Lets make war over the Dome of the Rock aka Temple Mount

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Lets make war over the Dome of the Rock aka Temple Mount

Where was Herod's temple? (The only one for rational people as Solomon is a myth.) Here is an analysis of the surviving mentions of it from which location can be described. It cannot have been there. But lets kill over it because that location was invented in the late 19th century.


Where was the Temple of Herod?

Utah State University anthropologist says Dome of the Rock is not location
of Herod's Temple.

Utah State University

Some time ago a conversation with a colleague about the absence of
archaeological information on the Temple Mount or, as it is called in
Arabic, the Haram al-Sharif, and the unlikelihood that permission will be
granted for a thorough archaeological investigation of the area in the near
future led me to wonder whether it might be possible to learn enough from
ancient sources to at least make an educated guess about where within the
Haram the Jewish Temple is likelihood. My goal was to see if a "virtual
archaeology" could be constructed with sufficient detail that one might give
good advice about where to begin excavating, were an archaeologist given
permission to do so.

One of the first things I discovered was that archaeologists' speculations
about the original site of the Temple were not typically based on the hard
evidences that one usually associates with archaeology. Perhaps because of
the relative lack of hard, artifactual evidences or perhaps because the
topic has strong religious significance even to archaeologists who are
interested in biblical times, arguments for various placements of the Temple
are often grounded more in symbolism than on pragmatic evidences.

Articles on the topic often rely heavily on judgments such as "The location
of the Dome of the Rock, being the highest spot within the Haram, was the
most appropriate place for the Jews to have built the Temple of their God"
or assumptions such as the idea that the Temple surely must have been built
in the middle of the sacred, walled precinct (Solomon's five hundred cubit,
walled square that surrounded the Temple) that surrounded it-the middle
assuredly being more appropriate than some less symmetrical placement. But
as any anthropologist knows, what seems symbolically "appropriate" in one
culture may not be in another, and symbolic ideals frequently take a second
seat to practical considerations that must be dealt with when erecting any
large piece of architecture. My goal was to avoid such symbolic second
guessing about what the Jews of antiquity might or might not have found
aesthetically or symbolically appropriate, and to stick to what hard
evidence might be found.

To my surprise, I did discover one voice crying in the wilderness of
symbolism for a more practical, hard-evidence approach to the question, and
I must give him credit at the outset for most of what I will present, since
I have only added a bit to the basic arguments that he had already proposed.
Tuvia Sagiv is an Israeli architect, and it is perhaps because of his lack
of credentials as an archaeologist that his more pragmatically minded
approach to the question has failed to reach the venues that are usually
read by those interested in biblical archaeology. On the other hand, Mr.
Sagiv's training as an architect predisposed him to look at questions about
the placement of the Temple from the practical mind-set that his profession
requires. I will present his basic arguments here along with my own, small
additions (mainly, point 6, below) which, I believe, strengthens his
argument somewhat. Background

Mount Moriah is actually a north-south trending ridge rather than a mountain
peak. It rises from its southern end near the entrance to David's City just
north of the Hinnom Valley and gets progressively higher until it reaches
the spot where the Dome of the Rock now stands. The rock that is sheltered
by the dome is bedrock that simply rises above the surface about this point.
It stands about five feet higher than the surrounding surface. North of
this, the ground was relatively level, although it actually dipped slightly
before rising again where the Moriah ridge narrows just south of Mount

What people currently think of as the Temple Mount is a roughly rectangular
area on the ridge. This rectangular court is bounded by walls that were
built in relatively recent times on the ruins of earlier walls. The ruins
include both Herodian and Hasmonean masonry.

It is generally recognized that the eastern wall of the current courtyard
occupies the same location on which Solomon built a retaining wall to level
the area east of the First Temple. This feature is called Solomon's Porch
and included a roofed colonnade. Solomon did not otherwise modify the
north-trending ridge of Mount Moriah. Herod extended Solomon's Porch to the
north and south when he "doubled" the size of the Temple Mount. The entrance
to Solomon's Temple Mount courtyards was through gates that rested directly
on the ridge itself.

