Did God Dwell in the Second Temple? Clarifying the Relationship Between Theophany and Temple Dwelling -- By: Joseph Greene

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 61:4 (Dec 2018)
Article: Did God Dwell in the Second Temple? Clarifying the Relationship Between Theophany and Temple Dwelling
Author: Joseph Greene


Did God Dwell in the Second Temple? Clarifying the Relationship Between Theophany and Temple Dwelling

Joseph Greene*

* Joseph R. Greene is Interim Pastor at Second Baptist Church, 589 Granby Road, South Hadley, MA 01075. He may be contacted at josephraymondgreene@gmail.com.

Abstract: Unlike the tabernacle or Solomon’s temple, the Bible does not describe the glory cloud of the Lord filling the second temple. This difference has caused many commentators to ask whether God’s presence “dwelled” in the second temple. An accurate answer requires a clarification of what temple dwelling means during the Second Temple period. A broad analysis of temple theology within the biblical and Second Temple literature reveals that the glory cloud relates to theophany, which is only one part of broader “presence” and “dwelling” concepts. The interplay between these concepts and developments in temple theology shifted the meaning of “dwelling.” This shift provided the avenue by which first century Jews could believe that the glory cloud was never manifested and that God still “dwelled” in the second temple. Understanding these beliefs should give interpreters pause when assigning significance to the lack of a cloud theophany in the second temple. In practice, placing more significance on the glory cloud than historically warranted raises other interpretive issues—especially for evangelical interpreters.

Key words: second temple, temple dwelling, God’s presence, glory cloud, theophany, spiritualization in exile, postexilic

In arguing for a continuing sense of exile among first-century Jews, N. T. Wright states, “Israel’s god had not returned to Zion. Nowhere in the so-called postexilic literature is there any passage corresponding to 1 Kings 8.10f., according to which, when Solomon’s temple had been finished, ‘a cloud filled the house of YHWH, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of YHWH filled the house of YHWH.’”1 In her OT survey Carol Kaminski similarly notes, “Yet when the temple is dedicated under Zerubbabel and Joshua (Ezra 6:13–18), there is no indication that God’s glory fills it. … There is no sign that God’s glorious presence returns to the rebuilt temple.”2 These scholars reflect a common contemporary assumption that the lack of a glory cloud report means that God’s presence did not return to the second temple. Would Jews living during the first century agree that God was not present/dwelling in the temple? This paper will argue that God’s “dwelling” in the te...

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