The Memory of the Temple and the Making of the Rabbis
This daily feature is an introduction to a full book review by Avram R. Shannon. To read the full text of this review, follow the link below.
As John Lundquist already pointed out years ago, ancient temples served as "the central, organizing, unifying institution in ancient Near Eastern society."1 For many of the monarchies that populated the ancient Near East and the empires that dominated later antiquity, the temple undergirded and supported the kingship in its political as well as religious roles. This system worked very well when the groups in power controlled the temple and were able to use its authority to support their own rule and authority. However, because temples can be destroyed or sidelined in the vagaries of war and the development of societies, groups are not always able to maintain a direct connection between their authority and the temple. But in the midst of such changes to cultures and societies, it is still possible for a group to support and maintain its authority by appealing to the temple, even if that temple no longer stands.