The main question of this paper is concerned with the understanding of the temple in the prophetic tradition of Israelite religion. Specifically, it focuses on the prophetic literature from the second temple period. Is there any change in the concept of the temple in the restoration times? What kind of roles of the temple do the prophets delineate? In what circumstances have the Persian period prophets viewed the temple? How does the temple ideology of the prophets reflect the lives in the colony of Yehud, the postexilic community of Judah? This paper aims at finding principles of a contextual theology1) through the transformed ideas about the temple as expressed by the post-exilic prophets.
Scholars have discussed the continuity and discontinuity of Israelite religion after the exile.2) However, we generally recognize a transformation of this religion during the second temple period. Among those changes, the shift of the temple role is significant. This paper maintains that the Persian period prophets understood the temple, on the one hand, as a symbol of restoration of the community and on the other hand, as an eschatological symbol. We will find how the ambivalent outlooks of the prophets played a transformative role in shaping the faith of the Yehud community.
First of all, I will present a general perception of the temple in Canaan and ancient Israel. Then follows a brief exploration of the temple understanding of earlier prophets. Secondly, specific situations of the early post-exilic era are introduced. Against this background each prophecy of the Persian period is examined to find how the prophets have understood the temple. With the information of the prophetic literature and from the study of extra-biblical materials, then is discussed the reality of the second temple, one which is far different from the first temple. Finally, we will discuss the principles of the contextual theology with which the post-exilic prophets transformed the concept of the temple and cast a new vision for the Yehud community. In conclusion, a brief evaluation of the principles will be made in the perspective of the Korean Christian Church and society.
1)By contextual theology, I mean local theology that takes the starting point of doing theology from the very ground on which the theologians stand. Contextual theology is commonly introduced as a cardinal method for Minjung theology in Korea, liberation theology in Latin America, Black theology in North America, feminist theology and various local theologies in Asia: Yim Taesoo, Minjung Theology towards a Second Reformation (Seoul: Christian Conference of Asia, 2006), 85, 88. 2)Joseph Blenkinsopp, Judaism The First Phase: The Place of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Origins of Judaism (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 33.
Temples in Canaan and Ancient Israel
In Canaan and Ancient Israel
Sacred places that are hedged off for communication with the divine were divided into two kinds in ancient Canaanite religion: local sanctuaries and city temples. Local sanctuaries were modestly shaped: an erected stone or pillar, an altar of earth or stone, frequently near a tree or a well.3) Some of them had no building. We can identify those open-air shrines as high places. Seasonal sacrifices and local festivals were held in these places. There were no divine images present, nor was there a special staff for the daily care of the deity. These sanctuaries were usually located outside the town.4)
There were temples in cities. These temples were conceived as dwelling places for deities. According to William G. Dever, there were four principal features of temples. Firstly, they were conceived as houses (palaces) for the gods. Secondly, they were consecrated or set apart for sacred usage. Thirdly, priestly groups served in the temples. Fourthly, worship performed in the temple consisted of offering food and drink to gods of fertility.5)
Van der Toorn discusses four functions of the Syro-Palestinian temple.6) The first was a religious role. The second was an economic one. Temples possessed a stock of silver, gold, precious stones, and valuables, which came from spoils of war, the income of temple prostitution, votive gifts, temple taxes, and voluntary donations made by king or commander. It was likely that the temples made loans free of interest as venture capital to small farmers and merchants as a central bank. Thirdly, the temples had juridical functions. Temples were assumed to be places where the superior knowledge of god was situated. This belief informed the juridical use of the oath and the attendant practice of ordeal. Also the sanctuaries provided protection from blood revenge. Innocent manslayers could take refuge in the temples. Finally, political functions should be mentioned. Most Syro- Palestinian gods were national deities. The existence of a temple manifested national power and wealth. People were consolidated around their sanctuaries. There was a close relationship between palace and temple.
