Not wailing at the wrong Western Wall of the Temple Mount

I am frequently asked to comment on stories on the archaeology of Jerusalem and/or the Temple Mount, that make headline news.  Usually these stories are not well researched and written in such a way as to excite the uninformed public. But, that is what one expects nowadays from the media.

It is therefore surprising that the Popular Archaeology magazine is publishing an article called Wailing at the wrong wall?,  that suggests that the Jewish people have been praying at the wrong wall!

This is a view of the Western Wall of the Herodian Temple Mount in between Barclay’s Gate (lower right) and Wilson’s Arch (lower left). This section of the Temple Mount walls corresponds with the wall that can be seen in the Western Wall Plaza area today. Herod’s Temple towered high above the Temple Mount.

A certain Ms. Sams, who has a degree in English, is picking up the old idea of Ernest Martin that the Temple Mount was not located where all scholars agree it is, but in the City of David. She has decided therefore that the Jewish people are praying at the wrong place. Dr. Jim Davila of PaleoJudaica has written an excellent post showing why Ms. Sam is wrong:

The article refers to some notions by Dr. Ernest L. Martin and “researcher and author” Marilyn Sams, neither of whom is (was, in the case of the late Dr. Martin) a trained specialist in the archaeology of ancient Israel. Dr. Martin’s PhD was in education from Ambassador College. Ms. Sams’s degrees are in English. Their notions about the Temples are not presented at scholarly conferences or debated in peer-review journals. They are not on the radar for specialist discussion of the archaeology of ancient Jerusalem.

This, of course, does not necessarily prove they are wrong, but it does indicate that no specialist has found their ideas interesting enough to bring them into the discussion, which is not a good sign. And quite a few years ago Dr. Leen Ritmeyer, who is familiar to regular readers of PaleoJudaica (recently here and here) and who is a specialist in the archaeology of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, replied to Dr. Martin’s ideas. See here, where his essay from 2001 is reproduced. And see also his blog post here.

The idea that the Jewish people pray (not wail) at the wrong wall is not only academically unsound, but an affront to the Jewish people as well.

HT: Joe Lauer

10 thoughts on “Not wailing at the wrong Western Wall of the Temple Mount”

  1. “no specialist has found their (Ms Sams & Dr Martin’s) ideas interesting enough” !! This is not strictly true:-
    Respected author, Dr George Wesley Buchanan has written 3 detailed articles on this very subject, in the UK’s highly-respected “Expository Times”. See also his 2014 autobiography: “An academic hound off the leash”, & his must-read new book, available from Amazon on Dec 15, 2015:- “The Strange little City of Ancient Zion” (foreward by: Dr William Telford, PhD, biblical scholar from University of Durham, UK), 978-1908531445 [shortened versions at:- ]
    p.s. author Margaret Barker has also studied this position, & is in 50% agreement i.e. the Solomon Temple location … but not that of Herod’s Temple !!

  2. With a degree in English or any other discipline, people can research and compile,
    which is what I did with The Jerusalem Temple Mount Myth. Hence, I came
    across the eyewitness account of Hecateus of Abdera (4th century B.C.E.) who said Solomon’s temple was in the middle of the city, was approached by double passages, and measured 150 feet by 500 feet. This account would have been very helpful to Dr. Ritmeyer if he had read it before creating his 861-foot square measurement for Solomon’s Temple. If he had read Nehemiah’s south-to-north description of wall repairs (Chapter 3) and the celebratory procession (Chapter 12) on the southeastern hill, he would have realized that just north of the palace were the water and prison gates, and just north of that, the Ophel (a synonym for Mt. Zion after the exile), and that the “great tower that lieth out” was the temple. If he had read Josephus, he would see this affirmed by his descriptions of the temple’s east wall being built in the Kidron Valley (not upslope as is the alleged temple mount). He would have been able to realize that Hecateus’s double passages matched up with Nehemiah’s water and prison gates. If he had read the Jewish Encyclopedia, he would have discovered that the Jerusalem Talmud Hag 76a said that Shiloah was in the middle of the city. He would then have realized that both the temple and Shiloah were in the middle of the city and that would match up with Aristeas’s account of an inexhaustible spring being on the interior of the temple. He would also know that Aristeas’s description of the city’s towers being arranged “in the manner of a theater” referred to the crescent shape of the southeastern hill at the center of which is the Gihon Spring. If he had read Eutychius, he would known that the Christians did not build churches on the temple ruins site, because of Christ’s prophecy. At the same time, Eutychius said that Caliph abd al-Malik destroyed a Christian church in order to build the Dome of the Rock. If he had read the pilgrimage accounts, he would know that several of them
    describe the Church of St. Sophia over a large square stone (in the Praetorium)–hence realizing that the Christian church destroyed by al-Malik was this church. He would also realize that Eutychius never considered the Dome of the Rock as the site of the temple. He would realize that the pilgrims associated the temple ruins with the southeastern hill, the lower city, Mount Zion, the waters of Shiloah, Eudocia’s east city wall, and the two pools of Siloam. In the same manner, if the archaeologists digging at the Givati Parking Lot had read Maccabees and Josephus, they would know their characterization of the dig as the Seleucid Citadel was impossible, as Simon the Hasmonean demolished it, as well as leveling the hill on which it stood. The same is true for the five previous archaeologists who have given different locations for the non-existent citadel. Needless to say, these are just some of the 200 descriptions which testify against the temple mount myth. None of these people were degreed modern academics, thank heavens–they just wrote about what they saw with no agenda. So don’t believe me–just try to give them an audience after 900 years of the myth having its say.

