Student Reader

Holy Sepulchre Church

Temple DestroyedAD 70The Jewish Temple had been destroyed during the Roman sack of Jerusalem, and never rebuilt. The destroyed Temple would be contrasted with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Church ConstructionAD 326 - ?Constantine initiated construction fo the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
From its inception, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was associated with the Solomonic Temple.

The former was on the western hill, a higher hill, looking down on the ruins of the Jewish Temple on the eastern hill. The dazzling monument to Christ out-dazzled the Temple ruins, and Christians could flock to Jerusalem while Jews were forbidden from the city.

A visitor to the Holy Land could see the ruins and reflect on the Old Covenant, visible beside the New Covenant that superseded it.

However, the Christians did not reject Judaism as a fiction.

Rather, imagine Judaism as a once-beautiful mosaic that had been shattered, causing the tiles to fall to the floor broken, forgotten and dusty. The Jews retained the image of the mosaic in their minds, while the Christians took the fragments, giving them new life, as part of a glorious mosaic in the image of Christ. Indeed, as years passed, Christian folklore arose that the Temple had been incorporated into the Church.

The 4th century Pilgrim of Bordeaux saw on the Temple Mount "an altar which has on it the blood of Zaccharias -- you would think it had only been shed yesterday." However, the 6th century author of Breviarius saw this altar in front of the Tomb of Christ; either it had been moved, or a new tradition arose that part of the Church was the altar.

Further, events once believed by Christians to have occurred in the Temple were appropriated by the Church.

Pilgrims in the 6th century were told that the Church's inner courtyard was the temple court where Jesus attacked merchant activity (John 2:16). Relics of the Old Testament era -- the Old Covenant, the Temple, the Jewish roots of Christianity -- began to appear in the Church. Among these were the Horn of the Anointing used by Jewish kings, not attested in Jewish sources but venerated on Good Friday along with the Cross and the ring of Solomon. The latter was also a Jewish relic, which a well-known Jewish legend claimed was used by Solomon against demons, sealing them in vessels and diverting their power towards constructing the first Temple (the vessels were featured in the Basilica of Constantine in Rome).

Another Old Testament relic was the altar where Abraham had offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah, the same altar as in the Temple. The author of Breviarius saw this, leading to the conclusion that the Abrahamic sacrifice occurred at the site of the Church: Mount Moriah and Golgotha were now the same; the spot of the Abrahamic sacrifice was underfoot Jesus's crucifixion. Breviarius' account of the altar is reiterated textually and in the Church plans provided by Adomnan in Piacenza Pilgrim.

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