The Continuation of the Jewish Temple Tradition. This is a subject of some contention, especially among those coming home to Orthodoxy from protestant traditions in which the modern State of Israel and the Jewish people residing there are still considered to be God’s chosen people, but without mincing words, the Orthodox position is that the Church IS Israel. The general idea is that through the New Covenant in Christ, the Mosaic Covenant with the Jews has been superseded. The protestant reaction to this position is to call it replacement theology, fulfillment theology, or supersessionism, a view shared by Rabbinic Judaism, and something that the Roman Catholic Church has gone back and forth on over its history (with the last 3 popes each having a different take). Without getting too deep into the weeds on this particular issue, let’s take a look at the basis upon which we make our claim, and the historical and theological issues that surround it.
Due to space constraints, this will obviously be abbreviated somewhat, but should provide you with sufficient background to understand and discuss our beliefs with regard to it. The 2nd Temple of Solomon was built in 515 BC; the Romans destroyed the it in 70 AD; contrary to popular opinion and pious Jewish practice, the western or “wailing” wall one sees in pictures and on TV is much more likely to have been a part of a Roman barracks than an expansion of the Temple by Herod as is sometimes supposed - an entire rabbit hole of contradictory historical sources can be gone down in search of this particular topic. Because the Temple was the principal place for worship and practicing the Jewish religion, its destruction threw the entire faith into a tumult, and it more or less had to recreate itself from scratch. Christ and His Apostles would not recognize a modern rabbinic worship service as even remotely similar to the Temple Judaism of their time, and little remains to connect the two in either practice or appearance (most modern synagogues look like your average Presbyterian church inside, with the Torah scrolls taking center stage).
We have a pretty detailed description of the Temple’s construction in the Bible (1st Kings and 2nd Chronicles, mainly), and you will recognize the various aspects of its design as being exactly what you see in an Orthodox Church. First one would enter the porch - this has become the narthex; then the sanctuary/ main chamber where sacrifices would have been performed - we call this the nave - the space outside the iconostasis. The holy of holies has its analog in our Altar, and was intended to hold the Ark of the Covenant, but for us features the Holy Table upon which Holy Communion is celebrated. Whereas the korban (kosher animal sacrifice) was as you might expect it to have been, we specifically refer to ours as a “bloodless” sacrifice, so we view our Eastern Orthodox worship to be a continuation of the Jewish Temple tradition, modified according to the New Covenant in Christ.