ESV Study Bible

I was interested to see, in my daily Google Alert for the Temple Mount, on James Grant’s blog, that the new ESV Study Bible, for which I have been providing illustrations, now has its own webpage, launched by Crossways, its publisher. It is worthwhile having a look at the sample pages. Having worked with Justin Taylor, the Project Director and Managing Editor, for the last half year, with graphics winging their way for checking and correction from Wheaton, Illinois to Adelaide in Australia, and latterly to Cardiff in Wales, I can’t wait to see the final product, due out in October of this year.

The whole “painstaking process of research and refinement”, to use Justin’s words, has caused me to look into problems which I had not previously addressed. In particular, the discoveries in Jerusalem over the last few years, especially in the City of David, made it necessary for me to produce completely new reconstruction drawings of Jerusalem in the various periods – a very exciting project indeed! I have also enjoyed working with Maltings Partnership, who have rendered my drawings into works of tremendous beauty.

Western Wall stones crumbling

It has been reported here and here that some of the small stones near the top of the Western Wall are crumbling. One wonders why this is happening and what can be done about it.

Let us first examine the wall. There are three different layers of stone courses visible, see illustration below (a similar picture appears in Todd Bolen’s blog). The lowest courses are Herodian. They were built by King Herod the Great, who began building the new Temple Mount in 19 B.C. Seven courses can be seen above ground, but there are many more below the surface. Above these stones are four courses of large stones which were laid in the Umayyad period (around 700 A.D.). Both types of masonry are so strong and well built that, up till now, no earthquake has been able to move these walls. The big earthquake of 1927 caused the destruction of the El Aqsa mosque, but not even a crack appeared in the Herodian masonry! The upper third part of the Western Wall is made up of small stones. It is in this section that some stones are crumbling.


There are legends about this upper section of the wall, one of which claims that it was built in the 19th century by Sir Moses Montefiore, a Jewish philantropist. He indeed tried to buy the Western Wall and the adjacent area to facilitate Jewish prayers, but his efforts came to nothing.

It is difficult to say when this upper portion was built, as it has no distinctive masonry. It could date from any period after the Early Muslim time, i.e. Fatimid, Crusader, Mamluk or Turkish. The top three courses were added by the Muslim Religious Council as part of general repair work. This upper third part of the wall is, of course, the back wall of the western colonnade.

We must ask ourselves the question why the upper parts of the Temple Mount walls suffer so much from crumbling and/or bulging. Very large bulging parts in the southern and eastern walls had to be rebuilt a couple of years ago.

I believe that it is caused by the renewal and renovation programme undertaken on the Temple Mount by the Muslim Religious Council. Many walls and pavements have been “repaired” by pointing in between the stone courses. If this is not done properly, it can cause problems such as bulging and the subsequent collapse of walls.

Ancient walls were built with stone courses on both sides of the wall and a fill in between. This fill should have been made up of a hard core fill of broken stones set in lime, but often soil was mixed in with it. When it rains the walls get wet, including the inner fill. The ancient mortar, made of lime and an aggregate, such as sand, gravel or sometimes ground up pottery, is porous and lets the water seep out through the gaps in between the stones. Such walls can ‘breathe’ as it were.

Over the last 30 years or so, an extensive programme has been going on on the Temple Mount, where old walls were refaced with new stone and the joints in between stone courses of old buildings have been filled with Portland cement. This modern cement is very hard and seals off the spaces in between the stones. Walls still absorb rain water, because stone is porous. However, once the inner core is wet, the water cannot seep out, causing a swelling inside the wall itself. Over time, more water is absorbed until the swelling is so large that it causes one of the sides of the wall to bulge, usually the outer side, as there is no counter pressure. Individual stones can be crushed by the movement of the stones. This is the cause of the crumbling and bulging of the upper parts of the Temple Mount walls and also of other buildings on the mount itself. If this situation remains unchecked, more sections of the walls will bulge, crumble and eventually collapse. So, watch your head when you stand at the foot of the Western Wall!

