Recent Finds Involving Israel’s Jerusalem Temple Mount

Many readers have no doubt heard about the recent reports of the discovery of a ritual bath underneath the western wall of the Jerusalem temple mount, along with four First Century AD coins. You can read about the discovery here in the press release from the Jewish Antiquities Authority. The coins were struck by the Roman procurator of Judea, Valerius Gratus sometime between 17-18 AD. According to the press release, “This means that Robinson’s Arch, and possibly a longer part of the Western Wall, were constructed after this year – that is to say: at least twenty years after Herod’s death (which is commonly thought to have occurred in the year 4 BCE).”

Readers may recall that some time ago I blogged about the possibility that the precise location of the Jerusalem temple being incorrect. I referred readers to the work of Ernest Martin, kept alive for consideration by his estate here. I noted that Martin’s work raises some serious questions about the precise temple location that seem to simply get ignored or (in my experience at an academic conference) somewhat ridiculed, as opposed to cogently addressed and refuted. I’m no expert on the Temple Mount, but I am familiar with the issues that need to be addressed and wonder why no systematic refutation has been offered (counter-arguments have been offered, but those arguments were also addressed by Martin in detail — and that is where the subject died, or became something to be dismissed). At any rate, it would be nice to suppose that this new discovery might bring Martin’s work back into the discussion since he proposed that this part of the Temple Mount (in mainstream thinking; in Martin’s view he refers to it as the Haram esh-Sharif) was built well after Herod’s death (which Martin has at 1 BC, contrary to the accepted 4 BC – the issue is of significance due to the precise astronomical dating of Jesus’ birth if one takes Rev 12:1-6 as astronomical signage for the birth).

At any rate, I offer here a recent summary of the new discovery from David Sielaff, trustee of Martin’s work. I hope you will all find it of interest.

30 thoughts on “Recent Finds Involving Israel’s Jerusalem Temple Mount

  1. There is a video out about the star of Bethlehem( http://www.bethlehemstar.net/) and in it the author uses Keppler’s work and begins searching for celestial phenomena ( The Star and stuff fitting the description the day of the crucifixion, darkness, etc) using 1 BC as Christ’s birthdate. He says the earliest Josephus text actually have 1BC and not 4BC.

    Anyway, what he found was fascinating and it’s sad that Keppler used the 4 BC date and missed this stuff.
    If you get time, I’d like your view of it’s validity.

    • I favor Martin’s work here (1 BC and Rev 12 as astro-theology). Josephus does seem to favor the 1 BC (cf. Martin’s notes on that), though it isn’t completely conclusive. There’s a lot to the astronomy (I don’t believe Kepler was deliberately considering Rev 12 – ?).

  2. I’ve been aware of Martin’s work for some time but have never been able to find out what other’s thoughts are. His timing of Jesus’ birth requires a re-figuring of the date of Herod’s death. I found his presentation on both the location of the Temple and the birth of Jesus intriguing and yet have never found anyone to support or refute his claims.

    • did you read the link in this post to Martin’s comments about the date for Herod’s death? It seems so, but just checking. I’ve not seen anyone overturn that, either. Usually what happens is that scholars completely avoid (or just miss) consideration of Rev 12 as related to what the Magi saw. Doing that results in a lot of symbolism for both Gentiles and Jews, along with pretty pointed messianic symbology. If the date of Herod’s death can be understood in conjunction with all that (and I believe Martin shows it can), then all of it is mutually supportive. For me, the symbolism of the astronomy with respect to Rev 12 is very compelling for producing a date.

  3. wow ! I recall your original blog on the subject — everything points to martin being true but however this truth is embarassing:

    1) The Dome of the Rock accused of being built on the temple site.
    2) Rabbis praying on the the wrong wall for hundred of years ..

    It is going to be very hard to accept.

    • yes, it would be hard to accept, and that is the elephant in the room in my view — the reason Martin’s work does not get a systematic rebuttal, but rather dismissal. It’s easier to say he can’t be right. What’s needed is a more dramatic confirmation of at least one of his key points, but I’m not holding my breath.

  4. PS.

    Mike, for some reasons your replies to comment do no longer appear under these comments but follow at the end of the comments. Is this a glitch? I preferred the former format. Right now, it is not always clear right away to which comment you are responding.