In Israelite Prophetic Tradition
Although the concept of sanctuary or temple varies in each prophetic tradition of Israel, there were common consistent elements. Before we discuss the post-exilic prophetic understanding of the temple, there needs to be a brief exploration observing how pre-exilic and exilic prophets viewed the temple in their respective periods.
Firstly, pre-exilic prophets emphasized the temple as the dwelling place of God. The Temple Mount, Zion, was the cosmic center of the reign of God. Isaiah 6:1 witnessed the prophet receiving his call in the temple which was at that time filled with the hem of the Lord. It was the place where the prophet was cleansed and where he responded to God’s call (6:6-8). Also, the contemporary prophet Micah depicted the temple as the holy abode of God from where the Lord was coming (1:2). However, the prophecy of Jeremiah took a negative attitude towards the temple. He attacked those who had a deceptive pride in the temple, and who placed their security in it (7:4) and he reminded the people of the sanctuary at Shiloh which was destroyed (7:12). Yet, Jeremiah s criticism was not for the temple itself but for the false ideas and hypocritical cultic behavior of the people. Micah s prophecy of Jerusalem becoming “heaps of ruins” (3:12) was also due to the injustice of rulers.
Secondly, during the exilic period, the temple of the Lord was a symbol of restoration for the Israelite community. Deutero-Isaiah prophesied the promise of God to rebuild the temple (44:28) in the vision of God’s saving acts. Most of all, Ezekiel stressed the importance of the temple in the restoration of his people in his two different temple visions. Firstly, he saw the abominations of the people in the temple of Jerusalem (8:5-6, 10-11, 14- 16). God’s anger was provoked for the defilement of the temple and the people were abandoned. Now, in the second temple vision the holiness of the temple was restored and the glory of God returned to the temple (Isa. 40-43). The temple became the dwelling place of God (43:7) again. Furthermore, the living water which made every creature live flowed from the temple and the trees bore fresh fruit (47:1-12). With the prophecy of the new temple, Ezekiel gave the hope of restoration of the land and salvation of the people.
According to the pre-exilic prophets, the temple was the dwelling place of YHWH, the national god of Israel. By emphasizing YHWH’s being in the Holy Mount, Jerusalem, the prophets provided Israelites with national safety and identity. This belief in the temple continued in the exilic period in spite of the national disaster of 587 BCE. The exilic prophets placed their vision of the restoration of Israel in the temple. Even though the temple existed no more, the hope for the revival of Israel lay in the Temple Mount. It may have been the only option the exilic prophets had to encourage the exiled people to awaken their national identity and religious integrity.
3)Karel Van der Toorn, “Theology, Priests, and Worship in Canaan and Ancient Israel.” Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, ed. Jack M. Sasson (New York: Scribner’s, 1995), 2050. 4)Van der Toorn, 2050. 5)William G. Dever, “Palaces and Temples in Canaan and Ancient Israel.” Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, 607. 6)Van der Toorn, 2051.
The Temple in Post-Exilic Prophetic Tradition
Situations in Early Post-Exilic Judah (Yehud)
This section cannot cover the complete historical circumstances of Yehud, one of the small provinces of the newly established Persian Empire. Here, the discussion is limited to furnishing a specific aspect of the historical setting, which is related to our grasp of the prophets in the Persian period.
Above all, we have to consider the early post-exilic community as a multi-stratified society, unless we uncritically accept the biblical report of Ezra-Nehemiah that spoke about a single stratum of the community. At least three components of the community are recognized. The first group consisted of those on the land who had remained in Judah throughout the course of events. The second group included those who may have returned from Babylonia with Sheshbazzar early in the reign of Cyrus (Ezra 1:7-11). The third one were the late comers who returned from Babylonia with Zerubbabel and Joshua only a few years before Haggai’s preaching.7)
For the people who had stayed in Palestine, the return of the exiles was a threat because the returnees would enforce their ancestral rights to the property on which the remainder had been living.8) A conflict between the two groups9) was expected (Ezra 4:4). Even among the same group of the returned exiles, their conception of their circumstances would have been different according to their different times of arrival in Judah. The earlier repatriates would be less enthusiastic for the restoration of their community than the late comers because the former had already experienced the harsh reality that was different from the grand restoration vision of Deutero-Isaiah. The economic situation was wretched with a series of droughts (Haggai 1:6, 9-11; Zechariah 8:10) and a locust plague (Joel 1:4).
