Jerusalem Biblical Archaeology Map by Carta

There was much excitement in our house last week when the Biblical Archaeology Jerusalem Map by Carta (see previous post) arrived.

Spreading the chart out on the table, we were able to retrace many of the trips and explorations we made when living in Jerusalem. At the time, some of these had required poring over Ordnance Survey maps and reading archaeological reports before we could identify the sites involved. Now, with the acquisition of this map, we can easily find the location of these sites, as well as, and most importantly, the latest sites to have been discovered.

Twenty-three years ago, the publication of the New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, a a joint venture by the Israel Exploration Society, Carta, and Simon and Schuster’s Academic Reference Division, was a landmark in the quest to provide a comprehensive work that would summarize the results of archaeological work in the Land of Israel for the English reader. It had a 102-page long section on Jerusalem. Ephraim Stern wrote in the Editor’s Foreword to the Supplementary Volume, published in 2008:

“Since the publication in 1993 of the four volumes of the New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (NEAEH) archaeological excavations have continued at a staggering pace. Many of the entries of those four volumes quickly became outdated and the need arose for this volume, which updates the NEAEH to the year 2005. It is a joint venture of the Israel Exploration Society and the Biblical Archaeology Society.”

So, while we await the next update, a mammoth undertaking, this handily portable map will play a vital role in guiding the visitor around the archaeological sites of Jerusalem,

The front part of this large map (63×94 cm, or 25×37 inches) shows the Old City and its surroundings, while the reverse side is dedicated to the Old City in much greater detail. The map was made in collaboration with the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority, or Reshut Atiqot in Hebrew), with the text and scientific advice provided by Dr. Yuval Baruch. The archaeological sites are described in small text boxes with an arrow pointing to the exact location of each.

Most of the sites on the front part are familiar to us, but by no means all of them are. It is good to see the site of Lifta on the northwest of the city included. This has been identified as the site of the Waters of Nephtoah of Joshua 15.9 and 18.15, defining here the border between Benjamin and Judah. We remember exploring the village and its spring in the 1970’s, but then it seemed very much off the beaten track, being hidden away on two steep slopes in the last valley of the ascent into Jerusalem.

There are other sites we are not so familiar with such as Khirbet Adaseh North and Khirbet Adaseh, 2 miles to the southeast. Adasa, was, of course, the place where the Maccabees were victorious in their battle against the Seleucid general Nicanor, who lost his life there.

The Old City map is also informative with sections dedicated to the Kidron and Hinnom Valleys, Mount Zion, the City of David and the Aqueducts of Jerusalem. We are pleased that the Tomb of Annas the High Priest, a site we were able to identify in the early 1990’s, is included among the sites in the Hinnom Valley.

This drawing shows the Tomb of Annas as reconstructed according to the archaeological remains. The reconstruction drawing shows the triple-gated entrance to the tomb’s anteroom. This is based on the remains of the partly preserved semi-hemispherical conch above the central doorway and those of four pilasters, the outer ones showing an additional rounded moulding which was part of a frame. There are indications that the tomb once carried a superstructure and so could be identified as a monument.

A glaring omission on this side of the map is any detail on the vast platform of the Temple Mount. However, giving the impression that the site is a terra incognita is part of the political reality in this area. Only some of the gates are mentioned, with the Double and Triple Gates unfortunately still called the Huldah Gates. The original Huldah Gates were in fact located in the southern wall of the pre-Herodian Temple Mount some 72 m (240 ft) north of the present Southern Wall.

No reference is made to the Step, which is the remains of the Western Wall of King Hezekiah’s Square Temple Mount or of The Rock, identified by many as the site of the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s Temple. The many well-heads visible on the platform indicate the location of the many underground cisterns, of which two, Cisterns 6 and 36, may have been mikva’ot. These would also have added interest to this part of the map.

Information on the Temple Mount platform is, however, available in our guide book Jerusalem, the Temple Mount in which we have produced a map showing 19 points of archaeological and historical interest:

Despite these shortcomings, however, we foresee copies of this map being given as presents for those who love exploring the Old City of Jerusalem and its environs. And if you have friends visiting who have been to Jerusalem, framed reproductions are bound to stimulate some lively conversation.