The Hasmoneans made an addition to the south of Solomon's Porch and created
an east-west retaining wall along the southern extremity of their extension
to create a larger, level courtyard to the south of the Temple. This
retaining wall was higher than the original southern gates (the Hulda
Gates), so that they thereafter connected to the floor of the courtyard by
underground passages. Herod more than doubled the size of the Temple Mount
courtyards by extending the eastern wall again, both to the south and the
north, and by adding similar retaining walls on the east and north ends of
the rectangle. He built his great Stoa (where the Sanhedrin met and where
sacrificial animals were sold--the scene of Jesus' overturning of the
moneychangers' tables) on his southern extension. Hadrian may have made
additions to the walls of the Temple Mount as part of his building program
in AD 135+, but the specifics are difficult to document.

What Was Within the Walled Precinct?

The Temple Mount contained more than just the Temple. In Solomon's day, it
already contained several other features: Solomon's palace (to the south of
the Temple), a hall of justice (called the Forest of Lebanon) and other
administrative buildings (possibly to the west of the Temple). The northern
wall included the Tadi Gate (through which sheep were brought to the
Temple), a Prison Gate (which led into a prison), and a defensive tower
called Hananeel (at the northwest corner). Just beyond the northern wall
outside the northwest corner was a fosse or waterless moat that cut across
the ridge at a narrow point. Hananeel Tower and the fosse formed an
important military defense structure, since the northern route down the
Moriah ridge was the easiest invasion route for foreign armies, which is why
the Romans invaded from that point when they took the Temple in AD 70.).
Moriah also contained a "high place" where Astoreth had been worshiped from
ancient times.

In Herodian times, the site of Ashtereth's high place was dominated by an
eight-sided tower called Strato's Tower (the name being a corruption of
Astoreth, which was written as STRT in the unpointed Hebrew of the time). We
know from Josephus that Strato's Tower lay to the north of the Temple and
south of Baris. Later, a military fortress and tower, called the Akra, was
built to the south of the Temple Mount by Antiochus after he destroyed the
walls of the Temple. The Akra, a military installation, was offensive to the
Jews because it afforded a view into the Temple area. It was therefore
destroyed by Simon in the later Hasmonean period.

When the First Temple was rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity, Solomon's
palace and the Forest of Lebanon were razed and the ground was leveled where
they had stood. The stone was used in rebuilding the Temple and its walls.

From the above, we can see that in Herodian times the Temple Mount had two
basic precincts, one sacred (the Temple and its courts) and one secular (the
pagan high place of Strato's Tower and the defensive fortress to its north.
The latter occupied the northwest quadrant of the Temple Mount, leaving the
sacred area as an irregular shape that occupied the three other quadrants.

The Temple precinct

The Temple area had two major components, the so-called Court of the
Gentiles that surrounded it and a sacred platform on which the Temple rested
along with the walled Women's Court, Court of Israel, and Priest's Court.
This Temple precinct was originally 500 cubits square and occupied only part
of the Herodian Temple precinct, although it too was missing a notch in its
northwestern corner where the pagan site of Asteroth lay. Josephus cites an
old prophesy that if the Jews ever "squared the Temple", it would be
destroyed, and he asserts that doing so was the cause of the Roman
destruction of Jerusalem. That is, Herod razed Strato's Tower and the old
Baris fortress and built a new Baris (Baris Antonia) on the northeast corner
of his enlarged Temple Mount. This made a nice, square sacred area around
the Temple platform but violated God's injunction by incorporating the
idolatrous site of pagan worship into its design.

Where Was the Temple?

The Temple was not located on the high spot currently occupied by the Dome
of the Rock. The Dome was built on the most imposing location, the situation
of the former Strato's Tower, a pagan place of worship. It incorporated the
eight-sided design of Astoreth's place of worship into its architecture, a
feature of the Dome that is unique in Islamic architecture. The actual
location of the Temple was to the south of the Dome of the Rock at the
approximate location of the Al Kas fountain which is north of the current
location of the El Aksa mosque at the south end of the current Temple Mount.
This places the Temple directly to the west of the Western Wall (a.k.a.
Wailing Wall).

