The Second Temple and Its Discontents

June 27 2016

Completed in 515 BCE, the Second Temple in Jerusalem was the focal point of Judaism until its destruction nearly six centuries later. Lawrence Schiffman provides an introduction to the Temple’s history, its significance in Judaism and Christianity, and the conflicts surrounding it in the latter part of its existence:

The Second Temple and its rituals were a point of contention between various Jewish groups, with numerous [ancient] texts criticizing the Temple for violating the laws of the Torah. The Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ disagreement led to inconsistent control of Temple rituals. Sadducean views held sway until the Pharisaic approach came to dominate after the Maccabean revolt [in 160 BCE], but the Sadducees regained control later in the Hasmonean period. The Dead Sea sectarians [associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls], who believed Temple ritual was being conducted illegitimately, abstained completely. Josephus reports that the Essenes processed offerings in their own area of the Temple in order to fulfill their special ritual-purity requirements. The Temple Scroll from Qumran, like the end of the book of Ezekiel, looked forward to a vastly expanded Temple complex.

Josephus records numerous events around the Temple during pilgrimage festivals, often related to the deteriorating relationship between the Jews and their Roman rulers. Huge numbers of Jews from all over the world attended the pilgrimage festivals. According to [the Jewish-Roman historian] Josephus, 256,500 lambs were sacrificed to accommodate more than 2.7 million people at the Passover celebration of 66 CE. While this may be an exaggeration, Josephus also reports that during that Passover, right before the outbreak of the great revolt [that culminated in the Romans’ destruction of the Temple], a massive protest erupted against the actions of the Roman procurator Florus.

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Read more at Bible Odyssey

More about: Ancient Israel, ancient Judaism, Dead Sea Scrolls, Ezekiel, History & Ideas, Josephus, Pharisees, Second Temple

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror