Abstract of Goldenberg, Robert. “The Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple: Its Meaning and Its Consequences.”

Goldenberg, Robert. “The Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple: Its Meaning and Its Consequences.” In The
Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume IV, The Late Roman Period, edited by Steven T. Kats, 191-205. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2006. [Israel/Herod/Destruction]

Review: In this article author Robert Goldenberg studies the rabbinical literature relative to the destruction of
the Jerusalem temple in 70 C.E., but as the following facts show Rabbinic literature has its deficiencies. First,
Rabbinic documents do not necessarily shed light on the reality prevailing when the Temple stood. Nor does
reliable evidence exist for rabbinic leadership in Europe or North Africa before the Middle Ages. Most important
for this study, Rabbinic materials present only a partial image of ancient Jewish responses to the loss of
the Temple. The Jerusalem Temple and sacrifice was central in Jewish worship, but despite the attempt to centralize
worship there other temples existed. However, Rabbinic law relative to the temple was framed when no
temple stood and fragmented Judaism differed on interpretations of the law, the rules of purity and timing of
the festivals.

Rabbinic literature also has two conflicting views of the destruction of the temple: one by Josephus who said
that Titus wanted it saved, but a firebrand among the soldiers started the blaze; a second, that Titus ordered it
burned. Modern scholarship favors the latter view.

After the destruction Judaism had to deal with questions of why the temple was destroyed and what should be
done. Two answers arose relative to the first question. The first is that the destruction was a judgment as the
result of Israel’s sin though subsequent writers could not agree on the nature of the sin. The second one
emerges from the book of Daniel which suggested history was a pre-set drama inevitably running its course,
therefore, the pious were destined to suffer and it cannot be viewed as punishment of sin. It was a test that
must be endured to be worthy. This answer never became popular in any form of Judaism.

Goldenberg discusses extensively the third century C.E. Mishnah relative to rabbinic response to the destruction.
It focused on the law as if the temple were still in existence. Its unhistorical approach allowed subsequent
generations to continue on despite the appalling events of 70 C.E. Rabbinic Judaism instituted certain
practices as substitutes for the rituals of the temple that could no longer be performed. The Rabbinic redesign
of Judaism involved working without a temple. Literature regarding the restoration of the temple is complex
and ambivalent. The new rabbinical way of life made the temple unnecessary in practice but indispensable in
theory. Moreover, when the Romans transferred the half-shekel temple tax to the Roman temple of Jupiter
Capitolinus this had a long lasting effect on Judaism. Who should pay the tax became a question, and the Romans
decided against blood lineage and for those presently practicing Judaism. This transformed Judaism into
a religious community though they still thought of themselves as a nation. Thus the synagogue replaced the
temple.

This entry was posted in Article Abstracts on August 25, 2013  by Danel W. Bachman.

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