Friday, May 31, 2013

New Testament Anthropology and Ancient Greek

The Semantic Domain of YUXH

When we research the signifier YUXH, we find that there are divergent opinions and views about the denotation of this term. BAGD list the following senses (glosses) of YUXH:

(1) Life on earth in its external, physical aspects--breath of life, life-principle, soul of animals (Gen. 9:4; Rev. 8:9).

Under this category, BAGD goes on to say that when the YUXH leaves the body, "death occurs." From there it evidently lives in Hades "or some other place outside the earth" (Rev. 6:9; 20:4).

(2) YUXH can also denote earthly life itself (Mt 20:28). Rev. 12:11 seemingly describes 'loving one's life' (something that the "brothers" mentioned in that self-same verse refuse to do).

(3) YUXH is the seat and center of the inner life of man in its many and varied aspects (Ps. 106:9; Prov. 25:25; Rev. 18:14).

(4) YUXH may also depict the feelings and emotions of humans (Mk 12:30-33).

(5) Lastly, YUXH sometimes conveys the sense of "the seat and center of life that transcends the earthly" (Phaedo 28; Mt 10:28).

So says BAGD. Conversely, Louw-Nida gives us an entirely different picture of YUXH. Based on the semantic domains listed in their lexicon, the soul cannot be an incorporeal "substance" that departs from man at death. That is, it probably is not an entity capable of living in another realm when a man or woman ceases to live "under the sun." Here are the semantic fields listed by Louw-Nida.

(1) The inner self (26.4). See Phil. 1:27.

(2) Life (23.88).

(3) A person (9.20).

(4) A living creature (4.1). Cf. Rev. 16:3.

None--I repeat, none--of the fields of meaning listed by L-N suggest that the NT teaches about an immortal soul. This observation is in line with what I have noted in my personal Bible reading, and it appears to be in line with what the scriptural literary corpus teaches. Even the Grammar of Septuagint Greek (by Conybeare and Stock) notes that the Septuagintal phrase KATA THN YUXHN hEAUTOU can be rendered "for his life." This is not apodictic proof, but all of these little details add to the case for those who do not believe in an immortal soul. Furthermore, we need to consider L-N and their remarks about PNEUMA.

Louw-Nida on PNEUMA Listed by Their Semantic Domains

(12.18) The Holy Spirit.

(12.33) Spirit, in general (a supernatural being). Cf. John 4:24

(12.37) Evil spirit.

(12.42) A ghost (Luke 24:37). But read this information carefully.

(26.9) Inner being.

(30.6) Wind.


Ivan said...

Given how regularly John actually uses naos to refer to the temple in heaven in Revelation, I think it is safe to assume that the temple in 7:15 is a reference to heaven, even as God's throne is in heaven.

But I think the image is more complex than that. In the opening chapter Jesus speaks of the the churches as "lampstands," a clear temple allusion, where according to Hebrews 9:2 it was located in the "first section" of the tabernacle.

So in some sense, Christians are already in the temple worshipping God even as they are on earth--as lampstands.

As has been noted by many exegetes before, there's a dual identity to the church. While they worship on earth, they are spiritually a temple in heaven. (Eph 2:21-22)

Edgar Foster said...


And I'll concede that Revelation primarily discusses the heavenly sanctuary when it employs NAOS. But is that true in every case?

Some important references to the "heavenly sanctuary" are Rev. 14:15; 15:6; 16:1, 17. BAGD also lists Rev. 7:15; 11:19b; 15:5 (cf. Rev. 3:12). There is more to be said in BAGD under figurative uses. I suggest that this information be read and analyzed.

One verse in Revelation that causes me to wonder about the common depiction of Rev 7:15, however, is Rev. 11:1-2:

"Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, 'Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months' " (ESV).

I'm also not quite sure that the "church" is a spiritual temple in heaven while on earth. Of course, it's depicted as a temple. The heavenly part in your statement is what I question here.

Anonymous said...


Here are some reasons to believe the church is now in some sense a heavenly temple even while on earth.

(1) Since the church is a temple according to Ephesians 2:19-22, these are earlier said to be 'raised and seated with Christ with him in the heavenly places' in Eph 2:6.

In some sense the church is raised with Christ in the "heavenly places" while functioning as a temple. I think Ephesians 2:6 speaks to this heavenly reality. The same Christians who are a temple are also the same ones who are in the "heavenly places."

(2) The metaphor of being citizens of heaven in Philippians 3:20 speaks to membership in a city. This city, the heavenly Jerusalem (cf Gal 4:26), which John calls the New Jerusalem, is described in the book of Revelation as a temple-city.

The perfect golden cube recalling the holy of holies. In fact, this city is explicitly a temple according to Revelation 3:12.

So Christians identify with this heavenly city and in fact become part of it.

Note in Philippians 3:20 that membership in heaven is present, not future. Christians are in some sense citizens of a temple city in heaven, even now.

See further "The New Temple: Christology and Ecclesiology in Ephesians and 1 Peter" by David Peterson in Heaven on Earth: The Temple in Biblical Theology ed. T Desmond Alexander.

Edgar Foster said...


We don't seem to be that far apart on this issue. I would say that the church (ecclesia) is now an earthly temple whose citizenship is reckoned as being heavenly. But the actual heavenly existence of the temple is eschatological since it is yet future.

Granted, there is a sense in which Christians are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. But the verse must be read in context. Is Paul trying to say that the ecclesia qua temple is already heavenly?

Its actual location is not heavenly but the temple is deemed to reside in the celestial places (figuratively speaking).

Rev 3:12 says "The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it."

The language used there suggest that the temple is progressively being built. There is a distinction being made between the celestial temple and the earthly one. Those who conquer become permanent members of the heavenly temple.

Philippians 3:20 does teach that Christians already enjoy citizenship in heaven. But that's not the same as saying that the temple is presently heavenly.

To reiterate my earlier point. I believe that God's ecclesia qua temple (currently located on earth) is heavenly insofar as God considers the followers of Jesus Christ to be citizens of the heavenly sphere. The experiences presently enjoyed by such Christians, however, proleptically demonstrate what is yet future.

Anonymous said...


A couple of comments. I just noticed I commented on the wrong post. This was suppose to be on Revelation 7:9.

Anyway, I agree that the church is an earthly temple but I would also argue that by virtue of being God's temple that we even now participate in the heavenly realm in some fashion.

If Christ is the cornerstone of this spiritual temple and he is in heaven, I think we can follow the logic and posit the church now sitting in the "heavenly places" is a heavenly temple.

Now, I do not argue this temple is literally located in heaven. Instead, it is figuratively there.

Consider also Hebrews 12:18-24. Even now Christians have approached Mount Zion, the city of the living God, and myriads of angels.

That Christians have now approached angels by their enrollment in heaven seems to suggest the church has an identity there even as they live on earth.

I differ on Ephesians 2:6. I do not think this is a proleptic fulfillment of a future reality. Instead, it is a present condition or experience that Christians now enjoy because of their union with Christ Jesus.

Anonymous said...


Also, another comment. The great multitude is in the temple "serving" God. This suggests to me that they are a priestly people performing priestly 'services.' They are from every tribe, nation, people just as the kings who are a 'kingdom of priests.'

So we have an image of a priestly company performing priestly rites in God's sanctuary.

My view is this is symbolism for liturgical worship in heaven. The church's heavenly identity while serving on earth.

Edgar Foster said...


We have no disagreement (or very little, it seems) in how we view the Christian ecclesia qua temple. I agree that the church (ecclesia) now participates in some kind of heavenly reality. That much seems clear. But the language in Ephesians 2:1-7 appears to be filled with metaphors. For example, the Ephesians were dead (spiritually) but then raised up (spiritually) by God, then seated with Christ in the heavenly places. The discourse in this chapter is evidently worded in a figurative manner. Granted, the earthly temple has some relationship with heaven. But the distinction between now and not yet is preserved. I concede that there is a qualified way in which Christians are now seated in the heavenly places.

Alford's Greek Testament (3:93) makes the following point about Eph 2:6ff:

"The disputes as to whether these are to be taken as present or future, actual or potential, literal or spiritual, will easily be disposed of by those who have apprehended the truth of the believer's union in and with Christ. All these we have, in fact and reality (see Phil. iii.20), in their highest, and therefore in all lower senses, in Him: they were ours, when they were His: but for their fullness in possession we are waiting till He come, when we shall be like and with Him"

Alford gives this helpful reminder. What Christians experience now is nothing in comparison with the future rewards that will be dispensed when Christ comes with his glorious angels.

The last part of his remarks allude to 1 John 3:1-2. That verse also proclaims that anointed Christians are presently sons of God. But John subsequently writes that it has not been made known what we shall be (in the future). Yet he writes that "we" whenever "he" (or "it") is made manifest, "we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is" (NWT).

The referent of this passage could be Christ or his Father. It could also be impersonal, as suggested by the alternate rendering "it." However, regardless of the potential referent, I believe that John demonstrates the future aspect of the Christian relation to heaven.

