The Temple and Idea of Sacred Space…  The idea of the Temple as a “House of God” (Beth-el) enclosing God’s most sacred and concentrated form comprises a theological arc that runs through the entire Bible, from the earliest Hebrew scriptures to the eschatological visions of Revelation.  The Temple is both an architectural concept and a theological idea.  It is impossible to understand the full import of Jesus’ revelatory message unless we understand the Temple and Temple worship in Jewish tradition of His time.
This Spring, all are invited to explore “The Temple and Idea of Sacred Space” in a virtual Christian Education class offered via Zoom on Tuesday mornings, 10:30 amnoon, April 13 through June 1.
The class begins by studying Jewish Temple architecture as it evolved in Hebrew scripture, from the earliest stone pillars of the patriarchs, to the transportable tabernacle of the wandering children of Israel, culminating in the magnificent sacred building constructed by King Solomon on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.  Prior even to that, the Garden of Eden is presented as a uniquely sacred space, where God communicates directly with man.  The Jewish Temple uses architectural enclosures to identify gradations of sacredness: believers approached the inmost shrine through a series of courtyards, hallways, and veils designed to wall off and separate the Holy from the Profane.  The innermost part of the Temple (the Holy of Holies) was conceived as containing the concentrated presence of God, to be approached only by the chief priest on certain days of the year.  The Holy of Holies was a sacred and a dangerous space.  Jesus changed all that.  Rather than abolishing the Temple, Jesus radically re-formed it within Himself, becoming the new Temple, with His faithful believers as parts of the structure that will only be completely realized at the end of time when God institutes “a new heaven and a new earth.”

Classes will be led by C.E. Elder Mark Weadon.
To join the class, go to Join Meeting on http://www.zoom.us using Meeting ID 853 3502 4384.

Class Syllabus and Recordings:

Week 3 (April 27): From Portable Tent to Fixed Abode: Solomon’s Temple. Around 960 BC God directed King Solomon to build a place of worship in Jerusalem. This building would replace the tabernacle, which had been located at Shiloh when Israel entered Canaan centuries before. Why Jerusalem? Originally, Jerusalem was a Jebusite hill fort, captured by King David around 1000 BC. Thus, it became known as the City of David.  Mount Zion was the  highest spur of the eastern ridge of Jerusalem, also known as Temple Mount—a place of sacred associations from the age of the patriarchs. Solomon’s fixed temple replicated the basic structure of the portable tabernacle on a grand scale. Readings: 2 Samuel 7, 1 Kings 5-8; 2 Chronicles 3-7 (optional; basically restates 1 Kings 5-8)

Week 4 (May 4): From Glory to Destruction:  Solomon’s Temple stood for almost 400 years until it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.  After the Babylonian captivity ended and the Israelite exiles returned, the Jewish leaders directed the building of a new Temple on the site of the old one, in around 515 BC. Though we know little about this building, the Second Temple was most likely a modest structure. Both Solomon’s temple and its replacement provided a focal point for Judaic worship over the centuries, as evidenced in a number of the Psalms. Readings: Ezra 3, Ezra 5:7-17, Psalms 24, 100,  137.

Week 5 (May 11): Prophetic Responses to the Temple. Taken as a whole, the prophets had ambivalent attitudes toward the Temple.  Some prophets were strongly supportive of the rebuilt 2nd temple; others inveighed against hypocritical devotion to cultic practices at the expense of true worship. This “spiritualized” view of the Temple became extremely important in later Judaic and Christian thought. Readings: Isaiah 66, Jeremiah 7, Haggai 2, Zechariah 8:1-8 (optional: Ezekiel 40-48)

Week 6 (May 18):  Herod’s Temple in the Time of Jesus King Herod “the Great” rebuilt the Second Temple on a spectacular scale in 20-10 BC.  Since Herod’s was the actual Temple of Jesus’ time it repays the effort to understand its structure. Even by Roman or Hellenistic standards Herod’s was a spectacular building. While Jesus worshiped and taught at Herod’s Temple, he also foretold its destruction. Some followers took Jesus’ words as a prediction of the literal destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD.  Others took them metaphorically. Christian transformation of the idea of the Temple as a physical building into a theological concept of the person-hood of Jesus is fundamental to New Testament theology. Readings: John 1-2, Luke 21:5-7, Mark 13:1-2; Matthew 24; Matthew 27: 45-54.

Week 7 (May 25): The Temple Allegorized. After the Romans destroyed Herod’s Temple Jesus’ prophetic statements appeared to have come true.  Paul and the writer of Hebrews expanded upon the idea of a spiritual rather than a physical temple. Now that the Second Temple was gone both Jews and newly identified Christians had to come to terms with what the Temple  would come to mean in the future. Would it be rebuilt? Would it continue to exist within the believer? The earthly Temple in Jerusalem was now re-imagined as but a “shadow” or an imperfect “copy” of the God’s heavenly Temple. Readings: 1 Corinthians 3, Ephesians 2, 1 Peter 2:4-9, Hebrews 8-12 (if you have time, read Hebrews 1-7 as well)

Week 8 (June 1): Conclusion—The Final Temple and the New Creation.  The book of Revelation ends with a vision of God’s heavenly Temple replacing the old creation with a new. At the end of time God’s Temple will be everywhere in “a new heaven and a new earth.” Readings: John 4, Revelation 7:15-17, 11, 21-22.

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Week 1 (April 13):  What is a temple?  What is the Temple? Is God more present in one place than in another? Is there a particular location in which God is to be approached and worshiped? These are questions we are going to grapple with in this class. The idea of sacred space was fundamental to cultic Judaism as it is to many  religions today. Divine presence defines the Temple, whether it is a building, a tent, or a mountaintop.  We will consider the Garden of Eden as prototype of the Temple—a  dwelling place of God where He interacted humanity in direct and intimate relationship.  After the Fall and the expulsion of humans from paradise that relationship changed. Humanity became estranged from God. The approach to God was now hedged with danger and an acute sense of the sacred space within and the profane space without.  Before there was a formal temple, the patriarchs erected altars and other stone markers. These primitive structures were steps toward returning to God. Readings: Genesis 1-3,  12:7-9,  28:10-22

We apologize that the class did not record, but here is the PowerPoint Presentation.
The Temple and Idea of Sacred Space Class 1

Week 2 (April 20): From Pillar to Tabernacle. Sanctuary and sacrifice will be considered as a  means of approaching the Holy, and of overcoming the our fallen  estrangement from God. In this class we will trace the evolution of the tabernacle and the idea of gradations of “holiness”. Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai was a theophany (divine appearance), previewing later, more formal and elaborate Temple structures. The tabernacle and various forms of cultic worship were designed to put a barrier between the Holy of Holies and the everyday world outside. Readings: Exodus 3, 19, 24-26 (optional: Exodus 27-40),  Leviticus 26