The Temple Mount in the Early Muslim Period (638-1099)

Continuing our series on the historical development of Mount Moriah, we have now reached the Early Muslim period. The end of the Byzantine period in Jerusalem was heralded by the Persian invasion of 614 AD  and completed by the Muslim conquest twenty-four years later. Muhammad’s successor, Caliph Omar, accepted Jerusalem’s surrender in 638 AD. Muslims regarded Jerusalem as a holy city and Jews were again granted the right to live there and pray on the Temple Mount. Some sources record that Omar ordered the site of the Temple Mount to be cleared of rubbish, thus exposing the Foundation Stone of the Jewish Temple.

This cutaway drawing of the Dome of the Rock shows The Rock around which this Islamic structure is built. The Rock, shown in yellow, was the Foundation Stone of the First and Second Temples on which the Holy of Holies was built.

Caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705 AD) built a magnificent center for Muslim pilgrimage on the Temple Mount, called the Dome of the Rock.

Drawing of Herod’s Temple Façade and the silhouette of the Dome of the Rock (in blue). The height of Herod’s Temple was 172 ft./52.5 m, one and a half times higher than the Dome of the Rock, which is 115 ft./35 m high.

Completed in 691 AD, the Dome of the Rock was neither a mosque nor a place of prayer, but a shrine to the Foundation Stone of the Temple. Modelled after Byzantine centrally designed commemorative churches, the Muslims transferred to the Temple Mount the story of the Night Journey of Muhammad from Mecca to the “farthest shrine” (al-Aqsa). From here they believed he ascended into Heaven. Now one of the world’s most iconic buildings, known to virtually everyone on the planet, the golden dome that shimmers against the often cobalt blue sky and the blue tiled walls of the octagonal building are both contrasting and harmonious. Few visitors to the site today, however, realise how difficult it is to express its beauty in either geometrical designs or mathematical formulae, especially as we no longer have its original blueprint.

Writing this blog reminded me of the time I worked on the architectural reconstruction of a funeral monument called Gonbad-e-alawiyyan in Persia (Iran) for an Israeli colleague. From this I developed an analysis which is also valid for the plan and section of the Dome of the Rock, the crowning glory of early Islamic architecture.  Too complex to describe fully here, it is based on three concentric circles which closely bind together all the different constructional elements into one magnificently proportioned building.

This centrally designed building ranks among the most beautiful buildings in the world. Our new analysis requires the taking of one measurement only that is then divided into three equal sections (OA=AB=BC). From the centre (O), three concentric circles are drawn through A, B and C. The subsequent inner and outer octagons and star octagons of each circle create a pattern that can be used with many variations for the accurate location of walls, piers, columns and openings.

I later applied it successfully to other classical centrally designed buildings, such as the Round Temple at Baalbek, San Vitale at Ravenna, the Mausoleum of Diocletian at Spalato, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and many others. It is intriguing to think that here we may have a certain school of ancient architecture, which was in use for a long period, but whose traditions were eventually lost.

The Temple Mount in the Early Muslim Period. The Dome of the Rock was built on the site of the Jewish Temple and the al-Aqsa mosque on the location of  the Royal Stoa above the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount.

On completion of the Dome of the Rock, Caliph al-Walid (705-715 AD) built a mosque called al-Aqsa above the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount, on the former site of the Herodian Royal Stoa. The Temple Mount was and still is known to the Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary). The Virtual Walking Tour of al-Haram al-Sharif  produced by Saudi Aramco World led by Oleg Grabar, the late Professor Emeritus of Islamic Art and Architecture at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey, allows one to explore its jewels of Islamic architecture in a very informative way.

The reconstruction drawing above is the 10th and last in this series that was made specially for our new Temple Mount guide book that is awaiting publication. For the previous drawings see: Mount MoriahJebusitesSolomonHezekiahNehemiah, the Hellenistic and Hasmonean periods , the Herodian period, the Roman period and the Byzantine period.

Where on the Temple Mount was Jesus during Hanukkah?

There are some unique locations in the Land of the Bible where you really get a sense of place. One  of these is inside the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Here the record of Jesus’ visit to the Temple precincts in John 10.22-39 comes to vibrant life. We are told:

And it was the feast of the dedication at Jerusalem: it was winter; and Jesus was walking in the Temple in Solomon’s Porch (John 10:22,23).

