July 6, 2008

No Temple Pavement

Here's another great book I won't have time to read. If I'm lucky, I'll get far enough down my checklist to go find this one and at least skim the index. I'll look for the words "paving" or "pavement" or failing that, "floor", "earth" or "ground". I'll be weirdly excited if there's any attention paid to this at all.

Sigh. The questions we ask determine the studies we pursue. But the questions I like to ask tend to get met with silence, which always means one of two things: Either yes, I'm the idiot, or else yes, I really may be onto something that's been overlooked. Sigh. Such is the task...

But here's what Wycherley said about Greek Temples: "To preserve the place inviolate the limits had to be defined by simple marks or boundary stones, or more effectively by a fence or wall, making an enclosure. If the cult was to be regularly carried on, an altar was necessary. Altar and boundary were the essentials; an image of the deity might be set up, and a temple might be built; and in large shrines a great variety of buildings were ultimately added."

This sums up the whole heart of my view on Herod's Temple: paving was just not a priority. Wycherley says even the temple and statue weren't priorities, for the Greeks, so how could paving be? If boundary stones around an altar is all it took, then most temples in antiquity had grass or dirt floor courtyards, as everything else had a greater priority. I still want more evidence, but the conclusion seems sound...

Paving the courtyard was, in fact, the absolute last priority as it was the least necessary of all constructions that could have conceivably been built. More, paving stones would require sandals for walking on in the sun, whereas packed earth or grass would be cool enough for bare feet. So a paved courtyard just naturally ought to be the height of sophistication in terms of expansion options. In the ancient world, it was the least natural, least needed, least conceivable thing you could even think about adding to your temple.

Here's another argument. In Jerusalem in the early 60's AD, if a brand new pavement is NOT what Agrippa Junior's workmen were putting in then WHAT, pray tell, was so much less important that the paving got finished before it? The walls? The covered walkways? The storage closets and side rooms? The giant covered pavilion on the south side? None of that could possibly have seemed less of a priority than the extremely novel, primarily aesthetic, *somewhat impractical* insertion of a smooth, flat surface for walking on.

(*How impractical? Aside from burning all the bare feet in the summer, especially at that elevation, it would now have to be swept and not just for dirt. Now, rocks and solid objects would offer absolutely zero "give" beneath them when stepped on. Ankles could be broken, especially in a crowd. But even a hard, packed earth floor would give way to some degree. Also, falling on pavement is much more dangerous than falling on even very rocky earth.*)

See? When I talk myself into a fury, I get all convinced again! ;) But who else has opinions on this? I can't find anyone asking these specific questions.

So here's my conclusion, again:

The Temple of Herod had packed earth courtyard. The pilgrims of 4 BC found enough stones sticking out of it's surface to run off a small army. Jesus drew in the dirt. ("Earth" is the greek word in John 8:6.) And when Agrippa Junior needed a new project for these particular skilled workers he let them go on paving the main street through the Tyropoean Valley.

There's no text or archaeology that confirms this. But the collection of facts as a whole simply demands that this must be the case.

It's plausible. It fits chronologically. It makes more sense of all pertinent texts than as if it were otherwise. And finally, it's realistic and logistically sound.

This is nuts and bolts thinking.

Archaeologists should be able to tell me about the soil under that pavement, today. Is it extremely rocky? (I'm guessing that's a safe bet.) Then that fits with Josephus' account of the passover riot in 4 BC. Here's another question, layman style: You know how streets in Europe look like they're newer than the houses they run up against? You know, because the street looks as if it overlaps the building above its foundations?

Is the Temple Pavement extant at all to the point where we can see similar positioning? That is, was the pavement built before the walls or after? And does the pavement appear to be pre-planned or as an afterthought? I suggest that if the pavement comes "up high" like the streets of Rome today come "up high" on their buildings - then that pavement was an afterthought.

The Temple was complete by 29 AD. Agrippa II just had the courtyard paved, 30 years later. But in 33 AD when Jesus said, "Not one stone will be left upon another" he was indeed looking at the whole complex, entirely completed.

Except for the pavement. :)

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