the theme

the Son of Man with the clouds

My novel is titled The Third Temple. This has been so from the very first concept. I have never considered anything else, as the third temple is the link between the story and the theme of my novel.

In the story, the third temple is one of the motives for the murder of Emperor Domitian. Josephus, one of the three conspirators against the emperor, was a Jewish priest who served in the temple of Jerusalem. In 70 CE that temple was destroyed by the Roman general (and later emperor) Titus. As a result, Josephus not only lost his profession, but also the status attached to it. To regain this status, he wanted to build a new temple. He was willing to do a great deal for that. In the end, even commit murder.

the messiah

The reconstruction of the temple did present Josephus with a problem though. As I explain on my page “the Jewish temple“, Titus was the second to destroy the temple of Jerusalem. The first destruction was by Nebuchadnezzar (in 587 BCE). So the new temple that Josephus wanted to build, would be the third temple to arise on the Temple Mount. And, according to Jewish tradition, this third temple will be built by the messiah.

So, in order to regain his temple, Josephus had to look for the messiah. This quest is the theme of my novel and also one of the major religious topics on earth. For thousands of years, whole tribes have been waiting for the arrival or return of the messiah. However, no one knows when he will come. Nobody knows what he will look like either. Yet, in the service of their messiah, millions of believers are willing to sacrifice their lives and take that of their fellow man. That’s what fascinates me. That’s why I’m writing a trilogy about the Temple Mount.

the Son of Man on the clouds

Above I write that nobody knows what the messiah will look like. That is correct. Still, we can say a few things about him. The Tanakh (the Jewish name for the Old Testament) is full of references to him. Before I started writing my novel, I put them all down. This resulted in an extensive list of characteristics that the messiah must meet.

In his search for the builder of the third temple, Josephus of course used that list. However, it turned out hard to find someone who met all the characteristics.

In the thirty years (70-100 CE) that Josephus searched for his messiah, Christianity was on a spectacular rise. The new faith attracted crowds. The churches filled up. And Christianity had a messiah: Jesus of Nazareth. According to the Christians, the references from the Old Testament referred to him. That is why they adopted many of those references in their New Testament. Mark, for example, wrote in his gospel (13:26): “and then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory”. He had copied that almost literally from Daniel (7:13): “and I saw One like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven“.

Yet few Jews were convinced by the evangelists. Only a limited number of them converted to the new faith. The majority refused to acknowledge Jesus as their messiah. On my webpage “Jesus and the third temple“, I will try to explain why. And in my novel, I will of course elaborate further on this.

the Roman messiah

Nowadays, when discussing messianism, we mainly think of Christianity and Judaism. At the time of Josephus, however, faith in the coming of the Prince of Peace was widespread. Half the Roman empire believed in a ruler who would rise up in the Middle East and bring lasting peace. This is evidenced by the classical literature that has been handed down to us. The most famous example is Virgil’s fourth eclogue, to which I have dedicated an entire page on this website.

The prophecy of the Prince of Peace did not lead to a Roman wait-and-see resignation, but to a striving for its fulfillment. At least two emperors deliberately presented themselves as the Prince of Peace: Augustus and Vespasian. The latter plays an important role in my novel, in which I narrate how he tried to acquire the title Prince of Peace by closing the temple of Janus (the Roman god of war) and by building a temple for Pax (the goddess of peace). Josephus nurtured the emperor’s ambition and thus tried to persuade him to build the third Jewish temple.