Jesus had come to keep Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights. This feast commemorates the dedication of the Temple in 164 BC, after it had been defiled by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who, three years earlier, had ordered a pig to be sacrificed on the Temple altar.

But why does this place evoke the Gospel story so powerfully? It is surely because this side of the Temple Mount is closest to the original, with minimal additional construction. The Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount was the only one that was not moved by King Herod the Great when he carried out his monumental expansion of the Temple Mount in the first century.

At present there are no porticoes along the Eastern and Southern Walls of the Temple Mount. In the Herodian period, however, there were porticoes on all sides. The eastern stoa pre-dated the others and was already colonnaded in the Hasmonean period. This Porch, or stoa, stood directly over the wall of the earlier square Temple Mount and at the time of Herod the Great, was known as Solomon’s Porch.

Walking on the Temple Mount along the inside of the Eastern Wall, looking north.
Standing here on the inside of the Eastern Wall (looking south), we can imagine Jesus speaking with his disciples, while around them in the Temple precincts, the people celebrated God’s intervention in their place of worship.
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.

This does not necessarily mean that this porch was built by this famous king, but certainly by Herod’s predecessors. Offering welcome shelter from sun, wind and rain, it was obviously used as a place of congregation. Josephus provides us with an evocative description:

The porticoes, all in double rows, were supported by columns five and twenty cubits high—each a single block of the purest white marble—and ceiled with panels of cedar. The natural magnificence of these columns, their excellent polish and fine adjustment presented a striking spectacle. (War 5.190–192)

It was here that Jesus was almost stoned one wintry day during the feast of Hanukkah (John 10.31). Acts 3.11 and 5.12 also provide us with images of the time when the disciples used to congregate and teach here after the death of their master.

Postscript: During this feast, a Hanukkiah is lit, but what is the difference between a Hanukkiah and a Menorah (Lampstand)?

The Temple Menorah is a Lampstand with seven branches.
A Hanukkiah has eight branches, representing the eight nights that oil miraculously burned in the Temple. The lamp on the central ninth branch, which is called the shamash, is used to light the others.
 

 

Bethlehem – the Manger and the Inn

People have asked me where I think Jesus was born. I reply that Scripture and archaeology show that the place was not a randomly chosen cave in Bethlehem, but a location that was prepared centuries earlier for this purpose.

The Cave in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, with the silver star indicating the place where, according to Byzantine tradition, Jesus was born.

According to Luke 2.1-5, Mary and Joseph had to travel to their own city. It must have been an uncomfortable journey when Mary was almost 9 months pregnant and had to travel, probably on the back of a donkey, from Nazareth to Bethlehem – a 100 mile long journey through the Jordan Valley! On arriving in Bethlehem, they couldn’t find a place to stay. The only available place for the Son of God to be born was a dirty stable, which had to be shared with animals. It wasn’t a romantic Christmas postcard stable with smiling camels and donkeys, probably drawn by artists who don’t know how bad camels can smell and how loud the braying of donkeys can be!

What actually did a stable look like in the time of Christ? From archaeology we know that stables looked like rooms with a fenestrated wall, i.e. an interior or exterior wall with several low windows. Animals were placed behind this wall and fodder was put in wooden boxes or baskets and placed in the windows. Sacks of provender were stored in the other half of the room. It was probably in this part of the stable that Mary and Joseph were allowed to stay and where Jesus was born. Fenestrated walls that were part of stables have been found in many places, such as Capernaum and Chorazin that are illustrated here.

A reconstruction drawing of a typical house in Capernaum from the time of Christ. The rooms of the house were located round a central courtyard, which had a water cistern. The main living quarters were upstairs, while other rooms were used for storage and work. Animals were kept overnight behind a fenestrated wall (portrayed on the left).

 

The remains of a stable in Chorazin. The animals were kept behind the fenestrated wall. Animal fodder and other provender was kept on this side of the wall. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

But, what is the importance of Bethlehem and which inn was chosen by God as the place for His son to be born in?

