Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Robert Fisher

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Rabbinic ideas concerning the Temple of Jerusalem captured the interest of the present writer as he was researching the biblical concept of sacrifice. It was fascinating to discover that the rich symbolism of the Temple in rabbinic thought developed in a period when the Temple did not exist. The presence of teh mythical Temple in the literature of the Rabbis began to raise certain questions: Why did the Jewish leaders of the post-Temple era develop such an elaborate mythology of the Temple? Why did they continue to imagine a cultus which had long since vanished? These questions are compounded by the fact that the Babylonian academies, separated as they were from Palestine, should contribute so significantly to the corporate mythology associated with the Temple of Jerusalem.

The purpose of the research is to demonstrate the relationship of the mythical Temple in rabbinic literature both to its historical prototypes and to the conditions within which the myth developed. To accomplish this aim the history of the Temple will be examined to illustrate the backdrop against which the Temple of myth was construed by the Rabbis. Questions will be raised regarding the employment of mythic elements characteristic of ancient Near Eastern religion. It will be debated whether Israel borrowed and adapted the mythic ideas of her neighbours to suit her own purposes.

The central aim of this thesis, however, will focus on the degree to which the political and socio-economic situations of the rabbinic period contributed to the rise of the mythic interpretations of the Temple.

Convocation Year