19 Minute Read + pictures and a video
(Edited version of “Conspiracy Theories and the Location of the Jerusalem Temple” that I wrote on December 6, 2018.)
TODAY’S BIBLE READING:
TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):
Mark 13:1-2 (CSB): “As he was going out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Teacher, look! What massive stones! What impressive buildings!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another—all will be thrown down.'”
REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):
Conspiracy theories abound! There are plenty of folks who would have us to think that what we believe to be true is … well … not true. They want us to think that they know things that are bizarre but that are completely believable if we knew what they knew.
Well I’m not someone who likes to ride the conspiracy bandwagon. I’m not someone who wants to believe that the truth is always hidden.
But, that being said, I would readily acknowledge that I don’t have a corner on the truth. I suspect that there are things that I currently believe to be true that are … well … not true.
And that includes some things that appear in the Bible. That’s why I’m always reading, always wanting to learn. Knowing that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), I want to spend much time in it so that I can accurately convey God’s Word to others.
One of the many “facts” that I believe could be wrong is … the traditionally accepted site of the Jerusalem Temple.
Now, I know that some of you are prepared to hit the “X” at the top right of your screen. You think I’m nuts for saying such a thing. But, all I ask is that you stay with me for just a few minutes and keep reading.
This past summer, my wife and I went to Israel for a 10 day trip. It was exhilarating when we arrived in Jerusalem! I had read about Jerusalem in my Bible since I was a child and I was now standing in that place.
But, a pastor who went on the trip with us began to share some interesting informational tidbits with me. He pointed out some Bible passages and talked of recent archaeological evidence that provided mounting evidence that the Jerusalem temple location is in a different location than what millions of Christians think. Over the past 2,000 years, with Jerusalem being fought over and so many controlling powers taking it from each other, it is alleged that the site had been forgotten and then misidentified.
Initially, I was incredibly skeptical. I couldn’t believe that so many Christians could be wrong.
But, then I began to look at the evidence for myself. I purchased the book, “Temple,” by Robert Cornuke and devoured it.
More importantly, I opened my Bible and looked at the numerous compelling clues found within its pages. I discovered that the Bible, itself, seemed to be pointing to a different location.
I still think the jury is out … but I am now strongly leaning toward a different location for the site of the former temple. I think the Dome of the Rock is probably built on the location of a first century Roman fortress, not the first century Temple.
Well, I’m not going to bring up all of the archaeological evidence that has been discovered in The City of David (Read Robert Cornuke’s book and other books for that information). I will simply point to a few passages of Scripture and let you determine if you think the Temple Mount is actually in the City of David, south of the Dome of the Rock.
There is simply too much “evidence” to put in this blog post. My aim is to simply put salt in your mouth with a desire to get you thirsty for more information on this intriguing topic.
The following picture is a model of the city of Jerusalem as it may have appeared in the first century. I am standing in what would have been south of Jerusalem looking north along the eastern walls of the city. In the top of this picture, you can see what has typically been identified as the location of the Jerusalem Temple. The people on the right would be standing in the Kidron Valley at the base of the Mount of Olives (which would be behind them). South of the “Temple Mount,” in the center of this picture, is “The City of David.” It is the much smaller Jerusalem that existed in Old Testament times.
OK. So, one of the sites we visited on our trip to Jerusalem was the Western Wall (pictured below). If you look back a the “Model of Jerusalem” picture, it is part of the retaining wall of the “Temple area” on the western (left) side.
If you look at the next picture, you will see what section of the “Temple area” retaining wall is now the “Western Wall.”
But this isn’t the only wall that still exists from this structure. When we stood in the Kidron Valley, near the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane, I took a picture of the eastern side of the “Temple Complex.” It is massive!
I took the following video of the “Temple Mount” from the Mount of Olives.
With so many people believing that this is the site of the former Jerusalem Temple, what biblical evidence is there that might tell us that the site has been misidentified? Does the Bible give us any clues that the Temple may have been somewhere else, namely, in The City of David?
Matthew 24:1-2 (CSB) “As Jesus left and was going out of the temple, his disciples came up and called his attention to its buildings. He replied to them, ‘Do you see all these things? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down.’”
“Not one stone will be left here on another.”
If the site we visited is where the Temple once rested, then those stones present an awkward situation. We feel compelled to do verbal gymnastics as we try to clarify and qualify Jesus’ words.
Because if we take Jesus’ words at face value, it would appear that His prophecy didn’t come true. Thousands upon thousands of stones are clearly resting upon each other.
In fact, if you were to look down on Jerusalem from the sky, the “Temple Complex” area is clearly visible. Jesus’ words lead us to believe that the Temple would be destroyed in such a way that future generations wouldn’t be able to know where it once rested … but, 2,000 years later, the “Temple Mount” is visible from a satellite. And, if you visited Jerusalem and asked anyone in the city where the Temple once rested and where the Dome of the Rock now sits, they would know exactly where the site is.
Part of our tour actually included journeying into the walls that were left intact. As we walked through those dark corridors, I couldn’t help but realize that this is not what Jesus said would happen.
As I placed my hands upon those massive stones, I kept hearing the words of Jesus, “Not one stone will be left upon another.” I wholeheartedly believe Jesus’ words so the seeds of doubt were being planted. This couldn’t be the Temple Mount.
