When Solomon had ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD's house. When all the children of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the earth on the pavement, and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, "For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever." (2 Chronicles 7:1-3)
The bed rock rises when going northward from the base of the City of
David to highest ground north of the Temple Mount area. (This is obscured
on site since the Temple Mount Platform itself is a large flat area surrounded
by retaining wall.) The Southern end of the Platform is actually built up
on tall underground pillars and arches.
To the East of the Temple Mount lies the Kidron Valley, and the Mount of Olives. To the South, the City of David and the Hinnom Valley. To the West, the famed Western Wall ("Wailing Wall".) To the north was Antonia Fortress, and then, further, the high ground outside the city walls, which many believe was the site of Golgotha. The bedrock of Mt. Moriah continues to rise to the North--outcroppings in the Northern wall reveal road cuts that have been made in the bedrock at the North end of the Old City outside the Damascus Gate and along the main road to the East. The crest of Mt. Moriah is just above the present Garden Tomb.
Critical Issues in Locating the Temple Site:
When one compiles all the known factors into a three-dimensional computer model of the Temple Mount area, several problems emerge:
1. Where was the Antonia Fortress?
Ancient Jerusalem was protected on the east, south, and west by valleys. The Antonia Fortress was located to the north to protect the weaker north side of the city. (In fact, it was from the north that Titus Vespasian breached the walls in his famous attack in 70 C.E.)
According to ancient sources, the fortress was on a hill about 25 meters high. The current El Omriah school building is on a rock only 5 meters high. From many stratographic and other considerations it is doubled by some experts that his was the actual location of the Antonia Fortress. Tuvia Sagiv's papers discuss the critical issue of the actual location of the Fortress Antonia, which he believes was well to the South, perhaps at the location of the Dome of the Rock.
2. The Location of the ancient North Moat (the Fosse)
Traditional renderings show a deep, filled-in fosse (moat), north of the Temple Mount, lying south of the Antonia Fortress, between the fortress and the Temple Mount.
According to ancient sources, however, the Antonia Fortress and the Temple Mount were adjacent to each other. The moat should be to the north of the Tower for protection, placing the Antonia about where the Dome of the Rock stands today! Asher Kaufman's location of the Temples places the moat immediately to the North of the spot where the Temples stood. In fact Dan Bahat jokes that Kaufman's temple would "fall into the moat!"
3. The Hulda Gates
The Hulda Gates were the primary access to the Temple area from the south. According to the Mishna, the difference in heights between the Hulda Gates and the Holy of the Holies was approximately 10 meters, with about 39( between the entrance to the Temple mount and the level of the Temple itself. The traditional Dome of the Rock proposals require 20 meters and 80( separations.
The current assumptions regarding Hulda Gate tunnels are not mentioned in the ancient sources. The discrepancies suggest a lower, and therefore, more southerly, location. Tuvia Sagiv in his essays discusses the problem of the Southern Gates and their elevation with respect to the Temples.
4. The View from the North
Josephus Flavius describes the fact that the Bizita Hill (Golgotha?) was located north of the Temple Mount and obscured the view of the Temple from the north.
If the Temple stood at the Dome of the Rock, it would be visible from as far away as the town of Ramallah. In order to obscure the view from the north, it would have to be at a lower level, that is, to the south.
5. King Herod Agrippa's View of the Temple from the West
Josephus, in The Jewish Wars, describes the fact that King Herod Agrippa could look out from his Hasmonean Palace (at our near the present Citadel at the Jaffa Gate), and view the sacrifices at the Azarah, at the altar of the Second Temple. This incensed the Jews who then built a wall extending the height of the Western rear wall of the Temple proper in order to block the view. Roman soldiers, patrolling the western threshold---thus unable to view the Azarah---demanded that the wall be demolished. The Jews objected, and even obtained the consent of Emperor Nero to leave the wall in place.
If the Temple were at the location of the Dome of the Rock, it would have required a Palace tower height of 75 meters to view into the Azarah. There never was a building of such a height in Jerusalem. This all implies a lower, more southern location of the Temple.
