Temple facade shown on Bar-Kokhba coins

A large cache of rare coins has been found by archaeologists in the Judean Hills. “Leaders of the Jewish resistance imprinted and dated coins for each year of the rebellion with, for example, images of the exterior of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and poetry for reclaiming Jerusalem as a means for spreading the rebellion via currency.”

Of special interest is the coin shown in the Jerusalem Post report, which dates from the third year of the Maccabean revolt. The Temple coins show a facade with four columns, a foundation course, a central entrance and a wavey line on top, perhaps representing the entablature. It was clearly an indication that the Jewish rebels against the Roman domination wanted to rebuild the Temple, once their freedom was regained. I once used a similar coin to reconstruct the facade of the Temple for an Israeli scholar and later used the information to design a reconstruction model of the Temple.


A Bar-Kokhba coin of year 3 showing the facade of the Temple


The reconstruction drawing of the Temple facade is based on the coin’s image


A reconstruction model showing the facade of Herod’s Temple

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24 Responses to Temple facade shown on Bar-Kokhba coins

  1. Nachum says:

    I agree with your interpretation- it’s the most obvious- but was just wondering what you thought of some other theories I’ve seen about the coin:

    a) That the object in the center is the Holy Ark. (Which, of course, was not in the Second Temple, but this is an idealized picture.)

    b) Possibly in conjunction with a), that the overall image is of the showbread table.

  2. According to Dan Barag, the object in the center is the Table of Shewbread, viewed from its long side, see Ancient Jerusalem Revealed, p. 272-6. It cannot be the Ark of the Covenant, as you rightly said.

  3. Pingback: Temple facade shown on Bar-Kokhba coins « Biblical Paths

  4. Pingback: La facciata del Tempio mostrata sulle monete di Bar-Kokhba « Il Fatto Storico

  5. James says:

    I have been working recently in this area of study. I indicated this in an earlier note to you. I have not yet reached a place where I can send you the manuscript I said I would send, but I thought I should comment a little on the Temple design on the coin. Specifically I suspect the Ark had a triangular shape for the back of its cover. I think I can see this on some photos of coins from the Bar Kochba era. More importantly, this shape would fit a tent shape better. and it does fit a certain shape I found in the constellation I mentioned in my last note. The clue that led to this idea is in the description of the cherubs on the Ark where they are required to face the chest of the Ark as well as each other. This would work if their faces were attached as weere the faces of Adam and Eve in a certain legend in Legends of the Jews by Ginzburg, and if they then were on the back of the Ark cover. That is, they were side by side on a triangular board with their faces part of each other like may be seen in the Roman god Jamice. This same thing was found by me in the field at the site I have been investigating.

  6. Leen says:

    The object in the doorway has a semi-circular top, not tri-angular. As mentioned in my reply to Nachum, it cannot be the Ark of the Covenant, but represents most likely the Table of Shewbread.

  7. James says:

    I thought I should continue a bit more with the first note about the coin. The star on the coin is above the temple, and directly above the temple in the sky is the place called the zenith. In the year of the Flood of Noah according to Jewish tradition at dawn on the Spring Equinox, the star at the Zenith was Cygnus X3. It is about in the center of the Cyngus Bird shape. Similarly, one hour before sunrise on the Spring Equinox in the year of the Creation according to Jewish Tradition, the same Cygnus X-3 was also at the Zenith.
    I mentioned in the first note that I thought the cover of the Ark had a back that was triangular shaped. I found some years ago some very good reasons for thinking this, but these reasons would best be described at a later time as they are quite complicated. However there are consequences to be considered if the Ark should have a triangle shape for a back cover. I will describe two related things in this note: The decorations above the opening of the Talpot Tomb and the Hooked X of the Templers. Both these subjects are described in detail in recent literature. I wish for now not to be included directly in public debate about them, as they are tangent to my present interests.

    Please focus first on the roof of the structure on the coin. The crenulations there remeided me of the so called crown around the top of the cover for the Ark. Now think about the time when the Talpot Tomb was supposedly occupied. If it was about at the time of Jesus, then because his birth was associated with a star or light in the sky, it might be appropriate to ask how the Maji knew that the King of the Jews (so called) had arrived, and not the king of some other culture. I suspect it was because Cygnus X-3 was bright for a short time and because that star had previously been inportant to the Temple in Jerusalem. Therefore perhaps the circle on the Talpot Tomb entrance decoration represents the same star shape on the Coin. In that case the triangle shape would be that of the back of the Ark. Provided, that is, that the chest of the Ark is represented by the Temple Structure on the Coin. This would lnot be the only pyramid or triangular shape to be associated with a tomb, as there is a famous large one capping a tomb just below the Temple Mount that I am sure you must have seen. This brings me to the Hooked X shape. You will need to look at the triangular shape above the circle of the Talpot Tomb. Please seperate the two sides of the triangle then cross them so that you have made an Z shape of them. The hook on the upper right side of the X is very much like that of the hook on a Templer Hooked X. I doubt that this symbology has been found by others before me, and perhaps no one else has connected it to the coin of Bar Kochba and the Ark before. If they had, I think it would make the next part easier to believe. The Hook on the Hooked x of course is exactly at the location of the Ark shape in the Cygnus Loop mentioned earlier. Also the acale (diameter) of the circle fits pretty well with that of the star on the coin. Just transfer the Talpot triangle and circle so that it sets above the Temple on the coin and you would then have a picture something like I have been thinking about for some years now for the Ark. This is important for me to say this now because if the Ark should ever be found it might otherwise not be recognized as actually being the true Ark. There are a number of other things about the triangle shape that will be in the manuscript.

