Jerusalem as ritual space

Authored by: Jeremy D. Smoak

Routledge Handbook on Jerusalem

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138936935
eBook ISBN: 9781315676517
Adobe ISBN:


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The majority of studies on Jerusalem as a sacred or ritual space offer rather narrow definitions of what this characterization of the city means. Such studies often begin with the premise that sacred space should be defined “top-down” – that is, as the place where the divine appeared. This assumes that the deity chooses a space and that it subsequently becomes a place where people worship and perform ritual activity. In this way, the study of the sacred space of Jerusalem tends to focus on the Temple as the locus of divine experience. This tendency is perhaps most readily observable in the various studies on Jerusalem as the city of the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jerusalem, accordingly, is conceived of as the place of the continuity of the three faiths in terms of their shared experience of the divine (Armstrong 1997). Moreover, such studies fixate on the legacy of Solomon’s Temple and how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam defined themselves in relation to this building. In turn, the various phases of Jerusalem’s history are tied to ritual spaces with an emphasis upon the stories and sites of divine manifestation – the Temples, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Dome of the Rock.

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