Response to Other Theories

 Back to the
Home Page

Response to Ernest Martin

In the last few issues of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) an advertisement appeared under the heading "Who moved the Temple" advertising a book called "The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot" by a certain Ernest Martin. Part of the advertisement is a strange drawing, which shows the Temple outside the Temple Mount. Many people have asked me to comment on this and below you will find my critique of this outrageous idea.

The main thrust behind Ernest Martin's latest idea about the location of the Temple over the Gihon Spring is, according to Michael Germano, to "serve as the awaited stimulus for the building of Jerusalem's Third Temple by shifting our collective focus from the Haram esh-Sharif to the area of the Gihon Spring". Therefore this proposal should be welcomed by groups who are actively engaged in promoting the building of a new Temple in Jerusalem. At first Kaufman's theory was adopted as it opened up the theoretical possibility of building a temple next to the Dome of the Rock and later that of Sagiv, who places the Temple to the south of this Muslim shrine. The Messianic expectations of such groups are so strong that archaeological evidence is of little if no relevance to them. The Palestinians, who claim that a Jewish Temple never existed on the Haram, should be very pleased with this latest proposal.

Martin, who equates Zion with the site of the Temple, begins with stating that Zion was limited to the southern end of the southeastern ridge of Jerusalem and that the Temple was built there because of the Gihon Spring. "The Bible even indicated that the Temple was abutting to the northern side of the City of David", he says. Martin further claims that David himself placed the Ark of the Covenant over the Gihon Spring, quoting Ps. 87 which says "all my springs are in thee" and also Ps. 116, "I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the Lord's house [within the Temple], in the midst [center] of thee, O Jerusalem".

Martin tries to derive further support from his interpretation of the Book of Revelation, where we are told that those who were thirsty could drink from "the fountain (spring) of water that issued from the New Jerusalem that would come down from heaven to earth". He then moves on to the prophecy of Jesus who, according to his interpretation, told his disciples that "not one stone 'of the Temple and its support buildings' would be left on top the other. And so all the walls of the Temple and the Temple Mount were torn down to their foundations just as Jesus prophesied they would be". Only the Antonia escaped the destruction of 70 AD, which he equates with the Herodian Temple Mount.

He then refers to some remarks made by rabbis and pilgrims that, according to him, say that the Temple site was never built on by Gentiles and that therefore the Dome of the Rock could not have been built on the former location of the Jewish temple.

Martin then goes on to interpret Josephus who said that the Temple Mount was "a precise square of one stadium length on each side of about 600 feet". The southeastern corner of the outer Temple walls was, according to him, "located directly over the very bottom of the Kidron Valley (the bedrock center) and extended upwards 300 cubits or 450 feet".

The Western Wall where Jews pray today also gets a rough treatment as they have only be doing so for the last 430 years. Martin asserts that "the Jewish people today at their Wailing Wall are NOT praying at a wall of their former Temples".

I have been asked to give a critique of this theory. The weakness of this proposal lies in the fact that it consists of Martin's personal interpretation of some Bible passages and other historical references only and does not refer to results of the many archaeological excavations, which have taken place in Jerusalem since 1967.

The first time the name of Zion is mentioned is when David captured the stronghold of Zion from the Jebusites and called it the City of David (2 Sam. 5.7). When Solomon had finished building the Temple, he brought up the Ark of the Covenant "out of the city of David, which is Zion" (1 Kings 8.1). This makes it quite clear that the Temple was located outside the original Zion, where the Gihon Spring was located, and that Martin is wrong to equate the Temple with Zion. The archaeological evidence also negates such a possibility. Reich and Shukon, who excavated the Gihon Spring and its near surroundings found the massive remains of a Jebusite fortified reservoir and of a tower, which have been in use till at least the end of the First Temple period . These remains cannot possibly belong to a Temple.

Solomon built the Temple where David had build an altar in the place where the Angel stood overlooking the City of David. The angel, which was going to destroy Jerusalem, stood outside the City of David (Zion) on higher ground from which he could look down upon it (2 Sam. 24.16). David build there an altar in the threshingfloor of Araunah. Threshingfloors are never found inside cities or in valleys where there is no wind to blow away the chaff, but always near mountain tops . The Temple was therefore build outside of what was then known as Zion and higher up the mountain.

