Envisioning the Temple: Scrolls, Stones, and Symbols, Adolfo Roitman, 2003
Unrolling and Photographing
Deciphering, Research, and Publication
Workmanship and Language
Content, Composition, Editing, and Literary Genre
Dating and Origin
The Ideal Temple: Architecture and Halakhah
Although it seems that the Temple Scroll was found in Cave 11 in 1956,
no one in the West knew of its existence until the early 1960s. An American
minister, Joe Uhrig of Virginia, claiming to be negotiating on behalf
of an antiquities dealer (who later turned out to be none other than the
notorious "Kando"), wrote to Yigael Yadin and offered him
a complete scroll for $100,000. This turned out to be what later became
known as the Temple Scroll.
|The back of the scroll fragment sent by
Reverend Uhrig to Yigael Yadin in the early 1960s
|The fragment came from a section
discussing the role of the high priest
Since Yadin was unwilling to negotiate sight unseen, the minister agreed
to send a fragment of the scroll for him to check. Yadin duly received
a scrap of parchment, reinforced on the back with adhesive tape and a
British postage stamp (!); it was wrapped in silver foil from a cigarette
pack and held between two pieces of cardboard. Examination of the scrap
convinced Yadin that it was indeed authentic. The text, in Hebrew, concerned
the role of the high priest. As agreed, the fragment was returned to Uhrig,
and formal negotiations through a lawyer began. While this was going on,
the seller’s demands grew by leaps and bounds: he was now demanding
$750,000 for the scroll. Early in 1962, a detailed agreement was concluded,
specifying a final sum of $130,000. At that point, Uhrig received a $10,000
advance (and an additional $1,500 for his trip to Bethlehem), in return
for which he returned the original sample to Yadin so that the latter
would be able to ascertain the fit when the rest of the scroll arrived.
Unfortunately, the negotiations then broke down, since the dealer had
again raised the price – this time to $200,000 – and in May
1962 the correspondence came to an end.
A few years later, while serving as military adviser to Prime Minister
Levi Eshkol during the Six-Day War, Yadin was able to renew his acquaintance
with the scroll. When the IDF occupied East Jerusalem and Bethlehem on
June 7, 1967, the General Staff appointed a ranking officer from the Intelligence
Corps to help him find the scroll. Acting on information provided by Yadin,
the officer was able to make contact with the antiquities dealer Kando and to discover the scroll in its hiding place
under the floor tiles of Kando’s house, in a Bata shoe box, rolled
up in cellophane and a towel and wrapped in paper! The officer was also
given a cigar box containing a few further crumpled and disintegrating
fragments that had fallen off. The following day, after years of disappointed
hopes, the scroll was in Yadin's hands.
package received by Yadin in 1967
Inside the towel, cellophane wrapping
Inside the package, a shoe box
The rolled scroll, its upper portion
the shoe box, a towel
Prof. Yadin and Israel Museum
conservators open the scroll
The Military Government subsequently confiscated the scroll from the
dealer, paying him $105,000 in compensation even though his possession
of the scroll had been illegal and he had caused it considerable damage.
Most of the sum was donated by the Wolfson Foundation, the balance, by
the Israeli government. The scroll became the property of the Shrine of
the Book, where it has been kept ever since.
Unrolling and Photographing
The scroll proved extremely difficult to unroll. Overseeing the whole
operation was Joseph ("Dodo") Shenhav, later head of the Israel
Museum laboratories, assisted by Ruth Yekutiel. Shenhav converted a whole
room of his home for the purpose, working there for months on end with
photographer Arieh Volk, who documented all stages of the unrolling and
also took all the final black-and-white, infrared, and color photographs.
The scroll’s state of preservation was not uniform; the inner columns
of text were better preserved than the outer ones. The upper part of
the scroll had been irreparably damaged by humidity (a few lines had disappeared
altogether), as had the lower parts of some columns. In addition, in
some places the writing had peeled off and adhered - in mirror image
- to the back of the succeeding column, as the scroll had been rolled
up very tightly. In many cases, nothing had survived of the original column,
all the text being preserved in reverse on the back of the next column.
Since whole sections of the scroll were stuck together, Shenhav had to
separate them by a process of humidification at 75°-80°
Celsius. In particularly stubborn cases, it was necessary, as an emergency
procedure, to soften the parchment by almost 100-percent humidification
for a few minutes, followed immediately by a few minutes of refrigeration.
When separation proved to be impossible, it was decided not to touch the
adhering portions but to retrieve the text by photographing front and
back, against the light. Sometimes it was even necessary to cut the columns
lengthwise and then rejoin them after separation (Shenhav referred to
this as the “domino” technique). While the unrolling was in
progress, the various pieces were marked step by step, so that their precise
position in the scroll would be known. It was not the task of Shenhav
and his staff to determine the location of the many additional fragments
that had become separated from the scroll, as well as those kept separately
by the dealer; this would be done in the next stage - deciphering.
