THE TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XIV
Robert Appleton Company, 1912.
The word "temple" is derived from the Latin templum, signifying an uncovered place affording a view of the surrounding region; in a narrower sense it signifies a place sacred to the Divinity, a sanctuary. In the Bible the sanctuary of Jerusalem bears the Hebrew name of Bet Yehovah (house of Jehovah). The sacred edifice consisted of two chief halls, one called hekal (house or temple), or qodes (the Holy), and the other debir (that which is the oracle), or godesh haggodashim (the Holy of Holies). The New Testament speaks of it as oikos, "the house", ouaos, Latin cella, "the most holy place of the temple" and hieron, "the whole of the sacred enclosure". The temple which Solomon erected to the Lord about 966 B.C. was destroyed by Nabuchodonozor in 586 B.C. After the return from captivity Zorobabel raised it again from its ruins (537 B.C.), but in such modest conditions that the ancients who had seen the former Temple wept. In the eighteenth year of his reign, which corresponds to 19 B.C., King Herod destroyed the Temple of Zorobabel to replace it by another which would equal, if not surpass in splendour, that of Solomon.
Many writers admit three temples materially different. Now as the Prophet aggeus (Vulg., ii, 10) says of that of Zorobabel: "Great shall be the glory of this last house more that of the first", because of the coming of the Messias (v,8-9), they claim that this prophecy was not fulfilled b ecause Christ never entered the second Temple. Others assert that Zorobabel's work was not completely destroyed but gradually replaced by a larger and much richer temple (Josephus, "Ant. Jud.," ed. Dindorf, XV, xi, 2), and they consequently admit only two materially different temples. The whole difficulty disappears if we choose the Septuagint in preference to the Vulgate. The Prophet has already asked: "Who is left among you, that saw this house in its first glory? (ii, 4). According to Septuagint he afterwards sys: "The last glory of this house shall be greater than its first glory." To the Prophet, therefore, there was but one and the same house of Jehovah from Solomon to the time of Messias, built always in the same place and according to the same plan, that of the Tabernacle. We may therefore admit three different temples, and this article will describe: I. That of Solomon; II. That of Zorobabel; III. That of Herod.
Temple of Solomon
Through a motive of pride David had commanded the numbering of his people, in punishment of which God decimated the Israelites by a pestilence. One day the king saw near the threshing-floor of Onan (Areuna) the Jebusite an angel about to strike the people of the city, whereupon David humbled himself before the Lord, Who forgave him and stayed the plaguer. The king hastened to purchase the property of the Jebusite for fifty sicles of silver and built an altar on the threshing-floor, upon which he offered holocausts and peace-offerings (II Kings, xxiv).This hill, which is the Mount Moria (II Par., iii, I) of Genesis (xxii, 2), was thenceforth destined to be the site of the Temple of Jehovah, for which David had already amassed great treasures, but the building of which was reserved to Solomon. As hitherto the Hebrews had not cultivated the arts, Solomon addressed himself to Hiram, King of Tyre in Phoenicia, to obtain builders and skilful workers in stone, brass, and the cedar and cypress wood of Lebanon. After seven and a half years of toil the king was able to dedicate solemnly the Temple of the true God. Near the sacred precincts he afterwards built large buildings, among which the Bible makes special mention of the palace of the king, that of the queen, Pharao's daughter, the house of the forest, the porch of the throne, and that of pillars.
Mount Moria, which stretches from north to south, is a long spur, or promontory, connected at the north with Mount Bezetha and bounded on the east and west by two deep valleys which are joined at their southern extremity (see JERUSALEM, VIII, 345 d). Between its two steep declivities the crest of the hill afforded but narrow space for buildings, and to secure an adequate site for the Temple, the courts, and royal palaces a platform was formed by raising sustaining walls of carefully-hewn beautiful stones measuring eight or ten cubits (III Kings, v, 17; vii, 9-10). According to Jewish tradition the Temple stood on the highest point of Mount Moria, while the royal quarters were built south of its enclosure and on a lower level.
