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The Temple in Early ChristianityExperiencing the Sacred$

Eyal Regev and John Collins

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780300197884

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300197884.001.0001

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Relating to Judaism, Experiencing the Sacred

Relating to Judaism, Experiencing the Sacred

(p.285) 9 Relating to Judaism, Experiencing the Sacred
The Temple in Early Christianity

Eyal Regev

Yale University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines how early Christian attitude toward the Temple changed and why. First-century early Christianity was a religious and social movement at the beginning of the process of identity formation. Its members had yet to determine who they were: what part of their identity was contiguous with Judaism and what part comprised all-new elements. During this process they undoubtedly looked to other non-Christian Jews as a point of reference. Literary engagement with the Temple granted the New Testament writers and their contemporary readers the opportunity to express their debt to Jewish tradition, while at the same time their distinctiveness from it. Moreover, this engagement enhanced their sense of being powerful, genuine, and sacred—that is, close to God. For them, the Temple is a means of experiencing the sacred in both old and new fashion, somewhere on the spectrum between what would later be termed “Judaism” and “Christianity.”

Keywords:   Temple, Christianity, Judaism, non-Christian Jews, New Testament, Jewish tradition, sacred, early Christianity

Temple and Sacrifices in the New Testament in Perspective

The Historical Jesus is certainly interested in the Temple, but only when he arrives in Jerusalem. He teaches there although not about the Temple per se. His overturning of the tables on the Temple Mount is an act of criticism, not of rejection; nonetheless, it is difficult to infer from the text just what is being condemned and why. Undoubtedly Jesus is dissatisfied with the relationship between money and the Temple cult. Many commentators claim that the true target of Jesus’s wrath is the Temple cult or those who run it. I disagree with this conclusion. I believe that his problem is with money or, rather, with those corrupt individuals who donate funds to the Temple, thus defiling it with their sins.

There is no textual evidence that Jesus declared that he will bring the imminent demise of the Temple by his own hands, although many Jews in Jerusalem believed that he had. Indeed, this charge seems to be the main reason for his arrest and eventual crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. In depicting his trial, the four evangelists try to dispel the notion that Jesus threatened to destroy the Temple, although Matthew and Luke do mention the coming destruction in the context of grieving its loss. To me, these texts imply that Jesus’s disciples do not reject the Temple. With Jesus having been executed as its enemy, however, non-Christian Jews suspected that his followers held a hostile stance toward the Temple.

The Last Supper is a cultic analogy in which the drinking of Jesus’s blood and the eating of his flesh become a metaphor for sacrifice. If we consider the analogy an authentic rite proscribed by Jesus, it certainly (p.286) underscores the impact of sacrificial symbolism on his religious thinking. Presenting himself in terms one would use when describing a sacrifice does not mean that Jesus sought to replace the Temple cult; if anything, by using sacrifice as a metaphor, he demonstrated his high regard for the cult. Interestingly, if the Last Supper was part of a Passover seder in which the Passover lamb was eaten, the Historical Jesus actually consumes sacrificial meat, in addition simply to employing the sacrificial metaphor.

While Paul freely criticizes and limits the relevance of the Law, he does not treat the Temple and its cult in similar fashion. On the contrary, he frequently employs the metaphors of Temple, sacrifice, priesthood, and libation in relation to Christ, the community of believers, and himself as an apostle, thus attesting both to his appreciation for the cult and his belief in the cult’s ability to bestow legitimacy on his teachings. Indeed, Paul never says that Jesus’s death was a sacrifice, nor does he claim that Christ replaces the sacrificial system. On the contrary, absent the religious symbolism that the Jerusalem Temple holds, his metaphors would lack power and appeal. Paul’s Temple metaphors are meaningful precisely because the Temple cult denotes God’s presence and provides a fundamental means of worship. If we accept Acts’ story about Paul in Jerusalem, in which Paul participates in the cult and declares his loyalty to the Temple, this interpretation becomes all the more compelling.

Paul’s cultic metaphors provide his readers who turn away from the local Greco-Roman temples an opportunity to experience the sacred in a new way. Through his use of metaphors Paul has made the virtual Temple and sacrifice accessible to his readers. And in doing so, he actually indirectly relates them to the Jewish cultic center and sacred ideas.

Mark depicts numerous conflicts between Jesus and the Temple leadership. He regards both the chief priests and the Zealots who seize control of the Temple during the revolt against Rome as evil and corrupt. Yet despite his harsh criticism of the Temple’s leadership, he never rejects the Temple itself. Mark values the cult and its symbolism, as demonstrated by his sayings about the leper’s purification by the priest (1:44), the widow’s donation to the Temple treasury (12:41–44), and the abomination that causes desolation of the Temple (13:14).

When Mark describes Jesus teaching in the Temple and arguing with his adversaries, his underlying message is the close connection between Jesus and the cult. Such a narrative on the attendance of the Temple and (passive or indirect) participation in the cult has a symbolic meaning. His (p.287) narrative creates a cultural memory in his readers that helps to shape their religious identity.1 This applies as well to the stories of Jesus in the Temple found in other gospels as well as to the participation in the Temple cult on the part of Peter, the apostles, and Paul described in the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus selects the Temple as the setting for his teaching in order to emphasize his religious authority. If Mark thought that by teaching in the Temple, Jesus sought to replace it, then the point of the Temple as a means of conferring legitimacy would have been lost. Undoubtedly, he places Jesus in the Temple because he values it as an institution and as a symbol and because he associates its cult with holiness and piety.

In Matthew, Jesus criticizes the Temple through some of his sayings when he emphasizes moral behavior. This leads him to qualify the significance of the Temple cult, declaring that mercy is more important than sacrifice and Jesus (or his ministry) “greater than the Temple.” At the same time, several of his sayings underscore the importance and relevance of the Temple to Christian life, such as his declaration that sacrifice first demands reconciliation, that it is pious to swear by the altar and the sanctuary, that the Temple tax should indeed be paid, and, finally, that Judas’s blood money cannot be kept in the Temple. The destruction of the Temple, which by the time of Matthew was no longer a dire warning, is certainly made more explicit than in Mark. Yet Jesus’s supposed involvement in that destruction is denied by means of the false witnesses, who blame him not for threatening to destroy the Temple but merely for saying that he is “able” to do so. The tearing of the Temple veil describes a positive apocalyptic event that involves the resurrection of the dead, and it is entirely possible that it symbolizes not the destruction of the Temple but the end of God’s “veiled” presence.

Matthew takes as its aim the enhancement of Temple practices and sensibilities after 70. For him, the Temple holds important symbolic value, which he in turn uses to reinforce Christianity’s Jewish origins: By demonstrating the early Christians’ commitment to the Temple, he is demonstrating, albeit theoretically, their relation to the Jewish people. His narrative descriptions of Jesus speaking about and at the Temple also serve to heighten his status as an authoritative religious leader. Finally, certain of Jesus’s critiques of the Temple shape his image in the eyes of Christian readers, such as when Jesus says that “something is greater than the Temple”—which implies, although it is not explicitly stated, that the “something” to which he is referring is in fact himself. Matthew, I believe, does not dare argue explicitly that Jesus is more important than the Temple.

(p.288) In Luke, Jesus is described as attending the Temple since infancy, and indeed he makes more visits to the Temple here than in Mark and Matthew. Moreover, the Temple charge against Jesus is completely omitted, and in Acts, the apostles (including Paul) visit the Temple, even taking part in the afternoon prayer service. Stephen’s speech must not be read as a rejection of the Temple. In speaking out against the tendency to confine God within the Temple’s boundaries, Stephen is simply criticizing those who see the Temple as the only mode of worshiping God. Acts responds directly to the allegation that Christians threaten the Temple, arguing that they seek involvement in its cult purely on account of its sacredness and that their persecution by the high priest is unjustified. More than any NT author, Luke is a devoted advocate of the Temple.

That Luke has a deep reverence for the Temple as the center of divine worship is clear. But why should Temple piety still be relevant for Luke a generation after the Temple’s destruction? For him, attachment to the Temple legitimizes Christianity as a Jewish movement. When Luke–Acts mentions that Jesus, Peter, and Paul attend the Temple, its readers are meant to feel as if they, too, have a stake in Judaism’s religious center, which, in any case, is now (ca. 90 CE) relegated to the status of symbol and memory. This legitimation, therefore, operates on numerous levels simultaneously, and the manner by which it occurs is highly complex. We shall see this below in my discussion of the application of ritual studies.

John is undoubtedly replacing the Temple with Jesus in saying that when the hour comes, people will worship in spirit and truth, instead of in Temple Mount. Jesus, too, hints at a substitution for the Temple, but only when implying that the Temple as a cultic institution no longer exists (although John’s Jesus never predicts the destruction). In John, the only criticism of the Temple to be found is the “cleansing.” Even here, however, Jesus refers to the Temple as “my father’s house,” and his action is assumed to stem from a zealousness for the Temple. Finally, a certain analogy to the Temple is expressed in the “temple of his body,” in which Jesus is described as a temple itself.

When John is placing Jesus in the Temple during the festivals of Passover, Tabernacles, and Hanukkah, he is not rejecting it but instead is expressing his respect for it. His narrative associates Jesus with the sacred. John takes advantage of the Temple setting and its symbolism to characterize Jesus as a holy man who enjoys a special relationship with God; we see this, for example, when Jesus declares his having being sanctified or (p.289) “dedicated” by God (10:36). To John, the cult is significant and meaningful, if only as a symbol.

