Some biblical texts are especially illuminated by archaeological finds. For example, Acts 21:28 records the false charge against Paul, “He also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place” (v.28). The next verse shows this they “supposed” (NET “assumed). Ephesians 2:14 speaks of Jesus’ death breaking down “the middle wall of separation” between Jews and Gentiles.
Our photo shows one of the warnings posted marking the boundary within the temple complex beyond which no Gentile could proceed. The inscription read, “NO FOREIGNER IS TO GO BEYOND THE BALUSTRADE AND THE PLAZA OF THE TEMPLE ZONE. WHOEVER IS CAUGHT DOING SO WILL HAVE HIMSELF TO BLAME FOR HIS DEATH WHICH WILL FOLLOW.”
A complete tablet is housed in the Istanbul Museum, and can be seen in a previous post here.
So the Acts 21 text means that Paul was charged with taking a Gentile beyond the balustrade marked off by signs just like this one.
The Ephesians 2 text shows that with Jesus’ death on the cross, reconciliation is made possible between men (Jew and Gentile) and God, and those reconciled unto God are reconciled to each other. The reconciled are in one body (the church, Eph. 1:22-23). That distinction epitomized by the wall of separation, and reflected by these warning signs, has been removed.
Nice post. I think that the “middle wall of partition” in the Ephesians passage is better understood metaphorically rather than literally of the “wall” in the temple precincts. Hoehner has a good discussion of this in his Ephesians commentary (pp. 368-71). I am not sure what kind of link you are making between the temple wall and the Ephesians text but I thought I would mention it.
Charles, I agree that the middle wall of partition (“the dividing wall” NASB, “the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” NIV) is a metaphor, a figure of speech denoting the distinction between Jew and Gentile, a distinction that was there due to the Law and its requirement. Jesus came, not to disregard or set aside the Law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17ff.). When Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and requirements of the law, it was “nailed to the cross” (Col. 2:13,14). He took away the first, that He might establish the second (Heb. 10:9,10), that is, the New Testament.
Getting back to the Ephesians text which is contextually dealing with the beneficial results of Jesus’ death, my closing point in my post was that the former Jew-Gentile distinction was epitomized by the wall of separation, and reflected by these warning signs. That distinction is now removed by the cross of Christ. But our being able to see these warning signs that were posted gives us a glimpse of that separation referenced in the Ephesians text, as well as that of Acts.
Thanks for writing, and thanks also for the reference to Hoehner!–Leon
I was looking forward to seeing the tablet in the Istanbul Museum in May. However, the area it was in was closed for renovation. I will have to go back some day. I have a good picture of the one in the Israel Museum.
Van, that is disappointing, but it is apparently inevitable that if you travel enough, sometimes you will encounter some museums that either have sections closed, or the whole museum is closed!