Visiting the Temple Mount can be a frustating experience nowadays with Muslims protesting against the presence of Jews and other non-Muslim visitors. However, there are resources, such as our own guide book to the Temple Mount, and now a new DVD with lots of information on the Temple Mount that make it possible to visit the Temple Mount in a virtual way without all the hassle one could encounter in real time.
Randall Price, the presenter, wrote the following:
With over four years of production time, this new product offers a guided tour of the biblical, archaeological and historical sites on the Temple Mount as well as other parts of Jerusalem, the site of the Tabernacle at Shiloh, and the full-scale model of the Tabernacle at Timna Park.
With over 100 high-definition 360-degree panoramas and informative videos, the user is transported to the modern sites to explore for themselves the ancient biblical and historical connections. Maps are available to guide to the desired modern sites, which show reconstructions of the ancient Temple based on the work of Dr. Leen Ritmeyer. Dr. Randall Price, author of the Rose Guide to the Temple provides the on location video instruction.
The product is available in four languages (English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese) on a single DVD-ROM for both PC and MAC.
Because Islamic officials deny the existence of the Temple at the Temple Mount and prevent visitors from explaining the biblical significance or showing diagrams or pictures of the ancient Temple, this new product corrects this situation in an educational and entertaining way.
European customers can order the DVD here, while American and Canadian orders can be placed on this website.
In the latest Biblical Archaeology Review (Jan./Feb. 2016), Peter Schertz and Steven Fine wrote an interesting article called “A Temple’s Golden Anniversary”. The anniversary they refer to is that of the well-known model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period that at present is located in the Israel Museum and will be 50 years old in 2016.
In 1966, Prof. Avi-Yonah completed a 4-year project of creating a model of Second Temple Jerusalem built to a scale of 1:50. It was commissioned by Hans Kroch, owner of the Holyland Hotel, in memory of his son Jacob, who was killed in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In 2006 the model was dismantled and rebuilt in the grounds of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. This model and especially the section that depicts the Temple became so popular that it became “the standard image of the Second Temple for Jews and Christians alike.”
The authors describe the Temple complex in great detail and show that Avi-Yonah, in his research for this model, used the descriptions by Josephus, contemporary architectural styles, such as that of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and other sites, and depictions on coins, such as those issued during the Bar Kochba Revolt (133-135 AD) that show a Temple façade with a flat roof supported by four columns.
In the article however, there is a strong focus on the gold of Herod’s Temple:
“How much gold decorated the Temple is also a matter of debate. Josephus describes the Temple façade as covered with ‘massive plates of gold’ and writes that a large golden vine hung with golden fruit above the large door leading to the inner sanctum. … Avi-Yonah took a rather conservative stance toward gold, using it for external trim, but not as a facing for the Temple, nor did he include the golden vine in his reconstruction.”
In their article, the authors contrasted Avi-Yonah’s model with the one I designed for the late Benjamin Adelman, Chairman of the American Friends of the Israel Exploration Society in Washington DC. His commission of several models was a wonderful opportunity to put my personal research of many years of study of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount into elegant models of Herod’s Temple, Herod’s Temple Mount, Solomon’s Temple and the Tabernacle. These models were produced in England by a professional modelmaking firm, York Modelmaking and Display Limited and shipped over to Washington. After Adelman’s death, these models were bequeathed to the Yeshiva University Museum in New York.
The authors wrote of my model of Herod’s Temple:
“In contrast to Avi-Yonah, Leen Ritmeyer, the former architect of the archaeological excavations below the Temple Mount, has taken a rather maximalist approach to the Temple gold. His model … covers the entire façade with sheets of gold.”
The authors are unsure of which areas were covered with gold and suggest that the description of the Temple by Josephus (see below) is somewhat obscure:
The sacred edifice itself, the holy Temple, in the central position, was approached by a flight of twelve steps. The façade was of equal height and breadth, each being a hundred cubits; but the building behind was narrower … The entire façade was covered with gold, and though it the first edifice [the Sanctuary beyond the Porch] was visible to a spectator without in all its grandeur and the surroundings of the inner gate all gleaming with gold fell beneath his eye …The gate opening … had, moreover, above it those golden vines, from which depended grape clusters as tall as a man; and it had golden doors … The exterior of the building wanted nothing that could astound either mind or eye. For, being covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from the solar rays. To approaching strangers it appeared from a distance like a snow-clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of the purest white. From its summit protruded sharp golden spikes to prevent birds from settling upon them and polluting the roof. (War 5.207–226 and also Ant. 15.391-395)
From this description one gets the impression that most of the façade was covered with gold, apart from the upper part. To reduce the enormous amount of gold that the use of massive plates would require, it is more likely that a thin gold foil may have been pressed against the stones and the edges tucked in between them. Remains of thin gold foil have been found in other buildings from that period. We know that the top part of the Temple façade, called the entablature, was not covered with gold, because other sources indicate that the exposed limestone blocks were whitewashed once a year. This would confirm Josephus’ description of the Temple facade as a snow-clad mountain.
