Type: Definition Essays
Sample donated: Vernon Parsons
Last updated: September 22, 2019
Space,taken for its face value, is a nebulous word. Depending on itscontext, space can mean anything from being “a preexisting staticcontainer isolated from other spaces” to an “undifferentiatedvacuity, a void to be filled” (Tweed 117) .
However, in Tweed’sessay Space, Tweed limits the word to a personal level. He attemptsto define it as an experienced space: the relationship between aperson and the space itself. This experienced space implies thatdifferent people experience space uniquely because they are derivedfrom individualistic memories and values. Thus space is an umbrellaterm and, as Tweed explains, involves three components:differentiation, kinetics, and interrelation (Tweed 117). Readalongside the Hebrew Bible, Tweed’s complex definition can beunderstood by analyzing Jerusalem’s mountains and springs, history ofits successes and failures, and interconnection with politics andeconomic, illustrating Jerusalem as not just a city but as a placeinhabited by God. Spacesare differentiated in that they are special in comparison to theirsurroundings.
Although some of these spaces may be set apart becauseof their aesthetics, their differentiation is not primarily derivedfrom physical features (Tweed 119). They are differentiated becauseof their perceived association with deities and theircharacteristics as holy or ideal. With these factors in mind, anobserver may express an effective response for the space, such as abuilding, no matter how plain that building is (such as the chapel)by imagining and perceiving forces from the divine and images of theultimate horizon (whether it is heaven or a variation of it) (Tweed120).Thisdifferentiation can be first seen in Genesis, the first book of theBible. According to its myth, God created a stream that rose from theearth. It split apart as it exited Eden where it divided into fourrivers. “The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one thatflows around the whole land of Cush” (Gen 2:13 NRSV).
This Gihon”river” directly references the physical geography of Jerusalem,drawing its origins to the Gihon spring. However, only one of the twolandmarks in the quote can be traced to a physical manifestation. Theland of Cush is placed in reality, tangible to any viewer. On theother hand, the Gihon “river” has never been seen/discovered.Rather it is manifested within its devotees though belief, serving amystical function because of its sacred geography. Additionally, itsphysical associations with water allow it to attain a status ofsacred proportion.
This is because water, in the creation story, isassociated with life and fertility. It splits off from the Eden, theGarden of Life itself, and is associated with fortune and affluence,marked by the traces of bdellium and onyx stones that are scatteredalong the river (Gen 2:12). The spring’s relationship with waterand close proximity to Paradise that was once located in Jerusalemmakes the spring and the area of Jerusalem around it special, andaccording to Genesis, conducive to life itself.
Additionally,differentiation can be seen in the story of the Binding of Isaac.According to the myth, Isaac was to be sacrificed in the name of theLORD God on Mount Moriah to prove Abraham’s piety to the LORD Godbut just as Abraham is about to strike his son, a theophany occurs.An angel representing the divine beckons Abraham to stop and asacrifice in the form of a ram was used instead. God blesses man(Abraham) with him offspring “as numerous as the stars of heaven” (Gen 22:17 NRSV). In the process of this divine dialogue between Godand Abraham, Mount Moriah is depicted as a meeting place betweenplanes of existences. This interaction makes the mountain spirituallyhigher, differentiating it from its surroundings.
Because of this, itearns its name “The LORD will provide,” indicative of the ramthat was used for the sacrifice instead of Isaac (Gen 22:14 NRSV). Asseen in the myth, God does indeed provide, and in his magnanimity,the sacredness of the mountain and its city is made apparent.TheMountain of Zion and the City of Jerusalem around it are also worthyof differentiation. The mountain is depicted in Psalms as “His holymountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth”,directly referencing the LORD (Ps 48:1-2 NRSV). And although themountain is definitely not the tallest in elevation, even in themidst of the surrounding mountains, it is spiritually higher becauseof these said associations. According to the Psalms, it is a placethat makes kings run in fear, an impenetrable fortress even in theface of disaster (Gen 48:5 NRSV).
It is an area that is sheltered byGod himself; “God is in the midst of the city; it shall not bemoved” (Ps 46:5 NRSV). The Psalm poet and other Israelites trulybelieve that God dwells in the city, imbuing it with mystical powers.Additionally, its people want it to prosper and are emotionallyinvested in the space. This is depicted in a poignant exclamation forthe wellbeing of the city. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…Peace be within your walls… For the sake of my relatives andfriends I will say, “Peace be within you”” (Ps 122:6-8 NRSV).Thus, Jerusalem is not just any city.
It is a space saturated withthe affection of its people, giving it an ideal and even divinestatus (Tweed 120). Tweedalso argues that spaces are not just differentiated, but alsokinetic, changing with the course of time. Spaces interlock thetemporal and the spatial components of reality, providing it ahistory. For example, the Mexican chapel space in Tweed’s essay iskinetic. It was created in 1965, and a law that was passed intemporal proximity allowed more immigration. With the statute’sdramatic demographic effects and the chapel’s exponential increasein visitation, the space had changed. Justas the chapel is a process, Jerusalem is one as well that prosperedin the second book of Samuel.