There was one more reason why the reconstruction of the temple was delayed for eighteen years. The colonial status of Yehud as a western flank of the Persian Empire worsened the problem within the community. For a Jewish nationalistic group, it was hard to accept the chance of the new beginning which had been offered to them by Persian imperial policy.10) If they followed the direction of the imperial government, they would be permanently loyal to the Empire. A conflict between the anti-Persian party and the pro-Persian group concerning the imperial-sponsored construction of the temple was inevitable.
At least, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah had faced these initial problems of the Jewish community. Moreover, these problems continued to challenge the other prophets Joel, Malachi, and Trito-Isaiah. Next, we will explore these post-exilic prophets understanding of the temple under these conditions. Their conceptions of the temple were shaped by the specific situations of the community.
The Temple in the Persian Period Prophets
Haggai and Zechariah played a significant role in the construction of the second temple. Specifically, Haggai explicitly proclaimed the urgent issue of the rebuilding of the temple (1:2-7). The prophet s diagnosis that the poverty of the community was due to the absence of the “House of God” (1:9-11) was an innovative idea.11) According to Sara Japhet, Haggai took a different stand from the view that all misfortunes, including the depressed economy, were punishments for the national sin in the past. Instead, he regarded the sin of Israel as the failure to rebuild the temple.
For Haggai, the existence of the temple was a manifestation of the prosperity of the community (2:8-9). From the day when the foundation of the temple was laid, the blessing of God was guaranteed (2:18-19). Also, the rebuilding of the temple implicated the return of YHWH’s rule in Jerusalem, which was signified by Zerubbabel of the Davidic line (2:20-23).12) The construction of the temple brought about economic and political recovery. Here, we see that the prophet Haggai understood the temple as a symbol of the restoration of the Jewish community.
Haggai’s vision of the new beginning was not only limited to the immediate present but also extended to the eschatological future. He prophesized that YHWH would shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land, and all the nations (2:6). Then the House (hzh tybh) would be filled with the precious things of the nations and glory (2:7). The temple was connected to an eschatological vision.
Peter Marincovic argues that Zechariah 1-8 does not talk about the restoration of the second temple but of YHWH’s community.14) The prophecy of Zechariah does not explicitly express the temple construction we see in Haggai. Japhet argues that the temple s construction was not a main issue in Zechariah’s prophecy.15) However, as Robert Carroll rightly discusses, the literary device of night visions focused in various ways on the rebuilding of the temple.16)
First of all, Zechariah declared that YHWH would return to Jerusalem and the House be built on the Mount (1:16). The motive of YHWH’s return of Jerusalem recurred throughout the prophecy (1:17b, 2:12, 3:2, 8:3). The return of God precipitated the rebuilding of the temple and the renewal of the divine presence in Jerusalem would ensure prosperity for the whole land (2:6-13, 8:1-8, 20-23).17) Secondly, the prophet announced that the completion of the temple would be done by the hand of Zerubbabel, explicitly in 4:9 and implicitly in 6:12-13. The actual reign of the Davidic ruler came with the building of the temple. Finally, from the moment of laying the foundation of the temple, it was proclaimed that YHWH’s blessing was secured (8:9-12). The temple s construction was the turning point from the curse of “the former days” to the blessing of “these days.” 18)
For Zechariah, the rebuilding of the temple meant the restoration of the community. Also, the restoration was accompanied by both political and economic dimensions. Yet, unlike Haggai, the eschatological dimension did not appear here.
