The Temple Mount is considered to be the historic place of Solomon’s and Herod’s temple. Muslims call it the Harm al-Sharif, the place from which Mohammed went to heaven on his horse named Barack. Even though the Temple Mount is in the most holy site of the Jews and situated right in the middle of Israel it is also solely in the administrative control of Muslims. Jews desperately want to take control of the place, as well as rebuild their temple there. Muslims on-the-other-hand relay a stern warning that if a Jew ever puts one shovel to their professed holy site a war may follow.
It may be surprising to some, but in the fourth century, people were trying to find the lost sites of the former temples of Solomon and Herod. They simply did not know where the temple sites were placed. In 70 AD the temple was completely and utterly uprooted by the Romans, thus fulfilling Christ’s prophesy that not one stone would be standing upon another there. The temple was eradicated from all recognition, so much so that no one could even tell that the building had ever existed. So, in the next 300 years, with so many Jews having been killed or expelled from the land, people were not sure where the correct location of the temple was so four other sites that were proposed. The temple mount was settled on as the site of the lost temple even though the Bible seems to indicate that it is someplace altogether.
Like so many, I have always thought that the location for the temple of Solomon had been proven to be on the traditional Temple Mount in Jerusalem. But, I began to become doubtful of that traditional view of the temple placement after Dr. Paul Feinberg alerted me to the revolutionary work of the late archaeologist and author, Dr. Ernest L. Martin. This research effort would not have been possible without his groundbreaking insights.
However, I hope that my own personal research presented herein offers a bold new chapter in this potentially history-adjusting subject.
Jesus warned His disciples of the coming destruction of the temple and that not one stone of the temple would be left on top of another. Matthew 24:1-2 says, ”Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Christ’s words clearly state that the entire temple, each and every stone, will be dug up, dislodged, and tossed away. It is interesting to note that there are massive stone blocks by the thousands set in the wall supporting the Temple Mount platform. Was Jesus wrong in His prophesying that not one stone would remain standing?
When you look carefully at the Bible verse, “not one stone upon another,” we find that Jesus was actually gone from the temple when He spoke those words. Jesus was walking away when His disciples came up to Him and called His attention to the temple buildings. The verse continues with Christ asking, ”Do you not see all these things?”
What Jesus is mentioning is the whole of the temple, being seen from a distance of some unknown calibration, but most assuredly down the road some from the temple complex. It was from this space of separation that Christ says that every stone of the temple would be thrown down. He would have been describing the walls, ancillary buildings, and all.
Historian Flavius Josephus wrote that the entirety of the temple was indeed in total ruin and destruction after 70 AD. He went on to say that if he had not personally been in Jerusalem during the war and witnessed the demolition by Titus of the temple that took place there, he wouldn’t have believed it ever existed. In Josephus (Jewish Wars, VII, 1.1) it speaks of widespread destruction in all Jerusalem as well. Archaeology and eye-witness evidence suggests that Jerusalem was destroyed so severely that not much of it was left. However, the foundation walls of what we call today the traditional Temple Mount would not, in all likelihood, be included in the manifest of any destroyed edifices because it was Roman-owned and would be considered separate from Jerusalem by Josephus.
If found that Jews at the Wailing Wall, when interviewed, said that the huge high walls of stones standing there today gives testimony that Jesus was flat-wrong and that His proclamation that not one Stone of the Temple will remain standing disqualifies Christ as a being completely truthful.
I however feel that those high stone walls there today are remnants from a former Roman fort occupied by the mighty Tenth Legion (Legio X Fretensis). I also believe that the true site of Solomon’s temple is about a thousand feet South of the temple mount in the City of David. This would mean that Jesus was correct in His prophetic words and that each and every stone, to the very last was one, was cast down.
WHERE WAS THE TEMPLE?
The garrison of Fort Antonia in Jerusalem was as big as several cities according to Josephus housing approximately 6,000 men plus the needed support staff. All told, as many as 10,000 personnel that serves served there. But this huge fort has ever been found in Jerusalem by Archaeologists. I feel that archaeologists have not found the mighty Roman fort is because it is the huge temple mount complex and that tradition has concealed it from historical notice.
