The Beautiful Gate of the Temple in Jerusalem

One of the questions I am frequently asked is where the Beautiful Gate of the Temple was located. This gate is mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 3.2,10) as the place where the lame man was begging. After he was healed by Peter and John ”he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God” (Acts 3.8).

The “Beautiful Gate” is not mentioned in  other historical sources. Many scholars have accepted Thackeray’s comment on Josephus’ description of the Nicanor Gate, or the Corinthian Gate as he called it (War 5.201,204), that it “probably” was the gate of Acts 3.2,10. Edersheim was of the same opinion.

The Nicanor Gate stood in front of Herod's Temple. It gave access from the Court of the Women to the Temple Courts. In front of this gate were fifteen semi-circular steps on which Levites sang the fifteen "Psalms of the Steps" (Psalms 120-134 of Degrees or Ascents). © Leen Ritmeyer

The Nicanor Gate (Middot 1.4, 2.3,6; Yoma 3.10, etc.) was certainly beautiful, but the question is, would the lame man have been allowed to enter so far into the Temple Courts? This appears not to have been the case, as once he was healed, he entered into the Temple Courts (Acts 3.8), so the Nicanor Gate could not have been the Beautiful Gate. According to Acts 3.11 the healed man and Peter and John were in Solomon’s Porch, which is to the east of the Court of the Women.

An overall view of a model of the Temple Mount looking from the northwest. In the foreground is the Antonia Fortress, while the Temple with its surrounding buildings stood close to the centre of the Temple Mount. The lower portico above the Eastern Wall (upper centre) was known as Solomon's Porch, mentioned in John 10.23 and Acts 3.11; 5.12. © Leen Ritmeyer

Others have suggested that the Beautiful Gate must have been one of the outer gates of the Temple Mount. Because of its proximity to Solomon’s Porch, some have suggested that the Shushan Gate in the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount, may have been the Beautiful Gate, as it had a beautiful representation of Shushan the Palace (Middot 1.3).

Herod's Temple Mount viewed from the northeast. On the east of the Temple was the large Court of the Women (centre left), also known in the Gospels as the Treasury. The Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount with the Shushan Gate and the city wall can be seen at the bottom of the image. © Leen Ritmeyer

According to Mishnah Kelim 1.8, nobody with an issue of any kind was allowed into the Temple Mount. Although the lame man need not have had an issue, his infirmity may have put him in the same category. Another point to consider is the fact that he was begging. To get the best results, one would want to be where the traffic was greatest, which is another argument which would rule out the Nicanor Gate, as not many people were allowed to go through this gate. It would also rule out the Shushan Gate, which was mainly used for ceremonial purposes.

An overall view of a model of Herod's Temple Mount looking from the south. In the foreground is the Royal Stoa above the Southern Wall, while the Temple with its surrounding buildings stood close to the centre of the Temple Mount. There were two gates in the Southern Wall, the Double Gate with its monumental stairway is on the left and the Triple Gate on the right. © Leen Ritmeyer


A more likely location would have been the Double Gate in the southern wall of the Temple Mount, which I have described in my book The Quest, Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, pp. 67-74.  A 210 feet (64 m) wide monumental stairway led up to this gate from the lower plaza. Because of its monumental proportions, this gate was probably used by most of the pilgrims going to worship at the Temple.

A reconstruction drawing of the Double Gate of Herod's Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Most of the elements have been preserved, including the domes inside the double passageway. Some researchers have proposed that this beautifully decorated gateway was the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, mentioned in Acts 3.10. © Leen Ritmeyer

The ceiling inside the passageway has beautifully carved domes, which have survived up to today. Most of the worshipers went up to the Temple Courts through this gate, which was certainly beautiful and very effective for begging purposes, as suggested on p. 74 of the above mentioned book.

We suggest then that Peter and John healed the lame man at the Double Gate and from there he went “walking and jumping” to Solomon’s Porch.

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41 Responses to The Beautiful Gate of the Temple in Jerusalem

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Beautiful Gate of the Temple in Jerusalem | Ritmeyer Archaeological Design -- Topsy.com

  2. James Miller says:

    Very good article. One question:

    You mention that, “To get the best results, (a beggar) would want to be where the traffic was greatest, which is another argument which would rule out the Nicanor Gate, as not many people were allowed to go through this gate.”

    While the Nicanor gate certainly would not have had much traffic (comparatively speaking), can an argument be made that the traffic present at this gate was the most “affluent”, as the treasury for monetary offerings was located in the Court of the Women, and thus those who were present there would, in theory, have the most money to give a beggar?