The name Zion is not so much a precise location, but rather the name of the city of Jerusalem as the religious and political capital of Israel throughout the history of Israel. The city had its beginnings on the south-east hill and later spread to the western hill. Ps. 48:2 "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King", is therefore misunderstood by Martin. It clearly does not mean that the Temple abutted the City of David. David understood that Mount Zion, where the Temple was going to be built, will be located in the place where he had build the altar, to the north of the City of David. The word for "situation" in Psalm 48 actually means "elevation" as the Hebrew verb "nof" means "to lift up", indicating that the Temple site was located in an elevated position in relation to the City of David. Later on the name of Zion became a symbol of God's chosen people (see for example Isa. 62). The word 'Zion' in Hebrew means a 'sign' and cannot therefore be a static location.

To say that the quote from Ps. 87.7, "all my springs are in thee", means that Solomon's Temple was built over a spring is nonsense as the Hebrew for "springs" can also mean "eyes". This verse means that God's eyes are always on Zion, which in this Psalm means the City of God (vs.3), and not the Temple only. In this context Martin compares this to the spring in the future Temple, but conveniently forgets to mention that the waters will flow out through the Mount of Olives, after it is split, towards the Dead Sea (Zec. 14.4, 8). This shows actually that the Temple will be located opposite the Mount of Olives and not in the lower City of David. The quote from Ps. 116, "in the midst [center] of thee, O Jerusalem", does not mean that the Temple was located in the centre of Jerusalem, but merely inside it. The Hebrew for "in the midst", "be-tavech", is usually translated as "among" when referring to people or "in the midst", meaning within, when referring to places like a garden, a city or the sea. In the English Bible it has never once been translated as "centre".

Jesus indeed said that not one stone shall be left upon another and I believe that that was fulfilled in 70 A.D. However, Jesus did not speak of "the Temple and its supporting walls", as Martin wants to make us believe, but only of the Temple itself (Luke 21.5) and those "buildings of the Temple" which the disciples pointed out to him (Matth. 24.1). The disciples spoke of the buildings which stood on the Temple Mount, but not of the foundation platform, the walls of which are still standing up today. If Martin wants to quote from the Scriptures, he should first read them more accuratedly.

The same careless treatment is reserved for the writings of Josephus. He indeed refers to a Temple Mount, which once was a square having sides of one stadium each. The quotes are from Ant. 8.96 and 15.398,400 and refer to the precinct built by Solomon. However, in War 5.184,185 he writes, "In course of ages, however, through the constant additions of the people to the embankment, the hill-top by this process of levelling up was widened". Josephus then says that the original square design was enlarged on three sides until it became double the original size (War 1.401). This, however, is ignored by Martin. The Mishnah (Middot 2.1) also states that the Temple Mount was square with sides of 500 cubits, which is a more accurate measurement than the stadium of Josephus, who appears to have given a rough estimate only. The archaeological remains of this early platform have been discovered by this reviewer . To say that the Temple Mount remained a small square platform shows an unfamiliarity with the historical sources.

According to Martin's interpretation of some sources, Jews did not begin to pray at the Western (Wailing) Wall until the end of the 16th Centurt A.D. The writings of the Pilgrim of Bordeaux, which date from 333 A.D. clearly indicate that prayers were said there at the time: "The Jews come there [the ruins of the temple] once a year, weeping and wailing near a stone which survived the destruction of the Temple". There remained more than just a stone, because a Byzantine inscription dating from 363 A.D has been found near Robinson's Arch, quoting Isa. 66.14. This shows beyond any doubt that the Western Wall of the Temple Mount was still standing up and that it was an important place for the Jewish population of Jerusalem already in the Byzantine period. I'm sure that the Byzantine Jews had no interest in rebuilding the walls of a Roman camp, but those of the Temple only.

