The Temple In Jerusalem: A Monument Of The Imagination – Prof. Simon Goldhill (cambridge University)

The Temple of Jerusalem


Since yesterday’s response from study group members wanting to read this book and then discuss it online was so overwhelming, I decided that we can go ahead and start today! This week we will discuss the first chapter. (For those of you who are just joining in. Please, secure your copy and begin reading the book. (I found a downloadable free copy here and a hard copy here).

On page 7 we read: “The Temple is never just a destroyed building. It has become the most potent symbol of the human search for a lost ideal, an image of former greatness and greatness to come. It is an idea that has prompted struggle, brutal war between cultures and nations, and some of the most moving poetry and art of the Western tradition. A history of the Temple can never be merely an architectural record, nor just an account of religious rituals. We need a special sort of archaeology for this great building of the world, an archaeology that uncovers not so much rock and dust as the sedimented layers of human fantasy, politics and longing.”

Do you agree? Disagree? Why? Why not?

On the page 10 we read: “The ‘new Jerusalem’, the ‘new Temple’ of Jesus, is a central image of Christianity, which opposes an everlasting divine Temple to an earthly temple, made and destroyed by the hands of men, and opposes the community of faithful Christians to the rituals of the Temple. For Christians, the destruction of the Temple heralds the triumph of Christianity. For Christians, the destruction of the Temple heralds the triumph of Christianity.”

Do you agree? Disagree? Why? Why not? Post your comment and let us start this conversation. (Please, consider, sending the link to this page to your friends inviting them to join our study group free!).


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  1. Dr Barry Paterson

    “A history of the Temple can never be merely an architectural record, nor just an account of religious rituals.”
    There are many layers and many levels of interpretation in the Bible itself about the significance of the Temple (or more appropriately temples). Goldhill particularly gives the dimensions of the Solomon Temple in cubits, because there are many different ideas about exactly what a cubit means as a unit of measurement.
    He also cites the fact that the Book of Kings was finally constructed some 400 years after the Solomon Temple was built, and there is no unanimity in the theological reason for the destruction of the first Temple. For example was it the punishment for Solomon “whoring after strange gods”? Or was it the result of the Babylonian invasion?
    I like Goldhill’s refreshingly non-fundamentalist approach

  2. marinete

    a destruição do templo, foi a maior perda para os judeus,tanto no plano material quanto espiritual e segundo a bíblia, a reconstrução do templo é esperado tanto por judeus como pelos cristãos ea sua reconstrução servirá de sinal para a volta de jesus.

  3. Joe Davis

    For Christians, the destruction of the Temple heralds the triumph of Christianity.”

    I agree

  4. Cherrie Elmes Ricca

    Shalom Dr. Eli,
    Thank you for this book. I have downloaded it and started reading it. I like your idea and would like to be part of this study-reading group although my time is limited.

    Regarding your question about the destruction of the Temple and the triumph of Christianity. I do not think this way. Yeshua spoke of the destruction of the Temple. He wept over the city of Yerushayim, this was and expression of love. I don’t see things in terms of triumph of Christianity or Judaism for that matter. G-d has a purpose which is unfolding – I believe we are progressively seeing the restoration of Israel and this is part of G-d’s plan; I believe that the Temple will be rebuilt one day and this is important not only for Jewish people but also Christians – there was after all in the Temple the Court of the gentiles and we Christians have been grafted into the Root of Israel, we are bound together for eternity. I have personally prayed at the Western wall deeply moved as I remembered the words “My house is a house of prayer for all nations”.

    G-d has a plan, an order and we need to understand and respect this. It is not a question of rivalry or triumph of one over the other.
    baruch otcha – am Israel chai


    1. Ramon

      Interesting comment that one that God has a plan. I’m a human planner so:
      1. How does a plan written from eternity looks like?
      2. For what does God, who lives in eternity and all time is present for him, does he need a plan?
      3. Why draw a plan for those whom He giveth freedom?
      4. What was the meaning of Jesus when he said that Judas should not have been born? Was it a reference of his inability to unfollow God’s plan? Where was his freedom then?
      I think a lot of us, specially us Catholics, have grown fond of this so called Plan of God and have mingled that concept with the so called concept of God’s Providence which were terms that came into use (fads?) around 9 to 11th Century. But we may have lost the sense of what we are implying by adhering ourselves to the supposed existence of such plan. I don’t believe in ita existence as whatever we call a plan, that is, a series of events leading to an expected outcome. For me, the expected outcome that God wants is salvation. The roadmap to that end is for us to defien as we walk. Jesus only promised that He will be with us in that road, our road, following Him. Where is the plan for that? Following his foorsteps.

  5. elijahworkz

    His mention of Jesus’ words in John 2:19 “Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days” made me think – when John was writing his gospel the temple was already destroyed and it must have been a very fresh and painful memory. Most of his readers were jewish (samaritan) believers for whom these words must have brought immediate associations.
    I think that this supports the idea that the meaning and significance that Jesus believing jews had in regards to the temple (the disciples still regularly went to the temple in Acts) has then been shifted on to Jesus himself (this even may be seen in the remark about true place of worship with the woman at the well).
    N.T. Wright thinks that Jesus in his teaching and actions was re-defining what land, people, torah, temple truly mean, which again supports the idea that, at least for the early jewish believers, Jesus became the new Temple… and may be because the Temple never held such deep meaning for the gentile believers this connection was later forgotten ?!

