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The True Location of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem Part Six

PART 6: The Temple Mount is The Temple Mount, After All

Now that we have refuted the key claims on which the TLT’s base their argument, we are left to address the archeological evidence proving that the Temple Mount is the only true location of both the first and second Temple.

As noted earlier, when examining the various TLTs it is impossible not to notice the shocking is way in which these theories completely ignore the vast archeological data which indicates, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Temple Mount as we know it today is indeed the true location of both Temples. Whether they are ignorant of the discoveries accumulated during the past 160 years of modern research, or whether they purposely ignoring this information, is not relevant—the fact is that not a single reputable scholar would doubt that the Temple Mount is the location of the Temple. The evidence is literally standing in plain sight.

Although the complex archeology and architecture of the Temple Mount is a vast topic that would take more than a lifetime to fully comprehend, there are nonetheless some key elements clearly demonstrating that it is indeed the true location of the Temple. Before examining this evidence though, it is important to note that archeological excavations are not permitted on the Temple Mount and hence our knowledge is surely lacking. It should also be noted that the architectural evidence available to us dates mostly to the Second Temple period as opposed to the First. This is due to the massive building projects carried out during the Second Temple period, primarily those of King Herod, which covered over any earlier remains. We can be confident though, that the true location of the Second Temple was the location of the first Temple as well. [1]

Here is some key evidence attesting that the Temple Mount is indeed the true location of the Temple:

1. Evidence Indicating the Expansion of the Temple Mount Fits the Description of Josephus:

The rectangular, (or slightly trapezoid) walls that outline the Temple Mount as we know it today, date back to the Second Temple Period and represent King Herod’s expansion of the Mount as part of his project of renovating the Temple. Josephus, who records this project in detail, describes that King Herod: [2]

“Got ready a thousand wagons that were to bring stones for the building, and chose ten thousand of the most skillful workmen, and bought a thousand sacerdotal garments for as many of the priests, and had some of them taught the arts of stone-cutters, and others of carpenters, and then began to build”

Herod’s renovation of the Temple and his enlargement of the Temple Mount represents the largest and most complex building project ever conducted in the land of Israel right up until the Modern Era. For this project, Herod utilized some exceptionally large stones; one stone, weighing about 300 tons, is the largest and heaviest ashlar stone ever used in the land of Israel.

By the time the entire project was finally completed, the Temple Mount grew from approximately 15.4 acres to 35.5 acres, more than double its original size! Herod’s enlargement of the Temple Mount made it the largest holy enclosure in the ancient world! Josephus records that: [3]

“Herod rebuilt the temple, and encompassed a piece of land about it with a wall, which land was twice as large as that before enclosed. The expenses he laid out upon it were vastly large also, and the riches about it were unspeakable”

As indicated by the archeological remains, Herod expanded the Temple Mount to the north, south and west. The extension to the north and south remained in line with the original eastern wall which was not expanded further eastwardly. Any visitor to Jerusalem can see for themselves the point on the eastern side of the Temple Mount from which King Herod’s extension of the Mount began; this point, referred to as the “seam” is located 32 meters (105 feet) north of the southeast corner of the Temple Mount. At this location, one can clearly see a break in the masonry styles where typical Herodian masonry with its characteristic drafted margins and flat bosses can be seen to the south - representing the location from which the extension began, and to the north, an earlier phase (probably Hashmonian) with projecting bosses representing the pre Herodian Temple Mount.

2. The Gates on the Western Wall of the Temple Mount Fit the Description of Josephus:

Josephus describes four gates on the western side of the Temple Mount: [4]

“Now in the western quarters of the enclosure of the temple there were four gates; the first led to the king's palace, and went to a passage over the intermediate valley; two more led to the suburbs of the city; and the last led to the other [part of the] city, where the road descended down into the valley by a great number of steps, and thence up again by the ascent”

Indeed, the archeological evidence has found this description to be true. These four gates described by Josephus have been identified along the western wall of the Temple Mount. It is important to note that all these gates are monumental gates which would not have been found in a “Roman Fort.”