I have not read the full account of Martin's deliberations, nor would I wish to do so, for the many inaccuracies in the abridged version make it abundantly clear that this theory is flawed, because it does not interpret the historical sources correctly and ignores all the archaeological evidence that has been excavated in Jerusalem. Martin claims to have worked for many years with Prof. Benjamin Mazar. Although I was the dig's architect since 1973 and continued to work with Mazar for a long time afterwards, I do not remember meeting Martin or Mazar ever mentioning him. To say that the present walls of the Temple Mount belong to the Antonia is to do an injustice, to say the least, to Mazar and all who worked with him for 10 long years. The excavation results have shown abundantly that these walls with their surviving gates belong to the Herodian Temple Mount and that the extant remains are those described in the historical records. If the Temple Mount was merely a Roman camp, why were Hebrew inscriptions, such as Isa. 66.14, that of the Trumpeting Stone and of the Korban (sacrifice) vessel was found in Herodian strata, together with so many Jewish coins? Why are the beautiful domes of the Double Gate passageway decorated with botanic and geometric designs in accordance with the Mosaic prohibition of portraying humans and animals, which was so prevalent in the Roman architectural world? I could go on asking many more such questions to which there are no answers if Martin was right.

I have made many reconstruction drawings of archaeological sites in Jerusalem. These were based first of all on the archaeological evidence, both in situ and found on the site, on architectural parallels and on the historical accounts. Whenever possible I consulted with the archaeologists who had excavated the particular site and was always very careful not to give a free hand to the imagination, as I know the power of reconstruction drawings. The one, however, published by Martin has no credence whatsoever, as it is not based on any archaeological evidence. It cannot therefore be called an archaeological reconstruction, but is merely the result of flawed interpretation of the historical sources and a lot of wishful thinking.

Jan Simons, wrote in his scholarly work , "It has been said that all authors on ancient Jerusalem, though disagreeing among themselves about every aspect of their subject, are so much at one about a single point that they usually do not even trouble to prove it, viz., the fact that the temple of Solomon and Herod stood on the same middle part of the eastern ridge which is now occupied by Haram esh-Sharif. Indeed, a demonstration of this localization formulated in such general terms might be dispensed with because, at any rate to my knowledge, nobody has ever ventured to suggest another place for it". Martin's ideas fall therefore outside the scope of main stream scholarship regarding the Temple Mount.

Dr. Leen Ritmeyer


Response to Jacobson

Jacobson's theory regarding the symmetrical architectural planning of Herod's Temple Mount is based on Roman architectural laws which were usually applied when a new building complex was laid out. The question is whether such designs can be imposed on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. And because he tries to understand the Temple Mount solely from the point of view of Roman planning, we must ask not only whether the Jewish Temple complex can be treated like a newly built Greek or Roman temple, but also if this indeed dictated the layout of the Temple Mount, why then are there so many flaws in the design? Why are the walls of the Temple Mount not parallel to each other? Why does Jacobson's "north-south axis" not divide the northern or southern walls in two identical halves? Why is the Antonia Fortress not parallel with Jacobson's "proposed northern wall of the Temple Mount"? And so on ... These flaws show that the Jerusalem sanctuary was not built as a straightforward Roman building.

I see rather an asymmetrical development of an oriental building, a maximum extension of which was achieved by Herod as far as was physically possible. My analysis is based on the painstaking observation and recording of all the archaeological remains, trying to interpret them in the light of the historical sources.

A symmetrical layout of the Herodian Temple Mount cannot take into consideration the long historical development of this ritual complex. Indeed, Jacobson dismisses my discoveries of the negative impressions in the bedrock of Solomon's Temple walls and the emplacement of the Ark of the Covenant with one sweeping statement: "Nothing can be said about the location of Solomon's Temple (often called the First Temple) based on existing features" . He either is unaware of my research on Solomon's Temple as he does not mention it, or ignores it because it contradicts his own theory. I have shown the archaeological evidence, not only for Herod's Temple Mount , but also of the Hasmonean extension, the original Square Temple Mount of Hezekiah and the location of Solomon's Temple and the Ark of the Covenant. The research is ongoing and I hope soon to publish the results of a photogrammetric survey of the Sakhra (the rocky summit of Mount Moriah enshrined within the Dome of the Rock) which both confirms and throws fuller light on existing discoveries.

