The Destruction of Herod’s Temple

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bar_kochba_coin1

The picture of the coin is from a historical\archaeological blog I subscribe too. The coin is called a Bar Kockhba coin.

Bar Kockhba led a Jewish revolt against the Romans (reign of Hadrian) in 132-136 A.D. The Romans won and the result was many Jews were disbursed throughout the Roman Empire to lessen the chances of another revolt. The coin is interesting for its messianic and eschatological symbols that include a Star of David and a rebuilt [third] Temple.

The first Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians and he Second Temple also known as Herod’s temple was destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D. during the first Jewish revolt. Thus, by 132 A.D. the Jews were hoping for a messiah to rescue them from the Romans and rebuild what would have been the Third Temple.

In Matthew 24 Jesus foretells the destruction of the Second Temple:

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1-2 ESV)

Model of the Second Temple from wiki

Model of the Second Temple from wiki

It seems that the disciples were curious and possibly distressed a bit by Jesus’ comment. They approach him privately and ask two questions although the second question is of two parts, “what will be the sign of your coming” and “of the end of the age” suggesting that the disciples were making a connection between all three events.

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 ESV)

Scholars have argued about those connections ever since. D.A. Carson, noted New Testament scholar said this in his commentary about Matthew 24:

“Few chapters of the Bible have called forth more disagreement among interpreters than Matthew 24 and its parallels in Mark 13 and Luke 21. The history of the interpretation of this chapter is immensely complex.” D.A. Carson (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, volume 8, page 488).

To render an opinion on all that would require much more space than a blog would allow so I’ll keep my commentary to Jesus’ remarkable prophecy regarding what most scholars do agree on, the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus in 70 A.D.

Herod, also known as Herod the Great because of his architectural achievements began work on the Second Temple in 20 B.C. or so. Work was not totally completed until 64 A.D. Therefore, the temple only stood completed for 6 years before being destroyed by the Romans.

When the disciples asked Jesus about the temple’s destruction it would be approximately 40 years in the future although the main buildings would have been finished when they asked the question.

The occasion for the temple’s destruction was the first major or great Jewish revolt against the Romans (66-73 A.D.). The Bar Kockhba revolt or war was the third major confrontation between Jew and Roman (132-135 A.D.). The second war was known as the Kotis War of 115-117 A.D. although this war has received much less attention than the other two.

Judea was a powder keg prior to the first war. There had always been religious tensions between the occupiers (Seleucid Greeks and the later Romans) and the occupied. These tensions were often exacerbated by the occupiers such as when the Romans hung Caesar’s image in the temple as was attempted by the mad emperor Caligula (37 A.D to 41 A.D.) who really believed he was a god.

Some Romans on the spot knew better than needlessly offend the Jews and the Caligula crisis was averted but the area still simmered in discontent.

Heavy taxation contributed to the grievances against the Romans.  In fact, the writer of Matthew’s gospel was a tax-collector. Jesus was thought of as being the friend of sinners meaning prostitutes and tax-collectors. Matthew would have been one unpopular fellow for collaborating with the Romans!

Attacks on Roman citizens and their Jewish collaborators like tax collectors were made by Jewish zealots called sicarii because of the knife they used. The zealots took every opportunity to fan the flames of revolt. Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ twelve and the one who famously betrayed him was a zealot. His name “Iscariot” is a corruption of the Latin word “sicarius” meaning assassin or murderer.

By 66 A.D. the Romans were fed up with zealots and assassins and plundered Herod’s Temple in retaliation. In the process they killed over 6000 Jews in typical Roman fashion. That led to full scale rebellion and the Romans had to send a full legion plus auxiliaries from Syria to stamp the revolt out. This force was soundly defeated by an aroused population led by the zealots. The legion’s eagle was lost and thus a major disgrace for the Romans.

Sicarii knife. Sicarri means "dagger men," Jewish zealots or dagger men engaged in the assassination of Roman citizens and Jewish collaborators.

Sicarii knife. Sicarri means “dagger men,” Jewish zealots or dagger men engaged in the assassination of Roman citizens and Jewish collaborators.