Here is a video I took inside the walls…
How can we reconcile Jesus’ words with this … unless Jesus was referring to another area? If that is the case, then the Temple was literally torn down, not a single stone was left upon another, and there was absolutely no sign of it as future wars were fought over the city of Jerusalem. What if the various conquerors simply tried their best to identify the site … and got it wrong?
So, is there any other Biblical evidence that can shed light on this topic?
Yes! Let me share two passages from the Bible.
Acts 21:30-36 (CSB) “30 The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul, dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. 31 As they were trying to kill him, word went up to the commander of the regiment that all Jerusalem was in chaos. 32 Taking along soldiers and centurions, he immediately ran down to them. Seeing the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the commander approached, took him into custody, and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd were shouting one thing and some another. Since he was not able to get reliable information because of the uproar, he ordered him to be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul got to the steps, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, 36 for the mass of people followed, yelling, ‘Get rid of him!’”
Maybe you didn’t see the three words “up” (vs. 31), “down” (vs. 32), and “steps” (vs. 35). Go back and read the previous passage again and look for those three words.
As we read the previous text, we see that Paul was forcibly taken out of the first century Temple and the gates were shut. This event took place in the proximity of the Temple. These verses tell us that the commander of the soldiers was at a place in higher elevation than Paul because “word went up to the commander.”
As if there was a lack of clarity in those words, we are then told that “he immediately ran down to them.” And then we are told that when Paul was taken from the Temple area to the barracks, he “got to the steps” and needed help going up.
While I once believed that the Temple was in the highest area of Jerusalem (it is implanted in our minds that something so valued needs to be in a lofty position), we are reminded that God values humility. Just read Matthew 20:26-28 and Philippians 2:5-11 to see that to go up, we must first go down.
Matthew 20:26-28 (CSB) “It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Philippians 2:5-11 (CSB) “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — in heaven and on earth and under the earth — and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Therefore, understanding how God prizes humility, we must get rid of the notion that the Temple had to rest in the highest location in Jerusalem. Clearly, from the verses we just read in Acts, there was something higher than the Temple.
If the Roman barracks was higher than the traditionally accepted Temple site where the Dome of the Rock now sits, then I am flabbergasted. There is currently nothing higher than the traditionally accepted “Temple Complex.”
The following picture was taken from the Mount of Olives, higher in elevation than the Temple Mount, which makes the city in the background look higher. But, realize, the city in the background didn’t even exist in the first century.
If the Roman fortress was higher than the place where the Dome of the Rock now sits, it blows the mind to think of where it could be. What structure could have been built that was higher than the traditionally accepted site of the Temple?
Further, we are left to wonder why the Romans would have come into Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and completely destroyed their massive, tall fortress while leaving the huge Temple Complex mostly intact. This just doesn’t make sense.
… unless they left their Roman fortress reasonably intact while destroying the Jewish Temple and removing every single stone from its place.
You still reading? The idea of a different location for the first century Temple is certainly plausible, isn’t it?
So, how big was the Roman barracks? We don’t know the exact specifications but we can sure take a guess based upon another couple of verses in Scripture.
Acts 23:23-24 “He summoned two of his centurions and said, ‘Get two hundred soldiers ready with seventy cavalry and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.’”
Let’s see … hmmm … 200 soldiers plus 70 cavalry plus 200 spearmen equals 470 Roman warriors.
The previous two verses tell us that 470 warriors were sent with one man, Paul, to Caesarea Maritima on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Why is this so interesting?
Because there must have been thousands of Roman warriors in Jerusalem for the commander to freely send 470 on a road trip to protect one man. With the volatility that existed in Jerusalem at that time (it was a mob that got the commander’s attention in the first place – Acts 21:30-31), there is no way that the commander would have left Jerusalem in a weakened position by sending all of his warriors to protect one man. For the commander to feel like he could spare 470 men would mean that he had thousands of Roman warriors still in Jerusalem to quell any riot.
Where would you put thousands of Roman warriors?
Go ahead. Take a wild guess.
It just might be that the Dome of the Rock is built atop the Roman fortress.
It just might be that the Roman commander in Acts looked over the walls of the fortress down into the City of David below and saw the mob beating Paul near the Temple.
It just might be that the Romans left their fortress intact when they invaded and destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70 while completely destroying the Temple, leaving no stone on top of another.
So, have I peaked your interest?
There is so much more of what seems to be evidential that the Temple was actually in the City of David, south of the area where the Dome of the Rock sits.
If you want to explore this topic, just purchase Robert Cornuke’s book and read it. And have an open Bible as you explore many of the Old Testament passages that make it clear that the Temple was built in Zion which was also known as the City of David.
As I conclude, let me tell you why this matters…
In my understanding of end times events, the Jerusalem Temple is going to be rebuilt at some point. But, if the Jews are to so much as hit a nail with a hammer on the site of the Dome of the Rock, Muslims will consider it an act of war. There is no conceivable way that the Jews will be able to rebuild their Temple …
… unless it is located south of the Dome of the Rock in the City of David. If this is the case, it would seem that a Temple could be rebuilt without any problems whatsoever.
So, this is not a whimsical topic. It could have eschatological (end times) ramifications.