Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: Temple & Herod (was: Judean Religion too?)

Expand Messages
  • Mahlon H. Smith
    ... That s not quite what Josephus says though, Lewis. To be sure, the eagle was the most blatant aggravation for religious Jews; Josephus calls it the
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 25, 1998
    • 0 Attachment
      On 24 Sep 98, at 0:31, I wrote:
      > Even allowing for rhetorical hyperbole, most Judeans seem to have
      > tolerated the architecture of the Temple at best.

      Lewis Reich replied:

      > The incidents Josephus talks about seem to me to indicate that the
      > opposition was limited to a very specific item - the eagle, and was
      > not directed at the Temple's design in general.

      That's not quite what Josephus says though, Lewis. To be sure, the eagle
      was the most blatant aggravation for religious Jews; Josephus calls it
      "the accursed thing" even though his patron was the Roman emperor
      himself. And that is all the student's *succeeded* in demolishing before
      they were carted off by Herod's troops.

      But Josephus clearly indicates that they intended a more thorough
      stripping of *all* Herod's projects. E.g.:

      150... these men [Judah & Mattiyahu] stirred up the youth against
      *whatever works* [plural] the king had built against the patriarchal
      Torah. To tear these [plural] down (they said) would be acts [plural] of
      piety, issuing from the laws.

      156. *Now with great insight,* the officer of the king assumed that if
      this was done -- for the deed had been reported to him -- *they would go
      on to worse things.*

      176. For he [Herod] was not ignorant of the thinking of the Jews
      (Judeans), how they wanted and would rejoice at his death, because even
      while he was alive, there was pressure to revolt and *insult his
      projects* [plural].

      The way Josephus tells it, the experience of Passover 4 BCE had a
      chilling effect on any attempt to stop or interfere with Herod's temple
      renovations. Since Sadducees & Pharisees had to try to carry on as best
      they could under the close watch of Archelaus & then Roman military
      procurators they were not likely to have mimicked the bravado of Judah &
      Mattiyahu, who seem to have imitated the zeal of their namesakes who
      provoked the Maccabean revolt.

      Yet, as fate or providence would have it, Herod's projects were
      eventually denuded by non-Jews. So we can only guess what elements of
      their decor would have caused Judeans from all over to be prone to
      "insult" Herod's projects in his own lifetime, as Josephus claims.

      Lewis continued:

      > It wasn't as if the
      > building suddenly appeared out of nowhere - priests were trained in
      > stoneworking and large numbers of laborers were involved.

      Granted. Acc. to Josephus, Herod went to great lengths to allay Judean
      apprehensions about demolishing Zerubbabel's temple & persuade them to
      cooperate with his project. How much of Antiquities 15 ch.11 is history
      & how much romanticizing, however, is open to question. I wouldn't bet
      that the irenic speech Josephus credits to the tyrant was really
      authored by the historical Herod. Josephus seems to be waxing poetical
      here to impress Roman readers with the significance of the shrine they
      had destroyed.

      But, you are right. For a project of such magnitude, Herod would have
      needed cooperation from a huge number of Judeans. He neglects to
      mention, however, whether they whistled while they worked or stoicly did
      their assigned tasks, since by this time Herod had made quite clear what
      would happen to anyone who contradicted or resisted him. I quote from
      the section in Antiquities 15 just prior to the rebuilding of the

      365. For they bore bitterness concerning the enactment of those
      practices which relaxed their religion and threw aside the traditions.
      And there were also arguments from all who were ever provoked or upset.
      366. But (Herod) also paid much attention to such a situation, taking
      away their opportunities and ordering them to their labors, whatever
      happened. And no congregating was allowed to those around the city, nor
      was andering or dwelling in community. But everything was watched.

      368. Thus, on the one hand, by every method he completely suppressed
      those who were so bold as not to go along with his projects. And on the
      other, he asked the populace to submit to swearing loyalty and compelled
      them under oath to declare their good will to him, or at least to
      support his rule.
      369. Out of good treatment and fear, therefore, the crowds yielded to
      what he wanted; while those who summoned courage and made trouble for
      him he submitted to every method of torture.

      Sounds to me like the the Stalinist regime my wife grew up under in
      Hungary, or the plight of Jews under Hitler. Most people collaborated
      with those tyrants' projects too, out of the basic instinct of
      self-preservation. But if you could have taken a vote, I'd wager that
      most of their hearts were really with the daring martyrs like Hershl
      Grynszpan (whose shooting of Ernst vom Rath prompted Hitler to unleash
      the Nazi rampage on Kristallnacht) or Cardinal Mindszenty (who had his
      fingernails pulled out & suffered decades of solitary confinement &
      torture for refusing to endorse the Communist regime). Sure priests &
      large numbers of Jewish laborers were involved in Herod's rebuilding of
      the temple. But were they really freer than their ancestors, who had
      worked on Ramses' building projects, to choose otherwise?