The Romans of this time period never accepted defeat and they soon brought in more legions. The new force was  commanded by Roman General Vespasian. Vespasian would become the emperor who would build the famous coliseum partly financed with the treasures taken from the destruction of the temple.

Vespasian fought a thoughtful, costly and slow campaign to subdue the rebels but by 69 A.D. he had been called away from the campaign to fight in yet another Roman Civil War in what became known as the year of four emperors. He would emerge victorious and become emperor. His son Titus was left in command of the legions and he would begin to besiege the center of resistance in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Stone relief celebrating Titus's Triumph in taking Jerusalem. A Menorah can clearly be seen among the treasures looted.

Stone relief celebrating Titus’s Triumph in taking Jerusalem. A Menorah can clearly be seen among the treasures looted.

The siege took a full seven months. The temple was torn down (the stones being thrown down that Jesus referred to) as well as Jerusalem’s walls. Most of the survivors were sold into slavery. The war went on until 73 A.D. when the Fortress of Masada fell, it’s defenders choosing suicide over slavery.

Roman denarius with Titus on one side and the commemoration of his triumph over Jerusalem on the other.

Roman denarius with Titus on one side and the commemoration of his triumph over Jerusalem on the other.

As noted above with the Bar Kockhba coin by 132 A.D. the Jews were expecting yet another political messiah to drive out the Romans and rebuild the temple. Some Christians today believe that a rebuilt temple is necessary before Jesus returns. They believe that modern Israel will accomplish the task even though a Moslem mosque sits on the temple mount. For many Christians a third temple holds much significance just as it would for many religious Jews. The region is no less volatile than it was in the days of Jesus and Titus.

It seems to me from a reading of Matthew 24 that the disciple’s expectations were that all three events would be fulfilled in relatively short order believing that Jesus was the political messiah that everyone thought would throw off the Roman yoke.

Jesus’ answers which are long indicate otherwise. Instead Jesus predicts a near present fulfillment (the destruction of the temple) and a future fulfillment of the end of an age and a reference to his second coming. Jesus’ answer was no doubt confusing to the disciples who maintained preconceived notions like many of their countrymen.

John 2:13-22 sheds some additional light on the issue.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:13-22 ESV)

In this rather straight forward account Jesus makes reference to the temple as his Father’s house. He is angry about the money changers and turns over their tables.. His disciples viewing the incident do some remembering that Jesus is consumed by zeal for his Father’s house.

The Jews react to Jesus’ actions and words and ask for a sign (of authority). Jesus answers, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews misunderstand the “this” and assume he means Herod’s Temple. He does not mean Herod’s Temple.

At the time the disciples don’t understand but in verses 21-22 John says the “this” was Jesus’ body and that when Jesus was raised from the dead they believed the Scripture having remembered what Jesus had said. In other words the disciples do not totally get the prophecy until Jesus rises from the dead. They then remember what he has said about temples and himself being The Temple that would save people from their sins.

Today many professing Christians do not look at the Bible as being reliable or they think it is outdated. Yet, fulfilled prophecy is hard to explain away when taken seriously by an objective person.

Matthew 24 is a fascinating study in fulfilled prophecy and the fulfillment of later prophecies.

A Song has Ended

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I recommend this blog. The author was a military chaplain and a bit of an expert on C.S. Lewis.

Mere Inkling

lyric christmasSix months of life with someone you love, is too brief. Far too brief.

Only last June I invited you to share our joy with the adoption into our family of Lyric, a border collie mix.

Tragically, last night the precious girl passed away. And our family is now dealing with the shock and grief that are such a painful (but inescapable) part of loving the pets who join our families.

After Lyric had been with us for several months, we saw evidence (excessive salivation and frantic, happy racing around the house) of a health concern. When we later witnessed a seizure that lasted just a minute or two, it was nearly as traumatic to us as it was to her. That feeling of helplessness is horrible, isn’t it?

