Rick Gladstone wrote an article in yesterday’s New York Times, called “Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place”, in which he asserts that neither the location of the First and Second Temples can be determined:
The question, which many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered, is whether the 37-acre site, home to Islam’s sacred Dome of the Rock shrine and Al Aqsa Mosque, was also the precise location of two ancient Jewish temples, one built on the remains of the other, and both long since gone.
He apparently hasn’t contacted the right people and/or read the right books. He quotes Matthew J. Adams, Dorot director of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, as saying “This is a very politically loaded subject” and “It’s also an academically complex question.”
Gladstone had to admit that Rivka Gonen, in her book “Contested Holiness: Jewish, Muslim and Christian Perspectives on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,” wrote that the reference in the Biblical text [to Mount Moriah, the location of Solomon’s Temple] “has been widely interpreted to mean the high point on the hill above the City of David — the rock now under the Dome of the Rock.”
Some historians have said that independent scientific verification of such a reference is problematic. But then, it depends on who you go to for clarification.
Many archaeologists agree that the religious body of evidence, corroborated by other historical accounts and artifacts that have been recovered from the site or nearby, supports the narrative that the Dome of the Rock was built on or close to the place where the Jewish temples once stood.
As Yisrael Medad pointed out in his blog, “Gaby Barkay and Tzachi Dvira are missing. Eilat Mazar is missing. Dan Bahat, too.” These are archaeologists that are actively working in Jerusalem and familiar with the archaeological evidence. My own work on the Temple Mount is also ignored because my conclusions about the location of Solomon’s and Herod’s Temples are based on observation only and not on archaeological evidence, although it is directly derived from it.
So, ignorance is bliss, as it allows one to play a safe political card, with academics such as Kent Bramlett, concluding: “I think one has to be careful about saying it stood where the Dome of the Rock stood.”
It is sad indeed when biblical scholars and even archaeologists are afraid to speak out on important issues such as the location of the Temple in Jerusalem because of the political tensions in Jerusalem concerning the Temple Mount.
12 thoughts on “The so-called “elusive” location of the Temple in Jerusalem”
Even without your excellent doctoral study Leen, it would have been inconceivable to place the Jewish Temple anywhere other than the location of the Dome of the Rock.
Why else would it have been built in it’s present location.
The builders of the Dome would surely have recognized the holiness of the site and presumably had an oral tradition on which they drew. I can never understand why intelligent people fail to understand the accuracy of the oral tradition in a pre-literate society.
The archeological and historical evidence is irrefutable. Furthermore, your study of the impressions on the rock above which the ‘Dome of the Rock’ was built and how the dimensions of the Ark of the covenant fits into one of those impressions is nothing short of remarkable. I have been to Jerusalem in 1995. I entered the Dome of the Rock monument. I leaned over the railing and touched the rock that juts out from the floor. I saw with my own eyes where the Ark may have resided on the rock, and I also stepped into the cave below the rock. A couple of years ago I also entered the Kotel tunnels and saw first hand that enormous Ashlar foundation that is located opposite what once was the Holy of Holies. There is a chamber behind the 20 ton Ashlar, that is not accessible. When will we explore that chamber to find out if the Ark and other Temple treasures can be found there? All that is needed is to penetrate the wall with a small hole and insert a fiber optic scope attached to a light source.
Apart from a few politically motivated and ill-informed reporters, most people know that the Jewish Temple once stood on Mount Moriah that is now buried beneath the Herodian Temple Mount.
About the ashlar in the Western Wall Tunnel, the largest stone weighs about 200 tonnes, but it has been proven that no chamber exists behind it, see: Bahat, D., “The Jerusalem Western Wall Tunnel”, Appendix IX, pp. 398.
Dear Dr. Ritmeyer:
Thank you for clarifying the point about the chamber. This puts an end to that line of conjecture.
Leen, there is a qualitative difference in conceding the evidence is conclusive that the Second Temple existed on the Temple Mount and claiming as fact that it was positioned as you have it over the exposed bedrock. I am familiar with your work and count Dan Bahat a friend. But, although it is the majority position to place the temple where the Dome of the Rock stands, and one I agree with personally (and have said so), if excavation were permitted, it is not inconceivable that foundation lines would prove a somewhat different position. There have been and are minority views placing it, variously, to the north or south of the Dome of the Rock.
It is not a political climb-down to admit the nature of the evidence. It is careful scholarship.
It is just a pity that some scholars cannot see The Rock with its indentations and cuttings as archaeological evidence.
I think that by focusing on your (incredibly significant and, to my mind, dispositive) research, you are being too generous to the Times. They are cleverly trying to exploit actual differences of opinion among some serious archaeologists about the precise location of the Temples in order to bolster the completely unrelated lie that the Temples never stood at all, or at least were nowhere on the Temple Mount.
They’ve issued a sort of “retraction” and “correction” which, if anything, only proves this point all the more: After all, if the Temple stood on the Mount, then the article never should have run in the first place.
I think this is also misleading Mr. Bramlett: He seems to be missing the point that the Times is joining Jew-haters around the world in denying an essential piece of Israelite and Jewish history, not picking at some details.
Again, I think your research really settles the matter. But whether or not it does, the Times and other Temple-deniers should be called on what they’re doing.
The descriptions I’ve read of the cave-like site with craggy rocks under the Dome of the Rock just does not sound like a place that would have been a threshing floor.
You are right. The Rock inside the Dome of the Rock could never have served as a threshing floor, which must have been further to the east. I have argued this quite clearly in my book: The Quest, Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and also in our latest guide book: Jerusalem, the Temple Mount – see the Online Store on our website. The Rock was the location of the Holy of Holies and not the site where the altar stood.