It is generally admitted that the "sacred rock" in the centre of the Mosque of Omar (see JERUSALEM, VIII, 360 d) formed the foundation of the altar of holocausts in the Temple of Jerusalem. On this hill, according to an ancient tradition, Abraham made ready to sacrifice his son Isaac; here, near the threshing-floor of Ornan, the exterminating angel restored his sword to its scabbard; and on this threshing-floor, which according to custom was situated at the highest point, David erected an altar to the Lord. If this prominent rock was constantly spared at the various rebuildings of the platform it must have been because of its associations. Moreover, it corresponds to all the requirements of Exodus (xx, 24 sq.) for the altar of holocausts. It is a limestone rock, unhewn and irregular, fifty-eight feet long, by forty-five wide, and standing three or four feet above the ground. Furthermore, in its upper almost level surface there is a hole whereby it is believed the blood and the water of the ablutions flowed into the cavity beneath to be carried off by a subterranean conduit to the valley of Cedron. The Mishna (Yoma, II, i) asserts that under the altar of holocausts there was a canal of this kind. This point admitted, the "sacred rock" will serve as a mark to discover the exact site of the house of Jehovah, because the latter opened to the east opposite the altar of holocausts and consequently west of the court of the priests which contained the altar.
The chief sources of information concerning the plan, construction, and adornment of the Temple are, first III Kings, vi, vii; then the parallel account in II Par., iii, iv, which tends to magnify the dimensions immeasurably. The Prophet Ezechiel described the Temple in the light of a heavenly vision, and though his description is symbolic it agrees in its essential features with that of the Book of Kings; to all appearances he describes the Lord's house as he saw it while he performed his priestly duties. The information supplied by Josephus and the Middoth treatise of the Mishna inspires less confidence; it seems based rather on the Temple of Herod than on that of Solomon. Indeed we possess but a brief description of the first Temple and technical terms used by the Bible are not always readily intelligible in modern times; hence there is great diversity of opinion among writers who have attempted to reconstruct the Temple of Solomon in its architectural details.
Architecture and Measurement
Solomon reproduced in solid materials and double proportions the Tabernacle which Moses had built in the desert (Wisdom, ix, 8), the entire plan of which s therefore outlined (Ex., xxvi, xxxvi). With regard to the style adopted by the Phoenician architects we know simply that at that period the architecture of all Semitic peoples was very similar to that of the Egyptians. In cubit formed of the breadth of six hands or twenty-four fingers and equal to 1 ft. 5 3/4 inches; the large or royal cubit, which was a handbreadth (three inches) longer. The lesser cubit of six hands, or twenty-four fingers, existed in the eastern empire, but it was somewhat longer, being equal to 1 ft. 7 1/3 inches. The large or royal cubit was likewise longer, being equal to 1 ft. 9 1/6 inches. Now judging from the excavations made at Taanath and Megiddo in Palestine the royal Babylonian cubit, introduced by the long Chaldean domination, was the one in use at that time (Benzinger, "Hebr. Archaologie", 190). It is probable that only the small cubit was in use at the time of the Babylonian Captivity, hence the sacred writer (II Par. iii, 3) gives the dimensions of the Temple by the "first measure", or ancient cubit, and Ezechiel (xl, 5; xliii, 13) adds to each cubit a handbreadth (the ancient palmus minor, one sixth of the small cubit)in order to obtain the length given in the Book of Kings. The royal Babylonian cubit therefore was the mesura verissima (Ezech., xliii, 13) used in the construction of the Temple of Solomon.
The Holy Place; the Holy of Holies
The house of God was of rectangular shape, sixty cubits long from east to west by twenty cubits wide and thirty high (III Kings, vi, 2; II Par., iii, 3). These were the interior dimensions which did not include the thickness of the walls, as is shown by numerous texts. This space was divided into two chambers of unequal size. The first, the hekal, or Holy Place (see plan, fig. I), was forty cubits long by twenty wide. It was entered at the eastern end by a square gate (III Kings, vi, 33), ten cubits in breadth (Ezech., xli, 2). The framework was of wild-olive wood, furnished with two doors of cypress wood. Each door was subdivided vertically into two leaves which folded by means of hinges (III Kings, vi, 33, 34). On the other side of the compartment was a pentagonal-shaped gate (III Kings, vi, 31) with an opening of six cubits through a partition wall two cubits in thickness (Ezech., xli, 3-4). It opened into the debir, or Holy of Holies (2), a chamber measuring twenty cubits every way.
