Preface: The Jerusalem Temple Mount Myth

In 1997, I ventured on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, seeking a spiritual experience like many others who journey there.  My seat in the tourist bus did not afford a view of the temple mount as we entered Jerusalem from the direction of the Dead Sea, but on the ground, I felt the thrill of being dwarfed by the city and temple walls towering above me. I remember my excited anticipation as I climbed the Mughrabi Bridge, augmented by the intimidating security forces all around the premises. The Dome of the Rock evoked my admiration with its shimmering golden roof and ornamental tiles, but the rock inside seemed an ordinary, inert entity, summoning no tremors of worshipful awe from me.

I had prepared a report on the temple mount to be given there to my fellow tourists, but our Palestinian and U.S. tour guides showed so much agitation about it, in the end I sacrificed my “great moment” for the sake of tranquility. The tension in the place where Jesus had supposedly walked effectively stamped out any peaceful feelings which I associate with the divine presence.

Several years later, I came across a book by Ernest L. Martin entitled The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot, which made sense of my negative personal experience on the “temple mount.”  I learned the edifice millions venerate was merely one more fraudulent tradition, along with innumerable others in Jerusalem, shrouded in veils of willful ignorance.

Martin (2000) started his research with a question–Where was Solomon’s temple built?  All other researchers, writers, scholars, and archaeologists have started their works with an assumption, i.e. Solomon built his temple on the Dome of the Rock site or somewhere else on the “temple mount.”  Some have even nonchalantly admitted this assumption is based on a long-standing tradition only, while failing to recognize the serious logical error of basing conclusions on an assumption.  One exception, however, is F. E. Peters (1985), who actually perceived that in trying to locate the elusive tower of Antonia, he and others were “envisioning backward;” that is, they were starting with the assumption that the alleged “temple mount” was the point of departure for locating the tower of Antonia.  He said: “We are merely guessing, however, and perhaps somewhat more dangerously, envisioning backward from the platform that sits atop that hill today, the Muslims’ Haram al-Sharif” (p. 14).  This statement is a singularly rare insight into the weakness of establishing Jerusalem topography based on a long-standing tradition only.  Unfortunately, perhaps because the temple mount tradition is so tenaciously embedded in the scholarly mentality, Peters fell into the same trap as all others in accepting it, even though he had recognized the danger of such a position.

The habit of accepting the temple mount tradition as fact has fatally perpetuated a blindness regarding all the descriptions of the temple which testify against such an assumption.  It means that for the past 170 years and beyond, everyone but Martin has never doubted the temple mount tradition, even though Jerusalem seethes with similar fictitious inventions.  In order to avoid this egregious error, in this book I haved called the 36-acre walled edifice the “alleged temple mount,” demoting it to its accurate status as a myth.  Martin proves it is actually the Roman tower of Antonia, which Herod and his successors expanded from the Baris.                                                                                                                                                         To illustrate the damaging extent to which starting with a false assumption has affected our knowledge of Jerusalem topography, Martin reveals that in a key place, even translators of Josephus changed the actual meaning of the Greek text, in order to make it consistent with their belief that the alleged temple mount actually is genuine.  This is evident in the failure of Whiston and other translators to render the Greek “stadiaian” in The Jewish War VI, 2, 144 as it stands in the text–a measurement of approximately 600 feet.  This measurement of the Greek “stade” is critical to the understanding that the tower of Antonia was separated from the temple on the south by two aerial bridges of that length.  Had Whiston rendered the text as it is written, instead of “no long space,” it might have helped prevent all the strained, vain attempts of historians and archaeologists to justify only imagining the tower of Antonia north of the alleged temple mount, flush against its northern wall, where the Omariyyah boys school now stands.   In assuming that Josephus must be wrong, based on the assumption of the alleged temple mount’s legitimate identity, Whiston deliberately falsified the translation.  Thackeray and Cornfeld, to their credit, at least appended a note or parenthetical clarification, which the scholars have utterly failed to acknowledge.   Despite some early Greek scholars having noted the 600-foot passages, their existence has sunk into oblivion, even though the configuration of Roman Jerusalem’s east side in the Herodian era cannot be understood without them.  When Martin resurrected their reality, a wall of total scholarly resistance refused to even acknowledge a differing voice, thus protecting the status quo and rendering unnecessary any revisiting of the temple mount myth.

Another glaring premise of the myth can be noted in the claim that the vestibule of Warren’s Gate (or Barclay’s Gate) was actually the cave near the Holy of Holies, which the post-destruction Jews used as a synagogue.  This cave was a real cave in the Gihon water system–probably the vaulted entry.  Or, consider the miraculous five gates on the south wall of the alleged temple mount somehow becoming the two southern gates of the temple described by the Mishnah.  The most reprehensible distortion of all, however, is the mere drawing of a square on the large, trapezoidal “temple mount” in order to match ancient descriptions of the temple’s dimensions, despite Josephus clearly explaining that its four-furlong square was obtained by enclosing a hill from the bottom and building up to create outer courts of this measuement.