  6. kostya

    The Jews are currently in a period of mourning leading up the Tisha B’Av, 9th Day of the Jewish month of Av,(Monday night) on which they remember and mourn the destruction of the two temples which, they say, both occurred on the 9th of Av. With it is the mourning of the death and persecution of the Jewish people through history. It is customary to read the Book of Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah at this time. There, after the Babyloninan destruction of the temple and exile, we read how the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple and the peole are all mourned as one by Jeremiah, for indeed they were one under the covenant.
    It concerns me therefore when people say “The destruction of the Temple heralds the triumph of Christianity”, That makes their grief our victory? If that is so, there is something radically wrong with Christianity. You may as well say that we are glad their Messiah is dead and ours has risen from the grave!

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Well put!

    2. Peter Carter

      I Iike what you have written here. My personal problem with the temples has been hat hey have always been referred to Solomon’s temple or Herod’s . . . . When we say that Christianity triumphs are we ignoring the face that these were God’s temples?

      The pace where we have put man in this whole picture is somehow wrong.

    3. James J. DeFrancisco, PhD

      I agree with Kostya. We should not look at the destruction of the Temple as a victory for Christianity. However, there are some other elements that are often missed. The war which lead to the destruction of the Temple in 70CE caused Rav Yochannan BenZakkai to leave Jerusalem by hiding in a coffin giving him an opportunity to approach Vespasian who was then a general. Vespasian granted him several requests but he didn’t request to save Jerusalem or the Temple because he knew Vespasian would not grant those. Instead he asked for Yavneh, a physician, and saving of rabbis. By Vespasian granting those requests we have the canon of Holy Scripture (Tanak) and rabbinical Judaism with all of its writings documenting the oral Torah. Judaism survived in a different form, one which emphasized Torah study and prayer over sacrificial offerings. At this point it divided into two major streams: rabbinical Judaism and Christianity. There is a positive side of the story of Tisha B’Av.

      1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

        interesting prospective, Dr. DeFrancisco. Thank you. We of course don’t know what he did or did not ask for sure. What we know is only what the source choose to tell us, but that in itself as telling as well.


    “For Christians, the destruction of the Temple heralds the triumph of Christianity.”

    What the christians win with this destruction of the temple?. The subsequent growth of the christinism was independent of the destruction of the temple, that growth depended on the persecution instead.


  8. Sandra Mittelsteadt

    I somewhat agree with the first statement, but what we really need is “God’s archaeology,” an archaeology that only He can provide. Each in our own way had defiled/destroyed the Temple of God, as that Temple now resides in our hearts, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:16. Exploring our hearts. God should locate in His temple a heart full of love and that is zealous to do His will, but many temples are falling down due to neglect. They are shriveled and withered because time is spent around the corrupt moral influences of the world, instead of study of His word.

    God’s archeology methods can uncover the physical, mental, and social attributes of our lives. When He peels away our habits and practices, He sees a foundation as Mark 7:20 -23 described as based upon evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. God’s will is to give us an eternal footing based on His holiness so that our “temples” are upright and honorable.

    We should become Bereanens and began the process of restoring our temples by studying His word. Roman 12:2 tell us: “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” May God’s archeological “digs” find such temples in our hearts.

  9. elijahworkz

    Somewhat related question – there is a video on youtube of palestinian children playing soccer near and against the Dome as well as some people just having a picnic near it. So how important this site really is to the Muslims? Or do they hold on to it only because it has so much importance for the Jews?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      It is very important. It is build on the site of the Jerusalem Temple. I only went up few times. I don’t know what to make of the kids playing soccer. If that is so, than it probably means that the place with the shrines is holy and not what surrounds it. But I just don’t enough about this to sound intelligent. Any scholars of Islamic Law in the group?

  10. Paulo Mendes Glória

    I agree with the word of Kimberley.
    First of all is need to separate the different meanings: “Roman Church and Protestant/Evangelic Church”. They are cited like “christians”, and what is the target?
    The early church before the emergence of the Roman church, the believers of “the Way” were jews too. In Ac 22:1-4 the apostle Paul said “I am jew”, confirmed in Ac 26:5 “…of our religion I lived a Pharisee”.
    Finally, I desagree with the version of Christian joy in the demolition of the Holy Temple.

    1. Ramon

      Good point.
      Most wine producers use Cavernet Sauvignon as their basic grape for red wine. But go to any fairly well stocked wine area and cont how many different ottles of Cabernet era there. Then look for Chablis which some label as the Coca Cola of wines.
      Yes, definitions are needed specially if we are going to use the Christian label over different bottles of Jesus followers.

      1. Paulo Mendes Glória

        Good Ramon!
        Especially when we drink YAIN – יין, thinking about TIROSH – תירש

        1. Ramon

          whatever those are, if they include some fermentation… cheers in moderation!

          1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg