Ancient Near East
Images & Art
Maps & Geography
Mythology & Beliefs
People in History
Timelines & Charts
Directly across the Tyropean Valley from the Upper City, in the northeastern corner of Jerusalem, stood the magnificent temple, the city's crowning jewel. Built by Herod as a goodwill gesture toward his hostile Jewish subjects, it was commonly accepted as one of the finest religious structures in the world.
The central sanctuary was approached through a series of spacious outer courts, each court progressively more exclusive. The outermost was the COURT OF THE GENTILES, a huge rectangular area about 35 acres in size. It was paved with colored stones and enclosed by tall, stately columns. Visitors entered through a number of immense double and triple gates, which stood at intervals along the outer court. As its name suggests, the Court of the Gentiles was open to Gentiles as well as Jews, and it was usually crowded with people from many backgrounds and walks of life. On a typical day a visitor would encounter Jewish pilgrims from all over Palestine and the Roman Empire; merchants selling doves, young sheep and cattle for sacrifice; moneychangers converting foreign currency into Jewish shekels; Jewish scribes and rabbis discussing points of Mosaic law; and others simply passing the time of day.
At the center of the Court of the Gentiles stood a second enclosed compound, posted with signs in Greek and Latin warning: "No foreigner is allowed within the balustrades and embankment about the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will be personally responsible for his ensuing death." Only Jewish men and women could venture beyond this point, which led, through three large gates, into the COURT OF WOMEN. This court too was surrounded by ornate columns.At the western side of the Court of Women was a curved flight of 15 stairs, which ascended to the NICANOR GATE, so named because its magnificent bronze doors had been donated by a rich Alexandrian Jew named Nicanor.
Beyond them lay the COURT OF ISRAEL, a long and narrow area where the Jewish men assembled during temple services. No women were allowed here.
A low balustrade (railing) separated this section from the COURT OF THE PRIESTS, accessible only to the priests and Levites who served in the temple.
In the center of this court was the great horned ALTAR OF SACRIFICE with a long ramp leading to the top.
The beauty of the entire complex was the majestic TEMPLE SANCTUARY itself, which stood at the rear of the Court of Priests. It was built of perfectly tooled and fitted white marble stones, covered with plates of heavy gold. Golden spikes rose from the roof, which soared to a height of about 165 feet. At the back of a large porch were immense gilded doors covered by a Babylonian tapestry of blue, purple, crimson and gold, depicting the heavens. Above was a golden vine, symbol of the nation of Israel. It was said that there was so much gold covering the building that no one could look directly at it in bright sunlight.
THE FIRST ROOM OF THE TEMPLE SANCTUARY
Inside the Temple Sanctuary were two rooms. The first, the HOLY PLACE, was a large hall paneled in cedar. It contained a GOLDEN ALTAR FOR INCENSE, a GOLDEN TABLE FOR THE BREAD OFFERING and a GOLDEN MENORAH, a seven-branched candelabrum lit by seven lamps burning purest olive oil.
THE SECOND ROOM OF THE TEMPLE SANCTUARY
The second room, the HOLY OF HOLIES, was separated from the first by a heavy linen curtain embroidered with spun gold. Only the high priest was allowed to enter this sacred spot, and he only on the annual Day of Atonement. Within this mysterious chamber, believed to be the earthly dwelling place of Israel's Lord, there was nothing at all. The very absence of objects symbolized the intangible and invisible presence of God.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE
Begun in 20 BC, the construction of the temple was one of Herod's most ambitious projects. The old temple mount first had to be cleared and enlarged to about twice its original size. The new area was roughly 1000 by 1500 feet, girded by a massive retaining wall of huge fitted stones, each more than 15 feet long and 13 feet thick. As Solomon had done earlier, Herod imported the best stone masons and architects from Phoenicia to direct the construction. Only the finest materials were used: cedar from Lebanon, the purest marble and limestone and the finest gold.
"One of his disciples said to him, 'Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!'" (Mk 13:1)
When Herod the Great rebuilt Jerusalem's temple in 20 BC, he erected a great retaining wall to extend the temple's base. Taking thousands of workers many years to build, the huge wall was made of limestone blocks (some of them over 30 feet long) hauled from a quarry on rollers and hoisted aloft by wooden cranes. Its fine masonry is apparent in unweathered, newly excavated portions, where the unmortared stones still show their smooth original faring.
The project required the services of more than 10,000 laborers. Herod had 1,000 priests specially trained as carpenters and masons to work on the sanctuary building: by law no layman was allowed to handle the sacred building materials. The sanctuary was completed in 18 months, but the outer courtyards were not finished for another 80 years, in 64 AD. During this entire time the temple ritual was never interrupted.
THE FORTRESS OF ANTONIA
Along the northern side of the temple courtyard stood the massive palace - fortress of Antonia, another of Herod's landmarks. A stairway and an underground passageway connected the Antonia with the Court of the Gentiles, and the 600 soldiers stationed there were always on the alert for disturbances in the temple precincts. The precious ceremonial robes of the high priest were kept in one of its four guard towers and were released only on important religious feast days.
The Romans had taken custody of the garments as a precautionary measure. Realizing the tremendous power of the high priest's office, they sought to limit it by restricting the use of the robes, which symbolized its authority. In the century before the Roman occupation in 63 BC, the king of Israel had also been the high priest and both offices had been hereditary. The Romans had abolished the kingship and had made the office of high priest appointive, always subject to their approval. Nonetheless, in Jesus' day the high priest remained the most powerful figure in the Jewish nation.
"I marvel that whereas the ambitious dreams of myself, Caesar, and Alexander should have vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant - Jesus should be able to stretch his hands across the centuries and control the destinies of men and nations." - Napoleon I Bonaparte (1809)
The Birth of John the Baptist
The History of the Birth of Jesus
NazarethGabriel Announces to Mary (Lk 1:26-38).
BethlehemThe Decree of Augustus Caesar and the Birth of Christ (Lk 2:1-7). The Second Visitors - Magi (Mat 2:1-12).
JerusalemJesus is Circumcised and Presented in the Temple (Lk 2:21-38).
EgyptOut of Egypt (Mat 2:13-23).
Jesus' Early YearsJerusalem
The JordanJesus is Baptized in the Jordan (Mat 3:13-17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-23).
The WildernessThe Temptation in the Wilderness (Mat 4:1-11; Mk 1:12, 13; Lk 4:1-13). The Testimony of John (Jn 1:19-34).
The First PassoverJerusalem A House of Merchandise (Jn 2:13-25). Jesus Baptizes (Jn 3:22, with 4:2).
GalileeHe Departed Again to Galilee (Mat 4:12; Mk 1:14; Lk 4:14; Jn 4:1-3).
SamariaThe Woman at the Well (Jn 4:4-42). Physician, Heal Yourself! (Mat 4:13-16; Lk 4:16-31).
Sea of GalileePeter, Andrew, James, and John (Mat 4:18-22; Mk 1:16-20; Lk 5:1-11).
GalileeAnd Jesus Went About All Galilee . . Teaching (Mat 4:23-25; Mk 1:35-39, Lk 4:42-44). Then a Leper Came to Him (Mat 8:2-4; Mk 1:40-45; Lk 5:12- 16).
JerusalemHealing at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath Day (Jn 5:1-47). And in His Name Gentiles Will Trust (Mat 12:15-21; Mk 3:7-12) The Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5-7; Lk 6:20-49). My Yoke is Easy and My Burden is Light (Mat 11:20-30).
CapernaumThe Woman With the Alabaster Flask (Lk 7:36-50). The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Mat 12:22-37; Mk 3: 19-30; Lk 11:14-20). Woe to You, Scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites (Lk 11:37-54). Parable of the Fig Tree (Lk 13:6-9). Many Such Parables (Mat 13:24-53; Mk 4:26-34).
Sea of GalileeJesus Rebukes the Storm (Mat 8:18-27; Mk 4:35-41; Lk 8:22-25). The Herd of Many Swine (Mat 8:28-33; Mk 5:1-21; Lk 8:26-40).
NazarethHe Came Again to His Own City (Mat 9:1; Mk 5:21 Lk 8:40). Jairus' Daughter and the Woman With the Flow of Blood (Mat 9:18-26; Mk 5:22-43; Lk 8:41-56). A Prophet is Not Without Honor Except in His Own Country (Mat 13:53-58; Mk 6:1-6). Sent His Disciples Out With Power and Authority (Mat 10; Mk 6:6-13, Lk 9:1-6).