Visits to the vet resulted in the suspicion that it may have been caused by the mushrooms that grow abundantly in…

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We Ought not be Suprised

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I don’t know about you but when I read something in the news particularity when it involves the culture wars my mind turns to what Scripture has to say about the issue. This is usually right after I get angry or disgusted at what I just read. Such was the case yesterday morning.

First the Scripture that came to mind and then the article that prompted the remembrance of the Scripture.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Corinthians 5:1-2 ESV)

1corinthians

As a whole the Corinthian epistles are not “go to” places to be encouraged, although much is encouraging. Rather, the epistles are intended to be a series of rebukes to a church much confused about who they are and what is acceptable and what is not in the church of Jesus Christ. To be called a Corinthian in Paul’s time was to assume a great deal of sexual deviance and Paul would not tolerate it within the church.

At times Paul is down right sarcastic as well as blunt when he addresses what needs to be addressed. If he were preaching today he’d be accused of being mean-spirited and unloving and would probably never get to be a mega-church to pastor. I doubt he’d care.

The presenting issue in the above passage is that a professing Corinthian Christian is having sex with his father’s wife. Paul says that even the pagans do not tolerate that kind of behavior. Furthermore, he bluntly tells the Corinthian Church(es) that they are arrogant, meaning that they think this sort of behavior is acceptable.

He says that their arrogance is unacceptable and then tells them that their proper response ought to be of mourning because one of their number is doing even what the pagans find distasteful and\or wrong. To sum up the rebuke Paul commands, not suggests, that  the miscreant be kicked out of the congregation. Paul is a no-nonsense kind of apostle and pastor.

As already noted Paul would probably not be all that popular today in many evangelical churches and he certainly would not be popular in our whacked out PC culture.

The reason this Scripture came to my mind this morning was a column by Mona Charen in Townhall titled Our Crazed Sexuality Standards.

The column tells the story reported in the New York Times where a person born female sought to become male “when he embarked on the transition from female to male at age 18 — changing his name, taking testosterone and eventually undergoing surgery to remove his breasts — he left his female reproductive organs intact. In his mid-20s, he decided it was time. He stopped taking testosterone and started trying to get pregnant.”

Eventually she, now a he, sort of, gave birth to a daughter with the help of a clinic. The first clinic he went to refused to help saying they did not have enough experience with transgendered folks to help. The man, once a  woman, is now suing the first clinic for sexual discrimination. Of course, anything short of full endorsement and acceptance is now a reason to sue.

The rest of Ms. Charen’s column goes on to detail “what is wrong with this  picture”  meaning the elevation of pc sexual politics where anything goes as well as Ms.  Charen claiming rightly in my opinion that this man’s daughter named Elise would be subject to child abuse given the messed up thinking of her “father” and the pc culture surrounding him with its support.

As I noted earlier my first thoughts were those of anger and disgust. I was angry for the daughter who will be brainwashed into accepting a new normal where even the things the pagans once found repulsive are now acceptable and even encouraged. My disgust is from watching a culture decline seemingly without any kind of conscience as it becomes increasingly deviant without restraint. To my disgust I’d also add mourning because I know of people I love and care for who would find the story of this man and daughter acceptable even as they’d describe it as sexual progress.

Ms. Charen did a great job of reporting the story and expressing her views that I share about the deviant decline of the culture. She said nothing about a church’s response to this kind of news. I would not expect her to which leads me to why 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 came to my mind.

Paul was never surprised that the Greco-Roman culture he ministered in was so messed up. It was why he could use the first two verses in 1 Corinthians 5 to shock and rebuke the Corinthians for accepting a man within their midst who was doing things that even the messed up culture disapproved of and even shamed.

Paul’s concern, and he was consistent about this, is that the church is supposed to be different from the culture and when it’s not it’s time to take serious action called church discipline.

This does not mean we should not be concerned about the culture. We should, there is much to mourn and much to pray about especially in regards to people who need the gospel for the gospel is what truly changes people.

Paul’s concern and our main concern ought to be for the integrity of the church in the midst of a Corinthian culture.  In this way, the church is truly counter cultural and perhaps that sends the strongest message to the culture.

For more on the troubled Corinthian Church follow this link to Bible.org