Re: Temple & Herod (was: Judean Religion too?)
- On 24 Sep 98, at 0:31, I wrote:
>Lewis Reich replied:
> Even allowing for rhetorical hyperbole, most Judeans seem to have
> tolerated the architecture of the Temple at best.
> The incidents Josephus talks about seem to me to indicate that theThat's not quite what Josephus says though, Lewis. To be sure, the eagle
> opposition was limited to a very specific item - the eagle, and was
> not directed at the Temple's design in general.
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
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.
> It wasn't as if theGranted. Acc. to Josephus, Herod went to great lengths to allay Judean
> building suddenly appeared out of nowhere - priests were trained in
> stoneworking and large numbers of laborers were involved.
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
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?
> TheI agree, insofar as I think that Herod had to be one of history's
> 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.
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 theThe human memory is a fickle thing. It is not uncommon to lament the
> Temple of Herod has never in his life seen a beautiful building" (Bava
> Batra 4a).
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 extrememI sense we may be having a semantic problem here. When I refer to the
> 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.
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,
Department of Religion
New Brunswick NJ