A FOURTH CENTURY EYE WITNESS
In 333 AD, the Pilgrim of Bordeaux wrote that while looking east from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, he saw stone walls with foundations going down to the Tyropoean Valley. Keep in mind that the pilgrim was looking due east and was staring directly at the traditional Temple Mount area. He said absolutely nothing about it being the temple site, but rather he describes the stone walls as the Roman praetorium. This means that the walls would have survived the Roman/Jewish war of 66-70, because they were property of the Roman fort itself. The praetorium there, according to the pilgrim, was the place where Jesus was sentenced to death. So, in effect, if we are to believe the Pilgrim of Bordeaux, the dome over the Dome of the Rock, which is a Muslim shrine, would be the very site where Jesus was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate.
In the sixth century the Piacenza Pilgrim wrote of an oblong stone at the Roman praetorium as well, and described this rock as the place that Pilate heard the case of Christ.
EVIDENCE FROM THE MASADA COMMANDER
One of the dramatic events that Josephus describes in his work is the plight of the fleeing rebel Jews who went to the fortress in Masada. Eleazar Bin Jari (commander of the Jewish rebels at Masada) in 73 AD encouraged those in the high mountain fortress that suicide was the only answer rather than surrendering. This same Eleazar memorialized the following about the destruction in Jerusalem: “It [Jerusalem] is now demolished to the very foundations, and hath nothing left but that monument of it preserved, I mean the camp of those [the Romans] that hath destroyed it, which still dwells upon its ruins.” Eleazar was documenting that Jerusalem was eradicated with nothing standing, except the Roman camp called the Antonia Garrison Fort with its high stone walls still standing. It can be surmised that years later, when the Roman fort was mostly still standing and subsequent conquerors came to the place of those high stone block walls, they must have believed that the magnificent fortress had to be something of major importance. To some, it had to be the site of Solomon’s temple
THE TWO BRIDGES
Josephus wrote that the distance between the temple and the Roman fort was exactly one stade (approximately 600 feet). Josephus recorded that King Herod built two side-by-side bridges (Jewish Wars, VI.2,6, and II.15,6) connecting the gap between the temple and the Roman fort (refer to Cornfeld translation as well as The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot, p.413).
The fort was there to protect the temple by the Romans and also allow them to keep a watch over the often insubordinate and rebellious Jews. These two side-by-side colonnades must have looked like two modern raised narrow freeways (or as “limbs” as Josephus describes them) that spanned the 600-foot gap between the temple and fort.
According to Ernest Martin, Fort Antonia was located on the north side of the temple (City of David location). If, in fact, the temple was positioned in the old City of David then it would fit perfectly with the two colonnades’ separation that Josephus describes as linking Fort Antonia at its southwest angle. That would put the whole of the temple’s northern wall as being parallel to the southern wall of Fort Antonia with a gap of approximately 600 feet distance (north to south) between the two.
CITY OF DAVID
Three thousand years ago, the City of David was about 12 acres in size and had an estimated population of only around 2,000 people. It is a finger of land just south of the present traditional Temple Mount. As a former policeman, I would like at this point to lay out a linear case for the City of David as the one and only place for the temple, but first a brief history.
The Jebusite fortification was a fortress, albeit a small one, but it had what David wanted. It was strategically situated, had a high walled castle-looking complex rising majestically from the Kidron Valley. A spring flowed abundantly inside with clear pure water which made it even more desirable.
The Bible tells us that while David and his army were outside looking up at the Jebusite stronghold, there, standing defiant on the top of the walls were men hollering down mockingly. Second
Samuel 5:6-10 describes it this way: “You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,” thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David). Now David said on that day, “Whoever climbs up by way of the water shaft and defeats the Jebusites (the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul), he shall be chief and captain. “Therefore they say, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” Then David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the City of David.
