An Alternative Perspective: The Jerusalem Temple

A controversial theory places the actual location of the biblical First and Second Temple on ancient Jerusalem's southeastern hill, in the old City of David.

Despite stolid, immovable, and scholarly agreement that the Jerusalem Temple Mount is the site of the former Jewish temples, ancient descriptions of it are incompatible with what one sees today, as ably chronicled by Ernest L. Martin in The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot  (2000). In fact, the current Temple Mount’s identification can only be traced to a long-standing tradition, dependent on the undocumented proposition that David or Solomon broke down the northern walls of the City of David (Jerusalem) on the southeastern hill to build a large northerly extension for the temple and acropolis. But ancient descriptions of the boundaries of the city delimit it to the southeastern hill (south of the traditional temple mount), with no northerly extension mentioned. The northern wall was still in place during the siege of Pompey in 63 B.C. (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XIV, 4, 57). 

After Simon the Hasmonean (142–135 B.C.) razed the City of David (Ant. XIII, 7, 217), “Mount Zion” was thought by tradition to be identified with the western hill, until, in 1838, Edward Robinson found Hezekiah’s Tunnel on the southeastern hill, and, in 1880, young Jacob Eliahu discovered the Siloam inscription inside. Two parties of rock cutters starting in opposite directions met in the newly carved aqueduct running south from the Gihon Spring and incised a paleo-Hebraic description of their meeting. The inscription provides physical evidence of the biblical passages in 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:3–4 regarding Hezekiah’s conduit bringing water into the city, affirming the southeastern hill as the original site of the ancient habitations chronicled in history and the Bible, and the true location of the all-important Mount Zion.

Over the past 20 years, excavations in the City of David by Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron have revealed cyclopean remains from the Middle Bronze Age II, including the Spring Tower surrounding the Gihon Spring, the Pool Tower guarding the Rock-cut Pool adjacent to it, and the Fortified Passage, two massive walls protecting a path from the Spring to the top of the slope – where Reich surmised an important fortress stood. The possibility this might have been the temple of Melchizedek (War VI, 10, 438), who lived in the same approximate era, derives from Josephus’ mention of him as the first priest of God who built a temple in Salem, later named Hiersolyma for the temple (hieron) and Solyma (Hebrew for security) (Ant. I, 10, 179; Ant. VII, 3, 67, Loeb translation). Perhaps not coincidentally, this is the same site where I suggest Solomon built his temple, about 950 years later.

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Fig. 1.  The photo shows the trapezoidal temple mount with the Dome of the Rock, the “Ophel” excavations to the south. The curved southeastern hill lies near to the western hill “in the manner of a theater”, and is the lowest hill in Jerusalem. The Gihon Spring is at its center, near the Kidron Valley. [Photo courtesy of Ferrell Jensen’s Travel Blog: jerrelljenkins.wordpress.com]

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Fig. 2.  The figure shows an artist’s conception of the Spring Tower, Pool Tower, and Fortified Passage, dated to the Middle Bronze Age II, possibly in the time of Melchizedek. The buildings are “lying out” from the walled city, just as Solomon’s temple is described in three sources. It probably enclosed these constructions, along with the Gihon Spring. [Deror Avi, Wikimedia]

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The Boundaries of the City of David (Jerusalem)

In the 10th century B.C., after David conquered Jebus, the former Salem, both he and Solomon repaired the existing walls and made them higher and stronger. Solomon may have built new walls, but there is no description of any walls having been broken down, nor of any large northerly extension, as required for the temple mount tradition (Ant. VII, 3, 66; Ant. VII, 2, 21). Hence, the boundaries of the City of David (Jerusalem) were limited to the southeastern hill. Since Josephus states that David made buildings around the “lower city,” it is assumed the City of David occupied the southern half of the low southeastern hill and the buildings were, along with the existing citadel, the millo (also a name for the citadel), David’s palace, the acropolis, and later, in Solomon’s time, the temple. The Sheep Gate of Nehemiah 3:32 stood at the northeastern corner of the entire city, probably where the southeastern corner of the traditional temple mount stands today, or possibly 105 feet north, where a “seam” occurs in the east wall.                                                                                                                                                 

