Nicanor Gate

The Gate of Nicanor

On the far west of the Women’s Court was the great Nicanor Gate which stood at the east side of the Court of Israel. Josephus mentioned the Great Gate at this location in Wars 5. It was fashioned of magnificent brass and led down to a 15 step stairway to the Court of Women. According to the Mishnah (Middoth 2) these steps in front of the Nicanor Gate were curved. The gate itself was located on the west end of the Women's Court and lined up with the portal of the porch. The Mishnah also records that at Niqanor's Copper Gate "miracles were performed", and it never mentions what those miracles were. In remembrance of the miracles It states that Niqanor's gate was never coated with gold as the rest (M Middot 2:3).


Some Commentary Notes:

ICC - Of the Temple gates Josephus writes that ‘nine were completely overlaid with gold and silver, as were also their door-posts; but one, that outside the sanctuary, was of Corinthian bronze, and far exceeded in value those plated with silver and set in gold’ (War 5.201). This gate is usually identified with the Nicanor Gate, see Middoth 2.3: ‘All the gates that were there had been changed [and overlaid] with gold, save only the doors of the Nicanor Gate, for with them a miracle...had happened; and some say, because their bronze shown like gold...This passage unfortunately is by no means clear; the gate in question may be ‘the gate between the court of the Gentiles and the court of the women, or between the court of the women and the court of the men’ (Lake, Beginnings of Christianity, 5.483). Kirsopp Lake [1872-1946]...prefers the former. But is the Nicanor, or Corinthian, Gate that which Luke means by the Beautiful Gate? The description given by both Josephus and the Rabbis seem to warrant the identification, but it is not explicit; and it is well to remember that ὡραιος does not normally mean beautiful...A traditional view is that Luke’s gate is to be identified with the Shushan Gate (so called because on it was portrayed the palace of Shushan; Middoth 1.3; Kelim 17.9), situated like the Nicanor Gate on the eastern side of the Temple...The tradition is not ancient, and the Shushan Gate was no place for a beggar to sit, since it would be used only by those entering the Temple from the Mount of Olives or from villages on the eastern side of the city and not by those who approached from the city itself. The fact is that no ancient source mentions the Beautiful Gate (even if ὡραια is a corruption of aurea, golden, we can do no better), and we do not know where it was located. The Nicanor Gate is probably the best guess (Barrett, Acts 1-14 (International Critical Commentary), 179-80)

Easton's - Beautiful gate the name of one of the gates of the temple (Acts 3:2). It is supposed to have been the door which led from the court of the Gentiles to the court of the women. It was of massive structure, and covered with plates of Corinthian brass.

ISBE - GATE, THE BEAUTIFUL. bu'-ti-fool (he horaia pule tou hierou): This gate of Herod's temple is mentioned in the narrative of the healing of the lame man by Peter and John in Acts 3:2,10. Little dispute exists as to the identification of the Beautiful Gate with the splendid "gate of Nicanor" of the Mishna (Mid., i.4), and "Corinthian Gate" of Josephus (BJ, V, v, 3), but authorities are divided as to whether this gate was situated at the entrance to the women's court on the East, or was the gate reached by 15 steps, dividing that court from the court of the men. The balance of recent opinion inclines strongly to the former view (compare Kennedy, "Problems of Herod's Temple," The Expositor Times, XX, 170); others take the opposite view (Waterhouse, in Sacred Sites of the Gospels, 110), or leave the question open (thus G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, II, 212). See TEMPLE, HEROD'S. The gate itself was of unusual size and splendor. It received the name "Nicanor" from its being the work, or having been constructed at the expense, of an Alexandrian Jew of this name. Lately an ossuary was discovered on Mt. Olivet bearing the Greek inscription: "The bones of Nicanor the Alexandrian, who made the doors." Its other name, "Corinthian," refers to the costly material of which it was constructed--Corinthian bronze. Josephus gives many interesting particulars about this gate, which, he tells us, greatly excelled in workmanship and value all the others (BJ, V, v, 3). These were plated with gold and silver, but this still more richly and thickly. It was larger than the other gates; was 50 cubits in height (the others 40); its weight was so great that it took 20 men to move it (BJ, VI, vi, 3). Its massiveness and magnificence, therefore, well earned for it the name "Beautiful."