The book of Revelation is replete with cultic imagery. At its center lies the heavenly Temple, where the Lamb (designating Christ) is found. We find mentions of the altar, incense, the Menorah, and the sacred Ark. The heavenly Temple itself is described as the locus of God and the Lamb as well as a place of divine judgment. Yet there is nothing in Revelation about the earthly, Jerusalem Temple, save for one provocative sentence about the eschatological New Jerusalem: John, it is said, saw no Temple in the New Jerusalem, since God and the Lamb take its place. The author replaces the Jerusalem Temple with the heavenly one, and with God and the Lamb, in the End of Days.

Still, the worldview of Revelation is decidedly cultic; its Temple imagery is a complex variation of cultic analogy and metaphor. Instead of comparing the worship of Jesus to a Temple visit, an alternative, ideal Temple is visualized. This heavenly Temple was not formulated merely to place Christ’s sacrifice in an appropriate cultic setting, however; the Lamb may be adored, but his role in heaven is largely passive. Its cultic status as being slaughtered is surely not the reason for Revelation’s creation of a heavenly Temple (indeed, many Jews could perhaps imagine a similar heavenly Temple, albeit without the Lamb, since it does not feature many distinctive Christian characteristics). The author and his readers simply needed a Temple, having been deprived of the earthly one. Moreover, Revelation does not attribute its loss to the Jews at all, and the text’s anti-Roman stance implies that the author blames the Romans for destroying the Temple.

Revelation presents an exceedingly positive view of the Jewish cult—that is, on the theoretical level, where building on existing cultic ideas and further developing them is possible. What the author cannot do, by contrast, is relate to the earthly Temple in Jerusalem, since by the time of his writing it is already in ruins. Therefore, he creates a heavenly alternative. But if one were to compare this new, heavenly Temple to the one that once stood in Jerusalem, the former would undoubtedly suit early-Christian beliefs and needs far better than the latter. For John and his readers, there is no coming back from heaven; the next logical step could only be a New Jerusalem, with God and the Lamb as its Temple.

This is the only place in which Christ is identified as the Temple (Rev 21:22). Many scholars believe that this equation is customary at that time, and its roots can be seen in the gospel of John. But I can find no clear (p.290) evidence for this prior to the fourth gospel. In fact, it is the Lamb, together with God, that takes the place of the Temple in the End of Days. In the heavenly Temple that precedes this phase, however, the Lamb is not equated with the Temple but rather resides within it.

Revelation, then, has nothing to say about the earthly Jerusalem Temple, but its use of Temple imagery nonetheless reveals not only the immense impact of the Temple cult on the author but also his understanding that the void left by the Temple’s destruction needed to be filled. This understanding is no doubt related to the text’s intense anti-Roman stance.

In Hebrews, Jesus is the high priest of the heavenly Temple, where he provides the ultimate expiatory sacrifice: himself. This role is usually understood as a criticism of the cult in the Jerusalem Temple—which, being unable to offer atonement for the people’s sins, requires a replacement—as well as an outright rejection of it. However, I have tried to show that the detailed, yet subtle, manner in which the author builds his argument points to a far more complex approach to the Temple than is generally assumed. The theology of Hebrews is based on the general efficacy of the sacrificial cult and the high priestly office. The author aims to improve upon both, arguing that Christ can grant absolute atonement, that his high priestly office is eternal, and that the heavenly Temple is in truth the original one. Significantly, however, he never criticizes the laws and practices of the sacrificial cult but merely sets out a better alternative. Indeed, Hebrews is written with a great respect for the cult, seeing in it a means of making sense of who Christ is and how he operates as savior.

Since Hebrews seems to be one of the later texts in the NT codex, its attitude vis-à-vis the cult may necessarily reflect an essentially positive sensibility, one articulated by previous generations of believers in Christ. Hebrews is the only NT text that sets out a clear, systematic alternative to the Temple; it is only in Hebrews that Christ takes the place of the high priest and the Temple cult. Yet its driving force is not a belief in the Temple’s irrelevance or profanity. To the contrary, the Temple and the high priest are necessary to an explanation of Christ’s role and purpose.

Assuming that the epistle was written when the Temple was already in ruins, we might say that Hebrews carries on the priestly tradition in a new way—one, we should note, that hews much closer to the original than do many Jewish substitutions, such as prayer or Torah study. (Indeed, one could reasonably argue that even these were not real substitutions, since they already existed before 70 CE.) Thus the author’s religious motivation (p.291) in relating the Temple cult to Christ so closely may have sprung from the very fact of the Temple’s destruction.

The Temple in Second- and Third-Century Christianity

In order to gain some perspective on the NT first-century evidence and to see when the early Christian attitude toward the Temple changed and why, we need to see attitudes toward the Temple as they develop in the following centuries. The Temple continues to occupy an important place in early-Christian writings after the first century; the Apostolic Fathers and the authors of the apocryphal texts deal, sometimes quite extensively, with the sacrificial system. Some of them continue approaches found in the NT, while others contain new avenues of criticism and rejection of the Temple. Their treatments of these subjects may be classified into three different but interrelated approaches: utilizing sacrificial or Temple metaphors in the development of new concepts; posing Christian rites and creeds as substitutes for the Temple cult; and condemning the sacrificial cult and the Jerusalem Temple or rejecting them outright.

My discussion will be limited to few examples that show the various uses of Temple imagery and negation of animal sacrifices. I will attempt to introduce the material in each section in chronological order, although the precise dates of composition of some of the texts are unknown.

Cultic Associations and Metaphors

One of the earliest and most valuable noncanonical Christian texts is the so-called Didache, which contains both a theological manifesto and practical instructions for a life of faith. Most interesting for our purposes is the manner in which the Eucharist is associated with sacrifice in Didache 14: 1–3: “On the Lord’s Day come together, break bread and hold Eucharist, after confessing your transgressions that your offering may be pure; But let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join in your meeting until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice be not defiled; For this is that which was spoken by the Lord, ‘In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great king,’ saith the Lord, ‘and my name is wonderful among the heathen.’”2

Here the connection between the Eucharist and sacrifice is not entirely clear.3 A ritual that is utterly at odds with the Temple cult, the Eucharist—or certain components thereof—is nonetheless designated as a sacrifice. It seems as though the preliminary confessional prayer is described (p.292) metaphorically as a sacrifice as well.4 This equation of the Eucharist, including the Eucharistic prayer, with sacrifice somewhat resembles the substitution of sacrifice with prayer in the Qumranic Community Rule, the Damascus Document, and the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifices. There is, however, a notable difference in this case: Unlike the Community Rule and the Damascus Document, the Didache does not directly discredit sacrifice by arguing for the superiority of prayer;5 rather, it simply uses sacrifices as a conceptual model for the Christian rite.

Assuming that the Didache was composed no earlier than the end of the first century or very beginning of the second, when the Temple cult no longer existed, its equation of a community rite with sacrifice should not necessarily be seen as “anti-sacrificial.” Indeed, it is hardly different from the rabbinical substitution of sacrifice with prayer.6

Didache 13:3 also alludes to the priestly system, instructing readers to give “the firstfruit,” including the produce of the winepress, the floor, and the oxen and sheep, to “the prophets, for they are your high priests.” Here one finds an appropriation of the biblical priestly dues and even an appropriation of the traditional Temple priesthood in the service of establishing a new type of priesthood for the Christian community. A central component of Jewish traditional life is followed but at the same time transformed: By receiving the first fruits the community’s religious leaders are acknowledged, implicitly, as taking the place of the Temple priests.

1 Clement, the letter of Clement of Rome to Corinth (usually dated circa 100 CE), also contains interesting allusions to the Temple cult. Clement declares that Jesus Christ is “the high priest of our offerings” (1 Clem 36.1, following Hebrews). Yet despite this high priestly Christology, the author expresses deep respect and appreciation for the Temple cult. He says that the priests and the Levites, who serve at God’s altar, are the greatest gifts of God—along with Jesus, the kings of Judah, etc. He also acknowledges their roles and service, including that of the high priest (32; 40.5). He mentions the command to celebrate sacrifices in their fixed times and hours, lists the various types of sacrifices, and stresses that they may be offered only in Jerusalem and inspected only by the high priest and the ministers (40.1; 41.2). Significantly, all of this is stated in the present tense, as if Clement were writing in pre-70 Jerusalem.7

At first blush it is difficult to understand why these details are relevant to a Christian leader writing in Rome a generation after the destruction of the Temple, as if nothing had changed. One possible reason is that Clement (p.293) draws an analogy from the priestly offerings and their rules to the church order in relation to offerings and ministrations (41.1). The cult serves as an excellent ready-made model of rules and ordinance granted by God. Indeed, 1 Clement offers an extremely important proof of early-Christian devotion to the sacrificial cult even after 70 CE. Moreover, for Clement, the belief that Christ is the high priest of the Christians’ offerings (whatever that might mean) need not contradict the traditional role of the sacrificial system. Clement manages to have it both ways.