  3. The location of the Temple Mount is only a myth if you ignore the archaeological evidence. BTW, I did not “create” the square Temple Mount. In an architectural context this English verb means to make, build or construct. I did nothing of the kind, but by applying accepted archaeological procedures and methodologies I merely discovered the archaeological evidence of the Temple Mount in the First Temple, Hasmonean and Herodian periods.

  4. Dear Prof,
    The use of the word myth is more then just a way to convey that an idea has originated from belief with little or no evidence and has continued in circulation since its inception.

    Apparently, not only is the location of the Temple a myth according to Dr Martin and his fanbase, but also the whole nation of Israel. This is from correspondence I sent some years back to AskELM requesting a clarification as to what country Dr Martin refers to when he is speaking of what is more or less the current state of Israel. Which apparently is a myth also

    I never received an answer to my query’s which I tried to get an answer to no avail. It makes me wonder if its really the Temple or the Nation State of Israel that bothers the Temple Detectives.

    “Dear Sirs,
    In reading Dr Martin many essays and books, I seem to note that he uses the word Palestine a lot even when referring to pre Hardrianic times when it was named as such with Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina. For example the Article on Rachels Tomb.

    > Jacob came to Bethel with Rachel while she was in an advanced state of pregnancy. While all the other
    > eleven sons of Israel were born in Mesopotamia, Rachel was to give birth to her last son in the land of
    > Palestine while they were encamped near the central highway, just south of the city of Bethel.

    At that time it was know as Canaan, not Palestine.

    Further down he writes
    > Really, it was the Jewish people themselves who
    > changed the location of Rachel’s “tomb” before the
    > time of Matthew. Note what happened there. The
    > land of Palestine, along with its civilization which
    > existed from the time of Jacob and Saul to the time
    > of Jeremiah, were destroyed by the Babylonians on
    > such a scale that many cities, villages, ancient landmarks,
    > etc., had been completely obliterated.

    When the Babylonians attacked there still was no Palestine. It was the Kingdom of Judea.

    Another example

    > It may come as a surprise to many people but we have enough “rags and tatters” of history
    > which have come down to us from before the 6th century BC to show the extent of Joshua’s
    > attacks against the Canaanites and later of David’s activities to rid Palestine of the Philistines.
    FootNote 6. When we realize that many of the Libyans in North Africa are really Philistines that David and Joab
    drove out of Palestine, it might explain why leaders in north Africa are so against Israel being in Palestine,
    though they live hundreds of miles away.

    These are just a couple of examples where I find Dr Martin using the word “Palestine” in reference to an era where there was no territory by that name nor is it ever mentioned in the Bible. No matter where or when it happened before Hadrian’s renaming of the land of Israel to Palestine to humiliate and attempt to sever all bonds of the Israelite people, Dr Martin keeps referring to the land as “Palestine, even when it was Canaan, Israel, The Kingdoms of Judea and Israel after the split, I get the feeling that Dr Martin finds the return of the Jews to their land less then pleasant to his theological mindset. The lands are now Israel and Judea and Samaria. There never was a sovereign nation of Palestine nor Palestinians except for Jews and then created as camouflage name by Arafat in 1964 to make a bunch of mixed blood people, kurds, circassians, turks, arabs, armenians, egyptians, etc who had nothing culturally in common as a unified entity to oppose Israel. The late Doctor, though I respected him as a seeker of knowledge, leaves me a lot of times, thinking in the back of my mind that Israel is an inconvenience to him and therefore uses the term Palestine as though it were some legitimate country rather the a backwater of the Ottoman Empire. And late 1800 photos show the Temple Mount looking like it had been part of a condemed building project that still had a few pieces to remove. Weeds growing throw uneven cobblestones. No evidence that any Muslim gave a Darn for the spot, till of course the Jews took over and now make a big fuss as too how Israelis endangering their holy places that looked like crap only a hundred years earlier.