I concur with your observations on Heb 12:18-24.

Edgar Foster said...

The great multitude could be a priestly class, but I don't think the language allows us to make that conclusion with absolute certainty. Firstly, there were plenty of Israelites and non-Israelites who served YHWH in the ancient temple at Jerusalem. The Gibeonites and other non-Israelites performed tasks that were supportive of Israel's priesthood.

This group is identified as those who come out of the great tribulation. Might that not influence our understanding of this group?

Ivan said...


I think the disagreement is a bit more significant than minor quibbles. I see these texts not as proleptic and awaiting a future consummation. Instead I see these as only a present condition/reality.

Another aspect of already being seated in the heavenly places is that this is the church's location, as it were. It is an ideal locality.

A similar idea is found in Revelation 6:9-10 with the souls under the altar. A Christian who has lost his or her life on earth is depicted metaphorically as being sacrificed on God's altar. So Christians do have identities in heaven.

As for the multitude in Revelation 7:9, why must there be a pattern from the OT?

It seems fairly straightforward that these are a priestly company. Consider the evidence:

(1) They are "in" the temple just as priests would be.

(2) They are from every tribe, nation, and people, which is a phrase linked to the 'kingdom of priests' in Revelation 5:9,10. There's no good reason to think these are different.

(3) They washed themselves in the blood of the lamb, another priestly reference.

(4) God will spread his "tent" over them. The verb here referring to God's tabernacling presence. Similar verb used in John 1:14 where Jesus "tabernacled" among us in his flesh-temple body (John 2:21)

As to the great tribulation several things need to be asked first.

In what sense do they "come out of the great tribulation"? Among others, Richard Bauckham has argued they come out victorious but not alive.

Additionally, it is unclear what the "great tribulation" is. Is it an end time event or simply a reoccurring event? According to John himself, he was in the first century a partaker of tribulation right along with them church. (rev 1:9)

Edgar Foster said...


Your most recent correspondence does make our differences more stark. I grant that the church (ecclesia) is somehow heavenly even now. But I find it difficult to reduce the temple's heavenly status to the present alone, in view of future promises that the NT authors discuss.

You may reason that the language concerning Christians being seated in the heavenly places has already been fulfilled in a de facto and completed sense. But that seems to be at odds with the figurative death and resurrection mentioned in the same part of Ephesians. To be clear, I too believe that Christians are seated in heavenly places. However, we don't have to construe this kind of talk literally. See Gerald Hawthorne's commentary on Philippians, specifically, what he writes about Phil 3:20. He demonstrates the yet to be fulfilled aspect of that verse.

Regarding Rev 6:9-10, I agree that martyrs have identities in heaven. Our disagreement seems to be over the extent and manner in which Christians have been seated in heavenly places.

Revelation constantly alludes to the OT. Why make an exception in the case of the great crowd? Rev chapter 7 mirrors language from the prophet Isaiah and it is reminiscent of other OT discourse.

1) Being in the temple does not make someone a priest. That should be fairly self-evident.

2) The priest connection in Rev 5:9-10 is explicit. The same cannot be said for Rev 7:9ff. Something that also struck me last night concerning the great crowd is that John mentions kings and priest in Rev 1:5-6; 5:9-10; 20:4-6. He includes himself in these categories. However, when asked about the identity of the great crowd, he doesn't know who they are. It's odd for John to know that Christians are/have been made kings and priests, and to claim that the great crowd is a priestly group, yet he does not know their identity. That stretches credulity in my opinion. Furthermore, it makes John's discourse unnecessarily incoherent.

3) Washing oneself in the lamb's blood could be interpreted as a priestly act. But I'm sure you must see that the inference is by no means necessary. Think back to the use of blood in ancient Israel. Not everyone cleansed with blood was a priest although they were usually cleansed by priests.

I don't see how number 4) proves that the great crowd is a priestly class. The language in Rev 7 is also reflective of Rev 21:3-4. Don't forget that YHWH also tabernacled among Israel according to Lev 26:11-12. Compare Ezek 48:35.

I'd be glad to review the arguments for how the GC come out of the great tribulation.

The word tribulation can mean several things. But the "great tribulation" is clearly set apart from general tribulation. We have a similar utterance found in Dan 12:1 and Mt 24:21-22. I submit that the great tribulation results from God's judgment on the evil age. We can discuss the particulars later, if you wish.

Edgar Foster said...

A little more on the great crowd and Jehovah's tent being over them:

According to Revelation 7:9, the great multitude (KJV) have "palm branches" (FOINIKES) in their hands. They are evidently using these branches to praise and honor God, as they ascribe their salvation to Him and to the Lamb. The ancient Jews transported palm branches around when they celebrated the Festival of the Booths, and this same festival may be depicted (figuratively) in Rev. 7:9 (Lev. 23:40). Thence it could be quite possible that the great multitude's activities are not limited to the Temple proper (the Most Holy or SANCTUM SANCTORUM). In fact I doubt very seriously that this group would be pictured as carrying out this type of celebration in the inner sanctum--where only the High Priest was permitted. Remember that palm branches were also used when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

As far as the symbol of God's covering mentioned regarding this crowd, David Aune points out that this language could refer to the Shekinah (the presence of God in cloud and fire) or to God's general dwelling with His people. We need not think that God's dwelling presence is limited to the Most Holy. As King Solomon well pointed out, 'the heavens of the heavens cannot contain him' (1 Kings 8:27).

Anonymous said...


With regard to the church as temple, I am taking “temple” as a microcosm of the cosmos. The earthly temple reflects heavenly realities. Take, for example, Psalm 78:69 which I quote below:

And He built His sanctuary like the heights, Like the earth which He has founded forever. (NASB)

God built the “sanctuary” in Jerusalem like the “heights” and like the “earth.” I take the psalmist to be saying that God in some sense built Israel’s temple to be comparable to the heavens and the earth. (cf Exodus 25 where the Tabernacle is patterned after the heavenly temple)

With this view in mind, when I see the church is a temple which is now seated in the heavenly places in Christ, I see an overlapping temple encompassing both heaven and earth. It is from this picture that I project the view that the church has a heavenly identity. As Revelation 1:20 says, individual Christian communities are “lampstands” evidently located within the heavenly temple.

On Philippians 3:20 I couldn’t disagree more sharply. The contrast between 3:19 and 3:20 is between spheres not present and future time periods. The “enemies” in verse 18 have their minds set on ‘earthly things.’ But the followers of Jesus have their citizenship in heaven. My view is that Paul is saying enemies of Christ are earthly, whereas followers are ‘heavenly’ or have their minds on the things of the spirit, and hence, belong to heaven. I do not see any proleptic/future differentiation here. It is a contrast between two realities that are true for two different groups or kinds of people.

My main point with Revelation 6:9-10 is that a Christian martyr when killed on earth is depicted metaphorically as in heaven. So we see this dual relationship between heaven and earth.

Now onto the great multitude:

(1)I agree being in the temple doesn’t make one a priest ipso facto. But when talking about Christians and in particular being in the temple in the book of Revelation, I see no reason why one shouldn’t take these as a priestly company.

(2)Since the priest connection in Rev 5:9-10 is obvious, then the same language applied in Rev 7:9ff should also insinuate the same image: these are priests serving in the temple. In fact, I would argue the priest connection is just as obvious in 7:9ff as in 5:9-10. Whereas in the latter it is actually said these are a kingdom of priests, in the former this is stated by the use of imagery: namely, they are in the temple. That John doesn’t know the identification of these persons shouldn’t be pressed to far. It could merely mean that the fulfillment of the heavenly song (Rev 5:9-10) is taking a form which he didn’t expect.

(3)True, washing one’s self in the lamb’s blood isn’t necessarily a priestly act, but coupled with the fact they are in the temple and described in ways which the ‘kingdom of priests’ are, form a cumulative case.

(4)My point on God ‘tenting’ or ‘tabernacling’ with these in the temple is that it recalls how God tabernacled in the wilderness with the Israelites. His temple-presence is among them. This further identifies them as priests. They are in the temple, have washed themselves in the lamb’s blood, are described like the ‘kingdom of priests,’ and are servicing God with his tabernacling presence among them. This is a cumulative case. I think their identification as priests is hard to miss in light of this.

On the great tribulation, according to Jesus he warned the church at Thyatira about throwing Jeezebel into “great tribulation.” So the great tribulation was already ongoing in John’s day.

Concerning the palm branches, I contend along with many others, that these were common imagery in the first century Mediterranean world in reference to victories. In other words, the huge crowd emerging out of the great tribulation are victors. They “won” the battle and are now experiencing “salvation.” Of note is that the Greek word translated “crowd” or “multitude” can also refer to an “army.” (TDNT 5.583)

My point here is that the imagery seems to be of victory not ‘survival.’

Edgar Foster said...