Title page to Yadin's English edition
of the Temple Scroll
Deciphering, Research, and Publication
Once the scroll had been unrolled, the next stage could begin: deciphering
the text. Wherever the text had been well preserved (mainly, as noted,
in the inner columns of the scroll), this was not particularly difficult,
since the writing was quite legible. However, where the parchment was
warped, the ink had faded, or the letters had peeled off and left traces
in mirror writing on the back of the succeeding column, the writing was
not at all easy to decipher. It was sometimes necessary to reproduce the
text by special photographic techniques, including infrared photography. Deciphering also involved piecing together fragments of the scroll that
had been dislodged during the unrolling or had been found in the cigar
box or scattered around the homes of Kando and his brother. At this point
Yadin could also avail himself of a few fragments from what he believed
were other copies of the scroll, discovered in the early 1950s and kept
at the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem.
Deciphering was followed by the copying and printing of the text. Yadin
numbered the columns and the lines as they appeared in the scroll, and
then printed the results, clearly distinguishing - as must be done
in any critical edition of a text - between indisputable readings
With all these stages completed and the fully deciphered text on his desk,
Yadin switched roles from editor to commentator and embarked on an analysis
of the scroll's multifaceted contents. The work took many years.
Only in 1977, a decade afteracquiring the scroll, was Yadin able to publish
the results of his labors in a critical edition (three volumes with illustrations),
issued by the Israel Exploration Society, the Hebrew University Institute
of Archaeology, and the Shrine of the Book. The publication was seen at
the time as a landmark in scholarly research.Even today, after more than
fifty years of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship, during which excellent editions
of many scrolls have been published, Yadin’s learned, comprehensive,
and precise edition is considered to be one of its outstanding achievements.
Nevertheless, after the publication of this editio princeps of the TempleScroll
(known technically as 11Q19 or 11QTemplea [11QTa]), the efforts to decipher
the text did not come to an end. Yadin’s suggestions prompted many
other scholars to propose their own readings and reconstructions of the
text, which he himself took into consideration when he published the English
edition in 1983. That edition, too, was followed by various developments:
further suggestions and alternative recombinations of textual fragments
by other scholars; new photographs of some columns by the brothers Zuckerman
in 1991; publication of another, very fragmentary copy of the scroll (11Q20
or 11QTempleb [11QTb]); and identification of further manuscripts –
a dubious, highly fragmentary, additional copy (4QTemple Scrollb [4Q524])
and texts associated in some way (perhaps as literary sources) with the
Temple Scroll itself (11Q21, 4Q365a). By then, an updated edition of the
scroll, taking all these new textual developments into consideration,
was unavoidable. In 1996 Prof. Elisha Qimron published a new critical
edition of the Temple Scroll, which included some readings that were more
accurate and complete than Prof. Yadin’s, as well as many new constructions
of the text.
Workmanship and Language
The Temple Scroll was written on very thin animal skin – in fact
the thinnest found at Qumran – of a thickness not exceeding 0.1
mm. The skins were not evenly tanned in all sheets of the scroll, as evidenced
by the different colors: the original color was an ivory-like yellow,
but in some places the material is lemon yellow or dark ivory.
|The handwriting in the scroll’s first sheet (left) is clearly
different from that in most of the scroll (see right).
||Thus the first sheet must have been recopied at
a later date, perhaps as the result of damage from exposure
The scroll currently in our possession is made up of 18 sheets of parchment,
but there was most probably another sheet, the first, which has not survived.
The scroll’s total length is 8.148 meters; its original height was
probably 24 to 26 centimeters. The sheets, which are sewn together with
thread, are of unequal length and fall into two main groups: seven comprising
three columns each, on average approximately 40 cm in length; and ten
comprising four columns, on average approximately 52 cm in length. The
final sheet of the scroll is blank; it probably consisted of a single
column with five lines inscribed in the now-missing top part. The scribe
left blank margins above, below, and in between the columns. All in all,
the scroll consists of 66 columns of text, in most of which the lower
margins have been preserved; the top lines have not survived in any column.
It is therefore difficult to determine the exact number of lines originally in each column, but it seems that the number of lines per column varied,
and probably ranged from 22 to 29.
|Reconstructed “desks” from Qumran
||The Qumran “scriptorium.” Reconstruction by Leen Ritmeyer
Despite the aforementioned thinness of the skin, the scribe was able to
trace horizontal lines to guide his writing and vertical lines to delimit
the columns, using a sharp-pointed instrument, but without cutting the
parchment and without using ink. The letters were written below the horizontal
lines, as if suspended from them at a certain distance. Given the great
length of the scroll, it must have taken a long time to write, and the scribe had to changed his quill more than once.
