New Abridged Evidence for the Real Site of the Temple in Jerusalem.

 contact.gif 2000, Dr. Ernest L. Martin. All rights reserved

The opinions in this article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the Journal or its staff.  

Abstract: Neither the Dome of the Rock near the center of the Haram esh-Sharif in Jerusalem, nor the Al Aqsa Mosque occupying the southern side of the Haram (nor ANY area within the four walls of that Haram) was the real spot in Jerusalem where the holy Temples of God were located. Biblical and literary accounts dogmatically place the site of all the Temples over the Gihon Spring just north of the ancient City of David (Zion) on the southeastern ridge of Jerusalem.

The first source to discover the true site of the Temples in Jerusalem is to read the biblical descriptions about the location of Mount Zion because in the Holy Scriptures the term "Mount Zion" in many contexts is synonymous with the site of the Temples. Any modern map of Jerusalem will correctly indicate the true location of the original Mount Zion (also called the City of David). Zion was situated at the southern end of the southeastern ridge of Jerusalem. This is the section of the city that Josephus (the Jewish historian of the first century) called "the Lower City." The fact that the original "Zion" was described by Josephus as "the Lower City" became a geographical enigma to early scholars since the Bible itself consistently described "Zion" as a high and eminent place. How could something "high" be legitimately called "low"?1 This misunderstanding about the former eminence of the southeast ridge was the first confusion that caused even religious authorities to lose the true site of "Mount Zion" and also the location of the Temples. But historical and biblical evidence reviewed and analyzed between the years 1875 and 1885 C.E.2 finally indicated that the southeast ridge was truly the original Zion.

It was the indefatigable efforts of W.F.Birch in England with his numerous articles in the Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly over that decade (along with the discovery in 1880 C.E. of the Hezekiahan inscription about the construction of the tunnel from the Gihon Spring to the southern end of the southeast ridge) that finally settled the controversy over the true location of "Zion." It was then determined by the scholarly world that the former designation of the southwest hill in Jerusalem as "Zion" (what Josephus called the early "City of David" being located in the "Upper City") was not the correct designation for the original site of "Zion." So, the world finally learned (correctly so) that the southeast ridge was the actual site of "Mount Zion" (the true City of David) and that Jerusalem was built in ancient times around and over the Gihon Spring in order to have water from the only spring within a radius of five miles of the city. This correction was a major step in the right direction in restoring true geographical parameters to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, when the scholars properly returned "Mount Zion" to the southeast ridge, the Temple location was not considered an issue in the matter. They continued to accept that somewhere within the Haram esh-Sharif was the Temple site. This was in spite of the fact that many texts in the Holy Scriptures identified "Zion" as equivalent to the "Temple." The Bible even indicated that the Temple was abutting to the northern side of the "City of David." This should have been a significant clue to the nineteenth century scholars that the original Temples had to be located very near the "City of David." on the southeast ridge, but those historians failed to make the needed correction. They retained the site of the Temple as being about 1000 feet to the north of the Gihon Spring and that it was once located within the confines of the Haram esh-Sharif. This region had become the popular Temple site since the period of the Crusades (by Christian, Muslim and Jewish authorities).3 The actual location of all the Temples, however, was over the Gihon Spring immediately to the north of (and abutting to) the City of David. When the Temples are rightly placed at that site, the biblical and historical accounts about "Mount Zion" being equivalent to the "Temple Mount" consistently make sense.


The Importance of the Gihon Spring

The Gihon Spring is the only spring within the city limits of Jerusalem. We have the eyewitness account of a person from Egypt named Aristeas who viewed the Temple in about 285 B.C.E. He stated quite categorically that the Temple was located over an inexhaustible spring that welled up within the interior part of the Temple.4 About 400 years later the Roman historian Tacitus gave another reference that the Temple at Jerusalem had within its precincts a natural spring of water that issued from its interior.5 These two references are describing the Gihon Spring (the sole spring of water in Jerusalem). It was because of the strategic location of this single spring that the original Canaanite cities of "Migdol Edar" and "Jebus" were built over and around that water source before the time of King David. The Gihon Spring is located even today at the base of what was called the "Ophel" (a swelling of the earth in the form of a small mountain dome) once situated just to the north and abutting to "Mount Zion" (the City of David). So close was the Ophel Mound to the City of David that David began to fill in the area between the two summits with dirt and stones (calling it the Millo or "fill in") to make a single high level area on which to build his city and later the Temple.6 David’s son Solomon completed the "fill in" between the two summits and called that earthen and rock bridge the Millo.7 Solomon then built the Temple on the Ophel Mound directly above the Gihon Spring. This Ophel region became known as a northern extension of "Zion." This made the Temple so close to the City of David (where the citadel or akra was located) that Aristeas said a person could look northward from the top of the City of David and could easily witness all priestly activities within the Temple precincts.8 The area of the Dome of the Rock, however, is 1000 feet north of the original City of David and is much too far away for anyone to look down into the courts of the Temple. Also, there has never been a natural water spring within the Haram esh-Sharif. That fact alone disqualifies the area around the Dome of the Rock from being the site of the former Temples.


The Ark of the Covenant and the Gihon Spring

Most people have not noticed an important geographical indication in the Scriptures. When David took the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem he made a special tent (tabernacle) for it and pitched it over the Gihon Spring.9 For the next 27 years of David’s reign (and for the first eleven years of Solomon – that is, for 38 years) the Ark remained in this particular tent at and over the Gihon Spring. That is where Solomon was crowned king.10 This led the Jewish authorities to demand that all later kings of Judah be crowned at a spring. "Our Rabbis taught: Kings are anointed only by the site of a spring."11 As an example, when Joash was made king, the Scriptures show his crowning was in the Temple itself beside the Altar of Burnt Offering where the laver of Solomon was positioned to provide spring water from the Gihon Spring located underneath the Temple platform.12 So, Joash (like Solomon) was crowned next to the Gihon Spring. Indeed, the Psalms show consistently that the Temples (called "God’s Houses") had to have spring waters emerging from their interiors. Notice Psalm 87:1-3 and 7.


