Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple.Acts 3:1-2
The Remaining Setting Questions:
- Where did this action actually take place, in the temple or outside it?
There is much debate among the experts over this matter. If this indeed happened when they were “going up” then it clearly takes place outside of the Temple complex, i.e. from the lower city up the temple mount. Or it could refer to the ascent from the Court of the Gentiles to the Court of the Women, where most figure the Beautiful Gate was positioned. The Court of the Gentiles was the lower area where Gentiles could walk about in the temple complex. From there, one ascended some steps to a higher level and passed through a barrier into the Temple area proper. This was the Court of the Women from which women could venture no further into the inner sanctum of the Temple.
There are a number of problems encountered when we try to locate this Beautiful Gate. There is a textual problem both in the Greek versions available and in regard to the reference to the Beautiful Gate as one of the gates of the temple. There were nine gates to the Temple ranging from the time of Solomon to the Temple in Herod’s time. None of the background documentation mentions a Beautiful Gate. The only place we find reference to this gate is in Acts 3:2 and 3:10. So which gate is it? There are two prime choices for the “Beautiful Gate”.
- The Shushan Gate: this is the eastern most gate allowing access to the temple area from the outer area. This would be the one outside of the Portico of Solomon.
- The Nicanor Gate: this is the eastern gate to the temple buildings proper. It is the Gate which leads from the Court of the Gentiles to the Court of the Women. It is also described as magnificent by Josephus and in the Mishnah. Some say part of its magnificence (beauty shall we say) comes from the fact it is on the eastern side and therefore catches the early morning sun.
Because there is nothing to actually nail down the location and there is conjecture about exactly where it is, it is probably wiser to be guided by the story as it unfolds in the Book of Acts. It is natural for us to assume that Luke has done his normally thorough work and has told us the detail that we need for the story. Because of that, it is more likely we will find the confirming elements in the story itself. The problem is there are different textual traditions which cloud the accuracy of the locations behind the story.
The Neutral Text indicates three stages:
- a) Peter and John came to the Beautiful Gate and healed the man there
- b) They went into the temple
- c) They became the centre of attention when the crowd ran to them at Solomon’s Porch.
The implications from this are:
- Solomon’s Porch was inside the general temple area and so it was not the temple buildings being referred to.
- The Beautiful Gate (Door) must have been on the outside of Solomon’s Porch.
Only the Shushan Gate fits this description
- The Shushan Gate was large and splendid.
- It was made of Corinthian brass, and not silver and gold, the material of the other gates.
- But it was said to have a magnificent appearance.
The Western Text seems to make it clear that
- the action takes place in the temple buildings and not in the outer court.
- The indication we draw from this text is that the Beautiful Gate / Door was further into the Temple building.
- The implication is this Gate was actually the Nicanor Gate.
- This was named after its Alexandrian door and being in the east caught the sun in a magnificent way.
- It was larger and higher and made out of bronze.
- It had a texture and colour about it in the sun which made it stand out from the silver and gold gates.
Josephus wrote: “nine of the gates were covered all over with gold and silver, likewise the side posts and lintels. But there was one, without (outside) the temple, of Corinthian brass, which in dignity greatly exceeded the silver and golden ones.”The word used for “Beautiful” is [horaios] which means “beautiful”, “fair”, “lovely” or “pleasant”. The question is, does Luke refer to this gate as “beautiful” because of its appearance, likely making it the Nicanor Gate or does he refer to it as beautiful because of what happened there? In other words, was Luke setting the scene historically or was he setting the scene in order to focus on the miracle?
The last piece of input we need to look at is the positioning of the lame man each day. Luke tells us he was taken to the Beautiful Gate each day in order to beg. It is clear that each beggar had an appointed place (perhaps self appointed) from which to beg. It happened at the gates because that is where most people passed through or gathered. Especially so in the case of the one closest to the Court of the Women, giving the opportunity to encounter more compassionate people who are likely to give alms to the poor and the lame. Clearly this man was significantly lame. Not just limping but incapacitated to the point where he needed friends and family to carry him and set him down in his usual place. Don’t miss the fact that just as Peter and John are going about their usual routine, so too with this man. I can’t help but consider the implications in the light of Pak Suryadi’s question. How many times did Peter, John and the other disciples walk past this man in his usual place at the gate? Ponder on these questions in order to put it all together.
Next Gem we will start to look at the miracle itself.
Being both soft and strong is a combination very few have mastered.Lisa Zen Purba
Being full of both grace and truth is a combination very few have mastered.Ian Vail
God is not punishing you, He’s preparing you. Trust His plan not your pain.Dian Permata Sari
Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.Niken Irrawatri