the Construction and Chronology of the Second Temple
The Second Temple of Jerusalem, constructed by Herod the Great in 20-18 BC, is a remarkable architectural feat. Herod, who hailed from Idumea, a region located southeast of Judea towards Egypt, was born around 72 BC. Serving as a client king to the Roman Empire, Herod’s reign spanned from 37 BC until 4 BC. Interestingly, this timeline suggests that Jesus’ birth would have taken place in 4 BC.
Herod’s conversion to Judaism by the Hasmoneans played a significant role in his complex character, as revealed through textual and archaeological evidence. To secure his power, Herod demonstrated a calculated ruthlessness that mirrored his role as a brutal leader. Judea, conquered by Mark Antony in 40 BC, saw Herod granting the fertile lands of southern Judea to his beloved Cleopatra as a symbol of his grandeur.
Driven by an innate fear of being overthrown and losing his throne, Herod’s suspicious nature led him to commit heinous acts. Notably, he executed his first wife, Mariamne, and their sons, suspecting a plot against his rule. The Roman emperor Augustus, astutely observing Herod’s character, made the following remark about him:
It is better to be Herod’s pig (Jews didn’t consume pigs at the time) than his son.Octavian (Caesar Augustus)
The accounts of him in the Gospel of Matthew from the New Testament seem to have a foundation in truth, as they incorporate aspects of his character and his aspirations.
King Herod’s Temple
Herod, known for his self-proclaimed greatness as a king, was always wary of potential rivals attempting to overthrow him, as recorded by Josephus and the antiquities of the Jews. It seems that the stories about him in the New Testament draw inspiration from this historical context.
Notably, Herod’s legacy as a builder remains unparalleled in Israel’s history. Among his remarkable achievements, the fortress of Masada stands as a testament to the Jewish rebellion’s final stand against Rome. Additionally, the town of Caesarea Maritima was constructed to honor Caesar Augustus, while Herodium served as a palace fortress for the king himself. However, the grandest of all Herod’s architectural endeavors was the Second Temple.
Situated on an elevated platform outside the city walls, the Second Temple comprised three main sections: the porch, the nave, and the sanctuary. The building material of choice was white limestone sourced from a nearby mountain near Jericho. The towering columns, each over twenty feet in height and weighing tons, added an imposing grandeur to the structure. Notably, the corners of the temple featured intricately carved marble lions, standing at an impressive height of over six feet. The roof, possibly adorned with vibrant colors, consisted of cedar wood. Adorning the front of the building were two bronze gates, situated on either side of a magnificent colonnade.
Herod’s architectural prowess, as showcased through the construction of the Second Temple, leaves an indelible mark on Israel’s history, reflecting the opulence and magnificence of his reign.
What methods did Herod employ to construct such a magnificent temple?
With a determination to create a lasting legacy, Herod spared no expense when it came to constructing his personal temple. To fund this ambitious project, he amassed a substantial amount of money through the taxes paid by Jews across his kingdom. Over a period of twelve years, from around 37 BC to about 36 AD, Herod meticulously executed his vision.
Recognizing the need for skilled craftsmen, Herod enlisted the help of Jewish artisans who possessed expertise in constructing grand structures, particularly temples. In addition, he sought the assistance of Roman engineers who had previously worked on notable architectural marvels such as Augustus’ Colosseum in Rome. To expedite the process and ensure smooth progress, Herod even borrowed funds from Rome.
After Herod’s passing, his son Archelaus took over the rule of Judea. However, his reign was short-lived as he was overthrown by Roman general Aulus Gabinius in approximately 52 AD. In the aftermath, Syrianus was appointed as the new king of Judea. Rather than embarking on a new temple construction project, Syrianus chose to focus on the restoration and renovation of existing temples, as mentioned in Acts 21:24.
Who was responsible for the destruction of the Second Temple?
The Second Temple met its demise in 70 AD at the hands of the Romans, led by the emperor Vespasian. This event held great significance as it showcased the might and authority of the Roman Empire, while also aiming to crush the rebellious spirit of the Jewish people. The temple served as a focal point for various Jewish groups, including the Zealots, who were fervent in their worship of Yahweh. Originally regarded as a storm god among many others, Yahweh eventually rose to prominence as the main deity. It is plausible that remnants of this warrior king’s attributes were still present during the time of Jesus, particularly his desire to liberate the Hebrews from the oppressive Romans. The earlier incarnation of Yahweh was seen as a powerful force, capable of vanquishing enemies. Over time, the concept of this divine being transformed into a comprehensive, all-powerful deity, giving rise to numerous versions and branches of worship. As we approach the turn of the millennium, some of these offshoots evolved into different forms of Christianity.
It is crucial to comprehend that the Jewish yearning to break free from Roman dominance existed long before the Romans even annexed Judah. The Levantine people had endured subjugation under the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Parthians prior to Roman rule. The Jewish movement was deeply rooted in the belief that they were chosen by God to govern the world. In their understanding of scripture (although a definitive canon had not yet been established), it was evident that Rome had to be defeated, as this was the will of the Almighty. Thus, in 66 AD, the first Jewish-Roman war erupted, ultimately resulting in the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 AD. While numerous sources shed light on this event, one particularly detailed account comes from Flavius Josephus, a former Jewish general who later became a slave and ally of Vespasian.