"His [God’s] foundation is in the holy mountain. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. The singers as the players on instruments shall be there [in the Temple]: ALL MY SPRINGS ARE IN THEE [in the Temple]."

The fact that the Psalmist stated that "ALL MY [God’s] SPRINGS" ("springs," plural) were located in Zion (NOT anywhere else) and though the Gihon is only one spring is no problem because the single Gihon is even called in the Scriptures "springs" (plural).13 The fact that "one spring" is pluralized (if not an idiomatic usage) can be accounted for because of the peculiar manner in which the Gihon produces its waters. Though it is a perennial spring, it is a karst-type of spring that thrusts out its water as much as five times a day in the springtime when water is plentiful (with intervals when there is no water at all). Thus, the Gihon is a siphon type of spring that gushes forth intermittently. The word "Gihon" means "to gush." In the dry season the flow may occur a few minutes once a day. This oscillating effect of the Gihon could be a reason the ancients called this single spring with the plural word "springs."

Whatever the case, Aristeas and Tacitus both stated that the Temple of Jerusalem had an inexhaustible spring within its interior and the Gihon is the only spring in Jerusalem and the Scriptures affirm it. This spring water is mentioned in numerous ways throughout the Psalms as the "waters of salvation" that come from the Throne or House of God.14 Spring waters were an essential part of Temple requirements and water springs are to accompany future Temples.15 And since there was only ONE SPRING in the Jerusalem area, all the Temples of God had to be built over that single spring associated with the southeast ridge. The Haram esh-Sharif region (though it has 37 cisterns) has NO SPRINGS and there is not the slightest historical or geological evidence that it ever had a spring!16

The Temple Was Situated in the Center of Early Jerusalem on the Southeast Ridge There is another simple way of showing the location of the original Temples. Josephus said that the "Lower City" which was once the site of the elevated Citadel (Akra or the City of David) was on a ridge shaped like a crescent moon.17 That is, when one observed this ridge from the Mount of Olives, it appeared "crescent-shaped" in a north to south view and its "horns" pointed toward the Kidron Valley. The northern "horn" would have been near the present southern wall of the Haram esh-Sharif. The exact center of the "crescent-shaped" ridge would have been at the Ophel Mound directly over the Gihon Spring. Remarkably, we have an eyewitness account by Hecateus of Abdera written near the time of Alexander the Great that informs us that the Temple was located "nearly in the center of the city."18 Coupled with this observation, we have other eyewitnesses in the Holy Scriptures telling us the same thing. Note, for example, Psalm 116:18,19.


"I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the Lord’s house [within the Temple], in the midst [center] of thee, O Jerusalem."

The Psalmist knew that the Temple (just like Hecateus of Abdera said) was located in the center of the City of Jerusalem. [In Hebrew, the English word rendered "midst" means "center" in geographical contexts and is so translated by several versions.] There are quite a number of texts within the Scriptures that reckon the Temple to be situated directly in the center of Jerusalem.19 Remember, the original Jerusalem of David and Solomon only covered the southeast ridge and the Temple was in the center of the ridge.

Interestingly, we also have a geographical designation in the Scriptures that confirms the centrality of the Temple on the southeast ridge. In Second Kings 23:13 it mentions a spot on the southern flank (or extended spur) of the Mount of Olives that was directly to the east of the Jerusalem that existed at that time. The text states: "The high places that were before Jerusalem [that is, east of Jerusalem], which were on the right hand on the Hill of Corruption [on the southern right hand spur of the Mount of Olives]." Since the highest point of the Mount of Olives is directly east of the Dome of the Rock (which is about 1000 feet north of the Gihon Spring), this statement in Scripture refers to an area much further south that was directly east of the Jerusalem of that time.

This region was on the right hand side of the Mount of Olives at a summit of the southern spur of Olivet. It was a separate and lower ridge called the Hill of Corruption. This again reveals that the Temple (being in the center of Jerusalem) was directly west of the Hill of Corruption (about 1000 feet south of the central and highest summit of the Mount of Olives and consequently it was also about 1000 feet south of the Dome of the Rock). The present Haram esh-Sharif where the Dome of the Rock now exists IN NO WAY can be considered to be in the center of Jerusalem. In the Jerusalem of Herod and Jesus, the Haram was about 36 acres of land located in the northeast part – one of the most northerly areas in Jerusalem. In the time of Solomon and later this northeast area would have been a lop-sided extension to the Southeast ridge. But the Temple was in the center of Jerusalem, not in the extreme north.


What Happened to the Temple After the Jewish/Roman War of 66 to 70 C.E.?

Jesus had some important words to say about the future status of the Temple. Standing outside the east Temple walls, Jesus told his disciples that not one stone of the Temple and its support buildings would be left one on top the other.20 And in Luke 19:43,44 Jesus went even further. He said:

"For the days shall come upon thee [Jerusalem], that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side. And shall lay thee [Jerusalem] even with the ground, and thy children within thee: and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knowest not the time of thy visitation."

Even the most liberal of scholars admits that these statements were recorded in these Synoptic Gospels within a generation or two after the Jewish/Roman War. Had the statements not been true, there were hosts of hostile people to the teachings of Christianity up to the middle of the second century and beyond who would have gladly stated that these prophetic utterances made by Jesus were a lie (if they were indeed a lie). But I have recorded in my book numerous eyewitnesses over the next 300 years that attest to the accuracy of what the Gospel writers stated about the prophecies of Jesus given above.