The starting point of my research into the historical and archaeological development of the Temple Mount and which formed the basis of my PhD thesis , was the discovery of the archaeological evidence of the 500 cubit square Temple Mount. However, Jacobson writes in his second article that "According to ancient descriptions of Herod's Temple, the sacred inner precinct (with the altar at its centre) was between 400 and 500 cubits square". There is no ancient source that says that the altar stood in the centre of a square and nowhere does it say that the dimensions were "between 400 and 500 cubits". Middot 2.1 clearly states that the Temple Mount was 500 by 500 cubits, nothing more and nothing less. Of course, Josephus mentions a stadium, but his measurements are not always reliable, as they apparently are rough estimates only. For example, Josephus writes that the altar of the Temple measured 50 cubits square , but Middot 3.1 says that it was thirty-two cubits square. Josephus is clearly wrong, as there was no room for such a large altar . Therefore one has to choose between one or the other and not merely be satisfied with a compromise between the two figures. My research has unequivocably shown that the the measurements of Middot are correct. The same verse in Middot 2.1 continues to say that the spaces around the Temple court were unequal, which directly contradicts Jacobson's symmetrical layout. It says that the southern court was largest with the other courts diminishing in size going anti-clockwise. This is not the case in his design.

If one reads Josephus' historical account of the friction between Herod and the Jews, it is clear that Herod was not free to do what he liked, but was under constraints of Biblical injunctions and Jewish tradition. For example, the fact that the lintel of the Porch was made of five wooden beams, a very un-Roman like construction, indicates that one cannot treat the Temple Mount as merely another Roman or Greek sanctuary.



Let us now look at some of the archaeological details, starting with the northern wall, which Jacobson wants to move further to the north in order to accommodate his symmetrical design. Is this possible? Certainly not, as the Herodian north-east corner and part of the northern wall are still in existence at the north-east corner of the present-day Temple Mount.

Actually all four corners of the Herodian Temple Mount have survived the Roman destruction for a great deal: they still stand up to a considerable height. This was due to the very large stones which were used in the corner constructions, some of which are 12 m. (40 feet) long! Even the Romans were unable to shift these giant stones and therefore we can still see them today. The north-east corner of the Temple Mount, which was mistakenly called in Warren's days "The Tower of Antonia", or "The Castle of Antonia" is no exception.

This tower and the stretch of wall between it and the Golden Gate are part of the Temple Mount which is least understood, not only by Jacobson. Very little has been written about it, and several scholars followed Conder who believed that this part was post-Herodian. Hollis and Simons identified this wall as part of the Third Wall built by Agrippa, and the tower at the north-east corner of the Temple Mount as one of the towers of this city wall.

Large parts of the eastern and northern faces of this tower are however still preserved. The typical Herodian margins and bosses are clearly visible on most of these large stones, which are, on average, 1.10 m. (3 feet 10 inches) high, just like all the Herodian stones in the other retaining walls of the Temple Mount. The eastern face of this tower can still be seen today. I wrote about this northern part of the Eastern Wall and illustrated the remains in a previous article . The eastern face of this tower has a typical header and stretcher construction at both its corners. The Herodian north-east corner today stands 11 stone courses above ground and below ground another 19 Herodian courses still exist, a combined height of 30 (!) Herodian courses. Its northern corner construction indicates that part of the northern wall also still exists.

This northern face of the Herodian north-east tower, which is part of the Herodian northern wall of the Temple Mount, is little known and hardly visible because of some trees which have recently been planted in front of it. The Turkish city wall also abuts this angle and obscures it partly from view.Therefore it has been proposed in the past that this angle is not a corner at all . Indeed, Wilson writes of "the sudden termination of the large stones" of the tower.

However, in our opinion, the original northern face has been preserved and is still visible, although its stones are in a bad state of preservation. This can clearly be seen on the photograph [see enclosed slide 53] which I took many years ago before the trees were planted. As many parts of the obviously damaged faces of the Herodian ashlars have been repaired with much smaller stones, the overall effect is such a patchwork that an untrained eye can hardly recognise it as the northern facade of the Temple Mount.

