Monday, November 26, 2012

How was the Glory of the Second Temple Greater than that of the First?

Haggai 2:9

"The glory of this later Temple will be greater than [that of] the first, said Hashem, Master of Legions; and I will grant peace to this place – the word of Hashem, Mater of Legions."

Time and again we have seen that the verses cited by apologists to support the claim that the Nazarene is the Messiah are either referring to an entirely different subject in their primary contextual meaning, or have significant predictions yet to be fullfilled (which Christians postpone until a future date). Logicially it is very difficult ( I would say impossible) to formulate a coherent argument where such verses constitute evidence for accepting Christianity rather than their being dependent upon belief in Christian teachings. One attempt at circumventing this problem is to suggest that there is no other option, the Messiah had to have come before the Second Temple was destroyed. After all the Second Temple was supposed to be greater than the First Temple, since the First Temple had the Divine Presence the Second could only be greater if it had the Messiah:

Khajai ha-Nâvi prophesied (2.7-9): "גדול יהיה כבוד הבית הזה האחרון מן-הראשון (Greater shall be the Kâvod of this latter House than the First).
Torâh documented the withdrawal of the Shәkhinâh from the Beit ha-Miqdâsh hâ-Rishon in Yәkhëzqeil 9.3; 10.4, 19; 11.22-23. It never returned to the Beit ha-Miqdâsh ha-Sheini.
While the Beit ha-Miqdâsh ha-Sheini had "a" Mizbeiakh, it lacked the Eish mi-liphnei ha-Sheim that would have made it the legitimate שלחן (see Artscroll Yechezkel not, p. 650, to Yәkhëzqeil 41.22 with Malâkhi 1.12). Five essential elements of kâvod, contained in the First Beit ha-Miqdâsh were never in the Second Beit ha-Miqdâsh: the Aron Bәrit ha-Sheim, the Kaporët, the Kәruvim, the Eish mi-liphnei ha-Sheim and the Shәkhinâh (Masëkët Yomâ 21b; Artscroll Yechezkel p. 691).
Yet, "this latter House" was destroyed in 70 C.E. without any of these five missing elements of kâvod ever having been in it!!!
Therefore, since "this latter House" no longer exists and these five essential elements of kâvod were never in it, the only possibility that this prophecy can ever be true is if the Mâshiakh was the Greater kâvod in the Second Beit ha-Miqdâsh.
Ribi Yәhoshua, who taught in the Second Beit ha-Miqdâsh, is the only possible candidate to fulfill that prophecy.( Yirmeyahu Ben David,

Similarly Messianic Apologist Michael Brown cites Yoma 21b with respect to the aspects that the Second Beith Hamikdash (Temple) lacked which the First Beith HaMikdash did not. He asks, "How then was this Temple to be specially marked by 'peace,' and , more important, how was its glory to surpass the glory of the First Temple?" (Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus vol.1, page 77).

Regarding the aspect of the prophecy where God said He would grant the Temple peace I see no remotely plausible way to suggest that the Nazarene presence in the Beith HaMikdash constituted a fulfillment of this promise. One must recall that the plans to rebuild the Temple were met with significant opposition. The book of Ezra records "Then, as soon as the text of King Artaxerxes' letter was read before Rehu, Shimshai the scribe and their cohorts, they went in haste to Jerusalem to the Jews and halted them with force and power. The work of the Temple of God in Jerusalem was thus halted and remained halted until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia." (Ezra 4:23-24). The book of Haggai begins in the second year of the reign of Darius. Ezra continues,

Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo the prophet prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and in Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, about them. then Zeruabbabel son of Shealtiel and Jesua son of Jozadok arose and began to build the Temple of God that was in Jerusalem, and with them were the prophets of God, assisting them. At that time Tattenai, governor of the Trans-Euphrates region, approached them, along with Shethar-bozenai and their accomplices. They said this to them, 'Who issued you a decree to construct this building and to lay the foundation for these ramparts. Then they said the following to them, 'What are the names of the persons constructing this building?' But the eye of their God watched over the elders of the Jewish, and [Tattenai and his accomplices] did not halt them until the matter could be brought before Darius, when [Darius and his officials] would write a reply about it. (Ezra 5:1-5)

The people had stalled the rebuilding of the Beith HaMikash on account of the opposition they had encountered. Haggai prophesied that they were to proceed with the rebuilding and that God would grant the place peace. The people acted in obedience with faith in God's promise and when the opposition brought the matter before the king he instructed for the Temple to be rebuilt and for their opponents not to prevent them from doing so.(Ezra 6:3-12).Clearly we see that the Second Temple was not immune from trouble, the peace our passage spoke of was to calm the immediate concerns about rebuilding the Beith HaMikdash.
The glory being considered is clearly the physical grandeur of the building.