The lack of any northerly extension in the time of David, Solomon, and the kings can be ascertained by later descriptions of the City of David (Jerusalem). Although the city had spread to the western hill in Hezekiah’s reign, archaeologists have determined it shrunk back to only the southeastern hill during the Persian period, limiting Nehemiah’s description of the wall reparations to that area.Even after its subsequent re-expansion, the city is described in the Letter of Aristeas (in the Greek era 332–145 B.C.) and other sources as having its towers arranged “in the manner of a theater,” its walls “bending inwards” (Tacitus, Histories 5.11); having “the shape of the moon when she is horned” (Josephus, War V, 5, 137); and being comparable to “an arc” (the Venerable Bede, De Locis Sanctis). Each description refers to the crescent shape of the southeastern hill, without any northerly extension.

 

The Temple in the City of David (Jerusalem) 

The hill on which Solomon built the temple foundations is described in Antiquities XV, 11, 397 (Whiston translation): “The hill was a rocky ascent, that declined by degrees towards the east parts of the city, until it came to an elevated level.” The “elevated level” probably means the natural rock scarp along the southeastern hill’s east slope. The description indicates the temple hill was located on the city’s east side. This disqualifies the traditional site of the temple mount, since there has never been a city built on its east side (see Fig. 1). The placement of the temple hill was also to the south. This is affirmed by Ezekiel’s visionary journey to the temple in Jerusalem, where he says: “In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel and set me upon a very high mountain by which was as the frame of a city on the south” (Ezekiel 40:20). From the Cairo Genizeh documents, a letter chronicles the request of the Jews in Tiberias asking Omar for permission to live “in the southern section of the city…near the site of the Temple…as well as to the water of Shiloah.” The Venerable Bede also speaks of Jerusalem and the temple being “located to the south” (De Locis Sanctis).

In addition, several descriptions locating the temple (or its ruins) derive from its being built on the lowest mountain in Jerusalem, the southeastern hill. In his letter to Faustus, Eucherius (5th century A.D.) said: “The Temple, which was situated in the lower city near the eastern wall, was once a world wonder, but of its ruins there stands today only the pinnacle of one wall, and the rest are destroyed down to their foundations.” The Venerable Bede echoes this description by noting the temple ruins were located in the “lower part of the city” in the vicinity of the “wall from the east” (Eudocia’s 5th-century city wall on the east of the southeastern hill). In Special Laws I.XIII.73, Philo of Alexandria wrote that the temple “…being very large and very lofty, although built in a very low situation…is not inferior to any of the greatest mountains around.” Philo refers to the temple’s east wall having been built on the bedrock of the Kidron Valley, a very low situation, which was compensated for by its spectacular height.

 

The Temple Stood in the Middle of the City                                                                               

In the letter of Aristeas, he speaks of standing on the citadel that guarded the temple, looking down into the temple’s inner precincts. He also describes upper and lower crossroads, implying the temple bifurcated the city. This is also implied by the injunction in the Mishnah (Berachot 9:5) that the temple should not be used as a shortcut. Hecateus of Abdera (4th century B.C.) described the temple as a 150-foot wall of stone in the middle of the city, measuring 500 feet from valley to valley (Josephus, Contra Apion I, 21, 198). Several biblical passages concur with the temple being in the “midst” (Ps. 46:4–5; 116:18–19; Jer.14:9; Ez. 37:26, 28; Zech. 2:10, 11; 8:3). In order for Aristeas’ and Hecateus’ descriptions to fit the Dome of the Rock location, there would need to have been a city north of it in the Greek period – yet this was not the case.