When Joshua conquered Jericho, he cursed the city, so that it became a city of death. Rahab was the only person, with her family, that was saved. She married Salmon and their son was called Boaz, who must have settled in Bethlehem when Judah captured its inheritance. Boaz married Ruth in Bethlehem and she became the great-grandmother of David (Ruth 4.10). Gentile Ruth was, of course, one of these amazing few women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew Ch. 1. King David was born in Bethlehem and anointed king there by Samuel the Prophet.

Near the end of his life, David had to flee from his son Absalom, when he rebelled against him. He stayed with the aged Barzilai the Gileadite, whose son Chimham returned with David to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 19.37-40). To provide him with a source of income, it appears that David may have given him part of his own inheritance in Bethlehem to build an inn (mentioned in the early Jewish source, Targum Yerushalmi, Jer. 41.17a), and called  “Geruth Chimham” “Habitation of Chimham” (Jer. 41.17). As small towns like Bethlehem usually had only one inn, it is reasonable to suggest that Jesus may have been born in this inn. Through the generosity of David to Barzilai and his son Chimham, a birthplace for Jesus was prepared.

A typical inn with buildings arranged round a courtyard. © Leen Ritmeyer

The fact that Jesus could be born in his own inheritance as the true Son of David is another one of the wonderful topographic coincidences that run through the whole plan of the Bible.

The Temple Mount during the Byzantine period (324-638 AD)

The Byzantine period is the next period we look at in this Temple Mount series. Up until recently, it was thought that the Temple Mount lay desolate during this time and was used as the city’s garbage dump. However, this may not be altogether accurate.

In 324 AD, the Emperor Constantine the First made Christianity the official religion of the Empire and together with his mother, Queen Helena, consecrated sites in the Holy Land associated with the life of Jesus. In Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built on the site assumed to have been the burial place of Christ. It was the first and only time during Jerusalem’s long history that the focus of the city was shifted away from the Temple Mount to this newly built church, effectively denying any Jewish connection with the city.

The Temple Mount during the Byzantine period. Remains of houses have been found at the southern end of the platform, near the exit of the Double Gate tunnel. At the southeast corner, a chapel which contained  the so-called Cradle of Jesus can be seen.

However, the reported finding of part of a Byzantine mosaic floor under the al-Aqsa Mosque in excavations carried out here in the 1930s (the only time that such activity was allowed on the Mount), points to the possible existence of houses at the southern part of the Mount during the Byzantine period.

Part of a mosaic floor found beneath the al-Aqsa.
(photo credit: Courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority.)

Regrettably, the limited finds make it impossible to draw any firm conclusions as to the extent of the built-up area.

There are, however, other signs that the southern part of the Temple Mount was used at that time. A large monastery, the so-called Monastery of the Virgin, was excavated near the Triple Gate. In its courtyard, a three-seater toilet was found that was flushed with the water of one of the Temple Mount cisterns, namely Cistern 10.

Deep in the bowels of the Temple Mount, the author examines the inspection tunnel of Cistern 10, at the right of the photo. The descending tunnel is at the centre.

The water from this cistern was led to the monastery through a tunnel that had been carved specially for this purpose.

The rock-hewn underground tunnel that leads down from Cistern 10 to the Monastery of the Virgin.
The courtyard of the Monastery of the Virgin near the Triple Gate. The doorway on the left leads into a small chamber which had room for three people to sit on a marble bench that had slits above a drainage channel.

Finally, on the inside of the southeast corner of the Temple Mount that has been preserved to a great height, is the chapel of the so-called Cradle of Jesus (Arabic: Sidna Issa). There is a small  shrine inside this room. The photo below shows the small Muslim dome that was built over a Byzantine altar that has four marble pillars and a reliquary underneath. This may have been the shrine where the nuns of the Monastery of the Virgin came to commemorate the birth of Jesus.

The so-called Cradle of Jesus on the inside of the southeast corner of the Temple Mount.

The reconstruction drawing above is the 9th in this series that was made specially for our new Temple Mount guide book that is awaiting publication. For the previous drawings see: Mount MoriahJebusitesSolomonHezekiahNehemiah, the Hellenistic and Hasmonean periods , the Herodian period and the Roman period.