I agree that the earthly temple reflects heavenly realities. Regarding Ps 78:69, as you probably know, there are different kinds of parallelism wielded in Hebrew poetry. This psalm's language in the second part could be supplementing what goes before it concerning the heights. At any rate, the point appears to be that God's sanctuary has a sense of permanence like the heavens and the earth.

Spurgeon's Treasury of David says: "The tabernacle was placed on high, literally and spiritually it was a mountain of beauty. True religion was exalted in the land. For sanctity it was a temple, for majesty it was a palace. Like the earth which he hath established for ever. Stability as well as stateliness were seen in the temple, and so also in the church of God. The prophets saw both in vision."

It's also important to remember that the writer is being poetic here. He evidently uses simile as a rhetorical device.

I still view the temple as earthly although it's considered heavenly in some sense.

One criticism I have of your model is that the NT speaks of the ecclesia qua temple in more delimited terms than you do. Granted, the church is a temple. But Christians actually serve as a temple for God's spirit.

"in whom also ye are builded together, for a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22 YLT).

So the temple metaphor is limited: there's a particular sense in which Christians serve as a dwelling for God. We don't have to posit a simultaneous heavenly and earthly existence for the temple, which is figurative anyway. It seems inconsistent to understand the death and resurrection mentioned in Eph 2:1-7 as figurative (spiritual) but then to interpret the ascension to heavenly places literally. There's also a clear tension in Paul's writings between the now and the not yet. Your approach overlooks this tension.

Edgar Foster said...

The contrast that you mention in Phil 3:20ff is there. I concede that point. However, Paul uses the Greek πολίτευμα (according to Gerald Hawthorne) to delineate the "colonial" status of the first century Philippian Christians. After all, Philippi was a Roman colony. So the term πολίτευμα would readily communicate the idea that the church there functioned as a heavenly outpost. So they were granted heavenly citizenship but still part of an outpost arrangement. Phil 3:21 shows the future element of the promises God has made to his people.

The point that you make concerning Rev 6:9-10 is what I would say about Eph 2:4-7. The reference to being seated in the heavenly places is metaphorical; it's a preview of what's ahead.

1) The issue about all Christians being priests is a broader question that I'm not going to address now. As for Revelation, it seems clear that not all references to the temple are priestly. See Rev 11:1-2.

2) The language in Rev 7:9ff is not the same as what we find in Rev 5:9-10. Both groups have diverse backgrounds. But 7:9 describes a great multitude that no man could number. This qualifier is not found in 5:9-10. Moreover, just being in a temple or being Christian does not necessarily make someone a priest.

Consider Anna (an old woman who was not a priest). Luke writes: ἣ οὐκ ἀφίστατο τοῦ ἱεροῦ νηστείαις καὶ δεήσεσιν λατρεύουσα νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν (Luke 2:37).

Compare John's words: διὰ τοῦτο εἰσιν ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ λατρεύουσιν αὐτῷ ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς ἐν τῷ ναῷ αὐτοῦ (Rev 7:15)

Both Anna and the great multitude perform the same act to God. The relevant term "rendering sacred service" or "worship" doesn't have to be understood in a priestly sense.

Additionally, many people worshiped in the ancient temple besides priests; there were musicians, gatekeepers and those who assisted the priests besides general worshipers of YHWH. There's no legitimate reason to restrict this imagery to the priestly class. Finally, John is not only unaware of this group's identity, but he doesn't even know they're priests, that they're part of the group to which he belongs and which he has already described.

3) There are differences that you're overlooking in the way both groups are portrayed. Nonetheless, there are also multiple reasons to look elsewhere for an explanation of what the imagery about making robes white means.

Gregory Beale has some insightful remarks on this passage. He believes that the language points to the redemptive cleanness of the great multitude. John's imagery could also be rooted in Gen 49:11 (NIV):

"He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes."

Or John could be referring to the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ. See Isa. 1:18.

4) God tented with the entire nation of Israel. His tabernacling among them was not limited to the priests.

Compare Rev 2:22 with Rev 7:14ff. The construction in 2:22 is anarthous whereas the latter is not. One is indefinite/qualitative; the other is definite ("the great tribulation"). Context has a bearing on lexical semantics and hermeneutics. The event in Rev 7:14ff is distinguished from the punishment of Jezebel.

The point of the palm branches seems clear: they are ascribing salvation to God and the Lamb, not to themselves. The victory is Jehovah's. See Rev 19:1-2 and compare 2 Macc 10:6-7; 14:4.

If the great tribulation is God's judgment, then the survival aspect becomes even more prominent.

hgp said...

Another interesting point:

The great crowd washes their robes themselves while the members of the priestly class are described as *given" a white robe in Rev 3:4,5.*

This points to a distinction in the way how the white robe is aquired. If the white robes are aquired in distinct ways this points to distinct groups.

*The descriptions of those who overcome in Rev 2 and 3 point to them being members of the priestly class

Edgar Foster said...

We have to be careful when translating Greek terms. Context and a word's synchronic use take precedence over semantic diachrony. OXLOS can mean "host" or "troop" or "army" within military contexts. The examples given in TDNT (V:583) demonstrate where this rendering would be appropriate. But that's a highly unlikely translation of OXLOS in Rev 7:9.

HGP: Good point regarding the difference in how each group is portrayed. Thanks for contributing.

Ivan said...


Your criticism is that perhaps I am overstating or overusing the temple metaphor. In fact, you state that the temple metaphor is “limited.”

I disagree entirely. The temple metaphor is everywhere in the NT, not just limited to a few scattered occurrences in relation to the church.

From the notion of Jesus as the Lamb of God, to the idea that his execution was a “sacrifice” and atones via blood, to Christians being a priesthood, celebrations of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ body as temple, and so on, these are all based on a temple theology.

I think it can hardly be overstated how infused the NT is with temple theology and metaphor.

Entire books are based on this. Take Hebrews, for example. Or Revelation. The notion of the spirit of God descending and the filling of the new temple, the church, is based on temple theology. I don’t see how the Gospel of John, for example, could be understood without it.

Eschatology in the Gospels, in particular the Olivet Discourse and parallels are responses to its destruction.

So I think it is hardly limited.
But since my major contention is that the temple is a microcosm of cosmos I want to revisit this view.

I cited Ps 78:68 and pointed out that my view is the sanctuary is built to be comparable to the created order. It seems you took exception to this and instead only view it as a reference to its “permanence.”

I agree with C. A. Briggs when he writes “the sanctuary in Jerusalem [is] being modelled after the heavenly abode of God.” (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms, 191) Even Exodus 25 states the earthly tabernacle is patterned after the heavenly.

So the temple is a model or copy of the heavenly.

That the temple represented different aspects of creation is readily seen in the OT. Take, for example, 1 Kings 7:23-26 wherein the molten wash-basin was called the “sea” and the altar in the courtyard the “bosom of the earth.” (Eze 43:14)

There is further arboreal imagery associated with the temple. In the inner walls of the holy place there were ornamental palm trees and calyxes. There were wood carvings of ‘gourds and open flowers,’ ‘palm trees and open flowers,’ ‘pomegranates numbered two hundred in rows’ and lily like designs, etc. (cf 1 Kings 6)

Thus creation is very much associated with the temple.

Josephus attests to this:

If anyone without prejudice, and with judgment, look upon these things [in the Tabernacle], he will find they were in every one made in way of imitation and representation of the universe. When Moses distinguished the Tabernacle into three parts, and allowed two of them to the priests, as a place accessible and common, he denoted the land and the sea, these being of general access to all; but he set apart the third division for God, because heaven is inaccessible to men. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews)

For this overlap between heaven and earth, I think the clearest example is Joseph’s dream of the staircase in Genesis 28 which is later alluded to in John 1:50-51.

Through a dream God appeared to Jacob at Bethel and in response he built a small sanctuary. These steps as the account relate were ascending to heaven.

The best view, in my opinion, is that the staircase were stairs to a temple, hence Jesus applies it to himself as the new temple. (John 2:21)

The point is that the sanctuary was a link between heaven and earth. It was ‘heaven on earth.’ It had cosmic significance and the imagery and theology is hardly “limited” in the NT.

Edgar Foster said...


When I said the temple metaphor is limited, if you review my comments, you'll see that I was talking about the temple metaphor when used regarding the ecclesia. The temple imagery is not just used for the ecclesia: God and Christ are called the temple of New Jerusalem in Revelation. So I was particularly referring to the metaphor when employed for Christians. Eph 2:19-22 and 1 Cor 3:16-17 speak of the church being a temple (habitation) for God's spirit. The ecclesiastical body of Christ is a temple in that restricted sense. We must then distinguish between places where the ancient tabernacle/temple depicts the ecclesia and places where it portrays something else.

I do believe you could be overstating matters to call the ecclesia qua temple a "microcosm" of the world. While I have not denied that there's an element of truth to your claims, in my view, I think it's good that we avoid a Platonic interpretation of temple symbols used in the Bible.

