Question: Was the temple in Jerusalem the sole legitimate site of worship?

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Question: Was the temple in Jerusalem the sole legitimate site of worship?

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #31: Did Ancient Israelites Build Temples Outside Of Jerusalem? (Video)

Biblical scholarship has demonstrated that the portrayal of the Jerusalem temple as the sole legitimate site of worship was made for political reasons

Recent Biblical scholarship has increasingly demonstrated that the portrayal of the Jerusalem temple as the sole legitimate site of worship was a late change made for political and polemical reasons. One non-LDS archaelogist's work is discussed:

The most obvious example [of a Jewish temple] is Solomon's temple in Jerusalem, which Dever [the archaelogist]...question[s] whether it was really the center of national religious life. He points out how difficult the requirements for temple worship would have been for the average Israelite. Few people journeyed to Jerusalem even once in their whole lives, let alone three times a year as prescribed in the Old Testament. He points out that "even if they did get there, they would not have been admitted to the Temple, . . . largely a royal chapel. . . . The activities [there] were conducted by and for a small priestly class, not even the majority of the small population resident in Jerusalem" (p. 98).

But to say that the Jerusalem temple may not actually have been the center of Israelite religion is not to preclude temple worship at other places. Evidence already discussed suggests that open-air sanctuaries and gate shrines may have been the sites of practices associated with the presence of the deity. There are two examples of monumental temples besides Solomon's. One such temple is at Shechem in Samaria and is known as the Field V Migdal temple...Its walls were as much as fifteen feet thick, and it stood two or three stories high. This site was associated by the 1960s excavators with specific passages in the Old Testament. Dever supports those connections, comfortable that this place could well have been the site where Joshua gathered the people after the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 24:) and where Abimelech rallied support when he aspired to the throne (Judges 9:). But this temple predates Israel's monarchy. It was destroyed in the twelfth century BC, well before the Solomonic temple was built.

The only other Israelite temple [in Palestine] identified to date is from the eighth century BC, at Arad, east of Beersheba. Many readers will be surprised to know that any examples of ancient Israelite temples other than Solomon's exist at all from this time period because the Old Testament implies that ritual worship was by then centralized in Jerusalem. Dever argues that the temple at Arad was a large part of a Judean royal fortress and emphasizes how similar in plan it is to the Jerusalem temple. It was compatible with the official religion, at least in most respects. Evidence suggests that some of the paraphernalia found here—specifically three large standing stones and two altars—was deliberately buried under the floor as part of Hezekiah's reform.8 Dever notes that two of the standing stones (māṣṣēbôt) that were later concealed—one larger than the other—were originally placed on the back wall of the inner sanctum, the holy of holies. For him, this is evidence that at least two deities were worshipped here. The temple itself, Dever believes, is no isolated case of rogue temple-building. His sense is that local temples were common... [1]

Known Jewish temples

Known Jewish temples include: [2]

Site Approximate time (centuries before Christ)
Mosaic Tabernacle

13

Gilgal 13
Ebal 13
Shechem 12
Shiloh 12-11
Kirjath-jearim 11
Gibeon 10-11
Megiddo 10
Arad 10 (to 1st century A.D.)
Lachish 10-7
Dan 10-8
Bethel 9
Beer-Sheba 8-7
Elephantine/Aswan 6-4
Shechem/Mt. Gerizim (Samaritan) -
Leontopolis/Tel Yehudia by Onias (near Heliopolis) which replaced/united several other Jewish temples in Egypt 160 B.C. to A.D. 73

Notes

  1. Alyson Skabelund Von Feldt, "Does God Have a Wife? Review of Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 81–118. off-site wiki
  2. Dr. William Hamblin, "Tract Made Without Evidence". Hamblin respond's to James White's (of Alpha & Omega Ministry) e-tract, "Temples Made Without Hands" (22 September 1999). off-site