The two doors of wild-olive wood in the gate opened towards the east and stood always open to allow the passage of fresh air and the smoke of incense to enter the interior, but a veil of byssus in violet, purple, and scarlet, embroidered with cherubim, always concealed flowers to be carved and overlaid with gold (III Kings, vi, 32, 35). The walls of debir and hekal were lined with boards of cedar adorned with colocinths and flowers carved in relief and profusely overlaid with gold. Within the debir even the fir-wood floor was covered with chains of the same metal (III Kings, vi, 15).
The whole building, including the Holy of Holies which formed the chief part, was thirty cubits high. Now as the interior of the debir was only twenty cubits high there must have been above it a space of ten cubits. The height of the Holy Place is not indicated in the Bible, but there is mention of "cenacles", or upper chambers (II Par., iii, 9); hence the Holy Place must have been of the same height as the hekal was the vestibule or porch (3) ulam, Greek pronaos, of the same length as the Temple but only ten cubits deep (III Kings, vi, 3); it was a kind of stately tower, recalling the pylons of the Egyptian temples and like them having a large gateway without doors. II Paralipomenon (iii, 4) states that its height was one hundred and twenty cubits. But a porch six times higher than it was long would be so out of proportion that many exegetes are inclined to reduce this figure to sixty cubits, the height of the porch of the Temple of Zorobabel. According to Ezechiel the walls were six cubits thick.
Along the other three sides of the sanctuary rose a building divided into three stories (III Kings, vi, 5-6), each story having thirty chambers [Ez., xli,6; Ant. Jud., VIII, iii,2]. (4) The house of Jehovah was so sacred that the beams of cedar which supported the ceilings of the side chambers were not suffered to be fastened to the walls of the Temple; hence in the walls of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies there were three recesses in which rested the ends of the joists. Thus the under chambers were five cubits in breadth, those of the first floor six cubits, and those of the second seven. Each story was five cubits high. The entrance was by a door (5) which opened to the south (III Kings, vi, 6-8); Ez.(xli,II) mentions another (6) on the north, which would be very natural. Ascent from one floor to another was made by means of a winding-stair (7), and it is very probable that the upper chambers, or cenacles, were reached by way of one of the stories of the porch. In these low-ceiled and narrow cells were preserved the archives, the public treasure, the accessories of worship, and the sacred vestments (III Kings, viii, 4; II Par., v.5). In this manner the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies were completely surrounded by imposing structures.
Roofs and Windows
The Temple was covered with a roofing formed of beams and planks of cedar (III Kings, vi, 9). Any broad surface which rests on a framework instead of on arches of mason work is unstable and cannot prevent the rain leaking through; hence it is our opinion that the roofs of Solomon's temple were sloping, and the planks covered with large slabs. On the other hand several writers consider that they were flat. The upper story of the Holy of Holies, the numerous small chambers of the adjacent building, as also the porch, were furnished with windows having fixed gratings of wood, of which mention is made in the text (III Kings, vi,4). The walls of the hekal had similar openings at the north and south, at least in the lower portion; but the position of these windows scarcely allowed the admission of light into the large chamber, which, furthermore, was lighted night and day by numerous lamps. The windows were intended rather to permit the circulation of fresh air and the escape of incense-smoke through the side chambers. The Holy of Holies seems to have had no windows and was always enveloped in darkness (III Kings, viii, 12).
It should be borne in mind that the entire building was constructed of the beautiful red and white limestone of the country, which could be polished like marble. We cannot believe that such a sumptuous monument was built on the earth without any foundations. Moreover Ezechiel tells us (xli, 8) that it rested on a foundation six cubits high, which formed all about it a border five cubits broad (8). The porch was reached by a stairway of ten steps [Ezech, xl, 49, (9)], which in ancient times were always rather high. At the top of the stairway on the foundation stood two pillars of molten brass each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits in circumference (III Kings, vii, 15). The pillars were hollow, but the metal was four fingers in thickness (Jer., lii, 21). The capitals which surmounted them were five cubits high, and their tops were fashioned in the shape of lilies. They were richly adorned with network, garlands, pomegranates, foliage, etc., but despite the details furnished by the Bible (III Kings, vii, 16-19; II Par., iii, 13-17), it is very difficult to reconstruct them in their true form. The pillar which stood at the right of the porch door (10) was called Jachin, "He will establish", and that on the left Booz, "in strength". There is no mention in the text of base or pedestal, but some sort of a base would not have been out of place. Despite their squat shape these magnificent pillars recall the obelisks before the pylons of the Egyptian temples.
