Temple Mount

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Temple Mount
Dome of the Rock Jerusalem.jpg
Arabic name
Arabic الحرم القدسي الشريف
Romanization al-Haram al-Qudsī ash-Sharīf (Noble Sanctuary)
Hebrew name
Hebrew הר הבית
Romanization Har ha-Bayit
The Temple Mount, biblical Mount Moriah, is a hill in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is the site of a temple where the ancient Israelites kept the Ark of the Covenant. King Solomon built the first temple at this site in 957 BC on a threshing floor purchased by his father David.[1] Solomon's temple was destroyed by King Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylonia in 587/586 BC.[2] It was rebuilt by Zerubbabel under King Cyrus of Persia in 515 BC[3] and by King Herod of Judea in the first century BC.

When Jesus went to temple in the first century AD, he angrily overturned the tables of the money changers. The Roman commander Titus destroyed the temple in 70 AD during a Jewish revolt against Roman rule. Roman Emperor Hadrian built a Temple to Jupiter around 135. This temple was destroyed by Emperor Constantine in 325.

The Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine, was built by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik in 691. The al-Aqsa Mosque was built about 710. As the site of Muhammad's ascension to heaven, the Temple Mount is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam. The Temple Mount is in East Jerusalem, which was ruled by Jordan, an Arab state, from 1948 until 1967. Although East Jerusalem was captured by the Israelis in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Temple Mount is still managed by the Waqf, an Islamic religious authority financed by Jordan.

Building under Herod

The Jewish historian Josephus records that Herod rebuilt the temple at great expense:

Accordingly, in the fifteenth year of his reign, Herod rebuilt the temple, and encompassed a piece of land about it with a wall, which land was twice as large as that before enclosed. The expenses he laid out upon it were vastly large also, and the riches about it were unspeakable. A sign of which you have in the great cloisters that were erected about the temple, and the citadel which was on its north side. The cloisters he built from the foundation, but the citadel he repaired at a vast expense; nor was it other than a royal palace, which he called Antonia, in honor of Antony.[4]

The Herodian temple took forty-six years to build.[5] In the time of Jesus, Antonia was a Roman fortress. Like the temple, it was destroyed in 70 AD.


Josephus states that the Temple Mount was "six furlongs around, including Fort Antonia."[6] The temple and Antonia were both squares with sides of 1 furlong. A biblical furlong is 606.75 modern feet (185 meters).[7] So the dimensions Josephus gives correspond to 607 X 1,214 ft (185 X 370 m). The Temple Mount was enlarged by Hadrian in the second century. The modern dimensions are 1,020 ft (313 m) across the north, 1,530 ft (470 m) in the east, 910 ft (280 m) in the south, and 1,578 ft. (485 m) in the west. Thus the current Temple Mount is significantly larger in every dimension than the Herodian temple.

The Church of the Condemnation, the traditional site of Antonia, is just north of the Temple Mount. That is to say, the location was selected without taking into account that Antonia was later incorporated into the Temple Mount.

The temple itself was 60 X 20 cubits in area and 40 cubits high. A cubit was 21.85 inches, so the building was 109 X 36 ft. (33 X 11 m).

In contrast to the Josephus, the Mishna gives dimensions of 500 cubits by 500 cubits (861 X 861 ft., 262.50 X 262.5 m).[8] The Mishna's description is suspiciously similar to Ezekiel's ideal temple and was written well after the temple no longer existed.[9] So it is less likely to be based on observation than is Josephus's.

Location of the temple

The issue of where the Jewish temple stood has attracted both interest and controversy. Traditionally, the temple was said to have been at the location where the Dome of the Rock now stands. In modern times, various sites on the Temple Mount have been suggested.[10] The idea that the temple was located outside the Temple Mount has also received attention, but is rejected by specialists as a fringe theory.[11] Archaeological digs on the Temple Mount are banned by the Waqf, making the issue difficult to resolve.
The black lines represent the current Temple Mount, blue is Hadrian's Temple to Jupiter in Baalbek, Lebanon, and red is a possible plan for the Herodian temple. Like the Temple to Jupiter in Jerusalem, the Baalbek temple was built by Hadrian. If the design of the Jerusalem temple was similar, the site of the octogonal Dome of the Rock corresponds to that of the hexagonal forecourt of Hadrian's temple. Drawing by Tuvia Sagiv.