 

The Temple Stood on Mount Zion                                                                                                       

At some point in the Temple Mount tradition, the name “Mount Moriah” became attached to the hill under it, a designation based on the tradition itself and the passage in 2 Chronicles 3:1: “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” But this is the only passage in the Bible that mentions Mount Moriah – all the others referring to the temple hill call it Mount Zion, a term which also referred to the whole city, as well as the sanctuary. In fact, the synonymy of Mount Moriah and Mount Zion as two words representing the same hill is evident from Psalm 74:2, which associates the redemption of the threshing-floor, not with Mount Moriah, but with Mount Zion: “Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.” When the destroying angel of the Lord stood by the threshing-floor, he drew a sword and stretched it out over Jerusalem in an era when Jerusalem was confined to the southeastern hill (2 Samuel 24:16).  

Antiquities VII, 3, 65, indicates that after conquering Jebus, David abode in the City of David “all the time of his reign,” indicating he built his palace there. Since the royal palace was immediately south of the temple, the temple must also have been in the City of David. This is reaffirmed by the incident in 2 Kings 18:17, when Tartan, Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Assyria come up from Lachish to stand by the wall near the conduit of the upper pool, and call out to the king in his palace above, while the people witness the confrontation from the walls (Isaiah 36:11). This scenario can be reconstructed by identifying the Gihon Spring in the City of David as the source of the upper pool and the conduit as Channel II (the Canaanite tunnel), which flowed south of it, past the royal palace. Two 8th-century walls have been uncovered in the City of David, which would fit the walls described for the people on the walls (Yigal Shiloh’s mid-slope wall) and for the Assyrian messengers near the wall (Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron’s valley wall).

The south-to-north descriptions on the southeastern hill in Nehemiah also affirm the temple, Gihon Spring, and royal palace configuration in the City of David. In Nehemiah 12:37, 39, he mentions the water and prison gates immediately north of the palace, so it logically follows the water gate gave access to the Gihon Spring, while the prison gate gave access to the prison in the royal palace (Nehemiah 3:25–26). When choirs celebrating the completion of rebuilding the walls halted at the water and prison gates, the scripture says they halted at the house of God, indicating it stood in the City of David, immediately adjacent to these gates (Nehemiah 12:40–41). Hecateus of Abdera affirms the temple was accessed through “double passages” in the middle of the city (Josephus, Contra Apion I, 198). The temple’s proximity to these gates is also attested by the nearness of the high priest’s residence and that of the Nethinim (temple servants) in the same vicinity (Nehemiah 3:21, 3:26). From these descriptions, it can be deduced that the “great tower lying out” (Nehemiah 3:27) was the tower of the temple, affirmed by the description of Josephus that the east wall of the temple stood “within the valley” (War I, 7, 141; War VI, 3, 192; Ant. XV, 11, 398, 411; Ant. XX, 9, 221). Josippon Ben Gorion also wrote that from Solomon’s walks and galleries in the extreme parts of the court, the people “might easily see the waters running in the Brook Cedron by the space of a cubit” (Trans. James Howell).

As Martin (2000) points out, another clue regarding the temple’s location is in the Book of Ezekiel, where the Lord expresses offense at the defiling of his sanctuary by the kings building their tombs only a wall away (Ezekiel 43:7–9). Since the kings were buried in the City of David, this also affirms a City of David location for the temple. The traditional tomb in the City of David, known as T1, has for many years been rejected by archaeologists as too simple for a royal tomb. However, in 2009, Jeffrey Zorn wrote an article in the Biblical Archaeology Review successfully arguing that the critics’ main objection, that the tomb did not look like other Israelite tombs, can be countered since their comparisons were made with later Israelite tombs – T1 does resemble the simplicity of royal tombs some 200 years earlier at Ebla, Ugarit, and Hazor. T1 was originally chosen for its placement in the description of Nehemiah’s circuit of the walls, as the “sepulchres of David” appear directly after the “wall of the pool of Siloah by the king’s garden, and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David” (Nehemiah 3:15–16). Parts of the wall, the pool, and the stairs have been uncovered in archaeological excavations at the southern extremity of the City of David.

