Picking up from our last entry, Dr. David Reagan counters the City of David argument as location for the last Jewish Temple, saying:
Cornuke’s only basis for this assertion [that the threshing floor David purchased for the location of the Temple was situated within the City of David (2 Samuel 24:18–25)] is that since the Temple was located in Zion, the threshing floor had to be in the City of David. But the Bible says otherwise in 2 Chronicles 3:1—
Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
This verse makes it very clear that the threshing floor on which the Temple was built was located on Mount Moriah, and not in the City of David. Furthermore, threshing floors in biblical times were never located inside cities. Instead, they were located on high places in agricultural areas where the wind could catch the chaff.
Cornuke makes the bizarre claim that the threshing floor that David purchased was actually located over the Gihon Spring in the City of David. But as one of his critics has put it:10
The reason the Temple was not built on top of the Gihon Spring is the same reason people do not put a toilet in the middle of the kitchen table where food is eaten. The temple was built on a threshing floor. Threshing floors are dirty and were never built near springs. The particles would contaminate the water as the chaff from the wheat was blown away from the husk.
All these factors make it clear that a threshing floor inside the tiny City of David is just not a possibility.
Cornuke’s third major argument relates to the Jewish Temple’s need for abundant water in order to wash away the blood of animal sacrifices. He asserts that because of this need, the Temple had to be situated in the City of David over the Gihon Spring. He cites two biblical passages—Joel 3:18 and Ezekiel 47:1–7—to prove that the Gihon Spring was under the Temple.
The passage in Joel says, “…and in that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and the hills will flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah will flow with water; and a spring will go out from the house of the Lord to water the valley of Shittim.” Similarly, the passage in Ezekiel says that water will flow from under the threshold of the Temple. The water will form a river that will flow to the Dead Sea, and when it reaches that point, it will refresh the sea and bring it alive with “living creatures.”
The problem with these passages is that they are both presented in a Millennial context, and therefore they have nothing to do with the biblical temples. The verses are talking about the Millennial Temple which will be built after Jesus returns. And keep in mind that the Bible says that when the Second Coming occurs, there will be the greatest earthquake in history—one that will impact the entire world (Revelation 6:12–17 and Revelation 16:18–20).
Every island will be moved. Mountains will be lowered, plains will be lifted, and the topography of Jerusalem will be drastically changed (Zechariah 14:10). So, there is no way that Cornuke can prove that these verses are talking about the Gihon Spring.
The fact that the topography of Jerusalem is going to be radically revised is attested to by the size of the Millennial Temple that is described in Ezekiel 40-48. Bible prophecy expert Dr. John C. Whitcomb describes it this way:11
The area of the Temple courts (500 x 500 “reeds,” or about one square mile) would be larger than the entire ancient walled city of Jerusalem, and the holy portion for priests and Levites (20,000 x 25,000 reeds, or about 40 x 50 miles) would cover an area six times the size of greater London today and could not possibly be placed within present-day Palestine, that is between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (Ezekiel 47:18), to say nothing of the “portion of the prince” on either side of this area (Ezekiel 45:7, 47:21). The Millennial Jerusalem would be about 40 miles in circumference and thus ten times the circumference of the ancient city. Furthermore, it would be somewhat north of the present site of the city, and the Temple area would be about ten miles north of that, on the way to Samaria![i]
Part of the argument for the Temple being anywhere other than on Mount Moriah, the traditionally accepted site, is that memory of the exact location has been lost over the millennia. It simply appeared to be the place where such an important edifice would have been placed. Thus, the Mount Moriah advocates for the traditional location have been mistaken over the centuries.
Instead, some proponents of the City of David as the Temple site hold that the top of Mount Moriah was where the Antonia Fortress that housed Roman troops were garrisoned. More than six thousand Roman soldiers, they say, would need such a platform for accommodating their numbers.
Regarding the debate point that memory of the Temple Mount site has been lost to Jewish antiquity, Dr. Randall Price writes the following:
The location of the historic Temple(s) were never lost to Judaism. An unbroken chain of Jewish testimony has uniformly maintained that the site of the Temple(s) is to be located only on the historic Temple Mount.
M. Loewenberg, Professor Emeritus at Bar-Ilan University In his Middle East Quarterly journal article “Did Jews Abandon the Temple Mount,” traces the Jewish connection with the Temple Mount through time, revealing that not only has the Jewish Community maintained an unbroken 2,000 year-long connection with the Temple Mount, but from time to time, as foreign rulers permitted access, the Jewish communities in Israel, joined by others from the Diaspora, attempted to rebuild the Temple on its site or to establish regular services there.[ii]
Price writes that Professor Loewenberg observed further that for the past two thousand years, there has always been a Jewish community in Jerusalem. Despite terrible persecutions as the city and country were under foreign rulers, Orthodox Jews never left the site because of their fidelity to the words of Psalm 137:5–6:
If I will forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her skill. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.