If Haggai and Zechariah were related to the time of reconstruction of the temple, Joel along with Malachi and Trito-Isaiah presumed the existence of the second temple. The problem for Joel was a cessation of cultic acts from the temple (1:9, 13, 16). The reasons for the suspension of the offerings were swarming locusts (1:4, 7, 10) and a severe drought (1:11-12). For the prophet Joel, the crucial difficulty of the community was not the locust plague nor the drought but the stoppage of the continuing offering to YHWH in the temple, for the cultic service in the temple was closely associated with the destiny of the community. Still, we see the same tradition of the post-exilic prophets who considered the temple as the symbol of the restoration of the community. This restoration was depicted as the giving of a grain offering and a drink offering in the temple (2:12-14).
This vision of rebuilding of the community was aggrandized into an eschatological dimension. The day of YHWH (hwhy ~wy) was emphasized as the day of judgment (1:15, 2:1-11). In that “day of darkness and gloom,” the earth would quake and the heavens tremble. The sun, moon, and stars would grow dark (2:10). The Lord would utter a voice which no one could endure (2:11).
Yet, the dwelling of YHWH in the holy mountain was a protection for YHWH’s own people (3:16-17). Furthermore, the mountain would drip sweet wine and flow with milk (3:18a). A life-giving fountain would come from the House (3:18b). Even though the temple had been a place of sadness, devoid of offerings or the sound of joy (1:13-16), it would become the source of gladness, from which blessings would flow.19)
Like Joel, the problem of Malachi was related to the cultic service in the temple. However, the main point of contention for Malachi was not the cessation of the offerings but the negligence of the cult, manifested in offering sick animals, and failure to tithe (1:7-8, 3:8).20) The reasons for this are not only the economic hardships but more seriously the disconfirmation of the hopes aroused by completion of the temple and official restoration of the cult.21) Malachi is dealing with later times than that of Joel.
The symbol of restoration appears in the prophecy of Malachi regarding the temple (3:10), but instead, we hear the voice of eschatological judgment that will come out of the temple (3:1-2). When the day of judgment comes, the descendants of Levi will be purified (3:3), the sorcerers and those who do injustice will be purged (3:5), and the difference between the righteous and the wicked will be made visible (3:18). Therefore, the day of judgment will be the day of victory for those who revere YHWH (4:1-3). Here, the temple was identified as an eschatological symbol, in which YHWH’s final judgment was made and victory of the pious was given.
The corpus of Isaiah 56-66 displays a similar problem with which Malachi has to struggle. The temple has already been finished and sacrifices are being offered. However, there are false worship (58:1-5) and polluted rituals (66:3). Moreover, their faith is experiencing a crisis because the wealth which earlier prophets promised to come after the completion of temple has not arrived (60:6).22)
Petersen argues that for Trito-Isaiah, the temple does not embody the full scale of values which had been anticipated for it.23) That is why 63:15 mentions the heavenly habitation of God (^vdq lbz; holy height) instead of the temple, the earthly abode. Also, 66:1-2 calls attention to the fallible nature of the temple that is built by people. Yet, the temple still matters for the Yehud community because YHWH is at work in the temple from the perspective of the Trito-Isaiah.
We hear the voice of YHWH for a judgment from the temple (66:6). On the other hand, the comfort of YHWH for his/her people is performed in Jerusalem, the temple mount (66:13). As we see above in the eschatological judgment of Malachi, the temple functions as both divine judgment and godly comfort in Trito-Isaiah. We should give attention to the discussion of Blenkinsopp who rightly maintains that prophetic eschatological faith is focused on temple and altar: the temple will be glorified, rich gifts will be brought to it, and the faithful will partake of their sacrificial goods in peace in the temple precincts (60:7, 13; 61:6; 62:9).24)
Ideology and Reality of the Second Temple
So far we have explored the temple concepts of post-exilic prophets. Two significances of the second temple are detected: restoration of the community and eschatological rule of YHWH. I identify these two conceptions as prophetic ideology of the temple because prophets applied their own ideas of the temple to their contexts to exhort people to move towards the prophets’ aims. For example, Haggai and Zechariah’stressed the urgency of the temple construction because they were supporting the exiled group of Zerubabbel and Joshua, which was a responsible party of the temple project. Thus, the prophets’ concepts of the temple were destined to be ideologically painted.25)
A concern here is the reality of the second temple. Since the biblical information of the temple does not give historical data, the prophetic ideology of the temple cannot be an exact picture of the second temple. Here, I will turn my attention to a couple of studies of other temples and compare these with the second temple to draw out its reality. Then I will examine how the prophets developed the temple vision in the varying context of their times.