Regarding Ps 78:69: metaphors or similes have a point of comparison which is one reason they're used. What point was the writer of the psalm trying to make by mentioning the earth's abiding permanence? Was he only saying that the sanctuary is a miniature cosmos? Even if we accept this interpretation, it doesn't mean that the temple/sanctuary was necessarily modeled according to God's heavenly abode. If you read Exodus 25 closely, you won't find that specific claim in the account. Ps 78:69 could also be understood differently. K-D's comments on this verse are that the Jewish sanctuary would be "lasting as the heights of heaven, firm as the earth, which He hath founded for ever."

They also make this qualification: "so the לעולם applies not to the stone building, but rather to the place where Jahve reveals Himself, and to the promise that He will have such a dwelling-place in Israel, and in fact in Judah. Regarded spiritually, i.e., essentially, apart from the accidental mode of appearing, the Temple upon Zion is as eternal as the kingship upon Zion with which the Psalm closes. The election of David gives its impress to the history of salvation even on into eternity."

See Psalm 89:28-29. We must also separate the church as temple metaphor from the spiritual edifice detailed in Hebrews 9:1ff: the temple imagery in scripture is not monolithic.

May I ask where you're getting the thought from Ezek 43:14 about the "bosom of the earth"? Is that from the reference Bible footnote? Regardless, just because the molten wash-basin was compared to a/the sea doesn't justify the inference that it was modeled after seas in the created order.

Should we be surprised that things in creation were given pictorial significance in the temple? Sorry to say that these points don't demonstrate the truthfulness of your position. The church is compared to the human body in Ephesians and Corinthians. But does this mean that the church was modeled after the human body? We have nothing else to use for religious symbols but things in the created order. But that doesn't mean the church is a copy of the human body. Similarly, the temple was not necessarily a copy of the world.

Edgar Foster said...

Jacob built a sanctuary in Genesis 28? Are you sure? Gen 28:18, 22 calls what Jacob set up a "pillar" rather than a sanctuary.

The stairs were leading to heaven, not to a temple. The top of the stairway reached to heaven as angels ascended and descended on it. I see no justification for imputing temple imagery here. It's also not clear to me, how you link John 2:21 with Jacob's ladder. John 1:50-1 is correctly tied to the account in Genesis. However, that Johannine passage does not support your idea of temple theology.

To reiterate my earlier point: by "limited" I was talking about the temple metaphor as applied to the ecclesia. The church is God's temple in a particular sense.

Anonymous said...


When I refer to "temple theology" I refer to the entirety of doctrines associated with the temple. In this case, I associate the church as temple within this framework. This is why I took and still take exception to the notion that the idea is "limited."

Concerning Psalm 78:69, I concede that this Psalm can be understood in the manner in which you have suggested, namely, as a reference to "permanence." But I submit such view is the one which is, in fact, "limited."

From history we know the temple was destroyed at least twice, in 70 CE by the Romans and earlier in the 7th century BCE by the Babylonians.

Considering these facts I submit your interpretation is unlikely. Now, you may argue that at the time of the Psalm such statement was 'true' and that only later it was proven false.

Alternatively one can understand it as K-D have and make the claim that sanctuary does not refer to the temple/tabernacle as such, but to some general place where "Jahve reveals himself." I submit this view is a reaction to its historical destruction not a view articulated in the text or its background.

Let me suggest that after Moses "sanctuary" was a fairly technical term for the tabernacle/temple. In this Psalm it is doubtful it refers to anything other than the temple at Mt Zion.

It seems that the "permanence" aspect is only in reference to the earth not the sanctuary, especially in light of history.

Psalm 78 bares a striking resemblance to what is elsewhere stated of other ANE temples. In reference to the temple of Marduk it is stated that it is "a likeness of what he made in heaven on earth." (Enuma Elish 6.112)

One may also consider Psalm 11:4. It says "YHWH is in his holy temple," a reference to the Mt Zion temple, while in parallel fashion stating "YHWH's throne is in heaven."

Thus, the earthly temple's counterpart is the heavenly sanctuary, God's throne.

It is true Ex 25 doesn't explicitly state it is patterned after the heavenly temple, but this is a reasonable assumption, even the same assumption made at Hebrews 8:5.

Anonymous said...

Concerning Ezekiel 43:14, I get "bosom of the earth" from the phrase "base of the ground." It can be legitimately translated as the former. This is pointed about by G. K. Beale Temple and the Church's Mission, page 33. My point here was not that it is modeled after the sea but that it is representative of it.

As for the arboreal imagery within the temple, yes we should be surprised. It is not merely images of creation but garden-like images in particular.

If taken by itself it is not significant. But if it is representative of an earlier sanctuary, namely, a garden sanctuary, like the one in Eden, then I think it is highly significant. There are good reasons to believe the Garden was thought of as a type of 'holy of holies.'

This has been an uncontroversial point in OT scholarship. I'd be more than happy to show how the garden functioned as a temple, from both linguistic parallels in the OT and from ANE comparisons.

With regards to Genesis 28, my view is not that Jacob built a sanctuary. I argued that he had a dream of a temple/sanctuary.

Jacob's ladder, as it is often called, was really a staircase. I suggest these steps are those akin to a Ziggurat. In other words, he had a vision of a gigantic temple that reached heaven, not mere a "ladder."

I believe this is proved by John 1:51. John had already introduced Jesus as the new temple at 1:14, so 1:51 only then introduces him as the link between heaven and earth. Just as the ancient temple, he is the "place" where God tabernacles because his body is the new temple replacing the Jerusalem one. (John 2:19-22)

But even from Genesis 28 there are good reasons to see this as temple imagery. Consider:

(1) After having the dream Jacob says this is the "house of God" and the "gate of heaven." He then sets up a pillar and pours oil on top, which is basically the same as building an altar. It seems to indicate or foreshadow that an actual temple would arise. This is also supported by the fact that he links the "stone" with giving a tenth. Israelites, of course, give a tenth to the temple.

(2) Since the staircase connects heaven and earth, this points to a temple because as is clear elsewhere, the holy of holies was filled with God's real presence and understood to be God's footstool. There is little doubt that the holy of holies was representative of heaven.

This view of Genesis 28 is not new. Jubilees 32:16-32 point to the vision as a temple construct. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, 11Q19 29:8-9, God states he will "create my temple" at Bethel. One may also consider the Targums where the place of God's appearance to Jacob is understood to be a "sanctuary." The "pillar" that Jacob set up was believed to be the foundation stone to Solomon's temple. (Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 35)

Edgar Foster said...


I'm sure you know that all theologies (temple theology included) are abstractions from the scriptural data of old. Theology attempts to systematize what we find within the inspired record. It doesn't necessarily reflect (in toto) what is recorded in the Bible. But my comments about the temple being limited strictly applied to the church. I do not believe that every temple reference applies to the ecclesia qua temple.

The writer in Ps 78:69 either attributes permanence to the sanctuary or the place on which it was built (Zion). Sturgeon thinks there is also an application to the church in this psalm. But the language would make little sense if it only applied to the earth; a point of comparison is definitely being made. Many commentators show that the writer is attributing permanence to the sanctuary in some way.

For example, Wesley's Notes makes this observation: "Sanctuary - The temple of Solomon. Palaces -Magnificent and gloriously. Established - Not now to be moved from place to place, as the tabernacle was, but as a fixed place for the ark's perpetual residence."

Barnes also writes: "Which he hath established for ever - Margin, as in Hebrew, founded. The earth is often represented as founded or established on a solid basis, and thus becomes an emblem of stability and perpetuity."

Compare Psalm 125:1-2. We likewise read about the sanctuary or Zion's stability in Ps 132: 13-14:

"For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation: 'This is my resting place forever; here I will reside, for I have desired it" (NRSV).

Cf. Ps 133:3.

Ps 78:69 doesn't exactly say that the sanctuary is modeled after heaven. We must be careful about superficial commonalities between ancient texts. One problem you face is truly comparing the Enuma Elish with Psalms since they were written in different languages.

I am not denying that the ancient temple was like heaven in some sense. Yet we have to examine what such language means. After all, Jehovah figuratively dwelt in the Holy of Holies (Numbers 7:89; Psalm 80:1). That specific compartment of the sanctuary was his throne. On the other hand, he did not specifically dwell in the Holy or in the courtyard; his Shekinah throned above the cherubim in the sanctum sanctorum (Ps 99:1). So the entire temple edifice was not depicting heaven per se.

I don't have time to discuss Heb 8:5 right now, but I think it also shows how careful we must be when examining the writer's application of scripture. The NAB says that Exodus 25:9 could possibly have influenced the language of Heb 8:5. It also suggests other potential influences which I don't accept; however, I think NAB shows the issue is more complex than it may first appear.

Edgar Foster said...


On Ezek 43:14, that's a possible translation, but the context must decide whose rendering is correct. I don't see how that particular reading fits within the context. NET translates the Hebrew, "From the base of the ground to the lower edge is 3½ feet"

"From the base on the ground" (ISV)

"The distance from the gutter on the ground to the lower ledge is 3 1/2 feet" (HCSB)

NET translates Ezek 43:13: "And these are the measurements of the altar: Its base is 1¾ feet high, and 1¾ feet wide, and its border nine inches on its edge. This is to be the height of the altar."