In the hekal before the gate of the debir stood the altar of incense, a rectangular square chest of cedar wood, each side measuring a cubit wide and two cubits high. The wood was completely covered with plates of gold (III Kings, vi, 20, 22; vii, 48; I Par., xviii, 18; II Par., iv, 19). At the north side stood the table of gold on which the loaves of proposition were set every Sabbath. III Kings, vii, 48, speaks of only one golden table for these sacred loaves, while I par., xxviii, 16, and II Par., iv, 19, mention several but the text has been mutilated by the copyist, for elsewhere (II Par., xiii, II, and xxix, 18) there is likewise mention of only one. The ten tables of II Par., iv, 8, were those which held the candlesticks. On each side of the south and north courts stood five candlesticks of pure gold adorned with flowers which held gold oil-lamps, probably seven in number. The snuffers, bowls, knives mortars, cups, censers, and other vessels were likewise all of pure gold (III Kings, vii, 48-50; II Par., iv, 8-9; 21-22). The Ark of the covenant made by Moses in the Desert, with its staves, stood in the debir (III Kings, viii, 6). It contained a golden vessel holding manna, the rod of Aaron, and the two tables of the Law (Heb., ix, 4). At the ends of the Ark with wings outspread stood two cherubim ten cubits high carved from wild-olive wood and covered with gold. The inner wings met above the mercy-seat or cover of the Ark and the outer wings touched the walls (see ARK).
Court of the Priests
On the north, south, and west sides of the building was a court about twenty cubits wide which extended in front of the house a distance of one hundred cubits each way (Ez., xl,47). This was the "inner court" (III Kings, vi,36), called also the "court of the priests" (II Par., iv, 9), because they alone entered it, laymen being admitted only in exceptional circumstances (cf. IV Kings, xii, 12; Jer. xxxv, 1 sq., and xxxvi) (10). It was surrounded by a wall of three rows of polished stones and one row of beams of cedar (III Kings, vi,36), probably placed edgewise in the form of a railing. The court was paved with stone slabs (II Par., vii,3) and was entered by three doorways on the north, south, and east sides (Jer., xxxviii, 14; lii, 24; Ez., xl, 28, 32, 35), the last-named was called the "king's gate" (I Par., ix, 18). In this court opposite the porch gate and at a distance of twenty-two cubits stood the brazen altar of holocausts (III Kings, viii, 64), which was twenty cubits in length and breadth and ten cubits high (II Par., iv,1). The ascent to it was made by an incline facing the east. According to Ez., xlii, 13 sq., the altar consisted of a square base measuring twenty cubits on the sides and one cubit high, with a trench around the border; on the base stood a large section eighteen cubits sideways and two high, above which was a second section sixteen cubits sideways and four high. Lastly came the harel, "mountain of God", measuring fourteen cubits on the sides and two high. The top of the altar consisted of the ariel, "hearth of God", having at each corner a horn one cubit high, and of a section one cubit high surmounted by a crown.