A closer look, however, reveals the Herodian masonry clearly. To make it easier to understand I drew the Herodian stones, while eliminating the later additions, and if you look at the drawing [also enclosed] the following becomes clear: two large stretcher stones are still visible, one at the bottom of the large masonry, and the other at the second course from the top. In between these two long stones, there are two others in the alternating courses (on the left in drawing, near the city wall), which of necessity must also be long stretcher stones. As the joints between the courses of the northern face of this tower also line up with those of the eastern face, it is clear that these large stones are part of a typical Herodian 'header and stretcher' corner construction. This proves that we are looking at the preserved part of the northern wall of the Herodian Temple Mount. My reconstruction drawing of this north-eastern part of the Temple Mount further clarifies this. This corner also forms a 90 degree angle and is in one line with the southern front of the Antonia Fortress. We have here a very clearly defined straight course for the northern wall of the Temple Mount. How is it then possible to suggest that the northern wall was somewhere else?

Jacobson is evidently not familiar with all the aspects of the archaeology of the Temple Mount. He deals with abstract conceptions and ideas and does not have the experience of a field-architect, who familiarises himself with all the architectural details first before developing a suitable methodology to tackle the problem of the Temple Mount. Actually, only a few scholars have correctly identified this northern facade as Herodian. Selah Merrill wrote at the beginning of this century: "An examination of the stones of which it [the north-east corner] is composed would have saved many writers from falling into serious error". And more recently Michael Burgoyne, the British architect wrote , "the intriguing variety of masonry types scattered among the Herodian stones belongs to later repairs and is not, as has been suggested, evidence that the Herodian stones are in secondary use". The bold statement by Jacobson that the Herodian stones in the northern face of the north-east tower must be in secondary use, because of the fact that stones from later periods are interspersed between them, doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

In photograph it can clearly be seen that in the lower four courses small stones have been used to repair only the damaged parts of the Herodian ashlars. It is clear therefore that the small stones constitute a facial repair only, and that the greater part of the Herodian ashlars still exists behind these repairs.



The absence of pilasters has been used by some scholars, including Jacobson, as a point in favour of a post-Herodian date for this part of the boundary of the Temple Mount. First of all, from an aesthetic point of view pilasters are not continued right into the corner. Corners are often treated differently to give an impression of strength. This can be seen for example in the photograph of The Tomb of the Patriarchs, which Jacobson published on p. 47 of his first article. It is quite obvious that the corners have been treated to make them look like towers, just as in the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Secondly, it should be taken into account that this tower, together with the Antonia had a defensive function to fulfil, which is not the case with the southern and western walls. Pilasters would weaken a wall, while defensive corners had to be built with a view to fortification. Indeed, the small stone repair in the northern face of the north-east tower may, in fact, mark those parts of the wall which were badly damaged during the Roman siege of 70 A.D.



As Jacobson mentions, the eastern wall continues north beyond the north-east corner below ground. It should also be noted that although the Herodian aslars continue without a break, its character changes, as the width of the wall is far greater than the usual 15 feet. Here the wall is 46 feet wide! The only explanation can be that this eastern dam of a large water reservoir, the so-called Pool of Israel. This pool, which was built as an integral part of the Herodian Temple Mount, was strategically placed in what is now known as the St. Anne's Valley, to provide an abundant water supply. The pool also served as a kind of "moat", protecting the northern wall of the Temple Mount [see enclosed slide of model, which shows the reconstructed north-east tower and the Pool of Israel].

I have a copy of a rare photograph [enclosed slide 54], taken in 1894 , which shows the Pool of Israel before it was filled in. The bottom of the pool was investigated by Warren and he found the plastered floor 75 feet (23 m.) below the level of the Temple courts. The pool is indeed so deep that from this angle the bottom could not be seen on this photograph. Four large windows are visible in the northern wall of the Temple Mount. The large stones below these windows belong to the southern wall of the Pool of Israel, which corresponds to the northern wall of Herod's Temple Mount.

At first it would appear that two different kind of stones were used in this wall, separated by the line of vegetation. The stones above this line are rough and the ones below, at lower right of the picture, are smoother. Thick walls like this one were built by placing two rows of stones with their faces outward and filling the center with rubble and mortar. Only the face of the stones was dressed and never the back, as they would not have been seen and the rough surface also provides a better grip for the mortar. This was the technique used in this wall.

When looking at the rough upper stones, we actually see the back of the stones which face southward towards the Temple Mount. The vegetation grows in the softer core of the wall and below that we see the smoother stones which face toward the pool. The original plaster, which would have been attached to this wall, is no longer in existence.