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Fig. 3. Map of the City of David in the Israelite Period:  The conduit of the upper pool was Channel II, which led from the Gihon Spring past the royal palace to the Siloam pool. Shiloh’s Israelite wall (8th century) is where the people would have stood. The northern continuation of Reich and Shukron’s Area J wall was probably where Sennacherib’s representatives stood.

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Incompatible Descriptions of the Temple’s Walls and Gates                                         

Josephus describes how almost unbelievable the sight of the temple was – of such great height that it caused giddiness and even pain to look down from it(Ant. VIII, 3, 97; Ant. XV, 11, 412). Starting with Solomon, laborers had built a stone box around the temple mount and filled it with “valleys” of dirt, which required “many long ages” before it became a smooth surface on top(War V, 5, 184–189; Ant. VIII, 3, 96–97). Josephus also gives details for all the walls and gates of Herod’s temple mount foundations, which compare unfavorably against those of the traditional temple mount.

The Walls 

The east wall foundations measured 600 feet in length, started 150 feet underground in the Kidron Valley, and rose to a height of 300 cubits above ground, or 450 feet. This height, on the top of a tell on the southeastern hill’s ridge, was purposed in order that the temple’s south entry would be joined to the public plaza of the City of David, where the citadel stood, guarding the temple and royal palace (War V, 5, 184–189). On the other hand, the east wall of the traditional temple mount (the highest of the edifice) measures only 158 feet high, is 1,556 feet long, and is built upslope from the valley, not in the valley (Fig. 7).

Josephus said the southeastern angle of the temple stood in the Kidron Valley and the southern wall reached 600 feet toward the lower Tyropoeon Valley (Ant. XV, 11, 411). However, the traditional temple mount’s southeastern angle stands upslope from the Kidron Valley, extends 922 feet to cross over the upper Tyropoeon Valley, and ends on the western hill.

Josephus placed the northeastern corner of the temple in the Kidron Valley (War VI, 3, 192).The northern wall measured 600 feet and joined to Fort Antonia’s southern wall via two  600-foot aerial bridges (War VI, 2, 144, Loeb translation).There were no towers on Herod’s temple and no pool adjoined to the north wall, but there was a plaza of 600+ feet on the north. Contrarily, the northeastern corner of the traditional Temple Mount stands upslope from the Kidron Valley, the northern wall measures 1,040 feet, there is a pool adjoined to it, there are signs of towers on its two corners, and it is not separated from the current models of Fort Antonia by two 600-foot aerial bridges or a plaza of 600+ feet. In addition, the northern corner is unfinished, while Josephus affirms the temple was completed (Ant. XX, 9, 219).

The western wall measured 600 feet and faced the lower Tyropoeon Valley across from the curving western hill, as will be seen in the description of its gates (see Fig. 1; Ant. XV, 11, 410). In Nehemiah’s time, it was probably the “broad wall” (Nehemiah 3:8) standing east of the wall repaired by Nehemiah’s laborers, between the old gate and the tower of the furnaces. However, the western wall of the traditional Temple Mount measures 1,596 feet and faces the upper Tyropoeon Valley.

The Gates

The gates of the temple as described by Josephus also feature many incompatibilities with those in the traditional Temple Mount. The western gates were as follows: “Now in the western quarters of the enclosure of the temple there were four gates; the first led to the king’s palace, and went to a passage over the intermediate valley; two more led to the suburbs of the city; and the last led to the other city, where the road descended by a great number of steps, and from there up again by the ascent for the city lay near to the temple in the manner of a theater, and was encompassed with a deep valley along the entire south quarter” (Ant. XV, 11, 410).