And even more to the point, we have eyewitness accounts of both Josephus and Titus (the Roman general who conducted the war against the Jews, and later emperor) who give the description of utter ruin on Jerusalem. Josephus and Titus mentioned that if they had not been in Jerusalem during the war and personally seen the destruction that took place, they would not have believed that there was once a city in the area.21 But they were eyewitnesses to its utter ruin. Indeed, Josephus used the exact words of Jesus’ prophecy to describe the ruined condition of Jewish Jerusalem. He said:

"It [Jerusalem] was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was nothing left to make those that came thither believe it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited."22

Josephus explained the reason why every stone was overturned in the city. The Jews were accustomed to hide their gold and other valuables in the walls of their homes. The Temple itself was also the treasury of the Jewish nation.23 When the fires consumed the whole of the Temple and City, the gold melted and descended into the cracks and crevices of the stone foundations. In order to recover this melted gold, the Tenth Legion had the Jewish captives dig up every stone of the Temple and the whole of the City. So much gold was discovered in this fashion that the price of the metal in the Roman Empire went down half of its pre-war value.24 This action of looking for gold by overturning the stones left Jerusalem as a vast quarry of dislodged stones. There was such an abundance of various stones that the emperor Hadrian sixty years later was able to build an entirely new city (Aelia) to the northwest of the former city by reusing many of those ruined stones. As a matter of fact, the area of Jerusalem remained an open quarry as late as the time of Eusebius who lamented that stones of Jerusalem and the Temple were in his day being used for homes, temples, theatres, etc.25

Only One Man-Made Facility Survived the Jewish/Roman War in the Jerusalem Area The whole of the Jewish Temple and Jewish Jerusalem were leveled to the ground and not one stone remained on top one another — just as Jesus prophesied and Josephus and Titus attest. But one man-made construction did come through the war relatively unscathed. That single structure is still with us today. Since Titus determined to leave the Tenth Legion in Jerusalem to prevent any further revolutions, the Legion had to have military quarters in which to reside. At first, Titus thought of leaving three small fortresses in the Upper City as the forts to protect the Tenth Legion. But Josephus said that while Titus was away in Damascus and further north, those "local fortresses" (as he called them) were torn down in the Roman quest for gold.26 This western area as a place to house the Tenth Legion proved to be inappropriate and inadequate. Incidentally, archaeological surveys of the entire "Upper City" (as much as could be uncovered) have revealed that NO ROMAN TROOPS ever occupied the western part of Jerusalem after the Jewish/Roman War.27

Be this as it may, the answer to where the Tenth Legion had its geographical headquarters is provided to us by an eyewitness who should certainly have known the truth. Eleazer, the leader of the last remnant of Jews in Masada who finally committed suicide rather than fall into the hands of General Silva of the Tenth Legion (three years after the main war was over) said that the Temple then lay in ruins and the City of Jerusalem utterly destroyed. Notice his comments:

"It [Jerusalem] is now demolished to the very foundations [even the foundational stones were all overturned], and hath nothing left but THAT MONUMENT of it preserved, I mean the CAMP OF THOSE [the Romans] that hath destroyed it [Jerusalem], WHICH [CAMP] STILL DWELLS UPON ITS RUINS: some unfortunate old men also lie upon the ashes of the Temple [then in total ruins – burnt to ashes], and a few women are there preserved alive by the enemy [for prostitution purposes], for our bitter shame and reproach."28

Only one man-made edifice from the Jerusalem of Herod and Jesus survived the war. It was the former Roman camp that Titus (the Roman general) allowed to remain of all the buildings of former Jerusalem. And it is still in evidence today. That was Fort Antonia, the major fortress built by Herod the Great that was much larger than the Temple in size. Josephus said it was as large as a city (he used the plural, cities) and could hold a full Legion of troops.29 Titus thought at first to demolish the fortress, but on second thought he decided to put it to Roman use. He continued to use it as the Camp of the Romans in the Jerusalem area. Since its prodigious walls were still very much in place after the war (and there were 37 huge cisterns for an adequate water supply inside its walls), the Tenth Legion had a ready-built fortress to protect them. This is the obvious reason that Titus spared the Haram esh-Sharif and made it the permanent fortress of the Romans to house the Tenth Legion. It was most natural to continue using Fort Antonia as a vital fortress. Josephus said that Fort Antonia was built around a massive outcropping of rock that was a notable feature within its precincts.30

This descriptions fits perfectly the present Haram esh-Sharif with its majestic Herodian and pre-Herodian walls and with the present Dome of the Rock now covering that significant outcropping of rock. It was a natural place for the Tenth Legion to make their headquarters. Fort Antonia was also called the Roman Praetorium and it was the place where Pilate sentenced Jesus to crucifixion. That central rock outcropping was a significant spot in the fortress, as Josephus stated and the apostle John also singled it out for comment regarding the judgment of Jesus. John called it the lithostrothon [a rock, on which people could stand and be judged,].31 This "Rock" had a Hebrew name: "Gabbatha."32 The Haram esh-Sharif built around this well known "rock outcropping" was the only building with its four massive walls to survive the Jewish/Roman War. We can still see its stones in place in its lower courses (all 10,000 of them). Those Herodian walls of Fort Antonia (even those where the Jewish Wailing Wall is located) have withstood the ravages of time for centuries. Titus selected the right place.


Events in the Bar Kochba Revolt Can Now Be Explained Rationally

In the later Bar Kochba Revolt of the Jews from 132 to 135 C.E., there is no mention of any battles being fought in Jerusalem or anywhere near the city. This has amazed Jewish scholars. But now that we realize that the Haram esh-Sharif was Fort Antonia (and that where the Tenth Legion was headquartered), it can be seen that such a fortress was so impregnable that none of the Jewish revolutionaries dared attack the area. The Romans had one of the greatest forts of the east as their place of protection (slightly larger than the main Roman fortress in Rome itself). The Haram with its four massive walls defending it was an invincible fort with plentiful supplies of food and water. This fact allowed the Tenth Legion to stay in Fort Antonia [the Haram esh-Sharif] until the Legion moved to Ailat in 289 C.E.