Scribal exercise on a clay shard found at Qumran.
Israel Antiquities Authority
Careful examination of the scroll clearly reveals at least two scribes:
The first columns (II-V) are written in a different hand than the
main body of the text, and they appear to be slightly later than that
of the rest of the work, which is written in a highly professional Jewish
“Assyrian” or “square” script (a script in common use during the Second Temple period), in formal Herodian style.Yadin
conjectured that the first sheet had been rewritten by a later scribe
after the original one had become worn or been damaged, a frequent practice
in the ancient world.
Examination of the text also reveals that although the scribes were highly
proficient, they did occasionally make mistakes. Most of the errors were
caught by the scribes themselves, some were corrected by a later reader, and a few were left untouched. The corrections were made in a variety
of ways, the most common of which was the insertion of a missing letter
or letters above the line, immediately before the letter which should
One of three inkwells found by de Vaux at Qumran.
Israel Antiquities Authority
It is clear that the writers of the scroll, especially the earlier scribe
who copied most of the text, were expert craftsmen and excellent proofreaders.
To endow the work with a divine authority, the author clearly strove to
imitate biblical, especially Pentateuchal, Hebrew. However, despite his
determined efforts, the scroll's grammar is clearly not that of
the Torah or the rest of the Bible, and its language reflects the syntax
and vocabulary of the late Second Temple period and is similar to the
Hebrew of the Rabbis. The characteristic linguistic features of the Temple
Scroll include the use of compound verbs; a preference for words current
in the author’s own time rather than their First Temple period equivalents;
the use of technical terms associated with the Temple and appearing exclusively
in the Mishnah; othera typically Mishnaic collocations, legal phrases,
and general usages; and words, terms, and idioms typical of other Judean
Content, Composition, Editing, and Literary Genre
The Temple Scroll claims to provide the details of God's instructions
to Moses about the Temple. Although its beginning is lost, we may surmise
that the narrative framework was the Covenant ceremony at Mount Sinai
(see Temple Scroll LI, 6-7; cf. Exod 34). A similar narrative frame
appears in the apocryphal Book of Jubilees, many copies of which were found in the Qumran caves. The scroll was evidently supposed to be a
kind of "new Torah," consistently and systematically combining
the various laws of the Temple and the sacrifices (mainly in the books
of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers) with a new version of the laws enunciated
in Deuteronomy 12-23.
An overall survey of the text reveals a deliberate subdivision into four
1. Construction of the Temple: (i) construction of the Temple and the
altar (columns II-XIII); (ii) construction of the Temple courts
various structures in and around them (XXX-XLV).
2. The sacrificial rites for the various festivals (XIII-XXIX).
3. Laws of purity and impurity: (i) those associated with the Temple
and the Temple City (XLV-XLVII); (ii) general prohibitions and rules
4. A "revised" version of Deuteronomy 12-23 (LII-LXVI).
These details from col. LVIII (top) and col. LVI (bottom) illustrate writing technique: lines are etched into the parchment using a stylus; the letters are formed beneath the line; and mistakes or omissions are corrected above the line.
Yadin believed that the scroll had been composed en bloc by a single author
drawing on biblical sources. Today, however, it is almost certain that
this author (who might also be called “editor” ) relied heavily
on an existing literary source or sources along with mainly legal material
from the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and, in particular, Deuteronomy.
His work consisted mainly in the following:
1. Rephrasing the text in the first person, thus representing the
commandments as the personal word of God.
2. Merging different commandments concerning the same theme into a
3. Harmonizing contradictory or duplicate commandments.
4. Introducing changes and additions in order to clarify the legal
implications of the commandments.
Finally, the author added passages that have no parallel in the biblical
text as known today, phrasing them as biblical commandments enunciated
by God Himself. These additions came from the earlier source/sources at
his disposal and include: (i) a text containing instructions for the building
of the Temple and its utensils, courtyards, and structures; (ii) a liturgical
calendar; (iii) laws of purity and impurity; and (iv) a midrash (exegetical
commentary) based on the book of Deuteronomy. This account of the content
and redaction of the Temple Scroll leads us to the crucial question of
its literary genre. As might be expected, the scholarly literature is
deeply divided on the answer, opinions varying from one extreme -
an alternative Law of Moses - to the other - a kind of halakhic
midrash or homiletical exposition of the Bible.
