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The Court of the Women in the Temple

Beautiful Gate

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The Gate Beautiful

bar-kochba-coin-small.jpgGoing beyond the Court of the Gentiles stood the magnificent 60 foot wide "Gate Beautiful" mentioned in Acts 3:2,10. It was identified by some scholars as the "Gate Shusan" because it contained a beautifully sculptured relief of the city of Susa. During the time of the morning and evening sacrifices this great entrance was the place of public worship.

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Some Commentary Notes:

ICC - Of the Temple gates Josephus writes that ‘nine were completely overlaid with gold and silver, as were also their door-posts; but one, that outside the sanctuary, was of Corinthian bronze, and far exceeded in value those plated with silver and set in gold’ (War 5.201). This gate is usually identified with the Nicanor Gate, see Middoth 2.3: ‘All the gates that were there had been changed [and overlaid] with gold, save only the doors of the Nicanor Gate, for with them a miracle...had happened; and some say, because their bronze shown like gold...This passage unfortunately is by no means clear; the gate in question may be ‘the gate between the court of the Gentiles and the court of the women, or between the court of the women and the court of the men’ (Lake, Beginnings of Christianity, 5.483). Kirsopp Lake [1872-1946]...prefers the former. But is the Nicanor, or Corinthian, Gate that which Luke means by the Beautiful Gate? The description given by both Josephus and the Rabbis seem to warrant the identification, but it is not explicit; and it is well to remember that ὡραιος does not normally mean beautiful...A traditional view is that Luke’s gate is to be identified with the Shushan Gate (so called because on it was portrayed the palace of Shushan; Middoth 1.3; Kelim 17.9), situated like the Nicanor Gate on the eastern side of the Temple...The tradition is not ancient, and the Shushan Gate was no place for a beggar to sit, since it would be used only by those entering the Temple from the Mount of Olives or from villages on the eastern side of the city and not by those who approached from the city itself. The fact is that no ancient source mentions the Beautiful Gate (even if ὡραια is a corruption of aurea, golden, we can do no better), and we do not know where it was located. The Nicanor Gate is probably the best guess (Barrett, Acts 1-14 (International Critical Commentary), 179-80)

Easton's - Beautiful gate the name of one of the gates of the temple (Acts 3:2). It is supposed to have been the door which led from the court of the Gentiles to the court of the women. It was of massive structure, and covered with plates of Corinthian brass.

ISBE - GATE, THE BEAUTIFUL. bu'-ti-fool (he horaia pule tou hierou): This gate of Herod's temple is mentioned in the narrative of the healing of the lame man by Peter and John in Acts 3:2,10. Little dispute exists as to the identification of the Beautiful Gate with the splendid "gate of Nicanor" of the Mishna (Mid., i.4), and "Corinthian Gate" of Josephus (BJ, V, v, 3), but authorities are divided as to whether this gate was situated at the entrance to the women's court on the East, or was the gate reached by 15 steps, dividing that court from the court of the men. The balance of recent opinion inclines strongly to the former view (compare Kennedy, "Problems of Herod's Temple," The Expositor Times, XX, 170); others take the opposite view (Waterhouse, in Sacred Sites of the Gospels, 110), or leave the question open (thus G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, II, 212). See TEMPLE, HEROD'S. The gate itself was of unusual size and splendor. It received the name "Nicanor" from its being the work, or having been constructed at the expense, of an Alexandrian Jew of this name. Lately an ossuary was discovered on Mt. Olivet bearing the Greek inscription: "The bones of Nicanor the Alexandrian, who made the doors." Its other name, "Corinthian," refers to the costly material of which it was constructed--Corinthian bronze. Josephus gives many interesting particulars about this gate, which, he tells us, greatly excelled in workmanship and value all the others (BJ, V, v, 3). These were plated with gold and silver, but this still more richly and thickly. It was larger than the  other gates; was 50 cubits in height (the others 40); its weight was so great that it took 20 men to move it (BJ, VI,  vi, 3). Its massiveness and magnificence, therefore, well earned for it the name "Beautiful."

