JERUSALEM – The Chinese are connoisseurs of civilization. For thousands of years they have absorbed ethnicities into their own culture, eliminating on occasion tribes that proved too troublesome. They have watched other civilizations come and go; they have seen their younger neighbors adopt parts of their culture and then try to assert their superiority, and ultimately fail. They are the last people on earth to accept the liberal Western dogma that every culture is valid within its own terms of reference, for they have seen too many civilizations fail of their own flaws.
The Temple service reflected the universalistic role envisioned for Jerusalem. In dedicating the Temple, King Solomon said that prayers would be offered there by “a foreigner who is not of your people Israel, but rather comes from a distant land.” In Isaiah, God described the Temple as “a house of prayer for all peoples” . . . sacrifices were regularly offered to promote peace for the entire world. . . . According to biblical law, non-Jews were in fact permitted to offer sacrifices at the Temple, a practice that became particularly widespread during the Second Temple period (512 BCE to 70 CE ). . . . It was also common for non-Jewish leaders to send gifts to the Temple throughout the Second Temple period. Darius, King of Persia, and even Augustus Caesar both did this. Undoubtedly because of the Temple, [the Roman historian] Pliny the Elder wrote that Jerusalem was the most famous city in the East.
Christianity resituated the holiness and authority of the Temple in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. As Pope Benedict XVI explained, Jesus claimed for himself the qualities of the Temple (Matthew 12:5). After the Romans destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Christian variant of the Jewish idea gained support, and ultimately was adopted as the state religion of the Roman Empire.