Mount Moriah or the City of David?

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For years scholars have argued about the precise location of the first and second Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, almost all archaeologists agree they were situated at or near the Muslim Dome of the Rock. Recently, however, a popular book claims the Temples never stood on the Temple Mount at all.

In Temple: Amazing New Discoveries that Change Everything About the Location of Solomon’s Temple, Robert Cornuke makes the startling claim that they were built in the City of David, over the Gihon Spring. Cornuke’s sensational conclusion is that accepting this location resolves the political and religious impasse between Jews and Muslims over the controversial site and allows for biblical prophecies related to rebuilding the Temple to be fulfilled today.

The Temple location is important, and Cornuke’s popular book, written to a general audience, is confusing many Christians.

A former police detective, Cornuke based his book on a more academic one by the late Ernest Martin, who originated the theory almost 20 years ago. At that time, many people criticized it, as did I in my book The Temple and Bible Prophecy: A Definitive Look at Its Past, Present, and Future (1999).1 Now Martin’s theory is coming to the fore again, even though it cannot be sustained for three main reasons:

1. GOD established the location for the first Temple, and that location has never been forgotten or confused throughout Jewish history.2 Medieval Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides, in his massive commentary, Mishneh Torah, contended that once the Temple site was fixed in the days of Samuel and King David, it could not be changed (Beth Ha’behira 1:3–4). The Bible supports this view in its description of the official rebuilding of the structure after the Babylonian exile:

And he [Persian King Cyrus] said to him [Sheshbazzar], “Take these articles; go, carry them to the temple site that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its former site.” Then the same Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem (Ezra 5:15–16).

God established the location for the first Temple, and that location has never been forgotten or confused throughout
Jewish history.
Therefore, the second Temple was built on the restored ruins of King Solomon’s first Temple (9:9). Herod the Great’s renovation to the second Temple was completed on this same foundation (Josephus Antiquities 15.388–89, 391).

Even before Herod, there was a monumental extension of the eastern enclosure wall. It has enabled scholars to identify the original Temple Mount platform, which was designed to level off the natural topography of Mount Moriah and support the first Temple. Based on these remains and others visible in and around the Temple platform, it has been possible to deduce the original 500 x 500 cubit (861 x 861 feet) square Temple Mount upon which the first and second Temples were built. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus confirmed this equilateral square shape and asserted the Temple was built on top of a hill (Antiquities 15. 398–400). This is a significant point because, whatever location one argues for the Temple, it must be able to accommodate a platform this size.

In Mark 13:2 (cf. Mt. 24:2; Lk. 19:44), we read that Jesus predicted the Temple “buildings” would be leveled to the ground. His prophecy did not include the Temple’s foundation stones, retaining walls, or platform, which technically are not buildings and therefore not the structures to which Jesus referred. The Jewish people deeply reverenced this site. Not only did they pray toward it three times a day, but they also saw it as the symbol of hope for Israel’s redemption and restoration in the Messianic age (cf. Dan. 9:17). In fact, the restoration text of Isaiah 66:14 is carved into the Temple Mount’s southwestern retaining wall.

According to archaeologist Meir Ben- Dov, who served as co-director of the excavations in this area, the inscription most likely reflects the excited hope of a third-century Jew who returned to Jerusalem when Roman Emperor Julian offered the Jewish people an opportunity to rebuild their Temple.3 It is clear by where he recorded this act of devotion and expectation that he did not believe the Temple was in the City of David. This unbroken testimony continues through the Jewish pilgrim accounts and letters between Jewish people in the Diaspora and those who remained in the occupied land of Israel.

fec, Shrine of the Book, Dead Sea Scrolls, model of JerusalemAfter the Romans destroyed the Temple in AD 70, it is said that pilgrims visited a barren protrusion of stone (called the Pierced Stone) for centuries thereafter, identified as the location of the former Holy of Holies. For this reason, after the Muslims conquered the land in AD 638, the Islamic Caliph Abd al-Malik erected the Dome of the Rock over the spot (AD 691). Evidence comes from the Armenian historian Sebeos (AD 660):

I will relate a little more about the intentions of the rebellious Jews, who having earlier received help from the leaders of the children of Hagar, conceived a plan to rebuild the Temple of Solomon. Having discovered the place, which is called the Holy of Holies, they then built on its foundations, a place of prayer for themselves. However, the Ishmaelites, jealous of them, drove them from this place and called it their house of prayer.4

History, then, attests to today’s Temple Mount as the location of the former Temples.