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It seems that because of the Jewish people’s concentration on rebuilding the Temple, the location’s place of previous construction could not have been forgotten. The spot where the Holy of Holies sat has been debated, but never has any rabbi, historian, or archaeologist argued against the Temples being located on the Temple Mount. After twenty-five years of intensive research on the Temple, based upon original, historical and religious sources, the Temple Movement determined that the only place the Temple can be built is upon Mount Moriah. They believe this is in continuity with the Bible, Jewish history and oral tradition.
Price further reminds that the place of Jewish Temples is remembered.
The location of the historic Temple(s) was never lost to Islam. Early Muslim scholars, as well as modern Muslim scholars, stated that the Jewish Temple(s) were located only on the historic Temple Mount.
Soon after Muslim presence was established on the Temple Mount the Caliph Umar permitted Jews access to pray on the Temple Mount and at the Western Wall. The successor of Umar, Caliph Abd al-Malik, made ten Jewish families guardians of the Holy Temple Mount in the name of the Jewish people. Sometime afterward, the situation changed, and geographer and historian Sebeos wrote in A.D. 660: “I will relate a little more about the intentions of the rebellious Jews, who having earlier received help from the leaders of the children of Hagar, conceived a plan to rebuild the Temple of Solomon. Having discovered the place which is called the Holy of Holies, they then built on its foundations, a place of prayer for themselves. However, the Ishmaelites, jealous of them, drove them from this place and called it their house of prayer.” From this early account we can see that both the Jews and the Muslims recognized the historic Temple Mount as the site of the former Temple(s). It would seem that Abd al-Malik’s allowance of the renewal of Jewish worship at the site (if this was in fact permitted), led to his erection of the Dome of the Rock as a shrine (commemorating the site of the Jewish Temple) as a theological statement of Islamic supercession.
This understanding of the site was held by Islamic clerics until recent times. The Supreme Muslim Council, the body entrusted with the jurisdiction of the modern Temple Mount, publishes a guidebook in English for tourists to the site. Since 1966 this guide has made no reference to the Temple, but from 1935 into the 1950’s, the guidebook made this statement in its opening pages: “This site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the Temple of Solomon is beyond dispute.” Even though officially the Palestinian Authority denies the Temple ever existed on the modern Temple Mount, Palestinian academics know better. A case in point is Sari Nusseibeh, President of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, who confessed, “If you went back a couple of hundred years, before the advent of the political form of Zionism, I think you will find that many Muslims would not have disputed the connection that Jews have toward the Temple Mount.
The problem began arising with the advent of Zionism, when people started connecting a kind of feeling that Jews have toward the area with the political project of Zionism.”[iii]
The Stones Argument
Another assertion by those who hold that Mount Moriah isn’t the site of the Jewish Temples is that evidence presented by the locations of the many large stones surrounding Moriah bolsters their case. The following excerpt presents the argument.
Jesus warned His disciples of the coming destruction of the temple and that not one stone of the temple would be left on top of another. Matthew 24:1–2 says, “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’” Christ’s words clearly state that the entire temple, each and every stone, would be dug up, dislodged, and tossed away. It is interesting to note that there are massive stone blocks by the thousands set in the wall supporting the Temple Mount platform. Was Jesus wrong in His prophesying that not one stone would remain standing?
Historian Flavius Josephus wrote that the entirety of the temple was indeed in total ruin and destruction after 70 AD. He went on to say that if he had not personally been in Jerusalem during the war and witnessed the demolition by Titus of the temple that took place there, he wouldn’t have believed it ever existed. Josephus (Jewish Wars, VII, 1.1) speaks of widespread destruction in all Jerusalem as well.
So, if the Temple was completely destroyed to the last stone being toppled over, what is, and was, the huge stone fortress we see today rising over Jerusalem? I believe, as do others, that it once was the Roman fort occupied by the mighty Tenth Legion (Legio X Fretensis). I also believe that the true site of Solomon’s temple is about a thousand feet south of the temple mount in the City of David. This would mean that Jesus was correct in His prophetic words and that each and every stone, to the last one, was thrown down.
Where Was the Temple?
The garrison of Fort Antonia in Jerusalem was as big as several cities, according to Josephus, housing approximately 6,000 men plus the needed support staff. All told, as many as 10,000 personnel served there. But this huge fort has never been found in Jerusalem by archaeologists. I feel that the reason archaeologists have not found the mighty Roman fort is because the tradition of the Temple Mount complex being the temple site has blinded them.[iv]
Confuting the Stones Argument
Dr. David Reagan again weighs in on the Mount Moriah vs City of David Temple issue:
One of Cornuke’s cornerstone arguments that he emphasizes repeatedly is that Jesus prophesied that the entire Temple complex would be destroyed to the point that “not one stone will be left upon another” (Matthew 24:2). He then points out that the retaining walls of the Temple Mount remain standing to this day. Therefore, he concludes that the Temple could not have been located on the Temple Mount. In contrast, he points out that nothing is left of the Temple in the City of David.
This argument is nothing but hot air. Jesus did not prophesy the destruction of the Temple complex, and the reason there is nothing left of the Temple in the City of David is because it was never there.
You can find Jesus’ prophecy in three places: Matthew 24:1–2, Mark 13:1–2 and Luke 21:5–6. In all three places it is very clear that His prophecy relates only to the buildings on the Temple Mount and not to the retaining walls around the Mount. Consider Matthew 24:1–2 —
1) Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him.