Reasons for This Placement

The evidences for the southern placement are as follows:

(1) Baris Antonia was built to defend Mount Moriah against invasion from the
north--the only easy route to the Temple. The east and west slopes were
steep and the city lay to the south. The most defensible place for the
location of the fortress was just south of the narrow constriction between
the ravines that ran into the Kidron Valley on the east and the Valley of
the Cheesemakers on the west. In fact, these two ridges were joined at the
top by a man-made moat which would have made an attack on the Baris even
more difficult. (The moat was noted in Wilson's survey of Jerusalem, so its
position is known.) This is the arrangement described by Josephus. Had the
Temple been located on the Sakhra (the Rock), then there would have been
insufficient room for both Strato's Tower and the Baris to have fit between
the Temple and the Moat. The northern placement favored by the Temple Mount
Faithful leaves no room for even the defensive tower, Baris, to be situated
between the Temple and the fosse.

(2). A Dome of the Rock location for the Temple would have made it
impossible to supply running water to the Temple, a necessity for the High
Priest's mikvah and for the cleansing of blood from the Temple platform.
According to the Mishnah, the way that blood was washed from the floor of
the Priest's Court where sacrifices were performed was to open the floodgate
of the aqueduct directly into the court . This means that the aqueduct that
brought water to the Temple Mount had to have been above the level of the
raised floor of the court. In fact, part of the aqueduct is still in
existence, and it lies over 20 meters below the level that it would have to
have occupied to service a Temple at the level of the Dome of the Rock. The
proposed northern placement is also too high to have received water from the
aqueduct. In fact, remains of the aqueduct itself show that after entering
the Temple Mount across Wilson's Arch, it turned to the southeast towards
the Al Kas fountain and its associated cisterns. The Moriah ridge at this
location is low enough that the aqueduct could have served the Temple as
described by the Mishnah at this location south of the Dome of the Rock.

(3) Josephus says that the hill to the north of the Temple (Bizita Hill)
obscured the view of the Temple from the north. If the Temple had rested on
the Sakhra, they it would have been so high that the view from the north
would not have been obscured. In fact, it would have been visible from as
far away as Ramallah.

(4) According to Josephus, King Herod Agrippa built a dining room in his
Hasmonean Palace from which he and his guests could watch the sacrifices at
the Altar. That palace was located near the Citadel at the Jaffa Gate on
Mount Zion to the west of the Temple Mount, and the Temple itself would have
blocked its view of the Azarah if the Temple had sat atop the Dome of the
Rock site. No buildings existed in that era that were high enough to have
made the view possible. However, a placement of the Temple at the Al Kas
fountain location to the south of the Dome, being over 20 meters lower makes
a straight-line view of the Azarah possible along a line of site between the
Temple and the southern wall of the Temple.

(5) The Mishnah says that the Temple was not at the highest spot, but that
it resided "between the shoulders"--that is between the Rock to its north
and the small hill on which the Selucid fortress Akra was built to the south
of the Temple.

(6) A southern placement with the Holy of Holies just northeast of the Al
Kas fountain is the only one that allows there to be an underground cistern
under the Laver in which the priests washed their hands and feet each
morning and under each of the parts of the Temple in which there was a
mikvah (with the exception of the mikvah used by the High Priest on the Day
of Atonement, which was in a second-floor room and supplied with flowing
water from the aqueduct). thereby allowing water to be directly accessible
for each of the mikvah sites. No other placement I know of associates water
sources with the various mikvahs and the Laver.

(7) After Hadrian destroyed the Temple in AD 135, he built a temple to
Jupiter on the site. The standard pattern for such temples, as exemplified
at Baalbek, was an entry through an octagonal portico, a plaza with an
altar, and the temple proper. The Baalbek temple's walls surround a double
row of pillars. So do the walls of the contemporary El Aksa Mosque on the
south end of the modern Temple Mount rectangle. This construction, like the
octagonal shape of the Dome of the Rock, is unique within Islamic
architecture. If the Baalbek temple plans are superimposed on the Haram with
the temple situated where the El Aqsa Mosque is and the octagonal portico
where the octagonal Dome of the Rock is situated today, then Herod's Temple
would have been situated within the plaza, under the Roman altar where
sacrifices were performed to Jupiter--a perfect way of making the Temple
location inaccessible to the Jews. The Mishnah describes the Holy of Holies
as having been located where the statue of Hadrian was in the plaza, just
west of the altar to Jupiter.