Special Offer from Carta

Carta Jerusalem offers the new Jerusalem – Biblical Archaeology map for free with the purchase of one of three books mentioned below, including The Quest. In addition, each of the three titles can be purchased for 20% off the list price, i.e. $48.00 instead of $60.00. This excellent offer, which saves you almost $27.00 is valid until the 31st of January, 2017. When ordering, all you need to do is click on the Voucher code: 20-OFF, and the map will be added for free.

The three titles are:

Flooring from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

The discovery of colored floor tiles found in the Temple Mount Sifting Project, that apparently came from the Herodian Temple Mount was announced during the 17th Annual Archaeological Conference in the City of David National Park held on the 8th of September 2016. This new find received plenty of media coverage, see for example this Jerusalem Post report. As usual the reporting took the form of copying and pasting the original report.

First of all, kudos to Frankie Snyder for having patiently fitted these many pieces together into meaningful designs. The stones have different geometrical shapes, were finely cut and polished and fitted tightly together to create beautiful designs. Such floor designs are called opus sectile, which is Latin for “cut stone”.

Frankie Snyder holds restored marble floor tiles based on fragments found in fill from the Temple Mount. Archaeologists from the Temple Mount Sifting Project say that these come from the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem. (Temple Mount Sifting Project)

I wanted to be sure, however, that what was presented could indeed have belonged to floors or pavements on the Temple Mount. When I first saw the pictures of Frankie’s floor designs, they reminded me of the beautifully designed tiled floors of the late nineteenth century house in Ethiopia Street in Jerusalem where we used to live. These floor designs have been used for a very long time. For example, many pieces of Crusader and earlier stone floor designs were found during the sifting, see here.

Looking at the photographs presented by the TMSP, however, I wondered why some tiles looked like marble:

A reconstructed tile from the Second Temple. (photo credit: Zachi Dvira/Temple Mount Sifting Project)
© Zachi Dvira/Temple Mount Sifting Project

Hardly any marble was imported into Israel until the time of Hadrian. In 135 AD, he established a Roman colony called Aelia Capitolina, on the ruins of Jerusalem, which had been destroyed in 70 AD. Evidence of the use of marble has been found from this period. For example, in the Temple Mount Excavations a Roman bath house with a marble-lined pool was uncovered, together with a marble statue.

So, I asked Frankie what materials these reconstructed tiles were made of, she replied that, apart from locally sourced stone, different types of imported marble were also used, such as giallo antico from Tunisia,  breccia corallina from Turkey, breccia di Settebasi from Greece and also alabaster from Egypt.

It was interesting to find out that the opus sectile pavement found in Herod’s Third Palace in Jericho also had pieces of marble worked into its design. Herod was a great lover of Roman art and architecture and apparently imported these tiles from around the Mediterranean.

Imprints of the opus sectile floor in Herod’s Palace at Jericho. Photo: Zev Radovan

Gabriel Barkay, one of the directors and co-founders of TMSP is sure of the Herodian date of the tiles they found:

“The materials of which they are made, colorful marble-like stones which originate from different locations and places around the basin of the Mediterranean. They were neither imported before the time of Herod the Great nor later, so we are sure of the date … Opus Sectile flooring is consistent with the style of flooring found in Herod’s palaces at Masada, Herodium, and Jericho, among others, as well as in majestic palaces and villas in Italy during the time of Herod. The tile segments, mostly imported from Rome, Asia Minor, Tunisia and Egypt, were created from polished multicolored stones cut in a variety of geometric shapes.”

Indeed, an opus sectile floor was found in the Peristyle Building in the Jewish Quarter Excavations. This was made of black bitumen and cream and red colored limestone.

Reconstruction of opus sectile floor found in the Jewish Quarter Excavations. Design: L. Ritmeyer

The question that remains unanswered is, where on the Temple Mount were such floors laid? The description of Josephus in War 5.193 was quoted: “The open court was from end to end variegated with paving of all manner of stones.” Does this refer to these opus sectile floors?

