King Solomon’s Temple has a central place in Freemasonry so we are compiling this page with information about King Solomon, the Temple and its place in the Craft. This page is a work in progress.
Here is computer generated video of King Solomon’s Temple:
Here is a computed generated image of KIng Solomon’s Temple uploaded to Google Street View:
Here’s an article from the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free & Accepted Masons of Scotland Facebook Page:
“KING SOLOMON’S TEMPLE AND FREEMASONRY
Many detractors of Freemasonry do so religious grounds. Their knowledge of Masonic ritual, which is often limited, informs them that it is based on the Old Testament and excludes any reference to the New Testament. In their minds this ‘proves’ that Freemasonry is anti-Christian and that means, using that faulty logic, Freemasonry is ‘pro-Jewish’. This logic is faulty because it is based on a religious interpretation of Masonic ritual. Those who use this argument do so for a number of reasons often because of prejudice and because they simply cannot accept the claim made by Freemasons that Freemasonry is not a religion. This false perception of Freemasonry is extremely difficult to counter given that Freemasons have a self-imposed rule not to become involved in matters of religion. That avoidance of discuss all matters of religion has been, in my opinion, too narrowly and too strictly interpreted and means that we have avoided explaining the ‘religious problem’ even to our own members. If Freemasons do not understand this why should those who attack us on religious grounds? How can any one be expected to understand let alone rebut those false arguments? The consequence is that as there is no such rebuttal, and Freemasonry offers no defence again various allegations. Silence in the face of accusation equals GUILTY to most people This short article will attempt to explain why the claim that Freemasonry is anti-Christian is plainly wrong and will use the example of King Solomon’s Temple to illustrate how, and perhaps why, these incorrect views have been created.
Firstly, let us deal with the claim that because Masonic ritual is based on the principal texts of the Jewish faith and the principal books (the Old Testament) of the Christian faith (the other being the New Testament) Freemasonry must have a religious basis. It is of crucial importance to realise that this view of Freemasonry comes from people who are using their religious knowledge and experience to interpret Freemasonry and its’ ritual. Doing so leads them to consider Freemasonry in a religious context. Here we reach the crux of this argument. Those who devised and elaborated Masonic ritual did not do so from a religious perspective. Instead they looked at the Old Testament and read incredibly rich and varied historical stories.
The origins of modern Freemasonry are now clearly established as beginning in Scotland and which is substantiated by an enormous body of written material from the late 16th Century onwards. (1) There is some evidence that Scottish Lodges existed even before Lodge documents were first written. (2) These Lodges only admitted men who were stonemasons. In other words more than 99% or present day Freemasons would not have been allowed to join! We do not known with any certainty exactly what members of these early Lodges did to admit new members. It is highly unlikely that when they arrived on the Lodge door-step they were greeted with: ‘Hello, nice to see you here, the fee is 10 shillings, you are now a mason’! Far more likely there was some form of ceremony to mark the occasion.
The early records show that this was one, if not THE, most important functions performed at meetings of stonemasons in their Lodges. (3) The admission of new members into any organisation is always accompanied by some ceremonial even if very simple. The first day of a new job almost always involves a ‘ceremony’ of welcome; being introduced to existing members of staff; being provided with equipment for the job, given a desk or workstation etc. Admission to other positions, especially those in public office, can be far more elaborate. Take the pomp and ceremony that accompanies the coronation of a new monarch or the investiture of a new US President. In short, human beings rarely miss the opportunity to make a bit of a fuss when a new member joins a particular group or is elevated to a particular position. In this sense Freemasonry is no different other than the fact that it is private and has become very lengthy and elaborate.
Most ceremonies are different from each other because they were designed to reflect what the organisation ‘was about’ and a special and unique way of admitting a new member ensured that very new member was in no doubt that he was joining a group for which only a select few were qualified. For example, only people who have made a significant contribution or achieved certain qualifications in their field of expertise will be admitted to full membership of a professional body (doctors, accountants, lawyers and so on.)
Applying this way of looking at becoming a Freemason might seem a little strange as the qualifications for membership are relatively easy – whether they are too easy is not for discussion here. Originally the first qualification for admission was simple – one had to be a stonemason and that immediately limited the number to a small group of men. The ceremony of admission was therefore conducted by stonemasons, in front of stonemasons and for stonemasons and no one else. With that in mind to create a ceremony based on the activities of, say, baxters (bakers) or cordiners (shoemakers) would not have occurred to stonemasons. Where then did they get the idea for their initiation ceremony? At the time the earliest Masonic records begin education was rudimentary compared to today but there was one book that was known to all – the Bible.
Stonemasons of the time were at best semi-literate but all of them would be familiar with the stories in the Old Testament. After Reformation in Scotland (1559-1560) children were catechised (a question and answer session) on Sundays (sometime three times). The catechism was designed in such a way the the most important parts of scripture would be learned by the child over the course of a year. [Note: here’s a link to another page on the Scottish Reformation]
It was this book, the Bible, that informed ‘ordinary’ people on matters of religion, morals, law and history. Imagine the feelings of a stonemason on reading I Kings and II Chronicles where he learns of the first stone building in the world. (4) The impact would have been multiplied by the fact that not only was it the first stone building but it was also a sacred building, a temple. (5) King Solomon’s Temple (KST) was therefore built by stonemasons just like him. To a Scottish stonemason the long and detailed story of the building of KST as related in the Old Testament at a place on the ‘other side of the world’, would not only have seemed exotic and exciting it would also have made him feel proud, proud of being a stonemason. In light of this it is almost inconceivable that Scottish stonemasons would have chosen anything else on which to base their ceremony of initiation. At this point then we have returned to the incorrect interpretation of Freemasonry from a religious point of view. The stonemasons of Scotland chose the story of the building of KST because of its historical value not for its’ religious elements. The building of KST appealed to them because ‘they’ built it and not because it was a place of worship.