Lightfoot - The Court of the Gentiles compassed the Temple and the courts on every side. The same also did Chel, or the Ante-murale. "That space was ten cubits broad, divided from the Court of the Gentiles by a fence, ten hand-breadths high; in which were thirteen breaches, which the kings of Greece had made: but the Jews had again repaired them, and had appointed thirteen adorations answering to them."  Maimonides writes: "Inwards" (from the Court of the Gentiles) "was a fence, that encompassed on every side, ten hand-breadths in height, and within the fence Chel, or the Ante-murale: of which it is said, in the Lamentations, 'And he caused Chel and the Wall to lament,'" Lamentations 2:8. Josephus writes, "The second circuit was gone up to by a few steps: which the partition of a stone wall surrounded: where was an inscription, forbidding any of another nation to enter, upon pain of death." Hence happened that danger to Paul because of Trophimus the Ephesian, Acts 21:29. "The Chel or Ante-murale" (or second enclosure about the Temple), "was more sacred than the Court of the Gentiles: for hither no heathen, nor any unclean by that which died of itself, nor who lay with a menstruous woman, might come." "From hence they ascended into the Court of the Women by twelve steps." On the east it had only one gate, called in the Holy Scripture, 'Beautiful,' Acts 3:2. In Josephus, the 'Corinthian' gate: saith he; "Of the gates, nine of them were every where overlaid with gold and silver, likewise the posts, and the lintels. But one, without the Temple, made of Corinthian brass, did much exceed, in glory, those, that were overlaid with silver and gold. And two gates of every court were each thirty cubits high, and fifteen broad." On the south was only one gate also, and one on the north: and galleries; or court-walks within, joining to the wall, in the same manner as in the outer court, but not double. Before which were the treasuries placed, or thirteen chests, called by the Talmudists, Shopharoth; in which was put the money offered for the various services of the Temple; and, according to that variety, the chests had various titles written on them: whence the offerer might know into which to put his offering, according to his quality. Upon one was inscribed, "The new shekels"; into which were cast the shekels of that year. Upon another, "The old shekels"; into which were gathered the shekels owing the last year. Upon another, "pigeons and turtles." Upon another, "The burnt sacrifice." Upon another, "The wood." Upon another, "Frankincense." Upon another, "Gold for the propitiation." And six chests had written on them, "Voluntary sacrifice." "The length of the Women's Court was a hundred thirty-five cubits, and the breadth a hundred thirty-five cubits. And there were four chambers in the four corners of it, each forty cubits, but not roofed." See Ezekiel 46:21,22. "At the south-east was the court of the Nazarites: because there the Nazarites boiled their thank-offerings, and cut their hair, and put it under the pot." "At the north-east was the chamber of wood: where the priests, defiled with any spot, searched the wood, whether it was unclean by worms. And all wood in which a worm was found was not fit for the altar." "At the north-west was the chamber of the Leprous." "At the south-west was the chamber of wine and oil." "On the highest sides" (we follow the version of the famous Constantine L'Empereur), "was the smooth and plain Court of the Women; but they bounded it round about with an inward gallery, that the women might see from above, and the men from below, that they might not be mingled." In this Court of the Women was celebrated the sacred and festival dance, in the feast of Tabernacles, called the "Pouring out of Water": the ritual of which you have in the place cited in the margin. "The Court of the Women was more sacred than the Chel; because any, who had contracted such an unclearness that was to be cleansed the same day, might not enter into it."

We will go up, at the east gate, out of the Chel, out of which there were five steps, that rose up to the gate to land you in it. The gate itself was exceeding sumptuous, and exceeding beautiful: and this was that which was called "the Beautiful gate of the Temple," Acts iii. 2, at which the cripple lay begging of alms, both of men and women, that went into the Temple. At this gate began To "the inner Temple," as Josephus doth often call it,—distinguishing between that space, that was enclosed within the boundary wall that encompassed the whole holy ground,—and that space, that was enclosed within the wall that encompassed the courts: the former of them was called, " the Outer Temple," and the latter was called, "the Inner and both of them bare the name of the Temple: and so, in the Scripture, whosoever went but within the compass of the holy ground, is said to have gone into the Temple. Now this gate being the very front and entrance into the inner Temple, or into that space, within which the choicest sanctity and bravery of the Temple was,—it was built and decked with such sumptuousness and singular gallantry, as was fitting for the frontispiece of so brave a place. And hence it came to bear the name of "Beautiful;" and that the rather, also, in comparison of the gate "Shushan," or the outmost east gate, that entered into the Mountain of the House; for that was but a low and homely gate-house,—for a reason that hath been observed heretofore: but this was goodly and lofty, and stood bravely mounted upon the far higher ground. This gate Josephus" calleth the "Corinthian Gate," because it was of Corinthian brass; whereas the rest of the gates were gilt with gold. And here occurreth a difference betwixt him and the Talmudical writers; for they do unanimously hold the brazen gate to be the gate of Nicanor (which we shall survey anon), which was the gate that went out of the Court of the Women into the Court of Israel: but he doth as confidently affirm on the other hand, that it was that, that went out of" the 'Chel' into the Court of the Women. "There was one gate without the Temple, of Corinthian brass, which exceeded in glory those of gold or silver." Now where this gate stood,—namely, in that place that we are upon, appeareth by this passage of his a little after; "The gate above the Corinthian gate, which opened east, over-against the gate of the Temple,"

