Lesson 4: Humaniform Structures (The Architecture of Reality: Sacred Time & Sacred Place in Holy Scripture)


The Architecture of Reality: Sacred Time & Sacred Place in Holy Scripture
Lesson 4 – Humaniform Structures
Christ Covenant Church, Centralia, WA

Review of Lesson 3

  • We are in the middle of giving a theological account for how the Bible makes us to say that “God is present.” And the reason we are doing this is because we are trying to understand the significance and meaning of the Tabernacle and Temple.
  • And because both of these physical structures are symbols of God’s presence, we want to make sure we understand the ways in which God can actually be present, so that we tie our symbols to a concrete reality. The whole point of a symbol/sign is to lead us to the actual thing signified, and in this case, it is the reality of God’s Presence.

There are three ways that Scripture makes us to say that God is present. Does anyone remember those three kinds of presence?

1. Common Presence: God is present in every reality as giving them to be (efficient cause).
2. Special Presence: God is present in a special way by grace in believers.
3. Hypostatic Presence: God is wholly present in Christ.

We ended Lesson 3 by comparing and contrasting God’s Omnipresence (Common Presence) with various heretical beliefs such as pantheism and monism.

  • Pantheism teaches that God is the soul of the world, or that God fills the world like the soul fills the body. This is ultimately a form of monism that posits no real distinction between God and creatures.
  • Both pantheism and monism commit the cardinal sin of making God a creature, either by attributing to him some vast spiritual body that fills the world like air fills a balloon, or by making us all a part of God and one with him in essence.
  • The crucial distinction we have to make when we talk about God’s relationship to the world is that God is present everywhere as the efficient cause, not as the material cause.
    • God is present to creation like C.S. Lewis is present to Narnia, in that He gives it being. This is an analogy for God’s efficient causation.
    • God is not present to creation as the material substance (atoms, molecules, etc.) that everything is made out of. God gives things to be (efficient cause), God is not the material out of which things are made (material cause).
  • Summary: Acts 17:28 says, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” From this we arrive at the true judgment that: God is present in every reality, not as being contained within creation, but as containing all creation as giving them existence.
    • To use the balloon analogy again, God is in creation, not like air is inside a balloon, but as the one blowing air into the balloon from outside.
    • So that is God’s Common Presence, any questions before we talk about God’s special and hypostatic presence?

Lesson 4 – Humaniform Structures

The New Testament explicitly tells us that the Tabernacle/Temple are figures of Christ and the Church. That is, these architectural structures symbolize the Divine Person of the Son who became incarnate, and the body and bride of Christ that is you and I, the church.

Christ as Tabernacle & Temple:

  • John 1:14 says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt (ἐσκήνωσεν, σκηνόω, lit. tented/tabernacled) among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
  • John 2:19-21 says, “Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.”

The Church/Christians as Tabernacle & Temple”

  • 2 Peter 1:13-14 says, “Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent (σκηνώματι, σκήνωμα, lit. habitation, see Acts 7:46 and Psalm 132:5), to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 says, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
    • St. Thomas says, “Man is called a mind, since that is the most important thing in man. Now this mind is to the body as a man is to a house. For just as the man living in a house is not destroyed, when the house is destroyed, but he continues to exist, so when the body is destroyed, the mind, i.e., the rational soul, is not destroyed, but continues to exist.” (https://aquinas.cc/la/en/~2Cor.C5.L1.n153.2)
  • 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

Summary: So both Christ and the Church are called Tabernacles/Temples in the New Testament, but where is this idea coming from? Well the idea that these structures signified a person can be found in the very letters of the Old Testament. I will give you just a few examples of this from 1 Kings 6.

Old Testament Hints of a Humaniform Structure

  • 1 Kings 6 describes the construction of Solomon’s Temple. And there we find a variety of anatomical terms for this building.

1 Kings 6:1-5
And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord. And the house which king Solomon built for the Lord, the length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits.

  • Note first that the dimensions are derived from the human body. A cubit (אַמָּה) is about 1.5 feet and is derived from measuring the elbow to the tip of your middle finger.
    • The original Tabernacle was 30 cubits long (about 45 feet). The Temple was double that at 60 cubits in length.
  • Smaller items like the table of showbread included dimensions such as the hand breadth (Ex. 25:25). The breastplate for the high priest was measured as a span in length and breadth (Ex. 28:16).

And the porch before the temple of the house, twenty cubits was the length thereof, according to the breadth of the house; and ten cubits was the breadth thereof before the house.

  • Now this is obscured in English, but in Hebrew, where we read “and the porch before the temple” or some translation have “in front of the temple,” it says in Hebrew, עַל־פְּנֵי֙ הֵיכַ֣ל “upon the face of the temple.”
    • So the imagery is that the entrance to the holy place is an entrance into the face/mind/head of the temple.

Next time, we will look at a few more examples of this and then explore the implications.