Josephus is not the only source describing the gold of the Temple. Mishnah Shekalim 4.4 mentions that the surplus of the terumah was used to make “golden plating for bedecking the Holy of Holies.” The terumah was originally a heave-offering of agricultural produce, but is used here as a financial contribution which was taken three times a year and put in the Chamber of the Half-shekel of the Temple. It appears that if enough money was available, golden plates of one cubit square were made and hung on the walls of the Sanctuary, as Middot 4.1 says that “all the House was overlaid with gold.” Some of these plates were put on display during the three main pilgrim festivals.
Another historical reference to the gold of the Temple is to be found in the New Testament (Matt. 23:16,17) where Jesus berates the Pharisees and Scribes who said: “Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!” Jesus reasons that the Temple that sanctified the gold was greater than the gold itself. It appears therefore that the gold of the Temple was well known at that time.
Finally, as mentioned in a previous post, an inscription in Rome suggests that the gold of the Jerusalem Temple was used for the building of the Colosseum. The Colosseum is a very large building and lots of money, in the form of silver and gold, would have been needed for its construction.
We will never know for sure how much gold the Jerusalem Temple contained and exactly where it was displayed, internally and externally. It is generally known that Josephus occasionally exaggerates, but that a large amount of gold was displayed in the Jerusalem Temple, appears to be a reasonable suggestion if we also take other historical sources into consideration.
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.
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.
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.
Later on, during the time of Nehemiah, the city walls were restored as recorded in Nehemiah Chapter 3:
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).
A few months ago, we updated our Jerusalem in the Time of Nehemiahbook. 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.
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.
At the end of last year, SCM R. Brockhaus published a new German Bible Lexicon, the Lexicon Zur Bible. The lexicon has been in print for many years, but this new edition has been very much updated and expanded. The entries are arranged in alphabetical order and many archaeological sites are conscisely described. The Google Map geo-data of each archaeological site is also included. In contrast to the previous versions, the almost one thousand illustrations are in full color and consist of photographs, maps, charts and diagrams. About 40 of my reconstruction drawings, some of which were specially commissioned, are also incorporated, see my drawing of Nehemiah’s Jerusalem below.
This lexicon is a serious reference work on the Bible, written from a Christian perspective. Many of the new archaeological entries have been written by Alexander Schick, who is one of the four editors. He has visited Israel many times and personally knows the Israeli archaeologists whose excavation photographs appear in the lexicon, e.g. Amnon Ben-Tor, Amihai Mazar, Eilat Mazar, Aren Maier and Ronny Reich. Alexander is an avid and gifted photographer himself and can always be relied upon to have up-to-date photographs of sites of biblical interest. He also runs a Qumran and Bible Exhibition.
Here is a snippet from the publisher’s blurb on the German Amazon website, advertising the book, the publication of which is a major event for Christians in Germany: “The basic character of a reliable reference work based on sound biblical theology remains fully intact. It is a must for anyone who wants to study God’s Word in a deeper way”.
One could only wish that this lexicon was available in English!
As stated in a previous post, Francesco D’Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento, has been excavating the cave of the Plutonium in Hierapolis. This year, he discovered two unique marble statues:
“The statues represent two mythological creatures,” D’Andria told Discovery News. “One depicts a snake, a clear symbol of the underworld, the other shows Kerberos, or Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog of hell in the Greek mythology.”
According to this article in Discovery News, the excavations also revealed that the source of the thermal springs that produce the white travertine terraces, was located in this cave.
The site represented an important destination for pilgrims. People watched the sacred rites from steps above the cave opening, while priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto. The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.
According to another newspaper report, the tombs located in the extensive northern cemetery of Hierapolis are being restored. While removing the asphalt road that ran through the middle of the cemetery, an ancient road was discovered.
Denizli Mayor Abdülkadir Demir said they were celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pamukkale’s inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. He said Pamukkale was a very important tourism center for Turkey due to its travertine, ancient pool and thermal sources. He said, “When we look at figures in the beginning of November, we see the number of visitors is 100,000 more than last year. Interest is increasing every year.”
