Temples in the Bible

This is the introduction to a series of short articles that I’ll post here every few days or so, looking at various Temples in the Bible.  What I really need to do here is to provide a preliminary definition of Temple so that as we look at some particular examples later, we’ll have this foundation already lain.

First, here are four of the main words used throughout the Bible which get translated as Temple at some point or another:

  • tabernacle/home/dwelling-place: σκηνή (skené), מִשְׁכָּן (mishcan)
  • temple/palace: ναός (náos), הֵיכָל (heychal)
  • house: οικος (oikos), בַּיִת (bayith)
  • dwelling/tent: σχήνωμα (schénoma), אֹ֫הֶל (óhel)

All of these words are used to describe God’s Temple in the Old Testament.  Psalm 27 (especially v4-5) is a clear example of how interchangeable these words could be:

One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

What’s interesting is to see what else gets called a ‘temple’ elsewhere in the Bible (or is described in temple-like terms), while remembering that the basic definition of ‘temple’ is a place where God can be found.

Finally, with each example we shall see that there are three layers of proximity (three sections) that all of God’s temples seem to have.  I cannot prove this without getting into each of the examples.  For some of the examples the layers are conjectures, but for some the layers are clearly defined and scripturally attested.

I wouldn’t be surprised if more temple-like things could be identified, but I’ve got ten that I plan to inspect here: the Garden of Eden, the Altars of the Patriarchs, the Promised Land, the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle, the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus of Nazareth, those who are ‘in Christ’, the Church, and New Creation.

About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about liturgy & spiritual formation, theology & biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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