Yadin explicitly argued that the Temple Scroll comprised the secret teachings
of the Essenes (on the assumption that the people of the Judean Desert
sect were indeed Essenes). It was, he believed, an esoteric text, supposedly
revealed to the sectarians alone and therefore considered by them as a
canonical teaching, like the Torah itself. A German scholar, Hartmut Stegemann,
similarly conjectured that the scroll was meant to be the sixth book of
Moses, thus completing the existing Pentateuch. Ben-Zion Wacholder, in
an even more far-reaching proposal, suggested that for the Qumranites,
the Temple Scroll was the eternal Torah of the Jewish people, designed
to replace the Law of Moses. Michael Weiss, moderating this argument
somewhat, held that the scroll was seen as a “new book of Deuteronomy,"
designed to replace Deuteronomy (chaps. 12-26) at the End of Days.
Florentino García-Martínez, however, has argued that the
author of the scroll considered it to be not a new Torah but a revealed
exegetical work, intended to serve as the normative, definitive, interpretation of the true intentions of the Law of Moses. Lawrence Schiffman, continuing
this line of thought, believes that the scroll was a kind of halakhic
midrash, providing the biblical foundation for every Jewish law. Hence
the sectarians believed the Temple Scroll to be another revealed teaching, presenting the very words of God as spoken to Israel on Mount Sinai.
Whatever the precise genre, there is no doubt that the author of the
scroll intended to attribute his teachings/interpretation to the Almighty
- which of course raises the question: how did he himself understand
what he was doing? Was he deliberately trying to mislead his readers?
Morton Smith, among others, has noted that the ancient device of ascribing
late works to early authors ("pseudepigrapha") was common
practice in Jewish literature of the Second Temple period. Possibly, then,
our author was part of this phenomenon and, in order to give his work
the appropriate stamp of authority, he was perfectly happy to conceal
the text’s real origins and ascribe it to God.
This argument, as Yadin pointed out, assesses ancient authors and redactors
according to modern criteria. One might instead assume that the author
of the scroll was convinced that the literary sources he had received
were an expression of the true Torah or, at least, of the true interpretation
of the Law of Moses. If this is so, his writing of the scroll was no act
of deception, but only a faithful reflection of his desire to set down
in writing the words of the living God, as conveyed to him through ancient
traditions; in this respect, he was following in the footsteps of the
classical prophets and the writers and editors of the Bible.
Dating and Origin
Most contemporary scholars believe that the Temple Scroll was composed
in the Land of Israel in the late Second Temple period, or, more precisely,
in the second half of the second century BCE (after 120 BCE, perhaps during
the reign of John Hyrcanus I?). Among the main arguments for this view
are the following:
1. The earliest extant copy of the scroll (4Q524), if it is indeed a copy
and not an entirely different work, was copied in Hasmonean semi-cursive
script (150-125 BCE).
2. The scroll's language is closely related to Mishnaic Hebrew.
3. The author's overriding concern with problems of impurity would
tie in very well with the situation in the Land of Israel shortly after
Antiochus IV Epiphanes' desecration of the Temple and its reconsecration
by Judas Maccabeus (167-164 BCE).
4. The "Statute of the King" (columns LVI-LIX) and the
punishment of hanging/crucifixion (LXIV) reflect the Hasmonean reality.
5. There are impressive parallels in vocabulary, content, and legal material
between the Temple Scroll, on the one hand, and the Qumran work Miktzat
ma'asei ha-Torah (4QMMT) and the apocryphal Book of Jubilees, on
the other, both of which have been dated to the second half of the second
|Columns XXIV-XXVIII of the
Does the discovery of the Temple Scroll in the Qumran caves prove that
the author was a member of the Judean Desert sect? As already stated,
Yadin believed that the author was an Essene and pointed out similarities
between his work and other sectarian works found at Qumran. Stegemann,
however, rejects any connection with the Qumran Community.
A more careful comparison of our scroll with the other sectarian documents
found in the caves does cast some doubt on Yadin’s theory. On the
one hand, there are indeed strong parallels in various areas, such as
the prohibition of polygamy, of marriage between uncle and niece, or of
sexual relations in the Temple City (Damascus Document); the exclusion
of women from the Temple City and the camp during the eschatological war,
and the location of privies (War Rule); the list of people to be denied
membership in the Community at the End of Days, and the list of those
not allowed to enter the Temple City (Rule of the Congregation); and so
on. On the other hand, there are obvious differences, such as the method
of interpreting biblical texts and discrepancies in certain laws (e.g.,
those concerning witnesses). Moreover, the characteristic hatred and aggressive
spirit of the sectarian scrolls are absent, as is the belief in dualism,
predestination, and messianism. There are also differences of vocabulary
(such as the title of the high priest). Finally, the Temple Scroll is
addressed to the entire people of Israel, whereas the other scrolls are
aimed specifically at the Community or some other group.
In light of these differences, we may assume with considerable assurance
that, like the scrolls of the Qumran sect, the Temple Scroll originated
in certain priestly circles (according to Schiffman, Zadokite priests)
the others, it was committed to writing before the Community seceded from
their brethren in Jerusalem and withdrew to the desert.
