Herodian Temple Inscription

April 1, 2010

Recent posts have featured biblically related artifacts from the Archaeology Museum at Istanbul. Yet another very important exhibit housed there is an inscription from the Herodian temple, (so called because of extensive renovations by Herod the Great, renovations which continued after his death). Stones with inscriptions (written in both Latin and Greek) such as this featured below were posted at regular intervals within the temple, to designate the point at which Gentiles could proceed no further:

Herodian Temple Inscription. Istanbul. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Thus far only one complete and two fragmentary copies (all in Greek) of this inscription have been discovered.  The inscription translates as follows:  “No foreigner is to enter within the balustrade and embankment around the sanctuary.  Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which follows.”

Visitors to the temple in Jesus’ day, and in Paul’s time, would have seen this stone and others like it. Paul in mind this separation of Jew and Gentile, symbolized by this inscription, when he wrote to the Ephesians, telling what a difference the Gospel had made.

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation [emp. mine, L.M.], having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.  And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,  in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:14-22).

So the separation of Jew and Gentile no longer exists in Christ; Jew and Gentile are on an equal footing; both are sinners and must be reconciled unto God through the cross, in one body.  This is the temple referenced in our text; a building made of people, living stones, Jews and Gentiles who have come to the Lord for salvation.

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