    Thanks much for all of your work!

    james miller

  3. Wayne Stiles says:

    Thanks for this valuable insight. I had also heard a possible identification of the Beautiful Gate was the eastern Golden Gate (or same location). Also, I thought the double gates of the Southern Steps were the exit . . . while the triple Hulda gates were the entrance to the Temple Courts. Thanks again.

  4. James,
    If the beggar was already in the Court of the Women where the Nicanor Gate is located, why does it say that after he was healed he entered into the Temple Courts? He must have been outside the Temple Courts, as, because of his infirmity he most likely wasn’t allowed in anyway.
    There was very little traffic through the Nicanor Gate. It was used by the Levitical Choir, and for ceremonies such as the suspected adulteress and the healed lepers. Apart from that Israelite males could go into the Court of the Israelites, which they mainly did at Passover. Most of the priests would have entered the Temple Courts through the many side gates that surrounded the Temple and I have my doubts about their generosity in the light of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

  5. Wayne,
    The Shushan Gate stood where the Golden Gate is located today and I have discussed the possibiltiy that it might have been the Beautiful Gate in my post. The information about entry and exit through the Huldah gates comes from Middot 1.3: “two Huldah Gates on the south, that served for coming in and for going out”. As Middot only relates to the 500 cubit square Temple Mount, it does not refer directly to the Double and Triples Gate, of which we do not know their original names. The Double Gate double passageway would, however, have exited opposite the Huldah Gates.
    There is interesting information about this circulation in Middot 2.2, where it says that people entered on the right and exited through the left gate. Ad the Double Gate was used by most worshipers, I believe that the eastern gate of the Double Gate was used for going in and the western for going out. However, if anything wrong had happened, one went in the opposite direction, so that he may be noticed and people could comfort the person. This would have been the ideal place for begging purposes. One of the blessings people would say was: “May He that dwells in this House give you comfort”. That certainly happened in the record of Acts 3.

  6. Thanks for this valuable insight. I had also heard a possible identification of the Beautiful Gate was the eastern Golden Gate (or same location). Also, I thought the double gates of the Southern Steps were the exit . . . while the triple Hulda gates were the entrance to the Temple Courts. Thanks again.

  7. Very good article. One question: You mention that, “To get the best results, (a beggar) would want to be where the traffic was greatest, which is another argument which would rule out the Nicanor Gate, as not many people were allowed to go through this gate.” While the Nicanor gate certainly would not have had much traffic (comparatively speaking), can an argument be made that the traffic present at this gate was the most “affluent”, as the treasury for monetary offerings was located in the Court of the Women, and thus those who were present there would, in theory, have the most money to give a beggar? Thanks much for all of your work! james miller

  8. James, If the beggar was already in the Court of the Women where the Nicanor Gate is located, why does it say that after he was healed he entered into the Temple Courts? He must have been outside the Temple Courts, as, because of his infirmity he most likely wasn’t allowed in anyway. There was very little traffic through the Nicanor Gate. It was used by the Levitical Choir, and for ceremonies such as the suspected adulteress and the healed lepers. Apart from that Israelite males could go into the Court of the Israelites, which they mainly did at Passover. Most of the priests would have entered the Temple Courts through the many side gates that surrounded the Temple and I have my doubts about their generosity in the light of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

  9. Marisol,
    You are probably right saying that those passing through the Nicanor gate had most money to give, but would they – see my earlier reply to James.

  10. Sharron,

    See my reply to Wayne.

  11. Ina Franks says:

    Wayne, The Shushan Gate stood where the Golden Gate is located today and I have discussed the possibiltiy that it might have been the Beautiful Gate in my post. The information about entry and exit through the Huldah gates comes from Middot 1.3: “two Huldah Gates on the south, that served for coming in and for going out”. As Middot only relates to the 500 cubit square Temple Mount, it does not refer directly to the Double and Triples Gate, of which we do not know their original names. The Double Gate double passageway would, however, have exited opposite the Huldah Gates. There is interesting information about this circulation in Middot 2.2, where it says that people entered on the right and exited through the left gate. Ad the Double Gate was used by most worshipers, I believe that the eastern gate of the Double Gate was used for going in and the western for going out. However, if anything wrong had happened, one went in the opposite direction, so that he may be noticed and people could comfort the person. This would have been the ideal place for begging purposes. One of the blessings people would say was: “May He that dwells in this House give you comfort”. That certainly happened in the record of Acts 3.

  12. elija says:

    what is the size of the original herod’s double gate?

