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Place of the Holy Temple: Its Real Location?
by Walter R. Dolen
Because of prophecy pertaining to the Temple, the knowledge of the exact location of the Holy Temple of Israel is very important. Today almost everyone thinks that the location of the Temple is the huge flat trapezoid area called Haram esh-Sharif by the Arabs or the Temple Mount by today's Jews. But today's Temple Mount may not be, and probably is not, the real temple Mount. How can this be you ask? Do read on as we examine some of the evidence.
Size and shape of Temple Mount
The present "Temple Mount" measures about 930 feet on the south, about 1040 feet on the north, about 1560 feet on the east, and about 1600 feet on the west. This area is much larger than the descriptions of the Temple Mount in Christ's time or the Temple Mount in Solomon's time. According to the famous Jewish writer Josephus, who lived at the time Jerusalem was destroyed (about 40 years after Christ died), the size of the temple area was an exact square of about 600 feet by 600 feet (furlong [stade] by furlong [stade] or about 200 meters by 200 meters or since stade means stadium, the size was a stadium's width by a stadium's length). This description is found in Josehpus' Antiquities of the Jews, Book 15, Chapter 11, Paragraph 3:
We see that the size of the present Temple Mount is much larger than the one described by Josephus or the early Jewish writing called the Mishnah. The Mishnah states that the Temple Mount was a perfect square 500 cubits by 500 cubit or about 750 feet by 750 feet. The Mishnah was compiled at least 130 years after the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, which was after all eye witnesses had died. But Josephus was an eye witness of the attack on Jerusalem. He wrote his history shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem. More than likely Josephus' measurements of the size of the Temple Mount are close to correct. Also we see that the present shape of the Temple Mount is radically different from a square shaped structure. The shape of the present Temple Mount is a trapezoid. The dimensions of Moses' Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple were proportional (nm661 ). The Jews for religious reasons would not have allowed the enclosure for the Temple to be an odd shape. An area 930 by1600 by 1040 by 1560 is not even close to a proportional shape. There is something wrong here.
Present Flat Temple Mount
The present flat "Temple Mount" is not a flattened hill, but a built-up hill. The walls surrounding the hill were used as retaining walls in order to fill in the lower sides of the hill and make a flat area on top. This method of building a flat platform was a common practice then and is still used today. Josephus mentions this method in Book 15, Chapter 11, Paragraph 3 of his Antiquities of the Jews. The high walls also made it difficult for invaders to get inside the walled area. A survey and topographical drawing of the hill was done by Warren in the late 19 century (The Survey of Western Palestine, by Col. Sir Charles Warren, K.C.M.G., R.E., and Capt. Claude Reigner Conder, R.E., 1884).
Also the area south of today's "Temple Mount" has been lowered and leveled several times before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem; originally the mount south of today's "Temple Mount" was much higher (Ernest L. Martin, The Temples that Jerusalem forgot, chapters 22-23).
We all know where Jerusalem is, don’t we? And we all know where the Temple Mount is, don’t we? Or do we?
Jesus Christ, who we believe is God, predicted that Jerusalem and the Temple would be totally destroyed, down to their very foundations.
In context of the rest of the scriptures, the truest sense of this destruction of Jerusalem is at the time of Christ’s coming (Mat 24:1-3):
But this destruction probably also pointed to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans approximately 40 years after Christ’s death. Predictions in the Bible happen in cycles; and the cycles keep repeating themselves until they come true in the truest antitypical sense. We write a little about these cycles in our Prophecy Papers, especially part 5 (PR5). The Bible itself does not mention the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, but the Jewish historian, Josephus, did mention the destruction. Josephus was actually there and witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. What better proof than a real witness to the invasion? Of course, since Josephus’ writing is not a part of the Bible, his words are not inspired, and thus may be mistaken in part. Nevertheless, he is a witness and I don’t see why he would give a wrong description of the size and shape of Jerusalem. So let’s look at what Josephus said about Rome's invasion of Jerusalem and the physical description of this city.