“The first [gate] led to the king's palace, and went to a passage over the intermediate valley.” This gate is referring to “Wilson’s Arch” (named after its discoverer Charles Wilson). It can be seen today in the enclosed, northern part of the Western Wall plaza. The visible arch is part of two superimposed rows of arches which supported a bridge that led from one of the gates of the Temple Mount over the western edge of the Tyropoeon Valley (an ancient valley that existed during the time of the Temple that separated the temple Mount from the upper city), to the area of today’s Jewish Quarter where King Herod’s palace was located.

“Two more [gates] led to the suburbs of the city.” These two gates are known today as “Barclay’s Gate” named after James Barclay andWarren’s Gate” named after Charles Warren. They each had a staircase that led from the busy street below the Western Wall into the Temple Mount.

The remains of Barclay’s Gate with its massive lintel and a blocked entrance beneath can be seen today in the woman’s section of the Western Wall; it is also visible from inside the Temple Mount and can be viewed from within an underground chamber known as the Mosque of al-Burak. The original gateway of Warren’s Gate, the northernmost gate on the Herodian Western Wall eventually became part of a cistern during medieval times. According to several scholars, during the Early Islamic Period the gateway was the primary synagogue of the Jews of Jerusalem known in the literary sources as “the Cave.” Today it is customary for Jews to pray at the blocked entrance of Warren’s Gate located in the Western Wall Tunnels.

“And the last [gate] led to the other [part of the] city, where the road descended down into the valley by a great number of steps, and thence up again by the ascent.”

This is clearly referring to the well-known Robinson’s Arch discovered by Edward Robinson; the arch can be seen just 12 meters north of the south-western corner of the Temple Mount. It represents the remains of a monumental overpass, the first ever built in the ancient world which led from the southernmost gate on the western side of the Temple Mount via a series of steps down to the street below and then again towards the upper city.

3. The Features of the Double Gate:

Josephus describes that: [5]

“The fourth front of the Temple, which was southward, had indeed itself gates in its middle.”

This is likely referring to the Double and Triple Gates located on the southern wall of the Temple Mount. These gates led into long passageways ascending northwards via stairs up to the Temple Mount plaza connecting to the “Hulda” gates, the southern gates of the original pre-Herodian 500-cubit square Temple Mount mentioned in the Mishna. While the Triple Gate is not well- preserved, the Double Gate and in particular its southern passageway preserves some of the finest intact Second Temple era stone artwork ever discovered in the land of Israel.

The Double Gate is the westernmost gate on the southern part of the Herodian extension of the Temple Mount, the Triple gate being located to its east. Most of its exterior is blocked out of view by a structure dating to the Crusader Period, although part of the original Second Temple era lintel and relieving arch can be seen on the southern wall to the right, or eastern part of the Crusader building. In the interior of the gate which is well preserved, there are four decorative domes adorned with magnificent geometric and floral motifs. Orit Peleg-Barkat, a specialist on Second Temple Period architecture comments that: [6]

“The vestibule of the Double Gate, with much of its original decoration intact, is the best-preserved structure surviving from the vast Herodian Temple Mount complex and provides us with a most important glimpse of the grandeur of Herod’s investment in that project”

Needless to say, this fine art would have served no purpose in an entrance to a “Roman Fort,” on the other hand, it would have been exactly what one would expect to find in one of the main entrances to the Temple.

4. Evidence Found at the Foot of the Temple Mount:

Archeological excavations conducted at the foot of the south-western and southern walls of the Temple Mount have revealed many late Second Temple Period architectural artifacts originating from the mount above. These artifacts provide a glimpse into the glory of the Temple and at the same time attest to its catastrophic destruction.

