A Jewish convert to Christianity, Alfred Edersheim writes with an in-depth understanding of Old Testament and New Testament principles. His insights and writings on things such as the Old Testament history and concepts such as the Temple are outstanding and a must for anyone that wants to further broaden their understanding of Old Testament culture, setting and its people. This book takes on the Temple as it was in the time of Jesus and is a book that you may have to read a couple of times in order to truly grasp each chapter. Each time I read this I am amazed at the new things I come across that somehow I missed before.
First published in 1874 Alfred Edersheim made this bold declaration in the preface, “It has been my wish in this book, to take the reader back nineteen centuries; to show him Jerusalem as it was when our Lord passed through its streets, and the Sanctuary, when He taught in its porches and courts.” Alfred Edersheim managed to do just that and brings to life with great imagery Jerusalem and the Temple as it was in the time of Jesus.”
Here is an excerpt from the book:
‘The Royal Bridge’
Of the four principal entrances into the Temple— of them from the west— most northerly descended, perhaps by flights of steps, into the Lower City; while two others led into the suburb, or Parbar, as it is called. But by far the most magnificent avenue was that at the south-western angle of the Temple. Probably this was ‘the ascent…into the house of the Lord,’ which so astounded the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:5) *
* According to Mr. Lewin, however (Siege of Jerusalem, p. 270), this celebrated ‘ascent’ to the house of the Lord went up by a double subterranean passage, 250 feet long and 62 feet wide, by a flight of steps from the new palace of Solomon, afterwards occupied by the ‘Royal Porch,’ right into the inner court of the Temple.
It would, indeed, be difficult to exaggerate the splendour of this approach. A colossal bridge on arches spanned the intervening Valley of the Tyropoeon, connecting the ancient City of David with what is called the ‘Royal Porch of the Temple.’ From its ruins we can reconstruct this bridge. Each arch spanned 41 1/2 feet, and the spring-stones measured 24 feet in length by 6 in thickness. It is almost impossible to realise these proportions, except by a comparison with other buildings. A single stone 24 feet long! Yet these were by no means the largest in the masonry of the Temple. Both at the south-eastern and the south-western angles stones have been found measuring from 20 to 40 feet in length, and weighing above 100 tons.
The Temple Porches
The view from this ‘Royal Bridge’ must have been splendid. It was over it that they led the Saviour, in sight of all Jerusalem, to and from the palace of the high-priest, that of Herod, the meeting-place of the Sanhedrim, and the judgment-seat of Pilate. Here the city would have lain spread before us like a map. Beyond it the eye would wander over straggling suburbs, orchards, and many gardens— among them the royal gardens to the south, the ‘garden of roses,’ so celebrated by the Rabbis— the horizon was bounded by the hazy outline of mountains in the distance. Over the parapet of the bridge we might have looked into the Tyropoeon Valley below, a depth of not less than 225 feet. The roadway which spanned this cleft for a distance of 354 feet, from Mount Moriah to Mount Zion opposite, was 50 feet broad, that is, about 5 feet wider than the central avenue of the Royal Temple-Porch into which it led. These ‘porches,’ as they are called in the New Testament, or cloisters, were among the finest architectural features of the Temple. They ran all round the inside of its wall, and bounded the outer enclosure of the Court of the Gentiles. They consisted of double rows of Corinthian pillars, all monoliths, wholly cut out of one block of marble, each pillar being 37 1/2 feet high. A flat roof, richly ornamented, rested against the wall, in which also the outer row of pillars was inserted. Possibly there may have been towers where one colonnade joined the other. But the ‘Royal Porch,’ by which we are supposed to have entered the Temple, was the most splendid, consisting not as the others, of a double, but of a treble colonnade, formed of 162 pillars, ranged in four rows of 40 pillars each, the two odd pillars serving as a kind of screen, where the ‘Porch’ opened upon the bridge. Indeed, we may regard the Royal Porch as consisting of a central nave 45 feet wide, with gigantic pillars 100 feet high, and of two aisles 30 feet wide, with pillars 50 feet high. By very competent authorities this Royal Porch, as its name indicates, is regarded as occupying the site of the ancient palace of Solomon, to which he ‘brought up’ the daughter of Pharaoh. Here also had been the ‘stables of Solomon.’ When Herod the Great rebuilt the Temple, he incorporated with it this site of the ancient royal palace. What the splendour and height (Professor Porter has calculated it at 440 feet) of this one porch in the Temple must have been is best expressed in the words of Captain Wilson (Recovery of Jerusalem, p. 9): ‘It is almost impossible to realise the effect which would be produced by a building longer and higher than York Cathedral, standing on a solid mass of masonry almost equal in height to the tallest of our church spires.’ And this was only one of the porches which formed the southern enclosure of the first and outermost court of the Temple— of the Gentiles. The view from the top of this colonnade into Kedron was to the stupendous depth of 450 feet. Here some have placed that pinnacle of the Temple to which the tempter brought our Saviour.