Josephus Writing on the Destruction of Jerusalem
Entire City of Jerusalem and Holy Temple destroyed:
But later these same towers were also destroyed and the western wall of the City was also destroyed (Martin, Temples, pp. 15-17, 39-49). The western wall Josephus described was the western wall of the city, not the western wall of the Temple Mount -- "the wall as enclosed the city on the west side." Josephus elsewhere said that the western side of the city was the upper city, but the Temple was in the lower city on Mount Moriah (War, book 5, 4, 1), thus not near the western wall of the city. Thus the so-called western wall that the Jews worship at is supposed to be the western wall of the Temple Mount, but the Romans destroyed the temple and its wall, and only planned to save the western wall of the city so that future generation would see what a great city the Roman had destroyed. But as it turned out the Romans also destroyed the western wall of the city while only leaving fort Antonia as a monument to the Romans (see later). Thus the western wall that the Jews worship at is not the western wall of the Temple, but the western wall of something else.
The suburbs of the city of Jerusalem also destroyed:
City dug up to its foundations by the Romans to retrieve the Jewish treasures hidden underground:
Foundations of Holy Temple Dug Up
City Burned; Jews' Archives Burned
Fort Antonia Spared
City of Jerusalem Demolished to its very foundations, but Fort Antonia was Spared from the Total Destruction of Jerusalem
The camp of the Romans that remained was Fort Antonia or the “tower” of Antonia. Although Titus “gave orders to his soldiers that were with him to dig up the foundations of the tower of Antonia” (War, Book 6, chap 2, 1), he only gave these orders when the Jewish forces had held the fort for a time. Only some of the foundation of Fort Antonia was overthrown (War, book 6, 2, 7), since later the fort became an encampment for him and his troops: “So Titus retired into the tower of Antonia, and resolved to storm the Temple the next day, early in the morning, with his whole army, and to encamp round about the holy house.” (War, book 6, 4, 5)
Fort Antonia built over or around a rock; "Temple Mount" built around a rock
According to Josephus (War, book 5, chap 5, 8) Fort Antonia was built around a huge rock 75 feet high (50 cubits). Today's "Temple Mount" also is built around a huge rock that is now covered over by the Dome of the Rock.
Fort Antonia had stairs going down from it to the Temple; "Temple Mount" has stairs on south side
On the south side of Fort Antonia adjacent to the Temple were passages or stairs down to the cloisters that connected the Fort to the Temple (War, book 5, chap 5, 8). These are the same stairs that the Roman soldiers came down from the higher Fort (camp [parembole], "castle," or "barracks") to save Paul from the Jews (Act 21:30-40). Today, if you go to Jerusalem, you can see these same steps on the south side of the so-called Temple Mount. Fort Antonia was on a higher hill than the hill north of it (Bezetha) and the hill Acra to the south of it (War, book 5, chap 5, 8 compare w/ book 5, chap 5, 1). Today, the so-called "Temple Mount" is also higher than these hills.
Fort Antonia had a moat on its north side; "Temple Mount" has moat on north side
According to Warren's excavation in Jerusalem in the 19th century "there is a moat between the Dome of the Rock and the El-Omariah School." (The Hidden Secrets of the Temple Mount, Tuvia Sagiv) This school is just north of the Temple Mount, therefore the moat is just north of the so-called Temple Mount:
Josephus also described a moat on the north side of Fort Antonia as being a "deep valley dug on purpose" and the "depth of the ditch made the elevation of the towers more remarkable" ((War, book 5, chap 4, 2). This moat or "ditch" was built in order to keep Fort Antonia "from joining to this hill ["Bezetha," north of the fort], and thereby affording an opportunity for getting to it with ease, and hindering the security that arose from its superior elevation." In other words, ignoring the awkward wording of the translation of Josephus's book, this "ditch" was a moat that helped to keep invaders out of the fort by having the moat separate the fort from the hill.
Original Jerusalem was located on a Crescent-Shaped Hill
Josephus in his Wars of the Jews (book 5, chapter 4) said that Jerusalem was built on two main hills. The first hill, the upper city since it was higher, was built on the higher western hill, which in the past was mistakenly named Zion. The upper city of Christ and Josephus's time was apparently, according to Martin, built in the second or third century BC and was continually built until the time of the apostles (p. 267). (Today's writings of Josephus also mistakenly called this upper hill David's Citadel.) Josephus then describes the lower eastern hill as a crescent-shaped hill on which the lower city of Jerusalem was built:
He then mentions a third hill over against the crescent shaped hill but then says this hill was originally ["naturally"] lower than the lower city of Acra, but that Acra had been cut down in the past. He also mentioned that there was a valley between the upper and lower city; he called this valley the "Valley of the Cheese-mongers," but today we call it the Tyropoeon Valley. The Tyropoeon Valley today has been partially filled in over the ages with garbage and land fill. Martin gives us other quotes from others that also call Jerusalem a crescent-shaped city (pp 267-268).