As to the author, there is unfortunately no indication in the scroll itself
of his identity (that is, other than the attribution to God!). Nevertheless,
some conclusions may be drawn on the basis of the scroll’s content
and, in particular, its redaction. The author was presumably a person
of authority, he was extremely well versed in the biblical tradition,
and he had enough self-esteem – or audacity – to rewrite the
Torah. Some scholars have therefore suggested that our author might have
been the legendary founder of the Qumran sect, the so-called “Teacher
of Righteousness” (moreh tzedek), but this is no more than speculation.
The Ideal Temple: Architecture and Halakhah
The building of the Temple, with its courts, auxiliary structures, and
implements, takes up nearly half the text of the Temple Scroll (columns
II-XIII, XXX-XLV). Adding the details of the festivals and
sacrifices (XIII-XXIX), as well as the laws of impurity relevant
to the Temple and the Temple City (XLV-XLVII), one clearly sees
that the Temple, in all its aspects, was the central theme of the scroll.
The scroll’s ambitious and highly sophisticated design for the new
Temple drew on two main sources of inspiration. The first was biblical:
the descriptions of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, Solomon’s
Temple (including the version presented in the book of Chronicles), and
Ezekiel’s envisioned Temple. The author’s second source
of inspiration was the Hellenistic architecture of his own time. Throughout,
he was guided by the principle that the new Temple should meet the highest
possible architectural standards, while fulfilling the most minute halakhic
The Temple compound would extend over most of Jerusalem (in the author’s
time, an area of approximately 80 hectares), arranged in three concentric
square courts to resemble the tribal camp in the desert. As in the latter,
where the Tabernacle stood in the middle of the “Camp of Israel,”
the Temple Scroll envisages the utopian Temple standing in a central inner
court (147 × 147 m in area), with the altar for burnt offerings
and other structures near it: the Stairhouse leading to the Temple roof;
the House of the Laver, in which the priests washed their hands and feet;
the House of the Altar Utensils; the slaughter-place; and a pillared structure,
without walls, in which the sacrificial animals were sorted. The various
structures in the inner court would be surrounded by a partition (the
soreg of the Mishnah). In addition there would be a stoa (a roofed space
resting on one side on a wall and on the other on a colonnade), at least
two stories high, along the wall of the inner court.
|The Temple structures as envisioned in the Temple Scroll. Reconstruction
by L. Ritmeyer
The inner court would be accessible to priests alone. Four gates, one
on each side, would lead from the inner court into a middle court. The
gates were named for Aaron and the three families of the Levites: the
Gate of Aaron (east), the Gate of Gershon (west), the Gate of Kohath (south),
and the Gate of Merari (north). This middle court was the parallel of
theso-called camp of Levi in the desert, that is, the area where Moses
and the Levites camped around the enclosure of the Tabernacle (cf. Num
3: 14–39). Twelve further gates, named for the twelve tribes, three
on each side, would lead from the middle court to the outer court. On
the east were the gates of Simeon, Levi, and Judah; on the north, Asher,
Naphtali, and Dan; on the west, Gad, Zebulun, and Issachar; and on the
south, Benjamin, Joseph, and Reuben. This gigantic outer court (800 m
on each side) was designed to extend from today’s Damascus Gate
in the west to the slopes of the Mount of Olives in the east. Twelve further
gates, three on each side, would link it with the other parts of the city.
Around this court would be a great moat, 50 m wide, to separate the Temple City from the residential area. (From the scroll it appears that the
author imagined the entire Land of Israel as a square, with each tribe
camping opposite “its” own gate.)
||The Temple’s inner court, according
Temple Scroll. Reconstruction by Y. Yadin
1. The Temple
2. Stoa of columns to the west of the hekhal
4. House of the Laver
5. House of Altar Utensils
8. “Cooking places”
9. Inner court stoa
10. Tables and seats
11. Place for stoves
In sum, the anonymous architect intended to protect the House of God
from any contact with impurity and to enhance its sanctity by means of
the three concentric courts and the moat around them. The source of sanctity,
where God’s Presence would reside - the Temple - would
stand in the center of the inner court, radiating its holiness to the
whole of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, just as at the time
of the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert. To quote the scroll
itself: “For I, YHWH, abide among the children of Israel. You shall
sanctify them and they shall be holy. They shall not render themselves
abominable by anything that I have separated for them as unclean and they
shall be holy” (LI, 7-10).