2) And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”
As you can clearly see in this passage, the prophecy relates to the Temple buildings, and not the retaining walls.
Cornuke makes a big deal out of a coin that archaeologists found at the base of the southwest corner of the Temple Mount retaining wall. He says the coin was dated 20 AD and it proves that the walls were not completed by that date. He concludes that the western wall was not built by Herod, and therefore Herod’s Temple could not have been located on the Temple Mount.
The fact of the matter is that the construction of the Temple complex continued long after King Herod’s death. John 2:20 says that the building of the Temple complex took 46 years—until about 27 or 28 AD. And recent archaeological excavations have revealed that although the Western Wall, where Jews pray today, was built in Herod’s lifetime, the southwest corner of the Temple Mount where the coin was found, was not completed until around 30 AD. In fact, Josephus reports that the Temple complex was still receiving further embellishments and repairs right up to the time that the First Jewish Revolt broke out in 66 AD.
One important point that Cornuke overlooks is that there is tons of debris on the east and west sides of the Temple Mount. This rubble was piled up when the Roman soldiers pushed the stones of the Temple buildings off the top of the Temple Mount.
This debris is so deep that when people stand at the Western Wall (or “Wailing Wall”) today, they are actually standing 50 feet above the base of the wall where a street was located in the time of Jesus. On the eastern side of the Temple Mount, the debris is so deep that it covers the top of the ancient Eastern Gate which exists directly below the present gate.
This leads to a crucial question: If the Temple Mount was the location of the Roman fortress, why did the Roman soldiers tear down their own fortress and then go to the enormous trouble of pushing the remains over the top of the Temple Mount? It just makes no sense…
In the midst of the rubble that has been left at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount is a stone that is inscribed with the words, “To the place of trumpeting.” It marks the spot at the top of the Temple Mount where the priestly trumpeter would have stood to sound the trumpet signaling the beginning and end of Sabbath days and festivals. This stone clearly indicates that the Temple Mount was a Jewish sacred place, and not the site of a Roman fortress.[v]
Dr. Randall Price writes the following regarding further evidence of Mount Moriah’s validation as location of Jewish Temples:
Israeli archaeologist Ronny Reich who with Eli Shukron excavated the destruction layer beneath the southwestern wall of the Temple Mount in the late 1990’s said “The stones being revealed are the remains of the Temple Mount. The Temple stood in the center, of which nothing survived, but the Temple Mount and the big Herodian enclosure—this is what you see there fallen and destroyed. This is important. You can see it only there.” This underscores the point that we have made that there were remains of the Temple and that these identify the site as the Jewish Temple, not a Roman fortress.
More evidence has emerged from digs around the Temple Mount, according to Price. A small stone seal with an Aramaic inscription reading Daka Le’Ya (“Pure for God”) was found at the northwest corner of the Temple Mount. This seal was placed on objects devoted to Temple worship practices. It designated these objects as ceremonially pure.
This, according to Dr. Price, is the first written evidence confirming Temple ritual practice on the Temple Mount. A related artifact was found inside the Old City walls a short distance from the modern site of the Temple Mount. It was a tiny gold bell, and Exodus 39:25 mentions “bells of pure gold around the hem of the priest’s robe between the pomegranates.”
Dr. Price says that further evidence has come forth of construction activity by the Muslim authorities. They have inadvertently uncovered a possible Temple-related structure. While digging a trench for electric cabling on the Temple Mount in 2006, a layer of apparently undisturbed material from the First Temple period was discovered. In this trench was a large section of a First Temple period wall, and near the wall were pottery remains dating from the Iron Age II (the seventh and eighth centuries BC), most likely from the reign of King Hezekiah. The remains included fragments of bowl rims, bases, and body shards, the base of a juglet used for ladling oil, the handle of a small juglet, the rim of a storage jar, fragments of ceramic table wares and animal bones. Based on the location of the wall and the type of vessels found, archaeological architect Dr. Leen Ritmeyer proposed that it formed part of the House of Oil in the First Temple.
Price’s documentation of the Jewish Temples’ location is overwhelming. The Temple platform’s size and the intricacies of its various expansion aspects from the time of Solomon to the Herodian era have produced no other evidence-based deduction. The physical features themselves are so conclusive that we wish we could devote the required space in this volume to go in-depth in that regard.
Price concludes that in English law, a court will not be deterred from a conclusion because of regret at its consequences; a court must arrive at such conclusion as is directed by the weight and preponderance of the evidence. In weighing the evidence from the archaeological excavations at the modern Temple Mount, the preponderance of evidence shows that it was the site of the historic Temple(s).
NEXT: Building toward Tribulation
[i] David Reagan, “The Jewish Temples—Where Were They Located?” , http://christinprophecy.org/articles/the-jewish-temples/.
[ii] Price, “Is the Temple Mount the Hoax of the Millennium? An Answer to the Current Controversy, Part 1.”
[iv] Cornuke, “Temple: Archeology.”
[v] Reagan, “The Jewish Temples—Where Were They Located?”
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