Julian's construction of a temple in Jerusalem


Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
Ammianus Marcellinus records that Julian set out to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Was this an attempt to patronize the ancestral religions of the Empire? Or was he building yet another Roman temple on the site of the Jewish temple? Does anyone know of any other sources that record this attempt?
"His desire to leave a monument to perpetuate the memory of his reign led him to think in particular of restoring at enormous expense the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, which, after much bitter fighting during its siege first by Vespasian and then by Titus, had finally been stormed with difficulty. Alypius of Antioch, who had once governed Britain as the praetorian prefect's deputy, was placed in charge of this project. He set to work boldly, assisted by the governor of the province, but repeated and alarming outbursts of fire-balls near the foundations made it impossible to approach the spot. Some of the workmen were burnt to death, and the obstinate resistance of the fiery element caused the design to be abandoned." - Ammianus Marcellinus 23.1
Mar 2011
Northern California
Here is a portion of an article I found concerning Jews and Julian.

One of the largest bodies of evidence concerning the Jews in the fourth century deals with their activities during the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363). Some of the sources indicate that there was a brief moment of violent attack upon the Christians at this time in which the Jews participated. The Acta Sanctorum offers three stories of Jewish participation in the Julian persecutions. At Toul in southern France there was a preacher named Eliphius, who was continually attacking the Jews in his sermons. Naturally the Jews hated him for this, and, when the opportunity for revenge was offered them by the anti-Christian emperor Julian and his soldiers, they seized Eliphius and his companions and threw them into prison in order to please the apostate emperor. Apparently the Jews then forgot about their captives, for the Christians are next reported to have emerged from prison, only to be arrested and executed by the Romans.

Another tale is that of Benedicta, a Christian woman of Lyons.

When she was arrested during Julian's reign and charged with the crime of being a Christian, a Jewish judge presided over her case. This man is reported to have condemned her to death with great glee because of his foul hatred of Christ. Both of these stories are of very doubtful authenticity.
More probable is the story of the soldiers, Bonosus and Maximilianus, who refused to remove the cross from their standards at Antioch, and were martyred for their temerity. All that is alleged against the Jews in this story is that, when Bonosus and Maximilianus resisted the effects of torture in the arena, "Jews and Gentiles who bad come to mock at their death agonies cried out, 'Sorcerers! Criminals!'"
This evidence from the Acta would certainly not prove any great persecution of the Christians either by Julian or the Jews. It has been suggested that the famous story of Julian's attempt to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem shows the active hostility of Palestinian Jewry toward Christianity. But in the stories of the attempted rebuilding of the Temple by Julian, there is no really convincing evidence of Jewish hostility to the Christians or vice versa, and it is really doubtful if the rebuilding was ever actually attempted; since the incident shows neither persecution nor counterpersecution there is no need to elaborate upon it in this paper. The next fourth century event which might indicate Jewish malice is mentioned by Theodoret. His account concerns the expulsion in 373 of Peter, archbishop of Alexandria, by a mob of pagans and Jews: Immediately after Peter had been raised to the arch-episcopal dignity, the governor of the province collected a multitude of pagans and Jews, and surrounded the church, desiring Peter to retire; and on his refusal, he threatened to expel him.

Jul 2010
In a public epistle to the Jews (I'm quoting from Gibbon here) Julian reached out to the Jews and "expressed a pious hope he might be permitted to pay his grateful vows to the Almighty in his holy city of Jerusalem." So perhaps he wanted to construct a new temple on the Moriah as a gift to the Jews, or more likely this was just another volley at the Christians.