Abstract

Abstract:

This essay examines a distinct recurrent theme in rabbinic literature in which three stages of the Temple—built, destroyed, and rebuilt—are foreseen by figures in Genesis. This theme, which first appears in a composite passage in Sifre Deuteronomy, presents a unique, tripartite mythic image of Temple history, in which the period of destruction is perceived as a significant part of history, separating two Temples: that of the past and that of the future. This theme is complexly developed in Genesis Rabbah, structurally, exegetically, and thematically, as it is woven throughout the tales of Genesis and is enriched by intertextual links to key texts regarding the Temple elsewhere in the Bible. These elements may be viewed in light of the destruction's depiction by Church Fathers as a permanent stage that proves the temporality of God's covenant with Israel, and as part of a widely recorded exegetical debate regarding eschatological Old Testament prophecies that predict the rebuilding of Zion. Particular contrasts stand out in comparison to Eusebius of Caesarea's Demonstratio Evangelica, in which the Temple and the patriarchs also stand at the heart of a comprehensive polemical historiography and a tripartite model of religious history. These points demonstrate that this recurrent rabbinic theme is best understood as part of a broader polemical discourse between Jews and Christians in which stories from Genesis and the destruction of the Temple played a key role in constructing identities, interpreting biblical sources, and formulating an understanding of religious history and the progression of time.

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