"The purpose of the passage is to console the people regarding their second temple, which was nothing in comparison with the first (vv.2-3)...God encourages the builders of the second temple not to despair over its humble beginnings. The "latter glory" will exceed "the former" declares the Lord. The "former" refers clearly to Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 6). The "latter glory" may refer either to the second temple or the millennial temple. The Temple rebuild by the restoration community was later refurbished by Herod. The temple mount was expanded to about thirty-five acres to accommodate teh fabulous remodeling that was eventaully completed shortly before its destruction by the Romans (A.D. 70)." (J. Cadrl Laney, Answers to Tough Questions from Every Book of the Bible A Survey of Problem Passages and Issues from Every Book of the Bible, page 174).
Although Brown contends "the Scriptures are very clear about the nature of the glory of the First Temple: The supernatural presence of God was there."(Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 3, page 146.), in verse 3 God addresses the elders who "saw this house in its former glory". Unlike the physical grandeur of the Temple, the Divine Glory appeared in the Holy of Holies and was not something publicly visible. Nor does Scripture limit its interest in the First Temple to the spiritual but also spends a great deal of time describing its physical grandeur (see 1 Kings 6). Furthermore immediately prior to our verse God declares "The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine" (vs. 8, Judaica Press). Indeed in a few centuries King Herod would undertake a massive remodel of the Second Temple about which Chazal (Our Sage) said, "Whoever did not see Herod's building never saw a beautiful edifice." (Bava Bathra 4a, translation from Judaica Press' commentary to Haggai 2:9).

Although Michael Brown claimed that there are "several compelling reasons that the reference to the Temple being filled with glory could not be explained with primary reference to the physical rebuilding of the Temple with massive amounts of silver and gold." (Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus vol. 3, page 146) in truth this flatly contradicts what he already conceded (albeit tucked away in the footnotes) "While it is true that the immediate context in Haggai 2 speaks of physical splendor and earthly wealth, using the Hebrew word kabod (glory) in this sense several factors militate against a purely physical explanation:"(Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol.1, page 223, bolds mine).

Interestingly, while setting up his false dilemma (either the Messiah came during the Second Temple Period or the Bible makes false prophecies) Brown had to exile the fact that the "immediate context in Haggai 2 speaks of physical splendor and earthly wealth" to the footnotes, he also had ignore some of his own dubious hermeneutical methods. First of all according to Michael Brown it is perfectly legitimate for a statement to be uttered about one subject while its fulfillment is found in another subject, for example regarding David's Psalm 16 he writes,

"Actually, it is possible that he looked ahead into the future and saw himself supernaturally preserved from death and decay (as suggested by some of the rabbis, as we have read), but what he was actually seeing was not his own deliverance from death (in reality, resurrection) but rather that of his progeny, the Messiah." (Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol.3, page 116).

 Why is it any less legitimate to say that while Haggai saw the Second Beith HaMikdash having a greater glory than the first, "what he was actually seeing was not" the Second Beith HaMikdash but the Third (when the Divine Presence will return and in a degree unparalleled in human history)? Similarly Brown argues,

"The prophets saw the future through a telescope. Things far away in time appeared close. They did not realize that centuries would come and go between their initial prediction and its actual fulfillment." (Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 3, page 191).

To be clear everyone would agree, at least anyone who accepts prophecy and the inspiration of scriptures, that the prophets saw things in the distant future. Michael Brown wishes to extend this possibility to passages which seem to indicate contemporaneous fulfillment, "Did Isaiah see the coming of the Messiah (i.e., a great deliverer) in the context of his very own day?" and "Let's look at Isaiah 9:1-7...where it is predicted that the yoke of the enemy...would be broken by the son of David who was already born." (ibid). 

Perhaps Haggai saw the Third Temple "through a telescope" not realizing that this was the House whose glory would be greater than the First Temple? Or perhaps since "Many biblical prophecies are fulfilled gradually (ibid 190) the physical grandeur of the Second Temple began the fulfillment which will continue with the return of the Ark and the Divine Presence in the Third?

Rather than apply his exegesis methods consistently, Michael Brown dismisses those interpreters who see it as a straight forward prediction of the Third Temple, "Of course such arguments become completely unnecessary when it is realized that the Messiah...came to the Second Temple, right on schedule."(Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol.1, page 223) even though we have seen his own methodology could easily support the same conclusion (with more baggage).

The glory of the Second Temple was the grand renovation which took place under Herod. The context clearly indicates the physical building was the subject under discussion. Christian Apologist's attempt to equate the glory with the occasional presence of the Nazarene is an ad hoc explanation used to construct a false dilemma.

1It is interesting to note that although Yirmeyahu Ben David rejects the Trinity and the divinity of the Messiah, he nevertheless views the casual presence of the Nazarene in the Second Temple as being greater that the Divine Presence being present in the First Temple! This illustrates how even believer's in the Nazarene who do not hold traditional Christian view about the Nazarene's deity still have difficulty not engaging in hero worship and elevating him above the status of other mortals.

2Brown here seems to be engaging in what Osborne calls the "lexical fallacy" by automatically transferring the meaning of "glory" in one context (the glory of Hashem" to that of another (the Temple's glory), "The overemphasis on words to the detriment of context leads to one of the most serious of Barr's criticisms, 'illegitimate totality transfer' (1961:218). After going to so much trouble to find multitudinous meanings and uses for a word, it is hard for the scholar to select just one for the passage. The tendency is to read all or most of them (that is, to transfer the 'totality' of the meanings) into a single passage. such is 'illegitimate,' for no one ever has in mind all or even several of the possible meanings for a term when using it in a particular context." (The Hermeneutical Spiral, page 84).

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