Everyone knows the story about Jesus entering the Temple in Jerusalem and overturning the tables of the moneychangers. But what most people forget is that he also overturned the “benches of those selling doves.”
While there was likely a lucrative business in changing foreign currency into Hebrew money (the only form of acceptable payment for the Temple tax), the selling of animals for sacrifice was probably the true Big Business in the city. A study published in the September issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science confirms visions of the temple depicted in historical Jewish texts and suggests the economic heart of the city was its slaughtering operation:
According to the Talmud, a Jewish religious text, the city’s economic heart was the Holy Temple, the only place where Israelites could sacrifice animals as offerings to God. Parts of the animal that weren’t sacrificed as a burnt offering were often left for people to feast on.
Some passages in the text depict priests wading up to their knees in blood, and others describe 1.2 million animals being slaughtered on one day. And the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also describes an enormous slaughtering operation.
But historians wondered whether these descriptions were hyperbole or fact.
A few years ago, archaeologists unearthed a massive dump on the outskirts of the old walled city of Jerusalem. Dating revealed the dump was used between the start of King Herod’s reign in 37 B.C. and the Great Revolt in A.D. 66. [See Images of the Massive Bone Dump ]
Whereas most city dumps contain animal bones, this one contained an unusually large proportion of them for an agricultural society, Hartman said.
“Meat was not eaten on a daily basis. It was something that was kept for special events,” Hartman told LiveScience.
What’s more, most of the animals were young, suggesting they were raised for sacrifice.
(Via: God and the Machine)