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The Temple of Jerusalem

The Temple of Jerusalem

Simon Goldhill

ISBN 9780674061897

Publication date: 10/15/2011

It was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago, and yet the Temple of Jerusalem—cultural memory, symbol, and site—remains one of the most powerful, and most contested, buildings in the world. This glorious structure, imagined and re-imagined, reconsidered and reinterpreted again and again over two millennia, emerges in all its historical, cultural, and religious significance in Simon Goldhill’s account.

Built by Herod on a scale that is still staggering—on an earth and rock platform 144,000 square meters in area and 32 meters high—and destroyed by the Roman emperor Titus 90 years later, in 70 AD, the Temple has become the world’s most potent symbol of the human search for a lost ideal, an image of greatness. Goldhill travels across cultural and temporal boundaries to convey the full extent of the Temple’s impact on religious, artistic, and scholarly imaginations. Through biblical stories and ancient texts, rabbinical writings, archaeological records, and modern accounts, he traces the Temple’s shifting significance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

A complex and engaging history of a singular locus of the imagination—a site of longing for the Jews; a central metaphor of Christian thought; an icon for Muslims: the Dome of the Rock—The Temple of Jerusalem also offers unique insight into where Judaism, Christianity, and Islam differ in interpreting their shared inheritance. It is a story that, from the Crusades onward, has helped form the modern political world.


  • The Temple in Jerusalem, as Simon Goldhill reminds us in this admirably readable account of its long and tortured history, has always been more than a holy place: it is above all an idea—a myth, a fantasy, a utopian dream that has dominated the imagination for three millennia and continues to act as a source of contention… [H]is book is thoroughly absorbing: the writing is fresh, the erudition lightly worn with pleasing nuggets of fact and fantasy culled from an impressive variety of sources.

    —Malise Ruthven, Sunday Times


  • Simon Goldhill is Professor of Greek Literature and Culture at the University of Cambridge.

Book Details

  • 208 pages
  • Harvard University Press

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