The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
When the Jews were carried away into the Babylonian Captivity, this temple was destroyed. But Isaias had foretold that it would be rebuilt by Cyrus' orders, (Esdras vi. 3.) and under Zerubbabel, it was restored while Cyrus was building his palaces on the great platform at Persepolis in Persia. In order to conciliate the Jews, Herod later enlarged the Temple till it became much finer and larger than that of Solomon. Ezechiel had seen a vision of this future building, and he described it in its most minute details, hundreds of years before it was built, because the Lord was to visit it.
The New Testament gives no hint of the size or dimensions of this Temple, and we are indebted almost entirely to Josephus for our knowledge of the world-famous structure. The Temple was copied from the tabernacle, the model of which God himself had given to Moses. The Temple was the model of the Jewish synagogues and of the Christian churches. No building in the world was so famous. We will here give a rapid sketch of the building.
Josephus is so precise in his descriptions that writers suppose he had taken measurements, or had a model of it before him while writing his famous works in Rome. 1 The Temple area, now called Haran es Sherif, with the Mosque of Omar or " Dome of the Rock " in the center is nearly 1,000 feet square. Under the dome of the Mosque rises the great rock, the very summit of Moriah, named by the Arabs, Es Sakhra, " the rock." It is sixty by fifty feet, rises about twelve feet over the pavement of the Mosque and seventeen feet over the surrounding ground. In the rock can still be seen the groves cut to convey the blood of the victims to the round hole in the S. E. corner, about three feet in diameter, from whence it ran through underground passages into the Cedron, " Turbid," " the Black Valley," thus called because of the blood. Under this corner, in a chamber down under the rock, the Islam guardians show you where they say Mohammed, Abraham and Christ prayed.
Within these walls, nearly in the middle a little towards the northwest rise terraces where was the Temple proper, built on the highest point. The greater part of the whole inclosure was open to the sky. Grass and a few trees now grow in the place, and little of the ancient pavements remain. But of the Temple itself not a stone remains upon a stone, as Christ foretold.
Within the outer four walls were the cloisters, the most magnificent of their kind ever built. There were four of them running around the entire inclosure, each about 1,000 feet long They were roofed over with cedar of Lebanon and beautifully paved. Those to the west, north and east sides had double rows of Corinthian columns, thirty feet six inches high, each a single stone beautifully carved, sustaining the flat tiled roof. But these were surpassed by the celebrated south cloister,, called the Stoa Basilica, consisting of nave and two side aisles, that towards the Temple being open and the one inside closed by the outside wall, each aisle being thirty feet wide and the center one forty-five wide, the whole covered space being nearly 1,000 feet long.
The roof of this arcade or cloister was supported by one hundred and sixty-two Corinthian columns, in four rows, forty in a row, and two at the end of the bridge, three hundred and fifty feet long, spanning the Tyropceon or Cheesemonger valley, leading to Mount Sion. Cloisters will be found in many cathedrals and monasteries, but none ever equaled those of the Temple. The roofs, sides and pillars were beautifully carved, the floors covered with mosaics and colored stones of various interfacings. In these cloisters the Jews walked, in Christ's time, argu ing, discussing points of the Law, the ceremonial and the glories of Israel.
Within the cloisters at the beginning of the terrace was a stone-paved space, open to the sky, and this area was very large and entirely surrounded the holy precincts. It was inclosed on all sides by a marble screen, about three feet high, carved like lace-work, bearing in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew bronze inscriptions warning Gentiles that they must not approach nearer under pain of death. One of these bronze plates was recently found. These magnificently sculptured lace-work balustrades, ran all around the higher ground, enclosing the terraces within on which the Temple proper was built.
Leading into the higher inclosed space were nine gates, four on the north, four on the south, and one to the east. A little north of the center of the Temple area shut in by the cloisters, rising from its terraces was the Temple itself. Going in from the east, you first entered tine " Women's Court," called the Azarath Machim in Hebrew, then you passed up the fifteen great wide marble steps into the Azarath Ischral: " The Court of Israel," where the men worshiped separated by a low marble railing about three feet high from the Azarath Cohanim: " The Priests' Court." In the middle of this great Priest's Court rose the great altar of sacrifice.
Continuing still farther toward the west you ascended another beautifully carved wide steps leading to a still higher platform, and you entered the Porch leading to the Holy of Holies. Still farther to the west stood the high square " Gold House," so called by Jewish writers, all covered with plates of solid gold within and without. Within this was the Holy of Holies, when rested the Shekina, God's Holy Presence.
The Women's Court was surrounded by double walls with various chambers between, used for different purposes—the corner rooms or chambers being largest. All the Courts we have mentioned were open to the sky, but these chambers were roofed in. The central or Priests' Court, and that of the women, were each about two hundred feet square, and the surrounding walls were carved, sculptured and ornamented in a striking manner. The gate leading into the Women's Court was of the finest Corinthian brass.
1 Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, Art. Temple.