The Jewish Temple: A Non-Biblical Sourcebook

By Pomykala, Kenneth E. | Journal of Biblical Literature, Fall 1999 | Go to article overview

The Jewish Temple: A Non-Biblical Sourcebook


Pomykala, Kenneth E., Journal of Biblical Literature


The Jewish Temple: A Non-Biblical Sourcebook, by C. T. R. Hayward. London/New York: Routledge, 1996. Pp. xvi + 211. $18.95 (paper).

The importance of the Jerusalem temple for early Judaism can hardly be overestimated, a point nicely reflected in the conventional designation of the era as the Second Temple period. And as one might expect, excellent descriptions of the temple's design, priesthood, and rituals are available in handbooks on the period. What is missing, according to Hayward, is discussion of the meaning and significance of the temple and its service: hence the purpose of the present volume in which he "seeks to investigate afresh writings which may convey something of what the Jerusalem Temple Service meant to Jews of Second Temple times who supported it and held it in high regard" (p. 5). Accordingly, he considers relevant passages from Hecataeus of Abdera, Aristeas, Ben Sira in Hebrew, Ben Sira in Greek, Jubilees, Philo, Josephus, and Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum. For each writing, he provides an introduction, along with bibliographical information for further study, his own translation of the text (with the exception of Jubilees), a commentary, and for most texts a brief summary of its author's understanding of the temple.

Before treating individual passages, however, Hayward offers a summary of the main ideas about the temple expressed in the literature. Five key points are discussed:' (1) the temple service as maintaining the stability and order of the cosmos; (2) the temple building and furnishings as a symbol of the universe; (3) the temple service as harmonious with angelic worship; (4) the temple as the place where God may be invoked for Israel's benefit; (5) the temple as a place of light, a metaphor expressive of God's presence. He notes that while these concepts are not represented in every text, they are recurring themes.

Hayward begins with the fragments attributed to Hecataeus of Abdera (preserved in Josephus, Contra Apion 1.187, 197-99). After discussing their authenticity, which he leaves as an open question, he notes that Hecataeus emphasizes the perpetual nature of Jewish ritual, the high degree of purity required of the priests, and the absence of any image in the temple where instead an inextinguishable light burned. Turning to Aristeas 83-99, Hayward explains how its author highlights the beauty and magnificence of the temple, in particular, the vast amounts of water available in underground reservoirs. The ritual itself is described as a model of discipline and order, performed in silence except for the ringing of the golden bells hanging from the high priest's robe. Aristeas seems therefore to portray the temple service as a kind of earthly display of heavenly realities, where the only sound directs the observer to the high priest and the divine name inscribed on his crown.

Hayward devotes considerable attention to Ben Sira, first to the Hebrew and then to the Greek version. Departing from the traditional interpretation of Ben Sira 50, Hayward contends that it describes the high priest Simon officiating at the daily tamid sacrifice, not at the Day of Atonement. He then explains that in the timid ritual, Simon is portrayed not only as representing Israel, but as divine Wisdom itself, the principle of order and stability undergirding the world. Moreover, for Ben Sira the tamid serves to connect heaven and earth, to set before God a memorial for Israel, and to validate the Zadokites as the agents of divine blessing. In the Greek of Ben Sira 49:15-50:26, through the use of divine titles such as God Most High and King of All, the translator emphasizes the universal authority of Israel's God and the universal significance of temple sacrifices. Consequently, what the high priest in Jerusalem does affects the whole world.

With respect to Jubilees, Hayward points out how its author's preference for a solar calendar serves to correlate the earthly temple service with heavenly realities.

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