The description goes in an order from either south to north (the most likely), or north to south, meaning the Robinson’s Arch gate or Warren’s Gate would have to match the first or fourth descriptions. But neither of these gates match the description of the first gate leading to the aerial passage that crossed over the valley and led to Herod’s palace. The Robinson’s Arch gate, however, could describe the last gate. As for the two middle gates, Barclay’s gate could qualify as leading to the suburbs, but the Gate of the Chain at Wilson’s Arch did not exist in Herod’s time and the bridge outside it leads to the upper city, not the suburbs. The greatest key for rejecting all of the gates of the traditional Temple Mount is that Josephus describes them as being in the lower Tyropoeon Valley, where “the city lay near to the temple in the manner of a theater, and was encompassed with a deep valley along the entire south quarter.” This matches the topography of the curved southeastern hill lying against the curved western hill, with the Hinnom and Kidron valleys surrounding the south quarter of the hill. Another problem is their interior configurations do not accommodate the coming in and going out of large crowds of people, as do the gates described in the Mishnah.

All descriptions of the east wall mention only one gate. This could not have been approached from the east side, however, because of its height. Instead, stairs beginning at the north plaza must have been used to climb to the east gate (see Fig. 7). On the traditional Temple Mount, however, there are two gates. One is of Roman date, opposite the Robinson’s Arch gate, and entered into Solomon’s Stables. The other is now known as the Golden Gate and variously dated to the Hasmonean, Byzantine, and Umayyad eras. It was probably originally Hasmonean, along with the walls on either side, being the era John Hyrcanus built the Baris.

To the south, there were two gates on Herod’s temple, called the Huldah Gates – one for coming in, and one for going out, as described in the Mishnah (Middoth 1:3). On the traditional Temple Mount, there are five southern gates of Herodian date, grouped into the Double Gate and the Triple Gate; both of these have interior configurations which do not seem suited to handling large crowds, with one group coming in and the other going out.

Herod’s temple also had a northern gate, high above the plaza, though it was not used by anyone but the priests, from the inside (Middoth 1:3). There are no gates of Herodian date on the traditional Temple Mount’s north wall.

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Fig. 4.  Ernest L. Martin’s illustration shows how the temple in the City of David connected to the tower of Antonia via two 600-foot aerial bridges, and where the east and south gates were located. Josephus says both the northeastern and southeastern corners were in the valley, not perfectly illustrated in this version. [Courtesy of David Sielaff, ASK Publications]

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Fig. 5.  According to Josephus, the temple’s east wall measured 600 feet and was built in the Kidron Valley. The east wall of the alleged temple mount measures 1,556 feet and is built far upslope from the valley. Josephus also said the hill of the temple sloped down toward the east parts of the city. No city has ever been built on the eastern slope shown. [Photo by Jimmy Wee, Wikimedia]

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Fig. 6.  The 922-foot south wall is pictured, with B. Mazar’s “Ophel” excavations in the foreground. Josephus said the south wall reached just to the Tyropoeon Valley, while this south wall crosses over the Tyropoeon Valley and ends on the western hill. [Cropped from photo by Andrew Shiva, Wikimedia Commons]

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Fig. 7.  The stone masonry in the eastern section of the alleged temple mount’s 1,040-foot north wall (to the left) is pictured in this early photograph. The western portion of the wall (not shown) is actually part rock scarp, worked to look like stone. But Herod’s north wall was 600 feet long, made entirely of masonry, and separated from Fort Antonia by two 600-foot aerial bridges. There was no pool north of the temple’s north wall, while the Struthion Pool abutted the north wall of Fort Antonia and is pictured here – the Birket Israel. [Library of Congress, Wikimedia]

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Fig. 8.  This photo shows the Wailing Wall portion of the 1,596-foot western wall. Josephus said the west wall measured 600 feet. The Jews started praying here in the 16th century. Previously, they had prayed at the eastern gate (the Golden Gate), the Mount of Olives, and the temple ruins on the southeastern hill. [Cropped from photo by Golasso, Wikipedia]

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Fig. 9. Reconstruction of Robinson’s Arch:  The Robinson’s Arch stairway of Fort Antonia (in the upper Tyropoeon Valley) opened onto the 600-foot plaza north of the temple. In Josephus, the southernmost gate of the temple is described as opening onto a roadway that led to the bridge crossing over the lower Tyropoeon Valley. Hence, Josephus’ description of the gate doesn’t match this one. [Model in Museum of David Castle, photo by Водник at ru.wikipedia]