This video demonstrates a simulation of the destruction of the Jewish temple:
Situated atop a majestic hill, the Temple Mount of Jerusalem holds immense significance. Its name, derived from the Hebrew term Har ha-Mashperet, meaning ‘the mount of the house of god’, carries a rich history. According to belief, King Solomon constructed the temple on this very site around 950 BC, only to witness its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 BC. However, it was King Herod who, in his efforts to restore it, added various rooms such as a sanctuary, an inner court, and a breathtaking roofterrace.
In AD 70, the Second Temple faced utter devastation at the hands of the Roman general Titus, son of Vespasian, who also expelled all Jews from Jerusalem. For centuries, Jews were denied access to the city, except on rare occasions like religious festivals or when they were granted permission to visit the Western Wall – a poignant remnant of the Second Temple’s wall encircling the Old City. It was not until Israel’s War of Independence in 1967 that Jerusalem was reunited as a single city under Israeli control, allowing Jews to once again embrace life and livelihood within its sacred confines.
The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is a significant remnant of the Second Temple. It holds a deep emotional connection for Jews, who traditionally mourn at this site on Tisha B’Av – the ninth day of the month of Av. According to the Bible, the Western Wall is believed to be the very spot where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac, only to be stopped by an angel. This sacred place continues to be revered by believers of the Abrahamic faiths, with both Jews and Muslims coming here to pray. Additionally, Christians also pay their respects at this hallowed wall, as it serves as a powerful reminder of Jesus’ death and Resurrection.
first temple vs second temple
The construction of the First Temple dates back to the 10th – 7th century BC. This magnificent structure, known as the temple of King Solomon, unfortunately met its demise in 586 BC when it was destroyed by the Babylonians under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II, one of the most powerful rulers of that time. Nebuchadnezzar II led a fierce campaign against the Assyrian Empire and eventually turned his attention towards Judea, laying siege to its capital city, Jerusalem. The city was demolished, and the temple of Solomon suffered the same fate. As a result, a portion of the Jewish population was taken captive and brought to Babylon, where they lived under servitude for many years until they were eventually liberated by the Persians. The presence of Nebuchadnezzar II is mentioned in several books of the Old Testament, such as Kings, Ezra, and Daniel. However, it is believed by scholars that the book of Daniel might be a later fabrication, written almost four centuries after the events took place.
Similarly, the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 AD led to another significant chapter in Jewish history. Following this devastating event, the Jewish population experienced a nearly 2000-year-long exile until they were finally granted the opportunity to resettle in 1948. It is truly remarkable to observe the parallels between these two historical occurrences. On both occasions, the Jewish people were forcibly uprooted from their homeland, only to find a way to rebuild and reclaim their place in the world later on. However, there is a crucial distinction between the two exiles. While during the Babylonian exile, only a portion of the population was displaced, the Roman destruction resulted in the scattering of the Jewish people across the globe, leaving them without a true homeland. Undoubtedly, this profound event had an even more profound impact on the Jewish community. Interestingly, the Roman Empire does not receive negative portrayal in the bible, possibly because both they and the other Jewish sects, including various forms of Christianity, coexisted under Roman rule for four centuries
Second Temple of Jerusalem Summary
The Second Temple of Jerusalem holds significant religious and historical importance for the Hebrew people. Its impact extended beyond the Jewish community, influencing various Christian sects as well. These religious denominations adapted their beliefs and perspectives in response to this momentous event. For instance, the Thomasine Christians, who eventually faded away with the rise of orthodox Christianity, believed in the concept of the kingdom of heaven residing within oneself. This broader understanding of divinity provided a coping mechanism for monotheistic believers, enabling them to navigate the harsh realities of life. The physical structure of the temple, which could be destroyed by enemy forces, symbolizing the house of the god YHWH, vanished, along with the underlying message of an objective-based religion.
Scholars often use the Roman-Jewish war and the destruction of the second temple as a reference point to date the New Testament. The author of Mark, for example, wrote his text with the assumption that the Temple of Jerusalem had already been destroyed, referencing this event within his script. Today, we still feel the reverberations of this significant historical event in three main aspects. First, the teachings of different Christian churches and their doctrines have been influenced by the events surrounding the second temple’s destruction. Second, the psychological and spiritual impact on the Jewish community remains noteworthy. Lastly, the physical aftermath of the temple’s destruction, such as the resettlement and the establishment of the state of Israel, has shaped the lives of the people in this region. By examining and understanding the events of the past, we can draw valuable lessons and make informed decisions about the present and future, provided we set aside our biases and recognize the parallels between history and modern times in order to steer the course of our collective destiny.
FAQs of the Second Temple of Jerusalem
It was destroyed at 70 AD.
The 2nd temple was destroyed by the Romans under later emperor Vespasian and his son and general Titus.
It took many centuries to rebuild it. From 538 BC after the exile of many of the Jewish people from Babylon until the extensions und Herod the Great.
At least 3 times but it was an ongoing project over many centuries and many different rulers.