Blenkinsopp observes that in ancient Mesopotamia, Syria, Asia Minor and the Greek mainland, city-state and temple belonged together.26) Blenkinsopp explains that many of the larger temples throughout the Achaemenid Empire were wealthy institutions with their own land holdings and work force, their own capital and produce from which they advanced loans like banks and credit unions today. These regional temples’ economies supported the imperial exchequer. This was why the Achaemenid rulers promoted and protected the local sanctuaries.27) The priests for the service were under the supervision of imperial officers, whose chief function was to ensure the payment of tributes. So Nehemiah as local representative of the imperial authority took measures to control the economic resources of the Jerusalem Temple.28)
We can summarize the two social functions of the temples in the Achaemenid times. Firstly, temples served as catalysts of economic exchange and promoters of social cohesion. Secondly, temples were as a point of convergence for the symbolic structures of the region, “an emblem of collective identity” mitigating to some degree the resentment generated by subjection to a foreign power.29)
The last point on the role of temple was the same even in Classical Greece. According to Walter Burkert, the Greek temples built from about 600 to 300 BCE were intimately connected with the Greek
The temples in the Achaemenid period and in the time of Classical Greece played a social role in both economic and political dimension. Despite little evidence, we can infer a similar situation in Yehud from the studies above. The so called
Traces of the Civic-Temple Community in Yehud
The prophetic depictions of the temple as the symbol of restoration are closely related to a restoration of economic prosperity. For example, Haggai describes the temple as a store house which will be filled with the treasure of all the nations (2:7). Silver and gold are proclaimed as YHWH’s (2:8). Material blessing was expected with the laying of the temple foundation (2:18). Also, in Zechariah, the comfort of YHWH to Zion was preceded by the prosperity of cities (1:17). Again, an economic wealth of the community was promised with the laying of the temple foundation (8:9-13).
In this regard, Carroll s argument that the temple was not a holy house for worship but a storehouse for generating great wealth34) is legitimate. He continues to discuss that Zechariah 8:9-13 represents the temple as an economic center, and the burgeoning of the economy is associated with the building of the temple. Furthermore, even in Deutero-Zechariah, the hope expressed in 14:21 that such a day would see the cessation of trade in the temple was indicative of the role of the temple as a kind of “merchant city”, much given to commerce and business transactions.35) In addition to the two prophets, these traces of the temple as economic center recurred throughout the Persian period prophets.36)
Choosing the temple personnel for the newly built temple must have been a controversial issue since there was a conflict between the people of the land and the people of the exile, and furthermore between the competitive priestly groups. Specifically, Haggai and Zechariah were sensitive to this problem. They sided with the exile group and emphasized Zerubbabel and Joshua whenever they spoke about the leadership of the civic-temple community. The two leaders of the repatriate group were pictured as being obedient to the voice of YHWH and taking the task of rebuilding the temple along with the rest of the people (Hag 1:12-15). In Zechariah, Joshua was authorized as the high priest for the temple by the messenger of YHWH (3:1-10). In reality, the priesthood was appointed by imperial officers. However, Zechariah tried to proclaim that the legitimacy of the position of Joshua was based on divine choice. Likewise the authority of Zerubbabel was depicted as being given by the spirit of YHWH and not by any other earthly institution (4:6-14).37)
The message of Malachi concerning the three forms of misbehavior against which the prophet preached; neglect of the cult, lack of economic support of the clergy, and marriage with foreign women38) reflected aspects of the civic-temple community. The negligence of the cult was not only a religious problem but also a social problem because participation in duly established cultic activity was one of the essentials for the membership of the temple community.39) The prophet was dealing with a social issue by criticizing a religious problem. The lack of economic support for the temple and the clergy was another problem in the Yehud province because it evinced the crisis of solidarity among the people in Yehud. Supporting the temple was the second crucial element for acquiring membership. Yehudites neglected their collective identity. That is why Malachi emphasized ethnic qualification of the community40) by condemning intermarriage (2:10-12).
