Bible Study Resource
There were two basic designs for places of worship in ancient times:
Neither of these designs were meant to hold a congregation of worshippers in the way a modern church does. Temples belonged to the gods, not the congregation.
Reconstruction of the ziggurat at Ur, as it would have looked in ancient times
The ziggurat at Ur as it looks today, with reconstructed outer
Reconstruction of the Temple of Athena in Athens
Reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, 1st century AD
Reconstructions of temple interiors
Reconstruction of the inner chamber of the Temple of Athena in Athens. The statue of Athena shows her as the goddess of war. She confronts her viewers directly, wearing Medusa's head on her leather aegis (a protective collar or cape), a statue of Nike, (victory) in her right hand and a shield in her left. The skin area of the statue was covered with ivory and the armor and drapery with gold.
Reconstruction of the colossal 'Athena Parthenos' statue by the sculptor Pheidias
Reconstruction of the inner chamber of the Temple of Zeus,
The ancient Greeks believed that each person had a responsibility to develop a well-educated mind and a healthy body. Games and sporting activities were therefore an important part of Greek culture.
The city of Olympia was a center of religious worship dedicated to Zeus, and it was around the temple there that the first Olympic Games took place. During the Games, warfare was laid aside - enemies forgot their grievances and competed without rancor even if they had recently been at war.
It seems strange to us now, but the first Olympic Games were preceded by days of religious ritual. Only after these were completed could the Olympic games begin.
The Games were financially supported by rulers in Greece and in surrounding countries. Herod the Great, who ruled Palestine at the time that Jesus was born, contributed to the cost of the Olympic Games during his reign.
The l5th century BC Canaanite temple of Lachish and its sacriﬁcial altar had a simple layout. There was an long sanctuary with two attached rooms, only one of which was entered from the sanctuary. There was no inner room or Holy of Holies as in the Temple in Jerusalem. The roof was apparently supported on columns, probably of wood. The entrance was screened by a wall which prevented a view into the sanctuary from the outside.
By the standards of later temples, the shrine was simple. It had a low bench, one foot high, from the front of which three rectangular blocks projected. One theory is that the cult objects stood on the bench and the projecting blocks served as altars. The existence of three projections suggest that a trinity of deities was worshipped.
In the central axis in front of the shrine were two jars sunk in the ﬂoor, which may have been receptacles into which libations were poured, while against one end of the bench was found a great pile of vessels, abandoned when the temple was rebuilt, which presumably served as containers of liquid and solid offerings. Outside the temple there were a number of pits used for the disposal of vessels which had served a similar purpose. There was also a long bench along one wall.
The remains suggest that the deities worshipped in this temple and its successors were Resheph, the Canaanite-Syrian god of war and storm, and possibly the goddess Elath.
The Woman at the Window
ivory plaque at right is similar to ones found in the ruins of the palace at
Samaria, the ancient Israelite city built by King Ahab, husband of
Delicately carved plaques were attached to furniture and screens (Amos 6:4).
The Baal figurine
The image at right shows an ancient bronze figure of the rain god Baal.
Originally he would have held a club and
a spear in his hands - symbols of thunder and lightning.
The word 'Baal' originally meant 'husband', and he was the source of water and fertility - hence life.
Astarte, another goddess, was the consort of Baal. She was the protectress of the family.
Philistine incense burners
The Temple in Jerusalem
Bronze Bull statuette
found in northern
Israel at an open-air sanctuary.
Minoan snake goddess.
The snakes the goddess/priestess carries may have been a symbol of triumph over death. Snakes shed their skin and thus appear to die once a year, but then reappear again alive.
Snakes also appeared prominently in a number of ancient fertility religions, and so may have been seen by the writers of the Bible as symbols of evil. See Eve for the story of Eve and the serpent.
in Bible Times - Archaeology of The Bible