The excavations began soon after the Six-Day War in 1968 and were directed by the late Professor Benjamin Mazar on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Subsequent excavations were also carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

In addition to public and monumental constructions of the late Second Temple Period in the vicinity of The Temple Mount, massive heaps of fallen debris over two meters high consisting of huge ashlar blocks were also discovered in several locations in the area. Some blocks were so massive they pierced the street pavement they landed on. This collapse, a chilling testament to the events surrounding the destruction of the Temple, is the result of a raging fire which consumed the Temple and the structures associated with it, as well as due to a deliberate dismantling of the Temple Mount’s retaining walls and nearby structures by the Roman soldiers.

Other than stone blocks, the archeologists discovered about 500 fragments of decorative architectural stones. Many of the stones were analyzed and found to have been exposed to extreme heat due to fire which reached temperatures as high as 800 degrees Celsius. This indicates that the fire was hot enough to pulverize many stones that were not preserved. Some stones were found lying at the foot of the mount where they fell two thousand years ago, while others were found in secondary deposition—incorporated into later period structures in the vicinity. These stones, the largest assortment of late Second Temple decorative artwork ever discovered in the Land of Israel, originated in buildings on the southern part of the Temple Mount, most notably the Royal Portico described by Josephus as being: [7]

“A structure more noteworthy than any under the sun”

Orit Peleg-Barkat who studied the stone fragments from the foot of the Temple Mount commented that they are: [8]

“Characterized by high-quality carving and an extraordinary selection of patterns and motifs, showing that this project, as the flagship of Herod’s construction agenda, was allocated first-class workmen and vast resources”

These magnificent geometric and floral decorations - fragments of Doric capitals, Ionic capitals, Corinthian capitals, Doric friezes, Doric cornices, modillion cornices and Soffits/ceiling decorations, as well as column bases and column drums, did not fall from a “Roman Fort;” they fell from the most magnificent building ever built.

5. The Trumpeting Stone:

Probably one of the most noteworthy pieces of evidence, perhaps even the “smoking gun” proving the true location of the Temple, is the well-known “Trumpeting Stone.” This large stone, part of a corner railing, was found by Benjamin Mazar’s expedition lying on the paved street at the foot of the south-western corner of the Temple Mount. The stone was found buried at the bottom of a heap of debris and stone blocks indicating that it fell from the roof of a building that stood at the south-western corner of the Mount. The stone bears an inscription preserving two complete Hebrew words and part of a third word, the rest of which was broken off. The two complete words - לבית התקיעה"” meaning “to the place/house of trumpeting,” while the incomplete third word reads either "להכריז" meaning “to declare,” or "להבדיל"meaning “to distinguish,” referring to distinguishing between the sacred day of Sabbath and the mundane weekdays.

The practice of blowing a trumpet or a Shofar was an integral part of the daily worship in the Temple and is well documented throughout the Talmudic texts; one Mishna records that: [9]

“They never have less than twenty-one blasts in the Temple, and never more than forty-eight… And on the eve of Shabbat they would add another six, three as a sign to the people to stop working and three to mark a distinction between the holy and the mundane…”

The Tosefta adds further detail: [10]

“How would these three [trumpet blasts] to [signal the people to] refrain from work be performed? The head of the assembly would grab a trumpet and ascend to the high roof of the city. When he would blast his trumpet those close to the city would refrain from work, and those outside of the Sabbath boundary would enter into the boundary area (Exodus 16:29)… How would the three [trumpet blasts] to distinguish between the holy and the profane be performed? The head of the assembly would grab a trumpet and ascend to the high roof of the city. When he would blast his trumpet the people would remove any pot from upon the stove… and would light the candle[s]. The head of the assembly would then leave the trumpet on the roof and descend”

Josephus likewise describes the place designated for blasting the trumpet in the Temple. In his description of the towers in the Temple area utilized by the zealots during the Great Revolt, he describes the fourth one as being: [11]

“Erected above the top of the Pastophoria, where one of the priests stood of course, and gave a signal beforehand, with a trumpet at the beginning of every seventh day, in the evening twilight, as also at the evening when that day was finished, as giving notice to the people when they were to leave off work, and when they were to go to work again”

The trumpeting stone, completely ignored, of course, by the TLT’s, is a wonderful example of tangible archeological evidence that aligns perfectly with historical sources—unless one prefers to suggest that the Temple was actually located in the city of David and the stone was hauled several hundred feet uphill and then buried at the foot of the Temple Mount beneath several tons of rubble two thousand years ago.