It is only fair to mention that there is an earlier building mentioned in the Old Testament – the Tower of Babel. However, this structure would have had no relevance to Scottish stonemasons as it was built using bricks – material which was not used in Scotland at the time. In addition the Tower of Babel was an affront to G_D making it doubly unattractive to Scottish stonemasons.
If that was all there was to it we would have to admit that although this is an attractive story finding proof to support required some research. There is, however, evidence that directly supports this theory. The Schaw Statutes of 1598 and 1599 make clear reference to the existence of some sort of ceremony enacted with the Lodges of the time. Unfortunately there are no specific details of what the ceremony consisted of, although there are frequent oblique references in Lodge records throughout the 17th century, it is not until almost 100 years later that we find hard evidence of what the ceremony contained and then only brief details are provided.
Scotland is blessed in having the earliest Masonic rituals the first of these is known as the Edinburgh Register House MS (1696) [note: pdf]. This and two others, dated 1705 and 1710, are almost identical in content although written by different people. Describing these as ‘rituals’ is a little inaccurate as they consist of two parts and served at least three purposes:
• A ‘prompt sheet’ probably to keep the Master ‘on track’.
• A brief outline of the ceremony including the obligation.
• A series of questions to be put to non-Masons as well as Freemasons.
The part containing questions (which could well have been the equivalent of our modern Test Questions) is known as the Scottish Masonic Catechism and contained 14 or 15 questions and answers. These ‘rituals’ come from different parts of Scotland and serve to show that in Scotland there was a national system of Lodges sharing a common ritual, obligation and catechism. Significantly they pre-date the existence of any Grand Lodge. What they contain is of great importance but here the focus on what they tell us about KST. There are two references in the catechism:
• Question 8: How stands your Lodge
• Answer: east and west as the temple of Jerusalem
• Question 9: Were was the first Lodge
• Answer: In the porch of Solomons Temple
These are questions relating to the admission of an Entered Apprentice and therefore show that KST is so important that it one of the first things a new candidate it taught. The fact that it is mentioned twice demonstrates it is central to the lore of the Craft. These two questions and answers also tell us something more.
Question 8 is the kind of question stonemasons would have been interested in, as it is of practical value – knowledge of the orientation of the structure. But the answer reveals that KST is so important it simply has to be identified by location. The answer could simply have been ‘east and west’ and this would have been sufficient to answer the practical needs of the stonemason. Naming a particular building, KST, shows that knowledge of it is vital in understanding the Craft. KST is so important that it is mentioned again. Question 9 asks ‘Were was the first Lodge’, that is, where was the first Lodge situated? This ties the stonemasons’ Lodge directly to KST. As we have seen KST was the first stone building in the world (the source being the Bible) and so, logically, the first Lodge must also have been there. However, note the exact wording of the answer: ‘In the porch of Solomons Temple’ not in the temple proper.
These two questions and the answers show that our predecessors did not use KST as a religious reference but only because of its compelling historical attraction to Scottish stonemasons (than thence to modern Freemasons). Question 8 carries no religious connotations being merely descriptive. Question 9 is even more emphatic. The first Lodge did not meet in the temple but only in the porch, or entryway, and which only measured 20 feet by 15 feet, either side of which stood two pillars. (6) If those who devised the ritual wanted to make use of KST for RELIGIOUS purposes they would not have chosen the least important part of the building – the ‘public’ (and visible) entrance. One might even interpret this as a deliberate comment on the non-religious character of Freemasonry by those stonemasons who devised the earliest rituals. The entrance is not a religious space, no religious ceremonies took place there and it is outwith the sacred parts of the temple. In other words it was the access point to the first apartment of the temple, the hekal which led to the second apartment the sanctum sanctorum (the Holy of Holies).
Were the stonemasons making the point that although ‘they’ (the stonemasons) were proud to be the builders of KST they (by citing the Porch as the location of the first Lodge), were making it clear there was no suggestion of religious connection to King Solomon’s Temple? We think that, that was exactly the point they were making. (7)
1) The earliest Minutes are those of Lodge Aitchesons’ Haven [note: pdf] and commence on 9th January 1599.
2) There is a reference to a Lodge in Edinburgh City records dated 1491.
3) At nearly every meeting names of new members are recorded in the early Minutes Books.
4) I Kings, Chapters 5 – 8 and II Chronicles, Chapters 2 – 7.
5) The first building in the Bible was the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11: 1 – 9) but because brick not stone and was an affront to God. Stonemasons would have despised such a structure for both reasons.
6) From this it is easy to see why the pillars later came to figure so prominently in Masonic ritual.
7) Freemasons may well have unconsciously assisted our detractors by describing our Lodges as ‘temples’ but is much easier to say that than: ‘I am going to the porch of the temple’!”
(Source: Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free & Accepted Masons of Scotland, Facebook post, 20 January 2017)
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