Temple Symbolism: Lundquist’s Academic Paper on (Ancient) Temple Typology

In my last post, Mike Parker pointed to MormonMonastery.com for some good temple-related resources for Latter-day Saints. Interestingly, just moments before I had added a link from that site on my LDSFAQ page about LDS Temples. The link was to an interesting article by John Lundquist – more on that later.

The book that may have helped me most appreciate and enjoy the LDS temple was actually written by a Jewish scholar. The book Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1985) was written Jon D. Levenson who was at the University of Chicago at the time, but now is at Harvard. I read his book while finishing graduate school at BYU over 20 years ago. On page after page, I encountered what seemed to be possible evidence that ancient Temple practices – covenant making, symbols, meanings, themes – had been restored to some degree in the modern LDS Temple.

Levenson’s book is out of print, sadly, but a related summary of information about the ancient Middle Eastern temple concept is available online in John M. Lundquist’s scholarly article, “What Is a Temple? A Preliminary Typology” (PDF link), originally printed in H. B. Huffman, F. A. Spina, and A. R. W. Green, eds., The Quest for the Kingdom of God: Studies in Honor of George E. Mendenhall (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1983), which was republished in Temples of the Ancient World, ed. by Donald W. Parry and Stephen D. Ricks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1994, pp. 83-118). While Lundquist’s article is not explicitly about the LDS Temple, those familiar with LDS temples may see fascinating evidence for ancient roots. Really, a tremendously exciting paper – at least for some of amateur LDS apologist geeks (“apologeeks?”).


Author: Jeff Lindsay

10 thoughts on “Temple Symbolism: Lundquist’s Academic Paper on (Ancient) Temple Typology

  1. Do not discount the fact that Masonry and the Catholic Church have many remnants of the temple ceremony.

    And remember that the Temple ceremony often changes to meet the times.

  2. I was able to find “Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible” for $8 online 🙂 I guess it’s back in print!

  3. Great post! Does this book address the issue of how when Christ came into the world and died there was not a need for temple ceremonies anymore after his death? I guess what I’m asking is if this addresses any evidence of temple ceremonies happening after Jesus’ death? If so, I’d be very interested in reading it. If not, do you know anywhere that addresses this issue?


  4. Jeff, thanks for the info. I hope you don’t mind the following comment, since I don’t know how you choose to treat trollish comments like ama’s; if you would rather not engage that comment here, feel free to delete mine.

    ama, other than Biblical references to things like baptism for the dead – or the sealing power for not just baptisms but for “whatsoever” – or the dead needing us to “be made perfect” – or similar statements? There’s nothing of which I am aware in the Bible stating that the temple ordinances we practice ceased with Christ, while there are multiple passages that imply or even state clearly that they were initiated by the early Christians – that the ordinances we now associate with temple work were preached and practiced by them. If there is a Biblical statement repudiating these ordinances, please provide it.

    (Don’t rely on the grace vs. works argument in discussing this topic. That would be like arguing that baptism for the living is not necessary now, which is simply ridiculous given the Lord’s post-resurrection words to his followers. Provide an actual verse or passage that states that vicarious work for the dead is not necessary post-Christ.)

    Your comment displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of temple work once Jesus died for us. Prior to that time, Jewish temple work was dedicated to their relationship to God and the concept of the coming of the Messiah. Once he came and fulfilled his mortal mission, temple ordinances became symbols and celebrations of what he had done for them and how that now was being extended to the Gentiles. Of course, those ordinances were no longer performed in the Jewish-controlled temple, as the Jews still were looking forward to the coming of their King and Messiah, but the early Christians began to perform their own ordinances in their own sacred spaces – wherever those were located. That much appears to be clear in many of the earliest non-Biblical writings of the Christian fathers (and in records like the Dead Sea Scrolls), even if only a few implications remained in the actual Bible that was compiled much later.

    If the Jews who controlled the temple did not allow the Christians access to it to perform these ordinances, but if there still are references to them in the NT, that seems like a strong argument for their efficacy and importance.

    There are numerous, excellent examples of meticulous research about this topic, but the most compelling proof to me is simply the lack of Biblical statement saying otherwise and the passages that imply or state clearly that the power was given and the ordinances continued after Jesus’ death. With that foundation, the other concurrent writings are very instructive and, in my opinion, crystal clear in this regard.

  5. I love your site. So much goodness in it. I’ll definitely come back and visit OFTEN! Please continue this good work. It’s very very helpful for new LDS members like myself.

  6. Good question, Ama. Dr. Levenson’s book is focused on Old Testament times. However, we do read in the Bible that the Temple remained an important place for the Christians (Acts 2:46, as I recall, says the Christians were there daily) and will be in the last days and Millennium (Rev. 7:15 – we’ll be serving God night and day in the Temple). There are a lot of early Christian writings about esoteric ordinances that they kept secret, such as the chrism. These resonate with modern temple concepts. I give some additional info on my LDSFAQ temple page cited in the post here.

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