Church And Temple In The New Testament1 -- By: I. Howard Marshall

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 040:2 (NA 1989)
Article: Church And Temple In The New Testament1
Author: I. Howard Marshall

Church And Temple In The New Testament1

I. Howard Marshall


At the time when the early church came into existence, there were three different contexts in which the Jews engaged in what we may call religious activities.2 The first of these was the temple. Although Jews lived in many places, some of them hundreds of miles from their homeland, most of them recognized only one temple, in strict fulfilment of the divine command in Deuteronomy 12; it was in Jerusalem and it was staffed by priests and Levites from the tribe of Levi.3 The temple was a large outdoor enclosure divided up into concentric courts; within the central area to which only the priests were admitted was the main altar on which sacrifices were offered, and the actual offerings were carried out by the priests, although the ordinary people were present as onlookers and could engage in prayer during the ritual (Lk. 1:10). The purpose of the sacrifices was varied; some of them were what we might call public ones, offered on behalf of the people as a whole, but the vast majority were private ones, offered by individuals for various personal reasons.4

The second context of religious activity was the synagogue. Meetings were held principally on the Sabbath, and they were characterised by the offering of prayers to God,

the reading of the law and other passages from the sacred Scriptures, and instruction based on the readings (Lk. 4:16–21; Acts 13:14f.).5 The synagogues were becoming increasingly important, partly because of the impossibility of attending the temple regularly and frequently. When the temple was eventually destroyed in AD 70, its loss was much less traumatic than might have been expected because it had already been to a great extent superseded by the synagogues as the places for religious gatherings.

The third context is often neglected. This was the Jewish home. The home and the family were religious centres in various ancient religions, especially where veneration of the ancestors took place or where the family believed in its own family deities who looked after it. All this of course would have been anathema to the Jews, but the home was still important religiously. It was here that one of the most important religio...

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