MachaerusJohn the Baptist is Beheaded (Mat 14:1, 2, 6-12, Mk 6:14-16, 21-29; Lk 9:7-9).
Near BethsaidaThe Disciples Return, Feeding Five Thousand (Mat 14:13-21; Mk 6:30-44; Lk 9:10-17, Jn 6:1-14).
Sea of GalileeThey Saw Him Walking on the Sea (Mat 14:22-36; Mk 6:45-56; Jn 6:15-21).
Do you also want to go away? (Jn 6:66-71). A Woman of Canaan (Mat 15:21-28; Mk 7:24-30). Feeding Four Thousand (Mat 15:32-39; Mk 8:1-9). And He Was Transfigured (Mat 17:1-13; Mk 9:2-13; Lk 9:28-36). Speaks Again of His Death (Mat 17:22, 23; Mk 9:30-32; Lk 9:43-45).
CapernaumMiracle of the Coin in the Fish's Mouth (Mat 17:24-27). He Who is Not Against Us is On Our Side (Mk 9:38, 39; Lk 9:49, 50).
The Feast of TabernaclesJerusalem The Lord Appointed Seventy Others (Lk 10:1-16). Teaches in the Temple at the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn 7:14-53; 8:1-59). The Report of the Seventy (Lk 10:17-24).
BethanyThe House of Mary and Martha (Lk 10:38-42).
JerusalemI Was Blind, Now I See (Jn 9:1-41). They Picked Up Stones To Stone Him (Jn 10:22-39).
BethabaraBeyond the Jordan (Jn 10:40-42; 11:3-16).
BethanyJesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead (Jn 11:1-46).
EphraimThe Declaration of Caiaphas (Jn 11:47-54).
JudeaThe Woman Who Was Bent Over (Mat 19:1, 2; Mk 10:1; Lk 13:10-35). Count the Cost (Lk 14:25-35). Exposes the Hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Lk 16:14-18). Increase Our Faith (Lk 17:1-10). Marriage and Divorce (Mat 19:3-12; Mk 10:2-12). Rich Young Ruler (Mat 19:16-22; Mk 10:17-22; Lk 18:18-24). Again Foretelling His Death (Mat 20:17-19; Mk 10:32-34; Lk 18:31-34). Zacchaeus who was a Chief Tax Collector (Lk 19:1-10). Jesus Enters the Temple (Mat 21:12, Mk 11:11; Lk 19:45). The Blind and Lame Came to Him (Mat 21:14). The Withered Fig Tree (Mat 21:17-22; Mk 11:12-14, 20-22). The Parable of the Vinedressers (Mat 21:33-46; Mk 12:1-12; Lk 20:9-19); The Parable of the Great Supper (Mat 22:1-14; Lk 14:16-24). Tested By the Sadducees (Mat 22:23-33; Mk 12:18-27; Lk 20:27-40); Beware of the Scribes and the Pharisees (Mat 23; Mk 12:38-40; Lk 20:45-47). The Prophecy of Isaiah About their Blindness (Jn 12:37-50). He Saw the City and Wept Over It (Mat 23:37; Lk 19:41-44). The Sheep and the Goats (Mat 25:31-46).
JerusalemThe Last Passover (Mat 26:17-30; Mk 14:12-25; Lk 22:7-20). The Hand of My Betrayer is With Me (Mat 26:23; Mk 14:18-21; Lk 22:21; Jn 13:18). What You Do . . Do Quickly (Mat 26:21-25; Mk 14:18-21; Lk 22:21-23; Jn 13:21-30). Jesus' Intercession (Jn 17). Betrayed and Taken (Mat 26:47-56; Mk 14:43-54, 66-72; Lk 22:47-53; Jn 18:2-12). He Sent Him to Herod (Lk 23:6-12).
CrucifixionJoseph of Arimathea (Mat 27:57-66; Mk 15:42-47; Lk 23:50-56; Jn 19:31-42).
The ResurrectionHas Appeared to Simon (Lk 24:34; 1Cor 15:5).
Road to EmmausAppears to Two Disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Mk 16:12, 13: Lk 24:13-35).
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