Friday, March 23, 2007

Temple of Augustus or Temple of the LORD?

Coin of Herod Phillip (The British Museum)
http://www.livius.org/he-hg/herodians/philip.htm

Initially, when I saw the “symbols” of the so-called “chevron and circle” I thought that, as tomb decorations, they might be associated with the Temple of the LORD instead of the association made in the "Lost Tomb of Jesus" film to some mysterious, early Christian symbol.

While I still fully reject the sensational, embarrassing claims of the "Lost Tomb" film for the marking on the tomb facade, I think that an association other than my first impression seems more likely.

After finding the similarity on the coins of Herod Philip II, I made an association that may have been too hasty with the Nicanor gate. There was a frequent association of tombs with temples by way of decorative motifs (see also this motif on an ossuary here).

Considering the names of those in the tomb together with the proximity to Jerusalem, the temple at Jerusalem seemed likely. Yet, the Temple of the LORD was usually depicted with a “flat roof” and not a pitched (gable) roof. There is an example on a fourth-century plate discovered in the Via Labina cemetery in Rome, though late (4th century), of the temple of the LORD with a pitched roof (Sporty, 121). However, the height of the Ulam (portico) is said to have been much higher than the rest of the temple.

The Nicanor gate has been depicted at times having a pitched-roof feature (either above the doorway or over the columns depicted on the facade). I suggested in the last entry that, since these were Jews that this was more likely. The coin of Herod Philip II, I thought, must have been depicting the temple at Jerusalem and not the temple of Augustus as it has normally been treated.

Upon further reflection and additional research, I believe that another possibility should be considered:

The Temple of Augustus. The coin of Herod Philip II (see examples of coins catalogued as Hendin 531, 532, 533, 534, 535, 538, 539, etc.) struck at Caesarea Philippi shown above and in the last entry of this blog is almost universally associated with the Temple of Augustus in his territory by numismatists (Meshorer, 76-77; Roller, 191). See Hendin 530 where the shield feature is enlarged (here). It is thought that the temple appeared in this way at Sebaste as a tetrastyle (four columned) temple (though possibly enlarged at some point to be peristyle--six columned across the front and surrounded by columns as was the one at Caesarea Maritima). Such a tetrastyle temple of Augustus (with shield motif nicely matching the “circle”) may be seen at Pula, Croatia:


Note the raised, circular shield under the pitched roof just as depicted on the coin of Herod Phillip II and nicely matching the feature of the so-called "Lost-Tomb." See other photos of the Pula temple here and here.

While the Temple of the LORD at Jerusalem was also tetrastyle (possibly by relief on the Ulam--Portico) in depiction (such as the below example from the time of Shimon Bar Kochba) there is no evidence for the same "shield" design under a pitched (gable) roof.


Another example of a temple to Augustus with the same features (though eight-columned) once stood at Ankara and and artist's representation may be seen here.

Summary of Considerations: The occurrence of this “symbol” or architectural feature raises many questions for the so-called “lost tomb.” Who are those buried within? Why would Jews want to be associated with the temple of Augustus? Were they Herodian Jews? Were they Roman citizens who wished to be associated with the emperor? Or were they representing on their tomb facade some other feature of architecture, possibly a motif repeated by Herod, from a similar building facade? Is this a primary feature of the tomb or a secondary feature?

Did Herod repeat this “shield design” above the doorway of the Temple of the LORD on the facade? or above the Nicanor gate? or above the entrance to the Royal Stoa (also tetrastyle)? There is no hard evidence for it in such places. However, there is concrete evidence for the design on the temple of Augustus.

It appears that some of those buried within this tomb were identifying themselves with the dynasty of Herod or with the temple of Augustus.

Early Christians would not declare “Caesar is Lord.” To the contrary they declared “Jesus is Lord” in the face of martyrdom. Symbolism related to the cult of Caesar over a tomb doorway seems entirely unfitting for early Christians. It appears to be the "Lost Tomb" of some devotees to Caesar.

Selected Bibliography:

Mazar, Eilat. The Complete Guide to the Temple Mount Excavations. Jerusalem: Old City Press, 2002.

Meshorer, Ya’akov. Jewish Coins of the Second Temple Period. Translated from the Hebrew by I. H. Levine. Tel-Aviv: Am Hassefer and Massada, 1967.

Overman, J. Andre, Jack Olive and Michael Nelson. “Discovering Herod’s Temple to Augustus: Mystery Temple Found at Omrit.” Biblical Archaeological Review, March/April (2003) 40-49.

Roller, Duane W. The Building Program of Herod the Great. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Sporty, Lawrence D. “Identifying the Curving Line on the Bar-Kochba Temple Coin. The Biblical Archaeologist 46, 2: 121-123.

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