Conference in New York on The Temple of Jerusalem

Here is the official program. Please note that attendance is free, but registration is required, see below.
The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah
May 11 – 12, 2008

The Inaugural conference of the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies,
Honoring Professor Louis H. Feldman
May 11 • Noon – 6:00 pm
Yeshiva University Museum at the Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street
Noon – 1:00 pm • Viewing of “Imagining the Temple: The Models of Leen Ritmeyer”

Session 1, 1: 00 – 3:30 pm

From the Tabernacle to the Dead Sea Scrolls
Chair: David Horwitz, Yeshiva University

Gary A. Anderson, University of Notre Dame
The Inauguration of the Tabernacle Service at Sinai

Shawn Zelig Aster, Yeshiva University
Centralization of Worship in the First Temple and Israelite Religious Belief

Shalom Holtz, Yeshiva University
Temple as Asylum and God as Asylum in the Psalms

Lawrence H. Schiffman, New York University
The Temple Scroll: A Utopian Temple Plan from Second Temple Times

Session 2, 3:45 – 6:00 pm

The Second Temple: Between Rome and Eternity
Chair: Moshe Bernstein, Yeshiva University

Menachem Mor, Haifa University
The Jewish and Samaritan Temples: Religious Competition in the Second Temple Period

Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev, Ben Gurion University
From Tolerance to Destruction: Roman Policy and Jewish Temple

Joshua Schwartz and Yehoshua Peleg, Bar Ilan University
Notes on the Virtual Reconstruction of the Herodian Period Temple and Courtyards

Leen Ritmeyer, Trinity Southwest University
Envisioning the Sanctuaries of Israel—The Academic and Creative Process of Archaeological Model Making

May 12 • 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
Stern College for Women
Geraldine Schottenstein Cultural Center
239 East 34th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)

Session 3, 9:00 – 11:30 am

The Jerusalem Temple in Medieval Christianity and Islam
Chair: David Berger, Yeshiva University

Frank Peters, New York University
Ruined Expectations: Christians and Muslims and the Jerusalem Temple

Moshe Sokolow, Yeshiva University
Fadai’l al-Quds: Jerusalem, The Temple and The Rock in Muslim Literature

Vivian B. Mann, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Imagining the Temple in Late Medieval Spanish Altarpieces

Session 4, 12:30 – 2:45 pm

The Jerusalem Temple in Medieval and Early Modern Thought
Chair: Elisheva Carlebach, Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

Jonathan Dauber, Yeshiva University
Images of the Temple in Sefer ha-Bahir

Mordechai Z. Cohen, Yeshiva University
God Dwelling in the Sanctuary? Interpretive Strategies of Maimonides, Nahmanides and Sefer ha-Hinnukh

Jacob J. Schacter, Yeshiva University
Remembering the Temple: Commemoration and Catastrophe in Medieval Ashkenazi Culture

Matt Goldish, Ohio State University
The Temple of Jerusalem from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment

Session 5, 3:00 – 5:30 pm

The Jerusalem Temple in the Modern World
Chair: Joshua Zimmerman, Yeshiva University

Jess Olson, Yeshiva University,
“Jerusalem Rebuilt”: The Temple in the Fin-de-siècle Zionist Imagination

Maya Balakirsky Katz, Touro College
The Second Temple in Contemporary Orthodox Visual Culture

Ann Killebrew, Pennsylvania State University
Recent Excavations and Discoveries On and Near the Temple Mount

Robert O. Freedman, Johns Hopkins University
Digging the Temple Mount: Archaeology and the Arab-Israeli Conflict from the British Mandate to the Present

Concluding Remarks

Louis H. Feldman, Yeshiva University
Steven Fine, Yeshiva University

Attendance is free and open to the public.
Register at
or call (212) 960-0189

International Conference on the Temple of Jerusalem in New York

During May 11-12, 2008, a conference is planned in New York on the Temple of Jerusalem. The models of the Tabernacle, Solomon’s and Herod’s Temples, which I designed, will be displayed there. I am also one of the speakers, giving a lecture on “The Academic and Creative Process of Archaeological Model Making.”