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Fig. 10.  The Golden Gate is supposed to be the Shushan Gate (the east gate of the outer court of the temple). However, this gate has been variously dated to the Hasmonean, Byzantine, or Umayyad periods. The “lower gate,” under it, can be dated to the pre-Herodian period, but it makes a second gate, when Josephus and the Mishnah described only one. [Cropped from photo by Mark A. Wilson, Wikimedia]

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Fig. 11.  The remains of arch springers and vestiges of a gate south of the seam (by the light) are hard to see in this picture, but it shows the area where the only gate dated to the Roman era entered into Solomon’s Stables. Josephus describes one gate for the east wall, but the Golden Gate, along with this one, makes two gates. [Cropped from photo by Deror Avi, Wikimedia]

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Fig. 12.  The Triple Gates, along with the Double Gates, do not fit the Middoth’s description of the two Huldah gates, one for coming in and one for going out. [Photo by Bachrach44, Wikimedia]

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The Water System                                                                                                                                             

Previously mentioned sources have affirmed that the Gihon Spring, in the middle of the City of David, was a primary supply of the temple’s water system, not least because, according to the Mishnah, water held in any cistern, bath, aqueduct, or channel was “ordinary water,” while spring water was the highest quality obtainable, indispensable for temple rituals. The Gihon is the only spring in Jerusalem. Though Charles Wilson carefully mapped the water supply under the alleged Temple Mount, no spring was discovered there (see Fig. 8).

On the other hand, scriptures confirm the waters under the temple (Ps. 29:3, 10; 36:9; 42:7; 46:4; 68:26; 87:7; 93:l, 2–4; 104:3, 13; Jer. 2:13; 17:13; Ez. 47:1, 2, 8; Joel 3:18; Zech. 13:1; Rev. 21:2, 6; 22:1, 17), as do other sources, such as the Book of Enoch 25:1, Tacitus, Philo, the Mishnah, and Eusebius, who calls the Spring “the high priest’s fountain.” Philo of Alexandria believed the pomegranates on the high priest’s robe symbolized the “flowing of the stream.” The Jewish Encyclopedia notes that when the priests were obliged to eat large quantities of sacred meat, they drank of the water of Shiloah to aid digestion (Ab. R. N. 35), implying its accessibility within the temple. Characteristically, the sources describe the water under the temple as coming forth on the east side of the throne and flowing south, mirroring the exact configuration if the temple were built on the ridge above the Gihon Spring.

In the Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 41:61, it says an aqueduct led to the Temple Mount from Etam. It is unknown who constructed this aqueduct, or if it was a branch of the lower aqueduct, dated to the Hasmonean period (140–40 B.C.). Signs of this aqueduct have been found skirting the Western Hill, where it entered the traditional Temple Mount at Wilson’s Arch and headed southeast toward Cistern #36 on Wilson’s map (Fig. 8). This means the aqueduct’s destination for dispersal was downhill from the Dome of the Rock and was clearly not meant to supply water there. It seems the most likely path for an aqueduct that serviced the actual temple mount in the City of David would be a branch of the lower aqueduct, which would have crossed over on the aerial bridge in the lower Tyropoeon Valley (mentioned by the Venerable Bede in De Locis Sanctis). Otherwise, there has been an aqueduct heading south uncovered in Eilat Mazar’s gate complex excavation, which could possibly qualify if it reached much further south. According to Lamentations Rabbah 4:4, the besiegers who destroyed the temple also destroyed the aqueduct that ran from Etam. The aqueduct under the traditional Temple Mount is still intact. This echoes the bewildered statement by archaeologist Benjamin Mazar that he found surprisingly few signs of destruction under the traditional Temple Mount. 