C. Causes of Eschatological Vision
The eschatological symbol of the second temple in the prophets can be explained in relation to the political dimension of the temple. As we saw above, most of the post-exilic prophets expressed an eschatological concern in their interpretations of the temple. The civic-temple community was not an independent national entity but a limited autonomy under the supervision of the empire. Due to the clever policy of admitting local autonomy, the Achaemenid government could mitigate the national movements of each province. However, the patriotic groups within the Jewish community could not accept the present temple community. Their only option was to project the sovereignty of YHWH, their national God, into the future in eschatological language. The civic-temple system, on the one hand, was an emblem of collective identity but, on the other hand, an obstacle which the Jewish people should do away with for the coming reign of YHWH.
There is another explanation for the emergence of eschatology, which is more significant in understanding the historical reality of the second temple. The post-exilic prophets redefined the concept of the temple according to the change of circumstances. However, Trito-Isaiah made many more innovative claims for the temple than any other prophet. For instance, the place of the “foreigner” and the “eunuch” within “his” people was permitted at his house (56:3-8).41) Also, Trito-Isaiah raised a radical question about the nature of the human temple (66:1-2). Finally, the prophet revealed an ingenious concept of the temple as “a house of prayer for all peoples” (56:7), which went beyond the boundary of Jewish cult and ethnicity.
Now, the temple was not only a place of sacrifice but also a house of utterance. By designating the temple as a house of prayer, the prophet limited the customary status of any priestly class since their role was not to control prayerful utterances but to sacrifice.42) In fact the synagogue, the house of prayer, appeared in the late second temple period and gradually replaced the temple as the worship place of Judaism.
Menahem Haran justly points out that the emergence of the synagogue during the second temple period denotes that Judaism had reached the stage at which it could practically give up the institution of the house of God altogether. Consequently, when the second temple fell, Judaism could absorb the blow without collapsing. The temple was thus turned into an eschatological symbol.43)
With the fall of the first temple in 587 BCE, the religious role of the temple as a cultic center of the whole community was lost. The second temple which was rebuilt on the site of the former one, however, was not any more a religious center but an economic and political location for a limited group of people called the civic-temple community. As a part of the apparatus of imperial control44), the temple was increasingly rejected by Jewish people as the House of God until it was replaced by the synagogue, a place for public prayer.
7)Peter Ross Bedford, “Discerning the Time: Haggai, Zechariah and the ‘Delay’ in the Rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple.” The Pitcher is Broken: Memorial Essays for Gosta W. Ahlstrom, ed. Steven W. Holloway and Lowell K. Handy (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 72. 8)Rainer Albertz, A History of Israelite Religion in the Old Testament Period, Volume II: From the Exile to the Maccabees, transl. John Bowden (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), 444. 9)Between “people of the land” and “people of the exile”. 10)Albertz, A History, 444. 11)Sara Japhet, “The Temple in the Restoration Period: Reality and Ideology,” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 44 (1991): 229. 12)Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8 (New York:Doubleday, 1987), 68. 13)Deutero-Zechariah, chapters 9-14 is a separate section that is not directly related to the time of the rebuilding of the second temple. Instead, this part of Zechariah is concerned with the end times. 