6. Mikv’aot in and Around the Temple Mount:

Immersion in a Mikvah – a ritual bath, is an integral and essential part of Jewish life, so much so that the presence of a Mikvah in an archeological site is the best indicator for identifying Jewish settlements. Although Mikv’aot are still very much part of daily Jewish life, they were of even greater significance during the days when the Temple was still standing, being that spiritual purity was a prerequisite for entering the Temple. Ancient Mikv’aot have been found throughout the land of Israel, the greatest majority of which are known from Jerusalem where over 170 have been documented. Many of these Mikv’aot were found in close proximity to the Temple Mount. These public Mikv’aot were discovered in all the excavated areas surrounding the Mount, namely around the southern and western walls of the Mount.

The Mikv’aot were built in clear orientation to the Mount and many were found near the very steps leading up to its gates, including the area of the Double and Triple Gates in the southern part of the Mount and Robinson’s Arch, Wilsons Arch and Warren’s Gate on the western side.

Not only were Mikv’aot discovered all around the Temple Mount, several instillations on the Temple Mount itself were identified as Mikv’aot as well. Ronny Reich, archeologist and expert on ancient Mikv’aot suggested identifying two subterranean cisterns - Nos. 6 and 36 as Mikv’aot. [12]

These two cisterns seem to be oriented to the Double Gate, being aligned symmetrically on either side of the path leading out of the gates and into the Temple Mount plaza. According to Reich, these Mikv’aot likely predate the Herodian expansion of the Mount and were used for immersion prior to entering the original Hulda Gates of the Pre-Herodian Temple Mount. Another instillation was first documented by Robert W. Hamilton who provided archeological supervision during renovations conducted in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1938-1942. [13] This instillation, located beneath the eastern entrance to the Mosque was subsequently identified by several researchers as another Mikvah. [14] This Mikvah is located to the south and on the same path of one of the Mikv’aot identified by Reich.

The Mikv’aot in and around the Temple Mount no doubt attest to the fact that it is the one and only true location of the Temple. Indeed, “Roman Forts” did not have such facilities.

7. The Temple Mount Sifting Project:

In late 1990’s, the Muslim authorities on the Temple Mount, namely the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement together with the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, began clearing out and renovating a large subterranean hall beneath the south-eastern corner of the Mount known as Solomon’s Stables (a name adopted by the Crusaders having nothing to do with King Solomon). This large vaulted hall is situated in the area formerly occupied by the eastern section of the Royal Portico which was part of the porticoes that surrounded / bordered the Second Temple courts. It was converted into a huge new mosque – the Marwani Prayer Hall which became the largest mosque in the land of Israel and one of the largest in the Middle East - having a capacity of accommodating 10,000 people at once. In late 1999 the Muslims opened a massive gaping pit north of Solomon’s Stables in order to construct a monumental stairway leading into the new mosque.

This action, perhaps the worst archeological crime ever committed in the State of Israel was implemented without a construction permit and even worse, with no archeological supervision. The Muslims worked day and night for three days utilizing heavy construction machinery such as bulldozers and excavators, thus destroying any ancient remains. About 400 dump truck loads were removed from the pit, an amount equivalent to approximately 9,000 tons of soil. This archeologically rich soil saturated with artifacts relating to the rich history of the Temple Mount was discarded as trash and dumped in several locations in and around Jerusalem, the primary location being in the Kidron Valley in an area east of the Lions Gate.