Dome of the Rock

"The most probable site of the Temple is just west of the "Dome of the Rock"," according to the Jewish Encyclopedia.[12] In Jewish tradition, the rock is the "foundation stone." It is connected to creation,[13] the binding of Isaac,[14] and to various other things.[15] In Isaiah and Psalms, the foundation stone is a metaphor for God's covenant with Israel.[16]

The earliest report that indicates that this site was sacred to Jews is from the Bordeaux Pilgrim, who visited Jerusalem around 333. This was soon after Constantine destroyed the Temple of Jupiter that Hadrian built. The pilgrim referred to the rock as a "pierced stone":

And in that building where the Temple was, which Solomon built, in the marble before the altar is the blood of Zechariah which you would say was shed today; indeed, there appear to be traces of the soldier's boots, who killed him, throughout the area, such that you would think they had been pressed in wax. There are two status of Hadrian; not far from the statues is a pierced stone to the Jews comes every year and they anoint it and they lament with a groan and they tear their garments and then they withdraw.[17]
This scene suggests a verse in Zechariah of Jews weeping over, "him whom they have pierced."[18] Zechariah's temple was ancient history at this point. This passage may refer to Hadrian's temple, renovated to show Christian pilgrims.

After conquering Jerusalem, the Arabs built the Dome of the Rock in 691. The building is connected to the sanctuary in Jewish literature beginning with Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, written shortly after 833.[19] In the 12th century, the dome was the headquarters of the Knights Templar, a crusader order.

al-Kas Fountain

Fortress Antonia, where Jesus was condemned by Pontius Pilate, overlooked the temple, according to Josephus. In modern times, the Dome is the high point of the Temple Mount. If Antonia was located at what is now the Dome, that would place the temple at al-Kas Fountain, according to Tel Aviv architect Tuvia Sagiv. This location is midway between the Dome and al-Aqsa. This area was landscaped and flattened by Hadrian. If the temple was at this site, it is now under 17 meters of earth.[10]

Writing in 400 AD, Jerome says that in his day an equestrian statue of Hadrian stood over the Holy of Holies.[20] Hadrian also built a Temple to Jupiter in Baalbek, Lebanon. The ruins of this temple still stand. If Hadrian's temple in Jerusalem followed a similar plan, this statute was at the site of the fountain.

West side of al-Aqsa

A trumpeting stone of the temple was found in 1968 near Robertson Arch near the southwest corner of Temple Mount. As the stone fell off the Western Wall in the first century, the discovery confirms that this wall, where today's Jews go to pray, was a part of the Herodian temple. If we follow the dimensions given by Josephus, the temple extended 1 furlong in both directions from the southwest corner. This would put the temple of the west side of al-Aqsa, according to Norma Robertson.

The Temple Mount was extended southward both by the Hasmoneans and by Herod. So the present southwestern area is unlikely to have been part of Solomon's Temple.[12] Based on digs just south of the southern wall, archaeologists believe that what is now al-Aqsa was the site of Herod's Royal Stoa. This was a government building along the south side of the Temple Mount that housed the bureaucracy and courts of the kingdom. Reused cedar timber from the Stoa was found in al-Aqsa.[21]

Dome of the Spirits

An alternative theory described by physicist Asher Kaufman is based on a saying in the Mishna that the temple was due west of the eastern gate. "One may not act irreverently or conduct himself flippantly opposite the eastern gate of the Temple Mount, which is aligned opposite the Holy of Holies," according to one mishna.[22] The current eastern gate, or Golden Gate, was built by Justinian in the sixth century. It was sealed off by Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1541. The sealing of the gate fulfills a prophesy by Ezekiel.[23] If the location of this gate corresponds to the Herodian gate, that would put the temple at the Dome of the Spirits (or Dome of the Tablets), which is 330 feet north of the Dome of the Rock. This site is sacred to the Sufi sect. The name "Dome of the Tablets" suggests that a tradition connected this site to the temple. But the dome was built in the tenth century, by which time the Golden Gate was standing at its current location.[10]


Several well-known episodes in the life of Jesus occurred at the Herodian temple. Mary brought Jesus to the temple forty days after he was was born.[24] He returned as a 12-year-old to debate the Pharisees.[25] During his ministry, Jesus visited the temple and was outrage by the sight marketers defiling it. He angrily overturned the tables of the money changers.[26] In the temptation narrative, the devil brought Jesus to the "pinnacle of the Temple" and challenged him to prove that he was son of the God by throwing himself off.[27]

According to Matthew:

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”[28]
This prophesy was fulfilled with the destruction of the Herodian temple by Titus in 70 AD.