The Bordeaux Pilgrim in 333 C.E. Describes the Haram esh-Sharif as the Praetorium When the Bordeaux Pilgrim came to Jerusalem in 333 C.E., he entered the walled city of Jerusalem as it then existed. He stood between the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the west part of the "Upper City" (then being built by the order of Constantine) and another facility to his east that had walls. The Pilgrim said the walls of this eastern facility reached downward into the bottom of the Tyropoeon Valley. He called it the Praetorium. The Pilgrim was clearly describing the remains of the Haram esh-Sharif (which does indeed have its western and southwestern walls reaching downward into the Tyropoeon Valley).

The Bordeaux Pilgrim understood this particular edifice that was opposite (east of) the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as being the Roman Praetorium. The name was a common word used by the public for a Roman headquarters fortress of a general and his staff. Because of its association with Jesus’ trial before Pilate, the records show that Constantine’s mother built a small church within the confines of this Praetorium and she called it the Church of St.Cyrus and St.John.33 This church was enlarged in later times (certainly by the time of Justinian) to be called The Church of the Holy Wisdom (Saint Sophia).

In the sixth century, during the time of Justinian, the Piacenza Pilgrim visited Jerusalem. He referred to this Church of the Holy Wisdom and stated that it was at the site of the former Praetorium of Pilate. He also mentioned a significant architectural feature over which the Church had been built. It was an "oblong rock" on which the people (in the sixth century) believed that they could see the footprints of Jesus as indentions in the rock. That Church was built specifically over that important "Rock." It did not survive long, however. The Church was destroyed by the Persians in 614 C.E., but Sophronius, the Archbishop of Jerusalem when the Muslims took over Jerusalem in 638 C.E. still remembered the Church and the Stone that he had seen at the spot when he was a young man.34

Later when Omar the Second Caliph wanted to build a place to pray at the site where David prayed (over which the Temple was built), Omar avoided showing any attention whatever to this "Rock" over which a later Caliph in 692 C.E. built the present Dome of the Rock. And why was the "Oblong Rock" of the former Praetorium and the Church of the Holy Wisdom later honored by the Muslims? It was because Jesus’ footprints were supposed to be on the "Rock." This religious significance caused many Muslim folklore tales to began to be associated with it. When Saladin the Kurdish commander of the Muslim forces reconquered Jerusalem from the Christians in 1187 C.E., Saladin’s court recorder praised the Commander of the Faithful for rescuing the "Rock" on which the outline of Jesus’ feet could still be seen.35

But not only were Jesus’ footprints thought to be there, by the period of the Crusades, many other tales had become attached to the "Rock." The Muslims by the time of Saladin also thought that Muhammad’s feet were indented into the "Rock" as well as his hand. It did not stop there. The feet of Abraham, the hand of the Archangel Gabriel and even the footprints of God himself were also reckoned by the Muslim laity to be on the "Rock." The Muslims added these later beliefs to gain prestige for Muhammad to accompany the Christian legend that the footprints of Jesus were found on the "Rock" that were underneath the Dome of the Rock. Muslims invented these later stories to justify the existence of the shrine as having some Muslim significance. Later Muslim scholars knew that these folktales were mere fables without any real historical foundation.36

This historical evidence shows that the "Rock" under the Dome of the Rock is a good geographical indication that people (throughout the early Byzantine period and as late as the time of Saladin in 1187 C.E.) identified the Dome of the Rock with the site of the Praetorium [or, the central part of Fort Antonia]. The Church of the Holy Wisdom had been built over the "Rock" because Christians had long believed this was where Pilate sentenced Jesus while the feet of Jesus were standing on that lithostrothon [a special rock]. And let us recall, Josephus made a point out of the fact that such a "Rock" was located in the interior of Fort Antonia. These indications clearly show (among many others) that the "Rock" under the Dome of the Rock was actually part of Fort Antonia in the time of Jesus, and that over that "oblong rock" (as the Piacenza Pilgrim called it) was constructed the famous Church of the Holy Wisdom in the Byzantine period.

This means that the area of the Dome of the Rock is really an original Christian holy site (not a Jewish or Muslim one). Interestingly, when Omar made his covenant with the Christians at the time the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, he made the promise to Sophronius and to all Christians that he would not build any Muslim shrine or mosque over any former Christian holy place or any present one that then existed.37 This is one of the main points why Omar paid no religious attention to the "Rock" under the Dome of the Rock. Omar kept his word and left that "Christian Rock" alone.

It is also essential to realize that nowhere in the Holy Scriptures do we find the slightest hint that a "Rock" (such as that under the Dome of the Rock) was ever a part of the geographical features of the Temples from Solomon to Herod. Indeed, the most significant feature of the Temple was it being built over a "threshingfloor" (II Samuel 24:16,18,24). All "threshingfloors" (as even the English rendering states and the Hebrew demands) were "floors" (that is, leveled areas like normal floors made by man that are usually of dirt or smooth manufactured stone or timber), not jagged and rugged natural outcroppings of rock).38

There is another disqualification. Solomon’s Holy of Holies and Altar of Burnt Offering were located much further south than those in the time of Herod. The Temples were made progressively larger over the centuries and the Holy of Holies was relocated further north each time.39 Note that Solomon’s Temple was about 100 feet wide from north to south with the Holy of Holies in the center of that width. But the Temple in Alexander the Great’s day was 150 feet wide with the Holy of Holies evenly spaced between the north and south walls (Josephus, Contra Apion I.22). Yet the Temple just before Herod’s time was 300 feet wide with the Holy of Holies again evenly spaced between the north and south walls. We know this because Josephus, as an eyewitness, described Herod’s Temple as a precise square of 600 feet on each side, and that Herod had doubled the size of the Temple by tearing down its north wall and repositioning it 300 feet further north (War V.5,1). This made the outer walls of Herod’s Temple to be a perfect square of 600 feet.