Herodian paving on the Temple Mount has been identified by us and reported on previously. These in situ remains show that the open courts of the Herodian Temple Mount were paved with very large and thick paving slabs made of local limestone, very similar to those laid in the streets that surround the Temple Mount.

All the known opus sectile floors were laid indoors and not outdoors. These delicately constructed floors would not have survived long outside in the sometimes harsh Mediterranean climate. We suggest therefore that they came from the interior of some of the many buildings that surrounded the Temple and/or from under the colonnades around the smaller courts.

The Temple, viewed from the east in this image, was surrounded by the Temple Court. Several gates and other buildings stood to the north and south of the Temple. On the east (centre front), was the large Court of the Women, also known in the Gospels as the Treasury, which had four smaller courts at its corners.

 

 

 

The Mountain of the Lord

Joel Kramer of Sourceflix has posted a 6-minute long video called “The Mountain of the Lord” which has spectacular aerial footage.

Mount Moriah — the Mountain of the LORD. More than 4,000 years of recorded history have been played out on that particular spot, a location specifically chosen by God to accomplish His sovereign purposes. I have often tried to contemplate all that has happened there. The works of God are so overwhelmingly incomprehensible!

This video short will help you to ponder how the God of the Bible, through an amazing chain of historical events, transformed a lowly hill into what is today one of the most revered places on earth!

Another video explains the Topography of Jerusalem in a simple but effective way:

As a visual aid, we’ve developed a simple 3D model to help you picture the ridges, valleys and hills which have changed very little over several thousand years and which are the landscapes for the stories of Abraham and Isaac, King David and Christ.

Enjoy watching these videos which you can also download for a few dollars.

HT: Facebook page of Associates for Biblical Research.

3D model of Solomon’s Temple

Daniel Smith creates religious themed videos with the purpose of helping people better understand the history and culture of the Bible. You can see several of his videos on his website called Messages of Christ.

He contacted me saying that he read  of Solomon’s Temple in my book The Quest. He has now completed a 3D reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple in which he used my design of the interior walls.

Portions of 1 Kings 6 and 7 are read as you look around the video. Although I don’t agree with some of the details, the video is well worth watching.

The mysterious Akra in Jerusalem

I have been asked by a few readers  to clarify my position on the location of the Akra, that hated symbol of alien Hellenistic rule whose occupiers became in the words of the writer of the First Book of Maccabees: “a great trouble … an ambush for the sanctuary, an evil adversary for Israel at all times” (1. 35 – 38). This was because they attacked the Jewish worshippers that went up from the city to the Temple.

Let me say, first of all, that the finds in the Givati Parking Lot (announced on November 3rd) and identified as part of the Akra, are very significant.  According to the excavators, a  4m wide and 20m long defensive wall dating to the Hellenistic period was found with a glacis, made up of soft layers of rubble, descending to the bottom of the Tyropoeon Valley. This therefore indicates that this wall was part of the western fortifications of Hellenistic Jerusalem. The difficulty is to establish what part of the Hellenistic city this wall belongs to. Now that the media pundits have regurgitated the news announcement, it is time to reflect on this latest identification of the Seleucid Akra.

The most important information about the Akra comes from two historical sources, namely the works of Josephus and the above mentioned First Book of Maccabees. The problem with these sources is that they are not easy to harmonise. However, we must not shy away from them, but try to interpret them in the light of these and other archaeological findings. First to quote from the previous verse from the Book of Maccabees to the one above.

“And they built the city of David with a great and strong wall, and with strong towers, and made it a fortress [Greek: Acra] for them: And they placed there a sinful nation, wicked men, and they fortified themselves therein.” 

This quote shows us that the City of David, which is the southern part of what Josephus calls the Lower City (see map), was fortified all around to turn it into a fortress.

