Centre for Continuing Education

Religious History Course: The Temple in Jerusalem

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses online and in-person. Please check the delivery format of each class before enrolling.

Please note that course materials (excluding prescribed texts) are shared electronically within 48 hours of course commencement. Printing is not available.

This course examines the biblical, non-biblical and archaeological records of the First, Second and apocalyptic Third Temples in Jerusalem.

The First and Second Temples were structures located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. They functioned as the religious, cultural and political centre of ancient Israelite religion.

The First Temple, built by King Solomon, became the political symbol of the Davidic monarchy, and a source of prophetic critique. It stood until being destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE.

The Second Temple was completed by the returned exiles in 516 BCE. It was famously renovated by King Herod and visited by Jesus. It stood until 70 CE when it was destroyed by the Romans.

There have historically been many attempts to build a Third Temple, and Third Temple theology continues to be a significant factor in the thought of Jewish, Christian, Islam and Baha’i religions. Third Temple beliefs can also be understood as playing a role in the modern politics of Israel, America and even Australia.


This course aims to give you insight into 3000 years of history of the Jerusalem Temple and how it continues to shape religious and political debates in modern times.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • outline the history and archaeological evidence of the First and Second Temples
  • identify the different voices and politics within the Biblical descriptions of the First and Second Temples
  • identify the key biblical texts used in third temple theology
  • relate non-canonical texts to the study of biblical texts
  • identify the impact of Third Temple theology on modern political discourse
  • conduct further independent research in Biblical Studies.


Session 1: How to build a temple: Solomon as the example

This class examines the account of the building of the First Temple in the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles and explores why Solomon was chosen to build the Temple. The physical features of the Temple and its location will be outlined and the lack of archaeological evidence for the Temple will be discussed.

Session 2: The politics of the First Temple

This class explores the association of the Temple with the Davidic Monarchy, and the role of the Temple in the Deuteronomistic History. It will question whether the Jerusalem Temple was really the primary sanctuary of ancient Israel, and examine prophetic critiques of the Temple and its destruction by the Babylonians.

Session 3: Building of the Second Temple

This class examines the account of the return from exile and the building of the Second Temple as recorded in the biblical books of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah. The reasons for the opposition to rebuilding will be explored while comparing the description of the Second Temple with that of the First.

Session 4: The politics of the second Temple

This class explores the role of the Priest as theocrat in the Second Temple period. It will discuss the competition between priests for control of the temple and examine extra-Biblical texts such as the book of Enoch and some Dead Sea Scrolls that speak negatively of the Temple and the priesthood. Jesus' interactions with the Temple in the New Testament will also be explored along with the reasons for the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.

Session 5: Attempts to build the third Temple

This class explores the Biblical basis for wanting to rebuild the Temple as well as historical attempts to do so down to the modern day and the reasons why each attempt has failed. It also discusses how modern Judaism and Christianity have been shaped by the absence of a Temple and the importance of the Temple Mount to Islam.

Session 6: Apocalypse now

This class examines the role the rebuilding of the Temple plays in modern apocalyptic thought in Jewish and Christian faiths, as well as the alternate views in the Bahá'i and Islamic faiths. It also explores the role that this religious thought has in shaping modern political decisions.

Intended audience

Suitable for anyone with an interest in history, religion, the bible or politics.



Delivery style

Six weekly, 2-hour sessions


Course handouts will be provided in class.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

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