  5. Sure, Martin’s theory should get a fair hearing instead of being too quickly dismissed. Such dismissal only strengthens the oh-so-popular perception of an “unheeded genius”. However, not everyone whose theories go unheeded is the genius he thinks he is.

    I have browsed through the material present on Martin’s homepage. Sure he raises some interesting points and arguments in favour of a different location for the temple (Josephus’ account, a spring in the Temple, the – albeit late – tradition about the Dome of the Rock having been the site of the Praetorium). He also makes interesting cases disputing currently held views, e.g. I am pretty much convinced of his locating the Nea church in the spot of the Al-Aksa mosq – but what follows from this for the location of the Temple. Nothing, IMHO.

    However, he also picks pseudo-arguments that don’t prove anything, especially Jesus’ prophecy. Sorry, Brenda, but this argument goes nowhere because Martin mis- and overinterprets Jesus’ words to the extreme. That no stone should remain on the other is quite common figurative language that is even used today for devestated cities. Still, in almost any case some stones remain unmoved. One also cannot use Jesus’ prophecy to explain away that apparently no remnants of any Jewish temple can be shown at his favoured location. No destruction – be it ever so careful – leaves no traces at all…

  6. @ STR I agree the prophesy from Jesus is hard to take literally; the temple crumbled some 35 years after Christ died however Christianity appeared to gain while judaism is still without temple.

    What is interesting after the destructions of the temple is the eye witnesses that report only the walls of Ft. Antonia remained.. As MSH point out, recent finds at Robinson Arch shows Martin’s theories being accurate.
    There exist a christian prophesie that say that if the temple was going to be rebuilt, it would be ened of days… if the account about gihon spring and the Opel location is truth, i would say
    buil small temples and wailing walls around the previous location..ie on or closer to the City of David..

  7. @ STR, my favorite archeologist is Israel Finkelstein however he does not believe the exodus
    happened and believe the temple remains are under the Dome of the Rock.. but given Martin
    huge historical research, I do understand that there is nothing to be found and I would understand any dig under the Dome would find nothing but the water sources..

    So I am now having doubt about Finkelstein on the issue of the Dome but may be on the issue
    of the exodus..

    • Finkelstein’s work has been criticized by others (scholars and archaeologists) who interpret the data differently. And that’s really what it comes down to – interpretation of data and trying to figure out what to say or not say in the absence of data. I use Finkelstein’s book (The Bible Unearthed – a nice, readable intro to critical views) in the Ancient Israel class I teach and supplement it with contrary articles.

  8. Lost Angel,

    (1st posting)

    My contention (or Martin’s) has nothing to do with taking things literally. I do not take the prophecy non-literal but actually literal – only Martin misunderstands what its literal meaning is: that city and temple would be thoroughly destroyed!

    And there’s nothing problematic about this, so I don’t really understand your objection “”the temple crumbled some 35 years after Christ died however Christianity appeared to gain while judaism is still without temple.”

    “What is interesting after the destructions of the temple is the eye witnesses that report only the walls of Ft. Antonia remained.. As MSH point out, recent finds at Robinson Arch shows Martin’s theories being accurate.”

    Nonsense! As strange as it may sound, for Martin’s theory to be true, it would take remnants of temple walls at a hill near the Gihon spring. And empty space cannot be explained away by “no stone left” language by whatever author. BTW, we do have findings that indicate the Jewish temple at the Haram, while Roman military findings wouldn’t surprise, given the history after 70 AD.

    “There exist a christian prophesie that say that if the temple was going to be rebuilt, it would be ened of days…”

    No, there doesn’t! What exists are interpretations of eschatalogical accounts in the Bible that hold that Antichrist would literally take his seat in the temple for which obviously there has to be a temple. But there is no prophecy in the Bible that holds that rebuilding the temple would mean end of the world.

    “if the account about gihon spring and the Opel location is truth”

    It is hard to follow you but that’s a very big IF. And IF the location is true, it doesn’t automatically follow that the temple should be build. By whom, actually?

    , i would say
    buil small temples and wailing walls around the previous location..ie on or closer to the City of David..