Sacrifice imagery is also used by Ignatius of Antioch (writing at the beginning of the second century), who refers to the Eucharist as an “altar.”8 More straightforward identifications of the Eucharist with sacrifice are found in later sources. Justin Martyr (mid-second century) designated the Eucharistic prayers and thanksgivings as sacrifices,9 while Cyprian of Carthage (also mid-second century) develops further the understanding of the Eucharist as a continuation of that concept which began with sacrifice. For Cyprian, the Eucharist is not the sacrifice of the priest or of the congregation but “the sacrifice(s) of God.” He understands “sacrifice” as the consecrated elements that are themselves bound to Jesus’s passion, as opposed to the action performed by a pastor in the rite. Hence the sacrificed body and blood of Jesus are sacramentally united with the consecrated bread and wine.10 It seems that a full equation of the Eucharist rite with sacrifice is attested to only later, in the fourth century.11

In Ignatius of Antioch, the entirety of Christian worship is designated the Temple cult. The Christians, he announces, should come together “as to one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ.” For Ignatius, the altar symbolizes unity in the service of God (cf. 1 Cor 10:18). Yet it is not clear whether the text’s Temple metaphors pertain to Christ himself, to the assembly, or to the activity of the assembly.12 Irenaeus of Lyons (late second century) stated that the Christians offer a sacrifice of their own—the “real” one—without defining what exactly this sacrifice is. He also defined the church order as a sacrifice.13

Indeed, sacrifice, altar, and Temple become the model of some early Christian authors’ conception of piety. Barnabas (early second century) writes, “Let us be spiritual, let us be a temple consecrated to God,” while maintaining that “the habitation of our hearts is a shrine holy to the Lord.”14 Such a “spiritualization” of sacrifice can also be found in later texts. Clement of Alexandria (early third century), for example, stressed that the righteous soul is the truly sacred altar, and the incense rising from it a holy (p.294) prayer.15 Clement even goes so far as to explain the meaning of sacrifice in a symbolic manner: “The sacrifice of the Law expressed figuratively the piety we practice, and the turtle-dove and the pigeon offered for sins point out that the cleansing of the irrational part of the soul is acceptable to God.”16 Irenaeus of Lyons conceptualized the oblation of the church as pure sacrifices.17 More specific allusions to Christian worship as sacrifice, such as prayer (following Hos 14:3 and Ps 69:30–21), appear in the early third century. For instance, according to Origen (early third century), one offers unbloody sacrifices by means of his prayers to God.18

Interestingly, early-Christian writers considered martyrdom a sacrifice, most likely because Christ’s own death was understood as such. Ignatius of Antioch describes the martyr’s execution as a libation to God poured out on the altar,19 and Polycarp of Smyrna (mid-second century) also uses a sacrificial metaphor for describing his own wishful execution “like a noble ram out of a great flock for an offering, a burnt sacrifice made ready and acceptable to God.”20 Less bluntly, Origen in his Exhortation to Martyrdom 30 defines martyrdom as a means of achieving forgiveness. Notably, the idea of death as atonement is also found in rabbinic Judaism from the mid-second century.21

Christian writers also used architectural Temple imagery as a means of creating a distinctive theology. The gospel of Philip, to give one outstanding example, provides spiritual explanation of the Temple’s chambers: The three buildings/ chambers in the Jerusalem Temple stand for three concepts in Christianity: baptism, redemption, and the sacrament of the bridal chamber.22

Apocryphal legends about Jesus and his relatives also feature a Temple setting, like those of the Lucan Infancy Narrative. In the Acts of Thomas 79 (early third century), Jesus the child spends time at the Temple and even participates in the offering of sacrifices. In the Protoevangelium of James (late second or early third century), the author refers repeatedly to the Temple and to Jewish ritual practice (especially that of purity; hence the special chamber that Anna prepares for her infant daughter to protect the young Mary against the taint of impurity). Here Mary and her parents are undeniably observant Jews.23 The book begins with Joachim, Mary’s father, offering sacrifices meant to atone for his own sins as well as for those of Israel (Prot. Jas. 1:1–3). Later, Mary is granted permission to live in the Temple and play at the altar (Prot. Jas. 7:9). Having conceived Jesus, she herself becomes a kind of Temple. She is, we might say, a symbolic sacrifice—not because she replaces the ritual but because, on the contrary, (p.295) the authors valued its goal and function.24 For our purposes, it is important to note that ritual purity and Temple piety were used to underscore Mary’s holiness and her worthiness as the mother of the Messiah.25

Replacing Sacrifice

Several early-Christian authors present rites and doctrines as direct substitutions for the sacrificial cult. Barnabas stresses that Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins (7:3c) and implies that Jesus served as such a sacrifice when referring to the sprinkling of his blood for purification (“The Lord endured to deliver up his flesh to corruption, that we should be sanctified by the remission of sin, that is, by his sprinkled blood,” 5:1).

Barnabas 7 creates a link between Jesus’s death and the Day of Atonement. The priests’ eating of the flesh of the goat (Num 29:11) parallels the Eucharist, which itself equates Jesus’s death to a sin offering, like that made on the Day of Atonement. Eating the Eucharist also distinguishes Christians, who do not fast, from Jews. Later in the same chapter the author identifies Jesus with the scapegoat and the goat of the sin offering. He contends that Jesus suffered like the scapegoat and was similarly cursed (on the cross).26 Jesus is identified not only with the scapegoat of the Day of Atonement but also with the red heifer that purifies the people “from the sins” (8:1–5).27 Undoubtedly, Barnabas strives to show that everything in the Jewish Scriptures, if read properly, points to Jesus.

Justin Martyr introduces several replacements for the rite of sacrifice. He stresses that God does not seek blood and libations and incense; instead, prayer, thanksgiving, and hymns are more appropriate substitutions.28 When, according to Justin Martyr, the prophets speak of blood sacrifices or libations presented at the altar at the End of Days (which Justin understands as Christ’s Second Advent), they actually refer to authentic spiritual praise (Dial. 118.2).

Christ’s blood, Justin writes, replaces the purification previously achieved by sacrifices (either by the blood of goats and sheep, the ashes of the heifer, or the offerings of fine flour),29 since Christ was the eternal priest. He adds that the twelve bells attached to the robe of the high priest symbolize the twelve apostles, who depend on the power of Christ, and that the Christians are the true high priestly race of God.30 Justin Martyr goes even further, suggesting that the Passover lamb symbolizes Christ, while the two he-goats of the Day of Atonement symbolize his two appearances, since Christ was the offering for all sinners willing to repent.31

(p.296) Irenaeus of Lyons also argues that God wants not sacrifices but faith, obedience, and righteousness. He insists that prayer is equivalent to the offering of incense32 and that the true sacrifice is observance of church ritual.33 Clement of Alexandria similarly rejects sacrifice, arguing that true sacrifice is prayer and that the practice of sacrifice should be “spiritualized” following Ps 51:19. According to Clement, just as Jesus sacrificed himself for his believers, the believers must also sacrifice themselves: “We glorify Him who gave Himself in sacrifice for us, we also sacrificing ourselves.”34 While the idea that Christ is a sacrifice offered each day anew prevails in later Christianity,35 rarely do we find the notion that baptism may replace sacrifices, as in the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions.36

The Church Fathers were not the only ones seeking substitutions for sacrifices. Following the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE and the cessation of Jewish sacrifice, the rabbis also developed their own substitutes, such as the concepts of mercy or social justice, prayer, and Torah study.37 Nonetheless, the need felt by second-century Christians to develop these replacements—and to find justification for them in Scripture—is curious. Guy Stroumsa concludes from this phenomenon that early Christianity is undeniably a sacrifice-centered religion, even if the idea of sacrifice is being reinterpreted. The Christian Anamnesis, he contends, is the reactivation of the sacrifice of the Son of God, performed by the priests. The priests (not the sages) lead the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Sacrifice is thus reoffered perpetually.38

Anti-Temple Texts

Plenty of sources from the second to the fourth century reject and resist sacrifice, thus denying the validity of the Jewish sacrificial cult. The author of the Epistle of Barnabas (2:6) for example, utterly rejects the practice of animal sacrifice, arguing that God “has made plain to us through all the Prophets that he needs neither sacrifices nor burnt-offerings nor oblations.”39 Barnabas argues that the relevant biblical commandments related to sacrifices should be read allegorically, since God annulled sacrifices in favor of the new law of Jesus Christ (16:1).

In chapter 16, Barnabas introduces a harsh polemic against the Jerusalem Temple, calling the very notion that God would dwell in a building made by human hands absurd (“the wretched men erred by putting their hope on the building, and not on the God who made them, and is the true house of God,” 16.1, recalling Stephen’s speech). He even equates the Jewish (p.297) Temple with pagan temples (16:2) and argues that the true Temple is not the building, which was rightly destroyed, but the body of the Christian believer.40

Most interesting is Barnabas’s mockery (16:3–5) of the attempt to rebuild the Temple out of a mistaken belief that God seeks animal sacrifices: “That is happening now. For owing to the war it was destroyed by the enemy; at present even the servants of the enemy will build it up again” (16:4). The author’s goal is to show that a transposition has taken place, from a literal Temple that was (in his opinion, rightfully) destroyed to a spiritual Temple that should be understood in Christian terms. The ideas of the remission of sin, of hope in the Name, and of the New Creation in which God dwells (16:8–9) all demonstrate that Barnabas is in fact describing a Christian replacement for the destroyed Temple.41

Many scholars realize that Barnabas was reacting to both Jewish and Roman plans to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple. His quotation of Isa 49:17 LXX (Barn. 16:5), for example, addresses the rebuilding of the Temple by those who demolished it, that is, the Romans. Peter Richardson and Martin Shukster argue that it relates to the reign of the Roman emperor Nerva (96–98 CE), known for having eased life for the Jews by modifying the fiscus Iudaicus, or Jewish tax.42

Justin Martyr refuted the Jewish Temple cult on several grounds. First, he declares that God neither needs nor wants sacrifices.43 Curiously, he offers up an explanation for why sacrifices are commanded in the Torah to begin with: God, he says, commanded them on account of the sins of the Israelites, particularly that of idolatry. Since they made for themselves a golden calf in the wilderness and worshiped other idols, God instructed them to offer sacrifices in His name in order that they not serve idols.44 This radical argument is also found in later rabbinic sources, attributed to R. Ishmael and R. Levi. It is possible that this view was accepted among some portion of the second-century rabbinic establishment as well, perhaps as a response to the destruction of the Temple.45

Second, Justin stresses that God did not need the Temple in Jerusalem as his house or court; on the contrary, the purpose of the Temple is to ensure that the Jews refrain from worshiping idols. Justin goes so far as to argue that the angels defied God when they taught the Israelites to offer sacrifices, incense, and libations.46 Another reason posited for the rejection of sacrifices in the Temple, this one made by the priests, is that the Jews desecrate God’s name.47 For Justin, the destruction of the Temple is (p.298) a divine punishment meted out to the Jews.48 The rejection of the act of sacrifice and of the earthly Temple set the stage for Justin’s creed: With the birth of Christ, God nullified the commandments—including sacrifices (Dial. 43.1).