Going back, however, to Jacobson's statement that his northern wall joins the eastern wall (and I quote) "close to the point where Warren found it ended underground. Warren labeled the vicinity of this spot on his drawing of the elevation of the east wall as the 'possible termination of Old Wall with marginal drafts'". I have an original copy of this plan 13 [copy enclosed], and measuring on Warren's plan, this spot is not at all where Jacobson indicates it on his figure on p. 53. Examining Warren's plan, it is clear that at this point he refers to the preserved top of this wall and not to its northern end, which is located 125 feet to the north of the north-east corner! Here Warren drew a vertical line from the preserved top of the wall down to bedrock and labeled it "probable termination of Old Wall". Jacobson's "north-east corner" is only half the true distance indicated by Warren! This is misleading in the extreme!

It is clear by now that Jacobson's theory contradicts the archaeological remains and misrepresents the information discovered by Warren. His theory therefore, which relies on the shifting of the northern wall, simply doesn't work.



It is therefore no surprise to see that his ideas about the Sakhra also are not fully researched. He claims on p. 63 of his second article that "the rock has been cut down by at least 5 feet", without making reference to my research which has identified the imprint of the southern wall of the Holy of Holies of Solomon's Temple and the western and northern rockscarps as indicating the line of the corresponding walls. He makes no attempt at understanding this most evocative and telling of ancient remains.

He also makes statements which are only partially correct. On pp. 61 and 63 he says, "according to both the Mishnah and Josephus, three sets of steps led up to the level of the Temple". He then says, "Both sources then agree that there were 5 steps from the hel to the Court of the Priests". This is not true! Middot 2.6 only refers to 4 steps (one of which was one cubit high, while the others were half a cubit high) at what Jacobson calls the "barrier", which led up from the lower Court of Israel to the Court of the Priests (see plan p. 63). These were located in the east and are not mentioned in connection with the hel, which, even according to Jacobson's plan, is located on the south, west and north only. Middot does not mention the sets of 5 steps at the gates which Josephus refers to, while he is silent about this "barrier".

A more careful reading of Josephus is also called for. In War 5.198 he writes that from this terrace "other flights of five steps led up to the gates". He then describes the gates saying that "of these there were eight on the north and south, four on either side, and two on the east" after which he inserts, referring to these eastern gates: "-necessarily; since in this quarter a special place was walled off for the women". This "necessarily" refers, to my mind, to the steps on the east, just like Middot 2.6 says. In other words, Josephus seems to remember suddenly, at the end of his sentence, that these steps were only in the east. This is another instance where, as far as measurements are concerned, I have found that Middot is more reliable than Josephus.

Jacobson's calculations of adding up 14+5+12=31 steps (14 steps up to the Hel, 5 for the barrier and 12 steps to the Temple, each half a cubit high), which equals 15.5 cubits (just over 26 feet) is therefore quite wrong and cannot be used to say that 5 feet are missing from the Sakhra. According to Middot there were only two sets of twelve steps: one leading up to the hel (there may have been 14 at the western end where the ground level is lower) and the other set led up to the Porch of the Temple, having a combined height of 12 cubits. This equals 20.6 feet. The difference between the ground and the top of the Sakhra is exactly 21 feet (the top of the Sakhra is at 2440 feet and the ground at the foot of the lower steps is 2419 feet). The few inches difference is accounted for by the statement in the Mishnah that the Sakhra stood slightly higher that the floor of the Temple. In Yoma 5.2 it speaks about the "Even ha-Shetiyah" in the Holy of Holies, which "was higher than the ground by three fingerbreadths". This term simply means Foundation Stone, indicating that the Sakhra was the foundation for the Holy of Holies. This is very strong proof for my analysis of the Sakhra and shows that there is no truth in Jacobson's statement that 5 feet are missing from the top of the Sakhra.