2. THE ORIGINAL 861’ x 861’ square Temple Mount does not fit physically in David’s City, as Cornuke’s theory proposes. By laying the dimensions over the 1864–65 “Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem” (a topographical map of Jerusalem prepared by British Captain Charles Wilson, below), you can see the problem: The Temple Mount square fits on the present elevated platform but not down in the City of David.

In fact, when forced into the City of David, it covers the remains of the Iron Age houses in the residential area on the eastern slopes of the city, which were built after the time of the First Temple, including burial tombs used throughout the Israelite period on the adjacent slopes within the present-day village of Silwan. Had the Temple Mount been in the City of David, it also would have dammed up the Kidron Valley and created a lake to the north of the theoretical Temple complex.5

Clearly, the archaeological evidence supports the Temple Mount, not the City of David, as the site of the Jewish Temples.
Further, Josephus recorded that extensions were added to this square Temple Mount by the Hasmoneans, Herod the Great, and Agrippa II—a feature present on the hill above David’s City but not possible down in the ancient city itself.

The Bible also states Solomon built the Temple on Mount Moriah, which was also the site of the threshing floor of Araunah (Ornan) the Jebusite (2 Chr. 3:1). Threshing floors are always outside cities and usually elevated to harness the wind power.
Only the northern site outside and above the City of David fits this description.

templemtThis fact is likewise understood in 2 Chronicles 5:2–7, which talks about bringing the Ark of the Covenant “up from the City of David” (v. 2) to install it in the first Temple. It was “brought up” by the Levitical priests (v. 5) “to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple” (v. 7). The clear direction was outward and upward.

3. ARCHAEOLOGICAL discoveries make an indisputable case for the Temples having been built on the current Temple Mount. One of the important finds uncovered in the massive excavations at the foot of the Temple Mount shortly after Israelis returned to the area in 1967 was a monumental stone balustrade containing the Hebrew inscription, “to the place of trumpeting.” This clearly was one of the first stones the Romans toppled from the Temple Mount to the street below because it was found directly on the first-century AD pavement at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount—the very place Josephus mentioned in his description of the Temple:

. . . at another corner opposite the lower town [at the southwest angle of the Temple]. The last was erected above the roof of the priests’ chamber, at the point where it was the custom for one of the priests to stand and give notice, by sound of trumpet, in the afternoon of the approach, and on the following evening of the close, of every seventh day, announcing to the people the respective hours for ceasing work and for resuming their labors (Wars 4.581–583).

Here we have a direct connection between an archaeological discovery and an ancient literary source that describes the activity of Temple priests.

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Another stone with a complete Greek inscription was discovered in 1871 by Clermont-Ganneau near the St. Stephen’s Gate north of northeastern corner of the Temple Mount. Because it was found when the Ottoman Empire ruled the land, it was taken to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum in Turkey, where it is on display today. The inscription warned Gentiles against entering the sacred precincts upon pain of death. It helps us understand the Jewish men’s outcry when they thought Paul had taken Trophimus, a non-Jew, into the Temple (Acts 21:23–32).

To this example could be added myriad more from Temple Mount excavations, including a limestone sundial the Temple priests used to time the ongoing cycle of services and a recently discovered royal seal bearing the name of the eighth-century BC Judean King Hezekiah.