    Dr Martins constant use of the word “Palestine” no matter what historical error he is referencing , reminds me of the RCC teaching that the Jews were doomed to wander the earth until they accepted Jesus. 1948 was a big shock to them and in Doctor Martins writings it seems to be troublesome as well.

  5. Abe, I agree with you that Martin’s writings give the impression that he doesn’t know how to handle the State of Israel and he also denies the true location of the Temple Mount.

  6. Popular Archaeology Magazine publishes all viewpoints, including those of Dr. Martin and Marilyn Sams, if it generates robust and interesting discussion. We would be delighted to publish an article by Leen Ritmeyer that presents his opposing viewpoint and scholarship on the issue. Please remember that the viewpoints of all authors at Popular Archaeology do not represent an endorsement of those views by Popular Archaeology.

  7. Thanks Marilyn for all your good work in piecing together the HISTORICAL evidence there. I’m reading your book again – to get a better grip of your facts. And going to source where possible to see that you are indeed referencing genuine early reports given by notable eyewitnesses. Keep up the good work. Truth is truth – not exclusively ‘owned’ by anybody. Sure that a much-needed dig in the Kidron, down by the Gihon, would yield very interesting evidence 🙂

  8. Steve,
    As you say, Truth is Truth. To find the Truth, AAL relevant information needs to be taking into consideration, which includes historical sources and archaeological evidence. It is not enough to rely only on historical sources. Some are difficult to interpret and if the archaeological evidence proves otherwise, the interpretation must be wrong. You are apparently unaware that the whole of the area around the Gihon Spring has been extensively excavated over the last two decades. A strong fortification has been discovered round the spring that is now thought to have been built in the 9th century BC, that is about 100 years after King Solomon built the Temple. How is it possible for the Temple to have stood over the Gihon Spring when a fortification was built around the spring so soon afterwards? If the Temple stood over the Gihon Spring, then it must have been destroyed. As you can imagine, that is just not possible and would contradict the Bible.
    After the Babylonian Exile, the returnees rebuild the Temple, but the Gihon Spring was then outside the city, as the city was smaller than before. It is not possible to conceive that the returnees rebuilt the Temple outside the City of Jerusalem.
    In the Hellenistic period the whole of the area around and above the Gihon Spring was covered with a sloping glacis, which has been discovered in the 1980’s. This is physical proof that Herod’s Temple never could have been built above the Gihon Spring.

  9. I have spent 5 years studying both sides of the Martin Theory, for and against it. Clearly the evidence including literary, biblical and archaeological OVERWHELMINGLY supports the temple being located at the traditional temple mount area…. Martin and Sams spent far too little time looking at the MOUNTAINS OF EVIDENCES AGAINST THEIR THEORIES.

    TO BEGIN, Here are 2 irrefutable proofs from the Bible, the Bible clearly proves that both Marilyn Sams and Ernest Martin are wrong. In addition, there is a mountain of archaeological evidences against their ideas which I will go into at a later time.

    In Bible Proof #1 of Martin’s Error:
    1 Kings 8:1 clearly states that in Solomon’s time the ark was brought UP OUT of the city of David which is Zion in order to put the ark into the Temple Solomon built. If the Temple was in Zion as Martin claims, why would you take the ark OUT of Zion and out of the temple in order to bring it from where it had been located into the newly built temple??? See scripture below:

    Bible Proof #2 of Martin’s Error:
    Although Martin claims the Temple was located in the City of David and located in Zion, the Bible clearly states in 2 Chronicles 3:1 that Solomon built the Temple on Mount MORIAH and did NOT build the temple in “the City of David which is ZION”…. BOOM!!! Martin’s theory completely and totally destroyed by some of the very oldest records in the BIBLE. See Scriptures below:

    2 Chronicles 3:1
    Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount MORIAH where the LORD appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

    1 Kings 8:1
    Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto king Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring UP the ark of the covenant of the LORD OUT of the city of David, which is ZION. (what direction is UP??? only one direction and that is NORTH)

    Do anyone need any more proof than that? The problem with Martin and Sams is that they spent too far much time looking for proof of their idea but not spending nearly enough time looking at all the evidence that proves their theories wrong.