I could play devil's advocate and suggest that from the east there were 15+4+12 steps, which still would make a difference of 16 cubits. Many researchers have fallen into this trap. Although this may be surprising at first, it is nevertheless in agreement with the writings of Josephus, where we read that the 15 steps in the Court of the Women were shallower than all the others (War 5.206). In contrast to the other steps of the Temple Court, which had a height of half a cubit (Middot 2.3), Middot is silent about the height of the 15 steps. It states only that they are "corresponding to the fifteen Songs of Ascents in the Psalms, and upon them the Levites used to sing. They were not four-square, but rounded like the half of a round threshing-floor" (Middot 2.5).

Starting at the top, the 12 steps leading to the Temple porch are 6 cubits high and the barrier 2.5 cubits. This makes 8.5 cubits or 14 feet 8 inches, leaving 6 feet 4 inches for the 15 semi-circular steps, giving a height of just over 5 inches to a step, which is in harmony with the observations of Josephus. The height of these steps also comes close to that of the usual Herodian steps, many of which were found in Mazar's excavations.



As mentioned above, there is no historical source that says that the altar stood in the centre of the Temple Mount. Nevertheless, that is where Jacobson puts it to fit in with his geometrical design of the Temple Mount. He then places the Temple to the west of the altar on the same east-west axis. After seeing some correlationship between the size of the altar and the Dome of the Chain and also between the Dome of the Rock and the Temple, Jacobson writes: "Thus, we see a pattern emerging, with the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain ... reproducing the Temple and altar in size and respective locations" . This pattern, however, does not agree with the detailed account of the Temple and altar locations according to Middot.

In Middot 5.1,2 we find the following information, that the Temple Court, i.e. the space where the actual Temple building and the Altar were located, was 187 cubits (322', 98.18 m.) long and 135 cubits (232'6", 70.88 m.) wide. Concentrating on the distance of 135 cubits from south to north, we see that it was divided as follows:


1. The Ramp 30 cubits

2. The base of the Altar 32 cubits

3. The space between Altar and rings 8 cubits

4. The area of the Rings 24 cubits

5. The space between the Rings and the Tables 4 cubits

6. The space between the Tables and the small pillars 4 cubits

7. The space to the north of the small pillars 8 cubits

8. The remainder (between the Ramp, the wall, and the place of the small pillars) 25 cubits

Total 135 cubits


When one transfers these distances to a plan, it is crystal clear that the Temple and the altar did not stand on the same axis. The altar stood to the south of the longitudinal Temple axis. Thus, Jacobson's pattern is in direct contradiction to Middot. He should either shift the Temple to the north or the altar to the south to preserve the historical relationship between the Temple and the altar, but that, of course, does not fit in with his geometry. It is interesting to contemplate the geometry of the Temple Mount, but one cannot call it "sacred" if it contradicts the archaeological and historical evidence.



The steps which appear on the Diness photographs and on Warren's plans, together with the bedrock ridge photographed by Shanks are, of course, very interesting. Without knowing this, I had already drawn the southern soreg line in exactly this position . The soreg, however, was a boundary wall and not a staircase. The steps mentioned by Josephus are the ones leading up to the hel and are not connected with the soreg. Jacobson may be right that this is part of a crepidoma, but I suggest it may possibly be of a later Roman temple built by Hadrian, as no steps are mentioned in the historical sources at this location.



One cannot seek to impose preconceived ideas based on single-phase buildings, like the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, on a multi-phase site such as the Temple Mount. And as excavation is out of the question, one must rely on spadework of a different kind. There is no other way to find the location of the Temple but by determining the various stages of development of the mount by analysis of the actual remains, both visible and camouflaged, illuminated by the written sources. In my 26 years of Temple Mount research I worked my way in from the Herodian outer frame to the 500 cubit square Temple Mount, attested to by one of the most reliable Jewish sources, to the heart of the matter, the Temple itself.

Jacobson's theory rests on a frame created out of flawed geometry and a misreading of Warren's plans. Although my discovery of the 500 cubit square Temple Mount and the location of the Temple has won general acceptance and has already been widely published, certainty as to the correctness of the latter had eluded us due to lack of excavation and accurate measurements. Now, however, due to the finding of old photographs, taken from angles which lend themselves to highly accurate computerised analysis of the Sakhra, this problem has been overcome. This process and the confirmation of the theory of how the Temple Mount developed, recorded over the years in BAR magazine, will be the subject of our next article.


Leen Ritmeyer


 Response to Kaufman

Coming soon...