Furthermore, for the past 10 years the Temple Mount Sifting Project has been recovering artifacts reclaimed from debris that Muslims dumped into the Kidron Valley while building a new mosque at the southern end of the platform in an area known as Solomon’s Stables. Among the debris were special, colored stones the Talmud describes as part of the flooring in the Temple’s Court of the Women (where Jesus regularly taught). While installing electrical cable on the Temple Mount near the Dome of the Rock, Islamic authorities unintentionally uncovered part of a wall surrounded by pottery from the eighth century BC. Archaeologists who studied photos of the wall and examined the pottery concluded that the wall formed part of the House of Oil within the first Temple.6

Clearly, the archaeological evidence supports the Temple Mount, not the City of David, as the site of the Jewish Temples.

ENDNOTES

1 Randall Price, The Temple and Bible Prophecy: A Definitive Look at Its Past, Present, and Future (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1999/2005), 357–358. See also Jeffrey J. Harrison (2004), “The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot” <totheends.com/martin.htm>. Leen Ritmeyer, “Where the Temple Didn’t Stand,” World of the Bible News & Views 3:4 (2001): 1–3.
2 See Katharina Galor and Hanswulf Bloedhorn, The Archaeology of Jerusalem: From the Origins to the Ottomans (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013), 36–37.
3 Meir Ben-Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple: The Discovery of Ancient Jerusalem (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), 219.
4 The Armenian History attributed to Sebeos, trans. R. W. Thomson, historical commentary, J. Howard-Johnston, with T. Greenwood (Translated Texts for Historians), 2 vols. (Liverpool: 1999).
5 Gordon Franz, “Cornuke’s Temple Book: ‘The Greatest Archaeological Blunder Of All Time’” <lifeandland.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Review-of-Cornuke-Temple-12-Twelve.pdf>, 12.
6 For additional information see Leen Ritmeyer’s account and interpretation, along with photographs at his website: www.ritmeyer.com.


randallpriceRandall Price teaches biblical archaeology at Liberty University and from 2002 to 2012 directed excavations at Qumran, the site of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He is the author of The Stones Cry Out and, with H. Wayne House, the forthcoming Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology.

Comments

  1. No it doesnt. The spring of gihon. Mount zion was taken down. And that the roman fortress look like a roman roman fortress

  2. Where is the Gihon spring? In Jerusalem or in the city of david?

  3. How did they get running water “up” to the Temple for the daily sacrifices? I have read that the only running water near Jerusalem is the Gehon Spring, which, as I understand it, runs through the City of David.

  4. The Angel of the Lord appeared to David over the Threshing Floor of Ornan the Jebusite, and this land was purchased by David because of this so that he could build an Alter to the Lord. This is over the Gihon Spring. The only thing left standing after the destruction of 70 a.d., was the Fortress of the Roman conquerors. The Romans, Muslims, and Talmud record a Temple to Jupiter on the site of the present Mount, Emperor Hadrian commisioned this work and the built up ruins of the Antonian Fortress. All the Jewish, Greek, and Egyptian record describe the Temple over the Gihon Spring and inside the Old City of David. The present location is simply based on Traditions of men who came into Jerusalem after Crusaders took it from Muslims.

  5. Point #1 is an entirely moot argument. If you get the location of the first (Solomon’s) temple wrong the logic following that successive temples were built on the same spot is irrelevant. This article fails to address any of the glaring discrepancies that Cornuke’s work rightfully addresses: where is the threshing floor David purchased? Where is the freshwater spring that fed the temple? If the alleged Temple Mount is the true Temple Mount, where are the ruins of the massive fort Antonia, which historical records tell us looked down on the temple? The only reference to Moriah as the first temple site is 2 Chron. 3:1, thereafter it’s synonymous with “Zion” as is the City of David. Topographically speaking, there is no distinction between the part of the slope on which the city of David existed and the summit of Moriah – it’s one continuous ridge of whose summit is Moriah. The Biblical record does not say the temple was built on the summit of Moriah, simply that it was built on Moriah, and more specifically over the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. The fact that David’s palace and the first temple were at the high end of the slope has never been disputed, making all arguments that citizens came “up” from the city to the temple also moot.

  6. Does one need extensive archaeological evidence to read what is already found in scripture?

    Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David. (2 Chronicles 3:1)

    The first temple was built on Mount Moriah. DONE. Then, the second temple was built on that same site as the first,

    and he told him, ‘Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.‘ “So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem. From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished.” (Ezra 5:15-16 [NIV])

    DONE.