David took control of what the Bible calls the Stronghold of Zion (Metsudat Tsion), that is, the City of David. These last two locales (Stronghold of Zion and the City of David) are the huge keys to solving the riddle as to where the true temple is located. But to keep on a straight path regarding the true temple site, let’s go back to David capturing the City of David from the Jebusites. After he was in his newly taken fortress, David was visited by an angel of the Lord that pointed out the desired patch of real estate within the city walls that David was to purchase from Araunah (Ornan) the Jebusite (2 Samuel 24:18-25). This land purchase was for a threshing floor—usually comprised of a level area paved with flat stones where grain is tossed in the air and the wind carries away the lighter chaff (worthless husks of broken straw) and leaves the heavier kernel of wheat to fall on the threshing floor. It is interesting that David had captured the 12-acre fortress by force, yet God was now ordering David to pay money to the Jebusite owner for a threshing floor. But this comment in Scripture is a huge clue for the temple location. In 2 Chronicles 3:1 we read: “Now Solomon began to build the temple at the house of the Lord at Jerusalem…at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” This verse conclusively says that the temple will be built in the strict boundary of the City of David at the place of the threshing floor bought from the Jebusite. That can only be in the City of David and this makes it impossible for the Temples to have been on the Temple mount.
A CITY LOST
Over time, the temple was built by Solomon in the City of David, but it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, only to have other successive temples rebuilt in far less grandeur, then finally ending with Herod building his temple where Christ actually visited on many occasions. Herod’s temple was destroyed, just as Jesus predicted, down to the very last stone. Author Ahron Horovitz says, “The City of David was so completely forgotten that during the Byzantine Period even Jerusalem’s biblical name “Zion”’ shifted to the southern portion of the “Western Hill” which is called Mount Zion to this day. The Byzantine “Church of Holy Zion” (Hagia Zion), built in 390 C.E. reinforced the mistake.”
Since the temple was reduced to rubble in 70 AD, the City of David was then lost to weeds and abandonment. As time passed, no one knew where it really was. And since the Stronghold of Zion was in the City of David, Zion had vanished as well. The City of David was gone; its walls were no more—and the huge clue for the temple being located by the threshing floor was erased from history as well. And when something has vanished that held such huge importance, people will stick a flag of indelible proclamation in the ground and make said declaration purely out of need. When you go to the Holy City today, road signs will point to the upper city and the signs read “Zion,” with an arrow pointing away from the real, original location of Zion in the City of David.
For almost two millennia, Zion and the City of David laid silently together, buried in a forgotten tomb of earth. In time, it would be a windswept field known only to the farmer’s plow or a place to dump trash. Zion was forgotten, that is, until explorers came to Jerusalem with a pick in one hand and a Bible in the other. These explorers found the forgotten city with its ancient gurgling Gihon Spring. This hidden subterranean world would cry out that the City of David has been found and Zion was once more known.
To illustrate that Zion, the City of David, and the temple all intersect as one, I offer the following synopsis fro Scripture:
2 Samuel 5:7 Zion=City of David
Joel 2:1 Zion=My holy mountain=temple
Joel 3:17 Zion=My holy mountain=temple
Joel 3:21 Zion= where the Lord dwells=temple
Psalm 2:6 Zion=My holy hill=Christ reigning =temple
Psalm 9:11 Zion=where the Lord dwells=temple
Psalm 20:2 Zion=from sanctuary=from temple
Psalm 65:1,4 Zion=Your holy temple
Psalm 102:16,19 Zion=sanctuary=City of David=temple
Psalm 132:8,13 Zion=ark resting place=City of David= temple
Isaiah 2:3 Zion=Mountain of the Lord=House of the God of Jacob=temple
Isaiah 24:23 Zion=Lord of hosts reigning=place of temple
Isaiah 66:20 Zion=My holy Mountain=house of the Lord=temple
When the City of David was missing people in the middle ages looked to the most attractive feature in Jerusalem as a potential candidate site for their lost temple. The scant few Jews living in Jerusalem then, along with the influx of Christian pilgrims and crusaders, began suggesting that the impressive high-walled fortress of the Dome of the Rock was the actual foundation stones of Solomon’s temple. After all, it was the most impressive structure that was still standing in Jerusalem, so some assumed it must have certain historical prominence—and that prominence was considered to be the temple itself.
Around 1169 Benjamin Tudela proclaimed emphatically that Muslim Haram al- Sharif, The Roman Fort Antonia, and the traditional Temple Mount platform was to be forevermore known as the proper placement of Solomon’s temple. Tudela made this pronouncement with such surety and vigor that it was dogmatically adopted and is fervently accepted as uncontested fact to this day.