Harbours of the Sea of Galilee

Ferrell Jenkins runs a travel blog and today wrote a post on the Ports of the Sea of Galilee which has some excellent photographs of the Church of the Primacy of Peter at Tabgha. In this interesting post he comments on the work of the late Mendel Nun, who was a member of Kibbutz Ein Gev and worked as a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Although not a professional archaeologist, Mendel researched and recorded the remains of the ancient harbours of the Sea of Galilee, of which there were at least sixteen.

The remains of these harbours can only be seen when the water level is low. In the 1970’s, a number of ancient harbours were discovered, followed by the discovery of an ancient fishing boat in the mud near Magdala. During the years of 1989-1991 there was a severe drought and the accompanying archaeological activities revealed many remains that shed light on the shipping trade and fishing industry during the first century.

Here is a map of the harbours that were plotted by Mendel:

A map of the Sea of Galilee showing the remains of ancient harbours.

The photograph below, taken in 2009, shows the remains of some of the piers of the Capernaum harbour:

Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

Mendel’s map and the photographs he published made it possible to make a reconstruction drawing of Capernaum and its ancient harbour:

Reconstruction of the harbour of Capernaum at the time of Christ, based on archaeological remains. Several piers, which can still be seen when the water level is low, jutted out into the sea to provide a quiet and safe harbor for fishing boats. Capernaum was the city where Jesus lived after he left Nazareth (Matthew 4.13; Mark 2.1; Luke 4.31; John 2.12).

The Temple Mount during the Roman period

We have now arrived at the Roman period in our sequence of reconstruction drawings showing how the Temple Mount developed over time. After the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70. A.D., the area of the Temple Mount lay desolate. In 130 AD, Emperor Hadrian began to build a Roman colony named Aelia Capitolina, on the ruins of Jerusalem.

After the Roman destruction of 70 A.D., the 10th Legion set up an encampment south of the Hippicus Tower on the Western Hill of Jerusalem. After nationalistic uprisings, Hadrian flattened the city and in 135 A.D. built a new one on its ruins and called it Aelia Capitolina. The major buildings in this city were the Damascus Gate in the north, a Temple of Aphrodite, two forums (market places) and there may have been a Temple of Jupiter on the Temple Mount.

The name Aelia was given in honor of the emperor’s family name, which was Aelius, while the name Capitolina honored the deities of the Capitoline triad: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.

Hadrian’s actions precipitated the Revolt of Bar Kokhba (“Son of a Star”), which began in 132 AD. Some Jews regarded Bar Kokhba as the promised Messiah. Plans were made to rebuild the Temple and coins depicting it were struck. It is unclear how far these plans materialized. Following the suppression of the revolt in 135 AD, the pagan city of Aelia Capitolina became reality. A sanctuary to Jupiter may have been erected on the Temple Mount.

Some historical sources indicate that during this Roman period when Jerusalem was called Aelia Capitolina, a sanctuary to Jupiter was erected on the Temple Mount.

The remains of three long steps that are no longer visible but which were marked on plans made by Sir Charles Warren, may have belonged to the southern part of the crepidoma  (stepped platform) of this presumed temple.

Part of Warren’s Plate 5, showing the location of the 3 long steps south of the Raised Platform where the Dome of the Rock stands and north of al-Kas, a fountain for Muslim ritual washing.

Jews were forbidden from entering the city on pain of death and Hadrian tried further to erase their connection to the Land by changing the name of Judea to Syria Palaestina (whence the name Palestine).

The reconstruction drawing above is the 8th in this series that was made specially for our new Temple Mount guide book that is awaiting publication. For the previous drawings see: Mount MoriahJebusitesSolomonHezekiahNehemiah, the Hellenistic and Hasmonean periods and the Herodian period.

The Temple Mount in the Herodian period (37 BC-70 AD)

Following on from our previous drawing, the Temple Mount during the Hellenistic and Hasmonean periods, we now examine the Temple Mount during the Herodian period. This was, of course, the Temple that is mentioned in the New Testament.

Herod extended the Hasmonean Temple Mount in three directions: north, west and south. At the northwest corner he built the Antonia Fortress and in the south, the magnificent Royal Stoa.