Between the Temple and the altar, but somewhat towards the south, was the famous "sea of molten brass", a vessel "round all about", the height of it five cubits and the diameter ten cubits. The outer brim which was a handbreadth (four fingers) in thickness was adorned with colocynths. It contained 2000 bates (III Kings, vii, 23-26). (The capacity must have been doubled by a copyist, for a bate equals 36.4 litres; but the interior diameter of the vessel instead of allowing a capacity of 72,800 litres allows barely 36,000.) The brazen sea rested upon twelve oxen, likewise of brass, which stood in four groups facing the four cardinal points.. This magnificent vessel was used by the priests for washing their hands and feet at the hours of sacrifice. Along each of the right and left wings of the Temple were arranged five movable brazen vessels. On four wheels a cubit and a half in diameter stood a base four cubits in width and length and three high; the ledges were decorated with figures of oxen, lions and cherubim. On this vehicle was fixed a cylinder a cubit and a half in diameter and a cubit high, on which was placed a laver four cubits in diameter and shaped like an elongated dish. Four shoulders fastened at the four corners of the base supported the laver (III Kings, vii, 27-39). These movable lavers each having a capacity of forty bates, were chiefly used for washing the flesh of the victims. There has recently been discovered at Larnaca in Cyprus a Phoenician vessel in brass which corresponds in the smallest details to that described in the Bible (Benzinger, op. cit., 218, 221).
The inner court (III Kings, vi, 36), also called the "upper court" (Jer., xxxvi, 10), implies the existence of an outer and lower court, and the court of the priests (II Par., iv, 49) supposes another for laymen. There is mention of still another in the time of Josaphat (II Par., xx, 5), but we have very little interesting information concerning there courts, which must have been completed and adorned by the successors of Solomon. It is stated, for instance, that Joatham "built the highest gate of the house of the Lord" (IV Kings, xv, 35), which refers to a new gate, probably north of a court. On the other hand Achaz replaced the altar of holocaust by another, the model of which he had seen at Damascus. He also removed the twelve brazen oxen and the graven bases of the ten movable lavers and changed the gate of the Sabbath and the outer entrance for the king (IV Kings, xvi, 10-18). Ezechias emptied the treasury of the Temple and took away the plates of gold and silver with which he himself had covered the doors and the lintels, and gave them to purchase peace from Sennacherib (IV Kings, xviii, 15-16). Manasses profaned the Temple of Jehovah by the worship of idols (IV Kings, xxi, 4). At last the monument of Solomon, in ancient times more celebrated for its splendour than its size, was reduced to ashes by Nabuchodonosor in 586.
Temple rebuilt by Zorobabel
In 537 Sassabasar, appointed Governor of Jerusalem by Cyrus, King of Persia, and Zorobabel, a descendant of King Joachim, returned from captivity with a vast number of Jews and armed with authority to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. In the seventh month after their return the altar of holocausts of unhewn stones was set up on the foundations of the former one. In the second month of the second year they laid the first stone of the new Temple. But the work was impeded and even suspended through the hostility and plots of the Samaritans, and the Temple was not finished until 516 (I Esd., iii, 6). The temple of Zorobabel was sixty cubits broad and the same in height (I Esd., vi, 3), these being the interior dimensions. Josephus tells us (Ant. Jud., XV, xi, 1) that this was really its height, for Herod reminded the people that the height of the second Temple was sixty cubits less than that of the first, making the Temple of Solomon one hundred and twenty cubits high, according to II Par., iii, 1. It is difficult to say whether the breadth of sixty cubits ascribed by the decree of Cyrus to the Temple was in round numbers, or whether the figures indicate the smaller cubit then in use, but it matters little, for if the breadth were really sixty royal cubits it would mean only that the side chambers had been enlarged five cubits on each side. The Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in Zorobabel's Temple retained the dimensions they had in Solomon's, and they remained the same in the third Temple.
We know from Esdras (iii, 12) and from Aggeus (ii, 3) that the Temple of Zorobabel was much inferior to that of Solomon. The poverty of the new Temple consisted chiefly in the scarcity of its furnishing. The Ark of the Covenant had not been recovered and the debir was empty, but as it was the dwelling-place of God on earth the entrance was once more screened with a costly veil. In the Holy Place stood a new altar of incense and a table for the loaves of proposition, but there was only one seven-branch candlestick. Treasures once more accumulated, and the entire furnishing was again in gold or covered with plates of gold, including the walls. In 168 B.C. the precious metals adorning the Temple aroused the covetousness of Antiochus Epiphanes, who "took away the golden altar, and the candlestick of light, and all the vessels thereof, and the table of proposition, and the pouring vessels, and the vials, and the little mortars of gold, and the veil, and the crowns, and the golden ornament that was before the temple, and he broke them all in pieces" (I Mach., I, 23). Judas Machabeus hastened to provide the house of God with new furnishings. The table of proposition escaped the destruction of the Temple by Titus and with other sacred utensils figures in the conqueror's triumphal procession at Rome (Bell. Jud., VII, v, 4-6). The inner court had the same circumference as that in the first Temple (I Esd., vi, 4), and according to Hecataeus, as quoted by Josephus, the altar of holocausts had the same dimensions as that of Solomon. The Mishna (Middoth, III, vi,) mentions a movable vessel on wheels. Josephus (Ant. Jud., XI, iv, 7) relates that Zorobabel had erected several porches with vestibules within the inner precincts of the temple and in I Mach., iv, 38, 57, there is mention of chambers built in the inner court.