    • The reason Finkelstein and others take this view is fundamentally twofold: (1) they do not consider the Bible as a historical source (i.e., it’s propaganda, especially for the monarchy), and (2) they believe the archaeology of sites associated with Solomon are better dated to the later Omride dynasty – which would mean there is no archaeological evidence for Solomon at all, which seems incongruent with his portrayal in the Bible. Minimalists also reject the Tel Dan inscription as referring to David (and LeMaire’s view that the Mesha inscription mentions the house of David is conjectural since it occurs at a place in the stone where it is damaged). I don’t agree with the former (e.g., there is no reason to say a source isn’t historical because it has God as a character – we’d have to throw out practically everything in existence from Egypt and Mesopotamia on such grounds). The latter is disputed by archaeologists.

  9. Lost Angel,

    (2nd posting)

    I cannot agree either on Finkelstein or on Martin.

    I haven’t read Martin’s book but have thouroughly studied his website by now, Martin puts great effort into details that often do not prove what he claims they prove. Often he is also sloppy (e.g. his strange “the temple was a tower” article, which is simply a collection of extrabiblical material in which the word “tower” appears).

    Re Finkelstein I would reiterate what MSH said but would even go further. Someone in engaging in David & Solomon denial is outside the realm of serious scholarship for me. This thinking is more fitting to the darkest days of the 19th century and not for the present. Doubts about Finkelstein is therefore a good thing. He is the direct opposite of Martin, who talks written sources without archeology. Finkelstein thinks he can utterly disregard written sources (and yes, the books of Samuel and Kings are, among other things, historical sources too and are partly corroborated by extrabiblical sources!) merely because he thinks the archeological record less than satisfactory. Things get worse in regard to the Exodus – what kind of remants does he expect 3500 years later?

    I don’t know what you expect from a dig under the Haram. It’s been almost 2000 years since the Jewish temple has been destroyed and there has been building inbetween (Jupiter temple, Christian churches, Muslim shrines). We can only expect remnants like small objects or wall foundations.

    • See my other reply. I would add here that I didn’t say Martin’s views were accurate based on the new finds — only that those finds should prompt a consideration of Martin’s ideas (which I think deserve serious consideration on other grounds as well).

  10. MSH,

    I may take the opportunity for a question re Martin. He claims that there were two attempts to restore the Jewish temple in the 4th century. The one under Julian is of course well known but according to Martin there was another after the Edict of Milan in 313, when Licinius reigned in the East and Constantine in the West.

    I never heard about this before and haven’t been able to find any supporting information on the net (any mention if this is based on Martin, no recourse to primary sources is made) or in the books I have avaiable.

    Do you know anything about this? (Please, don’t put effort into it.)

    It seems a bit incredible to me since the Haram at the time had the Jupiter temple on it, leaving no place for a restored Jewish temple. Unless of course Martin is right about the location.

  11. @ MSH quote : I teach and suplement it with contrary articles.. same as the blog.. itis also very prudent..

  12. Thanks again, I have had a look and have concluded that while there have been indeed two attempts to restore the temple, Martin goes a little beyond what this source tells us:

    The source says the Jews tried to restore the Temple under Constantine but were stopped by the Emperor.

    Martin says the same but links the restoration to the Edict of Milan, giving religious freedom, and says it thrived while Licinius reigned in the East but was stopped by Constantine after 324.

    If Martin’s take were true, this would conflict with a location of the temple or at least of that restoration project on the haram, since the Jupiter temple was still standing under Licinius.

    However, Chrysostomos does not actually state it that way. He merely says they tried under Constantine and were stopped by Constantine.

    This might as well have happened after Constantine restored the city of Jerusalem in place of Aelia and had the pagan temples removed around 325/326, including the Venus temple (which made way for the Anastasia) and the Jupiter temple on the Haram. To me, it seems more reasonable that the Jews would have made an attempt at that time, when they saw Hadrian’s work reversed.

    If the attempt happened after 325, it may as well have been on the haram.

    To sum this up: again Martin has provided a historical detail that is quite interesting to know but which is quite indifferent in terms of his overall claim.

    • good note. I think you are correct in articulating how Martin takes the source material (and of course that there is more to it than this).

  13. @ STR

    There seem to be also Professor George Wesley Buchanan who writes a lot of articles on the city of david and the temple

    http://www.askelm.com/temple/index.asp

    the stuff is very similar to E.L Martin.. whose strongest point is that only the walls of ft. antonia remained…

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