So, in the history of the Holy of Holies (and the Altar of Burnt Offering) this shows that they were at first located 50 feet north of the south wall in Solomon’s time with the Holy of Holies in the center of that width, then later in Alexander the Great’s day they were positioned 75 feet north from the south wall. Even later still, they were relocated 150 feet north of the south wall and with the Holy of Holies evenly spaced between the north and south walls (Josephus, Contra Apion I.22). Finally, the Holy of Holies at Herod’s time was spaced 300 feet north of the south wall and equadistant from the north and south walls. We know this because Josephus, as an eyewitness, described Herod’s Temple as a precise square of 600 feet on each side with the Holy of Holies in its center (north to south), and that Herod had doubled the size of the Temple by tearing down its north wall and repositioning it 300 feet further north (War V.5,1). This made the outer walls of Herod’s Temple to be a perfect square of 600 feet.

So, in the history of the Holy of Holies (and the Altar of Burnt Offering) this shows that they were at first located 50 feet north of the south wall in Solomon’s time, then later positioned 75 feet from the south wall, then relocated 150 feet north of the south wall and then finally 300 feet north of the south wall in the time of Herod (the position of the south wall remained static). This known fact precludes any stationary rock on a ridge as being the prime object for the placement of these holy parts of the Temple because such a natural "Rock" would, of course, have to remain stationary while the Holy of Holies was not stationary. This shows that such a stationary "Rock" as that under the Dome of the Rock is disqualified.


Why Later People Selected the Haram esh-Sharif as the Place of Solomon’s Temple The reason why later people accepted (in the period of the Crusades) the region of the Haram esh-Sharif as the Temple site was because Omar took a stone from the remains of two Jewish attempts to rebuild the Temples at the correct site over the Gihon Spring and brought that stone from those Temples to his Al Aksa Mosque that he was beginning to construct. Indeed, those two attempts to rebuild the Temple were commenced by the Jews (the first attempt was from 312 C.E. to 325 C.E. in the time of Constantine and the second in the time of Julian the Apostate in 362 C.E.). Omar made that portable stone from this ruined Temple site into the qibla stone that pointed Muslim worshippers toward Mecca in his Al Aksa Mosque.

In the following century, by applying a Muslim belief called baraka, the later Muslims felt that a stone from one Temple (or holy site) could be dislodged and taken to another place and that the latter place would take on the same holiness as the former spot. So, a portable stone was used by Omar that was found in the ruins of the former Jewish Temples built in the times of Constantine and Julian. That particular stone was consecrated as a stone to re-inaugurate Solomon’s Temple. When Omar placed that stone in the holiest place of the Al Aksa Mosque at the southern end of the Haram esh-Sharif, Muslims could then (and from their point of view, legitimately by applying the custom called baraka) identify the site as being Solomon’s Temple. Interestingly, when the Crusaders arrived in Jerusalem, Christians also began to call the Al Aksa Mosque Solomon’s Temple while they felt that Herod’s extension of the Temple was located at the Dome of the Rock (which they then called the Lord’s Temple).

It was in this time of the Crusades (about 1165 C.E.), that a Jewish merchant by the name of Benjamin of Tudela made a visit to Jerusalem. He was not a historian or theologian. He simply reported in a chronicle of his journey what he saw and what he was told without criticism. When he heard the Christian and Muslim accounts that within the Haram esh-Sharif was the location of the former Temples, the Jewish merchant accepted their explanation (for the first time by any Jewish person). Benjamin did so without expressing the slightest historical criticism on his part to justify such an identification.

There was an overpowering reason for this. Benjamin of Tudela was enthralled over a supposed discovery of the tombs of the Kings of Judah (notably that of King David and Solomon). He was told that the tombs of the Judean kings were supposed to have been found on the southwest hill about 15 years before he arrived in Jerusalem. Benjamin did not see the "Tombs," nor has anyone else since that time. But this hearsay so impressed Benjamin (and later Jews after the time of the Crusades) that the Jewish authorities began to accept the southwest hill as being the "Mount Zion" of the Holy Scriptures (not the proper southeast ridge). This further led them falsely to believe that the Haram esh-Sharif area might possibly be the Temple Mount (after all, to them "Mount Zion" was no longer believed to be over the Gihon Spring).

This hearsay account (and that is all it was — pure hearsay without a tissue of provable evidence to back up the supposition) concerning the so-called tombs of the Judean Kings spread far and wide. Not all Jews accepted the new site for their former Temples. Benjamin of Tudela was countered by the great Maimonides (though neither mentioned each other) who dogmatically stated that the place of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was still in complete ruins,40 while the Haram esh-Sharif was the most built-up region in Jerusalem and well decorated and groomed as a prime holy site. Though Maimonides had no love for a physical Temple because it displayed an anthropomorphic belief in God (which he utterly repudiated), he knew that the Dome of the Rock and the lavishly built-up area around it was not the site of the Temple.

This was also believed by the Jewish authority Rabbi David Kimchi who (just after the time of Maimonides) stated that the Jewish Temple was still in utter ruins and that no Christian or Muslim had ever built over the spot where the Temples stood. This express dogmatism of Rabbi David Kimchi, one of the great biblical commentators of the Jews (otherwise known as the RADAQ) who lived from about 1160 to 1235 C.E., is of utmost value. Rabbi Kimchi said that as late as his time the region of the former Temples still remained in ruins and that NO GENTILES (whether Roman, Byzantine or Muslim) HAD YET BUILT ANY OF THEIR BUILDINGS OVER THE SITE OF THE TEMPLE (emphasis mine). He said (and I am quoting him verbatim): "And [the Temple] is still in ruins, [in] that the Temple site WAS NEVER BUILT ON BY THE NATIONS."41 These comments of Rabbi David Kimchi are first-class Jewish evidence in about 1235 C.E.

