Through the centuries, working lodges in Germany, France, and England developed traditions explaining the origins of their particular trade.
The medical profession traces its ethical standards from Aesculapius, the mythological Greek God of Healing, and Hippocrates (died 377 B.C.), the father of modern medicine. The legal profession claims descent from Hammurabi, king of Babylon (circa 2000 B.C.), who developed an early traditional example of excellence in their field of endeavor.
There are two reasons for this practice; first, to establish a level of proficiency from which they will attempt to advance, and second, to establish a fixed time from which all knowledge of the art should be preserved, thereby insuring that all pertinent discoveries are retained for future use by the craft.
Freemasonry, in the middle ages, had a dual concern. They were attempting to build the highest, lightest, most magnificent cathedrals within their capabilities, for the Glory of God. In addition, they were concerned for the moral and spiritual development of their members as expressed in the ancient documents.
In a search for an early tradition to exemplify their dual concern, they acquired the account from the Holy Bible of the building of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem as a foundation for the future development of the craft.
The stones for Solomon’s Temple, after being shaped in the quaries, fitted together so perfectly at the building site, “so that, there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was building”. (I Kings 6:7) This account of perfect wormanship, together with the proven excelence of Solomon’s organization, has been selected by the fraternity as a fitting example to follow for future generations.
A number of legends or traditions have been superimposed upon the Biblical account of building the Great Temple. The stories explain additional events of value, or interest, to the various grades or classes of workmen employed in the construction of the temple. Many of those legends have been selected by modern Masonic organizations to exemplify additional moral or spiritual values.
In addition to events surrounding the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, other occurrencies in religious history have found their place in Masonic ritual and teaching.
Excerpted from: A History and Handbook, The York Rite of Freemansonry, by Frederic G. Speidel