Love him or not, you gotta admit that Thomas Aquinas is thorough. One of the initial negative answers to the question, “Are there sufficient reasons for the ceremonies pertaining to holy things?” ( ST I-II, 102) is about the orientation of Israelite sanctuaries.

Objection 5 is: that “the power of the First Mover, i.e. God, appears first of all in the east, for it is in that quarter that the first movement begins. But the tabernacle was set up for the worship of God. Therefore it should have been built so as to point to the east rather than the west.” His Maimonidean answer is unsatisfactory: He says that Gentiles worshiped toward the sun, and therefore the Lord instructed Jews to turn around.”

Still, how many theologians would think to raise the question?

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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