During the heroic wars of the Machabees with the Syrians the Temple had to undergo many vicissitudes. The walls with their large towers built by Judas Machabeus for the protection of the Temple (I Mach., iv, 60) were destroyed by Antiochus Eupator (I Mach., vi, 62), but Jonathan and Simon soon rebuilt them (Ant. Jud., XIII, v, 11). In 63 B.C. Pompey, after taking the city, laid siege to the Temple, in order to break the last resistance of the Jews (Ant. Jud., XIV, iv, 4), and nine years later the procurator Crassus despoiled it of its riches (Ant. Jud., XIV, vii, 1). Finally Herod, made King of the Jews by the Senate, was obliged to take the city by storm and to besiege the fortress of the Temple (Ant. Jud., XVI, xvi, 2 sq.).
Temple of Herod
Herod undertook the restoration of the Temple in its original splendour and traditional arrangements. The buildings were demolished one after another according as the materials for the new structures were available. A host of priests became masons and carpenters and themselves took charge of tearing down and rebuilding the sanctuary, which task was accomplished in eighteen months. Nearly 10,000 workmen were employed on the other buildings. After eight years' labour (10 B.C.) the new edifice was opened for service. But this monument, which in its vast proportions and magnificence rivalled the most beautiful buildings of antiquity and far surpassed even that of Solomon, was completed only in A.D. 62 or 64 (Cf. John, ii, 20), at that time 18,000 workmen being still employed (Ant. Jud., XX, ix, 7). For Herod doubled the artificial platform which held the Temple of Zorobabel, enlarging the sacred precincts to the south and especially to the north where the galleries reached as far as the rock of Baris and the Antonia (Ant. Jud., XV, xi, 3; Bell. Jud., I, xxi, 1; V, v, 2). The Temple with its courts, galleries and porches occupied the whole of the present site of the haram esh sherif, which measures 1070 feet on the north, 1540 on the east, 920 on the south, and 1630 on the west. The Temple of Herod consisted of two courts, an inner and an outer one. The former included all the buildings of the Temple properly so called and was divided into: (1) The Court of the Priests, which contained the house of God and the alter of holocausts; (2) the Court of Israel; and (3) the Court of the Women. All the space between the inner court and the outer wall of the platform was called the Court of the Gentiles, because non-Jews were permitted to enter it. The following are the arrangements of the Temple according to Josephus (Ant. Jud., XV, xi; Bell. Jud., V, v), other sources being indicated in the course of the descriptions.
Priests' Court and House of God
The Court of the Priests formed a rectangle of one hundred and eighty-seven cubits from east to west and one hundred and thirty-seven cubits from north to south [Middoth, II, 6 (fig. 3)]. To the west stood the house of Jehovah and to the east the altar of holocausts. The sanctuary was reached by a stairway of twelve steps (2), which terminated in a majestic porch one hundred cubits high and the same in breadth (3). A door without leaves twenty cubits wide and forth high led into a vestibule eleven cubits wide. According to the Mishna this doorway was flanked by two square-shaped pillars each formed of ten cubes measuring four cubits on the sides. On these two pillars rested a sort of entablature formed of five oaken beams, separated from each other by square stones set on a line with the pillars. It was a reproduction of the triumphal arches then so common in the east. Upon the immense trellis, or grille, stretched a golden vine, of which the grapes, according to Josephus, were of the height of a man. He adds that it extended twenty-five cubits from north to south and that its top was seventy cubits from the ground. Tacitus (Ann., V, v) also speaks of this vine. Above it Herod placed a colossal golden eagle, the Roman eagle, which greatly displeased the Jews (Ant. Jud., XVII, vi, 2-4). The hekal (4) and the debir retained their ancient dimensions in length and breadth, but their height was increased to sixty cubits. A doorway ten cubits wide and twenty high gave access to the Holy Place. The door leaves were of carved wood covered with leaves of gold, and the door was further embellished with a magnificent curtain of Babylonian-dyed linen. The richly-decorated chamber contained the altar of perfumes before the entrance to the debir, north of the table of proposition and south of the seven-branch candlestick. It was not so well lighted or aired as that of Solomon. The priests alone entered this court to offer incense every night and morning, to trim the lamps, and change the loaves of proposition on the Sabbath-day. It was near the altar of incense that the angel appeared to Zacharias (Luke, I,11).