Eusebius, from the third and fourth century was curator of the Library at Caesarea. He was a renowned scholar both then and today.He wrote, ”The hill called Zion and Jerusalem, the building there, that is to say, the temple, the Holy of Holies, the Altar, and whatever else was there dedicated to the glory of God have been utterly removed or shaken, in fulfillment of the word.” He further notes only a few lines later that sadly, after the ruin of Zion (City of David), the very stones from “the temple itself and from its ancient sanctuary were scavenged from the temple site in Zion and used for the construction of “idol temples and of theatres for the populous.”
Ancient Hecateus of Abdera also testified that the temple was not only in Zion, but located “nearly in the very center of the City of David.”
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
• 2 Samuel 5:7: “Nevertheless, David took the stronghold
of Zion (that is, the City of David).” Zion is undoubtedly
within the City of David.
• Joel 3:17: “So shall you know that I am the Lord your
God, dwelling in Zion My holy mountain.” “My holy
Mountain,” (temple) is, without question, in Zion within
the City of David.
• Joel 2:1: “Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm
in My holy mountain!” ”My holy mountain” is the
temple in Zion.
• Psalm 132:8,13: “Arise, O Lord, to Your resting place,
You and the ark of Your strength…For the Lord has
chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place.”
The “ark of Your strength” is the Ark of the Covenant.
The temple will house the ark in prophecy and Zion is
God’s chosen place for that, as well as the temple
• Psalm 2:6: “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of
Zion.” The word King is for Christ in this verse, and holy
hill is the temple location in Zion.
• Psalm 102:16,19: “For the Lord shall build up Zion…For
He looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from
heaven the Lord viewed the earth.” Zion and sanctuary/
temple are the same location.
• Isaiah 2:3: “Come let us go up to the mountain of the
Lord. To the house of the God of Jacob…For out of
Zion shall go forth the law…” Mountain of the Lord,” is
the temple at Zion.
• Isaiah 24:23: “For the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount
Zion…” This is Christ reigning in the temple at Zion.
• Psalm 20:2: “May He send you help from the sanctuary
and strengthen you out of Zion.” Sanctuary is the temple
• Psalm 9:11: “Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in
Zion!” The Lord dwells in the temple at Zion.
• Joel 3:21 “For the Lord dwells in Zion.” He resides in the
temple at Zion.
• Psalm 65:1,4: “Praise is awaiting you, O God, in Zion…
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
of Your holy temple.” The holy temple is at Zion.
• Isaiah 66:20, “‘…to My holy mountain Jerusalem,’ says
the Lord, ‘as the children of Israel bring an offering in a
clean vessel into the house of the Lord.’” “My holy
mountain” is connected to “the house of the Lord’s
temple” (see Joel 3:17 above). The temple is self-evident
as being in Zion.
• 2 Chronicles 3:1: “Now Solomon began to build the
house of the Lord at Jerusalem…at the place that David
had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the
Jebusite.” This verse conclusively says that the temple
will be built in the strict boundary of the City of David
which was the same boundary of the Jebusite city.
Zion is the place which links everything together. It is the flaming
arrow of all clues that flies
directly at the heart of the City of David and the true temple
First Kings 1:38-39:”So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the Cherethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule and took him to Gihon. Then Zadok, the priest took a horn of oil from the tabernacle and anointed Solomon….” The Bible is actually saying here that Solomon was taken to the Gihon Spring and at that very spot the priest enters the tabernacle that held the Ark of the Covenant and gets oil to anoint the newly crowned king.” The tabernacle with the ark in its hold was at Gihon Spring in the City of David at Zion. This event happened at the same Gihon Spring where David set the tent tabernacle most assuradly in very close proximity to the threshing floor area.
Aristeas, a visitor from Egypt who recorded a description of the temple and Jerusalem about fifty years after Alexander the Great. He was memorialized by Eusebius, who quoted him as observing, ”There is an inexhaustible reservoir of water, as would be expected from an abundant spring gushing up naturally from within the [temple].”This prodigious water that was seen by Aristeas in the temple was witnessed long before the two aqueducts were built in the time of the Hasmoneans (the Maccabees) as well as Pilate, to channel water to Jerusalem from the south of Bethlehem.
