What Did The Temple Mean to the Ancients?

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In the upcoming Preterist Pilgrim Weekend, July 18-20, we will be investigating the meaning the Temple in the Bible, and what it means when the Old Testament so often emphasized that in the eternal kingdom, God’s “Temple” would be with man. Oscar Miles, of the Ardmore Family of God, will be addressing the meaning of Temple in the mind of the ancients, and in scripture, and in the brief article below, he shares with us a snippet of the information he will be sharing. This is great stuff, so you don’t want to miss this conference! If you can’t attend in person, you can still watch all of the lessons on live stream! To do that, go here and sign up. This is a seminar you don’t want to miss!

The Meaning of Temple in the Ancient World and Scripture

By Oscar Miles

Due to incredible technological advances, increased world wealth, and thousands of volunteers, we have dug up an incredible amount of information about Ancient Near Eastern civilization.  On Thursday, June 18, we will kick off the 2013 Preterist Pilgrim Weekend by looking at The Meaning of Temple in the Ancient World and Scripture.

The center of every city in the Ancient Near East (ANE) was the temple.  The good news is that we have hundreds of temple hymns and thousands of other documents and clay tablets that reveal a wealth of information about the ANE temples.  The bad news is that most of them have not yet been translated, and even fewer have been published.  Still, what we do have is revealing.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to a proper understanding of the entire Bible is a failure to respect its ANE context.  Most Christians today read the Bible from a modern western perspective, but our holy scriptures can never be properly understood outside of their ANE cultural context.

For example, an ANE temple was a place for a god/goddess to put his/her name.  Every major ANE city had several temples where several gods had put their names.  And every ANE god had several temples in several different cities.  This amplifies Yahweh’s instruction in Deuteronomy that the Tabernacle/Temple be a (singular) place for Yahweh to put His (singular) name.  There would be ONE temple and ONE God.

Ancient cosmologies were not concerned with the creation of the physical universe but rather with the “creation” of a city-state and the temple to the god claiming that city as his own.  Thus, when we come to the Genesis account of creation, we should not read it as a cosmology of the material universe but as an explanation of the creation of the Lord’s temple.

ANE cities had no secular law; it was religious law alone that governed their lives and created cities with relative stability.  This helps us to understand the Law of Moses, and how it governed all aspects of Hebrew life.  We must try to read Scripture without our modern concepts of the separation of religion and secular law (church and state).

We can understand the Old Testament better when we are familiar with the similarities the Hebrews shared with other ANE cultures, cosmologies, laws, and temples.  However, the differences are even more astounding.  By appreciating the superstition and fanciful beliefs of the ANE world, we come to grasp just how revolutionary the history of Israel is.

Yahweh’s temple in Jerusalem was never intended to be His permanent dwelling.  We know this because the prophets not only predicted the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, they also foretold the erection of an exceedingly better Temple which God would build in the last days of Israel: e.g., Isaiah 2:2-3.

This year at the 2013 PPW, we will explore not only what Temple meant in the ANE world and Scripture, we will learn lessons to take home with us.  We will take the stand that it is very important for us to oppose false modern apocalyptic views not just because they are Scripturally inaccurate but because they literally leads to extreme violence.  We will show why these views are anti-Christ.  Come and find out why.  Much more important than that, if Jesus is our Temple and if we are the Temple of God today, we need to live like it!  Come and find out how this makes a difference in how we live and practice religion.  I hope to see you this Thursday!