Temple Society

A Christian movement emphasizing individual spiritual temples of God, originating from Germany with a complex history of migration and ideological shifts.

The Temple Society, also known as the Templers, is a religious movement originating in Germany in the mid-19th century. This movement, distinct from the medieval Knights Templar, bases its name on the concept of the Christian Community as described in the New Testament, where every person and the community are seen as temples in which God’s spirit dwells.

Etymology and Beliefs

The word “Templer” is derived from this concept of being a spiritual temple for God’s spirit. The beliefs of the Temple Society center around the teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly the message about the kingdom of God as recorded in the New Testament. They emphasize the love of God and neighbor, as encapsulated in the twin commandments in Matthew 22:37-39. The society holds that each individual is a temple of God and that people should act together as living building stones of God’s spiritual temple.

The Temple Society is non-dogmatic and does not adhere to a fixed creed, liturgy, or sacraments, but strives to establish and nurture Christian fellowship. They regard the formation and cultivation of communities as essential because Christianity can best be practiced in a community of like-minded people working cooperatively. They support individual freedom in experiencing and developing a relationship with the divine.

History and Development

The Temple Society was founded in south-west Germany by Christoph Hoffmann and others in 1861, following a split with the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg. Hoffmann’s vision was influenced by his interpretation of biblical prophecies, particularly those pointing to Jerusalem as the center of the Kingdom of God. This led to the establishment of colonies in Palestine.

The Templers attempted to create a Christian community that would embody the principles of God’s kingdom on earth. Their beliefs evolved over time, including a departure from traditional Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus.

Migration and Challenges

Throughout its history, the Temple Society faced various challenges and transformations. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Templers established several colonies in Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire, and later a British Mandate. They focused on building urban and rural settlements with community halls, schools, and commercial enterprises.

However, the Templers’ strong ties to Germany and German nationalism led to complex political entanglements, especially during the rise of National Socialism. In the 1930s and 1940s, many Templers in Palestine were influenced by Nazi ideology, causing internal divisions and conflict with local populations.

World War II and Aftermath

During World War II, the Templers in Palestine faced internment and deportation. Many were transported to Australia, where they were interned until the late 1940s. Post-war, the Templers could not return to Israel, and those remaining were eventually deported. Most Templers today live in Australia and Germany.

Contemporary Presence

In Australia, the Templers consolidated around Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, establishing church halls and community centers. The Temple Society Australia was formed in 1950 and has continued to evolve, reflecting the lifestyles of its members in Australia.

In Germany, the Temple Society resumed its activities post-World War II, focusing on community building and religious services. They joined the Bund für Freies Christentum in 1976, indicating a continued emphasis on non-dogmatic Christian fellowship.