  7. Hello Don Mattocks, You ask about running water for daily sacrifices. There are a number of possibilities. One possibility is cisterns. There are over 20 cisterns underneath the temple mount. Those could have been used to supply the water needed. Another possibility is some sort of device with multiple buckets on a “belt” that carried water up from the Gihon much like a water wheel. Another possibility is that water was available from a spring to the northwest of the temple mount that no longer provides water. Another possibility is that the gihon spring was originally north of the temple mount and was rerouted. Perhaps the most likely answer is that the 2 ancient aqueducts which carry spring water from Ein Etam to the west side of temple and across a bridge into the temple . These aqueducts which are several miles south of the temple are currently dated to around 150 BC were rebuilt in 150 BC hence the 150 BC dating and that the aqueducts were actually built in the time of Solomon around 1000 BC. Aqueduct technology was in use approx 400 years prior to this time, so if Solomon used that technology, he would have been using established and well known technology and not something new by any means. There are 2 large pools at Ein Etam (water flows from the higher south to lower north Jerusalem) which have been called the Pools of Solomon apparently since they were built. Martin and Cornuke present a very one sided case and in some cases falsified evidence and do not mention any of the major reasons why their theory is impossible. The article above by Randall Price does an outstanding job of summarizing the proof of the location of the temple mount. Hope that helps. Dan Aldrich

  8. Dear Aaron, Don and others who believe Cornuke’s theory,
    With some straight forward verses from the Bible (which is never wrong) we can easily see where the temple stood.
    1. As Christian points out, the first verse is 2 Chronicles 3:1. So we know that it was built on a threshing floor on Mount Moriah. Does Gihon spring run on this mount?
    2. After building the temple, Solomon and the elders came to the city of David 1 Kings 8:1. So the temple was not in the city of David. Read specifically the term “bring up the ark”. So city of David was on a lower elevation than the temple.
    3. Solomon’s coronation took place at Gihon where probably a building also stood. 1 Kings 1:33. Again note “bring him down to Gihon “. In verse 35 we read that “he shall come up after him that he may come and sit upon my throne “. So the place of Solomon’s coronation and David’s palace which is in city of David is not one. Gihon is lower than city of David. So Solomon’s coronation did not take place in the temple.
    4. Solomon brought his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh into the city of David until he had made an end of building his own house and the house of the Lord. (So Solomon’s house and the Lord’s temple are not in the city of David!)
    5. Temple was higher than Solomon’s palace- 1 Kings 10:5. Here we read about the “ascent by which he went up to the house of the Lord “.
    6. King’s palace and the temple were close by such that noise from the temple was heard in the palace. 2 Kings 11:13. Athaliah heard the noise in the temple and came to it from the palace. Assuming here that she lived in the same Solomon’s palace which was built centuries ago.

    With all the above it is easy for us to draw a map and overlay it on today’s Jerusalem map and locate the approximate area. It points to the place where Al-Aksa mosque stands. Norma Robertson’s theory is the only one which matches all the above statements from the bible.

    Moreover, how will Cornuke explain Hezekiah’s tunnel? We know it started from Gihon and was cut into the city of David. If we assume his theory to be correct, did Hezekiah cut the temple? Why should Hezekiah try to channelise the water into the city if it was already inside the temple which is considered part of the city and not outside.

    Cornuke’s confusion comes from an erroneous understanding of the word “Zion “. Let me explain.
    There are 3 Zions in the Bible. So whenever you read this word, be careful to take the right meaning. First Zion is the city of David as mentioned straight forward in the bible. Second is Zion the former dwelling place of God in eternity. Psalm 132: 13. Psalm 50:2. (How can one call the dusty rocky hill as perfection of beauty and what is there for God to shine here?) Third, God is building Zion in New Testament church. When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. Clearly a future tense phrase meaning something in future. Read Revelation 14:1 to 5. This is the pure congregation of saints numbering 1,44,000 which is being built. At rapture, the Lord will fulfill this number and gather his church. So most quotes given by Cornuke actually refer to the third Zion which is spiritual. Read more about it in Psalm 87.

