An examination of the history of the three holy temples of Jerusalem and the ark of the covenant. There are rituals associated over time with different parts of temple life and worship; which ones survive? We examine the tradition of the ark of the covenant and other Jewish relics. (Biblical Mysteries EP23)
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple (Hebrew: Hebrew: בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, Modern: Bet HaMikdash, Tiberian: Beṯ HamMiqdāš, Ashkenazi: Beis HaMikdosh; Arabic: بيت القدس: Beit al-Quds or بيت المقدس: Beit al-Maqdis) was one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of ancient Israelite and later Jewish worship. According to classical Jewish belief, the Temple acted as the figurative “footstool” of God’s presence and a Third Temple will be built there in the future.
In addition to the Hebrew Bible, the Temple is mentioned many times in the New Testament. In these scriptures, Jesus prays there (Mark 11:12–19) and chases away money changers and other merchants from the courtyard, turning over their tables and accusing them of desecrating a sacred place with secular ways. According to the New Testament Gospels, it was to the Temple Court that Jesus was brought as a child, to be presented at the Temple (Luke 2:22) and to attend festivals (Luke 2:41). Jerusalem historian Dan Mazar reported in the Jerusalem Christian Review on the numerous archaeological discoveries made at this location by his grandfather, Prof. Benjamin Mazar, which included the 1st century stairs of ascent, where Jesus and his disciples preached, as well as the “mikvaot” (or baptismals) used by both Christian and Jewish pilgrims. The events of Pentecost, which are recorded in the Book of Acts, also took place at this location. At the area in which Jesus cleanses the Temple of the moneychangers, chasing various commercial traders of doves necessary for the sacrificial rituals away from the sacred precincts (Mark 11), remarkable findings were uncovered by the elder Mazar, such as a 1st-century vessel with the Hebrew word “Korban”, meaning sacrifice(s). It was believed by Benjamin Mazar that inside this vessel, merchants would have stored the sacrifices sold at the Temple Court.
Jesus predicts the destruction of the Second Temple (Matthew 24:2) and allegorically compares his body to a Temple that will be torn down and raised up again in three days. This idea, of the Temple as the body of Christ, became a rich and multi-layered theme in medieval Christian thought (where Temple/body can be the heavenly body of Christ, the ecclesial body of the Church, and the Eucharistic body on the altar).
Imam Abdul Hadi Palazzi, leader of Italian Muslim Assembly, quotes the Qur’an to support Judaism’s special connection to the Temple Mount. According to Palazzi, “The most authoritative Islamic sources affirm the Temples,”. He adds that Jerusalem is sacred to Muslims because of its prior holiness to Jews and its standing as home to the biblical prophets and kings David and Solomon, all of whom he says are sacred figures also in Islam. He claims that the Qur’an “expressly recognizes that Jerusalem plays the same role for Jews that Mecca has for Muslims”.
This view is not universally accepted. Assertions by Muslims that Jews never inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times and therefore have no claim to live in the land today and denial of the authenticity of Jewish claims to ancient holy sites—such as the Temple Mount and the Cave of Machpelah—appear to be on the increase. In his 2007 book, The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City, Ambassador Dore Gold calls such claims “Temple Denial”.
The Ark of the Covenant (Hebrew: אָרוֹן הַבְּרִית ʾĀrôn Habbərît, modern pron. Aron Habrit), also known as the Ark of the Testimony, is a chest described in the Book of Exodus as containing the Tablets of Stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. According to some traditional interpretations of the Book of Exodus, Book of Numbers, and the Letter to the Hebrews the Ark also contained Aaron’s rod, a jar of manna and the first Torah scroll as written by Moses; however, the first of the Books of Kings says that at the time of King Solomon, the Ark contained only the two Tablets of the Law. According to the Book of Exodus, the Ark was built at the command of God, in accordance with the instructions given to Moses on Mount Sinai. God was said to have communicated with Moses “from between the two cherubim” on the Ark’s cover.