“Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?”(Haggai 2:3)
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, there is a remarkable sight: a full-size replica of Solomon’s Temple. Actually, the Templo de Salomão built by the Universal Church Kingdom of God is much larger – it is four times the size of the original, but precise in every other detail. It is impressive, giving a taste of the glory of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The structure is a magnet for attention, though, admittedly, not all of it is positive.
Bishop Edir Macedo of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) was inspired to begin this massive undertaking after he visited Israel, where he decided to bring a piece of the Holy Land to his congregation in Brazil. It took four years and a daunting $300 million, but he was finally successful in his vision of building a replica of Solomon’s Temple.
Architect and project designer Rogério Silva de Araújo explained that the measurements were taken directly from the Bible. “A cubit was the distance between the elbow and the fingertips—which corresponded to 18 inches or 52.4 centimeters,” he explained. “Based on this piece of information, it was possible to calculate that the house king Solomon built for the Lord was approximately 31.44 meters long, 10.48 meters wide and 15.72 meters high. Also in Haggai 2:9, it says, ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater.’ ”
The UCKG Temple is indeed larger, measuring 126 meters long, 104 meters wide and 55 meters high – the height of an 18 story building. The floor and the walls are covered in $8 million worth of Jerusalem stone brought from Israel and, as in the original Temple, the main doors are made of wood and lined with copper.
Stepping inside the main sanctuary, which has seating for 10,000 worshippers, is said to be a powerful experience, but the most impressive part of the temple is its large central altar. It features an exact replica of the Ark of the Covenant covered in gold leaf. Behind the Ark is the temple’s baptistery, creating a dramatic visual effect.
Miguel Peres, a representative of the church, explained to Breaking Israel News why the project was begun. “We wanted to help people turn to Israel, support its existence and give them an opportunity to touch Jerusalem stones, which for them is a big deal,” he said. “Many Brazilians will never get a chance to go to Jerusalem, so why not bring a piece of Jerusalem to Brazil?”
“We also wanted to rescue the value of the original faith which has been lost along the years. At the courtyard of the Temple we built a replica of the Mishkan (The Tabernacle), ” he continued “Men were taught through the Mishkan how to approach God Almighty through faith and not religion.”
The project has attracted much attention, but the Temple was not built as a tourist attraction. Success is measured in different terms and Peres seems to feel it has measured up to all expectations.
“More than twenty thousand people flock to the Temple every day in its daily services and the things that are happening here are unbelievable,” he told Breaking Israel News. “More than 5 million people have visited the Temple since its opening.”
A Virtual Tour of the Brazilian “Temple”
Though it is clear that it is not a place of Jewish worship, Peres feels it has also helped the Jewish people. “Thanks to our efforts, many people worldwide are now aware that there was a Temple that once stood in Jerusalem and that it needs to be rebuilt,” he said. “We are helping by spreading the story of the Temple. The Temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem; this is a prophecy and a fact.”
Rabbi Chaim Richman, the International Director of the Temple Institute, which is dedicated to the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, feels differently. He came out strongly against the Templo de Salomão even before it was built.
“This is taking the promise of redemption for all mankind and using it for something altogether different,” he argued. “This is a total bastardization of the sanctity of the Holy Temple.”
He claimed it was expropriating another religion’s symbol or holy site, comparing it to replacing the famous statue of “The Redeemer” in Rio De Janeiro with a Muslim minaret. “Jews have always suffered from this,” he declared, noting that the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount, has been expropriated by the Muslims, with ongoing dire consequences. In strong terms, he refers to the Temple of Solomon in Brazil as a “theological obscenity” and a “stain on the honor of the God of Israel”.
Peres, however, defended the construction of the church. “More than a Jewish symbol, it is a Biblical symbol. The Bible is the Light to all people on Earth,” Peres explained. “At no point did we try to steal the symbol of the Jewish people, but we brought to life a symbol of Faith that once moved a nation to seek God sincerely and wholeheartedly.”