So, Rabbi Kimchi without doubt states that NO GENTILE BUILDINGS had ever been built on the site of the Temple – and this included the period of 600 years before him when the Muslims (and during the Crusader period, the Christians) had control over all areas of Jerusalem! In fact, Rabbi Kimchi said that the exclusive region for the Temple EVEN IN HIS DAY was "still in ruins." This historical observation by Kimchi is proof positive that many Jews were not being led over to Christian and Muslim beliefs about the Temple site in the Crusade period, because it is obvious that the Dome of the Rock had been built over the Church of the Holy Wisdom which only later (in 692 C.E.) became the Muslim Shrine of the Dome of the Rock. And, what the Muslims called Solomon’s Temple (and so did the Christian Crusaders – that is, the Al Aksa Mosque) was also a Muslim building within the Haram esh-Sharif. David Kimchi, however, made the clear teaching that the original area of the Jewish Temples was in his time (about 1235 C.E.) still unoccupied by Christian or Muslim buildings and that the site was in complete ruins.

But this true observation of David Kimchi did not prevail in Judaism. The Jewish authorities became so impressed by the so-called "discovery" of the Tombs of all the Judean Kings (especially that of King David) on the southwest hill (which was given to them from hearsay alone), that they became convinced that the southwest hill was indeed the original "Zion." As a result, this made the Jewish people feel that the Haram esh-Sharif could probably be the site of their former Temples since the southeast ridge could no longer be reckoned as "Zion." This erroneous evaluation by the Jewish authorities of locating "Zion" on the southwest hill was a major geographical mistake. Indeed, archaeologists have proved that the so-called "Tomb of David" now located on the southwest hill is of Crusader origin and it is a complete fake.

This profound error in locating "Mount Zion" on the southwest hill remained popular (and even sacrosanct in the scholarly world) until 1875 to 1885 C.E. when the outstanding research of F.W. Birch in England almost single-handedly demolished its credentials. However, the erroneous acceptance of the southwest hill as "Zion" by the Jewish authorities and their consequent recognition of the Haram as a contending site for the Temples were in stark contrast to what the earlier Jewish authorities believed before the time of the Crusades.

The fact is, Jewish authorities up to the time of the Crusades knew that the Temples were built over the Gihon Spring on the southeast ridge and that the real "Tomb of David" was in this southeast area. It was on the proper southeast ridge that the Jews started to rebuild the Temples in the time of Constantine and Julian. Indeed, when Omar finally let 70 families of Jews settle in Jerusalem in 638 C.E. (immediately after the conquest of Jerusalem by the Muslims), the Jews stated categorically that they wanted to live near the ruins of their Temple "in the south part of Jerusalem" (that is, further south from the Haram esh-Sharif where Omar prayed and wanted to build his Mosque).

We have absolute evidence for this fact in a fragment of a letter found in the Geniza library of Egypt now in Cambridge University in England. Notice what the fragment states:

"Omar agreed that seventy households should come [to Jerusalem from Tiberias]. They agreed to that. After that, he asked: ‘Where do you wish to live within the city?’ They replied: ‘In the southern section of the city, which is the market of the Jews.’ Their request was to enable them to be near the site of the Temple and its gates, as well as to the waters of Shiloah, which could be used for immersion. This was granted them [the 70 Jewish families] by the Emir of the Believers. So seventy households including women and children moved from Tiberias, and established settlements in buildings whose foundations had stood for many generations."42

This southern area was very much south of the southern wall of the Haram (where Omar had his Al Aksa Mosque) because Professor Benjamin Mazar (when I was working with him at the archaeological excavations along the southern wall of the Haram) discovered two palatial Umayyad buildings close to the southern wall of the Haram that occupied a great deal of space south of that southern wall. Those 70 families certainly had their settlement further south than these Muslim government buildings. Also, when the Karaite Jews a century later settled in Jerusalem, they also went to this same southern area as well as adjacently across the Kidron into the Silwan area.

To these Jews in the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries, this is where the ruins of their Temples and the real "Tomb of David" were located — over and around the Gihon Spring. And they were right. Indeed, the Jewish authorities did not abandon the area around the Gihon Spring and its tributary waters of the Shiloah channel until the major earthquake of 1033 C.E. destroyed the early Eudocian Wall constructed in the sixth century. That destruction by the earthquake made the southeastern region around the Gihon Spring to be outside the walls of Jerusalem. This opened up the region to constant attacks by the Seljuk Turks and other enemies.

And then something happened that was quite remarkable and ritualistically devastating. In that period, the waters of the Gihon Spring turned bitter and even septic (between 1033 C.E. and 1077 C.E.). The interpretation placed upon this event was as if God himself had turned the former "waters of salvation" into a corrupt liquid inside the precincts of God’s own House. The Jewish authorities were well aware of the account in Numbers 5:11-31 that showed bitter waters were associated with the adulterous woman in Temple symbolism. With this final ritualistic setback to their religious customs, the Jerusalem Academy abandoned Jerusalem and moved to Damascus. To the Jewish authorities by 1077 C.E., there was nothing of contemporary holiness left to the former Temple area over the Gihon Spring. Jerusalem was later taken over by the Christian Crusaders in 1099 C.E. and no Jew was able to step inside Jerusalem for the first 50 years of the Crusades.


