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The Solomonic Temple as Sacred Space

SEUNG IL KANG 1

1한남대학교

Candidate

ABSTRACT

_______________________________________________________________________________________ The Solomonic Temple as Sacred Space _______________________________________________________________________________________ Seung-Il Kang Lecturer at Presbyterian College and Theological Seminary Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D. Sacred space has become an important category in the study of religion since the mid-twentieth century, thanks largely to the work of Mircea Eliade. In the field of biblical studies, however, works on this subject are few and far between. Thus, how the authors of the Hebrew Bible conceptualized sacred space in their literature merits careful consideration. Heuristically applying the theories of sacred space as defined by historians of religion, especially Eliade, this paper examines how the Solomonic Temple as sacred space in ancient Israelite religion and society served both practical and symbolic roles. The most fundamental function of the temple is to provide a dwelling place for a deity or deities. Various ritual activities performed within the Tabernacle and the Temple presupposes Yahweh's actual presence within the Temple. When it comes to the Temple's cosmic significance, some biblical passages (Ps 22: 28-29, 59: 14b; Ezek 5: 5) and the myth-ridden term "the navel of the earth"(Judg 9: 37; Ezek 38: 12) indicate that Jerusalem and the Solomonic Temple were indeed considered to be the center of the world. The conception of sacred space as the cosmic axis is discernible in the Hebrew Bible, although not as explicitly as it is in Mesopotamian literature. The classic example of the biblical model of an axis mundi is provided in the popular story of Jacob's encounter with God at Bethel (Gen 28). The most illuminating examples of an Israelite axis mundi come from the Temple proper. In Isaiah's vision (Isa 6), the Temple becomes the locus of communication between divinity and humanity. Especially, the threshold of Ezekiel's New Temple serves as a demarcation line between human and divine areas, the point where celestial, terrestrial, and subterranean realities intersect both horizontally and vertically. The biblical examples discussed in this study demonstrate that the authors of the Hebrew Bible shared with her neighbors and others the concept of sacred space as delineated by Eliade and conceived the Temple as the center of the world as well as the axis mundi where the communication between human and divine realms takes place. It is hoped that further studies will investigate how this idea of Jerusalem and the Temple as sacred space is elaborated in later rabbinic Judaism.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.