Here's also the note for why the rendering "base" appears in 43:13:

"The Hebrew term normally means 'bosom.' Here it refers to a hollow in the ground."

I'll be willing to see your evidence for considering Eden as a type of sanctuary. I must tell you ahead of time, however, that I'm wary of imposing ideas or foreign categories on objects of the material world. On one level, I agree that Eden could be viewed as a kind of sanctuary. We just need to avoid superimposing ideas that are not clearly there in the text (i.e. eisegesis).

Regarding Genesis 28, you had written: "Through a dream God appeared to Jacob at Bethel and in response he built a small sanctuary." So you did write (maybe inadvertently) that Jacob built a sanctuary when the Bible actually says it was a pillar which he erected.

With all due respect, I believe you're reading a lot into Genesis 28. Let's suppose that we should translate the Hebrew in Gen 28:12 as stairway or ramp. It doesn't logically follow that Jacob saw steps resembling a ziggurat which led to some heavenly temple. One must provide sufficient warrant for these kinds of claims. The account posits some kind of connection between heaven and earth. Nevertheless, Claus Westermann notes: "It is not possible to form a precise image of what Jacob saw in his dream" (Genesis 12-36, page 454).

John 1:14 possibly uses temple imagery. Or it could just be stating that the Logos dwelled among us without making a connection between Jesus and the ancient sanctuary. The Greek could be read either way. Jesus could have been the link between heaven and earth without being a figurative temple. He was designated as a high priest of God and the Lamb who takes away sin. He didn't have to be a temple to intercede for us.

The text in John 2:19-22 is fraught with exegetical questions, as you know. Does the verse refer to his physical body or to the ecclesia? One thing appears to be clear. The body qua temple discussed in those Johannine verses becomes significant after Christ is raised from the dead.

1) We must distinguish the significance that Jacob attached to the place where he had the vision from the actual vision itself. Just because he considered that place to be the "house of God" or the "gate of heaven" does not mean that he saw a temple in vision. The account probably did foreshadow the rise of a sanctuary. But it's a leap of logic to infer that this ancient patriarch beheld a visionary temple.

2) We agree that the Holy of Holies depicted heaven. As I mentioned earlier, that's an argument against the entire temple representing heaven. But the Holy of Holies was not understood to be God's footstool, was it? Footstool imagery is used with reference to the earth (Isa 66:1), the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chron 28:2), even the temple as a whole (Ps 99:5; 132:7). Yet the sanctum sanctorum appears to specifically represent heaven itself.

The Midrash proffers similar explanations. But there is some eisegesis and conflation taking place with these interpretations. Even if the place where the vision occurred could be viewed as a sanctuary. That does not mean Jacob beheld one.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Edgar:

I understand that much of what I am saying appears to be eisegesis or simply reading too much into it. However, when one considers the meta-narrative everything that I am saying falls into place and is less speculative.

So I want to here lay out a concise outline and then in my next comment I'll present evidences for the Garden of Eden as the first, real sanctuary. The point is to illustrate the framework and see how these images actually work.

My view is that the OT tabernacle and temple were symbolically designed to point to a future cosmic reality that God's tabernacling presence was to be extended throughout the earth.


The opening chapters of Genesis assume the earth would be God's dwelling place (cf John Walton's Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology) This expectation was shattered when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were expelled from his presence.

From then on God occasionally descended to meet with select persons, but only briefly. This the pattern in Genesis until an actual temple/tabernacle is built. From there, he actually stays and "dwells" with them.

In the second half of Exodus God enters into a covenant with Israel and the result is the construction of a tent that became God's dwelling place in the midst of the Israelite camp. This is the beginning of God only dwelling with one nation.

This tent is upgraded to a tabernacle, which in turn is replaced by a temple. Because of the temple, the entire walled city of Jerusalem was seen as God's dwelling place. God co-existed with the citizens of Jerusalem.

From the NT we know Jesus replaces the Jerusalem temple. God tabernacled with humankind by dwelling in Jesus (John 1:14) The descent of the holy spirit upon the early church at Pentecost showed God's tabernacling presence was no longer restricted to one nation, but available to all. The final consummation of the temple's purpose is detailed in Revelation 21-22.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Edgar:

Here’s my evidence for the Garden of Eden being the first sanctuary/temple:

1) Eden and later sanctuaries were entered from the east and guarded by cherubim. (Gen 3:24; Ex 25:18-22; 26:31; 36:35; 1 Kings 6:23-29; 2 Chr 3:14)

2) The tabernacle menorah or lampstand possibly symbolizes the tree of life. (Gen 2:9; 3:22; cf Ex 25:31-35) This is supported by the arboreal decorations that adorned the temple. It is unmistakable that the arboreal imagery recalls a garden-like sanctuary.

3) The Hebrew verbs “to serve” and “to keep, observe, guard” used in God’s command at Genesis 2:15, when found in combination, are only found in the Pentateuch to describe the duties of the Levities in the sanctuary. (Num 3:7-8; 8:26; 18:5-6)

4) Gold and onyx mentioned in Genesis 2:11-12 are used extensively to decorate the later sanctuaries and priestly garments. (Ex 25:7, 11, 17, 31) Gold in particular is the main material used in the construction of the tabernacle/temple. Interestingly, there are over 100 references to gold and 7 to onyx in the Exodus account of the construction. Eden is also associated with priestly materials in Ezekiel 28:13.

5) God walks in Eden as he later walks in the tabernacle. (Gen 3:8; cf Lev 26:12; Deut 23:15; 2 Sam 7:6-7)

6) The river flowing from Eden (Gen 2:10) is reminiscent of Ezekiel 47:1-12 where there is also another flowing river coming out of a future Jerusalem temple.

7) Ezekiel 28:13-16 refers to “Eden, the garden of God” as “the holy mountain of God.” There is no controversy about mountains being associated with God’s presence and temple in particular.


In light of the above 7 points I think this conclusion follows: the Garden was the unique place of God’s presence, the first place where man functioned as a priest, the Garden was the place of the first guarding cherubim, the place of the first arboreal lampstand, it was the source from which Israel’s future temples drew their decorations from, Eden was the first source of water, it was the place of precious stones, the place of God’s mountain, and the first place with an eastern facing entrance.

There are also numerous intertestamental texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the Jewish Pseudepigrapha which support this view.

Anonymous said...

Here's also a side point, but which agrees with my view that the temple was a microcosm:

As the overseer of the tabernacle construction, Bezalel is filled (Ex 31:3) with "wisdom," "understanding," and "knowledge," which is precisely the same triad of attributes God used to create the world in Proverbs 3:19-20.

Note, too, how he would be filled with "all works," the same phrase used of God in his completion of creation at Genesis 2:2-3.

Now, is this a coincidence? I submit that it is not and is in fact intentional.

There are other texts which suggest the creation of the created order is a temple. Consider Psalm 104:1:

He stretches out the heavens like a tent.

Similarly, Job 38:4-7 pictures the cosmos as being constructed like a building. Other texts see the earth as a building with foundations and pillars. I can list references but I think you may be familiar with the texts.

I submit these are not antiquated cosmological assertions. This is not primitive science which has been disproved by modern science. This is temple language being used in relation to the cosmos.

Edgar Foster said...

Hello, Ivan:

I'll post one other response for today. There will probably be a blog post on Gen 28:12 later. Thanks for providing references from Beale, et al. The other information you mention sounds worthy of analysis.

We seem to differ fundamentally over God's immanence and his transcendence.

1) I might get to read Walton's book one day. It sounds interesting. But I would never say that the earth was meant to be/is God's dwelling place. While there is a place for divine immanence (IMO), God cannot/does not literally dwell on earth. The heavens of the heavens cannot contain YHWH (1 Kings 8:27, 43). How much less can the earth contain him.

2) Has God ever descended to this earth in a literal sense? You could be speaking metaphorically, for all I know. Do you really believe that God literally visited earth (according to the Genesis account)?

3) I earlier acknowledged that God dwelt with Israel. But how was this dwelling accomplished? I see it as a figurative dwelling by means of the Shekinah above the Ark's "propitiatory cover."

4) Jerusalem was called the Great King's city. Yet the universal Sovereign particularly made his (figurative) abode in the Holy of Holies. See Ezek. 10:18-22.

5) John 1:14 still needs to be exegeted in order to determine if a temple interpretation of that verse will stand. But even if that's how we should understand the passage, I don't think it necessarily proves that John 1:50-51 perpetuates such a theological view (i.e. temple theology).

6) God's tabernacling spirit abides in the church as a body. It's available to all who are anointed with that spirit (2 Cor 1:21-22; 5:1-5; Eph 1:13-14; 1 Jn 2:20, 27; 3:1-2).

7) Let's not forget that God and Christ constitute the temple of NJ (the holy city/bride).

Anonymous said...


