Chapter 7: Jesus's Death and the Powers -- Religious Exclusivism (Temple)

The Legacy of Solomon's Temple

  • Before Solomon built the temple at Jerusalem, worship was done in a number of sanctuaries, most prominently Shiloh, which was destroyed by the Philistines.

  • Solomon's temple: 1 Kings 6-7

  • "Solomon constructed the temple as a central element of his successful efforts to centralize the power of the king office in Israel." (AK location 3709)

  • Solomon also implemented a system of tax districts

  • "Under Solomon's administrative policies the concern for equitable distribution of economic resources reflected in the covenant law codes is displaced by an economics of privilege that begins to create sharp class divisions of wealth and poor within Israel." (AK location 3721)

  • "The construction of the temple on 'Mount Zion' creates in Israel a tradition in tension with the prophetic/Torah tradition." (AK location 3731)

  • "For Mosaic faith, Israel serves a transcendent God, not simply a God who supports Israel's interests whatever they may be." ... "With Solomon, God enters Israel's life at the beck and call of the king and his minions. The king's servants control access to God." (AK location 3745)

  • "Israelites came to see the temple as evidence for God's support of Israel."

  • "The prophets, at their most intense, portray the temple as being opposed to God." (AK location 3798)

    • Jeremiah 7 contains harsh words for the temple and its leaders. Jeremiah 7:9-11 (AK location 3808)

    • "In violent and daring ways, Ezekiel makes clear that all to which Yahweh has been committed is revocable." (AK location 3823)

The Second Temple

  • Solomon's temple is destroyed in 587 BCE by the Bablyonian armies

  • Most the Judean ruling class from Jerusalem is deported to Bablyon, then after the Persian Empire conquered the Bablyons the Jewish exiles were allowed to return to Palestine. The Persian's allowed the Israelites to rebuild the temple on a much more modest scale. (Ezra 1-2)

  • This second temple was constructed under the leadership of Zerubbabel in the years 520-516 BCE

  • Walter Brueggemann: "..a miracle wrought by the Judeans themselves. They were the only people in antiquity exiled from the homeland and national religion who maintained their religious and social identity in captivity." (AK location 3838)

  • "That the elite of the empire approved the rebuilding of Israel's temple and its faith community indicates that they saw such efforts to serve the empire's purposes." (AK location 3853)

  • In the years that followed, Jews exhibited various attitudes towards the second temple.

    • Beliefs linked with the first temple -- the temple as the dwelling place of God, unique in all the earth. Both Ezekiel and Zechariah seems to acknowledge this.

    • Others rooted in the story expressed more hostility toward the temple. "This more negative viewpoint found expression in the emergent apocalyptic expressions of faith that arose during the inter-testamental period." (AK location 3867)

The Temple in Jesus's Time

  • "The temple housed the one Jewish altar on which the high priest performed the sacrificial rites of atonement once a year for the entire Jewish world." (AK location 3879)

    • Forgiveness of people's sins
  • After the Romans gained control of Palestine, they established Herod as their client king. Herod embarked on an ambitions building project, expanding the temple greatly.

  • "As many as 18,000 priests participated in the temple activities." (AK location 3892)

  • The temple treasury functioned as a huge national bank. Devout Jews living beyond Palestine traveled to the temple three times a year to celebrate religions festivities.

    • Feast of Passover - deliverance from Egypt

    • Feast of Pentecost - thanks for the first fruits of the harvest

    • Feast of Tabernacles - gratitude for the completed harvest

  • Day of Atonement

    • Holiday in autumn

    • High priest sacrificed a goat for his own sins and sent another one into the desert for the sins of the people.

    • Only the high priest, in purity, could part the curtains and enter the holy of holies in the very presence of God once a year on the Day of Atonement.

  • The Sanhedrin, the final Jewish authority in religious, political, and civil matters, made their home at the temple, along with the high priest.

    • The high priest became the most powerful Jewish leader in relation to the occupying Roman leaders.
  • The religious party that centered in Jerusalem and made up most of the Sanhedrin were known as the Sadducees.

    • The Sadducees rejected the oral tradition and professed skepticism about personal immortality, including the resurrection.

    • Generally came from the wealthy upper class

    • Accepted Roman occupation and cooperated in order to keep the temple viable

  • "Unlike with Leviticus, for the temple in the first century sacrifice served as a means to connect with God that required the mediation of the religious institution whose wealth and power served the king's interests." (AK location 3949)

  • "Sacrifice in Leviticus stems from an experience of God's mercy and serves the community as a whole, not only the power elite."

  • "As a 'conservative,' that is, one who drew directly from the tradition of Moses as filtered through prophetic critique, Jesus ended up on a collision course with the temple hierarchy -- a course that exposed the true nature of religious institutionalism, its violence and subservience to political authoritarianism." (AK location 3949)

Jesus and the Temple

  • "Jesus had a nuanced attitude toward the temple and its sacrificial system" (AK location 3960)

  • He understood the sacrificial system as peripheral to the dynamics of salvation ("I desire mercy, not sacrifice," Matt 9:13 and 12:7 quoting Hos 6:6)

  • The two birth accounts, in Matthew and Luke, give a mixed perspective on Jesus's relation with the temple.

  • Luke tells of his parents dedicating him in the temple (Luke 2:21-40), their dedication frame as adherence 'to the law of Moses.' Encounter to old 'saints' Simeon and Anna, both who praise God when they see Jesus for God's work of salvation.

  • "So, Luke presents Jesus coming from a devout family that observed temple rituals, and he shows that in the temple itself people are found who understand Jesus as an agent of God's saving work for the whole world." (AK location 3990)

  • "The impression in Matthew's birth story is subtler. For one thing, Matthew does not actually mention the temple."

  • Up until Jesus's final entry into Jerusalem, the temple plays a peripheral role in stories of Jesus's ministry. In particular, when Jesus pronounced people forgiven, he circumvented the temple's role in the process of dealing with sins.

Jesus's Conflict with Religious Institutionalism

  • "The problem with the temple is that it has failed to be 'a house of prayer for all the nations.' Instead, the temple had become a center for religious exclusivism and economic exploitation." (AK location 4053)

  • "For Mark's Gospel, there is a clear connection between Jesus being put to death and Jesus's conflict with the temple, Jerusalem's center of religious institutionalism" (AK location 4117)

  • Mark 11:12-13:38

  • Mark 13 begins with the foretelling of the destruction of the temple

  • "Mark's treatment of the temple concludes in Mark 15:38. When Jesus died, 'the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.' The torn 'curtain of the temple' juxtaposes Jesus and the temple as alternative places of divine presence. (AK location 4101)

  • "In the end, though Jesus's death does not signal that the religious authorities were victorious. Jesus's death actually signifies the opposite. The temple curtain is torn. Jesus, even on the cross, fulfills what the temple was meant to and did not -- he engendered worship of God by Gentiles as well as Jews. The Gentile centurion confesses, 'surely this was God's son' (Mark 15:39)

  • "So, in effect, the old temple must be torn down, and a new, open and inclusive temple based on Jesus himself must take its place." (AK location 4143)

  • "Institutionalism stifles creativity. When institutional survival takes priority, then order, security, peace at all costs take precedence." (AK location 4143)

Last built: Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 1:27 PM

By Frank McPherson, Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 8:36 PM. What a long strange trip it's been.