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Bible Stock Illustrations

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Temple of Herod, Court of Women 

For those who wonder about a recent painting I uploaded here, namely, the "Beth ha-Mikdash", otherwise known as the the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as it was in the first century, I wanted to elaborate a bit on why I chose to portray it that way. 

When you research images of the temple in Jerusalem a variety of interpretations will show up but nothing quite like what I came up with. Like most people who tackle what the Temple where Jesus walked looked like, I turned to the Mishna (tractate Middoth II 5,3,2 and Sukkoth V 2-4.) and of course Josephus, an eye witness to the Temple. The Mishna furnishes us with a precise set of measurements of the Temple's layout which I used to create a grid. I projected the grid into a 3D space I drafted on my watercolor paper and built up the structures from them. I used the Mishna's vertical measurements to determine heights. Sometimes astounding heights indeed.

What I found remarkable is that no one who attempts to depict the Temple wants to deal with the mention of the four enormous oil lamp posts in the Court of Women. They are described in detail and I was as bold as to attempt a rendering of them. I departed from how the four corner chambers are represented in most reconstructions and added a second story colonnaded balcony as the Mishna describes and as Roman architectural conventions demand in the period. In fact I took up position on the balcony where women were allowed to watch the proceedings below. I measured out the generous dimensions of the Nicanor Gate (front center), again relying on the Mishna, and after extensive research on Roman gate architecture I arrived at the conclusion you see on the painting. The facade of the Temple itself owes its appearance to images on coins minted during the Bar Kochba revolt. The Mishna specified the measurements for it as well but Josephus' description proved hard to follow and his claim that gold plates covered the entire facade meets general incredulity, myself among them.  I simply opted for scroll work over the corinthian capitals which was standard decoration on Roman temples in the first century BC and AD. For scale, I added a moderate crowd to give an impression of the grandness of the complex.

As I mentioned, the viewer stands on the balcony right above the main entrance to the Temple proper, that is: the eastern side of the Court of Women. That view point allows us to have a view of the Temple that an actual person could have had at the time. I could have opted for a higher vantage point to show more features of the Temple complex but I would have lost the immediacy of the feeling that the viewer of the painting is part of the crowd.
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