14)Peter Marincovic, “What does Zechariah 1-8 Tell Us about the Second Temple?” Second Temple Studies, 2. Temple and Community in the Persian Period, ed. Tamara C. Eskenazi and Kent H. Richards (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994), 96. Also, David L. Petersen argues that “in the visions (of Zechariah), there is remarkably little attention devoted to the temple itself” in his article, “The Temple in Persian Period Prophetic Texts”, Biblical Theology Bulletin 21 No.3 (1991): 92. 15)Japhet, 219-220. 16)Robert P. Carroll, “So What Do We Know about the Temple? The Temple in the Prophets,” Second Temple Studies, 2. Temple and Community in the Persian Period, ed. Tamara C. Eskenazi and Kent H. Richards (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994), 41. 17)Bedford, 82. 18)Japhet, 229. 19)James Limburg, Hosea-Micah (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988), 77. 20)Joseph Blenkinsopp, A History of Prophecy in Israel (Louisville, Kentucky:Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 210. 21)Blenkinsopp, 210. 22)Petersen, “Temple,” 93. 23)Petersen, 93 24)Blenkinsopp, A History, 218. 25)Robert P. Carroll, “Coopting the Prophets: Nehemiah and Noadiah.” Priests, Prophets, and Scribes: Essays on the Formation and Heritage of Second Temple Judaism in Honour of Joseph Blenkinsopp, ed. Eugene Ulrich and others (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), 88. 26)Joseph Blenkinsopp, “Temple and Society in Achaemenid Judah”, Second Temple Studies, 1. Persian Period. ed. Philip R. Davies (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991), 22. 27)Blenkinsopp, “Temple,” 23. 28)Blenkinsopp, “Temple,” 23-24. 29)Blenkinsopp, “Temple,”, 26. 30)Walter Burkert, “The Temple in Classical Greece,” Temple in Society, ed. Michael V. Fox (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1988), 39. 31)Burkert, 44. 32)Burkert, 44. 33)Blenkinsopp, “Temple,” 27. 34)Carroll, “So What,” 41. 35)Carroll, “So What,” 43. 36)Joel 1:9-10, 13, 16, 2:14, 4:18, Malachi 3:10-12. 37)For an extended discussion of the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, Janet E. Tollington, Tradition and Innovation in Haggai and Zechariah 1-8 (Sheffield:JSOT Press, 1993), 125-81. 38)Blenkinsopp, A History, 210. 39)Blenkinsopp, A History, 198. 40)Blenkinsopp, “Temple,”, 32.
Principles of Prophetic Contextual Theology
The role of the temple as portrayed by Israelite prophets showed us continuity and discontinuity between pre-exilic and post-exilic periods. One of the consistent themes was the basic definition of the temple as the house of YHWH. From Isaiah’s temple vision, through Ezekiel’s blueprint of the future temple, to Haggai’s exhortation to rebuild the House of YHWH, the temple was persistently maintained as the dwelling place of God.
However, some changes were recognized. First of all, the temple became a symbol of restoration. In the same line with Deutero-Isaiah, the post-exilic prophets related the fate of community to that of temple. This new concept of temple was because of the experience of the national trauma and of the continuous hardship after the return of the exiles. To have the temple as the residing location of YHWH and from which both judgment and salvation came was the only hope for the community in the midst of disastrous surroundings.
Secondly, the temple has been understood by post-exilic prophets as an eschatological symbol. A vicious cycle of a new hope and a disappointed reality in post-exilic times caused people’s expectation to move to end times. In this eschatological vision of the temple, however, the pre-exilic notion of the holy abode of God and the divine sovereignty still continued.
Here, we see that the prophetic concepts of the temple were deeply influenced by historical circumstances. The problem is to reconstruct a historical reality from the ideological prophecy in order to understand the prophecy better. When we are concerned with a prophecy of a prophet, we are dealing with three problems; context, ideology, and reality at the same time.
The temple vision as the restoration of the community and eschatological rule of YHWH was the product of the contextual theology of the post-exilic prophets. Three principles of their methodology in formulating the new vision of the temple are in order: 1. Preservation, 2. Innovation, 3. Transcendentalization.
