 3.2), likely this indispensable feature was retained in the Herodian Temple. According to m. Mid. 3.2, at the southwest corner of the altar there were two holes through which blood was flushed away by water into the Kidron valley. Also at the same corner of the altar there was a pit covered by a paving stone functioning as a lid; the paving stone had a ring in it with which to remove it (m. Mid. 3.3). Priests probably poured what remained of libations into this pit. According to Josephus, there was a day set aside in the year for the people to bring an offering of wood to be used for the altar (War 2.425). To the north of the altar there were rows of rings affixed to the ground, which were used in the slaughtering of animals. (It seems that the animal's head was put into the ring to keep it immobile.)  In the same location was found the shambles ("House of Slaughter") where the animal was killed and flayed (m. Mid. 3.5). To the south, between the sanctuary portico and altar was situated the laver (m. Mid. 3.6). According to biblical prescription, priests would wash their hands and feet in the laver before making sacrifices.

The sanctuary (hykl), consisting most importantly of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, was situated west of the Court of the Priests; to the west of the altar was a portico functioning as a propylaeum (also called propylon) (an entrance or vestibule) to the building behind it (War 5.5.3; 206). (The Mishnah refers to this as the 'wlm [m. Mid. 3.7].) According to m. Mid. 4.7, the portico was called the "Chamber of the Slaughter-knives" because knives used for killing sacrificial animals were stored there. The entire sanctuary was wider in front and narrower behind (War 5.5.4; 207; m. Mid. 4.7 "like a lion"). The portico was 100 cubits across and 100 cubits high; the width of the building behind the portico was sixty cubits  (War 5.5.4; 207; 5.5.5; 221); according to m. Mid. 4.7, from east to west, the sanctuary was 100 cubits. The exterior of the building was covered with gold so that it reflected the sunlight (War 5.5.6; 222); this part of the Temple was the most elevated so that the gold would be visible from afar off. There were golden spikes affixed to the roof of the sanctuary to keep birds from landing on it (War 5.5.6; 223-24; m. Mid. 4.6).

Image of Temple on Coin Minted during the "Bar Kochba" Revolt

During the revolt of 132-135 CE led by Simon ben Kosiba, who become known as "Bar Kochba" or "Son of a Star" (see Num 24:17), Jews began to mint their own coinage. On the obverse of this coin is represented the portico in front of the sanctuary; the inscription written in ancient Hebrew letters is "Jerusalem." Since only relatively few years had elapsed between the destruction of the Temple by the Romans and the minting of this coin, it is conceivable that the image represents how the sanctuary appeared before its destruction by the Romans.

The reverse of the coin displays a lulav (myrtle, palm branch, and willow tied in a bundle) and ethrog (citrus fruit), which are used in the celebration of the Jewish holiday Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles (see Lev 23:40). The inscription reads: "Year Two of the Freedom of Israel."

One ascended twelve steps up to the portico functioning as a propylaeum into which one entered through a gate with no doors; this entrance was seventy cubits high and twenty five cubits wide (War 5.5.4; 208). (The Mishnah states the dimensions of this entrance, however, as forty cubits high and twenty cubits wide [m. Mid. 3.7].)  Moving westward, one entered through the portico into the Holy Place, where only priests could enter. There were two doors fifty-five cubits high and sixteen wide, separating the portico from the Holy Place, each covered with gold, and above these were golden vines (War 5.5.4; 210; Ant. 15.9.2; 394; m. Mid. 3.8; see also Tacitus. Hist. 5.5). These golden vines may have hung from free-standing columns on either side of the doorway (Shanks, Jerusalem's Temple Mount, 95). In front of the doors, but presumably not obscuring them, hung a tapestry (War 5.5.4; 210). According to m. Yoma 3.10, Queen Helena donated a golden lamp that hung over the entrance of the sanctuary (hykl). In m. Mid. 4.1, it is specified that there were actually two sets of two doors separating the Holy Place from the portico; moreover, each of the four doors was a double door and would fold back on itself (m. Mid. 4.1). To open both sets of doors, a priest would enter through a small door on the north side of the portico and make his way into a room that led to a corridor between the two doors where he would open each set of doors; the smaller door also provided access into the Holy Place (m. Mid. 4.2). One could see through the entrance of the portico to the doors separating the portico from the Holy Place (War 5.5.4; 208). In the Holy Place stood the menorah, the incense altar, and the table of shewbread (War 5.5.5; 217) (see Luke 1:5-25). In one of the bas-reliefs of the arch of Titus in Rome, the table of shew-bread is depicted being carried as part of the Temple plunder in a triumphal procession; also included are trumpets, censers and the Menorah (see below).