Perhaps you can also provide an interpretation of Genesis 28 as well. It seems so far you have only rejected what I have offered instead of offering a view yourself.

(1) My point is not that God will "literally dwell on earth" but that he will dwell on earth in the manner in which he dwell on earth in the tabernacle.

If he created the world as a temple, then it is perfectly understandable that he would build it to inhabit it, which, in this case, involves dwelling on earth.

(2) I don't think God has every literally descended to earth, in part, because heaven doesn't seem to be 'up there,' so to speak. So he can't literally descend.

(3) I agree his dwelling was figurative, but it was nonetheless very real. It was really his presence in the temple.

(4) Agreed. Although, "figurative" doesn't preclude the reality of his dwelling there.

(5) I don't see how John 1:14 could be exegeted in any other way but as the way I have proposed. Jesus "tabernacled" among us as the new link between heaven and earth (1:51) as the new temple.

(6) Agreed.

(7) Yes. But let us also recall that the NJ in itself is the church, which is also a temple. Hence, the description of it as a golden cube reminiscent of the holy of holies.

Edgar Foster said...


My understanding of Genesis 28:12ff is fairly simple. I'll elaborate more another day, but I just believe that Jacob experienced a theophany. He beheld (in a visionary way) angels descending to earth and ascending to heaven. The sight emphasized divine communication between heaven and earth. I see no good reason why we have to bring temple theology into the matter, all that you've said notwithstanding. I can examine the particulars in a future post.

1)I have seen no clear evidence that God actually created the world as a temple. Like all theologies of this kind, it's built on quite a number of inferences. That's okay. But let's not treat our abstractions as though they perfectly map onto reality. Solomon knew that God was not inhabiting the structure he had made: he dwelt there by holy spirit. Furthermore, God is above and beyond this world (Isa 40:22). He transcends this spatio-temporal universe.

2) Heaven is depicted in scripture as "up there" even if that portrayal does not exhaust the reality of the celestial realm. Isa 57:15; 63:15. The first passage also illustrates how God dwells figuratively with his people.

3 and 4) God was evidently inhabiting the sanctuary at Jerusalem by means of his spirit and power. He was present insofar as his power was operative.

5) You have to study the Greek verb in Jn 1:14 to ascertain whether your exegesis can be sustained. People read a lot into the verb, including the notion that Christ is YHWH.

7) I agree that New Jerusalem is a temple and the Lamb's bride; it's a city, a woman and a body too. You also seem to be on target about the shape of NJ (the cube). But I still make a distinction between NJ as a temple and God/Christ as temple of NJ. All these figures are metaphorical in my estimation. The holy city (a metaphor) is a symbolic bride, woman, body, and temple. The discourse in the Bible becomes incoherent when we construe all of this language non-metaphorically.

Ivan said...

Hello, Edgar:

It seems we pretty much agree on the meaning of Genesis 28, but differ on what Jacob may have seen in his dream.

(1) There are many texts everywhere in the OT that speak of the earth as having pillars and foundations. The heavens are spoken of being stretched out like a tent. Other texts speak of the earth as a building and God creating it. There are striking parallels between the tabernacle/temple and the Garden of Eden and the rest of natural creation more generally.

I submit these are not mere coincidences or a primitive understanding of an ancient people.

(2) It seems to me Isa 57:15 is in reference to his dwelling in the temple, which again, illustrates how the heavens are so closely associated with it. I think this text further supports my position.

Note the parallel: "I dwell on a high and holy place" in the first part of the parallelism with "and [I will dwell] also with the lowly of spirit."

Isa 63:15 doesn't refer to heaven as "up there" but only talks of God in a lofty position.

For example, when Jesus ascending to heaven in Acts 1, no one can credibly argue Jesus literally flew up above the stars and galaxies.

(3-4) Obviously heaven can't contain God and much less a physical building, but nonetheless there was a very real sense in which God dwelt with Israel.

(5)Most modern commentators that I have read generally agree with the view I am articulating that John 1:14 depicts Jesus as the locus of God's tabernacling presence. Had John merely meant that Jesus "lived" among us he had vocabulary at his disposal.

(7) Well, I'm not so sure the distinction of the NJ as temple and God as temple need be so sharply drawn. Since God is the NJ's temple, the NJ itself must be viewed as a divine sanctuary. Hence, God is said to tabernacle on earth according to Rev 21.

Edgar Foster said...

Hello, Ivan:

1) I read the texts you mention as examples of similes and metaphors. The fact that the heavens are stretched out "like a tent" would indicate tropic language is being employed. It's good to also remember that similarity of language doesn't mean that the writers thought Eden was the primordial sanctuary. They could have intentionally made allusions without holding this belief.

2) Isaiah 57;15 could be referring to the temple although I believe it's contrasting the divine transcendence with the divine immanence (remoteness with intimacy). The discourse is somewhat ambiguous, but Jehovah identifies himself as "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name [is] Holy" (KJV); so I tend to favor the heaven understanding although it's possible Isaiah has the temple in mind.

The word "lofty" implies that God is being depicted as "up there." I don't think there's any doubt that the ancient prophets saw things that way. Notice that the prophet implores YHWH to "look down" as well:

"Look down from heaven, and see from the habitation of your holiness and of your glory: where are your zeal and your mighty acts?" (Isa 63:15 HNV)

See Beale, The Temple and the Church's Mission, 133-135.

Jesus may not have literally ascended. Yet the account is depicted that way. Hence, we call the event, his Ascension (Acts 1:11).

3-4) I agree that God dwelt with Israel. But I find it hard to believe that God really walked on earth or personally visited our domain (i.e. entered our spatio-temporal world). He works by means of his spirit/power (Gen 1:2). How do you think he was present among ancient Israel?

5) I earlier stated that it's quite possible you may be correct about John 1:14. Even if what you're saying is right, however, it still doesn't mean I accept your explanation for John 1:50-51. I'm sorry if my jadedness sometimes comes through. However, a number of scholars have read all kinds of things into John 1:14 that hardly seem warranted. See how the same Greek word is used at Rev 12:12; 13:6. Cf. Judges 5:17 (LXX).

7) I believe the language must be sharply drawn. (See the entry for NAOS in TDNT.) Now it does not follow logically that because God and Christ constitute NJ's temple that NJ itself must be viewed as a holy sanctuary. NJ is a sanctuary (consecrated to God) because the deity abides in her by means of holy spirit (Eph 2:19-22). But something different appears to be meant when we read that God and Christ are the temple for the holy city. They do not just abide in the polis; God and the Lamb are its sanctuary.

And the way in which God tabernacles among his people is yet different from the manner in which he and the Lamb function as temple for NJ.

Edgar Foster said...

Hello Ivan,

Thanks for setting out your case lucidly. You make a number of interesting points, although I obviously take exception to your general thesis. The points you have listed don't necessarily prove your argument. The allusions to Eden (if they're present) could have been later associations; we don't have to conclude that the Bible writers were trying to say that Eden was the first sanctuary/temple.

1) The cherubim certainly guarded the eastern part of Eden, but they did not protect the sanctuary; the verses you cite for support do not buttress this interpretation. All of these accounts just discuss the construction of the cherubim for God's ancient house. None of them say that this class of spirit beings guarded the sanctuary.

2) Arboreal imagery may recall a garden, not necessarily a "garden-like sanctuary." There's also evidently a leap in logic here. You conclude that the menorah possibly depicts the tree of life because of arboreal decorations that adorned other parts of the temple. The argument (with all due respect) is a non sequitur. Revelation tells us that the lampstands symbolize individual Christian assemblies. The menorah also has been interpreted as a symbol of Judaism itself ( The Encyclopaedia Judaica states: "Symbolically the menorah represented the creation of the universe in seven days, the center light symbolizing the Sabbath. The seven branches are the seven continents of the earth and the seven heavens, guided by the light of God. The Zohar says: 'These lamps, like the planets above, receive their light from the sun' ('Beha'aloteka,' beginning)."

Edgar Foster said...

Continuing . . .

There have been other interpretations advanced, but who knows for sure?

3) Let's not lose a broader perspective of Gen 2:15: Adam is being identified as a farmer/gardener or tiller of the land in 2:15. There's nothing in the language or context itself to indicate otherwise. Consult BDB at or another respectable Hebrew lexicon and you will see that the verses in Numbers do not undergird your argument. Words are used in a given context; that linguistic fact should inform our understanding of scriptural accounts.

4) There could be an allusion to Eden with the employment of onyx stones and gold in the tabernacle construction. This fact doesn't necessitate that Eden itself was a sanctuary. I see Ezekiel 28:13 as a description of Tyre's prosperity and trade rather than an allusion to priestly materials. Admittedly, the cherub reference hearkens back to temple imagery. Yet the thrust of the prophet's dirge regarding Tyre is about maritime trade and commerce. It also highlights the beauty of Tyre (Compare Ezek 27:1ff).