Iranaeus of Lyon argues generally that God does not need the material offerings of men, but rather temperance, righteousness, and love of man for his fellow human being.49 Clement of Alexandria takes a similar approach, maintaining that animal sacrifices are meant to serve merely as an allegory and that God never intended for them to be carried out. Rather, it is Christian prayers that are the best “sacrifices” of all.50 Clement also boasts that Christianity effectively put an end to animal sacrifice.51 Tertullian (early third century) mentions that sacrifice has become obsolete now that prayer—the “true” sacrifice—has taken its place. Like Justin, he contends that God never wanted sacrifices in the first place; it was only when the Israelites were prone to idolatry and transgression that God used sacrifices as a ritual means of establishing their connection.52

The Pseudo-Clementine collections of the Homilies and Recognitions (fourth century, based on earlier sources) adopt an extremely hostile approach to the Temple cult,53 declaring the end of the Temple and sacrifices and insisting that God is not at all pleased by sacrifices.54 The author/ collector of Recognitions points to Moses’s prophecy in the wilderness to argue that sacrifices were necessary only in order to prevent the Israelites from worshiping idols; that is to say, there was no longer any need of sacrifices when the Law was given to Israel.55 In fact, Moses told the Israelites that a prophet will arise who will notify them that God desires kindness, not sacrifices (Recog. 1.37.1). Moses explained that in the future the Israelites will cease to sacrifice, and baptism will henceforth take its place as a means of securing atonement (Recog. 1.39.1–2). Despite his warning, the author adds, the Israelite tyrants abolished the very place that had been predestinated as a house of prayer in preference for a Temple (Recog. 1.38.5). The author also claims that the tearing of the Temple veil was a sign of the coming destruction (Recog. 1.41.3)

In Recognitions, the debate over the Temple and its cult is dramatized through a clash between Peter and James and the Temple’s Jewish high priests. While the high priest praises sacrifices and objects to baptism (1.55), Peter argues that the time of sacrifices has already expired; since the Jews do not recognize this truth, the Temple will be destroyed (1.64.1–2; 1.65.1). There follows a public debate in the Temple, attended by James and others (p.299) who have come to visit.56 All this may owe its origins to a Jewish-Christian source from around 200 CE.57

Strikingly, despite his anti-Temple stance, the author had a deep familiarity with priestly matters, including the laws of purity, anointing oil, etc. (Recog. 1.46–48; 1.51.1). In fact, the Pseudo-Clementines were probably law-abiding Jewish-Christians, whose polemic against sacrifices is pursued apart from any broader denigration of Jewish Torah observance.58

Epiphanius mentions that in the gospel of the Ebionites Christ said, “I came to do away with sacrifices, and if you cease not sacrificing, the wrath of God will not cease from you.”59 Here too, the rejection of sacrifices does not stem from a rejection of the Law.60 In addition, some so-called Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi express a critical stance toward sacrifices and relate to Jesus’s death as a sacrifice as well. For example, in The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, Jesus is described as ripping the Temple veil with his own hands.61

Conclusions: Why do Later Christians Reject the Temple and Sacrifices?

We are now in a position to compare the evidence offered by second-and third-century Christians to the findings presented in the previous chapters of this book. Interestingly, some of the Temple and sacrificial imagery found in the NT texts are also used by later Christian authors: sacrificial imagery of the Eucharist, the Temple as a paradigm of religious piety, the symbolism of the altar, and the ritual observance of laws pertaining to the Temple cult.

In contrast, the rejection of the efficacy of sacrifices—found in the NT, although with substantial reservations, only in Hebrews and hinted at in relation to the End of Days in Revelation—became prevalent only in the second and third centuries. An outright denial of the theoretical validity of sacrifice is nowhere to be found in the NT. Moreover, substitutes for the cult are discussed almost exclusively in the gospel of John and Hebrews. Prayer and the Eucharist as substitutions for sacrifice are not attested in the NT at all, at least not explicitly.

Strikingly, Temple and sacrificial themes continue to occupy the mind of second- and third-century Christians despite the destruction of the Temple and attendant cessation of sacrificial practice among Jews in 70 CE. Although early-Christian polemicists argue against the Jews, the Temple, and sacrifices, they continue to use Temple and cultic imagery when drawing (p.300) the contours of their religious world.62 Notably, the very same Apostolic Fathers and writers who reject sacrifices altogether also attempt to find a replacement for the sacrificial cult; many of them use Temple metaphors or analogies for their own conceptions of worship. Sacrifice, the altar, and the Temple, all of which are presented as models of religious piety in Paul’s letters, continue to serve the same functions in the writings of Barnabas, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, and Origen.63

At first blush it appears as though these authors attempt to resist the idea of sacrifice and its ritual world. On the one hand, they are drawn to them, seeing in them the ultimate expression of devotion to God. Christ, the Eucharist, prayer, and communal togetherness should, they insist, be modeled after sacrificial concepts and practices or even serve as replacements for sacrifices. On the other hand, almost all these authors deny both the necessity and validity of animal sacrifice according to Jewish Law (even though, postdestruction, this was no longer a practical option in any case).

I can think of two general reasons for this attraction–rejection dynamic. First, Gentile Christians writing for non-Jewish readers feel it necessary to address the general concept of sacrifice in order to deny their supposed inclination toward pagan cults. Gentile Christians, especially the newly baptized novices, likely miss the (pagan) sacrificial milieu. Their leaders, anxious to chase away the pagan ghosts, set out an alternative: concepts and rites that would themselves be treated as sacrifices, in place of their progenitors.

Second, for those who write in a Jewish setting, such as Barnabas, Justin, and the Pseudo-Clementines, there is a very real sense that the Jewish idea of sacrifice—which Jews still very much regard as the ultimate means of serving God—needed to be refuted. To show that Christianity had indeed superseded Judaism, sacrifices had to be discredited and alternative rites preferred. In the general theological struggle between Christianity and Judaism, sacrifices are a veritable battlefield, demonstrated by the fact that even Christian Jews who observe the Law (e.g., Ebionites and Pseudo-Clementines) feel it necessary to reject the Temple cult and to insist that their own concept of sacrifice reigned supreme. The post-70 CE reality of Judaism-sans-Temple grants them an advantage; for them, a religion without sacrifices—by all measures an innovation—is not, as is the case for the Jews, the result of political restraints. Rather, it was a matter of principle and choice.

Nonetheless, I suspect a theology based on the rejection of sacrifice could truly have come into being had the Temple not been razed by Titus. (p.301) This leads to a crucial question: Is the rejection of the sacrificial cult not in truth the “natural” and inherent result of the belief in Christ’s sacrifice? Two points lead me to answer this in the negative. First, two of the earliest Christian writings not included in the NT, Didache and 1 Clement, do not express a rejection of the Temple and its sacrificial cult. Didache introduces sacrificial analogies as they relate to the Eucharist prayer and the giving of the first fruits to the priest, while 1 Clement expresses admiration for the sacrificial system, albeit with Jesus in the role of high priest. I believe that the reason for their lack of censure toward—indeed, for their embrace of—the Temple cult lies in their not yet having adjusted to Judaism without a Temple.

Second, the multiple analogies to sacrifices found in later sources demonstrate that the positive view of sacrifices found in various NT texts still hold sway in Christians’ minds during the second and third centuries. After all, if the Temple and the sacrificial cult are superfluous and inherently idolatrous, why use them as a foundation on which to build the doctrines of Christology, Eucharist, and prayer?64

For Barnabas, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and others, sacrifices became a kind of boundary separating Christians from both pagans and Jews. Their rejection of the Jewish sacrificial cult is primarily the result of (among other things) social and political factors.65 As 1 Clement proves, it is far from essential to set the belief in Christ in opposition to devotion to the Jerusalem Temple. Yet the Temple’s destruction grants second- and third-century Christians an unprecedented opportunity: They can rid themselves of reliance on the Temple and the sacrificial cult in favor of advancing religious independence. In fact, recent studies by Judith Lieu and Daniel Boyarin conclude that second-century Christian texts portray “the Jews” as the Other, or the counterimage of the Christians, in order to affirm Christians’ own identity and legitimize their separate existence.66

My intention in making this claim is to shed new light on the NT evidence. Specifically, I argue that one cannot draw conclusions about early Christians’ relationship to the Temple on the basis of the critical and polemical perspective of the Apostolic Fathers. They live in a very different political, social, and religious reality from the first-century Christians and have their own, very different, reasons for relating to the Temple as they did.

What we do not find in the second- and third-century texts surveyed above (although this is a very partial survey) is also instructive. Whereas (p.302) many NT scholars find in the gospels and the epistles evidence for the identification of Jesus as the new or eschatological Temple, I cannot find support for their claim in these later texts. Indeed, this idea is not nearly as prevalent as some scholars would assume. For instance, the notion of “the Temple Jesus body” (John 2:21) or Jesus as “greater than the Temple” (Matt 12:6) do seem to appeal to the Apostolic Fathers, but they hardly refer to them. These later authors primarily discuss the concept of sacrifice, as opposed to the Temple, which is contrary to the emphasis in the gospels and Revelation (although Paul uses both).