    Finally Bible never mentions that temple was built on running water or Gihon. Of course I agree that water is needed for cleansing the temple. Read more about how water was brought to the temple from Norma’s theory.

    http://templemountlocation.com/

  9. It seems odd that a farmer threshing wheat would put the threshing floor anywhere but a place near to the field where the wheat was grown. Threshing wheat on a rock out crop high on top of mount moriah would not make sense.
    Excavations of the pool of Siloam place it in a flat space adjacent to the City of David. Possibly through excavations of the city of David will the Lord make it clear which location is the real location of the Temple. It was, after all, the direction of an angel to select the threshing floor.

  10. Kindly read the scriptures rather than making intelligent guesses. I have quoted a sequence of verses from the Bible which clearly tell where the location is. The problem with people is that they take partisan views and not look at it wholistically.
    2 Chronicles 3: 1 clearly tells us both- that it was on Mount Moriah as well as on a threshing floor. The southern end of Mount Moriah is suited for this because of its lower elevation.

  11. I have researched for years where the Third should be built. Originally the Temple Mount seemed the most logical. However, the Temple mount does not accurately allow for all the items needed to be the original temple location. The Dome of the Rock does not meet location requirements. I have often given thought to the temple being built adjacent to the Dome of the Rock. Specifically north of the Dome where the golden Gate is located. But this also does not accurately fit with where a temple should sit and the gate appears not to be the accurate gate. After further research I agree the City of David location does appear to be the most accurate. The Temple mount appears to be where the Roman Fort stood and just below in the city of David is where the Third Temple originally was. Hopefully as time progresses this will continue to grow as the acceptable place and the building of the temple can begin.

    1. Hi Winn,
      Have you considered these facts? I’m sure you wouldn’t.
      1. The scriptures that I have presented above.
      2. Size and shape of city of David vs the size required to host Fort Antonia and the temple complex. City of David is too small and cramped. Besides, you already have the Jebusite fortress and David’s palace discovered in the city of David.
      3. Why was the trumpeting stone discovered under the south west corner of the present Temple Mount?
      4. What necessity did king Hezekiah have to bring the waters of Gihon into the city if the temple and Gihon were already inside the city walls?
      5. Why would king David “purchase” a land that he already conquered? Absolutely meaningless. Bible clearly tells us that he purchased the threshing floor from Aranauh.
      There are many more facts which you have overlooked.

    2. Winn,
      Some scriptures which clearly tell us that the temple was not on Temple Mount.
      1. The first verse is 2 Chronicles 3:1. So we know that it was built on a threshing floor on Mount Moriah. Does Gihon spring run on this mount? The answer is No.
      2. After building the temple, Solomon and the elders came to the city of David 1 Kings 8:1. So the temple was not in the city of David. Read specifically the term “bring up the ark”. So city of David was on a lower elevation than the temple.
      3. Solomon’s coronation took place at Gihon where probably a building also stood. 1 Kings 1:33. Again note “bring him down to Gihon “. In verse 35 we read that “he shall come up after him that he may come and sit upon my throne “. So the place of Solomon’s coronation and David’s palace which is in city of David is not one. Gihon is lower than city of David. So Solomon’s coronation did not take place in the temple.
      4. Solomon brought his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh into the city of David until he had made an end of building his own house and the house of the Lord. (So Solomon’s house and the Lord’s temple are not in the city of David!)
      5. Temple was higher than Solomon’s palace- 1 Kings 10:5. Here we read about the “ascent by which he went up to the house of the Lord “.
      6. King’s palace and the temple were close by such that noise from the temple was heard in the palace. 2 Kings 11:13. Athaliah heard the noise in the temple and came to it from the palace. Assuming here that she lived in the same Solomon’s palace which was built centuries ago.

  12. Thank you so much Sam, I checked out the Norma’s theory. Brilliant stuff, cleared up everything for me, very grateful, God bless

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