In 19 BC  the master-builder, King Herod the Great, began the most ambitious building project of his life, the rebuilding of the Temple and the Temple Mount in lavish style. To facilitate this, he undertook a further expansion of the Hasmonean Temple Mount by extending it on three sides, to the north, west and south. Today’s Temple Mount boundaries still reflect this enlargement.

The cutaway drawing below allows us to recap on the development of the Temple Mount so far:

King Solomon built the First Temple on the top of Mount Moriah which is visible in the centre of this drawing. This mountain top can be seen today, inside the Islamic Dome of the Rock. King Hezekiah built a square Temple Mount (yellow walls) around the site of the Temple, which he also renewed. In the Hasmonean period, the square Temple Mount was enlarged to the south (red walls). Finally, King Herod the Great enlarged the mount to double its size (grey walls) by building 15 feet (5 m) thick retaining walls, which are still standing today.
The many cisterns cut into the mountain are also shown.

A visualization of this Temple Mount was made possible by combining the historical sources with the results of archaeological exploration. The main historical source is the first-century historian Josephus Flavius. His works, The Jewish War  and Jewish Antiquities, although prone to exaggeration, are indispensable for this period. Also invaluable is the Mishnah, the earliest code of rabbinic law, written about 200 AD, particularly the Tractate Middot, which deals with measurements. The New Testament adds further detail and context. All this was augmented by the results of the excavations to the south and west of the Temple Mount following the Six-Day War in 1967.

Herod’s extension of the Eastern Wall to the north required the filling in of a deep valley to the north of the pre-Herodian Temple Mount. The Shushan Gate remained the only gate in the Eastern Wall. Towers were erected at each corner and a large water reservoir was built at the northeast corner, the so-called Pool of Israel.

The present-day Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount is 1536 feet (468 m) long. The central part of this wall (shown in blue) dates from the time of King Hezekiah. In the drawing, the gate just below and to the right of the Temple is the Shushan Gate. To the south of the central section is the Hasmonean extension (red), while both ends of this wall were further extended by Herod the Great (yellow). The Herodian extension to the north of the central part of the Eastern Wall (Hezekiah’s expansion) required the filling in of a deep valley, known as the Bezetha Valley.

The Western Wall, which had four gates, was placed some 82 feet (25 m) outside the square platform with its southwest corner built on the opposite side of the Tyropoeon Valley.

The Western Wall of the Temple Mount is 1590 feet (485 m) long. The Antonia Fortress is on the left. The four gates in the Western Wall are, from left to right, Warren’s Gate, Wilson’s Arch and bridge, Barclay’s Gate and Robinson’s Arch and stairway. This drawing also shows the lay of the bedrock below the Herodian street.

The Southern Wall featured two gates, the Double Gate and the Triple Gate, often erroneously referred to as the Huldah Gates.

The Southern Wall of the Temple Mount is 912 feet (278 m) long. The extant remains of this wall are shown in yellow. A monumental stairway led up to the Double Gate, indicating that this was an important entry point for many worshippers. In between this stairway and that leading up to the Triple Gate is a ritual bathing complex and a public building.

The most fortified feature in the Northern Wall was the massive Antonia Fortress (right in the drawing below), built to protect the Temple against attacks coming from the north and to guard the mount in times of strife. A large reservoir, the Pool of Israel (left) provided additional protection to the Temple Mount.

The Northern Wall of the Temple Mount is 1035 feet (315 m) long. The Pool of Israel, which was constructionally an integral part of the Temple Mount, can be seen on the left. The Antonia Fortress is on the right. A brief reference in Josephus points to the possible existence of a gate in the middle of this wall,.

Once the platform was completed, double colonnades, or porticoes, were built above the outer walls to provide shelter from the elements. A huge hall called the Royal Stoa, with four rows of columns, was erected on the southern end. The pre-existing eastern portico that stood on the square mount was left unchanged. As it belonged to a pre-Herodian period, it was called Solomon’s Porch. Near the centre of this platform a new gold-covered Temple was constructed that in turn was surrounded by many other buildings.

In 70 AD, this splendid structure that had taken 46 years to build (John 2.20) was destroyed by the Romans. The only vestiges of the compound to survive the destruction were the four retaining walls that supported the Temple platform; the best known today is the Western Wall.

