Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy. The earliest known ritual places the first masonic lodge in the porchway of King Solomon’s Temple.
The earliest masonic texts each contain some sort of a history of the craft, or mystery, of masonry. The oldest known work of this type, The Halliwell Manuscript, or Regius Poem, dating from between 1390 and 1425, has a brief history in its introduction, stating that the “craft of masonry” began with Euclid in Egypt, and came to England in the reign of King Athelstan. Shortly afterwards, the Cooke Manuscript traces masonry to Jabal son of Lamech (Genesis 4: 20-22), and tells how this knowledge came to Euclid, from him to the Children of Israel (while they were in Egypt), and so on through an elaborate path to Athelstan.
This myth formed the basis for subsequent manuscript constitutions, all tracing masonry back to biblical times, and fixing its institutional establishment in England during the reign of Athelstan (927-939).
In the beginning of his reign, King Solomon set about giving effect to the ideas of his father, and prepared additional materials for the building. From subterranean quarries at Jerusalem he obtained huge blocks of stone for the foundations and walls of the temple. According to this account, Solomon also entered into a compact with Hiram I, king of Tyre, for the supply of whatever else was needed for the work, particularly timber from the forests of Lebanon, which was brought in great rafts by the sea to Joppa, whence it was dragged to Jerusalem.
According to tradition, in all these preparatory undertakings a space of about three years was occupied; and now the process of the erection of the great building began, under the direction of skilled Phoenician masons, builders and workmen, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign.
According to biblical tradition, many thousands of laborers and skilled artisans were employed in the work. Stones prepared in the quarries underneath the city of huge dimension were gradually placed on the massive walls, and closely fitted together without any mortar between, till the whole structure was completed.