    Presently the manuscript is in two parts. Part I is about half finished and in poor arrangement. Part II is complete, but it needs a little work in arranging the last few sections to make it easier to follow. It is quite complicated, as I attempt to follow the history of the subject site for several thousand years. I am also near publishing a novel that deacribes something about the supposed very early history of the subject site. I am in discussions presently with a possible translator of the novel. I wanted it to be in Hebrew.
    Thanks for your reply,

  8. Ove says:

    I don’t know how you get from the Bar Kokhba coin Temple to the reconstruction below ?

    If there’s no any interest ? Here is the Temple depicted on the Bar Kokhba coin.


    Dura Europas synagogue Syria

  9. rodger says:

    I thlought there were two bronze piilers in front of the temple. This is mentioned in first Kings. ??? I have a 132 coin.

  10. Solomon’s Temple had indeed two pillars, but the Second Temple had four.

  11. amaltra says:

    I would suggest that it looked like the Hadrian-Arch-in-jerash, and from all the models i have seen none look like it! w i think thy?hat with todays ability with 3D programs, it should be possible to make it exact replica looking.

  12. It is difficult to compare a gate with a temple. Hadrian’s Arch in Jerash is a triple gate, while the Temple had only one gate. I have used the design of Hadrian’s Arch in the reconstruction of the Roman Damascus gate in Jerusalem.

  13. Tony Jonathan says:

    Dear mr Ritmeyer,

    do you have a maquette of Jerusalem from the time of Nehemiah? (I already purchased your book on this subject)
    Yours sincerely,

    Tony Jonathan
    Arnhem, Holland

  14. Tony,
    The large model of Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah was made in Australia. I have no other model available.

  15. Joachim KIrsch says:

    Does the Bar Kochba coin show a vaulted entrance rather than a square on as depicted in the models?

  16. Joachim,

    According to Prof. Dan Barag, the arched installation on the coin is a side view of the Table of Shewbread.

  17. elija says:

    I think that this facade would fit very nicely to be the original view.


  18. Ove says:


    It’s better but it’s to big ! And the portal depicted on the Bar-Kokhba coin, was a scallop shell.

    Like this > http://i43.tinypic.com/316w411.jpg

    Temple on Beit She’arim sarcophagus > http://i43.tinypic.com/m79yjl.jpg

    Temple on Dura-Europus wall > http://i44.tinypic.com/j5fmgh.jpg

    All modern models are depicting the facade of Herod’s Temple wrong

  19. Gideon says:

    your reconstruction is amazing.
    I have a query.
    Why did you decide to place the outermost columns of the facde away from the corners?

  20. Gideon – it is a matter of proportion. Placing the pilasters at the corners makes the space between the pilasters too large.

  21. Geoff Hudson says:

    Leen, you say Dan Barag says that the coin shows a side view of the table of shewbread.

    From one letter of Simon bar Kohkba, it looks as though he had a great interest Sukkot or the festival of booths. He wrote something like:

    “Shimeon to Yehudah bar Menashe in Qiryath ‘Arabaya. I have sent to you two donkeys, and you must send with them two men to Yehonathan, son of Be’ayan and to Masabala, in order that they shall pack and send to the camp, towards you, palm branches and citrons. And you, from your place, send others who will bring you myrtles and willows. See that they are tithed and sent them to the camp. The request is made because the army is big. Be well.” This was in preparation for the festival in his war camp.

    I think the arch shapes above the table of shewbread could well be palm branches.

  22. Geoff, interesting idea, but would the priests have brought branches inside the Temple itself? They were used to decorate the Altar with branches, but I don’t know if these were brought inside the Temple also.

  23. Lonnie says:

    Gosh I love the Bar Kochba Temple Enigma. We know from the coins that Bar Kochba appointed a man, Elazar to be High Priest/Cohen Gadol.
    This begs the question.
    1. Did Bar Kochba against all current scholarship hold Jerusalem and the mount? As the Antonia Fortress was destroyed by Titus there was no longer a Fortress of 600 soldiers to keep a determined band of Rebels from storming the site.
    2. Why would he need a H.P. for a Temple no longer in existence.
    3. Why mint a coin of a building that no longer existed. It could only be a reminder of what once was. But who amongst the remnant there would really remember or care to be reminded of such a painful page in their history. But again, why the H.P.
    4. Could it be that the ruins on the Temple Mount went only so far as the flammable Gold and other valuables that the soldiers could loot? They grabbed the Menorah and the Table of Shewbread as shown on the arc of Titus, incidentally commissioned not by Titus but by his brother Domitian in 82 and who also continued to mint Judea Capta coins to honor his brothers triumph.
    5. Was Bar Kochba working with an empty Marble Shell, maybe partially roofed and columns with nicks and cracks and soot covered when this coin was struck. An altar of stone was easily to put together and have Elazar make a humble offering of sacrifices as I dont imagine their were much livestock for the taking.
    6. Why a picture of the Table of Shewbread as a Menorah, found throughout Israel in Mosaics of the time and sarcophagi not have been the better recognized symbol to be used.?

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