In his book, The New Covenant, Bob Emery dramatizes the story of the New Testament through the eyes of the apostle, John. It contains many fascinating insights–ideas I had not seen before in my reading of the New Testament many of which I found myself researching and coming to an “Aha!” moment.
Here’s one of Bob’s insights into the Temple and the role of women (used with permission). Remember, this is John speaking:
“Now, as we are here in the outer court, look at this dirt upon which we stand. Strictly speaking, the outer court is not part of the temple, for anyone may enter here, except menstruating women. Its dirt is not sacred. But consider the soil on other side of the wall. That is thought to be holy dirt!
“And beyond that there are fourteen steps leading up to the court of the women, where there is another wall. There the ground is even more holy, because any ritually cleansed Jew, man or woman, can enter there.
“But beyond that are another twelve steps, and another wall, leading to the court of Israel—male Israel, that is. There the ground is even holier still.
“And further and higher yet are another five steps, and another wall, leading to the court of the priests where the sacrifices are performed, and the stones upon which the Levitical priests walk. These stones are considered even more holy!
“All of this—the hierarchy, the subtlety, and the image it all projects—reinforces the height of false religion. The Gentiles are the farthest away from God. They are the dogs. Where their feet walk is unholy ground. A step up from the Gentiles are women. Fourteen steps, to be precise! And on higher ground yet are men, because they are closer to God. But the average person is still not holy enough, because higher on the rung, and closer to God, are the priests. And above the priests is the high priest, who alone can enter the holy ground of the Holiest of All.
“Does not all that this temple projects corrupt the minds of all the people, so that in fact they believe that this is the manner in which God views all humankind? The sin of it all! The utter blasphemy and stench that rises from this beautiful, so-called monument to God!”
The inspiration of the words Paul had written to the Ephesians about God breaking down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile was becoming clearer to me by the second! Yes, God did want to destroy this temple of stone. He must be at the limits of his patience, I thought, not to have come in judgment already. How anxious he must be to erase this last remaining vestige of the barriers and walls that stand between Gentile and Jew, man and woman, priest and pauper!
Never had it been so clear to me: what Jesus did at the cross was to bring into existence a new creation in which there are no denigrating distinctions. In this new species—the invisible head in heaven joined with his visible body on earth—there is no one holier than another, no one of higher rank than another before God. What Jesus paid for by his precious blood was to make all of his people one by his Spirit and to replace the enmity, the barriers, and the divisions with the unity, peace, and love found only in him.