5) God's walking was evidently not limited to the tabernacle in Israel. He walked in their camp too: "for Jehovah thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy, that he may not see an unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee" (Deuteronomy 23:14 ASV). See Gary Harlan Hall, Deuteronomy, 349.

6) We probably agree that the river in Ezek 47:1-12 reminded Ezekiel's audience of Eden. But that point does not lead me to conclude that Eden was the first sanctuary. A comparison could be made without insinuating that the original garden was the first sanctuary/temple. See Isaiah 51:3; Ezek. 31:8-9; 36:35; Joel 2:3.

7) The language concerning Eden is figurative. I believe that the discourse is made to remind Ezekiel's audience of Jerusalem or Zion (the mountain of God where the covering cherubs were located). The word "Eden" (garden of God) is used throughout scripture to emphasize fecundity and lush vegetation (see above). No need to read temple imagery into the language or conclude that Eden was a/the holy mountain of God. See Genesis 13:10.

In closing: a priest was unnecessary prior to the advent of sin. Adam did not need to serve as a priest in the Garden of Eden (Job 1:5; Hebrews 5:1-4). It has yet to be proved that the first "arboreal lampstand" was present in Eden. Even if Israel drew images from the Eden account, that does not entail that the garden was the first sanctuary.

Ivan said...

Hello, Edgar:

(1-2) I agree many of these texts are similes and metaphors but this doesn't explain much. The point is what do these mean? Similes and metaphors only work if they are something that was already accepted and known.

Considering again Psalm 104:1 and its mention of God stretching the heavens like a tent, we see other texts which shed light on this. Isa 40:22 states:

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in.

Thus the notion of the heavens as a tent curtain is clearly linked with God's dwelling. This is metaphor, of course. But it is a metaphor of temple imagery.

The heavens are like a tent where God dwells.

Now, you mention they can purposefully use this imagery without believing. I submit the exact opposite could also be true. They allude to this imagery precisely because they do believe it and the readers of this literature would have also believed it.

One could also make the same argument about heaven being "up there." They could use this imagery without truly accepting it. However, I concede that they did believe heaven was "up there."

My point was only in relation to your question if I believed God literally descended.

Admittedly, Isaiah 57:15 could refer to either heaven or the temple but as you say the language is ambiguous. But this very fact supports my argument: the Holy of Holies can be described as heaven.

I don't see how "lofty" supports the view that Isaiah 57:15 refers to heaven. It can simply refer to an elevated position, not in terms of actual height but in status and highness. The parallels to this passage elsewhere in Isaiah point to the temple in Zion, not heaven.

You reference Beale but on those pages he supports the argument that I am making. In fact, he draws a parallel between Isa 57:15 and Isaiah 66:1-2.

On page 135 Beale says "the passage appears to affirm that God will come from his heavenly sanctuary and extend it to encompass humble saints."

I think he's right on. This is the picture we see in Revelation 21-22. God's heavenly sanctuary (=NJ coming out of heaven) extends to humankind where God dwells. His dwelling place or tent is with man.

(3-4) There's no need to take God walking in the garden and in the tabernacle literally. This is his presence. The point here, though, is the same verb is used in a sanctuary context.

I would also add that God really did enter our world when he began creating. By enter the world I mean he began being "in time."

(5) I think my view forms a coherent picture: Jacob had a dream of a temple connecting or linking heaven and earth. Jesus as the new temple fulfills this vision and in fact applies it to himself. He is the link between heaven and earth.

No doubt there are other interpretations but I think this view is likely when one considers John's temple theology.

Even if Gen 28 isn't referring to a temple but to a ladder (which is still an instrument used for architecture), I think it makes little difference.

(7) Revelation 21:3 says God's "dwelling place" is with man. There's little doubt, I would think, about what can legitimately be considered a dwelling place for God.

His dwelling place is with "man" hence it is on earth. It logically follows that the earth has become his "dwelling place," and hence, his sanctuary.

The tabernacle was his dwelling place on earth. As was the temple. It now appears the entire earth is his sanctuary.

What is the NJ if not a sanctuary? It seems that in one sense you say it is, but in another that it is not.

I'm also curious of any thoughts you have on the 7 parallels I mentioned that the Garden has with later sanctuaries.

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Ivan:

I apologize if this reply seem abbreviated, but other things command my time.

1-2) The simile just means that as humans spread tents, so God figuratively stretches the heavens. Notice that the Hebrew DOQ (Isa 40;220 evidently refers to gauze or thin, fine cloth (Gesenius). Notice the range of meaning for 'OHEL too. It's not limited to sanctuaries/temples.

"He who is sitting on the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants [are] as grasshoppers, He who is stretching out as a thin thing the heavens, And spreadeth them as a tent to dwell in" (YLT). Cf. ps 104;2; Isa 54:2; Jeremiah 4:20.

I have no problem with describing the Holy of Holies as a type of heaven. My objection is with regard to the Platonic handling of that language. God can employ illustrations without our reading ontological structures into the revealed types.

The description "lofty" coupled with "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name [is] Holy" (KJV) lends itself to a heavenly reference. God's dwelling in "eternity" is more approriately linked to heaven. See Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 36-7. For a detailed commentary on Isa 57:15 which argues that heaven is the referent of the verse, see Shalom Paul, Isaiah 40-66, page 475. Compare Ps 102:20-21; Isa 66;1-2.

My reference to Beale was based on our dialogue concerning Isa 63:15. He applies the text to heaven. Notice that he similarly views Isa 57;15 as a reference to the heavenly sanctuary (not the earthly one). Nothing that you say above (even quoting Beale) contravenes my understanding of the Isaian passages. please remember what he also writes about where God's authentic temple is/was located until the eschaton.

3-4) God walks in non-sanctuary contexts as well. That was why I quoted Deut 23:14. See Exod 13:21; 14:19; Num 14:14; Deut 1;30, 33; 20;4.

The issue of God and time is a complex one. It's theologically and metaphysically problematic to locate God within space and time. I'm not sure if God is within our time, which would mean he has to share our space (based on Einstein's theory). I just say that he interacts with our world via power/spirit.

5) I would say that Jacob possibly beheld a temple. We don't know for sure. Jesus is probably representative of the temple in some sense. He links earth by virtue of his priestly and mediatorial office as well. Whatever the truth of the matter is, I don't think there's enough information at present to construe Jn 1:50-51 as a temple text. I'm also not that convinced by Jn 1:14 for reasons already shared. To be clear, I believe that Jacob saw a ladder, ramp, or stairway leading to heaven (God's locus of being). What he saw beyond that is speculation.

7) There are various ways that God can dwell with humans. He lived among the Israelites and he presently dwells in the ecclesia. We both agree on this point. But how God dwelled among Israel is evidently where we part ways.

How will God abide with humans in the new earth? I certainly don't believe his dwelling with be literal (Exod 33:20). The tabernacle/temple constituted ancient sanctuaries for YHWH. Today, God abides in the Christian congregation by means of spirit (1 Cor 3:16-17). It forms his sanctuary. In my view, the entire earth will be (future) God's sanctuary.

I do believe that NJ is a sanctuary. But my comments reflect that we're talking about different perspectives in which NJ is a sanctuary or God and the Lamb constitute a sanctuary. What I claim is that NJ is a sanctuary because God's spirit inhabits the ecclesia. On the other hand, God and the Lamb jointly constitute the temple of NJ, which from that perspective is not a temple, but a city, bride, etc. We're dealing with mixed metaphors. Michel (TDNT) makes a similar type of distinction.

I have posted on the 7 parallels you offered. We'll talk another day.

Ivan said...

Hello, Edgar:

There's a lot going on here and given the current format of blogger, I feel it best if I only address one point and carry the conversation from there.

There is just so much to say (Beale wrote a 400 page book on this very topic [!!]), but I will focus on just one point at a time.

I think the most important argument I have made is the case for the garden as temple. Thus, I will focus on these at the present.

I wanted to begin with my first argument for Eden as sanctuary.

IVAN: 1) Eden and later sanctuaries were entered from the east and guarded by cherubim. (Gen 3:24; Ex 25:18-22; 26:31; 36:35; 1 Kings 6:23-29; 2 Chr 3:14)

EDGAR: The cherubim certainly guarded the eastern part of Eden, but they did not protect the sanctuary; the verses you cite for support do not buttress this interpretation. All of these accounts just discuss the construction of the cherubim for God's ancient house. None of them say that this class of spirit beings guarded the sanctuary.


The point I was making was that if the Garden is an archetype, this explains why there were cherubim in the temple. Yes, they weren't spirit beings but were models of gold resembling them. It was a symbolic model not a literal representation with real spirit beings.

Interestingly, the veil that separated the two compartments within the temple had depictions of cherubim on them, in essence, ‘guarding’ entry into the Holy of Holies. This parallels the cherubim guarding Adam from the garden.

The eastern entrance into the garden is also significant as the entrances to later sanctuaries were from the east.

So far we have two parallels with later sanctuaries: (1) cherubim and (2) eastern entrance.