The profound concern for sanctity is also reflected by the prominence
in the scroll of the laws of purity and impurity associated with the Temple
and the Temple City (cols. XLV–XLVII). While the details of these
laws derive from the Bible (Leviticus and Deuteronomy), they are reworked
in the scroll, with various innovations and changes introduced by the
author himself. For example, according to the Temple Scroll, a man who
has had sexual relations with his wife is forbidden to enter the Temple City for three days (XLV, 11–12). The blind are absolutely forbidden
entry into the city: “No blind man shall enter it in all his days
and shall not profane the city” (ibid., 12–13). Another
example is the law concerning latrines, 11 which entails building special
structures outside the city, “far enough not to be visible from
the city, (at) three thousand cubits [= 1,500 m!]” (XLVI, 13–16).
The purpose of these stringent rules and others like them was to extend
the sanctity of the Temple over the entire Temple City and to subject
the entire nation to the laws of purity and impurity which, in the Mosaic
Code, were supposed to apply to the priests alone.
|Plan of the sacred compound envisioned in the
|The entire sacred compound envisioned in the
Reconstruction by L. Ritmeyer
Within this magnificent, extraordinarily holy Temple, the priests were
supposed to observe the festivals and all their sacrifices. The commandments
in the scroll relating to the sacrifices (cols. XIII-XXIX) therefore
follow the order of the festivals, beginning with the month of Nisan,
after prescribing the daily burnt-offerings and those offered on the Sabbath.
The scroll sets out a comprehensive, detailed account of the sacrifices
for each festival - unlike the traditional formulation of the Torah,
in which some of the sacrifices are prescribed in detail and some only
alluded to, with the order of the sacrifices and their exact times not
always clearly specified (cf., for example, Lev 23; Num 28-29).
The twelve tribes encamped around the Tabernacle
Etching by an unknown artist, Germany, 16th century
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Gift of Mr. Bromberger, Linz
The Temple Scroll lists four festivals of first fruits. The first two
are those prescribed in the Bible, but the other two are completely new:
1. The day of waving of the sheaf (the Omer, celebrating the “first
fruits” of barley), on Sunday, the 26th of the first month (as opposed
to the 16th of the month in Pharisaic and Rabbinic Judaism; col. XVIII;
cf. Lev 23:12–13); 2. the festival of weeks (celebrating the first
wheat), on Sunday, the 15th of the third month (in the Pharisaic-Rabbinic
calendar, the 6th of the month; cols. XVIII–XIX; cf. Lev 23:15 ff.);
3. the day of new wine, on Sunday, the 3rd of the fifth month (cols. XX–XXI);
and 4. the day of new oil, on Sunday, the 22nd of the sixth month (cols.
XXI–XXII). Finally, the scroll requires that immediately after the
last of these festivals a further festival be celebrated for six days:
the festival of the wood offering, also not mentioned in the Torah (but
see Neh 10:35; 13:31).
It is clear from the foregoing survey that the plan for the Temple in
the Temple Scroll is beautifully thought out, consistent, and systematic.
But what does it mean? Why was it devised, and what was the author’s
purpose? And why did he go to the trouble of imagining an ideal Temple
at a time when (assuming that the scroll was indeed composed in the second
half of the second century BCE) the Second Temple was still standing in
Jerusalem? These and other questions are of paramount importance for anyone
wishing to study the Temple Scroll and understand its secrets. Unfortunately,
the scroll itself does not answer any of these questions. All one can
do to settle these crucial issues is to place the scroll in its historical
context and hope that, by so doing, it will be possible to determine the
motives behind such a detailed blueprint for an imaginary Temple.
The Tabernacle at the center
of the Israelite camp
A The Holy of Holies
B The Holy [Place]
C The Tent of Meeting
Plan: M. Chyutin
1. The Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting
As related in the Bible, the initiative for the construction of the Tabernacle in the desert came from on high: when Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty
days and forty nights, God commanded, “And let them make Me a sanctuary
that I may dwell among them. Exactly as I show you - the pattern
of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings – so shall
you make it” (Exod 25:8–9). Moses is then given precise
instructions for the building of the Tabernacle (ibid., chaps. 25-31),
and the text goes on to describe its construction (ibid., chaps. 35-40)
by Bezalel son of Uri (ibid. 31:1-11).
The Tabernacle constructed in the desert was a portable, collapsible shrine,
suitable for nomadic life. It was made of three walls of goldplated acacia
wood (Exod 26:15–22), on which were hung strips of cloth embroidered
with cherubs. The Tabernacle was covered first with eleven goatskin cloths,
and then with tanned ram skins and tahash skins. There were two concentric
sections to the Tabernacle: the first, outer part, referred to as the
“Holy [Place],” contained the showbread table, the seven-branched
candelabrum (menorah), and perhaps also the incense altar; the second,
inner part, the “Holy of Holies,” contained the Ark of the
Pact, surmounted by two cherubs who shielded it with their wings. The
two spaces were separated by a curtain or screen, suspended from four
acacia-wood pillars (Exod 25, 26, 27, 36).