Depicted on one the bas-reliefs of the Arch of Titus in Rome is Titus' soldiers carrying plunder from the Temple, which included the menorah. The depiction is credible since the menorah was probably still in Rome at the time when the arch was constructed. Josephus describes the menorah as "made of gold but constructed on a different pattern from those we use in ordinary life. Affixed to a pedestal was a central shaft, from which there extended slender branches, arranged trident-fashion, a wrought lamp being attached to the extremity of each branch; of these there were seven, indicating the honor paid to the number among the Jews" (War 7.148-50).

Two fragments of a representation of a menorah in unpainted plaster were discovered in the debris of a house in Jerusalem from the Herodian period. Most likely, it is a copy of the menorah used in the Temple.

Inside the central chamber of the ruins of a recently discovered ancient synagogue at Migdal, or Migdala, in Aramaic, near the Sea of Galilee, dating from between 50-100 CE, was found a decorated stone with a depiction of menorah flanked by amphorae (earthenware vessels) on either side. inside its central chamber. The central chamber is about 120 square meters in size with stone benches along the sides. The dig was conducted by Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najer of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

*Luke 1:8-11

Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.

Zechariah, a priest, was chosen by lot to burn incense to the Lord; thus he would have been in the holy place, where the altar of incense was situated.

To the west of the Holy Place lay the "shrine" (debir) or Holy of Holies (qodesh qodashim) where only the High Priest could enter once a year on the Day of Atonement; there was nothing in the Holy of Holies (War 5.5.5; 219; m. Mid. 4.7). The fact that there was no image of God in the holy of holies (or anywhere else in the Temple) was unusual in the ancient world and was incomprehensible to non-Jews. In fact, Josephus explains in some detail how, when he became emperor, Gaius (Caligula) ordered Petronius, proconsul of Syria, to erect a statue of him in the sanctuary (naos) because he wanted the Jews to venerate him as a god. Petronius protested and delayed, and Gaius died before Petronius carried out the order, to the relief of all sensible people. (The Jews did agree to offer two sacrifices daily for the benefit of Caesar [Ant. 18.8.2-9; 261-309 = War 2.10.1-5; 184-203].) In m. Yoma 5.2, it is explained that there was a stone called "Foundation" (shetijah) three finger breadths high in the Holy of Holies intended as a platform for the missing ark of the covenant. A curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place (War 5.5.4; 212-13; 5..5.5; 219). Josephus describes this curtain in some detail.

"It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful. Nor was this mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe; for by the scarlet there seemed to be enigmatically signified fire, by the fine flax the earth, by the blue the air, and by the purple the sea; two of them having their colors the foundation of this resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their own origin for that foundation, the earth producing the one, and the sea the other. This curtain had also embroidered upon it all that was mystical in the heavens, excepting that of the [twelve] signs, representing living creatures" (War 5.5.4; 212-13).

* Mark 15:38 (= Matt 27:51)

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

According to the gospels, the veil separating the holy place from the holy of holies was torn in two from top to bottom  at the time of Jesus' death.

There is some evidence that there were in fact two curtains, a cubit apart (half a meter), separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (m. Yoma 5.1; see Heb 9:3). Philo explains that the outer curtain was called the "covering" (kalumma) whereas the inner curtain was called the "veil" (katapetasma) (Vita Mos. 2.101).

