Sunday, March 11, 2012

THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM END OF MEANING


 
THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM AND CHRISTIANS

"ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE HAS CONSUMED ME "- JESUS CLEANSING THE TEMPLE
MONEY CHANGERS LICENSED BY THE TEMPLE AUTHORITIES CHANGED ROMAN COINS
FEATURING GRAVEN IMAGES WHICH DEFILED THE TEMPLE FOR TEMPLE CURRENCY


To- day's Gospel presents us St. John 2:13-25, that is, the dramatic story of Jesus cleansing the Temple. We clearly see the importance that Jesus, Who came to fulfill" the Law (Matthew 5: 17), placed on the Temple as the dwelling place of God's Presence among the Chosen People. But His very Being and His imminent salvific Death were to affect the situation

In his marvelous book JESUS OF NAZARETH - HOLY WEEK" Pope Benedict XVI considers the consequences of Jesus' Death and Resurrection for the status of the Temple, the effect upon the Jews of the destruction of the Temple, and the meaning of the Temple for the first Christians.

He reminds us of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, that he longed to gather her people to Him as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you would not !"(Matt 23: 37). Jesus consequently goes on to add Behold, your house is forsaken, and desolate." ( Matt 23:38).As the Holy Father reminds us, that the Prophet Jeremiah had long since recorded  God's words concerning temple abuses "I have forsaken my house; I have abandoned My heritage"( 12: 7). Jesus had gone on to prophesy the total destruction of the Temple and the entire city "truly I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down". God is withdrawing from the Temple, it is to be no longer His but "your" house.

Model of the Temple buit by Herod as it sat on Temple Mount
The Rman Fortress Antonia at top right directly overlooks the Temple.
The large outer court is the Court of the Gentiles where the trading of currency and  sacrificial animals took place
and where Jesus drove out the traders and upset their  equipment. 


He goes on to recount the terrible fulfillment of that prophesy, when, as history very precisely records, in the pages of Flavius Josephus, and recounted in Tacitus as well. In A.D.66 at the Feast of Pentecost, while the Priests of the Jewish religion were in the inner court of the Temple in the course of their worship, there was a violent movement of the Temple the sound of a violent crash and a loud sound of concerted voices saying " Let Us go hence!" From then on, and because of other signs recorded by Josephus, the Temple authorities experienced impressions of great dread as to the future of the Temple.

In that same year A.D. 66 the Jews revolted and drove out the Roman Procurator Gessius Florus and successfully met a Roman counter attack. The struggle was complicated because there was also a civil
war going on between two factions in the Jewish camp.

We know that the early Christians evacuated the city and went to nearby Pella (Eusebius 'of Caesarea and Epiphanius 'of Salamis accounts, after a Revelation to those who were worthy".

The Emperor Nero had appointed the General Vespasian to lead the Army to suppress the Jewish rebellion. But Nero died in A.D. 68 and thereupon Vespasian ceased all operations. Soon afterward on 1 st July, A.D.69, Vespasian himself was proclaimed Emperor. He proceeded to Rome but appointed his son Titus to carry on the mission to suppress the Jews. According to Josephus, Titus arrived before the gates of Jerusalem on the 14th day of Nisan - the Feast of Pentecost. This was forty years after the Saviour's Crucifixion. As the tens of thousands of pilgrims entered the City, one of the Jewish f action leaders, John of Girshala, smuggled in with them some of his armed supporters. They set about massacring those Jews they found of the opposing faction, without regard to what they would have regarded as the desecration of the Temple. Thereafter the Temple sacrifice came to an end, the Temple came to be fought over as a fortress and it caught fire. Finally, the Romans dismantled it totally and they did the same for the entire City.

DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM A.D. 70 - A REPRESENTATION
 The result is that modern day Jerusalem is built upon a fifteen feet high layer of absolute rubble from the old city. Josephus claims that 1,100,000 were killed in the suppression and destruction of the city and the region within a twelve miles radius was entirely deforested. Two Roman historians, Orosius and Tacitus give the number of dead as 600,000. A modern day revisionist historian , as usual, limits the number to only 80,000 dead. Given the size of the City at the time and the huge numbers of pilgrims, one would be more inclined toward the 600,000 figure as a minimum, particularly at the hands of those so bent on revenge as to deforest a 12 miles radius around the city.

The final cessation of Temple sacrifice is precisely known to history it occurred on 5th August A.D. 70. it happened because of the terrible siege conditions and the resultant lack of food and materials. On Good Friday, at the moment of Christ's Death the huge veil of the Temple had been rent from top to bottom (as the Servant of God Archbishop Sheen noted "only God could do THAT" i.e. top to bottom). The Covenant had been broken. Later God had abandoned the Temple as we have seen, and now the Jews had abandoned the formal most sacred Covenant rite. Now, finally the Temple has ceased to exist. The Jewish religion itself lay in ruins.  Subsequently , in A.D. 90 a major gathering of remaining Jewish Rabbis - all Pharisees - developed a new way of looking at the Old Testament concentrating on the Torah and arguing away the need for Temple sacrifice.

But for the earliest Christians, as the Acts of the Apostles tells us, they continued to gather daily in the Temple and broke bread together in their homes. The Temple was a customary gathering place with sacred associations and the only place in the City where they could, the several thousand of them, gather. But "the breaking of the Bread", the Eucharist, was offered in their homes. The sacred mysteries had nothing to do with the Temple.

                                       
                                                      STONING OF ST.STEPHEN

It is clear from St. Stephen's discourse before those who were to kill him- surely one of the most moving passages in sacred scripture, that he clearly sees the Temple sacrifice as having been entirely supplanted by Jesus' Sacrificial Death on Mount Calvary. Speaking of Jesus' salvific  role for them in the sacred union of God and Man, Saint Paul uses the Greek word "hilasterion" . This is translated in Romans (3:23-25) as "expiation". The Hebrew word it represented was the covering veil for the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. This was the place of the mysterious Presence of God in a cloud above the Ark. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, this holy place was sprinkled with the blood of the sacrificial bull offered up as a sin offering. The concept was that the sins of men had been taken up in the blood of the sacrificial bull and were now, in the sprinkling touched the Divinity and was made clean and the sins taken away.

In applying the word to Christ, Saint Paul recognizes Him as the true Presence of the Living God and His Sacrifice as God and Man takes away the Sins of Man and effects the opening of Heaven to those who will accept it.

The destruction of the Temple would have been of sentimental interest to the early Christian, but of no religious significance at all. Jesus Christ was for them the sacred union of God and Man and the Eucharist supplanted totally the old Temple worship.









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