What's the difference between ἱεροῦ hieron & ναὸν naos?

5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple (ἱεροῦ hieron, G2411) profane the sabbath, and are blameless? (Matthew 12:5 - KJV)

22 And I saw no temple (ναὸν naos, G3485) therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. (Revelation 21:22 - KJV)

2 Answers 2


From W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words we read that

ναὸν naos ...the sanctuary in the Temple; into which only the priests could lawfully enter - page 1138

ἱεροῦ hieron ...distinct from the 'naos', the inner sanctuary - page 1138

Josephus used hieron to describe the whole Temple area, including the outer courts. Abingdon's Interpreter's Dictionary, under the heading 'Temple' explains:

"Two words are used in the Greek: ναὸν naos, meaning the sacred building alone, and ἱεροῦ hieron, the whole sacred area, including various auxiliary courts, side chambers, and porticos. Both words are translated 'temple' (in the King James Version) without distinction, but the reader needs to keep the difference in mind, especially as only priests could enter the 'naos'." (Vol. II p 551)

A careful check needs to be kept on different translations of the Bible as some are consistent, while others are not. Naos is consistently rendered as 'sanctuary' in Robert Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible. But it is rendered four different ways in the New World Translation (as temple, temple sanctuary, sanctuary and shrine). The NWT renders hieron as temple 71 times, and naos as temple 24 times. There's always a possibility of confusion. The two words need to be understood as to their particular applications to the Temple, both earthly ones, and the Temple (Sanctuary) of God in heaven.

In Herod's Temple in Jerusalem, the naos consisted of the Holy of Holies, the Holy Place, the Porch, the Altar of burnt offering, and the Court of Priests. The hieron incorporated the Court of Israel, the Sanctuary Gates, the Nicanor Gate (Women's Court) and the Gate Beautiful and the Women's Gallery.

Hieron occurs 71 times in the New Testament. For example, in John 10:23 the Colonnade of Solomon was in the hieron, as was the Temple gate called Beautiful (Acts 3:2), and indeed so were the money-changers, driven out of the heiron by Jesus (Matthew 21:12). But Jesus was never said to have been in the naos on earth. He is always in the hieron. The disciples are always found preaching in the hieron, never in the naos.

When John had his heavenly vision of the 'great crowd', he saw them rendering sacred service to God in his sanctuary, ναὸν naos. In Revelation chapter 7, the great crowd are inside the holy dwelling of God in heaven, in the very centre of God's heavenly sanctuary. John did not see them in some external courtyard. They were not outside of the presence of God on his throne in heaven.

Revelation uniquely has the expression 'before the throne' (Greek, enopion tou thronou), nine times. Enopion is formed from en which means 'in' and ops which means 'the eye'. So enopion means that which is before or opposite a person, towards which he turns his eyes, that which is in one's sight. Therefore, every time the Revelation speaks of objects, angels, or the redeemed being 'before the throne' of God, which is in heaven, they are likewise in heaven, in sight of God.

Naos occurs 16 times in Revelation, but hieron is never mentioned, which is how we know that the great crowd of Revelation 7:9-17 actually stands in heaven, just as in Revelation 14:3 the 144,000 sing a new song before the throne of God, which is in heaven. This is by way of just one example as to why it is important to know the subtle difference of meaning between ἱεροῦ hieron, and ναὸν naos.

Don't close the Door! pp 76-97, Reachout Trust

  • Thank you for the answer +1 How would you say Revelation 21:22 should read if it refers to the holy of holies and not the temple? Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 10:40
  • 1
    @Daniel Dahlberg It should read exactly as it does because that verse does not refer to any literal temple anywhere. The two words used in the Bible to describe the Temple in Jerusalem helped show what was involved in coming into the presence of God (in the Holy of Holies on earth) which only the High Priest could do once a year. All who are in heaven are in the presence of God, Jesus having enabled that. The dividing curtain was rent assunder at his death - the way was opened up. "Without holiness, no-one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). All in heaven are holy, unlike when on earth.
    – Anne
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 16:48
  • Amen thank you for you asnwer! Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 9:06

ναός - is the temple proper: holy of holies and connected room only the priests could go. ἱερόν - also included the surrounding courts where people could go and where Jesus taught.

7.15 ναός, οῦ m: a building in which a deity is worshiped (in the case of the Temple in Jerusalem, a place where God was also regarded as dwelling)—‘temple, sanctuary.’ ὃν ἐφονεύσατε μεταξὺ τοῦ ναοῦ καὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου ‘whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar’ Mt 23:35. ναόςa may often be rendered as ‘the house of God’ or ‘the place where God dwells’ or ‘God’s building.’ In some languages it is most naturally referred to as ‘the holy house’ or ‘the holy place.’ See also 7.16. ναός is used figuratively in Jn 2:21 (ἐκεῖνος δὲ ἔλεγεν περὶ τοῦ ναοῦ τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ ‘but he spoke of the temple of his body’ or ‘… of his body as a temple’) and in 1 Cor 6:19, where the believer’s body is spoken of as ναὸς τοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν ἁγίου πνεύματος ‘the temple of the Holy Spirit within you.’

7.16 ἱερόν, οῦ n: a temple or sanctuary (ναόςa, 7.15) and the surrounding consecrated area—‘temple.’ περιεπάτει ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ ἐν τῇ στοᾷ τοῦ Σολομῶνος ‘Jesus was walking in Solomon’s porch in the Temple’ Jn 10:23;... -- Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 82). New York: United Bible Societies.

  • Good answer +1.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 11:43
  • @Perry Webb Thanks! So it should read in Rev 21:22 And I saw no holy of holies (ναὸν naos, G3485) therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the holy of it. (Revelation 21:22 - KJV) ? Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 10:38

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