The Tabernacle was rectangular in shape, 15 m long and 4 m wide. It stood
in a court or enclosure, 50 m long and 25 m wide (Exod 27:9–18),
which was divided into two equal parts. In the west stood the Tabernacle,
in the east, brass vessels and the burnt-offering altar (Exod 27:1–8).
The entire court was surrounded by a fence made of curtains hung on pillars.
The entrance, on the east, was closed off by a screen (ibid. 27:16), as
was the entrance to the Tabernacle itself. According to P (the priestly
source), the Tabernacle was placed in the center of the camp when the
people were encamped and also as they journeyed, with the twelve tribes
of Israel positioned around it (Num 2:2, 17).
In the biblical account, the Tabernacle had three main roles. To begin
with, it provided a place for God to “dwell among the Israelites”
(Exod 25: 8; 29:45–46). It was also the cultic space in which, for
example, a daily burnt-offering was sacrificed twice a day (ibid. 29:38–43),
atonement was made for the Temple and the people on the Day of Atonement
(Lev 16), and incense was burned every morning (Exod 30:1–10, 34–38).
Finally, it was in the Tabernacle – the “Tent of Meeting”
– that the Divine Presence revealed itself to Moses (ibid. 25:22;
2. Solomon’s Temple
The Bible relates that King David, in the context of his plan for a new
center for the emerging nation, proposed to erect a Sanctuary, or a House
of God (2 Sam 7:2; 1 Chron 17:1). Surprisingly, he did not implement his
plan, although a later tradition attributes to him some preliminary
preparations for the construction (1 Chron 22-28). Significantly,
David, like Moses at Sinai (cf. Exod 25:9), was said to have received a “blueprint” in God’s own hand (1 Chron 28:19).
It remained to King Solomon to realize his father’s plans. In order
to build the Temple, he had the area of the City of David extended northward,
to include the Northern Hill (later known as the Temple Mount). On this
hill, over an area of some 6.5 acres, he established a royal acropolis
comprising various structures: the palace, the “Lebanon Forest House”
(the royal treasury), the Hall of Judgment, and the Temple, which is called
“the House.” According to a tradition reported only in the
book of Chronicles, the location of the Temple was not chosen at random:
it was built on “Mount Moriah” (the traditional site of the
binding of Isaac; see Gen 22), exactly where Solomon’s father David
had set up an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite
(1 Chron 21:18–28; cf. 2 Sam 24:18–25). The builders of the
Temple were Phoenicians (1 Kings 5:20, 32), including Hiram, king of Tyre
(son of an Israelite mother), who cast the bronze vessels for the Temple
No remains of Solomon’s Temple have ever been found, but its design
can be reconstructed on the basis of the biblical data (1 Kings, chaps. 6–7; 2 Chron, chaps. 3–4; Ezek, chaps. 40–42) and
archaeological evidence of ancient temples in northern Syria (Mumbaqa,
Emar, En Dura, and Tel Ta’inat) and Israel (Shechem, Hazor, and
Megiddo). As far as we know, the Temple stood on higher ground than the
royal palace and was aligned east-west, opening toward the east. Its overall
shape was that of a “long house” (of the architectural megaron
type), 30 m long, 10 m wide, and 15 m high (inner dimensions, not including
the thickness of the outer walls). The building was surrounded on three
sides by a court, in which stood an altar for burnt-offerings and, nearby,
several large vessels for water: a large brass tank (Heb. yam, literally:
“sea”) and ten brass carts (laver stands, Heb. mekhonot) carrying
the lavers – small containers of water (kirot).
The structure was divided into three parts, whose Hebrew names are rendered
variously in different translations of the Bible: the ulam (Portico),
the hekhal (Great Hall), and the devir (Shrine or Holy of Holies). The
ulam (10 m wide and 5 m long) was a kind of vestibule, separating the sacred precinct from the world outside; it was probably not roofed.
In front of it stood two great brass columns, named Yakhin (on the right)
and Bo’az (on the left). The ulam opened into the hekhal (20 m long,
10 m wide, and 15 m high; later known as the kodesh, that is, the Holy
[Place]), where the Temple rites were performed. In the hekhal were a
gold incense altar, a gold table (or tables) on which offerings could
be placed, and ten gold candelabra to provide illumination. The inner
walls and ceiling of the hekhal were lined with cedar wood, in which various
floral and mythological motifs were carved (such as cherubim – sphinx-like
animals with a winged lion’s body and a human head); the floor was
made of cypress wood.
Reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple
Between the hekhal and the devir was a wooden partition, made of cedar
planks overlaid with gold; in the partition were double doors, made of
carved olive wood, through which one could enter (ascend to?) the devir.