First of all, the post-exilic prophets kept the previous tradition of the temple as YHWH’s abode from which divine judgment and deliverance came. With this belief of the temple as God’s dwelling place, Haggai and Zechariah could exhort returnees to build the House of YHWH in spite of the hardships of their times. Those who had experienced the fall of the Jerusalem temple hardly believed the traditional belief about the temple. Yet, the two prophets’ unyielding preservation of their temple heritage was transformed into renewed energy that finally completed the second temple. Contextual theology is not simply situational. It should be anchored in an intrinsic vein of traditions which still prove true in various circumstances and changes of ages.
Secondly, the matrix of the post-exilic Yehud community resulted in an innovative temple vision among the post-exilic prophets. The second temple as imperial institute administered by imperial personnel demanded renewed understanding of the temple. Both Joel and Malachi accepted the reality of the temple as an economic vehicle almost like a commercial center. Yet, they developed the temple function further, from a material and commercial role to a nationalistic and religious one. Now the temple turned out to be the symbol of collective identity and the barometer of their restoration. Despite the Persian rule of the time, the post-exilic prophets could develop the customary temple idea into a transformative instrument on which the Yehudites’ patriotic and faithful hearts were focused.45)
Thirdly, one of the most nagging problems of all for the prophets must have been the gap between their religious proclamation of the temple and the sheer reality of the temple as the apparatus of imperial control. The worst phenomenon of all was the failure of the prophetic expectation6) that the revival of the nation would arrive with the restoration of the second temple. In the time of Joel, Malachi, and Trito-Isaiah, the previous temple vision could not have been sustained by some of the groups of people. The fluctuation of hope and despair in Trito-Isaiah’s prophecy explained the contemporary situation. However, neither the post-exilic prophets nor even Haggai limited their temple vision to a mundane dimension. With a deeper appreciation of human circumstances, they cast their temple vision into a transcendental dimension. The temple became understood as an eschatological symbol in which YHWH’s ultimate rule would come true. The eschatological view of the temple was ironically the output of the contextual theology of the post-exilic prophets.
41)Petersen, 93. 42)Petersen, 94. 43)Menahem Haran, “Temple and Community in Ancient Israel,” Temple in Society, ed. Michael V. Fox (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1988), 22. 44)Blenkinsopp, “Temple,” 39. 45)Kim, Hae Kwon, “A Theology of National Reconciliation in the Book of Chronicles,” The Theological Thought 152 (2011): 42. 46)Those prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah!
The purpose of this paper is to elucidate the understandings of the temple in the Persian period prophets and to search out some principles of their theological adaptation of the temple vision in dialogue with the historical circumstances. For this, I have raised three specific problems of the early post-exilic community: a conflict within a multi-stratified community, an economic disaster, and subjection to a foreign power. On the one hand, two concepts of the temple by the post-exilic prophets have been drawn: the temple as a symbol of restoration and as an eschatological rule of YHWH. On the other hand, the reality of the second temple has been suggested as follows: 1. It was an economic vehicle such as bourse, treasury, and commercial center. 2. Its personnel were under the supervision of imperial officers. 3. It was an emblem of collective identity.
As a result of the discussions above, three principles of the contextual theology of the post-exilic prophets are as follows: 1. Preservation of traditional belief, 2. Innovation of belief in dialogue with the context, 3. Transcendentalization of reality into eschatological vision.
The church in Korean society has lost her power to comfort and empower people. Unfortunately, the concept of the church can be identified with the symbol of failure and shame, rather than of victory and glory. One of the most critical reasons for this recent collapse of the church is the dogmatic theology that does not consider the daily situations of human lives.
If the post-exilic prophets had insisted on the customary temple dogma, they could not have responded to the change of circumstances so effectively; this would have resulted in the downfall of their faith in YHWH. We have confirmed that the temple prophecies were products of the prophets’ contextual theology. They attempted to fill the gap between religious proclamation and the real situations of life. What the post-exilic prophets instruct us today is to have a serious dialogue with our own context, which allows us to break through ideologies and finally encounter reality. Preservation of the good traditions of the Korean churches, the innovation of conventional doctrines in harmony with today’s context, and eschatological confession of our existence are the cherished wisdom of the great theologians from the Old Testament period.