It is interesting that the characterization of key Christian symbols as sacrificial in both nature and purpose developed gradually: The Eucharist, for example, is only hesitatingly associated with sacrifice; at first, it is only the Eucharistic prayer or confession that is considered sacrificial. Christ, too, is compared to a sacrifice less often than one might expect, and baptism was very rarely regarded as sacrifice, despite its primary value of atonement. Indeed, the appropriation of sacrificial metaphors for Christian rites and beliefs is more complex than Paul’s straightforward cultic metaphors would have us believe. Perhaps this is because, as I argued in chapter 2, Paul viewed it mainly a matter of rhetoric, whereas Justin, Clement of Alexandria, and others sought to formulate all-encompassing substitutes for the sacrificial offering. It is easy to say that prayer stood in for sacrifice, since this model is grounded in Psalms and Hosea. But arguing, as many do, that the Eucharist is a type of sacrificial rite is far more difficult. What part of this Christian rite is a natural match for the sacrifice of an animal?

I stress here that the post-NT authors’ rejection of the Temple cult was not a natural outgrowth of earlier NT themes or of the interpretation of the gospels. It seems that the Christians of the second and third centuries rarely based their arguments on NT passages. Rather, they more often relied on the prophetic critique of the necessity of sacrifices (esp. Isa 1:11–14; Mal 1:10), a critique that is almost absent in the NT itself.

Ritual Interpretation of the Symbolism of Temple and Sacrifice

The rest of this chapter addresses the meaning and intentions of the NT authors as regards the major themes of the previous chapters. By “meaning” I refer to the perceptions that underlie or guide the authors’ claims, and by “intentions” I refer to the more concrete messages directed at their readers.

(p.303) The main question I seek to address is, Why is the Temple so central to the gospels, Hebrews, Revelation, and Paul? This question is relevant to those texts written after 70 CE, when Jews necessarily had to find substitutions for the sacrificial cult and one would naturally expect less interest in the Temple. The question is equally relevant to Paul and Mark, who write before the destruction. Indeed, one would expect that they would have attempted to forge an innovative, independent religiosity. It would be wrong to take for granted the idea that because the gospels describe, time and again, Jesus’s acts and teachings in the Temple, the Temple is his focus or the basis of his activity in Jerusalem. We would also miss the point if we failed to consider why Temple imagery is so abundant and potent in Paul’s letters and in Revelation, and why Hebrews chooses the high priest as a model for Christ.

By assessing the function of the Temple in NT discourse in light of ritual and other social-scientific models as well as from the perspective of critical theory, I hope to hone the previous chapters into a more concrete thesis. I also hope to analyze what interests and intentions lie beyond these authors’ discourse about the Temple, in an effort to understand why they have the Temple play such a major role in their messages.

The Temple as a “Key Symbol”

My sociocultural perspective on the multiple uses of the theme of the Temple in the NT follows Sherry Ortner’s modeling of “key symbols.” The Temple (and the Temple cult) appears in different contexts that together form a “cultural elaboration.” In other words, the authors of these texts show a particular interest in the subject. It can therefore be termed, following Ortner, a “key symbol” and analyzed accordingly. The Temple serves as a means not merely of summarizing ideas of sacredness and identity (as it does for ordinary Jews), but also of teasing out complexities and rendering them comprehensible, what Ortner deemed an “elaborating symbol.”

The Temple-related themes provided a context in which to make sense of the early Christian experience. In addition, they elaborated religious authority. As a key symbol, or central component of early Christian culture, the Temple provides “orientations,” that is, cognitive and affective categories, as well as “strategies,” or programs of social action in relation to culturally defined goals.67

Paul uses the Temple cult as a root metaphor. A root metaphor establishes a certain view of the world and suggests an appropriate means of acting within it.68 Jesus’s visits to the Temple may be regarded as such a root (p.304) metaphor, along with Ortner’s “key-scenario,” which provides strategies for organizing action experience. Jesus’s visits provide a mode of action for successful existence within a culture.69 For the early Christians, that culture necessarily involved social encounters with non-Christian Jews.

Why does the Temple become such a key? To begin with, the Temple had a broad reach, holding an important cultural meaning for a range of diverse cultural groups. Moreover, the meaning it held for those groups was far more fundamental than were other types of meaning; its content was prior, logically and affectively, to other meanings within the relevant cultural systems.70 We know for certain that the Temple held pride of place in Jewish society and culture, and it is now clear that the early Christians, as members of this same society and culture, also looked to the Temple as a central pillar of their identity.

Temple and Sacrifice as Metaphors

A metaphor is a translation of experience from one domain to another, effectively extending the experience. It can even become a plan for ritual behavior or a means of organizing the ritual.71 Metaphors are translated into actions and become realized by behavior, mainly through the ritual performance they describe.72 A ritual, then, is actually a series of metaphors made manifest through ceremonial rites. This understanding can illuminate the ritual of Eucharist, as established (according to the gospels) by Jesus and practiced as early as the days of Paul. The metaphor of eating Jesus’s flesh and drinking his blood is akin to the experience of Jesus as sacrifice. It is an organizing metaphor, since “becoming” the body of Christ depends upon a ceremonial act.73 The sacrificial imagery is intended to create the religious experience and shape the relationship between Jesus and the believer.

Of the cultic metaphors used by Paul and 1 Peter, the most common is that of the community as Temple. In the lexicon of critical theory, this comparison is a type of conceptual metaphor, in which the religious experience of the believers relies on the cult. It is a general mental construction that involves many mappings:74 the Christian community as a Temple or sacrifice (or merely fragrance aroma); Jesus as a sin offering, a Paschal lamb or a kaporet; and Paul himself as both a priest or a libation on the altar.

Paul shapes Christian religiosity by using the Temple and its cult as a foundational conceptual metaphor. He organizes extensive portions of experience in light of the Temple and with an aim toward creating more specific metaphors, such as the Christian community as Temple.75 Usually (p.305) these mappings have overarching principles.76 An example is 1 Pet 2:5, which creates a holistic metaphoric system of spiritual Temples, priests, and sacrifices. However, in Paul’s letters there are no similar overarching principles to which I can point. On the contrary, Paul uses distinct metaphors, each of which stands entirely on its own.

Nonetheless, Paul’s use of so many Temple and cultic metaphors creates an atmosphere of sacred ritual; mundane elements of daily behavior are elevated to the realm of the holy. This is so because metaphors project from the concrete to the abstract.77 Regardless of whether a given metaphor concerns the community or Jesus, readers are encouraged to feel that they, too, are taking part in a Temple experience. Indeed, the result is an atmosphere not only of sacredness but also of religious action: Readers are told that their very belief creates a sense of holiness. Paul thus succeeds in transforming passive ideas into a sense of performance.

The metaphorical meaning of the Temple cult leads us to the concept of ritual. In order to show how Temple discourse helps to shape the early Christians’ self-understanding as both a Jewish and a New Religious Movement,78 I will analyze it by means of the ritual-studies model.

Applying Ritual to Text

Every text has a certain effect on its reader. The plot and message touch the reader, alter his or her mind, and sometimes even move him or her to action.79 Texts may be grasped as cultural entities with real, tangible influence in the world. They serve as guides to action, addressing readers’ realities of power and authority.80 It is even possible to treat certain religious texts as rituals, as they offer their readers an original liturgical celebration, a substitute locus of ritual worship and an intimate knowledge of and access to the divine.81

I want to define my terms. What, precisely, do I mean by “ritual,” and why does the definition matter? In general, ritual is understood as a “rule-governed activity of a symbolic character which draws the attention of its participants to objects of thought and feeling which they hold to be of special significance.”82 Ritual creates mental states, simultaneously expressing and developing a sense of dependence on a moral or spiritual power thought to transcend the realm of the human.83 It enacts, materializes, or performs a system of symbols. In terms of religion, ritual is a “consecrated behavior”: In its ceremonial form, such as the recitation of a myth, ritual performs and objectifies religious beliefs.84 In this understanding, ritual (p.306) correlates the individual’s internal feelings and imaginative concepts to cultural symbols and accepted social action.85

The NT gospels, epistles, and Revelation are not in themselves rituals. Nonetheless, they can be treated as myths, since they each make extensive use of ritual themes: the Temple as idea and symbol; Jesus’s visits to the Temple; and sacrifice. Indeed, to better our understanding of NT Temple discourse, we need first to appreciate the connection between myth and ritual.86 In a sense, we might call the NT passages discussed in this book myths about rituals, since the act of reading the literary treatment of the Temple and its cult operates like a ritual: It transmits the symbolism of the ritual realm and of the consecrated behavior. The reader thinks about the Temple and sacrifices in relation to Jesus or his followers instead of acting in it. Take, for example, the recitation of the order of the high priest’s service on the Day of Atonement in the Temple in post-Talmudic ceremonial prayer (the seder ‘avoda), which Michael Swartz calls “ritual about myth about ritual.” First there was the actual historical rite of the high priest, which was developed into a myth and later recited and reenacted in the minds of the worshipers as a ritual unto itself.87 In the case of the NT, even if such a rite were only recalled, reread, and discussed (that is, absent the development of a secondary, contemporary ritual ceremony to commemorate it), the ritual concept and symbolism were still transferred to the reader. Like the postrabbinic seder ‘avoda, the NT Temple discourse recapitulates a historical event by means of ritual recognition or the verbal recounting of its specific components.