More info later.

Remains from the First Temple period found near the Temple Mount

First of all, I would like to apologize for not having blogged for a while. The reason is that our family has moved from Australia back to the UK. Some people move house, but our lot seems to be moving continents, which is very time consuming.

A few days ago it was announced that remains from the First Temple period were found in a dig close to the Western Wall, see for example here. It is always exciting and encouraging to read about new archaeological finds, especially when they are so close to the Temple Mount. A very interesting seal was found as well, bearing the name of Netanyahu ben Yaush. There has been a plethora of finds made recently, which prove that Israel did exist as a nation in the Land and especially in Jerusalem, during the Biblical periods.

The reporting, however, was not quite accurate. In this place these finds were reported as “FIRST-EVER”, namely, that this was the first time ever that remains from the Iron Age finds have been found so close to the Temple Mount. That, of course, is not the case. The southern part of the Western Wall has actually been built on a cemetery from the First Temple period. Some of these tombs were cut through when the drain below the Herodian street was constructed, see:


This drain was first discovered and recorded by Charles Warren in the 1860’s. In one particular place, just north of Robinson’s Arch, the foundations of the Western Wall were built inside a destroyed Iron Age tomb. One can’t get closer than that. Other Iron Age tombs were found in the Temple Mount excavations by the late Prof. Benjamin Mazar at a distance of some 25 meters from the Western Wall. Similarly, the Southern Wall was built over First Temple remains, in one particular place over an Iron Age cistern just below the Triple Gate.

As I said before, it is very exciting to read about these finds, but one could wish that the reporters would do their homework a little better. A blooper like this headline should never have been published.

First Temple remains found on the Temple Mount

While digging a trench for electric cabling on the Temple Mount, see plan, a layer of apparently undisturbed material from the First Temple period was discovered. Fragments of bowl rims, bases and body sherds, the base of a juglet used for the ladling of oil, the handle of a small juglet and the rim of a storage jar, fragments of ceramic table wares and animal bones, dating from the Iron Age II ( the eighth to the seventh centuries BC) were found. This was first reported by the Israel Antiquities Authority and later in several places, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post, Todd Bolen’s BiblePlaces and other media.

This is exciting news, of course, as it indicates that the Temple Mount was occupied during the 8-6th century B.C. The place where it was found, near the south-east corner of the raised platform, is also highly significant. Archaeologists, such as Yuval Baruch, Sy Gittin and Ronnie Reich said that these finds may aid scholars in reconstructing the dimensions and boundaries of the Temple Mount during the First Temple Period.

For the location of the find, see the blue dot on this plan:


According to my analysis, this area was located inside the pre-Herodian square Temple Mount, see this plan:

The square Temple Mount is in yellow. Orange indicates the Hasmonean extension and Herod’s addition is in green.

In 1992 I published an article in Biblical Archaeology Review, Locating the Original Temple Mount, showing the location and boundaries of the Temple Mount during the Iron Age II period. It is well-known that Herod the Great doubled the size of the then-existing Temple Mount. According to Mishnah Middot, that Temple Mount was a square of 500 cubits. In my book The Quest, pp. 189-194, I have written that there are many reasons to suggest that this square mount was first built by King Hezekiah. Stones of the outer walls of this square mount can be seen at the north-west corner of the raised platform (the Step) and in the eastern Temple Mount wall near the Golden Gate. These architectural remains, of course, delineate the square Temple Mount and the new finds are a good indicator of the possible date of the construction of the square Temple Mount by King Hezekiah.