      Lewis continued:

      > The
      > details of the design had to be known before construction was well
      > along. Josephus reports (Antiquities 15) that when Herod decided to
      > rebuild the Temple, in order to allay the fears of the people and
      > avoid their wrath, he completed all the preparations for the new
      > building before demolishing the existing structure.

      I agree, insofar as I think that Herod had to be one of history's
      shrewdest politicians to manipulate & gain the passive submission of an
      independence-minded people for 38 years. Josephus claims he promised
      lavish favors to anyone who was on his team. But I don't think many Jews
      failed to realize who he was really playing for. Of course, he would not
      deliberately provoke a massive uprising & is bound to have enlisted
      support among the chief priests for his temple renovations.

      But I think you misrepresent the historical Herod when you claim he was
      concerned "to allay the fears of the people and avoid their wrath."
      Isn't this rather akin to asking us to believe that the gospels were
      correct in claiming that Pontius Pilate released a revolutionary
      murderer & crucified an innocent man to avoid aggravating a Jewish mob?
      Where do you find any evidence that the historical Herod was ever afraid
      of the "wrath" of the Jewish people? If any high-priest did not do his
      bidding he simply deposed him. If anyone objected to his policies, he
      simply confiscated his property & threw in a slave labor camp. When
      Galileans killed his lieutenant, he crucified 2000 of them & burned
      their villages. If his own sons acted independently, he had them
      murdered. Look at what he did from his death bed, when some unfortunate
      youths dared to deface one of this projects. Is this the sort of ruler
      who was apt to comprise his own designs to please his subjects? If so,
      how did "the accursed thing" (the Roman eagle) get mounted on the temple
      in the first place?

      > The Talmud, as I mentioned earlier, comments "He who has not seen the
      > Temple of Herod has never in his life seen a beautiful building" (Bava
      > Batra 4a).

      The human memory is a fickle thing. It is not uncommon to lament the
      demise of something or someone one has opposed. Once the physical object
      or person is no longer present, it is easy to romanticize it. Just
      compare the Judean prophets' critiques of Solomon's temple with the
      laments & romanticization of it after its destruction. Do we have reason
      to believe that Herod's temple was any different? Besides, Talmud Bavli
      does not exactly qualify as a witness comparable to Josephus. Sure, the
      temple was aesthetically beautiful. But that does not mean that 1st c.
      (BCE & CE) Judeans would not have been offended by some of its decor.

      > The Mishnah preserves traditions concerning the extremem
      > care with which Halakhah was kept in all that related to the
      > reconstruction (Middot 3:4, relating to the construction of the altar
      > and ramp; Eduyyot 8:6 regarding precautions taken during the
      > construction to allow sacrifices to proceed undisturbed and to keep
      > the inner portion of the Temple concealed from public view). These
      > comments do not indicate to me that the building was held in
      > aesthetic disrepute.

      I sense we may be having a semantic problem here. When I refer to the
      temple I mean the whole multi-acre area ringed by Hellenistic stoa,
      which is what Josephus usually means by the *nIERON*. Your comments
      (like those of the rabbis) are more relevant to the central shrine & the
      altar of sacrifice. I agree that Herod would have probably found it
      politic to let the priests do their own thing with regard to the
      sanctuary proper (*NAOS,* Beit haShem) & the altar of sacrifice. I don't
      think he was foolish enough (like his son Archelaus) to provoke another
      Maccabean revolt. But the temple was not simply the building that housed
      the holy of holies, into whose chambers no one but priests could enter.
      According to Josephus that took only 1.5 years to complete. The temple
      complex itself was under construction for another 82 years. And it's in
      the outer court of the gentiles that non-kosher elements of the temple
      were most probably to be found. This portion of the temple was by far
      the most massive & most visible to anyone who came to Jerusalem. Though
      the details of its construction were not specified in Jewish law, the
      importation of elements characteristic of pagan shrines so close the
      holy of holies was bound to be offensive to scrupulous adherents of
      Torah, especially given the memory of the time before the Maccabean
      revolt, when another tyrant had persuaded the high priest to tolerate
      the Hellenization of the altar of sacrifice.





      Mahlon H. Smith,
      Associate Professor
      Department of Religion
      Rutgers University
      New Brunswick NJ

    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.