Map of Hasmonean Jerusalem. © Leen Ritmeyer

This does not mean that the City of David was the Akra Fortress, but that it was as strongly fortified as a stronghold. The wall in the Givati Parking Lot belongs to the western fortifications. Interestingly, it is in direct line with the Valley Gate that was excavated a little further south by J.W. Crowfoot in 1927. This excavator was of the opinion that this wall section with its gate belonged to an early period and was restored probably during the time of Nehemiah and certainly in the Maccabean period*.

The Valley Gate that was excavated in 1927 by Crowfoot.

On the eastern side, a similarly strong wall with a glacis was excavated by Yigal Shiloh in the excavations he carried out in the City of David from 1978 – 82.

Area G, general view with glacis indicated. From:Yigal Shiloh, Excavations at the City of David, Qedem 19, Plate 36.
Close-up view of the glacis in Area G.

These excavated wall sections, both in the west and in the east, were all part of the fortifications of the City of David in the Hellenistic period (c. 300 B.C. – 141 B.C.). These walls would have continued further north and were connected with the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount at that time still had the 500 cubit square shape that was given it in the First Temple period, probably by King Hezekiah. The square mount was rebuilt by Nehemiah and continued to exist in this form until the Hasmonean period (141 B.C. – 37 B.C.).

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.
In this annotated drawing we see the rebuilt city of Jerusalem on the Eastern Hill with a smaller Temple on Mount Moriah. The reconstructed Temple Mount had gates and towers and chambers along the inside of its boundaries. The Ophel was to the south of the Temple. The city walls have been reconstructed following archaeological remains that have been found, complemented by the description of the walls in Nehemiah Chapter 3.

The other main source on the Akra, Josephus, tells us that, apart from fortifying the City of David, a separate fortress or citadel was also built by the Seleucids next to the Temple Mount:

“…and when he had overthrown the city walls, he built a citadel [Greek: Acra] in the lower part of the city, for the place was high, and overlooked the temple; on which account he fortified it with high walls and towers, and put into it a garrison of Macedonians”, Antiquities of the Jews 12:252–253

This quote from Josephus speaks of a citadel that was built in the highest place of the Lower City. What did the term “Lower City” mean in the time of Josephus? In describing the City of Jerusalem, Josephus (War 5.136-141) describes two hills, the upper city which had a straight ridge and was higher than the Lower City. The Upper City was located on the Western Hill of Jerusalem (where the Jewish and Armenian Quarters are today).  The Lower City, which bore the name of Akra and was shaped like a hog’s back, was located on the Eastern Hill south of the Temple Mount. The valley in between the Western and Eastern Hills is called the Central or Tyropoeon Valley.

It is important to make a distinction between the Lower City that was built like a fortress (akra) and the separate citadel or fortress itself  that was called the Akra. The two, the city and the citadel, are not the same in the historical sources. This is made abundantly clear in the Book of Maccabees, where it is recorded that Jonathan “decided … to erect a high  barrier (wall) between the Akra and the city, to separate it from the city and isolate it” (1 Macc 12:36). The Akra citadel therefore clearly stood in between the city and the Temple.

Let us now concentrate on the citadel named the Akra. What do we know about it?

Antiochus IV Epiphanes built the Akra in 168 B.C., a fortress for his Macedonian garrison from which the Jewish population could be controlled. Josephus records that it “commanded or overlooked the Temple”. Josephus writes in Antiquities 12.252 that Antiochus:

“… built the Akra in the Lower City; for it was high enough to overlook the Temple, and it was for this reason that he fortified it with high walls and towers, and stationed a Macedonian garrison therein. Nonetheless there re­mained in the Akra those of the (Jewish) people who were impious and of bad character, and at their hands the citizens were destined to suffer many terrible things.”

This is later confirmed by Josephus (Ant.12.362):

At this time the garrison in the Akra of Jerusalem and the Jewish renegades did much harm to the Jews; for when they went up to the Temple with the intention of sacrific­ing, the garrison would sally out and kill them—for the Akra commanded the Temple.