The entrance to the debir had no doors, but, as formerly, was shielded by a costly curtain. According to the Mishna (Yoma, V, I) no partition wall separated the hekal from the debir, the latter being formed by two
veils hung the distance of a cubit from each other; but Josephus distinguished between the two chambers giving the dimensions of each. Furthermore, he speaks only of one veil "at the entrance" of the debir, which must signify a doorway. Moreover, the absence of a partition would have necessitated a curtain sixty cubits long by twenty broad, which would never have sealed hermetically the Holy of Holies. The statement of the rabbis on this point is open to suspicion. They could not have been ignorant that according to the Gospel (Matt., xxvii, 51; Mark, xv, 38; Luke, xxiii, 45), when Christ died on the cross the veil of the temple was rent in two from top to bottom. The debir was empty. Only the high-priest entered it once a year. Above the debir and the hekal was a story forty cubits high, so the entire building was the same height as the porch. On the north, south, and west sides was a building divided into three stories each twenty cubits high. The ground floor and the first floor each had thirteen chambers six cubits wide (6) and the top floor twelve. A doorway (7) opened northward from the vestibule on a winding-stair three cubits in diameter and located in the corner formed by the wall of the house and the projection of the porch. The two walls which formed the cage of the stairway were five cubits thick. In the opposite corner to the south was a similar cage intended to facilitate the outflow of water. The total width of the house, including the side chambers, was fifty-four cubits and near the porch seventy cubits, and its total length, including the porch, was one hundred and six cubits, allowing six cubits thickness for the walls. The base was ten cubits larger than the dimensions given above.
Twenty-two cubits east of the house stood the altar of holocausts, constructed of unhewn stone (8). The rabbis speak of a three-tiered altar, ten cubits high and thirty-two cubits along the sides of the base, and twenty-four in the centre (Maimonides, "Beth Haberasch", II, 16). The figures of Josephus, fifty cubits on the sides by fifteen high, are obviously incorrect. North of the altar (9) four rows of rings were fastened in the ground and were used while slaying the animals. Next came eight marble tables for cutting up and washing the flesh of the victims, and cutting up and washing the flesh of the victims, and higher up were eight pillars with hooks for suspending and flaying the animals (Middoth III, 5-V, ii; Talmud, Shek, VI, 4). Laymen were admitted to this court only when they offered sacrifice, for they had to place their hands on the head of the victims. The four sides of the court were surrounded by a parapet of stones a foot and a half high.
Court of Israel
Five steps led down from the court of the priests to the court of Israel, which surrounded the former on three sides (10). At the north and south it was forty cubits wide and on the east only eleven cubits. A gallery ten cubits wide (11), supported by splendid marble columns, went round this court, probably on the west side also, and afforded a shelter from the sum and rain. Men only were admitted here and only the king was permitted to be seated.
East of this court opposite the house of God (12) rose a superb gateway, the most beautiful of all, which according to Josephus and the Mishna (Middoth, I, 4) was the gift of Nicanor, a wealthy Alexandrian Jew. This was the Thoura oraia, the porta speciosa (Acts, iii, 2), where St. Peter healed the man crippled from birth. It was fifty cubits high and forty wide, and its gates of Corinthian brass, carved and covered with plates of gold and silver, were so heavy that twenty men were required to move it. Josephus adds that among the signs premonitory of the destruction of the Temple this gate opened of itself at midnight about the year 30 B.C. (Bell. Jud., VI, v, 3).