    Here is just a quick summary of the MOUNTAINS of archaeological evidence for traditional temple mount and against Martin’s theory:
    -location of the several ton trumpeting place portion of the temple wall found at southwest corner of the traditional temple mount(hereafter simply the temple mount) mentioned by Jospehus and in the Mishneh , not in Martin’s location.
    -discovery of THOUSANDS of coins in temple mount siftings… not in Martin’s location
    -discovery of 3 fragments in different areas around Temple mount warning against gentiles entering temple area as mentioned in Josephus and Talmud…. not in Martin’s location
    -discovery of part of Hadrian’s statue in the temple mount, just as history says it was….not in Martin’s area.
    -discovery of special extremely expensive and imported colored glass tiles used on the floor of the temple area as indicated in Josephus found on the temple mount…. not in Martin’s location
    -highest concentration of ritual Mikveh baths required for temple access found in Jerusalem along the southern and western walls temple mount….. not in Martin’s location
    -the walkway from the Pool of Siloam in the south all the way up to the Temple and then up stairs that were carved into bedrock at great expense to the gates in the southern wall of the temple mount….that go right past the Martin location but there is no walkway of any kind to Martin’s location…proving again….Martin’s location is wrong.
    -the Isaiah verse inscription in the SW temple wall dated to around 300 ad…again proving where people believed the temple was as early as 300 ad.
    -the unbroken history of the Jews meeting and praying near the temple and the perforated stone walls since 70 ad…. not in Martin’s location.
    -the elaborate and gigantic complex of cisterns and water conduits under the temple mount platform exactly as described by Aristeas…..but nothing even close to that in
    Martin’s location.
    -the upper and lower aqueduct that brought the water from several miles south required for cleansing the hundreds of temple sacrifices and for water for drinking and bathing for the hundreds of thousands of visitors during the Holy Days, ie Atonement, Pentecost and Trumpets goes into the western wall of the temple mount and then to 30 large cisterns under the temple mount…. and NONE go to Martin’s location.
    -and hear is another beauty that Martin read right past in Josephus and ignored and did not even mention….Josephus clearly states Fort Antonia on the north side of the temple was totally destroyed by Titus in order to gain access to the Temple area. It also clearly states that it took Titus army( 4 legions of 5000 men per legion ie 20,000 plus men) a full week to totally dig up the foundations of Fort Antonia and raze it to the ground. BOOM! Martin’s whole theory of the traditional temple mount actually being Fort Antonia destroyed by Josephus! ( Josephus , Wars of the Jews, Book 6 Chapter 2, paragraphs 1, 6 and 7) The list of evidence against Martin’s theory could fill several books and take days to read…….Dr Ritmeyer has written several that Martin and Sams should have read and gotten themselves educated.

  10. I’m trying to get to the bottom of this temple location debate (traditional vs. City of David), and it isn’t easy because both sides claim biblical, historical, and archaeological evidence. I’d really appreciate it if someone who has studied this topic could provide a “pro and con” list, or comparative analysis of the data. Both sides have put forth arguments, but has anyone thoroughly or exhaustively countered the other side?

    People throw around the terms “evidence,” but evidence must always be interpreted, and properly interpreting *and* weighing the evidence is necessary, since–apparently–the evidence on this debate is contradictory. Nobody is showing up here with one-side evidence. Both sides make compelling claims–at least on the surface.

    If Marilyn Sams is correct that there are *16* sources which speak of the temple receiving living water from a spring, then can someone in the traditionalist position refute that?

    And to the traditionalists: the “Trumpeting Stone”–doesn’t the Hebrew inscription, “l’beyt teqeah” indicate the DIRECTION to a place, instead of the actual location of the place? You must see that, since there is no literary / historical witness that such a *sign* existed, large assumptions have to be made about the inscription. Someone could easily argue that it was pointing in a *direction* of where the trumpet would be blown. Or, does “l’beyt teqeah” rather translate, “THIS is the place where the trumpeting happens”?

    How can Dr. Ritmeyer say that the current trapezoidal temple mount (36 acres) was Josephus’ square temple mount, given that “The Quest” states that three of the existing walls (or what lies directly beneath them) are the remains of the Herodian temple mount? Again, they are trapezoidal in shape today. Then how can they be Josephus’ square, or even a rectangle?

    How do the City of David people answer 1Kings 8:1, which says that Solomon took the Ark OUT OF the City of David and put it in the sanctuary? (And to Dan, who posted above, the word “up” doesn’t always mean “north” in the Bible. It can means “towards Jerusalem” from any direction (cf. Acts 15:1-2). Nevertheless, I don’t see how the Martin / Cornuke / Sams can counter 1Kings 8:1.

    Can someone address some of Ms. Sams’ claims at this website below.

    I’d like to see a refutation from one side of the debate to the other. Thank you. No ad hominem arguments either, please. Again, both sides have plenty of claims. Now it is time to see refutations.

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