Alfred Edersheim in his book on The Temple also gives information as to the shape of the part of Jerusalem that was called Acra in Josephus's time:
Edersheim was not an eye witness to topography of Jerusalem, he took his information mainly from Josephus and other sources, but here he agrees that Jerusalem, at least the lower city of Jerusalem (Acra) was crescent-shaped. He did make a mistake by saying that Zion was on the western hill. He made this mistake because at the time Edersheim wrote it was a mistaken notion that the western hill was Zion. Although not clear from this quote, Edersheim also mistakenly located Mount Moriah outside of the lower city (Acra). Today, the City of David is almost universally identified as being located on the crescent-shaped hill. And from scripture we know that Zion and the City of David are one in the same (2 Sam 5:7). The upper city did not exist in David's time, and it was David and Solomon who located and set the location of the Temple -- on Mount Moriah, as God had directed through Abraham and scripture.
Is Today's Temple Mount the Same Temple Mount of Jesus Christ's Time?
From the information above, we see that the present size and shape of today's Temple Mount is radically different to the eye-witnessing account of Josephus. Also very important are the predictions made by Jesus Christ when he predicted that Jerusalem and its temple would be completely destroyed (see above). But today we see that the so-called Temple Mount wall structure has as many as 10,000 large stones (Martin, p. 12, 20-21). An important book by Ernest L. Martin called The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot (copyright 2000) brings these and other contractions to the world's attention. We don't agree with all the information in Marin's book, nevertheless, it is an important book because it helps us to remove an old mindset that may be blinding us to the real location of the Temple Mount. Is the present Temple Mount in Jerusalem the real Temple Mount of David and Solomon? If not, the mistake will have repercussions for today and for the prophecy pertaining to the Beast. If the present Temple Mount is not the real one, then Israel will be free to build one on its true location without bringing too much flack from the Arabs. Today both the Arabs and Jews believe that the "Temple Mount" is in the same location as the holy Dome of the Rock and much antagonism, fighting, and killing have occurred due to this and other old wounds between the Arabs and Jews.
Biblical Evidence for the Location of the Temple Mount
Let's see what the Bible has to say about the Temple Mount. After all it is the words of the Bible that supercede all other works of mankind.
Abraham and the Hill of Moriah
Abraham was told by God to go to the "land of Moriah" and to offer his son as a burnt offering "on one of the mountains" in this land of Moriah ( Gen 22:2). Of course, God was not telling Abraham to kill his son, but this was said to him as a shadow of the true sacrifice of God's son, Jesus Christ, in this very same area. Abraham here represented God the Father allowing his own son to be sacrificed for the sins of mankind. God provided a substitute lamb for Abraham to sacrifice (Gen 22:14) "in the mount of the LORD it shall be seen." This lamb of Abraham's time was a shadow of the real Lamb of God, who was Jesus Christ. See and read the God Papers for more detailed information.
Jerusalem is the Same City of the Jebusites and Melchizedek, and the Same City of David and also called Fort Zion
In Abraham's time Jerusalem was also called Salem and was the city of King Melchizedek (Gen 14:18). This Salem is the same city as Zion (Psa 76:2), and Zion is the city of Jerusalem and the city of David, and the city of the Jebusites:
As we see this city was also called a fort or stronghold. In some translations it describes this fort as the Ophel (2 Ch 33:14; etc), which is a transliteration of the Hebrew, which also means fort or stronghold.
Solomon Builds Temple on Mount Moriah
King Solomon built the Temple on the very mount Moriah where Abraham was going to sacrifice his son, and this area was the place that David had prepared, which was at one time the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
Jehovah of Hosts dwells on Mount Moriah (Zion)
This is also called God's Holy Mountain (Isa 27:13; 56:7; Dan 9:16) or Holy Hill (Jer 31:23) or the Holy Place (Dan 8:11), and thus the Holy City (Isa 52:1).