This drawing is the 7th in this series that were made specially for the new Temple Mount guide book that is awaiting publication. For the previous drawings see: Mount MoriahJebusitesSolomonHezekiahNehemiah and the Hellenistic and Hasmonean periods.

The Temple Mount during the Hellenistic and Hasmonean periods (332-37 BC)

The next drawing in our series on the development of Mount Moriah shows the Temple Mount in the Hasmonean period (see below). However, we will first describe some preliminary stages in its expansion, which took place during the Hellenistic period. The Bible, apart from the book of Daniel, is virtually silent about the inter-testamental period. However, the works of Josephus and the Apocryphal books of Ecclesiasticus and the two Books of the Maccabees provide much information.

Josephus records in Ant.11.325–339 a visit to the Temple by Alexander the Great after his capture of Gaza in 332 BC. Here, the Jewish historian has him sacrificing in the Temple under the guidance of the High Priest.

The Emperor Alexander meeting the Grand Priest Jaddus. Painting by Jacopo Amigoni (c. 1675-1752), Issoudun, Musée de l’Hospice Saint-Roch.

Although this may be mere legend, the story points to the perpetuation of the Temple services following their revival after the return from exile in Babylon. After the death of Alexander, Judea was governed by the Ptolemies of Egypt, who were tolerant of Jewish religious practice.

Around the end of the third century BC, restoration work was carried out on the Temple Mount by the High Priest Simon, son of Onias. According to the apocryphal work of Ben Sira called Ecclesiasticus (50.1–3), the work is described as follows:

It was the High Priest Simon son of Onias who repaired the Temple during his lifetime and in his day fortified the sanctuary. He laid the foundations of the double height, the high buttresses of the Temple precincts. In his day the water cistern was excavated, a reservoir as huge as the sea.

Cistern 8 aka The Great Sea. Painting made in 1872 by William Simpson. It is located to the west of Cistern 7, called The Sea, which was probably the one mentioned in the above quote.

It is clear from the text that the bulk of these works consisted of  the repair and strengthening of the temple and other existing structures. In the reconstruction drawing of the Temple Mount below we have shown the buttresses that were added to stabilise the Temple.

Control of the city of Jerusalem was won from the Ptolemies by the Greek Seleucids from Syria in around 200 BC . The Seleucid dynasty was determined to force the Jews to accept Hellenism. It was the sacrifice of a pig on the Temple altar by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes, mentioned in Daniel 11.29-31, that sparked off the revolt by the Maccabee brothers. Their bloodline evolved into the Hasmonean dynasty that established an independent Jewish state lasting from 164 to 63 BC.

The consecration of the Temple in 164 BC is still celebrated today by the Jewish feast of Hanukkah.

In contrast to the Temple Menorah that had seven branches, the Hanukkiah used at
Hanukkah has eight representing the eight nights that oil miraculously burned
in the Temple. The lamp on the central ninth branch, which is called the shamash, is used to light the others.
In 141 BC, Simon the Maccabee demolished the hated Akra, a fortress that the Seleucids had built to the south of the Temple Mount so that a Macedonian garrison could control the Jewish population.

This schematic drawing of the Akra is one of the five stages in the development of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Akra Fortress (red) was built by the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 168 BC to the south of the Temple Mount.

Simon then leveled the mountain on which it was built and incorporated the whole area into the Temple Mount complex:

The Temple Mount in the Hasmonean period.

After this extension to the south, the Temple was no longer square in shape and the original Mount Moriah was now almost completely built over. The Hasmonean southeast corner can be seen in the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount at the so-called seam.

The “seam” near the southern end of the Eastern Wall. To the left of the seam is Herodian masonry, and to the right, Hasmonean.

Following the Maccabean rebellion, a fortress was constructed at the northwest corner of the square Temple Mount, to defend the mount against attacks from the north. It was called the Baris. When Herod the Great later extended the Temple Mount to the north, he dismantled the Hasmonean Baris and built a fortress, called the Antonia Fortress, that stood at the northwest corner of the new Temple Mount.

This drawing is the 6th in this series. For the previous drawings see: Mount Moriah, Jebusites, Solomon, Hezekiah and Nehemiah.