This prospering begins with the tale ofDavid marching into the city of Jerusalem against the Jebusites in1000 BCE. He takes solstice in Zion, and with his anointing from God,David leaves the war victorious, turning his spoil of victory intothe capital of his empire (2Sam 5:7). He changes the very landscapeof the Holy Land, moving the ark into the heart of his city andenacting a pact with God to secure his throne for his generations tocome (2Sam 6:17). His son succeeds him, inviting the Lord toJerusalem after the creation of his temple; “the temple of the LORDwas filled with the cloud,” leaving the priests incapable ofconducting their ceremony “for the glory of the LORD filled thetemple of God” (1 Chronicles 5 NIV). With God’s visitation, theholiness of the city is established.
Solomon also adds the House ofthe Forest of Lebanon, the Hall of Pillars, and the Hall of theThrone, further establishing the city’s political power by displayingits affluence. Thus from a site isolated from two major highways andonly known for its proximity to the affluent empires of Egypt andMesopotamia, Jerusalem transforms into the centerpiece of the MiddleEast. It was on the road to nowhere but with the LORD’s settlementinto the city, Jerusalem kinetically rose into a status of honor. However,the kinetic space of Jerusalem also experienced a period ofdestruction and devastation, which distorts the city’s image as animmaculate institution of the holy.
This destruction was instigatedby a lack of piety in its rulers and resulted in the conflicts of theIron Age. For although God had promised Jerusalem eternal peace andprotection in the covenant between Him and David, Solomon hadviolated the divine vows. He proved to be an idolator, decorating hisTemple with pagan references and building “shrines to gods of hisneighbors” (Armstrong 54). As a result, God “cut Israel off theland He had given them”, manifested in the siege of Jerusalem in597 BC (1Kgs 9:7 NRSV). God’s will, manifested in the assault ofthe Babylonians, leaves the city in ruins.
Jerusalem’s streets areplundered; its Temple is destroyed; its gates are desolated; itspeople dispersed (Lam 1:4-5). This dispersion, seen in Lamentations,leaves the people in emotional trauma, as expressed by thepersonification of the city as a grief-stricken wife. “How like awidow she has become… She weeps bitterly in the night… with noone to comfort her” (Lam 1:1-2 NRSV).
The people now see the cityas a skeleton that once was, the “impenetrable” fortress of God.Their mourning is further emphasized by the words of sadness (lonely,servitude, distress) that litter the poem, reflecting the chaotic andsenseless state of the city. Jerusalem had become a “mockery,”and according to the King James’ version of the Bible, as well as awhore because it served multiple masters (gods) simultaneously (Lam1:8 NRSV). Thus, the pristine label of Jerusalem becomes tarnished toits people. However, this tarnished holy land remains as a sacredspace. The Bible records God bounded to His land. “If they sinagainst you… and carried away captive to the land… but theyrepent with all their heart and soul… forgive the people who havesinned against you, and all their transgressions that they committedagainst you” (1Kgs 8:46-50 NRSV).
Thus God is always near the cityof Jerusalem, waiting patiently for His people to return. As aresult, Jerusalem remains a sacred, albeit imperfect, space for itsdevotees. Finally, Tweed adds a third dimension to space:interrelation. By this, Tweed means that spaces are areas that act asa “confluences” or rather focal points where “cultural streams”- political, social, and economic” – dynamically interact with oneanother (Tweed 121). In his article, Tweed depicts this interrelationusing the natural materials and the devotees of the chapel. Theformer represents the economic cost of the space while the latterillustrates its associations with ethnic identity and nationalism(Tweed 121).
These two cultural streams both converge into the space,producing a “swirl of transfluvial currents” that influences oneanother as they intermingle (Tweed 121). Thisintermingling is made apparent in the interrelated construction ofSolomon’s Temple. For although the Temple is primarily seen as areligious center, its ornate construction and expensive buildingmaterials serve as an economic and political testament to othernations and its people. The Book of Kings describes the rocks used as “costly stones”, all meticulously carved and placed withabsolute measure (1Kgs 7:9 NRSV). Each house is joined by timbers ofcedar, a luxurious wood from the King of Hiram (1Kgs 6:10). It isdecorated with the carvings of cherubims, angels that bless the halls(1Kgs 6:25).
Overlaying the design is pure gold that makes itsappearance in front of the inner sanctuary, the whole house, thealtar, and even the cherubim decorations (1Kgs 6:29). Thus, Solomonis seen to spare no expenses for his religiously and politicallyresounding temple. He disregards frugality, using an abundantworkdifforce (from King Hiram), and expensive materials to constructhis house of God. To its people, its grand appearance served toillustrate that Jerusalem lacks no resources and that its ruler issupreme. Thus, the creation of the Temple not only representsSolomon’s dedication to the LORD but also to Jerusalem’s strengthand political prestige. Through its lavish buildings, it trulybecomes a place worthy of God’s throne on earth. Together,with the differentiation in geography (especially mountains),kinetics in Jerusalem’s rise and fall, and interrelations withpolitics and economics, Jerusalem rises above other cities as areligious site and acts as the seat of God.
Its very landscape is animago mundi with its temple acting as the axis mundi for manyChristian followers. Thus many have professed that “of the tenportions of beauty which came down to the world, Jerusalem tooknine,” earning itself the divinity it deserves and playing apivotal role in the guidance of its believers (Jerusalem’sReligious Significance).