The Western (Wailing) Wall of the Jews

This abridgment of my book on the Temples needs a concluding comment regarding the Western (or Wailing) Wall where the Jewish people now congregate as their holiest of places in Judaism. On my Web Page on the Internet (where I have an abundance of historical information from early and even modern Jewish scholars), I show that the Jewish people paid no attention whatever to the present Western (Wailing) Wall until they finally took over the site from the Muslims (about 1570 C.E.) who in turn had renovated it from being a Christian holy place where Christian women would discard soiled undergarments. The Wailing Wall as a Jewish holy place is a modern invention that was selected for Jewish worship by one of the greatest mystics of the Kabbalistic age. His name was Isaac Luria (called "the Lion") who in his many geographical mistakes (as I show in my research writings) selected the Western Wall as a holy place for the Jews to assemble. This was accomplished in the last part of the sixteenth century – a mere 430 years ago. In actual fact, the Jewish people today at their Wailing Wall are NOT praying at a wall of their former Temples. They are actually praying toward the western wall of Fort Antonia. The shrine on the other side of the Wailing Wall in the time of Jesus was NOT the Temple built by Herod, but it was a Roman Temple dedicated to the Roman Emperor and the Gods of Rome.

There is another important observation that needs to be made. Josephus described the Temple as being a square (a precise square of one stadium length on each side — about 600 feet, see War V.5,2 with War VI.5,4 and Antiquities XV.9,3). It had two colonnade roadways from the northwest corner of the Temple to the southwestern corner of Fort Antonia (War II.15,6). These roadways were also a stadium in length. Combining the square lengths of the Temple square with the two roadways that led to Fort Antonia, the length was six stades of 600 feet each. The walls around the Temple were prodigious in height according to Josephus. The southeastern corner of the outer Temple walls was located directly over the very bottom of the Kidron Valley (the bedrock center) and extended upwards 300 cubits or 450 feet (Antiquities VIII,3,9) where it reached the four-square platform on which the actual Temple with its various courts was located. The northeastern corner was also located within the depths of the Kidron though not quite as high as the southeastern corner.

This made the four Temple walls to be a 600 square feet (on each side) TOWER like a 40 story skyscraper in Chicago that extended upward with its southeast section of the wall within the river bottom (its deepest part) of the Kidron. Barnabas described the Temple (15 years after its destruction) as a TOWER (16:4-8), and the Book of Enoch and the Shepherd of Hermas give numerous references that the Temple was indeed shaped as a TOWER (see my Web Page references). The above description is that of Josephus, an eyewitness to the Temple and its actual dimensions.

Let us now take those four square walls of the Temple (each 600 feet in length) and transport them to center over the Dome of the Rock some 1000 feet north of the Gihon Spring. The TOWER would indeed fit well into the enclosure known as the Haram esh-Sharif. But its southeast corner would NOT be located in the bottom of the Kidron Valley (it would be up on the level area of the Haram), nor would its northeast corner be precipitous and over the Kidron Valley as Josephus said. Indeed, if the Temple stood over the Dome of the Rock, the Temple platform on top of a 40 story skyscraper would have been higher than the top summit of the Mount of Olives. In no way was this the proper scenario. If, however, one will return the Temple and its dimensions (as Josephus gave them) to the Gihon Spring site, everything fits perfectly. What this shows is the fact that the walls around the Haram esh-Sharif are NOT those of the former Temple. They are those of Fort Antonia (which are not a square of 600 feet, but of much larger dimensions and they are trapezium in shape). It also makes perfect sense that Titus would have wanted the Tenth Legion to be housed in this remaining fortress that survived the war that formerly overshadowed the Temple on its north side.

What happened to the stones of the Temple? All of the Temple and its walls were torn down to their foundations just as Jesus prophesied they would be. Consequently, let us not get the two different buildings (Fort Antonia and the Temple) mixed up as all scholars and religious leaders have done since the time of the Crusades. It is time to get back to this truth of the Bible. All should read my book "The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot" where the historical evidence shows (without doubt) that the real place of the former Jewish Temples was over the Gihon Spring on the southeast ridge.


1 The original Mount Zion was cut down. The southeast ridge was once much higher in elevation than it is today (or even in the time of Josephus). Josephus said the high area was chiseled down to bedrock in the period of Simon the Hasmonian about 140 years before the birth of Jesus (Antiquities XIII 6,7). It took the Jews three years working day and night to demolish the original Mount Zion (the City of David). What was once an elevated citadel and city then became known, ironically, as "the Lower City." Because the Jewish people lowered the original Mount Zion on the southeast ridge, it became common after the time of Simon the Hasmonean to call the higher southwestern hill the new "Mount Zion." This was a mistake that was not rectified until the decade of 1875 to 1885 C.E. mainly by the research of F.W. Birch.

2 In this article I use the scholarly C.E. (which means "Common Era") and B.C.E. ("Before Common Era") in order not to perpetuate the erroneous "A.D. and B.C. system" devised by Dionysius Exiguus which the world is accustomed to using. The latter does not accurately provide the proper year in which Jesus was born.

3 Early Jewish authorities never accepted the Haram esh-Sharif as the site of the Temples until Benjamin of Tudela (a Jewish merchant of the twelfth century who was not a trained historian or theologian). Other Jewish notables in this period disputed this Christian/Muslim identification.

4 Aristeas, translation by Eusebius, chapter 38.

5 Tacitus, History, Bk.5, para.12.

6 II Samuel 5:9.

7 I Kings 11:27.

8 Aristeas lines 100 to 104 as translated by Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel, chapter 38 (Grand Rapids:Baker, 1982).

9 In II Samuel 6:17 it states that David pitched a "tabernacle" (tent) for the Ark. Solomon was taken to this same "tabernacle" (tent) to be crowned (I Kings 1:38,39) which the account shows was at the Gihon Spring. Both I Chronicles 15:1 and I Chronicles 16:1 mention this special "tent" for the Ark.

10 I Kings 1:38,39.

11 Kerithoth 5b.

12 II Chronicles 23:10,11 shows Joash was crowned in the Temple.

13 II Chronicles 32:3,4.

14 Psalm 36:7-9; 46:3,5; 65:4,9; 93:1-5. It should be noted that all of these Psalms by David or his associates were penned by the King before the Temple was built by Solomon. They all referred to the temporary Temple (called a "tent" or "tabernacle") located at the Gihon Spring in which David placed the Ark of the Covenant. Solomon simply built his Temple on top of the Ophel mound above the Gihon Spring.

