EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is part of "Religion: Got questions?," a series answering your biggest religious questions. Each week, we will answer one submitted faith question. To send a submission visit timesfreepress.com/religionquestions or email email@example.com.
Question: I am curious on the different interpretations of whether a Third Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem as one of the critical signs of the Messiah's imminent arrival.
A: Beliefs around the Third Temple are a part of eschatology, the branch of theology concerned with the end times.
The First Temple of Jerusalem, also known as Solomon's Temple, was the holy place for the Kingdom of Israel and was destroyed in 587 BCE when the city was under siege. The temple was rebuilt less than 100 years later as a holy site, before being destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE and starting an exile of the Jewish people.
Rebuilding the temple — that being the third temple in Jerusalem — has important value in Jewish and Christian scriptures in the Book of Ezekiel. Both religions detail a clear beginning of mankind, so there must be a clear end, which the Third Temple symbolizes, said Motti Inbari, University of North Carolina at Pembroke associate professor of religion.
Jewish tradition says as the end times approaches, God will return the Jews to their homeland and begin performing miracles. One of those miracles will be a temple descending from heaven onto the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Inbari said.
"It will be a perfect return of everything that was destroyed in the year 70 [CE]," he said.
In the 20th century, the growing Zionist movement pushed for Jewish emigration from Europe to a Jewish state. Jews saw the success in doing the work of creating a nation themselves, and in the 1990s some strands of theology shifted to believing humans should also build the Third Temple rather than letting it come from heaven, Inbari said.
However, the idea of humans building the temple remains a minority view, Inbari said.
The Third Temple plays a significant role in Christianity as a sign of Jesus' second coming, detailed in the Book of Revelation, said Darrell Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary senior research professor.
"Among Christians, you really have two approaches: One is to say there is not going to be a physical temple, per se," Bock said. "But the more well-known view is that there will be, and when it shows it up, that's an indication that we're pretty close to the return of Christ."
Christianity is also split on whether the temple will be built by human hands, Bock said. Christians who read the Bible more literally, who tend to be theological conservatives, believe the temple will be a physical building.
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