The Akra fortress therefore must have stood close to the Temple and overlooked it. The Temple Mount of that time was smaller than the present-day Temple Mount. In the Hellenistic period the Temple Mount still had a square shape, as it had in the time of Nehemiah. The distance between the Givati excavations and the southern wall of the square Temple Mount is 720 feet (220m) and the excavations are lower by some 150 feet (50m). It is impossible for the Akra fortress to have been situated in that location as it is too far from the Temple Mount and too low. The Seleucids would have had to construct a skyscraper of more than 150 feet (50m) in height, the approximate height of an 18 storey high modern building or the Temple in the time of Herod the Great. In the quote above of War 5, Josephus continues to inform us that the Hasmoneans:

“filled up the valley, with the object of uniting the city to the Temple, and also reduced the elevation of Acra by leveling its summit, in order that it might not block the view of the temple.”

In our previous quote we mentioned that Josephus also wrote that after Simon the Maccabee had razed the Akra, he “thought it would be an excellent thing and to his advantage to level also the hill on which the Akra stood, in order that the Temple might be higher than this” (Ant. 13.215).

It reasons therefore that the Akra was totally destroyed and dismantled and the ground on which it stood was leveled.  As Josephus records that it took three years to raze the Akra and the promontory of the Lower City on which it stood, I believe therefore that it would be impossible to ever find any remains of this fortress.

Josephus further confirms (Ant. 12.406) that the Akra was built adjacent to the Temple Mount as he states that “Nicanor was coming down from the Akra to the Temple.”This clearly shows that the Akra must have been built very close to the Temple Mount, if not right up against it, see drawing below reproduced from my previous post.

Schematic drawing of the square Temple Mount, which dates to the First Temple period, and the location of the Seleucid Akra. Drawing © Leen Ritmeyer

The Akra was a formidable fortress with a garrison permanently stationed in it. It was therefore necessary to have a good water supply. Adjacent to the projected southern wall of the square Temple Mount is a curiously shaped cistern. Its plan is in the form of the letter E, which is unlike all the other, mainly irregularly shaped, cisterns of the Temple Mount. This Cistern 11 was explored by Warren and described by Conder as follows,

 It is 61 feet 6 inches (18.75 m) deep and consists of three tanks, each about 26 feet (7.9 m) by 40 feet (12.2 m) connected by a passage running north and south and 14 feet (4.30 m) wide. The total contents are about 700,000 gallons (3,200 m3). The roof is of rock cut out into arches. Steps on the west ascend to the mouth of the tank and west of these are foundations of a massive wall on the rock. The passage from the Triple Gate is continued, so as to run over this tank.

A cutaway view of Cistern 11 that is located beneath the Triple Gate passageway. Drawing: © Leen Ritmeyer

This tank is located just south of the square Temple Mount, in an area that is totally flat and its position suggests that it was specially cut to provide the Macedonian garrison stationed in the Akra with a water supply ample enough to withstand a long siege. Stones quarried from this cistern may initially have provided building material for the Akra.

Interestingly, the tractate Erubin of the Mishnah calls one of the cisterns of the Temple Mount be’er haqqer. This name, which means “The Cistern of the Akra,” suggests that one of the cisterns of the Temple Mount was named after the fortress that lay on top of it. In addition, the presence of the foundations of a massive wall in this cistern, described by Warren, together with the cistern’s peculiar E-shape, suggest a design that would support a large building.

The literary evidence, combined with the unusually shaped Cistern 11, provides the first tangible evidence for the location of the Akra in the northern part of the area between the Double and Triple Gate passageways.

The finding of the Hellenistic city wall with its glacis in the Givati Parking lot has contributed much to our understanding of Jerusalem in the pre-Hasmonean period. This wall, however, belongs to the city walls of that time and has nothing to do with the infamous citadel of the Akra.

* J. Simons, Jerusalem in the Old Testament (Brill, 1952), 90.

The Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

One of our readers recently wrote:

“I appreciate your fantastic research work very much!
I have a question about “the bend” in the eastern wall. The 500 cubit thesis is convincing.
But I wonder that during the so called “big dig” to create the new underground mosque entrance at the south-east corner there were no remains or traces of the south wall intersection at “the bend” or at “the seam” position running to the west. Wouldn’t you have expect even some evidence of walls coming out of the eastern wall?”

Plan of the Temple Mount showing the location of the stairway in red.

I promised to answer this question in a blog post, as it may also be of interest to other readers. On the above plan of the Temple Mount that shows various routes around the sacred complex and that appears in our newly published guide book, I have indicated the location of the area in question near the southeast corner. This site was illegally dug out in 1999 and a stairway was constructed in 2000 to create an access to the underground Solomon’s Stables, that have been converted into the al-Marwani mosque. During the digging, hundreds of tonnes of soil were dug out by bulldozer and dumped in the Kedron Valley. This soil is still being examined by the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP).

Digging in front of Solomon’s Stables (nov. 1999). Picture: TMSP

Although some sizeable stones were removed, it appears that no Herodian or pre-Herodian walls were found in situ during those illegal diggings. The question of our reader is if that was to be expected? If one only looks at plans then such a question could indeed arise. The Bend represents the southeast corner of the square Temple Mount that was made by King Hezekiah in the 8th century BC, during what is known in archaeology as the Iron Age 2 period. The Eastern Wall of the Iron Age Temple Mount  clearly still exists. Two long sections of this early wall can be seen on either side of the Golden Gate and a few other wall stones of the same period are visible near the Bend. It stands to reason therefore that remains of the Southern Wall of the Iron Age Temple Mount may also still exist.

King Hezekiah (725–697 BC) embarked on a major rebuilding program of the Temple, as reflected in the second and later accounts of the Temple construction in 2 Chronicles 3–4.
Judging by the masonry style of the central part of the Eastern Wall and other archaeological remains on the Temple Mount, it appears that King Hezekiah surrounded this sacred complex with a massive 500-cubit-square artificial platform, called har habbayit in Mishnah Middot 2.1.

I have learned however, that looking at plans alone is not sufficient to obtain the complete picture. The secret to gaining a full understanding of  buildings, modern or ancient, is to examine elevations and sections too. Let’s have a look at the elevation of the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount:

Elevation of the southern end of the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount, showing in section (red lines) the area that was dug out at the end of 1999 on the Temple Mount, behind this elevation. © Leen Ritmeyer

In this drawing, the red lines indicate the interior level of the Temple Mount and the sloping area that was dug out by bulldozer. It shows that at no point did the diggings go deep enough to reach the preserved tops of ancient walls, although they came very close to reaching them. This does not mean to say that the excavations can be justified, but it is reassuring to know that it is unlikely that ancient walls might have been found and damaged.

Studying these levels, it appears that the southern walls of the Square Temple Mount and that of the Hasmonean period may still exist. Perhaps they may even be excavated under archaeological supervision at some time in the unforseeable  future! At least, for now, they are well preserved.

Originally, these walls must have stood higher than the level of the Temple Mount in the relevant periods. The Royal Stoa that was built by King Herod the Great at the southern end of the Temple Mount stood partly over the Southern Wall of the Hasmonean Temple Mount which, in the east, began at the Seam. Any part of the Hasmonean extension that stood above the projected floor level of the Royal Stoa must have been dismantled at the time of building.

The drawing above is a detail of the Development of the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount drawing:

The 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. The gate just below and to the right of the Temple is the Shushan Gate. To the south of the central section is a 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.

Many more images of the Temple Mount in the various periods and other archaeological sites are available from our Image Library. Below is is a reconstruction drawing of the Royal Stoa from our Image Library:

This is a section through the Royal Stoa that stood at the southern end of Herod’s Temple Mount. The Royal Stoa was the largest structure on the Temple Mount and was built in the style of a basilica. It had a central nave and two side aisles with four rows of 40 columns. Josephus calls this stoa more deserving of mention than any structure under the sun.
The Royal Stoa was used as a sacred market place, where money could be changed and smaller animals for sacrifice purchased. It could have been the place, therefore, where Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers and those that sold doves (Matthew 21.1-16).