This atrocity prompted a young archeology student – Zachi Dvira (Zweig) together with his professor and renowned archeologist Gabriel Barkay to establish the Temple Mount Sifting Project (2004), the aim of which was to salvage any archeological remains from the dumps.

The ongoing project yielded hundreds of thousands of finds, permitting archeologists, for the first time, to conduct a comprehensive study of artifacts from the Temple Mount which has been virtually off limits to scholars ever since the dawn of archeology.

While many of these discoveries date to the First and Second Temples and indeed attest to their existence, there are two discoveries in particular that prove that the Temple Mount is indeed the location of the Jewish Temples:

Discovery of the Colorful Floor Paving-stones that Decorated Herod’s Temple Courts:

The first discovery consists of more than one hundred geometrically cut and polished stone tiles known as opus sectile. Opus sectile (Latin - “cut work”), is a system of paving floors in geometric patterns by means of laying meticulously cut polished polychrome stone tiles with great precision. Opus sectile floors, a state of the art Roman paving tradition utilized in the most elaborate of buildings was first introduced to the land of Israel by King Herod who adorned many of his palaces including Masada, Jericho, Herodium and Cypros with this style. Herod imported various exotic stones and marbles for the purpose of crafting these floors and likely hired Roman craftsmen for the task. Josephus describes the interior rooms of Herod’s palace in Jerusalem: [15]

“In which the variety of the stones is not to be expressed; for a large quantity of those that were rare of that kind was collected together”

This exotic marble imported by Herod was the first ever used in the land of Israel and its function was restricted to the opus sectile floors. According to Josephus, King Herod used this unique paving method in the Temple as well. In Josephus’s description of the courts of the Temple we read that: [16]

“Those entire courts that were exposed to the air were laid with stones of all sorts and all colors”

Similarly, the Babylonian Talmud accounts that: [17]

“One who did not see the Temple in its constructed [state], never saw a magnificent structure. What is [the Temple building to which the Sages refer]? Abaye said, and some say Rav Ḥisda [who said]: The building of Herod. With what materials did he construct it? Rava said: with stones of marble and Marmara marble [Proconesian marble – light grey]. Some say with marble stones of Khuhla (black with a blue tint) and Marmara. [The edges of the stones were set with] one row [slightly] protruded and one row [slightly] indented, so that the plaster would take [better]”

Another indication attesting to the opus sectile floors that adorned the Temple comes from a fragment of a Greek inscription discovered in Benjamin Mazar’s excavations at the southern foot of the Temple Mount. [18] This inscription mentions a donation given by a man by the name of Paris Son of Akeson, a Jew from the island of Rhodes. The donation was given in the 20th year of a king’s reign, the name of which is missing. Since King Herod was the only monarch of the period who ruled for more than 20 years, the inscription is likely referring to the paving of the Temple by King Herod as part of Herod’s renovation of the Temple. Archeologist Assaf Avraham further elaborates: [19]

“Donating an amount of money for carrying out the paving could be an indication of the quality of the stones… this may be seen in keeping with the assumption regarding the use of Opus Sectile technique in the Temple Mount. The donation was needed due to the cost of the paving boards, considering the enormous area that needed to be paved”

Archeologists at the Temple Mount Sifting Project were astonishingly able to reconstruct some of the beautiful floor patterns that decorated the Temple utilizing the loose Herodian opus sectile tiles discovered in the sifting project. They account that: [20]

“Although the Temple and its courtyards were destroyed almost 2,000 years ago, the fact that we have some of the very tiles that were originally used to pave the floors of the Herodian Temple Mount offers us a unique perspective into the ornate architecture of this extraordinary edifice”

Clay Sealing of a First Temple Priest:

The second discovery, although small in scale is of great significance. It is a seal impression stamped on a piece of clay known as a bulla. The bulla bares an ancient Hebrew inscription on it and is dated to the Seventh century BCE –the late First Temple Period. In antiquity, important documents such as letters and legal documents were often rolled up, tied with a string and sealed with the official seal of their composer. This particular seal impression was attached to a coarse fabric cover of a large pottery jar or other type of container as indicated by the preserved imprint on its reverse side. The ancient Hebrew inscription referring to the seal’s owner reads:

“… [belonging to] (…) lyahu [son of] Immer.”

