According to the Bible the first Jerusalem Temple was built by Solomon in the tenth century BCE, only to be destroyed by Babylonian invasion in 586 BCE. Struggling to come to grips with the implications of this disaster, Ezekiel 40-48 reports a vision of a new Jerusalem and a new Temple, created by God. After the Persians defeated the Babylonians in the late sixth century BCE, the descendants of the people who had been deported to Babylonia were permitted to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple, albeit not on the glorious scale envisioned in Ezekiel. This ‘Second Temple’ was totally rebuilt under Herod (c. 20 BCE) before being destroyed by Titus and the Romans in 70 CE. One of the most difficult tasks for biblical interpreters has been to imagine and reconstruct this lost building. This collection explores some of the ways in which the Temple, both past and present, has been imagined.
These imagined Temples begin with Ezekiel, whose highly structured, idealised Temple, with distinct levels of holiness and strict instructions for performing the correct sacrifices. This in turn influenced the descriptions given by the Temple Scroll found at Qumran by the Dead Sea (c. 150–100 BCE). The New Jerusalem Scroll, also from Qumran (c. 100–50 BCE), pushes its vision well into a future, eschatological era. As these authors re-imagined the Temple they often leaving traces of their own desires for and fears about the future. As these written imaginings were taken on by medieval and modern artists, they posed a number of challenges, not least in their often fantastical features. The artistic renderings featured in this collection responded to these challenges in a variety of ways, drawing on biblical texts, the historical Jerusalem and other cities of their own day, and—of course—their own imaginations.