Jerusalem to be the World Headquarters of the Kingdom of God
At the end of the old age, this very hill, Mount Moriah, will be the capital of the worldwide Kingdom of God:
The Apostles saw Christ the God go up to heaven from the mount of Olives and Acts 1:11-12 tells us he will return in like matter, except that he will come down from heaven (instead of going up) to rule as King of Kings in Jerusalem for as Zech 14:4 said "In that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem's on the east." With Christ will be the saints coming with him and this will be the Spiritual Jerusalem coming down from heaven (Rev 3:12; 21:2; 21:10).
Temple Mount was close to a Water Source
When we look at the lower city of Jerusalem on its crescent-shaped hill we notice that directly oppose to the center of the hill is a water spring that dates back at least 3000 years. This water source helps us to identify the real location of the original Jerusalem, which was the City of David, which was Zion, which was Mount Moriah, which was the hill God's Temple was built on, which was the location of the Temple in Christ's time, which was the location of the Temple destroyed by the Romans, which is the location of the new Temple where the Beast will stand (just before Christ's return) and through blasphemy will call himself God.
The Gihon Spring is the only spring within five miles of Jerusalem. Water was vital and important to any ancient city. It was also important for the Holy Temple, with its many rituals of cleansing. There is a "spring" located about a third of a mile south of Jerusalem, called En-Rogel or the Rogel Spring, but it is actually a well, not a spring (Martin, p. 292-292). Psalm 87:1-3, 7 mention springs of water in Zion or Jerusalem. Since the Gihon Spring is the only true spring of water within five miles of Jerusalem, then it is this spring that was within Jerusalem. The so-called Warren Shaft, rediscovered in the middle of the 19th century leads from the Gihon Spring to summit of the Ophel, and may well have been the source of water for the Temple. Hezekiah made an aqueduct (2 Chron 32:30) that took water from the Gihon Spring and brought water into the city of Jerusalem. This aqueduct is actually a tunnel that runs under the city of David leading to a pool on the west side of the lower city. This tunnel is also called Siloam tunnel. Two other aqueducts have also been discovered coming from the spring (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, p. 1229): one on a lower level and one on a higher level than Hezekiah's. Martin points to other scripture that point (through type and antitype) to the existence of a spring of water in Jerusalem (chapter 20-21). This spring was the "fountain of Israel" (Psa 68:24-26; Jer 17:12-13; etc.). This spring in no way comes up into today's Temple Mount, but did/does come up through the Warren Shaft and Hezekiah's tunnel into the City of David, the original Jerusalem, which is south of today's so-called Temple Mount. This is another indication that the real location of the Temple Mount is south of today's Temple Mount and across from the Gihon Spring. From the Holman Bible Atlas (1998):
More detail on the factor of the Gihon Spring is found in Martin's book.
In this very short review of scripture we see how important the Temple Mount area was. Also we know that the Beast (man of sin) will stand up in the Temple at the end of the age and claim to be God (2 Thes 2:4; see PR3). But we have also seen that today's Temple Mount area is too large, is the wrong shape, and has too many stones still standing for the wall to be the remains of the real Temple Mount. From this and other evidence we can see the possibility that today's Temple Mount is not the real Temple Mount of Solomon or the Temple Mount of Christ's time. Christ predicted that the Temple and the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed, but scripture also said that the Beast would stand in the Temple at the end of the world. There is no Temple now standing. And today's Temple Mount may not even be the real one. Can Israel or anyone else change the place of the Temple Mount? No. God put much emphasis on the exact location of the Temple. It was to be on a certain hill that God pointed out to Abraham and only that hill.
Where then is Today's Temple Mount?
As Martin goes a long way toward proving in his book, today's Temple Mount is actually the camp of the Romans called by some, Fort Antonia. Fort Antonia was the only structure left after the Roman invasion of Jerusalem. It was only spared because it was a Roman fort, and not really a part of Jerusalem. Therefore, today's Jews are worshipping at the western wall of the Fort that the Romans used to destroy Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. What an irony. The real Temple Mount is south of today's false Temple Mount. The real Temple Mount should be across from the Gihon Spring in the area called Ophel.
This paper was origianlly written and/or posted on May 6, 2001 Home
There is a new film (DVD), Jerusalem and the Lost Temple of the Jews, pertaining to this subject. Be sure to take a look at it and buy it from:
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