To the north, south and west sides of the sanctuary (the Holy Place and Holy of Holies) (sixty cubits in height) were three stories of interconnected widowless rooms, thirty-eight in all; access to these rooms was from the two sides of the portico (War 5.5.5; 220-21). The Mishnah describes these rooms and their functions in some detail. According to this source, there were three stories of five rooms on the north and the south; on the west side there were two stories of three rooms and a third story of two rooms, for a total of thirty-eight rooms. These rooms were connected to one one another on either side as well as above and below. In addition, there was a winding staircase that led from the lower northeast corner to the upper northwest corner; one then traveled along a corridor on the west side moving south and, reaching the end, one turned east and traveled along the south side until one reached the entrance to the story above the sanctuary. From this upper story one could ascend a ladder until one reached the roof. In the upper story there were openings into the Holy of Holies from which workers could be lowered facing the wall in order to make repairs (m. Mid. 4.3-5). The use to which the upper portion of the sanctuary (forty cubits in height) was put is not known (War 5.5.5; 221).

In the north west corner of the Temple mount stood the Antonia citadel, a Roman garrison where the procurator resided when in Jerusalem; it was connected to the outer court of the Temple by an underground passage (Ant. 15.11.7; 424).  This citadel was formerly called the baris (Heb. birah) (see Ant. 15.11.4; 403). There was an secret underground passage from the Antonia to the inner courts of the Temple (Ant. 15.11.7; 424). It seems also that there was access to the top of the outer walls of the Temple from the Antonia (War 2.15.6; 330; 6.2.9; 165).

* Acts 21:30-32; 22:24

30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the Temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32  He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

22: 24 The commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this.

The rioters probably dragged Paul from the inner courts to the outer courts, and beat him there. The Roman soldiers rushed into the outer courts of the Temple from the Antonia citadel and took Paul there for interrogation.

* Mark 15:1-5 (see Matt 27:1-2, 11-14; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-38)

1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.  2 "Are you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate. "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. 3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4  So again Pilate asked him, "Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of." 5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Jesus' interrogation by Pilate may have taken place in the Antonia citadel.



3. Attitudes Towards the Temple in the Second-Temple Period

Most Jews during the second Temple period recognized the Temple as a Jewish cultic center and made use of it, according to their interpretation of the biblical prescriptions. Evidence of this is the positive references to the Temple and its religious significance in Sirach, Letter of Aristeas and the writings of Philo of Alexandria (Spec. Laws, 1.141-44; 66-345; Embassy 156).

Some Jews during the second-Temple period believed that the second Temple would be replaced by a third, eschatological Temple. The author of Tobit, writing sometime in the second century BCE, states that the Temple rebuilt under Nehemiah will be replaced by a third Temple, built at the final restoration of Israel to the land "according to what the prophets of Israel have said" (Tobit 14.5). (Although many of the Hebrew prophets foretell the rebuilding of the Temple, only Ezekiel gives a detailed description [Ezek 40-48].) In a more polemical context, the author of the Animal Apocalypse found in 1 Enoch affirms that at the end God will remove the "old house" and replace it with a "new house" (90.28-29). By house is meant either Temple or the city of Jerusalem, which would include the Temple. The former Temple is said to have been defiled (89.73). Likewise, in the Apocalypse of Weeks in 1 Enoch, in the eighth week, the time of the eschaton, it is said that there will be built "a house," i.e., Temple, for the Great King forever. Presumably, the existing Temple is to be replaced. The Temple Scroll found at Qumran distinguishes the present Temple from the eschatological Temple yet to be built and destined to last forever (11QTemple 29.8-10) (See also 4Q174 1; Jubilees 1.15-29; 25.21; Testament of Benjamin 9.2; Sybilline Oracles 3.294, 702-20, 772-74; 5.414-33.) The Qumran sectarian community forbade its members from entering or making use of the second Temple "during the age of wickedness" (CD 6.11b-14). If it is a sectarian document, the Temple Scroll represents a description of the Temple that is to replace the present defiled one. It seems, however, that the community understood "the council of the community," the ruling body of the community, as a temporary replacement of the Temple. The council of the community is described in terms befitting the Temple and said to provide atonement for the community (1QS 8.5-8; 9.3-6).