After Jesus appeared at Pentecost, believers began to meet at the temple.[29]


There are various prophecies that deal with the temple. In a letter to a Christian community in Thessalonica. Paul prophesied that the temple would be rebuilt and presided over by a "man of lawlessness":

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day [the day of the Lord] will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.[30]

Paul wrote this letter in 51-52 AD when the Herodian temple was still standing. The man of lawlessness is identified with the anti-Christ of John's letters.[31] It is a construction parallel to "Son of Man," a phrase applied to Jesus in the gospels. There is a history of identifying this character with various political figures such as a Roman emperor, pope, or Napoleon. The Geneva Bible, used by the Puritans and by Shakespeare, identifies the anti-Christ with Pope Boniface VIII.[32]

According to Paul, the Old Testament prophecies concerning the rebuilding of the temple were fulfilled by the coming of Jesus:

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.[33]
"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man," according to Acts.[34]

Revelation says that the messianic temple will be built in heaven, not on the Temple Mount:

Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.[35]

Together with the grounds that surround it, the messianic temple prophesied by Ezekiel will be 51 miles by 21 miles.[36] The building itself will be about one mile square.[37] A mountain near Jerusalem, either Moriah (the Temple Mount) or Zion,[38] will grow miraculously to accommodate this huge building, according to Isaiah:

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.[39]

Non-Jews were excluded from the historical temples, but the messianic temple will be for people of all nations. It will be presided over by a messiah, which should be understood simply as a position that combines the roles of high priest and king.


According to the Koran:

Glory be to Him, who carried His servant [Muhammad] by night from the Holy Mosque [in Mecca] to the Further Mosque the precincts of which We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing.[40]
This verse is conventionally interpreted to mean that Mohammad was miraculously transported to a "Further Mosque," in Arabic al-Masjid al-ʾAqṣā, as part of a one night journey in 621 and briefly ascended to heaven there. The phrase is properly understood as referring to the Temple Mount as a whole.[41] The al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is one of only three that are suggested as destinations for Islamic pilgrimage. The other two pilgrimage mosques are in Mecca and Medina.


  1. 2 Chronicles 3:1
  2. 2 Kings 25:9
  3. Ezra 5:2-5 and Ezra 6:3-5.
  4. Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book I, 21:1.
  5. John 2:20.
  6. Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book V, 5:2.
  7. "furlong," International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1939, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
    "furlong," Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.
  8. Mishna, Middoth 2: 1-2.
  9. Ezekiel 45:2.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Dolphin, Lambert and Kollen, Michael, "On The Location of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem."
  11. Ruth Schuster and Ran Shapira, "Were There Jewish Temples on Temple Mount?", Haaretz, Jul 24, 2017.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Executive Committee of the Editorial Board., George A. Barton, "Temple of Solomon," Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
  13. Job 38:4.
  14. Genesis 22:2 and Genesis 22:14.
  15. Kohler, Kaufmann, "Corner-Stone," Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
    See mishnas Sanhedrin 26b:5 and Yoma 54b:2.
  16. Isaiah 28:16 and Psalms 118:22. The passage in Psalms was a favorite of the gospel writers. It was quoted in Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, and Acts 4:11.
  17. "The Bordeaux Pilgrim (c. 333 C.E.) Translation by Andrew S. Jacobs"
  18. Zechariah 12:10.
  19. Friedlander, Gerald, Pirkê de rabbi Eliezer, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & co. Ltd., London, 1916, p. 221. "[The Arabs] will fence in the breaches of the walls of the Temple and construct a building on the site of the sanctuary."
  20. Jerome, Commentary on Matthew 24.15, 400 AD. "the statue of the mounted Hadrian, which stands to this very day on the site of the Holy of Holies."
  21. Reuven, Peretz, "Wooden Beams from Herod’s Temple Mount: Do They Still Exist?", Biblical Archaeology Review, 39:3, May/June 2013.
  22. Berakhot 54a:7
  23. Ezekiel 44:2.
  24. Luke 2:22-2:40.
  25. Luke 2:41-52.
  26. Mark 11.15-19, Matthew 21.12-17, Luke 19:45-48, and John 2:13-25.
  27. Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13, English Standard Version. Note: Other Bible quotes are from the same translation.
  28. Matthew 24:1-2.
  29. Acts 2:46.
  30. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.
  31. The term “anti-Christ” is used 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22,1 John 4:3, and 2 John 1:7.
  32. Geneva Bible, Notes on Revelation 14:1. Boniface issued Unan Sanctum in 1302 in which he proclaimed papal supremacy over both the church and secular authority. "It is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff," it stated.
  33. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.
  34. Acts 17:24.
  35. Revelation 11:19.
  36. Ezekiel 45:1-2.
  37. Ezekiel 45:15-19.
  38. “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (Psalms 2:6.) Zion here refers to Ophel, a hill just south of the Temple Mount. In modern times, Zion is identified with Jerusalem's western hill. This follows a mistaken identification by Josephus.
  39. Isaiah 2:2-3.
  40. Koran 17:1, Arberry, A.J. The Koran Interpreted: A Translation, 1996, Oxford World's Classics.
  41. "Masjid al-Aqsa", Islamic Encyclopedia, Mon, 13 Oct, 2014.