  13. Elija,

    It is about time that you start reading my book “The Quest – Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem” ;)
    Each gate is 5.00 m wide and 7.70 m. high and the Double Gate’s exterior width is 11.90 m.

  14. elija says:

    Well i do appreciate your free response, and your free informative blog :)

  15. elija says:

    here at
    http://www.preteristarchive.com/Ancient_Revelations/pdf/1884_king_discoveries_temple_hill.pdf page 73
    states that the width of the Double Gate is “5.4864 meters”
    ??

    also claims that it’s the same as the balclay’s gate! how did he know that?

  16. All these measurements were taken by Charles Warren, who investigated these underground structures below the Temple Mount in the 1860′s. I have also taken measurements inside the Double Gate, the Triple Gate, Solomon’s Stables and the Golden Gate and have found that Warren’s measurements were correct on most accounts.

  17. emmanuel says:

    well fellows i’m no researcher like you guys but i just want to say keep up the good work, at least for the sake of myself and other collegues who may be keen to know but not able to do much research staff.

  18. Pingback: There's Only One Gate Jesus Won't Enter | Wayne Stiles

  19. David Mitchell says:

    Dear Dr Ritmeyer
    Models and drawings of the Temple (including your own superb examples) tend to show the fifteen steps under the Nicanor Gate curving in a semi-circle out into the lower court, like a protruding hill. However, the Mishnah Middoth 2:5 says

    And fifteen steps ascended from within [the Court of Women] to the Court of Israel, corresponding to the fifteen Songs of Ascents in the Psalms, and upon them the Levites stood in song. They were not straight but rounded (moqfot), like half a round threshing-floor (Mid. 2.5).

    To me this rather suggests that they curved inward in a semi-circle beneath the great gate, like the wall of a recessed bowl, not outward like a small hill. For an ancient eastern threshing-floor is bowl-shaped not bump-shaped. Even if built on a hill – to catch the wind for winnowing – its has a perimeter wall to stop the grain being lost. This agrees with moqfot, which means not simply ‘curved’ but rather ‘encompassing’ or ‘surrounding’. Ascents Psalm 122, sung on these steps, says ‘Our feet are standing in your gates (not ‘in front of your gates’), Jerusalem.’ Likewise, Josephus tells of the ‘fifteen steps, which led away from the wall of the Court of Women to this greater gate’ which suggests that the steps began not in the courtyard, but at the wall, leading up inside the gateway (War, V.v.3). Such a shape would resemble an ancient Greek theatre or even, dare one say, the Hollywood Bowl. The acoustic advantages of such a structure would accord with its known function as the performing area of the Temple orchestra, while enabling musicians to see the chironomer and hear one another.
    Is there any chance this ‘inward-curving theory’ could be right? Or is there solid architectural evidence against me?
    Many thanks

  20. Willie Smith says:

    Ok…so each entrance of the eastern gate is 5.00 meters wide, 7.70 meters high, with an exterior width of 11.90 meters? I want to do a 3d model of this gate. As for the overall exterior height from the ground to the top of the wall, what is that? And also the width of the gate from front to back? I’m very interested in producing an accurate model, inside and out, of this gate. So any help would be appreciated. I’ll just have to convert it all into feet, since I’m in the US, and we don’t use metric here much.

  21. Willie,

    I don’t know which gate you are talking about, the Golden Gate of the original Shushan Gate.
    In my book The Quest there are plans, drawings and sections of these gates with a scale, so you can measure them.
    I can supply you with accurate plans and sections of either gate, but I will have to be paid for my work.

  22. mae dubois says:

    i was listening to a female speaker on TV, and she said that the BEAUTIFUL GATE was so heavy and so big it took 20 men to open and close it everyday. Is this true and do you have information to back this statement up. I plan on going to Israel sometime in the near future and would like to know.–thnaks and GOD BLESS you for your work…………………………

  23. Joan M. Gradinjan says:

    I am looking for a reference that after the death of Y’shua, the Nicanor Gates would not stay closed. Also that the strand of cloth would not change colors signifying non-acceptance of the sacrifice by the Alminghty. I have been searching Josephus but cannot find it. Thank you

  24. Joan,
    This appears to belong to the realm of legends which I don’t deal with.

  25. אלי says:

    what is the reason behind the design of five round stones on the top of the gate? it is also on other gates, and walls around jerusalem.

    thanks

  26. אלי,
    If you refer to the circular designs all along the top of the Temple, they are rosettes decorating the entablature. Fragments of rosettes were found in the Temple Mount Excavations 1968-78.