Lightfoot - The Court of the Gentiles compassed the Temple and the courts on every side. The same also did Chel, or the Ante-murale. "That space was ten cubits broad, divided from the Court of the Gentiles by a fence, ten hand-breadths high; in which were thirteen breaches, which the kings of Greece had made: but the Jews had again repaired them, and had appointed thirteen adorations answering to them." Maimonides writes: "Inwards" (from the Court of the Gentiles) "was a fence, that encompassed on every side, ten hand-breadths in height, and within the fence Chel, or the Ante-murale: of which it is said, in the Lamentations, 'And he caused Chel and the Wall to lament,'" Lamentations 2:8. Josephus writes, "The second circuit was gone up to by a few steps: which the partition of a stone wall surrounded: where was an inscription, forbidding any of another nation to enter, upon pain of death." Hence happened that danger to Paul because of Trophimus the Ephesian, Acts 21:29. "The Chel or Ante-murale" (or second enclosure about the Temple), "was more sacred than the Court of the Gentiles: for hither no heathen, nor any unclean by that which died of itself, nor who lay with a menstruous woman, might come." "From hence they ascended into the Court of the Women by twelve steps." On the east it had only one gate, called in the Holy Scripture, 'Beautiful,' Acts 3:2. In Josephus, the 'Corinthian' gate: saith he; "Of the gates, nine of them were every where overlaid with gold and silver, likewise the posts, and the lintels. But one, without the Temple, made of Corinthian brass, did much exceed, in glory, those, that were overlaid with silver and gold. And two gates of every court were each thirty cubits high, and fifteen broad." On the south was only one gate also, and one on the north: and galleries; or court-walks within, joining to the wall, in the same manner as in the outer court, but not double. Before which were the treasuries placed, or thirteen chests, called by the Talmudists, Shopharoth; in which was put the money offered for the various services of the Temple; and, according to that variety, the chests had various titles written on them: whence the offerer might know into which to put his offering, according to his quality. Upon one was inscribed, "The new shekels"; into which were cast the shekels of that year. Upon another, "The old shekels"; into which were gathered the shekels owing the last year. Upon another, "pigeons and turtles." Upon another, "The burnt sacrifice." Upon another, "The wood." Upon another, "Frankincense." Upon another, "Gold for the propitiation." And six chests had written on them, "Voluntary sacrifice." "The length of the Women's Court was a hundred thirty-five cubits, and the breadth a hundred thirty-five cubits. And there were four chambers in the four corners of it, each forty cubits, but not roofed." See Ezekiel 46:21,22. "At the south-east was the court of the Nazarites: because there the Nazarites boiled their thank-offerings, and cut their hair, and put it under the pot." "At the north-east was the chamber of wood: where the priests, defiled with any spot, searched the wood, whether it was unclean by worms. And all wood in which a worm was found was not fit for the altar." "At the north-west was the chamber of the Leprous." "At the south-west was the chamber of wine and oil." "On the highest sides" (we follow the version of the famous Constantine L'Empereur), "was the smooth and plain Court of the Women; but they bounded it round about with an inward gallery, that the women might see from above, and the men from below, that they might not be mingled." In this Court of the Women was celebrated the sacred and festival dance, in the feast of Tabernacles, called the "Pouring out of Water": the ritual of which you have in the place cited in the margin. "The Court of the Women was more sacred than the Chel; because any, who had contracted such an unclearness that was to be cleansed the same day, might not enter into it."

We will go up, at the east gate, out of the Chel, out of which there were five steps, that rose up to the gate to land you in it. The gate itself was exceeding sumptuous, and exceeding beautiful: and this was that which was called "the Beautiful gate of the Temple," Acts iii. 2, at which the cripple lay begging of alms, both of men and women, that went into the Temple. At this gate began To "the inner Temple," as Josephus doth often call it,—distinguishing between that space, that was enclosed within the boundary wall that encompassed the whole holy ground,—and that space, that was enclosed within the wall that encompassed the courts: the former of them was called, " the Outer Temple," and the latter was called, "the Inner and both of them bare the name of the Temple: and so, in the Scripture, whosoever went but within the compass of the holy ground, is said to have gone into the Temple. Now this gate being the very front and entrance into the inner Temple, or into that space, within which the choicest sanctity and bravery of the Temple was,—it was built and decked with such sumptuousness and singular gallantry, as was fitting for the frontispiece of so brave a place. And hence it came to bear the name of "Beautiful;" and that the rather, also, in comparison of the gate "Shushan," or the outmost east gate, that entered into the Mountain of the House; for that was but a low and homely gate-house,—for a reason that hath been observed heretofore: but this was goodly and lofty, and stood bravely mounted upon the far higher ground. This gate Josephus" calleth the "Corinthian Gate," because it was of Corinthian brass; whereas the rest of the gates were gilt with gold. And here occurreth a difference betwixt him and the Talmudical writers; for they do unanimously hold the brazen gate to be the gate of Nicanor (which we shall survey anon), which was the gate that went out of the Court of the Women into the Court of Israel: but he doth as confidently affirm on the other hand, that it was that, that went out of" the 'Chel' into the Court of the Women. "There was one gate without the Temple, of Corinthian brass, which exceeded in glory those of gold or silver." Now where this gate stood,—namely, in that place that we are upon, appeareth by this passage of his a little after; "The gate above the Corinthian gate, which opened east, over-against the gate of the Temple,"