The devir, later also known as the kodesh kodashim (Holy of Holies), was
a cubical wooden chamber (each side measuring 10 m). Here, too, as in
the hekhal, the walls and floors were overlaid with cedar and cypress
wood, and palmettes and cherubs were carved on the walls. Inside the devir
stood two enormous cherubs, made of olive wood overlaid with gold, their
faces toward the hekhal and their wings extended the entire width of the
devir and touching each other; beneath them was the Ark of the Covenant.
Abutting the building on the outside was an additional structure, known
in Hebrew as yatzia, in which Temple treasures and vessels were stored:
it comprised rows of chambers in three stories around the building. The
chambers communicated with one another through passages and possibly also
spiral staircases (Heb. lulim), which provided access from one storey
to another. The yatzia was entered through the southeastern chamber.
According to ancient beliefs, the main purpose of Solomon's Temple
was to provide an earthly dwelling place for God. This is clearly demonstrated
by the account in the first book of Kings of the Ark of the Covenant being
brought into the Holy of Holies: “. . . the cloud had filled the
House of the LORD and the priests were not able to remain and perform
the service because of the cloud, for the Presence of the LORD filled
the House of the LORD” (8:10-11). As this passage matches,
almost word for word, the parallel description of the completion of the
Tabernacle in the wilderness (Exod 40:34-35), it is clear that the
author of the book of Kings considered Solomon’s Temple the sole
legitimate successor to the portable Tabernacle.
3. Ezekiel's Temple
In the last part of the book of Ezekiel, following his prediction of an
apocalyptic war against “Gog of the land of Magog” (Ezek 38–39),
the prophet describes the future restoration of the people of Israel to
its land, including an eschatological vision of the Temple and its cult
(chaps. 40-48). The prophet’s guiding principle is the necessity
for an entirely new Temple, free of any impurity and quite different from
the unclean Temple that stood in Jerusalem prior to the destruction of
586 BCE (see Ezek 43:1-12; 44:6-8). This new Temple would
be built “on a very high mountain" (40:2), in territory not
belonging to any one tribe, but rather in the territory of the priests,
at a distance from the city (Jerusalem, which is called “the
LORD is there” [48:35]) and its property (45:1-6; 48:8-22).
Ezekie's description of the Temple’s structure is schematic,
the design highly symmetrical. The Temple occupies a sacred area separated
from the profane world by two concentric forecourts, at whose gates stand
guards who ensure that only Israelites enter.
The outer court is square
in shape - 250 by 250 m - and surrounded by a wall with three
large gates (north, east, and south). Built along the wall are thirty
chambers (40:17; 41:10), and at the corners of the court are “unroofed
enclosures,” in which the Temple personnel are supposed to cook
sacrifices brought by the people (46:21-24). Opposite the gates
in the outer forecourt are three gates providing access to the inner forecourt,
which is also square, measuring 50 by 50 m (40:47). In the center of the
inner court stands the great altar; along the northern and southern sides
are the priests’ chambers (only priests will be permitted access
to this sacred area).
Toward the western end of the inner court stands the Temple (“House”),
divided into three parts: the ulam, the hekhal, and the kodesh kodashim
“side chambers” (tzela’ot), in three stories, encompass
the structure on three sides (41:5–9). Ten steps lead up from the
inner forecourt to the first part of the Temple, and at the entrance,
which is 7 m wide, stand two columns. A further door, 5 m wide, connects
the ulam to the hekhal, from which, through a third door, 3 m wide, one
enters the Holy of Holies (40:48 - 41:4). Here, too, as in Solomon’s
Temple, the walls of the hekhal and the Holy of Holies are overlaid with
wood, in which cherubs and palmettes are carved. The doors are carved
in similar fashion. There is no reference to the cultic implements inside,
apart from the wooden altar, of which it is said, “This is the table
that stands before the LORD” (41:21–22); it is not clear whether
the reference is to the showbread table or the incense altar. Finally,
farther along the inner forecourt to the west, behind the Temple, is a
structure whose purpose is not defined.
The Temple envisioned by Ezekiel. Reconstruction
by M. Chyutin
Ezekiel’s Temple no longer houses the Ark of the Covenant that
occupied the heart of Solomon’s Temple; instead, the “Presence
of the LORD” fills the Temple (43:4-5). This is God’s
abode: “. . . It said to me: O mortal, this is the place of My throne
and the place for the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst
of the people Israel forever. The House of Israel and their kings must
not again defile My holy name by their apostasy and by the corpses of
their kings at their death” (Ezek 43:7). The prophet’s eschatological
Temple will thus resemble the Tabernacle in the wilderness, built in fulfillment
of the Divine command, “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I
may dwell among them” (Exod 25:8).
Herod’s Temple. Reconstruction by L. Ritmeyer