Artist's conception of the recreated
Solomon Temple in São Paulo, Brazil
The only surprising thing about this story is that it took so long to materialize. After all, people have been recreating buildings, both lost and otherwise, at a growing rate for decades: Colonial Jamestown and Williamsburg have returned from historical oblivion, Ivorian dictator Felix Houphouet-Boigny built a semi-replica of St. Peter’s in Yamoussoukro in 1985/89, Warsaw rebuilt its obliterated royal palace and Berlin is set to follow suit, the Mormons reerected the lost Temple in Nauvoo in 2002, and Las Vegas has spared neither expense nor good taste in its drive to recreate the world’s best-known monuments.
Finally last week, a Brazilian Pentecostal megachurch called the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God announced that it plans to reconstruct the Temple of Solomon in São Paulo. The new temple/church will measure 126 by 104 meters (413 by 341 feet) and stand 55 meters (180 feet) high, making it twice as tall as the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Featuring a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, it will provide space for a whopping 10,000 worshippers.
The Bible has the following to say about the design of the original Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6:14-38):
So Solomon built the temple and finished it. And he built the inside walls of the temple with cedar boards; from the floor of the temple to the ceiling he paneled the inside with wood; and he covered the floor of the temple with planks of cypress. Then he built the twenty-cubit room at the rear of the temple, from floor to ceiling, with cedar boards; he built it inside as the inner sanctuary, as the Most Holy Place. And in front of it the temple sanctuary was forty cubits long. The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with ornamental buds and open flowers.
All was cedar; there was no stone to be seen. And he prepared the inner sanctuary inside the temple, to set the ark of the covenant of the Lord there. The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high. He overlaid it with pure gold, and overlaid the altar of cedar. So Solomon overlaid the inside of the temple with pure gold. He stretched gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold. The whole temple he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the temple; also he overlaid with gold the entire altar that was by the inner sanctuary. Inside the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high. One wing of the cherub was five cubits, and the other wing of the cherub five cubits: ten cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other. And the other cherub was ten cubits; both cherubim were of the same size and shape. The height of one cherub was ten cubits, and so was the other cherub. Then he set the cherubim inside the inner room; and they stretched out the wings of the cherubim so that the wing of the one touched one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall. And their wings touched each other in the middle of the room. Also he overlaid the cherubim with gold.
Then he carved all the walls of the temple all around, both the inner and outer sanctuaries, with carved figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. And the floor of the temple he overlaid with gold, both the inner and outer sanctuaries. For the entrance of the inner sanctuary he made doors of olive wood; the lintel and doorposts were one-fifth of the wall. The two doors were of olive wood; and he carved on them figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold; and he spread gold on the cherubim and on the palm trees. So for the door of the sanctuary he also made doorposts of olive wood, one-fourth of the wall. And the two doors were of cypress wood; two panels comprised one folding door, and two panels comprised the other folding door. Then he carved cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers on them, and overlaid them with gold applied evenly on the carved work. And he built the inner court with three rows of hewn stone and a row of cedar beams. In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid, in the month of Ziv. And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its details and according to all its plans. So he was seven years in building it.
Designed by Brazilian architect Rogério Silva de Araújo, the new structure will follow these instructions to the letter, using stones imported from Israel for a cool $8 million. The only difference is the scale: the São Paulo project will be several orders of magnitude larger than anything Solomon ever imagined. The design includes a parking lot for 1,000 vehicles, a suite of TV and radio studios, as well as classrooms seating 1,300 children. In a TV announcement, Bishop Edir Macedo said: “[Solomon's] Temple … used tons of gold, pure gold ...We are not going to build a temple of gold, but we will spend tons of money, without a shadow of doubt. [The stones] are just like the ones that were used to build the temple in Israel; stones that were witnesses to the powers of God, 2,000 years ago. … It is going to be a knock-out, it is going to be beautiful, beautiful, beautiful — the most beautiful of all. The outside will be exactly the same as that which was built in Jerusalem.” On the church’s website, he predicted that the temple would become the site of many miracles, “where the sick will be healed, the oppressed will be liberated, [and] the demons will be banished.”
So far, the response from the Jewish world has been something less than ecstatic. This reaction from a South African Jew on an on-line forum may be typical: “Build a replica of the Temple for idolatrous purposes. What a slap in the face of religious Jews who are still struggling to rebuild it in Jerusalem. It is insensitive of these Christians to do this. I don't think they realise how uncomfortable this makes most Jews feel. What if they built a replica of the mosque in Mecca? Would the Muslims be happy?” But I suspect the reaction from most Jews will be a sleepy "so what else is new?"
Bishop Macedo founded the church in Rio in 1977, inspired by the work of a Canadian Pentecostal missionary called Robert McAlister. It now claims some eight million members in 180 countries. Its doctrines include the notions that immersion baptism into the movement endows believers with supernatural powers, that sancification can be achieved during a believer’s lifetime, and that private donations to the church will be rewarded with financial prosperity. If this last claim is true, then by merely constructing the temple, which is to be financed by $200 million in donations from the faithful, Brazil will certainly have washed away its poverty crisis by the time the project is completed four years from now.
Hey, I've never been one to stand in the way of progress. The ghetto-dwellers of São Paulo need all the help they can get these days. But if the solution to world’s ills is really that easy, why didn’t anyone think of this before?
All photos from the Universal Church website.