Emil Heller Henning, author and principal investigator, professional architect and church elder

Kudos to the Koren Tanakh's Temple Diagram

Readers looking for details about a future Jerusalem Temple will find nothing of interest in this post unless they are certain such a Temple would be Ezekiel’s one. However, anyone interested in the possible evolution of Jewish thought regarding the layout of Ezekiel’s prophetic Temple is invited to read on.

Parts 1 and 3 of my “Christian midrash” (on the Free Articles page) described two types of Ezekiel Temple plans with which I am familiar. The first is what I have called the “Hastings” plan because I first saw it in James Hastings’ 1905 Dictionary of the Bible. (I later learned of an antecedent for that plan, mentioned in the endnotes to Part 1.) This “Hastings” plan, which I adopted (with small simplifications) as the basis for my own Temple diagrams, is a square of 500 x 500 cubits, as Radak (Rabbi David A. Kimhi) interpreted Ezekiel 42.15-20 to say. The 500 x 500 measurements reflect the sizes of the internal courts and structures given in Ezekiel chapters 40-42. (A diagram showing how the dimensions add up is given as Fig. A-1 in both of my Parts 1 and 3.)

As explained in Part 1, I later discovered a different Temple plan in the ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach, which is explained in the separate ArtScroll Tanach Series Ezekiel Commentary (1988). That layout (which I trace back to the 17th-century Rabbi Yom Tov Lippman Heller in my Nov. 8, 2018 post, “Rabbi Heller, Ezekiel, and Me”) is not a 500 x 500 cubit square, but a smaller 312 x 317 cubit rectangle. The reason for the discrepancy is that R. Heller (and the ArtScroll Tanach after him) follow Rashi at Ezek. 40.15 in understanding the Temple gatehouses to be fifty cubits high, instead of long, as Radak read that verse. Rashi’s (I think misguided) interpretation—adopted not only by Heller and ArtScroll, but other Orthodox publications I have seen—accounts for this peculiar, non-square, 312 x 317 Temple layout. On the other hand, the text of the 1985 Jewish Publication Society Tanakh (NJPS) follows Radak, and presumably would have resulted in a diagram similar to my Fig. A-1 of the “Hastings” plan, had a diagram been included in it.

Just this past month I discovered an Orthodox Jewish Bible with a diagram of Ezekiel’s Temple that in fact agrees with the “Hastings” plan, like my Fig. A-1. This new diagram is in the rear of the Third Edition of the Koren Jerusalem Bible, Compact Edition, published by Koren Publishers of Jerusalem in 2015. Their Temple diagram appears in the back section, among a series of “genealogical charts and maps” that the Bible’s title page says was copyrighted in 2010, perhaps in connection with other Koren publications.

Unfortunately this new Koren diagram has no information concerning its origin, but the Koren Tanakh’s translation of Ezek. 40.15 does follow Radak more than Rashi, resulting in a reading closer to the NJPS—which, like it, implies a 500 x 500 square Temple. In the other passage (42.15-20) which can also be taken as leading to the 500 x 500 square, the Koren translation follows Rashi instead of Radak (there siding with the ArtScroll and other Orthodox publications against the NJPS.) Bottom line, this new diagram aligns with Radak on the fifty cubit lengths of the gateways, making for a 500 x 500 square Temple, while leaving the size issues implicit in Ezek. 42.15-20 up in the air.

One detail I notice in this Koren Tanakh diagram is that the ramp leading up to its central altar is on the east side of the altar, in major disagreement with Rashi and all Orthodox commentaries, raising the question whether this Tanakh diagram might have been at least influenced by non-Orthodox, if not non-Jewish sources.

Just today I received Koren’s 2016 Ezekiel commentary, with the Bible text and added notes by R. Adin E-I Steinsaltz. I cannot read the Hebrew-only text, but its diagram of Ezekiel’s Temple (p.197) is similar—though not identical—to that of the slightly earlier Koren Tanakh diagram described above. It shares with it the correct 50-cubit-long gateways, leading to what I believe to be the correct 500 x 500 cubit overall square. However, beyond that, several of this plan’s details have stepped back somewhat from the 2015 Tanakh’s diagram, more closely resembling Orthodox plans in the Rashi-Heller-ArtScroll tradition. One striking example is that between the publication of the 2015 Koren Tanakh and this Steinsaltz commentary in 2016, the direction of the altar’s ramp was rotated ninety degrees southward to reflect universal Orthodox understanding.

I cannot help musing whether my studies could have had anything to do with the new Koren Tanakh diagram. I was sharing preliminary drafts of what became my 2013 Ezekiel’s Temple book at least as early as 2005, with early versions of my diagrams in them. In 2011, I sent drafts to a local American rabbi and a more distant Jewish designer of orientation maps for large building complexes (an interest from my own background, as explained in my Part 1). So if the Koren diagram was first published by them in some form in 2010, the likelihood of influence on it by me would be nil. But if their Hastings-like plan was actually first created by Koren Publishers for the 2015 Compact Edition Tanakh, who knows?

This is just idle curiosity. I am really not looking for citations in Jewish publications (or Christian ones, for that matter.) What I would like to see someday is a Jewish commentary that takes a fresh look at Ezekiel’s Temple—seeing the forest instead of just so many trees, in the spirit of Ezekiel’s commission in chapter 43 to show Israel its overall form and system of exits and entrances—and saying, “This Temple is trying to tell us something about our Messiah!”

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