The Experience of the Sacred

Literary engagement with the Temple was a way for NT authors to create a religious experience for their readers, one that is analogical to participating in the Temple rites themselves. It is, we might say, their way of playing to their audience or nurturing the cult. Almost any ritual, after all, is a process and an act that heralds change and contains an efficacy all its own.88

The general experience relates to two major themes—the holy place itself and the interaction with God that takes place there—that recur throughout the NT. The Temple is holy first and foremost because of its location. For Jews, the Temple Mount is the closest place to God. It is the cosmic axis mundi, where heaven and earth meet and the divine presence dwells.89 The Temple also calls to mind the ritual offerings made to God, (p.307) of both the public and private type. Even if these sacrifices are rarely mentioned in the NT Temple discourse—they are missing, for instance, in the descriptions of Jesus’s visits to the Temple—they are certainly present in the authors’ and readers’ minds and understood as the very essence of the Temple’s existence.

The general purpose of sacrifice, if we recall Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss, relates to the presence of the divine. The act of offering a sacrifice alters the condition of the person who brings it, transforming both his status and that of his offering from profane to sacred. Sacrifice, then, mediates between the profane and the sacred or the “spirit” or holiness released from the offering to the divine realm.90 These aspects of religious experience were certainly understood by Christians, even if they did not see themselves as part of the Jewish congregation; they could still relate to the ritual idea of sacrifice in a theoretical or imaginary manner.

Ritual performance—even of the literary sort—operates quite effectively on the self. Ritual is a strategy for applying metaphors to individuals’ sense of reality, for moving them emotionally, and for provoking a religious experience of empowerment, energy, and euphoria.91 Clifford Geertz famously argued that religious performances provide not only models of belief but also models for believing. And indeed, ritual performance induces a set of moods and motivations (i.e., an ethos) and defines a cosmic order or worldview by means of a single set of symbols.92

There is no doubt that the meaning and symbolism of the Temple and sacrifice shape the mind of the early Christians. Their idea of the sacred—namely, approaching God’s presence—is modeled according to the experience of ritual performance. The early-Christian idea of the holy is, in a sense, evoked by the Temple and its cult: The Temple and sacrifice are models for the experience of the sacred.

For the NT authors, the Temple theme has positive, fundamental religious value. But what was the meaning of this value? What interests does it serve, what goals does it aim to achieve? If ritual is a process that reflects symbolism, what exactly does it symbolize? I shall now turn to an interpretation of the intentions of the ritual experience of Paul and the authors of the gospels, Hebrews, and Revelation, with an eye toward determining what ideas and social functions these texts aimed to promote, and how the Temple discourse advances social processes within the early-Christian communities.

(p.308) Connecting to the Lost Center of Judaism

One of the characteristics of ritual is its contribution to religious imagination. According to Geertz, “In a ritual, the world as lived and the world as imagined, fused under the agency of a single set of symbolic forms, turn out to be the same world.” For Jonathan Z. Smith, ritual adjusts to reality when it reflects on what is and what ought to be and focuses on what is significant in real life.93 In the gospels, what is imagined and idealized is that Jesus acts and teaches at the Temple with his disciples. In these narratives the early Christians visualize free access to the Temple. Rarely does Jesus speak about the coming destruction, and in most cases the Temple is simply a setting for his other teachings. By creating this ritual background, the texts’ authors and readers can imagine that they themselves are still participating in the Temple cult, even though the Temple no longer stands. The Temple setting provides them with an atmosphere of sacredness and closeness to God, just as if Jesus and his followers were still attending it.

This “symbolic attendance” at the Temple provided by the gospels serves a significant social function: compensation for the very real distance from the Temple. The early Christians’ exclusion from the Temple is in fact double: First, like the rest of the Jews, the early Christians shared in the loss of the Temple in 70 CE; even if they believed it justified, they too lamented its destruction. Second, according to Acts, they were not welcome in the Temple prior to 70 CE. Peter’s and the apostles’ teachings there lead to their persecution and (according to my interpretation of later traditions) perhaps also that of James. Many others simply live far away but still look to the Temple and its cult for religious grounding and inspiration. Imagining proximity to the center of Judaism granted early Christianity legitimation as a Jewish movement, allowing it to share in the core of the Jewish religion (namely, a system of shared beliefs and practices) and cult.94

This analysis answers the question of why the four evangelists described, in great detail, Jesus spending time at the already (or nearly) destroyed Temple. Indeed, far from detaching themselves from the Temple, these authors stress Jesus’s relation to it, outlining an intense, complex attachment to the Temple that is a mixture of belief in its centrality to the relationship with God and critique of the Jewish leadership’s use of the Temple as a means of gaining social power. In the gospels Jesus reflects this early-Christian position toward the Temple, and the evangelists seek a connection to this sacred heart of Judaism in order both to manifest their Jewishness and to approach God. Even a generation after its destruction, it (p.309) would seem, the Temple remains for them a marker and a symbol of Jewish identity and closeness to the divine.

Anthropologists claim that ritual is the symbolic enactment of social relations.95 They believe it regulates the relationship of one human community to another, much like drawing a map of a given society. We may apply this same approach to the Temple narratives in the NT. The descriptions of attending the Temple in the gospels and Acts in effect map out their authors’ relations with the main forces in Jewish society. The narratives of visits to the Temple show that the early Christians wish to stay within the bounds of Jewish society, even if powerful Jewish leaders sought to push them outside of it. The conflicts surrounding Jesus and the apostles in and around the Temple symbolized the early Christian struggle to remain within the Jewish realm. In short, the Temple narratives in the gospels and Acts are an act of belonging to Judaism.

Gaining Ritual Power

One of the social functions of ritual is the production of social power or relationships of power.96 Ritual exercises power, pointing to the center of authority in society. How does it do so? For starters, ritual plays a cognitive role, rendering intelligible social relationships and serving to organize both people’s knowledge of the past and present and their capacity to imagine the future. It helps to define as authoritative certain ways of seeing society and specifies what in society is of special significance.97 Ritual provides institutional legitimation when it unites a particular image of the universe with a strong emotional attachment to that image or symbol.98

When the NT authors incorporate the Temple theme into their teachings and draw upon it in their messages, they are utilizing a very effective tool. Instead of neglecting the Temple cult or avoiding the problem of its loss, by granting it pride of place they harness it for the empowerment of their religious discourse.

Early Christianity is based on the new and radical ideas of Jesus as Christ and of the ability of Gentiles to participate in a Jewish religious movement. Christianity being an emergent religion, these ideas made it vulnerable to criticism and attack by mainstream Judaism.99 Indeed, Paul, Luke, and John all mention that the early Christians were harassed, beaten, and banned from the synagogue. Jews rejected Christianity in theory and its followers in practice. Incorporating the theme of the Temple—albeit in various and alternate forms, such as descriptions of Jesus’s and the apostles’ (p.310) attendance; cultic metaphors; and the substitution of a heavenly Temple for the earthly one—therefore balanced the problematic new Christian belief system with more legitimate religious resources. In so doing, Christians not only showed continuity with their Jewish heritage but also shifted the potential ritual power from the Temple cult to the Christian community.

In relating to the Temple and the cult, NT authors argue that they, too, share the belief in the sacredness of the Temple. They too claim to attend the cult before 70, cherish its sacredness, and continue to share some of its characteristics in their daily life. They transfer its ritual power to the Eucharist, think of themselves as analogical to the Temple, and create a heavenly Temple where Christ (the Lamb) resides. Ironically, they seem to own or at least experience the Temple more than any other Jews after 70 CE!

According to Revelation and Hebrews and to lesser degree Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, to be a Christian means to have a stake in the Temple, to experience symbolically the Temple cult, and to benefit from the sacred power of proximity to God. The NT Temple discourse is the ultimate compensation for losing the actual Temple, first as Christians (who were barred from it or harassed by Jews into staying away) and then as Jews, when Titus demolished it in 70 CE. The NT Temple imagery also fills the void for Gentile Christians who turned away from pagan cults. Having sworn devotion to God alone, they, like almost every group in antiquity, needed a cultic center they could latch onto. Baptism and the Eucharist simply may not have sufficed to replace the idea of the Temple and sacrifice.

This idea of Temple discourse as empowerment is not intended simply as a means to conform early Christians to mainstream Judaism. As is the case with political rituals, the performance deflects the performer’s attention from dissenting elements in society. In so doing, it sometimes underlines the power of specific dominant groups within society and thus discloses social conflicts. Such rituals lead to the “mobilization of bias,” or the imposition of values and beliefs by a certain group onto another.100 In the present case, the ritual power of different types of Temple discourse is attributed to Jesus and the Christians alone. In the Pauline epistles and especially in Hebrews and Revelation, the Temple discourse actually marks the Christians out as different, closer to the sacred than others. Only believers are consecrated in their communities (Paul) or have a Temple in heaven (Revelation) or a heavenly high priest (Hebrews). In this way the early Christians transformed the symbol common to all Jews into a marker of their own.

(p.311) Despite conventional wisdom, this transformation is effected without condemning the Temple (although there is an expressed distaste for the chief priests, mainly in Mark). In the Pauline epistles, Hebrews, and Revelation the alternative Temple discourse is remarkably positive, using new and creative attributes, such as the idea of a holy community, of Christ as a sacrifice, and of a heavenly Temple, to build upon the shared basis of both Judaism and Christianity: the Temple as sacred center.

