The Jewish Temple: A Non-Biblical Sourcebook.
The enhanced availability of non-biblical Jewish texts from the Second Temple period and other resources has prompted considerable rethinking of the Wellhausenian paradigm for the development of Israelite religion and increasing interest in ancient Judaism and the Jerusalem Temple. A great deal of scholarly research has already focused on textual and other data that allows for a description of the Jerusalem Temple and its furnishings, the organization of its priests, and the order of the sacrificial service, but very little attention has been paid to the meaning and significance of the Temple and its rituals. Hayward attempts to address this need by assembling relevant texts in English translation, and provides each with a commentary that "seeks to elucidate the significance which the Temple and its rites may have held for the author" (p. 5).
The texts chosen include the writings of Hecataeus of Abdera, Aristeas, both the Hebrew and Greek versions of Ben Sira, Jubilees, Philo of Alexandria, Josephus, and Pseudo-Philo. With the exception of the book of Jubilees, the translations are those of Hayward. He notes that all of the texts assembled here seem to share a common understanding of the Temple that may predate the individual authors. He stops short of asserting this thesis definitively, as it would require a full analysis of biblical texts from the Second Temple period as well as relevant texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Furthermore, each text conveys the unique perspectives and concerns of its ancient author. Nevertheless, Hayward's work points to the conception of the Temple as the center of the cosmos and its service as the means to insure stability and order in creation.
The first text to be considered is Josephus' summary of Hecataeus of Abdera, a Greek philosopher who lived ca. 300 B.C.E. (Contra Apionem I. 187; pp. 197-99). Particularly noteworthy is Hecataeus' description of the "inextinguishable light" that burns night and day under priestly guard. Hayward notes the unusual word anaphosbestos, "inextinguishable," and argues that Hecataeus' source must have stressed the perpetual nature of a worship aiming to preserve purity in the Temple compound.
The second text is the letter of Aristeas, a gentile courtier of Ptolemy II in the early third century B.C.E. Aristeas 83-99 contains an adulatory description of the Temple and its service that hints of the author's deeper understanding of its significance. Hayward focuses especially on the order and discipline of the service and the observation that the ritual took place in complete silence, a feature already evident in Leviticus 1-16. He argues that the focus on what was seen points especially to the significance of the High Priest, whose headgear bears the Divine Name, as a representation of the heavenly service.
The Hebrew version of the Wisdom of Ben Sira 49:15-50:26 and 45:6-22 conveys the presentation of the "Tamid" (incense) offering by the Zadokite High Priest Simon ben Johanan, who represents both the people of Israel and Adam, and thereby conveys the significance of the Temple ritual for all mankind. The Tamid signifies wisdom, on which the cosmos is built, and the perpetuity of the covenants with David (royal) and Phineas (priestly), that likewise underlie the cosmos. The Greek version of these texts highlights the universal significance with various additions to or renderings of the Hebrew text. Hayward cites the book of Jubilees to demonstrate that it traces the incense offerings from Adam to Moses and the meat or blood offerings from Noah as part of a larger program to follow Temple rituals from creation to the culmination of the Jubilee cycle.
Hayward likewise tries to demonstrate Philo's understanding of the Temple as an expression of the entire universe. He focuses especially upon the vestments of the high priest, the pomegranates, embroidered flowers, and bells as symbolizing the three basic parts of the cosmos: earth, water, and the harmony and unison of these things. The tiara and golden plate with the divine name are symbolic of a sustained cosmos. The festivals tie into the cycles of nature. The whole system symbolizes the movement of the individual soul toward a manifestation of the Deity, which Philo, in true philosophical fashion, maintains is the ultimate goal.
Josephus, in his efforts to repel slanders against the Jews, emphasizes the universal and cosmic significance of the Temple, again identifying the colors and materials of the High Priest's robe as symbols of earth and heaven. The Temple ritual was meant for the benefit of the entire world, for Jews did not suffer apanthropia, "hatred of mankind." Finally, Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum presents a biblical history in which Israel serves as a "vine" or axis mundi that keeps the abyss, earth, and heaven within the Deity's "house" (temple).
The significance of this volume lies not so much in the originality of the analyses and commentaries on the individual texts presented; indeed, most of this material and its interpretation is well known to specialists in the field. Rather, it lies in making this material better known to a much broader circle of readers. Given the increasing recognition that narratives in Genesis, for example, are tied to various features of the Temple, the volume may well stimulate efforts to examine the meaning and significance of the First Temple and its rituals. Likewise, the symbolical character of the Temple and its ritual points to its role in the development of early Christian theology and ancient Jewish mysticism.
MARVIN A. SWEENEY CLAREMONT SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY
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|Author:||Sweeney, Marvin A.|
|Publication:||The Journal of the American Oriental Society|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1999|
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