8 THE TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM -At The time of Jesus the third Temple built and by far the grandest of all. Its construction started 19 years before the birth of Christ, by the order of King Herod The Great, and was not completed until A.D. 64. It stood 150 feet high above ground level and was decorated with much gold. The area spread over 35 acres in size was surrounded by a huge wall.
The primary meaning of the Temple was the same as that of the ark in the wilderness, it was constructed to preserve a symbol of God's presence in the midst of the people. Behind a beautifully coloured veil was the Holy Place. This area also included The Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies. Because it was God's house, the worshipers could not enter the Holy Place, available only for priests and other worship leaders, much less the Holiest Place (Holy of Holies) to be entered by the High Priest only once a year. Worshipers could gather for prayer and sacrifice in the Temple courtyards where they could sing psalms as they saw their offerings on the great bronzed altar. The strength of  prayer and praise is to be in the worship of God. It is clear that the earthly Temple was viewed as a tiny copy of the heavenly Temple where the King of the universe really dwelt. It was only by God's grace that He consented to the central sanctuary as the place where He caused His name to dwell. Obviously, no one can house God. The importance of the Jerusalem Temple was that it became a symbol of the Lord's holiness and the religious centre of life for the community. Priesthood had replaced kingship as the authority of the postexilic community, before the time of Jesus.

Herod's Temple was built because he was determined that he would please his Jewish subjects and show off his style of kingship to the Romans by making the Jerusalem Temple larger and more magnificent than it had ever been. He embarked on an extensive remodelling of the Temple, built on the existing site of the former Temples. Being 15 storeys high, it captured the imagination of the world of that day. His most notable contribution was the magnificent stonework of the Temple platform that was greatly enlarged. Herod surrounded the whole enclosure with magnificent porches, particularly the royal corridor along the southern wall. Through the Huldah gates (named after a prophetess), double and triple arches, worshipers were able to go up through enclosed passageways into the court of the Gentiles. Greek inscriptions separated this court from the court of the women and the holier inner courts of men and the priests. Each court was more exclusive than the one outside it.  If a stranger entered any part of the Temple, they would be killed.
The Temple porch extended in length and projected beyond the sides of the Temple.  Above the entrance Herod had placed a golden eagle, the Roman Emblem that was most offensive to the Jews because it was seen in the religious law, as an unclean bird. The Temple itself was under construction for 43 years. The outer courts surrounding the Temple were the last structures to be completed but the Romans destroyed the entire building in A.D. 70, as predicted by Jesus.
The Jerusalem Temple is the focal point of many New Testament events. The birth of John the Baptist was announced there. The offering by Joseph and Mary at the circumcision of baby Jesus was taken there. It was where Simeon and Anna greeted the recognised baby Jesus.  Jesus came there as a boy of twelve and later taught there during His ministry. His two cleansings of the Temple supported in the hastening His death. He also knew no earthly temple was necessary to the worship of God.


As Jesus left The Temple, His disciples remarked to Him about the beauty of The Temple. Jesus dismissed discussing its magnificence. He told them it would soon be torn down. His prophecy was fulfilled less than 40 years later in 70 A.D. when the Romans pillaged Jerusalem, because of many rebellions. He also warned His group to flee when this happened which actually saved their lives. The Romans carried off the silver and golden furniture and the gold decorations in the walls and on the ceilings melted amongst the stones when the Temple was set on fire. The steps south of the Temple, where Jesus would have taught on several occasions, have now been excavated and reconstructed.

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