Hierapolis is mentioned in the New Testament. The believers in Hierapolis were very precious to the Apostle Paul (Col. 4:13). One wonders if any of those early Christian believers may have been buried here.
The Damascus Gate is located in the centre of the northern wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Kikar haShabbat News reports that the top of this gate has been restored as part of the Jerusalem City Wall Conservation Project.
The article puts special emphasis on the central decoration at the top of the gate, nicknamed ‘the crown’, that was destroyed in the Six Day War.
The Damascus Gate was built by the Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538 AD over the remains of a Roman gate. That gate was built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a monumental entrance to the city of Jerusalem, which he had renamed Aelia Capitolina. This gate features on the Madaba Map, which shows an open square with a column inside the gate. In the Byzantine period, the gate was incorporated into the city wall.
Jack Sasson reports the article in full:
After extensive conservation work on the largest and most impressive of Jerusalem’s gates, which took nearly a year to complete, visitors there can now enjoy the gate in all its splendor just as the public experienced it for hundreds of years, until the ‘crown’ was damaged in the battles of 1967.
The conservation of the gate was carried out as part of the Jerusalem City Wall Conservation Project, in cooperation with the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Prime Minister’s Office
For hundreds of years, when visitors arrived in Jerusalem and entered the city by way of Damascus Gate – the largest and most magnificent of Jerusalem’s gates – they glanced up and saw the large ‘crown’ that the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent built atop the gate in 1538 CE.
But in 1967 the gate sustained serious damage and the crown was destroyed during the fighting in the Six Day War. Now, the Jerusalem Development Authority, in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority and with funding provided by the Prime Minister’s Office, is concluding a comprehensive project of rehabilitating Damascus Gate, during which the gate was cleaned of the effects from the ravages of time and its ornamentation was restored, including the magnificent ‘crown’ at the top of the gate.
When workers of the Conservation Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority went about restoring the decorations on Damascus Gate they were aided by pictures of the gate that were taken at the beginning of the twentieth century when the British governed Jerusalem. The pictures show the gate in all its glory, with the crown at the top of the center embrasure, and based on this the conservators proceeded with their work. As part of the engineering and stabilizing measures performed, the ‘crown’ was secured to the core of the wall by means of eleven anchors. At the same time the decoration’s four stones were
completely restored, and its ceiling was covered again with stone slabs as it was in the past, based on the historical photographs.
“The Old City of Jerusalem is a focus of interest for people the world over and the number one tourist attraction in Israel”, says the Elʽad Kendel, director of the Old City Basin in the Jerusalem Development Authority, “the city walls and the gates are the first thing that everyone sees when they arrive at the Old City, and it is therefore important to us that tourists, both domestic and foreign, see the city in all its glory”.
According to Avi Mashiah, the project’s architect on behalf of the Conservation Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The work at Damascus Gate was particularly challenging since it is located at the entrance to a noisy and bustling marketplace. All of the work that was carried out there was done so in agreement with the local merchants. In order to avoid disturbing business in the marketplace, work was begun after the last stall closed at 10:00 PM, and continued until the early hours of the morning, prior to the start of the following business day. Because of its beauty, Damascus Gate is also
the most documented of Jerusalem’s city gates and its historical
material and numerous photographs facilitated an accurate restoration of its appearance. Every single decoration, including all of its features, was studied and restored by us down to the smallest detail, in order to provide visitors to the gate as full and complete an experience as possible”.
Four years ago the Jerusalem Development Authority commenced work on the rehabilitation and conservation of the Old City walls in Jerusalem, in cooperation with the Conservation Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is actually carrying out the work on the walls, and with funding provided by the Prime Minister’s Office. As part of the project, work was conducted along the entire length of the Old City walls and on the gates from the Dung Gate, clockwise in the direction of Zion Gate, Jaffa Gate, the New Gate and
Damascus Gate. Work on the wall is currently being done at the
northeastern corner of the Old City and is scheduled to be completed by year’s end.
The work on the wall included conservation, the removal of hazards and the rehabilitation of elements in the wall. In addition a laser scan was used for the purpose of precisely measuring the wall, particularly the gates, which were surveyed and studied at the level of individual stones. The Jerusalem Development Authority and the Israel Antiquities
Authority are pleased that visitors to the Damascus Gate can now enjoy the full splendor of the structure, and experience it exactly as the public has for 460 years, until the gate was damaged in 1967.
