I know Yechezkel writes about a Temple which is generally considered to be the Third. Is this explicitly identified as a Third Temple anywhere there? Otherwise, what's the earliest source that explicitly says there will be a Third Temple?

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    Does it have to specify how many Temples there were prior? Or is reference to a Temple which isn't destroyed sufficient?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 19:15
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    It needs to be unambiguously referring to the third one or unambiguously claiming there will be a third one. In particular I want to know whether there are any such sources before the second was destroyed, but I made the question more general to ask for the first source. So if there's a source after the second was destroyed saying another will be built, it would count.
    – ike
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 19:17
  • Very interesting question! I know the Rambam talks about renewal of korbanot, but that's waaay later than what you are probably looking for.
    – Nic
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 12:28

1 Answer 1


There is no 3rd Temple in a religious sense. It's a rebuilding of the second. The holiness of the second Temple is "sanctified for its time, and sanctified through to the future to come" -- ie all eternity. Just as we don't consider Herod's rebuilding and enhancement of the Second Temple to be a 3rd Temple, technically the messianic one will be a rebuilding of a Temple whose holiness is already there. Not a new Temple. It's only the nearly 2 millennial gap between them that make the language of "Third Temple" (בית שלישי) useful. But despite common usage, even in very notable primary rabbinic sources, it's not really meaningful on halachic or aggadic levels.

As to actually answer the question you were obviously trying to ask...

When neither the Great Assembly when they first built the second Temple, the Maccabbees and Herod when they rebuilt it conformed to Ezekiel's description, the notion that it must be rebuilt again became compelling.

So, aside from people deducing as much during the 2nd Temple, it was enshrined shortly after in the siddur. The prayer on Divine Service, said in the Temple (Tamid 5:1, quoted in Berakhos 11a), was adapted for the Amidah as the blessing that begins "Retzeih". In it, and many equally ancient quotes from the siddur, we ask G-d to restore the Temple and its worship. The request to return the service to the Sanctuary of Your House might date back to the Second Temple era, a request to restore those elements of First Temple worship that were impossible in the second. But more likely the words were inserted at the time it was adapted for post-temple use.

In addition, and codified in text only a couple of centuries even later, the laws of kings require that restoring the kingship would obligate him to make sure a Temple exists. Since there is none now, unless one comes down from heaven (Midrash Tanchuma, Pekudei 11), the messianic king would be obligated to build one (Jerusalem Talmud Megillah 1:11, Pesachim 9:1).

  • Can we source Retzeih to before the Second Temple's destruction?
    – ike
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 18:42
  • @ike: Does this change to that paragraph clarify or confuse? Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 19:15
  • It sounds like you're tracing it to after the Second's destruction. Is that correct?
    – ike
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 19:17
  • Tracing what? The insertion of a request in "Retzeih" to restore the service? Yes, I think that's more likely. The belief there would be a third Temple? No, that I date to each attempt to build the second using a design that isn't based on interpreting of the prophet's description. But I think that from a halachic perspective, we should remember it's really a refurbishing of the Second Temple after a very long down time. Which is why the Temple Mount currently has the Temple's holiness. More in kind to what Herod or the Maccabees did than what Ezra did. Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 19:29

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