Now, you may dismiss these as mere coincidences but looked at from the bigger picture (namely, the 6 other points), I think it is fairly clear they have intention. These aren't general parallels but very specific ones.

Why cherubim as opposed to any other type of divine being? Why not an entrance from the west or south? These and other questions remain unanswerable. However, if viewed from my perspective, a coherent picture is brought out and provides better answers.

So my main objection here is that you don't seem to be giving any real weight to these two parallels.

What is your explanation of them? Mere coincidences?

Now, recall that I am not arguing this point alone proves my claim. I am making a cumulative case and want to defend my premises to show the conclusion does follow.

Ivan said...

I am also curious: have you read Greg Beale's The Temple and the Church's Mission or have you only read exerts?

Edgar Foster said...


Concerning Bezalel, etc.

The language in Exod 31:3 and Prov 3:19-20 is likely formulaic. Cf. Exod 35:31. Does it prove that the tabernacle/temple was a miniature cosmos? That's rather scant evidence for such a wide-sweeping conclusion. Similar language is used at 1 Kings 7:14 where we read that Hiram (a Tyrian craftsman) had the same qualities which he wielded to fashion bronze. Compare Isa 11:1-3. And Prov 24:3-4 applies the language found in Exodus to general housebuilding: it's not restricted to the tabernacle/temple.

Now the link between Exod 31:3 and Gen 2:3 doesn't have to be coincidental. Moses may have intentionally used the same Hebrew terms for both passages. That hardly means he viewed the tabernacle as a miniature cosmos, however. He could have been likening tabernacle building to creation without equating the two.

I know you recognize that Job and Psalms are both song texts; the poetic structure of each work cannot be ignored. So I would not say that Job 38:4-7 is filled with "antiquated cosmological assertions." These utterances were just never meant to be taken literally in the first place since it's poetry.

To be exact, the verses in Job discuss how God created the earth (not the entire cosmos); the discourse is blantantly metaphorical. See Norman C. Habel's Commentary on the Book of Job, pages 537-8. He see parallels between the earth's creation and Gen 1:26-27.

To answer your other question, I have read excerpts of Beale's work and know about its general argument. That's all the time I have for today.

Ivan said...

Hello, Edgar:

You cite 1 Kings 7:14 as evidence in support of your claim that this specific triad of attributes are "formulaic." But perhaps you may have overlooked the fact that in 1 Kings 7, Hiram was the one who made the furnishings in Solomon's Temple.

In other words, this is yet another text wherein this triad is found in relation to the temple.

I agree the Job and Psalm descriptions are metaphorical. But the question is what does it mean? That the earth is described like a building in light of the other points, I think the temple-like description cannot be overlooked.

Edgar Foster said...

Hello, Ivan:

I did not overlook the fact that Hiram made the furnishings in Solomon's temple. But you might have noticed that those attributes were not attributed to him because of work he did on the temple. Rather, he already had the reputation for being a skilled craftsman with broze. That's why Solomon chose him. He had previously used the skill to work with bronze. Now he would conscript those skills in the building of Solomon's temple. Some scholars have pointed out that the depiction of Hiram's proficiency is completely laid out in naturalistic terms.

If you'll read Habel's commentary, he does seem to overlook the temple comparison when offering remarks on Job 38:4-7. He's not necessarily correct, but he sees more of a link between the earth's creation and man's. The metaphor could also make the earth's design by Jehovah more salient too.

Ivan said...

Hello, Edgar:

It seems more is involved here than simply "naturalistic" attributes.

I may be wrong, and I'll happily admit as much, but to my knowledge, there are not more than a handful of texts which use these 3 attributes together to describe a craftsman's ability.

We have Bezalel and Oholiab who both made the furnishings in the temple which are described similarly by this threefold ability. It is no coincidence that this triad is only present within the context of the construction of a sanctuary.

Now true, he was already a skilled worker in bronze before Solomon contacted him but it seems that the nearly universe punctuation of this text separates the triad of attributes from his already being skilled in bronze.

According to this text, he was "filled" with wisdom, understanding, and skill. The passive tense may involve him merely being the recipient of these attributes much like Bezalel was "filled" with the "spirit" of attributes.

Edgar Foster said...

Hello, Ivan:

But is the triad restricted to sanctuary contexts? Are you disregarding Prov 24:3-4?

Michael Fishbane (The JPS Bible Commentary, pages 97-8) argues that Hiram's natural abilities are contrasted with Solomon's inspired capabilities and those of Bezalel. He writes: "While exceptional, his endowment is presented here solely in natural terms."

Just because the account uses the phraseology "filled" does not require that he was made that way through a special act of the spirit. The description of his gifts goes hand-in-hand with the bronze work he performed before working on the temple.

Ivan said...

Hello, Edgar:

It may be the case Proverbs 24:3-4 is the exception and not a counterexample (it is still in context of "building" something) but even this text can be understood from a temple's perspective. It has all the ingredients.

It refers to a "house" a term often used of the temple. It refers to it being "built," which is essential and a point of comparison with the other texts mentioned about the building of the tabernacle and temple.

It is "established," has "rooms" and is decorated with "riches."

All this can be understood from this perspective. But generally I would see it as a parallel to Prov 3:19. Just as God built the world by this triad of attributes, so humans must build their "house" with these attributes.

With respect to Hiram being "filled," I find the passive could easily refer to God doing the filling, especially if the point of comparison is with Bezalel where it is explicit.

Edgar Foster said...

Hello, Ivan:

I believe the more likely interpretation is that Prov 24:3-4 refers to a house (not a tabernacle/temple). Just examine how Proverbs uses "house" elsewhere. See Proverbs 1:13; 2:18; 6:31; 9:1, 14; 14:1; 15:6, 25; 19:14; 24:27; 25:17; 27:27.

If you consult the verses above, you will find that none of the texts in Proverbs use the word "house" for God's temple. Most relevant is the verse in Prov 24:27.

Hiram could be contrasted with Bezalel and Solomon. He was filled with wisdom before working on the temple.

One difference between Bezalel/Aholiab and Hiram is that YHWH personally said he filled the former with the spirit of wisdom (etc). See Exod 31:3; 35:31; 35:35.

Besides Fishbane, K-D notice this distinction too:

"The skill of Hiram is described in almost the same terms as that of Bezaleel in Exodus 31:3., with this exception, that Bezaleel's skill is attributed to his being filled with the Spirit of God, i.e., is described rather as a supernatural gift, whereas in the case of Hiram the more indefinite expression, 'he was filled with wisdom, etc.,' is used, representing it rather as a natural endowment. In the account given here, Hiram is merely described as a worker in brass, because he is only mentioned at the commencement of the section which treats of the preparation of the brazen vessels of the temple."

It's good to remember that Hiram's father was also skilled in working with bronze. It's seems reasonable to believe that Hiram learned how to be skilled through the work of his father, not by divine intervention. He was hired by Solomon because he already possessed the requisite skills. His proficiency was not just accentuated for temple work.

Edgar Foster said...

Hello, Ivan:

I think it's good to restrict our remarks on the combox as you stated. I also have my own goals here at blogger and a limited amount of time to attain them. But I'll try to address what you wrote about temple theology.

There is much that could be said about temple theology. I don't necessarily reject every claim that Beale or Barker makes. In fact, I agree with some of their views. But there are problematic areas for temple theology. It seems to me that Beale/Barker and even ancient Judaism see allusions where none exist.

I find it odd that no Bible writer (including the pentateuchal author) ever associates the cherubim in the sanctuary with Eden. They are linked to God's throne and to the work of propitiation. But not one biblical writer (even in the NT) makes the nexus that temple theology does. The writer of Hebrews would have been the most likely candidate to bring out these aspects of Eden and the temple.

The curtain (veil) separating the Holy from the Holy of Holies evidently represented the flesh of Christ (according to the author of Hebrews). The Holy of Holies symbolized heaven itself (Heb 9:12, 24). In the greater SANCTUM SANCTORUM, YHWH thrones above the cherubim: they do not guard the entrance to heaven. See Rev 4:1-11.

The fact that worshipers entered the sanctuaries from the east is significant. But none of these facts mean that Eden was viewed as the first sanctuary by the Bible writers. Lingual similarities do not entail conceptual identities.

I am not saying these things were coincidental. My point is that parallels can be used without saying that one thing (Eden) is the same as another thing (the tabernacle/temple). For instance, the New Jerusalem will have a river of water of life lined with trees of life that bear leaves for the healing of the nations (Rev 22:1-2). These appear to be allusions to Eden. But Eden was a garden whereas NJ is a bride/city. Of course, you will say that both are sanctuaries. But that point still needs to be proved.

Cherubim were likely selected because of their function in relation to the divine throne and the work of propitiation. Did these sanctuary depictions also hearken back to Eden. Probably so. Where you go wrong, however, is by identifying one kind of thing in terms of the other.

We must not forget that the East has other significances too. The sun rises in the East and God himself is pictured as coming from that direction. The explanation for these things doesn't have to be reductionistic.