Most of the first name is missing and only the last letters are clearly legible spelling “lyahu” - a common ending featured on many names during the First Temple Period. Additional letter remnants have nevertheless been deciphered by the archaeologists who suggest the first name of the seal’s owner was Hissiliyau; the surname however is fully preserved and reads “Immer.” Immer was a well-known priestly family mentioned in the Bible. In the book of Chronicles we read that the priestly families – the descendants of Aaron were: [21]

“Divided by lot, the one as the other; for they were officers of the sanctuary and officers of God, both from the descendants of Eleazar and the descendants of Ithamar… the sixteenth for Immer”

One notorious priest belonging to this family is mentioned in the book of Jeremiah: [22]

When Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, Pashhur had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put him in the stocks that were at the upper Benjamin Gate, which was by the house of the Lord”

According to the archeologists, the seal was likely used to seal a jar cover in the storages of the Temple treasury administrated by the priestly division of the family of Immer. They conclude that: [23]

“This seal impression from the Temple Mount directly attests to the administrative activity that occurred during its last days in the First Temple”

The significance of this find cannot be overlooked. It is an artifact originating in the Temple Mount soil bearing the name of a priestly family mentioned in the Bible, a priestly family which served in Solomon’s Temple.

The Temple Mount – Mount Moriah-- is the only true location of the Temple. It was the location of the First Temple built by King Solomon and the location of the Second Temple built by the returnees from Babylon and later renovated by King Herod. The Temple Mount will indeed be the location of the Third Temple as well.

“Those who trust in the Lord Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever” (Psalm 125)

[1] Ezra 3:12. [2] Ant. XV, 388. [3] War. I, 401. [4] Ant. XV, 410. [5] Ant. XV, 410. [6] O. Peleg-Barkat, The Temple Mount Excavations in Jerusalem 1968-1978 Directed by Benjamin Mazar Final Reports volume V: Herodian Architectural Decoration and King Herod’s Royal Portico, Qedem 57, 2017, Jerusalem. [7] Ant. XV, 411. [8] Peleg-Barkat, Herodian Architectural Decoration and King Herod’s Royal Portico. [9] Mishna, Sukkah 5:5. [10] Tosefta Sukkah 4 (Lieberman). [11] War. IV, 577. [12] R. Reich, Two Possible Miqwā’ōt on the Temple Mount, IEJ 39, 1989 (63–65). [13] R.W. Hamilton, The Structural History of the Aqsa Mosque: A Record of Archaeological Gleanings from the Repairs of 1938-1942, Jerusalem, 1949. [14] Gibson and Jacobson, Below the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, pp. 57, 232; Z. Zweig, New Information from Various Temple Mount Excavations from the Last Hundred Years, New Studies on Jerusalem 14, 2008 (Hebrew). [15] War. V, 178. [16] War. V, 192. [17] Sukkah 51b [18] B. A. Isaac, Donation for Herod`s Temple in Jerusalem. IEJ 33, Jerusalem, 1983. [19] A. Avraham, Addressing the Issue of the Temple Mount Pavements during the Herodian Period, New Studies on Jerusalem 13, 2007, pp. 87–96 (Hebrew), English abstract, pp. 22*–23* [20] F. Snyder, G. Barkay and Z. Dvira, What the Temple Mount Floor looked like, BAR nov/dec 2016, pp. 56-59. [21] Chronicles 24: 5, 14. [22] Jeremiah 20:1-2 [23] Barkay, G. and Dvira, Z. 2016. “Relics in Rubble: The Temple Mount Sifting Project".BAR Nov/Dec 2016. 24-55. v


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