Tractate Erubin 10of the Talmud also indicates the existence of a spring under the temple, where it describes the rules for what water could be drawn from the temple on the Sabbath day:It is also permitted to draw water from the well Gola and from the large well by means of the rolling wheel on the Sabbath and from the cold well (on festivals)…What is meant by the cold well? Said R. Na’hman bar Itz’hak: “That well was filled with spring-water.” Whence does R. Na’hman adduce this? From the passage [Jeremiah vi. 7]: “As a well sendeth forth its waters.”…We have learned in a Boraitha: It was not permitted to draw water from all cold wells but only from the one mentioned…” 

A note from Michael L. Rodkinson, translator of this Babylonian Talmud text, says: “The Hebrew term for “sendeth forth” is “hokir,” and the term for “cold well” is “Bor hak’ar,” whence R. Na’hman adduces that as a well which sendeth forth waters must necessarily be a spring, so this well called Bor Hakar was also a spring: a deduction by analogy.”

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Fig. 13. Wilson’s Map of the Water Under the Alleged Temple Mount: The map shows the lower aqueduct entering into the alleged temple mount from the bridge at Wilson’s Arch. It slants in a southeast direction, ending up near Cistern #36. Nothing has been found which would indicate this water was then directed uphill toward the Dome of the Rock. The water survey did not turn up any spring under the alleged temple mount.

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Conclusion                                                                                                                                                     

In Mark 13:1–2, as Jesus and his disciples exited the temple toward the Mount of Olives: “…one of his disciples saith unto him; Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”  

What “buildings” would the disciples have seen from that standpoint which would have prompted an exclamation point and Christ’s assessment of “great”? According to Josephus, they would have seen a wall of stone 600 feet wide and 450 feet high, with 50-foot walls on top, the Nicanor Gate showing 43 feet above that, and 116 feet of the temple showing above that – the foundations being about two times the height of the other buildings on top. If Christ wanted to stir their souls with the impending threat of utter destruction, why would he have chosen to ignore the enormous, highly symbolic temple tower foundations, which were “the most prodigious work ever heard of by man” (Ant. XV, 11, 396)? But this is what Temple Mount traditionalists are forced to do, claiming that Christ referred only to the sanctuary itself and the inner precincts, because, as is blatantly apparent, there are over 10,000 Herodian stones remaining in the traditional Temple Mount that have never been “thrown down” (Martin, 20). However, early accounts of the temple’s destruction confirm Christ’s prophecy: there is no mention of the temple’s survival at all, and certainly not to the extent of 36 acres of walled foundations (especially since the temple covered only nine acres). Instead, Eleazar of Masada, an eyewitness of Jerusalem’s destruction, said the only monument remaining was the Roman camp, while the temple had been dug up by its foundations (War VII, 8, 376, 380). Since the traditional Temple Mount is the only monument remaining from the 70 A.D. destruction, it cannot be identified as the real Temple Mount, and was never considered part of the holy city, so it has no mention as part of the city’s total destruction (Martin, 2000). It was, however, known by the Byzantines as the Praetorium, where they believed Christ had been tried by Pilate and where they built two Christian churches, the Church of Saint Sophia over the Sakrah and the Church of Our Blessed Lady at the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque. Not until the Muslims arrived in 638 A.D. did it start to transmute into the Temple Mount, concomitant with the demise of the post-destruction temple ruins (from attempted rebuilds by Constantine, Julian, and Bar Kochba) on the southeastern hill. Nevertheless, to date, the Temple Mount tradition has triumphantly reduced the Christian’s prophecy of Christ to a half-baked, over-dramatized misrepresentation, simultaneously elevating the former gentile Roman camp to the eminent, revered level of supreme Jewish icon.

 

 

Marilyn Sams

This is Marilyn Sams’ fourth, originally-researched article dealing with the general topics of Jerusalem archaeology and, in particular, the Haram es Sharif, popularly known as the Temple Mount. 

In her full-length book entitled The Jerusalem Temple Mount Myth, Ms. Sams weaves together a narrative of over 200 ancient and seldom-cited literary sources that challenge the traditional model that places the Solomonic and Herodian temples over the Dome of the Rock.

You can read a synopsis of her evidence and learn more details at her website: http://jerusalemtemplemountmyth.com.