Court of the Women
From the Gate of Nicanor a semicircular stairway (13) of fifteen steps led down to the women's court (14), surrounded by a gallery on the north, east, and south. Here the women were admitted and places were reserved for them on the north and south, but the men also frequented this court and usually crossed it when they went to the Temple. There were benches there, for it was permitted to sit (cf. Mark, xii, 41). Along the sides probably near the Gate of Nicanor, were thirteen boxes, an inscription indicating the special purpose of each: oil, wood, priestly vestments, doves, etc. There Christ saw the rich men and the poor widow deposit their offering (Luke, xxi, 1). At the four corners were four hypethral chambers, forty cubits square (15). According to the Talmud the north-west chamber was where the unclean and lepers, who had been healed, bathed and were declared clean by the priests. In the north-east chamber the priests sorted the wood; in the south-west oil and wine were preserved in vaults; in the south-east those who had fulfilled the vow of Nazarites shaved their heads (cf. Num., vi, 13 sqq; Acts, xviii, 18). In these chambers it was also permitted to wash, cook, etc. According to Middoth, II, 5, there were also in this court four chambers in which certain women were lodged.
Gates and Chambers
Three sides of the inner court were surrounded by buildings forty cubits broad, separated by nine gates in the shape of towers (16), four on the north and four on the south, of which only two opened into the women's court, with the eastern gate. These gateways or rather sumptuous porches were 40 cubits in height, breadth, and length. A large bar divided the entrance into two bays each ten cubits broad and twenty high with wooden leaves covered with plates of gold and silver. The vestibule was thirty cubits square and its six arches were supported by two pillars twelve cubits in circumference. At the sides of the court of Israel five steps led to the gateway whose vestibule was likewise provided with ten steps or an incline. There are still three gates within the haram esh sherif, the Golden Gate, the double gate, and the triple gate, constructed according to the same plan. Between these gates was a series of chambers devoted to various uses (17). West of the second southern gate was the lishkat gazit, hall of the Sanhedrin (Middoth, II, 5), with a chamber, for the instruction of the people, and in the court of the women was the gazophylakion, hall of the treasury (Ant. Jud., XIX, vi, 1). This vast edifice rested on a foundation with a projection of ten cubits forming a deambulatory (18), which was reached by a stairway of twelve or fourteen steps. This was the hel; it was surrounded by a stone parapet called soreg and in front of the nine gates stood pillars with inscriptions in Greek and Latin notifying visitors that every non-Jew was forbidden under pain of death to approach nearer the Temple. Some years ago one of the pillars with a Greek inscription was found in the vicinity of the haram esh sherif.
The remainder of the vast platform formed the outer court of the gentiles. It was paved with large slabs and surrounded on all sides by a double gallery formed of two rows of columns twenty-five cubits high. That overlooking the valley of Cedron was called "Gate of Solomon" (cf. I Par., ix, 18). It was certainly prior to Herod, and Josephus dates its origin from Solomon, himself. He relates that in A.D. 62 or 64 the 18,000 workmen still employed on the adornment of the Temple began to lack work and requested that they might demolish the Gate of Solomon; but this, although ancient, was so beautiful and the cost of replacing it would have been so great that King Agrippa II decided to preserve it and to employ the workmen in paving the city streets (And. Jud., XX, ix, 7). Whether it dates from the kings of Juda or only from Zorobabel it is sufficient to afford an idea of the magnificence of the first tow temples of Jerusalem. At the corners of these galleries were chambers (pastophoria) for the guards. From the side towards the city the entrance to the sanctuary was made through several gates of surpassing beauty, four on the west of the esplanade, two on the south, one on the east, and one on the north. On a lower terrace in the centre Herod erected a royal basilica, a sumptuous building divided into three naves by four rows of forty-one Corinthian columns. Each column was more than five feet in diameter. At the north of the esplanade he built two vast courts surrounded by gates which extended to the scarp of the rock of Baris. These courts communicated with the Antonia only by two stairways (cf. Acts, xxi, 35).
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV
Robert Appleton Company, 1912
Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York