A plan for the renovation of the Mughrabi Gate bridge, which leads from the Western Wall plaza to the Al-Aksa Mosque and the Temple Mount, received final approval from the Jerusalem Municipality last week, enabling construction to begin at any time.
Previous work on the bridge has sparked widespread rioting and violence in both east Jerusalem and the Arab world due to the sensitive location.
We reported on the problems of the construction of a new bridge here, here and here.
“This drawing is a section through the dirt ramp leading up to the Mughrabi Gate. The ramp is in the middle of the drawing. On the left is the Western Wall Plaza, reserved for Jewish worship. On the right of the section is the excavated area with, on the bottom, the Herodian street, with the stones which were thrown down by the Romans in 70 AD. Immediately above this level, remains of the Byzantine period were found, including a water channel cut into the Herodian stones for use in a bath house. Above this level, the remains of a large Ummayad palace was found, which used a similar water channel, cut higher in the Herodian stones of the Western Wall. No Crusader remains have so far been found in this area.”
It will be interesting to see what will happen now. Approval may have been granted, but the building of a new bridge may not be accepted by all:
“[Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel] Rabinovitch dismissed any suggestion of renewed tensions, even with the Arab world in a state of unrest.
“We don’t see any reason for conflict, because we’re talking about a bridge renovation,” Rabinovitch said on Monday.
“In Jerusalem, you never can tell,” said Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran. “There are things we think will cause riots and don’t do anything, and there are things that we don’t understand why they suddenly riot.”
On my return from Jordan, I found that it was and still is widely reported that an underground tunnel has been opened in Jerusalem and, as expected, some outrageous Palestinian comments made about the supposed danger to the Temple Mount, such as these:
The tunnel leading from the City of David in Silwan to beneath the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority and announced to media fanfare Sunday, is drawing fire from Palestinians who claim it will damage the Temple Mount.
Fatah Revolutionary Council member Dimitri Diliani accused the Jerusalem municipality of Judaizing East Jerusalem and said the digging constituted a “direct danger to al-Aqsa.”
The tunnel in question was first discovered by Charles Warren in the 1870’s, recorded by subsequent excavators such as Bliss and Dickie, Johns and Kathleen Kenyon. A large section below Robinson’s Arch was cleared during Benjamin Mazar’s excavations in the 1970’s. Not only did Warren publish a plan of the tunnel, but in the 1970’s the Irish architect David Sheehan together with my late sister Martha made a detailed survey of the tunnel. The tunnel was constructed as a drain below the street that ran above it.
This plan is based on Warren’s drawing and is published in my book The Quest, p. 56:
There are two distinct phases to be discerned in the tunnel. The older sections to the north and to the south on the plan are roofed with flat slabs, while the central section has a vaulted roof. The flat roofed sections used to belong to one and the same Pre-Herodian, possibly Hasmonean period, while the vaulted section is Herodian.
It is clear from the above plan that the construction of the Herodian southwest corner of the Temple Mount cut the earlier drain and a detour was constructed going round this corner, using short sections of vaulting, to reconnect the drain again. This Herodian section also cut through some First Temple period tombs:
Even Israeli commentators don’t get the purpose of this tunnel right. According to this report:
Visitors are now able to walk from the center of Silwan to the Western Wall plaza within several minutes, via a shaft that researchers believe was used for drawing water from the tunnel. The shaft is in the area of the Davidson Archaeological Park and Center, between the southern wall of the Temple Mount and the Dung Gate, and when the work is completed it will serve as the entrance to the tunnel.
The purpose of this tunnel was not to supply water, but to drain away rainwater that fell on the street and to drain off the sewage of adjacent buildings into the drain:
During the Mazar excavations, this tunnel was visited many times by staff and volunteers alike. It is great to hear that the full length of this drain has been opened all the way down to the Siloam Pool. It will be exciting to walk again through this tunnel, but while doing so, one should also remember that in 70 AD many Jerusalemites tried to escape through this same tunnel, but were cruelly killed by the Romans when they were discovered.
Yesterday, 8 January, 2011, Oleg Grabar, Professor Emeritus in the School of Historical Studies at Princeton University, passed away.
Oleg Grabar’s research has had a profound and far-reaching influence on the study of Islamic art and architecture. His extensive archaeological expeditions and research trips cover the vast expanse of the Islamic world in Africa, the Middle East, and Muslim Asia.
His book, The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem (1996), details the role of Islam in defining the “look” of Jerusalem that remained largely intact until the twentieth century. A great part of the book is taken up with a description of the beautiful mosaics of the Dome of the Rock, complemented by a set of splendid photographs.
A brief overview of his career can be viewed here.