Upcoming lectures

In November this year I plan to give the following lectures in California:

Thursday 11/15
Place: Town and Country Resort Hotel, San Diego, CA.
Moderator: Gary A. Byers (Associates for Biblical Research)
Time: 9:50 – 10:20 am
Title: 40 years on – Temple Mount research since 1967

Monday 11/19

Moderator: Prof. Ziony Zevit
Time: 20.00 pm
Title: Two Temples Stood in Zion: How New Excavations, Old Photographs, Recent Observations and Ancient Texts Enable Us to See the Temples of Solomon and Herod
About 10 years ago, I gave a lecture at the same venue, which was well attended by an enthusiastic audience. I look forward to being there again.

Herodian drain found in Jerusalem

It has been reported in the media (see for example BBC news and the Jerusalem Post) that excavators Ronnie Reich and Eli Shukrun have excavated a large section of the drain that was located just below the Herodian street. This drain was constructed, so that the rain water that fell on the street and the liquid sewage of adjacent buildings could be disposed off. Here is a picture of the drain (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti):


Parts of this drain have been investigated by Charles Warren (1867-1870) and other sections have been excavated by Bliss and Dickie (1894-1897), Johns (1934), Kathleen Kenyon (1961-1967) and Benjamin Mazar (1968-1978). The section found by Mazar below Robinson’s Arch was vaulted and believed to have been a relay of the original drain which had been cut by the south-west corner of Herod’s temple Mount, see this picture from The Quest, p.56:


Warren also investigated a much earlier drain, lower down in the Tyropoeon Valley, so that we know of two different drainage systems. Together with the relay mentioned above, there are three different phases in this drainage system, which indicate three different building phases in the construction of the Temple Mount, see The Quest, pp. 233-235.

The present excavators have not yet provided a map of the excavated drain, but only said that is was between the Temple Mount and the Siloam Pool. In the 1890’s, Bliss and Dickie discovered a large section of the Herodian street near and to the north of the Siloam Pool. This section alone shows that the main street, which, we believe began at the Damascus Gate and followed the Tyropoeon Valley and exited at the South Gate – see map below. On this map we have plotted the street section that was found by Bliss and Dickie in grey with the drain in red:


As the excavators have been digging in the vicinity of the Siloam Pool, the newly found drain is likely to be located just north of the pool. This find received a lot of media coverage because of the remarks made by the excavators that this drain may have been used by people who tried to escape the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.

Plan of the Temple Mount destruction

The Biblical Archaeology Society has just published a report on the Temple Mount destruction by Zachi Zweig. On a plan which I had made several years ago, the route of the trench has been plotted and areas where important finds were made are noted in color. Transferring this information unto my latest plan of the Temple Mount, which has the Herodian Temple complex superimposed, one can see where these finds are located.


Bedrock has been observed inside and to the north of the northern gate of the Court of the Women and also south of the southern Soreg. The Soreg is a division wall, inside of which no gentiles were allowed.

A section of pavement, probably belonging to Herod’s extension of the Temple Mount to the south, has been found to the east of the El Aqsa mosque.

The most important remains, however, are the remains of the foundation of a wall. Several photographs of this foundation wall can be seen in this report. As I noted in my previous blog post, if the trench continued south of the eastern stairway leading to the Muslim platform, it would cut through the Chamber of the House of Oil, and that is exactly what has happened. The Chamber of the House of Oil is the south-western one of the four courts which were built at the four corners of the Court of Women. Here we see then the remains of the Court of the Women, a place from which most of the Temple visitors would have been able to watch the rituals of the Temple.

This destruction shows how close the bedrock is below the surface and therefore any archaeological remains can easily be damaged. How much more information could have been gleaned if this trench had been excavated by archaeologists!

Understanding the destruction of the Temple Mount – cont.

The destruction goes on unabated.


This picture shows the trench in front of the eastern stairway which leads up to the Muslim platform. According to my calculations, this stairway is built directly over the Herodian stairway which led up to the Nicanor Gate – see plan below:


Soon the trench will cut through the Chamber of the House of Oil, where the olive oil used in the Temple services was stored. Hopefully somebody will stop this destruction or at least record and photograph the ancient remains.