REL 390 R
Ancient Temples and Temple Texts
Bruce K. Satterfield, PhD
Department of Religious Education (Taylor 216)
Brigham Young University--Idaho
What is at Temple? What is considered a Temple?
are a number of different kinds of religious structures that can be
found in the ancient world. For example, Mormon mentions three kinds of
structures built by Book of Mormon peoples: temples, synagogues, and
sanctuaries (see Helaman 3:14). This fact raises interesting questions
such as, "How does one distinquish between these various structures?"
"What constitutes a sanctuary? a synagogue? More to the point of
this course, "What constitutes a temple?"
At first, the answer might seem simple. A temple is a temple when called a temple by the people who built it.
many ancient peoples did not have a separate and unique word specific
used to designate a building as a temple. For example, the
Israelites used various words to label a structure a temple
such as bayit (house), hekal (palace), har (mountain), miqdash (sanctuary), quodesh and quodesh makom (the holy place), mishkan (sanctuary or divine abode), and ohel mo'ed
(tent of meeting, or feast, or reunion). But the word bayit could
refer to a temple of a god or the dwelling place of a mortal man.
Likewise, hekal (palace) could refer to the palace of a god or a king. Only context tells one if a bayit or hekal is referring to a structure for a god.
So what is a temple?
the last slide of this power point states: In this course, we will
define a temple as a structure or dwelling place of a god or gods, or
other objects of religious reference and a place where worship of that
object may occur.
The Salt Lake Temple
Teotihuacan - Mesoamerica-Mexico
General Discussions -- There
have been many who have noted similarities in what consistutes a temple
in the ancient world. The following articles suggest
various typologies that can be used to define a structure uniquely referring to temple.
- Hugh Nibley, "What is a Temple?" in Ed. Truman G. Madsen, The Temple in Antiquity (1984), pp. 19-37.
Specific Typological Studies
- "Caves," in Encyclopedia of Religion, 15 vols., cheif ed. Lindsay Jones (2005), 3:1468-1473
- "Labyrinth," in Encyclopedia of Religion, 15 vols., cheif ed. Lindsay Jones (2005), 8:5273-5279
- Axis Mundi
- Sacred Space and Sacred Time
- Mountains and High Places as Symbols of the Temple and Other Sacred Space
- Wilderness, Desert, the World (the Lone and Dreary World)
- Measurement and Plans and Architecture -- The Instrument of Sacred Space
- Sacred Geography
- Ablutions (i.e., Baptisms, Washings, and Anointings)
- Divine Council or Assembly
- Creation and Cosmology
- Kingship and Coronation
- Ritual, Liturgy, and Worship (Including Sacrifice and Offerings, Handclasp and Embracing)
- Myth or Myth and Ritual
- Sacred Vestments (i.e., Clothing)
Bibliographies of Temple Studies in Ancient Near East By Region
From A Bibliography on Temples of the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean World, compiled by Donald W. Parry, Stephen D. Ricks, and John W. Welch (Edwin Mellen Press, LTD, Lewiston, NY, 1991)
Power Point PresentationsQuotations