This article serves as part two to a three part series where I address doctrinal statements concerning the value of Yeshua compared to that of other elements of our faith, namely the Torah, the Temple, and the Tetragrammaton. In order to understand what I am saying in this work, I encourage you to first read part one where I provide substantial evidence that Yeshua is greater than the Torah. With the groundwork laid there, we can examine the Temple per the perspectives of the New Testament authors and of Yeshua’s own words.
Let us first begin by recalling that Yeshua is the Logos as mentioned in the prologue of the Gospel of John. He exists as the divinely eternal, all-powerful creator Yahweh in human form. From that perspective, we will examine and compare the God of the Temple with the Temple itself and employ the writings of the New Testament to make our case.
The Purpose of the Temple
A great place to start would be an understanding of the Temple itself. The Temple in question was known as the Second Temple of Jerusalem; construction was completed after the fall of the Babylonian Empire in 515 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE during the Siege of Jerusalem. The Temple had quite a dynamic existence due mainly to the continual state of war and occupation of the Jewish people during its life. Various pagan kings and military leaders desecrated the Temple by entering the Holy of Holies and by erecting statues of pagan gods within the Temple in order to sacrifice to them. The desecrations led to uprisings and was eventually re-dedicated in 165 BCE by Judah Maccabee. By the time we arrive to the life of Yeshua, the Temple had been renovated and renamed Herod’s Temple.
The original purpose of the Temple, just as it was the purpose of the First Temple, was to serve as the central location for ritual sacrifice and cleansings and to house the Ark of the Covenant. The Levitical priests served in the Temple as facilitators of the sacrifices and cleansings until their assimilation by the Assyrian Empire in 720 BCE. Following the building of the Second Temple, various wealthy men served as priests and high priest to facilitate the Temple duties. Through the priests, the Jewish people during the time of Yeshua were able to make their sin offerings, free-will offerings, and guilt offerings.
The Purpose of Yeshua
Now that we understand the purpose of the Temple, we can then compare that purpose to that of Yeshua. As we learned in part one, Yeshua is the Logos and serves as the medium through which God created the world and now interacts with it, but I would like to flesh that out just a little more.
Contrary to the belief of many in the first century, the primary purpose of Yeshua’s incarnation was not to heal the sick or perform signs or miracles. Those were great things, sure, but they were not his primary concern. In the opening chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we see Simon and the other disciples searching for Yeshua because many of the people of the town were looking for him to perform more miracles and healings.
Yeshua explains to his disciples that though miracles and wonders were a part of his mission, they were not the primary concern; rather, the primary concern is to preach the Gospel of God. Miracles and wonders are pointless if the person who received them rejects the Gospel – the message of faith and repentance in anticipation of God’s kingdom to be established on the Earth. As Luke records in his Gospel account, Yeshua “came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:1-10). Yeshua came to preach the Gospel – the message of himself – that God has entered into Earth in order to save that which is lost and establish his kingdom here through the pouring out of his own blood for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26-29), which, by the way, did not require the use of the Temple.
Now that we understand the purposes of both the Temple and that of Yeshua, we can make a comparison between the two. The Temple stood as a structure with a purpose of facilitating the ritual practices of ancient Israel, but Yeshua was God himself ushering in his kingdom through the preaching of repentance and sanctification through the blood of Yeshua alone. Had the Temple continued to stand even until today, without the preaching of the Gospel and the pouring out of the blood of Yeshua, no amount of Temple practices could ever restore us to God. As the author of Hebrews puts it, the sacrifice of Yeshua could do what the Temple could not.
Yeshua is greater than the Temple because the Temple is merely an Earthly vessel that points to the true author of redemption rather than serving as the author itself. To hold to a belief that the Temple is somehow greater than Yeshua or that we cannot have one without the other is to diminish the value of Yeshua himself, much like the people during his time tried to do.