6. The Jerusalem Water Aqueduct
The water canals that supplied Jerusalem began in the area of the Hebron mountains, passed through the Solomon's Pools near Bethlehem, and flowed to Jerusalem. The lowest canal reached the Temple Mount through the Jewish Quarter and the Wilson Bridge. According to the ancient authorities, the water conduit supplied water to the High Priests' mikveh (ritual bath) located above the Water Gate, and it also supplied water for the rinsing of the blood off the Azarah. Portions of this aqueduct are plainly visible to this day.
"Living water," that is fresh, flowing water, not water from a cistern was required for the ritual bath (mikveh) used by the temple priests, and for the washings of the temple in connection with the sacrifices.
A survey of the level of the aqueduct reveals that if the Temple had been located at the same elevation as the present Dome of the Rock shrine, the aqueduct would be over 20 meters too low to serve either the Azarah or the Water Gate. From this survey, it appears that the Temple must have been 20 meters lower, and, thus, to the south.
7. Electronic Measurements
Preliminary ground penetrating radar probes by Tuvia Sagiv, while not conclusive, suggest vaults, perhaps "kippim" (rabbinical arches), and other structures which one would expect below the Temple, to the south. The northern sites are virtually solid rock.
More recently Sagiv has conducted thermal-infrared scanning of the walls and the platform. During the day the sun heats the Temple Mount uniformly, but at night the cooling (by conduction and radiation) is not uniform, this revealing subsurface anomalies. In the images shown below "hotter" areas are bright indicating massive foundations beneath the paving stones. The radar and IR research is discussed in Sagiv's third paper Penetrating Insights Into the Temple Mount.
8. Research into Later Roman Temple Architecture
After the Bar Kochba revolt in 132 C.E., the Romans leveled the entire city of Jerusalem and a built a Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, on the ruins. To obliterate any Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, they built a temple to Jupiter on the site.
A similar temple, built by the same builder at about the same time, has been discovered at Baalbek, Lebanon.
The Roman architectural practices of the time featured a rectangular basilica, and a polygon structure opposite a courtyard. When this architecture is overlaid on the Temple Mount, it matches the Al Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock exactly.
This unique architectural similarity suggests that the Roman Temple to Jupiter may have been on this very site, converted for Christian purposes in the 4th Century, and then served as the foundation for the present Muslim structures, the Al Aksa Mosque an the Dome of the Rock, which were built in the 7th Century.
(Jerome's commentary on Isaiah mentions an equestrian statue of the Emperor
Hadrian being placed directly over the site of the Holy of the Holies. If
the Baalbek architecture is the correct model, this would place the Holy
of the Holies somewhere beneath the present El Kas foundation.)
When a map of the Baalbek Temple is overlaid on the present structures of the Temple Mount a striking similarity can be seen:
Which Conjecture is Correct?
In Israel it is often said that if you have two Jews you will have three opinions! Only time will tell which of the above views is correct. These conjectures will continue to be debated until Israel is able to conduct a thorough archaeological investigation beneath the Temple Mount itself. (3)
Unfortunately, the Temple Mount presently remains under the supervision on the Waqf, the Supreme Muslim Council, and they have presented any archeological studies. In fact, the Waqf has gotten increasingly resistive to investigations of any kind on the Platform which they consider to be a huge outdoor mosque sacred to Islam.
Who knows what events developing in the history of Jerusalem will one day change the status quo allowing scientific investigation of the entire Temple Mount, below ground as well as above. The, according to the hopes and dreams of devout Jews for centuries, a Third Temple can be built on the foundations of the First and Second Temples and temple worship according to the Torah restored.
1. Leen Ritmeyer, Biblical Archeological Review, March/April, 1992.
2. Dr. Asher Selig Kaufman, Biblical Archeological Review, March/April 1983; Tractate Middot, Har Yearíeh Press, Jerusalem, 1991.
3. Tapes, videos and reports of Temple Mount Conferences featuring speakers defending all three proposed locations for the Temples may be obtained from Koinonia House, PO Box D, Coeur d'alene, Idaho 83816-0347.
Lambert Dolphin's Library
The Temple Mount Web Site
Created July 21, 1995. Updated, May 15, 1996.