15 Ezekiel 47:1ff; Zechariah 14:8; Joel 3:16-18; Isaiah 30:19-26 and especially verses 19 and 25. The apostle John also spoke in the Book of Revelation about those who were thirsty that they could drink from the fountain (spring) of water that issued from the New Jerusalem that would come down from heaven to earth (Revelation 21:2-6; 22:1,17). It is a consistent theme that spring waters were always associated with the Temples on earth as well as those abodes of God that originate in heaven.

16 The EnRogel water source about half a mile south of the Gihon Spring is a well, not a spring.

17 War V.4,1.

18 Hecateus of Abdera, see Josephus Contra Apion I.22.

19 Ezekiel 37:26 & 28; also Ezekiel 48:10,15,21 (the Catholic New American Version correctly translates the Hebrew word as "center"); also see Zechariah 2:4,5; 8:3,8. These verses in context show that the biblical peoples knew that the Temple itself was positioned in the center of Jerusalem (in the center of "the crescent-shaped" City of Jerusalem) that was confined at that period solely in the southeast ridge.

20 Matthew 24:1,2; Mark 13:1,2; Luke 21:5,6.

21 War VI.1,1; VII.1,1.

22 War VII.1,1.

23 War VI.5,2.

24 War VI,6,1.

25 Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel, Book VIII, chapter 3 (sect.405).

26 War Introduction I.11 29, Loeb edition.

27 See the reports of the archaeologists Hillel Geva and Hanan Eschel in an extensive article in the November/December, 1997 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review which shows NO ROMAN ARMY resided in any part of the "Upper City" where most scholars have thought the Tenth Legion was housed. Also see the excellent research by the archaeologist Doron Bar in the Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly for January/June, 1998 where the same position is taken. There is simply no evidence that the Tenth Legion was housed in the Jerusalem area in any part of the "Upper City."

28 War VII.8,7.

29 Compare the main description of the largeness of Fort Antonia (it was a vast area) given by Josephus in War V.5,8 with his illustration of all normal Roman military camps being like a city in War III.5,2.

30 War V.5,8.

31 The Gospel of John 19:13, translated "pavement" in most translations.

32 It meant an important "high place."

33 See the "Life of Constantine," recorded in Wilkinson’s Jerusalem Pilgrims Before the Crusades, p.204.

34 See Sophronius, Antacroeontica by Wilkinson in Jerusalem Pilgrims Before the Crusades, p.91.

35 See Brill’s Encyclopaedia of Islam (first five volume edition) in the article "Saladin."

36 See the critique by the Muslim scholar Ibn Taymiyya who wrote in 1328 C.E. (his English translation can be found in Peters’ Jerusalem, Princeton. NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995, p.377).

37 See the account by the first Christian Arab historian by the name of Said b. al-Bitrik (whose Greek name was Eutychius) cited by D.Baldi, Enchiridion Locorum Sanctorum, pp.447,448 and further cited in the excellent book by Prof. F.E.Peters, Jerusalem, Princeton. NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995, pp.189,190.

38 True, the later Jews tell us that Solomon made a "foundation stone" that a few modern scholars have guessed may be the "Rock" under the Dome of the Rock. It is called the Even Shetiyyah. But Jewish sources tell us this was a manufactured slab of stone (like a pavement stone) made in the days of Samuel and David that could fit snugly into the twenty cubit’s square floor of the Holy of Holies. Its smooth top was elevated three fingers above the level floor (See Sanhedrin 26b; Yoma 53b). In no way could that Even Shetiyyah be considered a natural outcropping of rock that was almost twice as large as the Holy of Holies of Solomon (as is the "Rock" under the Dome of the Rock). Neither could it be the "pierced stone" of the Bordeaux Pilgrim.

39 The largest size of the Temple was that Sanctuary in the time of Herod. Josephus said Herod doubled the size of the previous Temple and that its outer walls were a perfect square of 600 feet on each side (War V.5,2; VI.2,9 with VI.5,4 and Antiquities XV.9,3). Josephus said that the Temple was a square tower that had its southeastern corner in the depths of the Kidron Valley and from the valley floor to the top of the tower (on which was a platform on which the Temple itself was built) was 450 feet in elevation – or as high as a 40 to 45 story building in Chicago. The Mishnah, however, shows another measurement of a perfect square also around the Temple of 750 feet on each side (Middoth 2:1 Danby translation). This is not a contradiction of Josephus. The Mishnah is simply recording another squared area called "the Temple Mount" or "the Camp of the Levites" which was an unwalled imaginary limit around the actual physical walls of the Temple in which Levitical duties could be officially performed. This Camp of the Levites had "gates" into it like the Camp of the Levites did in the time of Moses while Israel was in the Wilderness, but these "gates" were mere designated entrances (not physical gates like those in the walls of cities). So, this 40 to 45 story high tower was the Temple of Herod and it is precisely described by Josephus. The Haram esh-Sharif (Fort Antonia), however, is a trapezium with its corners not at the same angles of measurement. The Haram is measured: East wall at 1556 feet; North wall at 1041 feet; West wall at 1596 feet and the South wall at 929 feet in length. In no way can the two structures be compared as being identical because the Haram is vastly larger than was the Temple just as Josephus stated. In simple terms, the Temple and the Haram are two different buildings.

40 See Mishneh Torah, sect.8, "Temple Service."

41 Commentary on Isaiah 64:10 and quoted by Prof. Kaufman in Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April, 2000, p.61 – the letters in capitals are my emphasis.

42 Reuven Hammer, The Jerusalem Anthology, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1995, p.148.

Dr. Earnest L. Martin (MS, Ph.D., Ambassador University) is an author, and founder of the Foundation of Biblical Research and the Associates for Scripture Knowledge (A.S.K.).   A short biography is posted at