Tacitus, the Roman historian,400 years after Aristeas and recorded that the temple at Jerusalem had a natural spring of water that welled from its interior.Again, these references could only be describing the Gihon Spring. It is located close to what is referred to as the Ophel, which is a bulge of the earth abutting the City of David (Zion) laying just to the south, and roughly about 1,000 feet, from the Temple Mount. There is no other such spring(s) anywhere else in Jerusalem. However, there is a place called the En-Rogel which is situated about a third of a mile southeast of the City of David, but this is not a spring at all, rather a well. The spring connection, especially a robust gushing spring, seems to be like a laser pointer aimed at the City of David and not at the Temple Mount as the temple site.
Another fascinating verse that makes it irrefutable that a spring/fountain needs to be a fundamental component of the temple location: ”A fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord…” (Joel 3:18). Can it be any clearer that a water source (spring/fountain) flows from the House of the Lord (temple) which held the Ark of the Covenant? This verse is more solidly dogmatic in its pronouncements because it says unequivocally that a spring flows from the temple. The temple would logically need a prodigious amount of water (Gihon Spring) for cleaning up after all the animal blood sacrifices. Gihon Spring is the only spot that has enough water for the temple sacrifices in all of Jerusalem. It appears that the Roman garrison could not obtain water from this spring because it was holy water for temple usage. If the Romans even tried to take one drop, it would result in violent rioting, so they were forced to bring water from south of Bethlehem, as they did via aqueducts that fed the many underground cisterns storage at the purported fort.
There is yet another verse containing Zion in connection with a spring and the ark as well. The psalmist wrote, ”And of Zion it will be said… Both the singers and the players on instruments say, ‘All my springs are within you.’” (Psalm 87:5,7). This verse has the words singers and players on instruments which is associated in the Bible with a processional carrying the ark (Psalm 68). The words springs are within you would be consistent with the Gihon Spring as well as the word Zion, which is connected with both the temple and the City of David.
Ezekiel 47:1-2 speaks of a spring as well… ”Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the alter. He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water running out on the right side.”
Hebrew writings, cited in a book by Zev Vilnay, also mention the Gihon Spring area as the place for the future temple. “…At that time a great stream shall flow forth from the Holy Temple and its name is Gihon.” His book refers to Jewish writings that specifically declare that the Gihon Spring was where the high priest immersed in the spring’s water. The special place was called the Bath of Ishmael and it was used for purification by the high priest on the Day of Atonement.
THE CLEANSING STREAM
It has been said that High Priest Rabbi Yishmael from the second temple period used the Gihon as a ritual bath for purification prior to entering the temple: “Near there is a cave. People go down to it by stairs. It is full of pure water, and there is a tradition that it is the ritual bath of Rabbi Yshmael the High Priest.” (as quoted in the name of Rabbi Moshe, in: Moshe Ben Menachem Mendl Reicher, Sharrei Yerushalayim Shar`ar 8.33). It is interesting that a second temple period arch has been found above a stone staircase descending to the Gihon Spring, giving evidence that the spring was in service at the time of Herod’s temple. It was surmised in the book, The City of David, written by Ahron Horovitz (p. 213), that the spring served as an entranceway to those coming to purify themselves at the time of the second temple era. If this were the case, then a huge question begs asking: if priests and people purified themselves at the Gihon Spring prior to entering the temple, why would they then walk almost a quarter mile to the traditional Temple Mount area? That trek of distance and likely human/animal interaction would make them unclean and unworthy to enter any temple precincts. It would be like a doctor scrubbing up for surgery and then walking a quarter of a mile on dusty streets as well as coming in contact with unwashed contaminants along the way. Doctors would not do this and priests, in their holy duties at the temple, would not be purified in the waters of the Gihon only to later comingle with potential sullying elements.
Even as far back as Moses and the time of the tabernacle, spring water was essential in the purification ceremony for priests. Josephus writes in Jewish Antiquities (Book 3,8.6), “Moses had sprinkled Aaron’s vestments, himself, and his sons, with the blood of the beasts that were killed, and had purified them with spring water and ointment, they became God’s priests.” Spring water (moving pure water) and ointments (olive oil) were absolute essential needs for purification rituals. The only running water in the desert that was available to Moses was the water from the split rock—and the only spring water available in Jerusalem was the Gihon Spring, which was in the City of David, within the stone wall boundaries of the stronghold of Zion.
