Breaking through the dividing wall


Stone inscription found in temple excavations

Yes there really was a dividing wall in the temple that separated the court of the Gentiles from the courts where only Jews could go.  And it had stone pillars with a warning notice engraved in Greek and Latin.

One of these pillars was discovered by archaeologists in 1871 with these words:

“No man of another nation is to enter within the fence and enclosure around the temple, and whoever is caught will have himself to blame that his death ensues.”

This is one of the revelations I  gleaned by reading the book of Acts along with the New American Commentary Acts: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition by John B. Polhill.

In Acts 28, Paul is seized in the temple while undergoing purification and accused of bringing Greeks with him, past this dividing wall. This was a serious charge and resulted in a riot that required the intervention of the Roman guard to save Paul’s life.

Paul was not in fact guilty of bringing a gentile past the dividing wall…at least not this physical dividing wall that the Jews were thinking of. But in another sense, they were right. His ministry to the gentiles was doing just what he was accused of: he was inviting gentiles to come through a wall broken in Christ’s body into the the fellowship of God’s people.

Paul had this in mind when he wrote Ephesians 2:14-15:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall

This section from Ephesians has always been a favorite of mine because of the hope it gives us of the Holy Spirit bringing unity among diverse people groups. But I had never realized before that Paul  experienced a literal dividing wall and almost lost his life over it.

I love the inexhaustible riches of God’s word.  Each year I read through the Bible, I find more and more depth and wisdom in its pages.


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