Letter to the Editor of The New York Times from Dr. Jodi Magness

The many protests against the anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian article about the Temple Mount by the New York Times’ reporter Rick Gladstone, which we wrote about in a previous post, has had an effect. First of all, they published a correction and now The New York Times has published Jodi Magness’s letter in The Opinion Pages. You can read it here:

The Opinion Pages 

 LETTER

 The Temple Mount in Jerusalem 

To the Editor:

I am one of the specialists interviewed for “Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place” (news article, Oct. 9).

The question of the existence and location of two successive temples on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is not nearly as contested as the article suggests.

Literary sources leave little doubt that there were two successive ancient temples in Jerusalem dedicated to the God of Israel (the first destroyed in 586 B.C., and the second in 70 A.D.) These sources and archaeological remains indicate that both temples stood somewhere on the Temple Mount.

The only real question is the precise location of the temple(s) on the Temple Mount. The site of the Dome of the Rock is the most likely spot for various reasons, despite the lack of archaeological evidence or excavations. I know of no credible scholars who question the existence of the two temples or who deny that they stood somewhere on the Temple Mount.

JODI MAGNESS

Chapel Hill, N.C.

The writer is a professor specializing in early Judaism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Hopefully they have learnt to get the facts right and be more careful in the future so that they won’t publish another ill-informed article about the Temple Mount in Jerusalem or any other archaeological site in Israel.

HT: Joe Lauer

 

Where on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount were the Jewish Temples located?

The article in the New York Times by Rick Gladstone to which we referred to in yesterday’s post received so much criticism that the newspaper had to issue a public correction:

Correction: October 9, 2015

An earlier version of this article misstated the question that many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered concerning the two ancient Jewish temples. The question is where precisely on the 37-acre Temple Mount site the temples had once stood, not whether the temples had ever existed there.

An overall view of the Temple Mount from the southeast. 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.

Several bloggers have written about this, see this one:

It is simply insane to deny that the second temple was located at Temple Mount. For one thing, the Western Wall survives, as do the southern steps and other remnants of the temple:

Ample archaeological evidence confirms Temple Mount as the site of the second temple, and the contours of the temple on the mount are generally known. Less is known about the first temple, for which our sources are, I believe, entirely Biblical. But it is written that the second temple was built on the site of the first, and there is no reason to doubt this. Excavation under Temple Mount likely would produce remnants of the first temple and would, in any event, almost certainly produce some of the most sensational archaeological finds in history, but such exploration is prohibited by the government of Israel so as not to upset the Arabs.

and this one:

(“Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place”), reporter Rick Gladstone pretended that it’s an open question as to “whether” the two Jewish temples — one destroyed over 2,500 years ago and the second razed in roughly 60 A.D., ever existed on the 37-acre site known as the Temple Mount. In doing so, Gladstone gave credibility to Palestinians baselessly promoting “doubt that the temples ever existed — at least in that location.”

There is no meaningful “doubt” on the subject at all. After what must have been a furious and completely justified backlash, the Times issued a correction on Friday (bold is mine):

Correction: October 9, 2015

An earlier version of this article misstated the question that many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered concerning the two ancient Jewish temples. The question is where precisely on the 37-acre Temple Mount site the temples had once stood, not whether the temples had ever existed there.

To truly unpack the significance of this correction, we need to see the specifics of everything the Times did to fully modify Gladstone’s original writeup.

This last blog shows exactly how the text was changed.

A disgrace for the New York Times indeed! One of our readers wrote about our post:

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.

I don’t usually deal with political issues, but this went a bit too far!

The so-called “elusive” location of the Temple in Jerusalem

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.

This plan shows Herod’s Temple, courts and Altar (beige) in relation to the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain (blue). The Rock inside the Dome of the Rock was the Foundation Stone of the First and Second Temples on which the Holy of Holies was built. The Dome of the Chain stands on the former Porch that was built in front of the magnificent Temple built by Herod.

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.