Is “Second Temple Judaism” A Misnomer, or At Least Misleading?

Thanks to Lee Martin McDonald and the fine folks at Baker, I recently received a copy of The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts edited by Joel Green and McDonald (Baker, 2013). With 44 chapters and a veritable “Who’s who of New Testament scholars” (such as Cohick, Perrin, Fitzgerald, Bartchy, Witherington, Dunn, deSilva, Gurtner, Green, Bird, Chilton, Charlesworth, Trebilco), this is a very handy resource. Anyway, a more substantial review is coming, but here I just wanted to quote a helpful bit about the Jerusalem temple by David Instone-Brewer:

The so-called Second Temple period (516BC-AD70) spans the history of two temple complexes: the first built by Zerubbabel and the completely new construction built by Herod that could properly be called the ‘third temple.’ (197)

Remarkably he succeeded in demolishing the old temple, laying new foundations, and building the new temple in eighteen months (198)

Instone-Brewer also reminds us that the Jerusalem building was not the only option for worship. There were two Jewish temples in Egypt (Elephantine, Leontopolis).


3 thoughts on “Is “Second Temple Judaism” A Misnomer, or At Least Misleading?

  1. Nijay,

    While David’s description of three temples is correct, the reason we call it “second temple” is because there was never a break in the worship between the temple of Ezra/Nehemiah and Herod the Great. Herod built his temple around the older one, which continued to function while the new one was under construction all around it. When Herod finished his temple, he tore down the older one.

    There were probably substantial changes and repairs on the Ezra/Nehemiah temple over hundreds of years that could, in effect, make it yet “another temple.” But since there has only twice been a cessation of worship in the temple (586 BCE and 70 CE), we refer to two temple periods.

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