THE ARREST OF PAUL
In writing one of my previous books, The Lost Shipwreck of Paul, I spent years researching this amazing man. In Acts 21, he is the focus of the story once again: Paul entered the temple in Jerusalem after having publicly fraternized with his “unclean Gentile friends.” Upon hearing that Paul had walked into this sacred compound with his filthy friends in tow, the local people quickly formed a mob and descended on the temple complex. Once inside, the irate throng grabbed Paul and dragged him out of the gate, beating him with the intent to kill. As news of the angry rioters reached the Roman commander in the garrison, the officer rushed with a company of soldiers to take control of the situation.
At that point, something took place that really grabbed my attention. I read in Acts 21:32. The Roman commander …”immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them.” (emphasis mine) This verse tells us that the Roman soldiers went down to get Paul.
This should raise a significant red flag for anyone believing in the Temple Mount because it is a high-walled fortress-looking edifice. You can only go down from there. If The Temple Mount was the place of Paul’s riot scene, then the big question is where would someone go down from to reach Paul. There would have to be a fort floating somewhere in the clouds to match the biblical account. And it is even more interesting later in verse 35, where it reads that when Paul reached the stairs he had to be carried up by the soldiers. So, according to the Bible, we have to have stairs descending from the Roman garrison to the lower temple gates and then they had to carry Paul going back up into the Roman garrison (traditional Temple Mount platform). This can only apply if the temple, for instance, is in the old City of David in the area of the Gihon Spring.
A TRADITION BORN
Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD) rebuilt the destroyed city of Jerusalem, renamed it Aelia Capitolina, and kept Jews from entering. From the time of the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate (middle of the fourth century) until the Arabs conquered Jerusalem in 638 AD, the Temple Mount had remained an abandoned garbage dump.The Crusaders later seized the Holy City in 1099 and placed a huge gilt cross on the famed Muslim Dome and called it “Templum Domini “ (The Lord’s Temple). Because of this, a tradition was born!
TIME IS CRUEL TO TRUTH
In the twelfth century, the Muslims took the Dome of the Rock back and drove out the Christians. They put the crescent symbol of Islam back atop the Dome where it still sits today. The message all of this sends is that there have been huge spans of centuries where Romans kicked out Jews and Christians from the land, as well as Muslims enacting quarantine on Jews and Christians. During those long periods of conquest, the Temple Mount, as well as the City of David, were often lonely, forsaken places that knew only the stench of decaying trash or the sound of wind sifting through bent weeds.
AN ARCHITECTS PERSPECTIVE
Adding to the controversy surrounding the temple location is an Israeli architect in Tel Aviv, Tuvia Sagiv. His interesting observations are based on height and angle of sight and elevations found in historical accounts of King Herod Agrippa. I am not an architect and have no way of verifying his claims; however, Sagiv is an expert in his field and has conducted extensive research of the Temple Mount area and has calculated
its angles and datings. He writes the following in relation to the view that King Herod Agrippa had into the Temple based upon Flavius Josephus. “…Agrippa built a huge hole in his palace…The palace had belonged to the Hasmonean family and was built on a high place. The king was able to observe from the palace what was happening in the temple. The people of Jerusalem objected to this because it was not the tradition to observe what was taking place in the temple, especially the animal sacrifices. Consequently, they built a high wall in the inner court above the western arcade….” So what did Agrippa actually see? According to Tuvia Sagiv, Herod Agrippa’s palace was west of the Temple Mount, at or near the present day Citadel and Jaffa Gate. “The altar in the temple cannot be directly seen looking from the west because the temple building prevents any view. The only way to see something going on in the Temple Courts is through the passageways between the temple wall and the walls of the court. If we were high enough, from the north we could see into the sacrifice-slaughter area, and viewing from the south we could see the altar’s ramp. Moreover, without knowing exactly the location of Herod Agrippa’s palace, using vertical sections, we discovered that the western court wall prevented any view from the western court, even without the addition of walls. In order to have seen what went on in the court, a building whose height was 31-47 meters above the ground (10-16 floors) was needed. Without mechanical equipment it would have been very difficult to climb to such a height, especially when concerning a building whose purpose was domestic and residential. Even from the highest towers in Jerusalem, the Phasael and Hippicus Towers, there was no way to see what was being done in the temple court during the time of the Second Temple. The height of these towers was 70-90 cubits, approximately 35-45 meters.”5 Tuvia Sagiv concluded that both Agrippa’s horizontal and vertical angles of sight prove that it is impossible to locate the Holy of Holies or the altar in the region of the Dome of the Rock.