Edersheim - The 'Beautiful Gate' These eight side gates, as we may call them, were all two-leaved, wide, high, with superstructures and chambers supported by two pillars, and covered with gold and silver plating. But far more magnificent than any of them was the ninth or eastern gate, which formed the principal entrance into the Temple. The ascent to it was from the terrace by twelve easy steps. The gate itself was made of dazzling Corinthian brass, most richly ornamented; and so massive were its double doors that it needed the united strength of twenty men to open and close them. This was the 'Beautiful Gate'; and on its steps had they been wont these many years to lay the lame man, just as privileged beggars now lie at the entrance to Continental cathedrals. No wonder that all Jerusalem knew him; and when on that sunny afternoon Peter and John joined the worshippers in the Court of the Women, not alone, but in company with the well-known cripple, who, after his healing, was 'walking and leaping and praising God,' universal 'wonder and amazement' must have been aroused. Then, when the lame man, still 'holding by' the apostles, again descended these steps, we can readily understand how all the people would crowd around in Solomon's Porch, close by, till the sermon of Peter--so fruitful in its spiritual results--was interrupted by the Temple police, and the sudden imprisonment of the apostles.

Edersheim - Court of the Women. The Court of the Women obtained its name, not from its appropriation to the exclusive use of women, but because they were not allowed to proceed farther, except for sacrificial purposes. Indeed, this was probably the common place for worship, the females occupying, according to Jewish tradition, only a raised gallery along three sides of the court. This court covered a space upwards of 200 feet square. All around ran a simple colonnade, and within it, against the wall, the thirteen chests, or 'trumpets,' for charitable contributions were placed. These thirteen chests were narrow at the mouth and wide at the bottom, shaped like trumpets, whence their name. Their specific objects were carefully marked on them. Nine were for the receipt of what was legally due by worshippers; the other four for strictly voluntary gifts. Trumpets I and II were appropriated to the half-shekel Temple-tribute of the current and of the past year. Into Trumpet III those women who had to bring turtledoves for a burnt- and a sin-offering dropped their equivalent in money, which was daily taken out and a corresponding number of turtledoves offered. This not only saved the labour of so many separate sacrifices, but spared the modesty of those who might not wish to have the occasion or the circumstances of their offering to be publicly known. Into this trumpet Mary the mother of Jesus must have dropped the value of her offering (Luke 2:22,24) when the aged Simeon took the infant Saviour 'in his arms, and blessed God.' Trumpet IV similarly received the value of the offerings of young pigeons. In Trumpet V contributions for the wood used in the Temple; in Trumpet VI for the incense, and in Trumpet VII for the golden vessels for the ministry were deposited. If a man had put aside a certain sum for a sin-offering, and any money was left over after its purchase, it was cast into Trumpet VIII. Similarly, Trumpets IX, X, XI, XII, and XIII were destined for what was left over from trespass-offerings, offerings of birds, the offering of the Nazarite, of the cleansed leper, and voluntary offerings. In all probability this space where the thirteen Trumpets were placed was the 'treasury,' where Jesus taught on that memorable Feast of Tabernacles (John 7 and 8; see specially 8:20). We can also understand how, from the peculiar and known destination of each of these thirteen 'trumpets,' the Lord could distinguish the contributions of the rich who cast in 'of their abundance' from that of the poor widow who of her 'penury' had given 'all the living' that she had (Mark 12:41; Luke 21:1). But there was also a special treasury-chamber, into which at certain times they carried the contents of the thirteen chests; and, besides, what was called 'a chamber of the silent,' where devout persons secretly deposited money, afterwards secretly employed for educating children of the pious poor. It is probably in ironical allusion to the form and name of these treasure-chests that the Lord, making use of the word 'trumpet,' describes the conduct of those who, in their almsgiving, sought glory from men as 'sounding a trumpet' before them (Matthew 6:2)--that is, carrying before them, as it were, in full display one of these trumpet-shaped alms-boxes (literally called in the Talmud, 'trumpets'), and, as it were, sounding it. * The allusion is all the more pointed, when we bear in mind that each of these trumpets had a mark to tell its special object. It seems strange that this interpretation should not have occurred to any of the commentators, who have always found the allusion such a crux interpretum. An article in the Bible Educator has since substantially adopted this view, adding that trumpets were blown when the alms were collected. But for the latter statement there is no historical authority whatever, and it would contravene the religious spirit of the times.

