I wanted to take a moment to draw a bit of visual contrast between the Temple that we visualize within our degree work and the Temple as it likely was. We’ve made some subtle changes to better-suit our allegory and so that particular symbols might be used. There’s nothing wrong with that.
We have many opportunities to hear or read descriptions, and we come across different visual representations.
A few nights ago, I was sifting through some information for another project that I’m working on, and I was pushed in the direction of Sir Isaac Newton. Mr. Newton isn’t known to have been a Freemason, but several of those within his circles were. Interestingly, he spent a great deal of time researching alchemy; several philosophers and scientists were attempting to make advances into alchemy — as both speculative and practical sciences.
One of the works that Isaac Newton compiled over the course of his life is The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended. It was first published after his death, in 1728. In it, he detailed the rise and fall of many ancient kingdoms. One of the aims of this work was to prove that the Temple of Solomon was the first temple to ever be built, and that all temples, thereafter, were copies.
Within The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, Newton created drawings of how King Solomon’s Temple was laid out and constructed. He used the book of Ezekiel, which he translated from Hebrew himself, as his road map. The drawings and descriptions are as follows:
A Description of THE TEMPLE OF SOLOMON.
PLATE I – page 346
ABCD. The Separate Place in which stood the Temple.
ABEF. The Court of the Priests.
G. The Altar.
DHLKICEFD. A Pavement compassing three sides of the foremention’d Courts, and upon which stood the Buildings for the Priests, with Cloysters under them.
MNOP. The Court of the People.
MQTSRN. A Pavement compassing three sides of the Peoples Court, upon which stood the Buildings for the People, with Cloysters under them.
UXYZ. The Mountain of the House.
aabb. A Wall enclosing the whole.
c. The Gate Shallecheth.
d. The Gate Parbar.
ef. The two Gates Assupim.
g. The East Gate of the Peoples Court, call’d the Kings Gate.
hh. The North and South Gates of the same Court.
iiii. The chambers over the Cloysters of the Peoples Court where the People ate the Sacrifices, 30 Chambers in each Story.
kkkk. Four little Courts serving for Stair Cases and Kitchins for the People.
l. The Eastern Gate of the Priests Court, over which sate the Sanhedrin.
m. The Southern Gate of the Priests Court.
n. The Northern Gate of the same Court, where the Sacrifices were flea’d.
opqrst. The Buildings over the Cloysters for the Priests, viz six large Chambers (subdivided) in each Story, whereof o and p were for the High Priest and Sagan, q for the Overseers of the Sanctuary and Treasury, r for the Overseers of the Altar and Sacrifice and s and t for the Princes of the twenty four Courses of Priests.
uu. Two Courts in which were Stair Cases and Kitchins for the Priests.
x. The House or Temple which (together with the Treasure Chambers y, and Buildings zz on each side of the Separate Place) is more particularly describ’d on the second Plate.
A Description of the Inner Court & Buildings for the Priests in Solomon’s Temple.
PLATE II – page 346
ABCD. The Separate Place.
ABEF. The Inner Court, or Court of the Priests, parted from the Separate Place, and and Pavement on the other three sides, by a marble rail.
G. The Altar.
HHH. The East, South, & North Gates of the Priests Court.
III. The Cloysters supporting the Buildings for the Priests.
KK. Two Courts in which were Stair Cases and Kitchins for the Priests.
L. Ten Steps to the Porch of the Temple.
M. The Porch of the Temple.
N. The Holy Place.
O. The most Holy Place.
PPPP. Thirty Treasure-Chambers, in two rows, opening into a gallery, door against door, and compassing three sides of the Holy & most Holy Places.
Q. The Stairs leading to the Middle Chamber.
RRRR. The buildings for the four and twenty Courses of Priests, upon the Pavement on either side of the Separate Place, three Stories high without Cloysters, but the upper Stories narrower than the lower, to make room for Galleries before them. There were 24 Chambers in each Story and they opend into a walk or alley, SS. between the Buildings.
TT. Two Courts in which were Kitchins for the Priests of the twenty four Courses.
A Particular Description of one of the Gates of the Peoples Court, with part of the Cloyster adjoyning.
PLATE III – PAGE 346
uw. The inner margin of the Pavement compassing three sides of the Peoples Court.
xxx. The Pillars of the Cloyster supporting the Buildings for the People.
yyyy. Double Pillars where two Exhedræ joyned, and whose interstices in the front zz were filled up with a square Column of Marble.
Some day, I’d like to revisit the subject of King Solomon’s Temple; we’ve had a lot of interesting discussions about it during the Masonic Education portions of our Lodge meetings. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to receive a little historic grounding and perspective.