Closely Related:
- What's the earliest source for the Third Temple?

1. Question :

If the Second Temple is when Israel rebuilt Solomon's temple, then why isn't the rebuilding of "Herod's Temple" considered the third?

2. Issue - Unreferenced Explanation :

The Altar (?): Would keeping the altar in tact mean it is the same temple? Is there a historical reference that the altar was preserved, in tact? Is there a Scriptural basis for this?

What is the Rabbinical source of that argument?

  • 2
    Isn't this just a semantic game? Who cares what we call it or how we number it?
    – Double AA
    Mar 15, 2017 at 18:57
  • 1
    Herod did not rebuild the Second Temple. He remodeled and decked it out with gold, because the Greeks had plundered the Temple during the Hasmonean Revolt.
    – ezra
    Mar 15, 2017 at 19:03
  • 1
    @ezra - Do you have any historical (contemporaneous) /scriptural references about "remodeling not rebuilding", that you could post as an answer? Those references would be incredibly helpful. Mar 15, 2017 at 19:06
  • By the time Herod refurbished it, EVERYBODY had plundered it. Greeks, Romans, etc. Luckily, the Hasmoneans stopped the trend for a while..until they invited the Romans to settle their succession dispute, and Crassus plundered it, then went to his death shortly afterwards...the earliest source referring to a diffent 3rd Temple is probably Ezekiel.
    – Gary
    Mar 15, 2017 at 20:17
  • 1
    I think there is a translation issue at hand here. A churva in chazzal means a building which is in a state of disuse and disrepair, not a building in a state of being dismantled for the purpose of rebuilding. After each of the two churbanos, the temple was left unused in a given state of disrepair. Afterwards it was rebuilt. When herod dismantled the temple for the purpose of building a bigger better one, it was not considered a churban, so the new building was not a new temple.
    – user6591
    Mar 15, 2017 at 22:59

2 Answers 2


After the destruction of the first temple, it had to be rebuilt from scratch. When Herod rebuilt the temple on the advice of Bava be Buta (Bava Basra 3b), it was considered as re-establishing and remodeling the existing temple established by Ezra. Thus, it was considered as part of the Second Temple, rather than a different building. During the entire construction, services continued and it was regarded as the Temple continuing to exist.

Ezra's Temple, Herod's Temple and Ezekiel's vision of the Third Temple

All our systems, processes, and institutions were born in the shadow of the destruction of the Second Temple. So many rabbis and millions of other Jews had been slain in their prime by Rome, that knowledge of the Second Temple was lost and had to be recovered by deductive reasoning and homiletic interpretation of scriptural verses, resulting in disagreement about most Temple related matters. This has led to great confusion about the Temple, even among some of the greatest scholars.

To set the record straight: there were two Second Temples. The first one was built 70 years after the destruction of Solomon's original Temple. This second Temple stood for 332 years, then was removed and rebuilt by Herod. Herod's Temple took eight years to build and stood for 80 years, then was destroyed by Rome. So different from each other were these two Temples that the Medrash (Numbers Rabba 14) assigns a different sacrifice as their essence. The original Second Temple, built by Zerubavel, governor of Judea, under the direction of Ezra and King Darius of Persia, is represented by a ram as a burnt offering. The rebuilt Second Temple, erected by Herod, is represented by a goat as a sin offering.

For the most part, the Talmud treats the two Temples as one, and we often think we are learning about Ezra's Temple, when in reality we are almost always learning about Herod's Temple.

Few people realize that the miracle of Chanukah took place in Ezra's Temple, not Herod's. The Maccabees vanquished the Greeks and rededicated Ezra's Temple in 3597 (163 B.C.E), fully 145 years before Herod's Temple was built.

The Mishna and the Rambam describe only Herod's Temple. Even the great Rambam confuses the two, stating explicitly in the Mishneh Torah (Laws of the Temple) that the height of Ezra's Temple was 100 cubits, but in truth only Herod's Temple was 100 cubits high. Ezra's Temple was 60 cubits high as reported in Ezra 6:3. In Herod's speech to the Jews, recorded by Josephus (Antiquities, book XV), Herod proclaims that the original builders of the Second Temple were limited by the Persian king to a Temple only 60 cubits high, while he, Herod, promised to raise it to a the appropriate height of 100 cubits.

This Temple of Herod was no simple beautification project. Herod removed Ezra's Temple, stone by stone, right down to the ground, and then removed the foundations and built an entirely new Temple of his own. Herod enlarged the Azora (Inner Courtyard) which was forbidden by Halacha without a Sanhedrin of 71 judges, a Jewish King, and the Urim and Tumim (the oracle of the High Priests Breastplate). Herod, who was not Jewish, had murdered all the members of the Sanhedrin; the Urim and Tumim had not existed since the destruction of the First Temple. In effect, the Second Temple described in the Mishna and the Rambam was an illegal structure, doomed to destruction from the very day it was built.

  • For the last bit, that he essentially built an illegal structure, the source is the second Perek of Shavuos. To be fair, the Gemara there records a machlokes whether it's both the Sanhedrin and Urim v'Tumim or one or the other, but the point still stands.
    – DonielF
    Mar 16, 2017 at 4:20
  • G'd didn't even want King David, of all people, to build the Temple, because of the bloodshed of the wars he waged (1 Chronicles 22:8), let alone a mass murderer such as Herod. The structure that Herod built probably was a delightful abomination. Nov 2, 2021 at 2:09

Herod did not rebuild a temple. He in fact completely reformed the temple mount completely.

  • 1
    Do you mean to say that he didn't rebuild it? (Also, you might want to edit for spelling) Feb 24, 2018 at 19:37
  • Hi David, and welcome to Mi Yodeya! Consider explaining your answer as to how it addresses Elika's questions. Feb 25, 2018 at 2:30
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    Feb 25, 2018 at 3:54

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