 

The Temple Mount during the times of Ezra and Nehemiah

Continuing our series on the development of Mount Moriah and the Temple Mount, we have now arrived at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.  In the Post-Exilic period, the returnees from Babylon first built the altar and then laid the foundations of the Second Temple (536 BC). There is no reason to doubt that these foundations followed the same orientation as the temple being replaced, as the foundation trenches were preserved in the Rock (as they are to this day). Due to the opposition of the local population, it took twenty years to complete the building of which we are told that it was 60 cubits high and wide, presumably referring to the dimensions of the façade.

This drawing shows the newly rebuilt Temple that apparently was not as grand as the previous one, as Haggai (2.3) said: “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? And how do ye see it now, is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” The internal layout of the Temple undoubtedly remained the same and would therefore have been able to function normally, although the quality of the architecture must have appeared inferior in the minds of the ancient people who remembered the first Temple.

Later on, during the time of Nehemiah, the city walls were restored as recorded in Nehemiah Chapter 3:

After the Babylonian Exile, many Jews returned to Jerusalem. They came in relatively small numbers, not sufficient to occupy both the Eastern and Western Hills. It was not until the Hellenistic period that the Western Hill was occupied again. In this drawing we see the rebuilt city of Jerusalem on the Eastern Hill with a smaller Temple on Mount Moriah. On the Western Hill we see the houses and walls that were destroyed by the Babylonians and were not repaired at this time.

Below is the fifth drawing in the series of Mount Moriah that shows the Temple Mount in the Post-Exilic period with the walls of the original square Temple Mount restored  (the first in this series was Mount Moriah itself, followed by the mount during the times of the Jebusites, Solomon and Hezekiah).

The Temple Mount in the time of Nehemiah. The Temple Mount walls were repaired together with the walls of Jerusalem. The northwest towers of Meah and Hananeel are mentioned in Nehemiah 3 (3.1) and also the Corner Tower in the northeast (Neh. 3.32).

A few months ago, we updated our Jerusalem in the Time of Nehemiah book. It was very popular and the first of our books to be sold out completely. The new edition which is now available from our website, has been updated with digital photographs, some by Nathaniel Ritmeyer, and also with new drawings. The above mentioned reconstruction drawing of the Temple built by Jeshua and Zerubbabel has been included, together with new drawings of Jerusalem at that time.

Second and revised edition of Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah (Carta, Jerusalem, 2014).

We are still waiting for our Temple Mount guide book to be published and also the revised Jerusalem in 30 AD . The original version of the latter book was based on our slide set (now discontinued) which we produced in the 1990’s. This book also soId out. The latest  edition has new digital photographs and an additional section on the Palace of Queen Helena of Adiabene. Although ready for publication, the publishers are waiting for tourism to pick up after the recent unrest in Jerusalem.

Temple Mount guide book

Carta, the publishers of our upcoming guide book, run a blog called Carta Jerusalem Echo. This morning they put up a post stating their hope that our new guide book will be published soon.

Soon to be published, Leen & Kathleen Ritmeyer’s JERUSALEM – THE TEMPLE MOUNT is a peaceful ecumenical book intended for Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all those for whom the Temple Mount has special meaning. The authors endeavor to afford each and every visitor or reader an opportunity to acquaint himself with, relate to and contemplate sites that may resonate for him when reading Holy Scripture.

Carta emphasises that this guide book is not only for visitors to Jerusalem, but also for those travellers who wish to acquaint themselves with this unique site from afar.

This guide is also meant for all those who have already seen or read about the marvels of the world – be it the Niagara Falls in North America, the ancient Inca Temples in South America, the Great Wall of China,  the Sistine Chapel in Rome, the great pyramids and sphinx of Egypt, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – but have yet to visit Jerusalem. All are invited to  . . . Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord. . . (Isaiah 2:3).

To those who wrote directly in advance enquiring about the publication date, they wrote:

We at Carta appreciate your interest and are grateful for your intent to purchase Ritmeyer’s latest work once it is available. Publication of JERUSALEM THE TEMPLE MOUNT has been delayed, heeding . . . a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7).

Given the current regrettable spate of incidents in Jerusalem, Ritmeyer’s Interfaith Guide, which relates in great detail – and separately – to specific sites of interest to Jews and Christians, not only Muslims, deserves better timing, hopefully ahead of the festival season.