The gospels’ association of Jesus with the Temple offers its readers/ believers yet another important element: a sense of place, within which to locate Jesus and to situate their own religious imagery. Place, in this context, is not merely a matter of geography. It is, rather, a cultural category, where being is situated and memory is embedded.101 The NT authors and readers needed a setting for the narratives which contained Jesus in order that his person be clear and vivid in their minds. It is sometimes claimed that in Christianity the people of God become the place of God. Revelation is centered equally on the personality of Jesus, and Paul stresses the dwelling of the Holy Spirit within a community of believers. God is not bounded but encompasses everything.102 True, the gospels and Acts attest to an opposite process; indeed, in Paul’s letters, Revelation, and Hebrews the Temple is transformed from an earthly location into the community or relocated to heaven. Yet the centrality of the Temple as a concept in these texts also attests to the importance attached by their authors to physical location.

In-Group Social Solidarity and Integration

As is true of any ritual act, the power of cultic symbolism brings individuals together as a collective group. Ritual dramatizes collective representations in the course of communal experience.103 We see this in Paul’s presentation of the Eucharist and his use of cultic metaphor (such as the community-as-Temple), which seek to achieve communal integration and solidarity among the Corinthians. The cultic ideas set forth in Revelation can be approached from the same angle: Believers find shelter in the heavenly Temple, a fact that should encourage them during their tribulations.

Advancing Jesus’s Authority

Jesus’s activity in the Temple serves another purpose: He demonstrates his authority as a teacher and a leader in the most sacred of places—which, it is later understood, is also the most dangerous place for a Christian leader. (p.312) Positing Jesus in close relation to the Jewish ritual center associates him with the very source of power. Anthropological studies have shown that ritual creates hierarchical schemes.104 To achieve a certain office or rank, one must undergo a rite of incorporation into the new social status. During this rite, one must prove his commitment to the rite itself—namely, to something outside of himself. Thus is the accountability of the office built into the structure of ritual authority.105

This may explain why, time and again, the evangelists portray Jesus as behaving quite freely in the Temple (the climax being the “cleansing,” or the overturning of the tables), in a style that has led some scholars to suggest that Jesus sees himself as lord of the Temple, effectively taking possession of the place. The authors of the gospels try to give the reader a sense of Jesus’s authority by setting him in close proximity to the center of ritual power. In this way, they build his authority as a Jewish leader.

This approach may also apply to the Historical Jesus and the apostles: They all teach in the Temple as a means of acquiring public authority. Proximity to ritual associates them with the power of ritual. But if Jesus’s rank as a leader is integrated into the ritual system of the Temple, from the narrative perspective of the evangelists, Jesus identifies with “the system,” that is, the Temple cult (albeit with some reservations). This is because ritual, as we now know, is not a neutral production of cultural symbols but is formulated by social and political powers and interests.106 In coopting the cult’s ritual power, the gospels’ authors serve their own needs and oppose the dominant power of the Temple institutions that reject Jesus and his teachings.

Rituals Against the Temple Leadership

Rituals sometimes have a negative force, such as when they resist social power. In the so-called Rituals of Rebellion, for instance, we find a dispute about the distribution of power (not about the structure of the system itself). Such rituals give expression to existing social tensions, such as women who seek to assert themselves and princes who behave like kings. These rituals are a type of institutionally sanctioned protest that actually renews and entrenches the authority of “the system.” The rite offers an outlet for negative feelings (e.g., in relation to the king) but nonetheless confirms the supremacy of the institution as a whole.107

For example, when Jesus experiences rejection by the chief priests and the Pharisees, readers perceive his actions as something akin to ritual resistance. Jesus wants to share in the Temple’s ritual power but is not welcomed (p.313) by the authorities. His teachings there and above all the “cleansing,” fulfill the function of a ritual of rebellion, of the quest for authority in the sacred center. Nonetheless, his very attendance at the Temple demonstrates the early-Christian acknowledgment of the ritual system, namely, the Temple cult. This acknowledgment is underscored by the absence of an attack on the high priests’ legitimacy (that is, on their traditional role and status, not their moral behavior). Neither Jesus nor his followers seek to wrest control of the Temple away from the Jewish community; on the contrary, they simply want their share of it.

Conclusion: Ritual and Identity Formation

Early Christianity, like any religious system (especially new ones), needs to find expression in symbolic guise. The Temple cult and sacrifices provide a wellspring of powerful symbols that can be harnessed to achieve any number of aims and messages.

First-century early Christianity is a religious and social movement at the beginning of the process of identity formation. Its members have yet to determine who they are: what part of their identity is contiguous with Judaism and what part comprises all-new elements. During this process they undoubtedly look to other non-Christian Jews as a point of reference.108 Literary engagement with the Temple grants the NT writers and their contemporary readers the opportunity to express their debt to Jewish tradition, while at the same time their distinctiveness from it. Moreover, this engagement enhances their sense of being powerful, genuine, and sacred—that is, close to God. For them, the Temple is a means of experiencing the sacred in both old and new fashion, somewhere on the spectrum between what will later be termed “Judaism” and “Christianity.”


(1.) Compare Kirk and Thatcher 2005; Baker 2011. On how historical narrative builds group identity, see Liu and Lászlo 2007.

(2.) Translations of the Didache follow K. Lake, The Apostolic Fathers, LCL edition.

(p.409) (3.) Daly 1978:312–313. Ullucci 2012:96–97 simply states that the Lord’s Day is a sacrifice. He also notes the departure from other understandings of Christian sacrifice that I will discuss below: First, there is no comparison of Jesus, and certainly not of his death, to a sacrifice. The sacrifice is made by the community. Moreover, sins must be dealt with before the rite; hence the sacrifice itself does not release one from sin.

(4.) On prayer (praise and thanksgiving) as sacrifice, see Daly 1978:503; Niederwimmer 1998:196–97 with bibliographic survey. Niederwimmer prefers a very general definition of sacrifice but also considers the possibilities of the Eucharist itself (as in later Christian sources) and Eucharistic prayers. See also Claussen 2005:155–158. On the Eucharistic prayer, see Did 9:1–7; 10:5–6.

(5.) On the Qumranic view that the sectarians’ prayer is preferable to the (unrighteous) sacrifices offered in the Temple, see Regev 2005b; Regev 2014b.

(6.) On the problem of dating the Didache, see, e.g., Betz 1996:244–245. On rabbinic views of prayer as taking the place of sacrifice after 70, see the introduction.

(7.) On the dependence of 1 Clement on Hebrews as well as on Jewish traditions, see Lampe 2003:75–77 with bibliographic survey.

(8.) Ignatius, Philadelphians 4; Ferguson 1980:1169.

(9.) Justin, Dial. 43.3; 117.1. The cereal offering of the skin-diseased person (Lev 14:10) is a symbol of the Eucharist bread in Dial. 41.1. See Ferguson 1980:1173–1174.

(10.) Cyprian, Epistle 62.1, 9, 12 (ANF 5:361); Epistle 75.6 (ANF 5:398); Mayes 2010:313–315. Note also the altar and the sacrifices of the bishop in Epistle 15.1; 16.3. Ullucci 2012:114–117 comments that Cyprian uses this argument for the sake of staking out a position in relation to the correct practice of the Eucharist, not as a set doctrine of Christian sacrifice.

(11.) E.g., Eusebius, Demonstratio Evangelica, 5:3.

(12.) Ignatius, Magnesians 7.2. See Ferguson 1980:1168, who also notes that the emphasis here is on the meeting under the ministers’ leadership. On the use of Temple imagery in describing the communal order in the second century, see Eliav 2006:155.

(13.) Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:17–18; Ullucci 2012:104–107.

(14.) Barnabas 4:11 and 6:15, respectively. Translations of the Epistle of Barnabas follow K. Lake in the LCL edition. Its date is discussed below.

(15.) Clement of Alexandria Strom 7.6.

(16.) Clement of Alexandria Strom 7.6. See also Strom 5.11 on the spiritual meaning of sacrifice. Translations of Clement of Alexandria follow Roberts and Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 2.

(17.) Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies 4.18.1.

(18.) Origen, C. Cels. 8.21. For similar arguments by Clement of Alexandria, see Ferguson 1980:1181–1182. See also below on prayer as a substitute for sacrifice.

(19.) Ignatius, Romans 2.2. On martyrdom as a sacrifice, see ibid., 4.2.

(20.) Martyrdom of Polycarp of Smyrna, 14:1 trans. Lightfoot in the LCL edition. See Ullucci 2012:100–101.

(p.410) (21.) T. Yom Kippurim 4:6–10 (ed. Lieberman, 251); m. Sanhedrin 6:2; Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael, Bahodesh 6 (ed. Horovitz-Rabin); b Peshaim 50a, 53b; Boyarin 1999:93–126.

(22.) Gospel of Philip 69.14–26 (Robinson 1996:151). On the Gnostic concept of the bridal chamber as conjugal unions on high, see Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.21.3. Note that the next paragraph in the gospel of Philip relates to the tearing of the veil of the most inner chamber.

(23.) Vuong 2014. See also Vuong 2012.

(24.) Vuong 2012:121–122. Note, however, that while the text approves of the efficacy of the Temple, it also depicts conflicts with the Temple priests.

(26.) Stökl Ben Ezra 2003:152–154 on Barn. 7:1–5 and 7:6–11.

(27.) On Christ as the red heifer, see Daly 1978:432 (however, the law of the red heifer rite in Num 19 does not mention sin but merely bodily ritual purity). Despite the harsh polemic, the author is very much aware of Jewish and even rabbinic law and appropriates the halakhic details to his Christological doctrine. Alon 1957:297 points to knowledge of rabbinic halakhah in the involvement of un-defiled children in the making of the ashes (m. Parah 3:2–3). He also compares the ritual symbolism of the epistle with rabbinic halakhah, including the idea that the ashes enable atonement, and finds echoes of rabbinic tradition in people’s treatment of the scapegoat (ibid., 299–305).