Edersheim - The Chambers - In each of the four corners of the Court of the Women were chambers, or rather unroofed courts, each said to have been 60 feet long. In that at the right hand (on the north-east), the priests who were unfit for other than menial services on account of bodily blemishes, picked the worm-eaten wood from that destined for the altar. In the court at the farther angle (north-west) the purified lepers washed before presenting themselves to the priests at the Gate of Nicanor. At the left (south-east) the Nazarites polled their hair, and cooked their peace-offerings; while in a fourth court (at the south-west) the oil and wine were kept for the drink-offerings. The musical instruments used by the Levites were deposited in two rooms under the Court of the Israelites, to which the access was from the Court of the Women. Of course the western colonnade of this court was open. Thence fifteen easy steps led through the so-called Gate of Nicanor into the Court of Israel. On these steps the Levites were wont on the Feast of Tabernacles to sing the fifteen 'Psalms of Degrees,' or ascent (Psalms 120 to 134), whence some have derived their name. Here, or, rather, in the Gate of Nicanor, all that was ordered to be done 'before the Lord' took place. There the cleansed leper and the women coming for purification presented themselves to the priests, and there also the 'water of jealousy' was given to the suspected wife. Read More

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The Women's Court in the Temple in Jerusalem

Jerusalem Temple - Court of the Women

Mark 12:41-44 "Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."

The Jerusalem Temple

Small Widows Mite Coin If you were to approach the Temple in Jerusalem in the first century A.D. you would pass through the eastern gate where Jesus made His triumphal entry. Then you would come to the Court of the Gentiles which was a large court paved with stones of various colors. It was open to all comers including the cattle-dealers and the money-changers who desecrated the Temple. This court was also called the Outer Court, the Lower Court, and the rabbi’s usually called it "the Mountain of the Lord’s House." All around the Temple proper was a 9 foot high terrace with stairs which was higher than the Court of the Gentiles. It was surrounded by a 5 foot high wall which was designed to keep out the gentiles. There was also pillars in the wall at various distances (the Soreg) with inscriptions in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, warning all gentiles to come no further under penalty of death.

Going beyond the Court of the Gentiles and at the top of the terrace there was a platform for about 15 feet and then there was another wall. On the east side stood the magnificent 60 foot wide "Gate Beautiful" mentioned in Acts 3:2,10. It was also referred to as the "Gate Susan" because it contained a beautifully sculptured relief of the city of Susa. During the time of the morning and evening sacrifices this great entrance was the place of public worship.

Entering through the Susan Gate you would come to a large court called "the Court of the Women" not because there were only women there but because women could not go beyond it. There were smaller courts with columns in the four corners of the court.

According to the Mishnah (Middoth 2,5) the Women's Court was was just over 200 feet square between bounding lines. Each court on the outside was 60 feet square.

In front of these columns were the eleven treasure chests of the Temple for the voluntary offerings of money, and there were also two at the Gate of Susan, for the half-shekel tax. Jesus was sitting ‘opposite the treasury' when he saw the widow put into one of the containers the two copper coins which were all that she had (Mark 12:41-44; Lk 21:1-2).

It was near these treasure chests that the man healed of his blindness came up to Jesus in John 8:20 and worshipped Him.

Continuing eastward there was a magnificent circular staircase and the Nicanor Gate. Entering through the gate there was a narrow hall filled with beautiful cloistered columns called "Court of the Israelites" and it was also through a wall and up a flight of stairs. The Court of the Israelites surrounded the "Court of the Priests" which was where the altar of sacrifice was. The women could only glance over a balcony from the Court of the Women to see the ceremonies inside the Inner Court (According to Middoth).

Illustration
Introduction
Overview
Chel
Beautiful Gate
Nicanor Gate
Circular Steps
Levite Choirs
Oil of Yah Court
Nazarite Court
Leper's Chamber Court
Woodshed Court
Colonnades
Balconies
The Temple Treasury
Women
Scriptures
Dictionaries
Encyclopedias
Historical Sources
Heart Message

An Old Woman - A Heart Message

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The Court of the Women

Bible History Online

The Story of the Bible


© Bible History Online (http://www.bible-history.com)

 

Small Widows Mite Coin Obverse
Table of Contents

Illustration
Introduction
Overview
Chel
Beautiful Gate
Nicanor Gate
Circular Steps
Levite Choirs
Oil of Yah Court
Nazarite Court
Leper's Chamber Court
Woodshed Court
Colonnades
Balconies
The Temple Treasury
Women
Scriptures
Dictionaries
Encyclopedias
Historical Sources
Heart Message