  27. אלי says:

    thanks, interesting info.

    but i was referring to the current 5 round stones sticking out from the facade of the east gate of temple mount.

  28. אלי says:

    here i found a third measurement for the gate 5.10
    http://www.truthofland.co.il/double_gate/outside.gif

  29. אלי says:

    i was talking above the east gate of temple compound. what r the 5 round stones sticking out of the facade on top of the entrance?

  30. They are just Ottomanic decorative elements. You also find them in the other gates, such as the Lions Gate and the Damascus Gate.

  31. Wynne says:

    I have really appreciated your article. It is so frustrating to be given incorrect information by people who haven’t bothered to study before they have a bible study. You have clearly indicated which gate you think it is and for what reasons. I also appreciate your reasons for discarding the other gates as possibilities. God Bless.

  32. Jeannette Toro says:

    I find this quite interesting I stumbled on to this site after realizing I had no concrete visual for my thoughts to envision The Beautiful Gate to go by being I sing the song Adonai which in the verse it speaks about the Beautiful gates(plural) . I have had some minimal study on the Holy Temple. I wanted to research a bit more . It is intriguing that upon study of the law this beggar who was lame would probably not be permitted at the entrance of Temple. I have come to conclusion that it wouldn’t be impossible. There are references in the Bible where the unclean would be in the public like for example the woman with issue of blood Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48 ESV . The Law was broken constantly they couldn’t uphold it. That is the very reason Christ came. Romans 8:3,4 By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

  33. Joe says:

    I am doing a Bible study on Acts and this gate has much significance. Having no proof, I do see a relation with the Eastern gate, the Mount of Olives, Christs accension and His return to The Mt. of Olives. The east holds much in the healing, rescue and salvation of Jerusalem and us all as individuals. Just a thought.

  34. Joe,
    The Beautiful Gate is only mentioned in Acts 3.2 when Peter and John went into the Temple. They most likely came from inside Jerusalem, where they had been staying (Acts 1.13) and not from the Mount of Olives.

  35. I have been reading your posts and like where you are coming from, but isn’t it true that we don’t know the beautiful gates precise location? I am teaching from the book of acts on Wednesday nights and from just reading the HOLY WORD of GOD you can see that the lame man entered in with Peter and John and then to the porch of Solomon where the people gathered. So we can determine quickly that the gate was close to Solomon’s porch which could have been the Shushan Gate. Though perhaps less traveled of a gate,but Solomon’s porch might of been more traveled as a well known part of the temple where the Levites would often meet also where the doctors of the law met to here and answer questions? So doesn’t it make the Shushan gate a better beautiful gate?

  36. James, I appreciate your comments, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the Shushan Gate, because it was closer to Solomon’s Porch. It would not be too difficult or too far to reach that Porch from the Double Gate and I’m sure that the lame man wanted to exercise his legs!
    Of all the outer gates of the Temple Mount, only the eastern gate has an historical name. Why would that name of the Shushan Gate not have been mentioned if this was indeed the gate mentioned in Acts 3?

  37. Well I like what you are saying, but the to the east towards the Mount of Olives the Golden Gate (Shushan or HaKohan Gate) is the very gate that our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST went through and according to Jewish history and ours as CHRISTians is that JESUS the MESSIAH will enter through the eastern gate. The Jews where looking for the MESSIAH (JESUS) to do this at any time even before CHRIST came and considering that most Jews didn’t believe in JESUS they where still looking for the MESSIAH to come. So this gate looks like the Golden Gate is the a better Beautiful Gate. Also the Arabic’s call it the Mercy Gate.

  38. Steve says:

    Thanks for this helpful article. I too wondered that if the gate was Nicanor, then why after entering the temple would he ended up at Solomon’s portico. Thank you!

    My question is this: how could you know based on verse 8 that the three had entered the temple court based on the Greek word hieron? Longenecker had this to say in the Expositor’s commentary about this passage: “And while Hellenistic Jews commonly called the entire temple complex “the temple” (to hieron) and reserved for the temple proper with its porch the name “Holy Place” and Holy of Holies” (ho naos…), Luke did not always mentain this distinction in Luke-Acts.”

    If the above statement is true, you can’t really say that the word to hieron in verse 8 is indicative of the location of the three. Thanks!

  39. William says:

    Acts 3:11 says: “……..all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.”
    He had previously been healed and entered the Temple. So, apparently he was not in the court of women. Meaning he had to be outside the Temple walls.

  40. Somebody has some cleaning up to do! It shows how much they care for their deceased relatives.

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