(28.) 1 Apology 13; see also 1 Apology 10; Dial. 117.2; Daly 1978:331–333; Ferguson 1980:1172–1173. In Dial. 117.2, Justin maintains that prayers and thanksgivings (by the appropriate people) are the only perfect sacrifices. He also refers to the same concept as held by Diaspora Jews.

(29.) Dial. 13.1; Daly 1978:325, 328–330 concludes that Christ’s sacrifice fulfills the Old Testament sacrificial rites.

(30.) Twelve bells: Dial. 42.1; 116.1; 118:2; Ferguson 1980:1173; true high priestly race: Dial. 116.3, quoting Mal 1:11.

(31.) Dial. 40.1–4; Daly 1978:328–329.

(32.) Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.17.

(33.) Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:18.

(34.) Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7.6–8; Paedagogus 3.12 (quoting Isa. 1:11–14); Strom 7.3, respectively. For one’s body and self as a living sacrifice, see Ferguson 1980:1179–1180.

(35.) E.g., John Chrysostom, Hom. In Heb. 17:3 (on Heb 9:24–26).

(36.) Recog. 1.48.6; 1.54.1. On the Pseudo-Clementines, see below.

(37.) Stroumsa 2009:66–69. See the introduction.

(38.) Stroumsa 2009:72–73. He referred to John Chrysostom, Hom. In Heb. 17:3. The patristic liturgical language developed a sacrificial vocabulary that continues in the vein of the ancient tradition. See Ferguson 1990:816–818.

(39.) Barn. 2:4, later quoting Isa 1:11–13. See Ullucci 2012:97–98.

(p.411) (40.) Barn. 16:6–10. He also declares, “God dwells in us” (16:8–9), and “a spiritual temple being built for the Lord” (16:10).

(42.) Richardson and Shukster 1983 with a summary of previous dating of the epistle. On dating it to Nerva’s reign, see ibid., 41–44.

(43.) 1 Apology 10:1; 13:1; Dial. 10:3; 22.

(44.) Dial 19.6; 22.1, 11; Cf. also Dial. 43.1; 67.8; 92.4.

(45.) R. Levi: Leviticus Rabbah 22.8; R. Ishmael: Tanhuma, akhrei mot 17 (ed. Buber, 69–70). Note, however, that these rabbinic sources are much later than Justin.

(46.) Temple: Dial. 22.11; Angels: 2 Apology 5, 3–4. He also brings Old Testament quotations against sacrifice in Dial. 22.3 (Amos 5:21–25); 28.5 (Mal. 1:110–12).

(47.) Dial. 41.2; 117.2 (following Mal. 1:10–12).

(48.) Dial. 16.2; 40.2. Eliav 2006:158–160 concludes that Barnabas and Justin discuss the desolation of the Temple Mount and regard it as a punishment for the rejection of Christ. See Barn. 11; Justin, Dial. 25.1–26.1.

(49.) Irenaeus of Lyon, Adv. haer. 4.18.1; Ferguson 1980:1177.

(50.) Strom 7.6; see also Strom 7.3; Ferguson 1980:1881–1882; Ullucci 2012:108–110.

(51.) Clement, Protrepticus (also known as Exhortation to the Greeks) 3.42.

(52.) On prayer instead of sacrifice: Tertullian De Oratione 28; Ferguson 1980:1184. On sacrifices as commanded only as a means of preventing idolatry: Adversus Marcionem 2.18.

(53.) On the Pseudo-Clementines and their place within so-called Jewish-Christianity, associating themselves with Peter and James (Recog. 1.43.2; 44.1), and as against Paul, see Yoshiko Reed 2003.

(54.) Recog. 1.27 and 1.64; Homilies 111.45, respectively. Citations of Recognitions follow the edition of Jones 1995.

(55.) Recog. 1.35; 1.36.1; 37.4.

(56.) Recog. 1.66.2 ff. On the death of James, see chapter 5. It is interesting that the author located James’s teaching in the Temple in spite of the fact that the high priests and the lay priests had often beaten the Christians for teaching or learning about Jesus (Recog. 1.55.1–2).

(57.) Jones 1995:163. Bourgel 2015 suggests that Recog. 1.27–71 was written as a response to the Jews’ failure to rebuild the Temple during the Bar-Kockba revolt (132–135 CE).

(59.) Epiphanius, Panarion (or Against Heresies) 30.16.4–5. Translation follows Hennecke 1991:158. Hennecke dates this gospel to the first half of the second century (ibid., 156). Panarion 30.16.7 contains orders against the Temple and sacrifices, and the fire on the altar is attributed to the “Ascents of James.”

(60.) According to Epiphanius, Refutation of All 30:1–2, Ebion, the founder of the Ebionites, emerged from the Nazarenes and adhered to Judaism’s Law of the Sabbath, circumcision, and all other Jewish observances. The Nazarenes also observe that Law (ibid., 5.4; 7.5; 8.1).

(p.412) (61.) See the survey of the so-called Gnostic texts in Roukema 2014. For The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, see Nag Hammadi Codex VII 2. 58.26–29; Robinson 1996:366; Roukema 2014:159.

(63.) On the symbol of the Temple as a model for second-century ecclesiology, see Fassbeck 2001.

(64.) According to Ullucci 2012:135, “Christians did not create a rational rejection of sacrifice that they then lived out. Historical circumstances ended animal sacrifice for Christians first. It was left to later Christian cultural producers to make sense of this situation and rationalize and defend the fact that Christians did not sacrifice.”

(65.) To illustrate this boundary, suffice it to mention that Ignatius of Antioch urged his audience to abandon ancient customs and to celebrate the Lord’s Day rather than the Sabbath (Magn. 9.1). He also says that the disciples of Jesus should be called Christians (literally, those who live in accordance with Christianismos); whoever is called by another name is not “of God” (Magn. 10.1). Ignatius may be objecting to the fact that some disciples were claiming the name “Jew” for themselves.

(66.) Lieu 1996. Boyarin 2004:37–73, esp. 43–44 argues that Christian texts from the second and third centuries, such as Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, are trying to differentiate between Christianity and Judaism. Rabbinic texts from the same period are engaged in a parallel endeavor. This quest for Christianity’s distinctiveness is probably a response to the existence of traits common to Christians and Jews, particularly Jewish rabbis, as well as the fact that the boundaries between Judaism and Christianity in the second and third centuries were blurred. See Boyarin 1999.

(68.) On root metaphor, see Ortner 1973:1340–1341.

(70.) On the key aspect of key symbols, see Ortner 1973:1343.

(74.) On mental constructions, their mappings and overarching principles, see Fauconnier and Turner 2008:53.

(75.) On foundational conceptual metaphors and specific metaphors, see Kövecses 2006:144.

(76.) On these overarching principles, see Fauconnier and Turner 2008:53.

(77.) Kövecses 2002:6. Cf. the discussion in chapter 3.

(78.) On early Christianity as a New Religious Movement or Cult, see Regev 2016b.

(79.) For Roland Barthes, for example, the meaning of the text is accessible only as an activity or a production. Texts should be understood in terms of what they (p.413) do and what readers do with them. The text, in other words, is experienced. See Roland Barthes, “From Work to Text.” In Harari 1979:75.

(80.) Said 1983:33–35, 45–48. In addition, Ricoeur and Jameson maintain that social action can be interpreted similarly to a text. See Bell 1992:44–45.

(81.) Balsamo 2004:esp. 16, discussing mainly James Joyce. See also the sacramental and sacrificial reenactments of the Eucharist in Joyce (ibid., 112–123).

(83.) Bell 1997:28, following Radcliffe-Brown.

(85.) Munn 1973:esp. 579, 583, following Durkheim.

(86.) Ritual and myth are interconnected in the study of religion. See Bell 1997:3–10 on the myth and ritual school of thought. Eliade pointed to the mythical aspects of ritual, namely, the ritual reenactment or recounting of a cosmogenic event or story (ibid., 10–11 and references). See, for example, the Eucharist in 1 Cor 10:16; Luke 22:19b.

(87.) For myth about ritual, see Doniger O’Flaherty 1988:esp. 97, 101, on which Swartz 1997 builds. Doniger O’Flaherty 1988:103 maintains that myths, which exist in the realm of imagination, provide tools to expose the illusory nature of rituals. According to Swartz 1997:152–153, the Day of Atonement prayer addresses the problem of the absence of sacrifice in a system to which it was once central, through rituals of recitation. That is, by recounting a lost ritual verbally, a community develops a way of memorializing that ritual through an act that is itself a ritual. This is an actualization of sacred space in time.

(88.) See Handelman 2004:2, 3–4, 23 on ritual in its own right.

(91.) Fernandez 1986:esp. 43. On the social function of ritual and performance, see Bell 1997:73–76.

(94.) Note that even in the Damascus Document, in which the Temple is treated as polluted (CD 6:11–16), tributes are sent to the Temple by pure messengers (CD 10:18–21).

(98.) Kertzer 1988:40–46, following Turner.

(103.) Durkheim 1965, esp. 427–428; Lukes 1973:463, 471–472. On the contribution of ritual to social organization and solidarity, see Kertzer 1988:15–34, 57–76.

(105.) Fortes 1962:56–57, 74. In ritual, authority is both dramatized and glamorized. See Kertzer 1988:104.

(106.) Asad 1983, criticizing Geertz’s “Religion as Cultural System” (Geertz 1973: 87–125).

(107.) Gluckman 1963:112, 128. Cf. transformative rituals of social change and political revolution in Bell 1992:169.

(108.) For a survey of the scholarship on general approaches to early Christian identity, see Holmberg 2008. Lieu 2004 explores the next phase of the shaping of a more distinct identity in the second century.