Another consideration, significantly material to the Christian mind, is the relationship

of Christ’s prophecy of destruction to the massive remains of the alleged temple mount (Mark 13:2).  The prevailing reconciliation reasons that when he said “buildings,” he meant the “hieron” (the whole temple complex), but the latter did not include the foundations of the temple mount.  However, for Christ’s prophecy to convey a sense of totality, “hieron” must include the temple foundations, thereby rendering the prophecy as entirely literal–that not one stone of the entire temple complex, including the foundations, would be left standing.  When Christ uttered his prophecy, he was no doubt directing the gaze of his disciples to the eastern wall of the temple, from a position on the road to or on the Mount of Olives.   They would have seen a wall about 450 feet high, with walls 50 feet high on top of that, and the top of the temple showing above that.  Visually speaking, the 450-foot height of the foundation wall would have been almost three times the height of the combination of buildings on the platform. In short, if the prophecy were meant to provoke a stunning wonderment at the mere idea, such an emotion would have been severely muted were the foundations not meant to be included in the prophecy.   It is difficult to attribute to Christ a prophecy foreshadowing the end of Jewish temple worship, essentially a sign of God’s severing his covenant with them, accompanied by a colossal, enduring monument to that covenant, which, in addition, would serve to highlight the numerical error of his prophecy to the count of more than 10,000 stones (see Martin, 2000).  The location of the temple in the City of David, from where it has utterly vanished, honors Christ’s words in their most exacting interpretation and showcases the majestic finality of their witness–there was not a single stone standing upon another of the whole temple complex, including its foundations.

At the same time, neither the Jews nor the Romans demolished their own camp, the tower of Antonia to the north of the temple, and it remained as the only building occupying Jerusalem after the destruction, housing the Roman Legion X Fretensis for over 200 years.  Among archaeologists and writers, only Martin did not overlook the statement of Eleazar in Josephus.  As the leader of the Jews holed up in Masada, he passionately encouraged them to commit suicide, exactly describing what remained in Jerusalem after its destruction by the Romans:

Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein?

It is now demolished to the very foundations, and has nothing but that

             monument of it preserved, I mean the camp of those that has destroyed it,

which still dwells upon its [Jerusalem’s] ruins….  (War VII, 8, 376; italics

and information in brackets mine)

And, lest the entire destruction of the temple’s foundations be misinterpreted to mean only the sanctuary’s foundations, Eleazar graciously adds the needed detail:

And I cannot but wish that we had all died before we had seen that holy

city demolished by the hands of our enemies, or the foundations of our

holy temple dug up after so profane a manner.  (War VII, 8, 379; italics

mine)

It is starkly clear to any visitor to Jerusalem that the foundations of the alleged temple mount (except in the northeast area) were never dug up.

How could the whole of the scholarly and archaeological community (except Martin) have missed these crucial descriptions which are still with us today?  I suppose the answer lies in comparing how an entire mountain–Mount Zion–underwent transference from its original location on the southeastern hill of Jerusalem to the southwestern hill of Jerusalem.  The damning reality of Jerusalem’s false topography stems from a lack of close, continuous, unbiased examination of the written accounts over its history.  Through a long process of constantly changing regimes with religious aspirations, each formulating its own self-serving identity for the tower of Antonia, what was originally a gentile establishment metamorphozed into the most sacred of Jewish sites, the temple mount.  Once this false identity had taken hold, largely in the Crusader era, the truth residing in the eye-witness account of Josephus has been unable to penetrate the careless or often deliberately blind readings of it by the “experts.”

Today, the view upheld by those writing almost 2,000 years distant from the events is the illogical conclusion that the Romans preserved the temple mount, the religious symbol of their hated enemy, while destroying their own camp–the tower of Antonia.   While archaeologists have searched in vain for the tiniest vestige of its existence north of the alleged temple mount, the enclosure itself, with the shape and dimensions of a typical Roman camp, looms as the proverbial elephant (better–mammoth) in the room of Jerusalem topographical scholarship. Deterrents to the truth reside in reputations needing protection and in the coffers which supply archaeological expeditions and reports, which in turn protect a bitterly contested turf.  As Nadia Abu El Haj (2001) has claimed, the temple mount myth is used by archaeologists as part of their nation-making narrative, so crucial to the Jewish identity.   If the temple mount were actually the tower of Antonia, the Jews’ claim to it would disappear, along with a desperately held symbol of their glorious and significant past.

In this book, the City of David theory which exposes the reality of the temples’ actual location, is based primarily on Martin’s research. However, it largely consists of the actual word-for-word translations of the ancient sources, so readers may judge their meaning on their own, alongside my interpretations and commentary.  I have used Whiston’s translation of Josephus, unless otherwise noted, and the King James Version and of the Bible, unless otherwise noted.

As an armchair archaeologist, I have a distinct disadvantage in correctly interpreting the findings and descriptions of the real archaeologists.  This area of expertise, however, can help or hinder any kind of conclusions, being fraught with weaknesses, the greatest of which is dating.  Starting with the false premise of the Jerusalem temple mount myth also hinders, since some traditionalist archaeologists have labeled so many sites according to this erroneous assumption.

The purpose of this book is to help dispel the contention between two religious peoples, at least over the “temple mount.”  Jews are increasingly showing an interest in rebuilding the prophesied third temple, but it has to be where the former temples originally stood.  This location is described in Ezekiel 47: 1:

Afterward he brought me [Ezekiel] again unto the door of the house; and behold,

waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront

of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down under the right side

of the house, at the south of the altar.

These prophesied waters are to come out in the same way and in the same direction as they did in the time of Solomon, from the Gihon Spring (Jerusalem’s only spring) under the temple. Today, there is a visitor’s center at the same site, unknowingly perched upon the once sacred hillside, and plans are in progress to create an archaeological park of the entire southeastern hill.  Meanwhile, much blood has been shed resulting from incidents threatening the Muslim’s Dome of the Rock, which is almost universally, but falsely thought to be the temples’ former location.  It seems the time is ripe for the information in this book to reach those most affected, in order to prevent further, needless deaths, and not unimaginably, a future war, which could be provoked if the Dome of the Rock were harmed.