Sunday, May 15, 2011

The outer court.

During the first century King Herod had enclosed the outer court with colonnades and it was referred to as the Outer Court because the "gentiles" (non-Jews) were permitted to enter the Temple area their. They could walk within it but they were forbidden to go any further than the outer court.

These Temple precincts was divided into 4 courts: 1. The Court of the Women . 2. The Court of the Israelites . 3. The Court of the Priests. 4. The Court outer (Hel). The term “Court of Gentiles” is non-existent. However the fact that ther...e was an area on the Temple Mount to which Gentiles had access is hinted or referred to frequently in ancient writings (e.g. by Philo in Legatio ad Caium 212; by Josephus in The Jewish War II 341, V 194, VI 125, 126 and Antiquities XV 417), and is explicitly mentioned in Josephus's treaties Against Apion II 103, 104 in the following words:

Our Temple . . . was surrounded by four courts. . . Admission to the (outer court) was free to all, including Gentiles (allophuloi, alienigeni); only women in the time of their menstruation were not allowed to enter. The second court could be entered by all Jews and their wives when free from any defilement; the third by male Jews if they were clean and purified; the fourth by priests robed in their sacerdotal vestments.

The Court of the Women obtained its name, not from its appropriation to the exclusive use of women, but because they were not allowed to proceed farther, except for sacrificial. The Court of the Women was three feet higher than the first Temple level, and six feet higher than the outer court. The Court of the Men of Israel was ten feet higher than that of the women. The Court of the Priest was three feet higher than the Men of Israel. The Holy of Holies was eight feet above that of the Priest.

The Court of the Women being six feet over that of the outer court signified that the Jewish woman had privileges the Gentiles did not have. The Court of the Israelites was ten feet over that of the Court of the Women. This signified that all women of Israel and all Gentiles were under the authority of the Men of Israel. The Holy of Holies was eleven feet over the Court of the Men of Israel and signified that God was over all.

The Gentiles were not allowed any further into the Temple other then the Outer Court. Gentiles, were not allowed within the temple walls at all. The area of the Gentiles was outside of the Temple. These courts were separated by a low wall, as Josephus the Jewish historian of the first century A.D. wrote about the warning signs in Greek and Latin that were placed on the barrier wall that separated the court of the gentiles from the other courts in the Temple. Not until 1871 did archaeologists actually discover one written in Greek. Its seven line inscription reads as follows: NO FOREIGNER IS TO GO BEYOND THE BALUSTRADE AND THE PLAZA OF THE TEMPLE ZONE WHOEVER IS CAUGHT DOING SO WILL HAVE HIMSELF TO BLAME FOR HIS DEATH WHICH WILL FOLLOW.

Any Gentile was, on the pain of death, to pass from the outer court into that of the Jews. There can be no doubt that the wall was one of those boundary which separated the Jews from the Gentiles, of which Josephus speaks. War 5.193). (non-Jews) were not permitted to enter the Temple area. The outer court derived its name from the fact that Gentiles were permitted into this area provided they conducted themselves in a reverent and respectful manner.

For this Court oxen, sheep, and doves selected as fit for sacrifices were sold as in a market; and here were those tables of the money-changers overthrew when Jesus drove from His Father's house them that bought and sold (Matt 21:12; John 2:14).

The Temple court was filled with the oxen, sheep, and pigeons? Just imagine to yourself what it would be like to enter the Temple court with all of those merchants and all of the animals. Would the merchants remain respectfully quiet, waiting for customers to come to them, or would they shout out to those entering the Temple drawing attention to themselfs and what they had to sell? Instead of being a place that remained respectfully to the glory of God it most have been like wall street today.

The outer court was not a place for making money and organized, official, programmed activity other than the selling of sacrificial animals and the changing of money for the purpose of paying the temple tax.

These boundaries between the courts were important. They protect the identity of the people of God those who are called to be holy or set apart. It is worthwhile to note the significance of just how serious it was to bring a gentile into the temple of God. It was for this alleged crime that Paul was attacked and nearly beaten to death by an angry crowd during his last visit to Jerusalem as we read.

(Acts 21:27-32) "Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore He (PAUL) ALSO BROUGHT GREEKS INTO THE TEMPLE AND HAS DEFILED THIS HOLY PLACE.” (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. Now as they were seeking TO KILL HIM, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul." These Jews would have killed Paul on the spot.

The Temple warning inscription on the wall is important in the study of Biblical events. When Paul speaks of the MIDDLE WALL OF SEPARATION he was making a allusion to the inscription on the dividing wall for he writes. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and HAS BROKEN DOWN THE MIDDLE WALL OF SEPARATION, (Ephesians. 2:13-14).

While these have a spiritual meaning for us today they also had a real life meaning to the gentiles and Jews that were living then. When Jesus entered the Temple and saw this inscription on the Temple wall he knew that his own life would be the cost for the gentiles to go past this barrier. Out of Jew and Gentile Christ has created one new man.