I Jerusalem I met with Eli Shukron a famed archaeologist. He has since become a friend of mine. He told me that the Western Wailing wall believed by every scholar to have been built built by Herod the Great. Eli said that Herod did not build the wall at all. He told me that he found a coin dated to 20 AD beneath a huge stone block under the very lowest layer of foundation stones.”
The coin was an ancient bronze and that of Valerius Gratus, Prefect under Tiberius15-26 AD. The minting date of the coin as well as its earliest distribution was vintage 20 AD, according to Eli’s explanation. I did the math, Herod died in 4 BC. Now if Eli had dug out a coin from under the lowest layer of stones in the Western Wall which dated to 20 AD, Herod died at least 24 years before the coin somehow made its way under a stone so low in the foundation of the Temple Mount?
Eli also took me and some members of my research team to a recently unearthed underground sanctuary. He told me that just a few individuals had ever been allowed there. Eli had found this place about two years earlier, and since then workers have painstakingly been sifting dirt and hauling it away. Eli said, “This is a worship area, We do not know exactly what it is, but it is from the first temple period and possibly even before.” Then waving his hand in a sweeping motion, he told us, “This is the only worship area in the City of David. Everything is perfect.“
Eli then pointed to a carved-out hole in the stone floor and said, “This is an olive press to make oil.” My heart and mind raced. Leviticus 21:12 tells us: “…nor shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God: for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him.” Once the oil was sprinkled on the priest, he was forbidden to leave the sanctuary. This sacred place was at ground zero—right where I thought the temple to be. So, logically, one might assume that if the priest had the anointing oil present, this well may be the actual temple location. Eli then walked over and bent down, pointing to a hand-cut straight channel running the full length of the room. He stood and said matter-of-fact, even though a sledge hammer would have had as much subtlety to my brain, “This is a channel for blood and, as you can see, this room is raised. It is here there was an altar for sacrificing small animals, such as sheep.” His extended hand showed us the path of draining blood, and he explained, “The blood went into the floor over there and the animals were tied up here.”
He then stepped over to a corner in the stone wall and his fingers poked through to a hole in the edge of the stone. He told us, “This is where a ring was set to tie up the animal being slaughtered. Eli smiled, as proud as if he had made the sanctuary himself. “Everything is perfect; few people have been in here to see it.” Eli continued, “I knew that something happened here I did not know what? When I started to clean it (take away the dirt) I began
to understand. This is the place of something huge and we are in the heart of it. This is an area of worship and praying and a place where people connected with God. And from that we understand what happened here in the time of the first temple period and even before.” I asked Eli, “How close are we to the Gihon Spring?” He answered, “About ten meters (30 feet). You have everything together here close to the spring, close to the water, living water —and we know that a place of worship to God is near to water.” He paused, “This is the foundation of the earth that connects with God.” As he continued to show our team around, Eli pointed out two small recessed areas about the size of a low ceiling walk-in closet. One of the spaces was empty but the other had an upright stone approximately the size of a cemetery headstone. There was no writing on it, which was typical for ancient Jews. Eli explained that the fact it was still standing upright after all these years was a sign that somebody long ago considered this to be an extremely sacred place.
It was at that moment that the confluence of intellect and emotion collided. I knew where I was—somewhere in the complex of Solomon’s temple Eli had said that there were many other areas that needed excavating, and I assumed that treasures of historic significance were only a few feet away from where I was standing. More excavations will follow and I wondered what the dirt was silently holding in its concealing embrace.
We were in the City of David, the site of the temple. How could we doubt the significance of this special place? It was right in the well-defined precincts of the stronghold of Zion. The nearby flowing Gihon Spring closed the target to a much more defined area. This had to be very near to the threshing floor that David had bought from the Jebusite. I believe that this was, is, and shall forever be ground zero of the temple placement.