Locating Solomon’s Temple
By Norma Robertson
There are five main theories as to where the Temple was once located.
The most popular is under the Dome of the Rock.
The second is under the Dome of the Spirits, just north of the Dome of the Rock.
The third believes it was under the Muslim fountain, half way between the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa Mosque.
The fourth has the Temple in the midst of what used to be the City of David, south of the Temple Mount.
The fifth shows the Temple to be in the most southern position on the Temple Mount, deep below the Al Aqsa Mosque, which I will be discussing. This is a 4-point presentation created by Norma and identifies where Solomon's Temple was actually located on the Temple Mount according to the sources.
She has created this digital painting to help visualize what the Temple mount might have looked like just before it was destroyed in 70 AD. However during the time of Jesus, 40 years earlier, Herod's extended courts had only begun to be built. The Temple was still within the walls of Solomon's Temple area. So the walls of the Temple Mount we see today are not the walls that Jesus was viewing in Mat 24. The lower picture shows the mount today and how the old Temple and Fort Antonia areas were actually situated below the surface.
This is a diagram for Norma Robertson's theory. Solomon's Temple area is in green lines and the Herodian extended area is in blue.
Josephus wrote that Herod's Temple complex was a furlong in length and a furlong in width. A furlong is approximately 600 feet. So this doubled the size of Solomon's Temple compound. Solomon and Herod's temple compounds both shared the same east wall and Solomon’s porch. Herod’s builders merely extended Solomon’s east wall to the north and to the south as we can see in the diagram.
When placing her diagram over Sir Charles Warren’s survey map of the 1870’s, you will notice that the lower, southern, court lays beyond the south wall of the Temple Mount that exists today. Evidence of this lower court can be found among the ruins in the Ophel Archeology Park below that south wall.
The lower Aqueduct and the Water System
In this map we can see the whole water system. The lower aqueduct was built by Solomon bringing water to the Temple Mount from Etam spring, near Bethlehem. It entered the mount through Wilson's Arch at the upper left in this diagram. It didn't go up hill from there towards the Dome of the Rock, which would have been the case if the Temple had been located there, but instead the Aqueduct was laid towards the south, down hill from where it entered the Mount. Further indicating that the Temple was located to the south end of the Mount.
The Dome of the Rock is actually 20 feet higher than the entering of the aqueduct at Wilson’s Arch.
In the lower section of Warren’s water map it reveals an elaborate system of water channels deep below the surface. One of the main branches of this water system ends with a large underground pool.
Norma was very pleased when she overlaid her diagram, which she had been working on for many years before finding this water map on-line. And It fit like a glove! The channels lead right to the Temple Court confirming her theory. Smaller conduits would have lead from the end of the channel to the altar where the water bubbled up like a spring to flood the court each night. They could simply open this channel and flood the court with water to wash away the blood each evening.
As we can see the pool is now located right next to the Temple. Right where it should be.
The Mishna tells us that the water for filling the copper laver every day was also brought by a conduit (an aqueduct) from the pools of Bethlehem. This pool on the map is large enough to lower the copper laver into for filling it. This information helps us to understand that the water for the Temple did not come from Gihon Spring but from Etem Spring.
The Tosefta Pesachim, 3,12 tells us how this was done. Quote; "How is the Azara (Priest’s court) cleaned? Seal the area and let the water from the aqueduct enter till it becomes clean like milk."
The water system also has a branch ending where the Chamber of the Hearth would have been located in this theory (the red arrow on the map)
The Chamber of the Hearth had a Mikveh below it for the High Priest to cleanse himself.
Recently photographs by Robert Hamilton, taken during the 1927 earthquake, have been released that show a Jewish mikveh (a bath) under the Al Aqsa Mosque. In Norma’s theory this could possibly be the Mikveh that would have been located under the Chamber of the Hearth.
The Moat and Fort Antonia
This map shows the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque in red. As you can see the Holy of Holies has never had anything built above it, just an open courtyard next to the Mosque.
Looking to the north on this map we see a moat, excavated by Charles Warren in the 1870’s.
This moat proves that the Temple could not have been located under the Dome of the Rock, nor the Dome of the Spirits. That platform could have only been the Fort Antonia compound, because according to Josephus the moat was dug to the north of Fort Antonia.
Josephus tells us that there was a natural land bridge between Fort Antonia and the lower hill to its north, called Bezetha. It was at this place that the Jews cut a moat. The moat was 200 feet long and 50 feet deep, and to the east of it was a ravine called the old Kidron Valley. Both the valley and the moat were identified by Charles Warran and Charles Wilson on their respective maps. A shallow indentation of the moat can still be seen at the north end of the Temple Mount today.
According to Josephus the moat was cut for the purpose of separating the two hills, and making it impossible for catapults to be set up near the north wall of the Fort Antonia, for lack of flat land. However attacking armies would fill in the moat with dirt and debris and create a flat surface, and break down the north wall of Fort Antonia. From there they could take the Temple. Norma’s theory is the only one that acknowledges this excavated moat. Once the moat is acknowledged, then the Dome of the Rock platform can only be seen as the place of Fort Antonia, and not the place of the Temple.
Fort Antonia and Temple together measured
six furlong around (600 x 1200 ft).
Josephus describes Fort Antonia as a fortress with four towers, and around it were other towers. In other words a fortress with towers on its corners, and around it were other walls with towers. Two colonnades on the west connected Fort Antonia to the west and north walls of the Temple. According to Josephus (War of Jews Book 5, 5) the Temple and Fort Antonia, together, measured six furlong around. Meaning the Temple and Fort Antonia were each approximately 600 x 600 feet. All together they measured 1200 x 600 feet or three quarters of a mile to walk around both. This tells us that Fort Antonia only took up a small portion of the Temple mount we see today, not the whole Temple Mount. This is the only theory that recognizes the dimensions given to us by Josephus for both the Temple and Fort Antonia when measured together.
This moat is proof that the north wall of Fort Antonia was located at the north end of the Dome of the Rock platform. If you look closely at the map you will see that there is no actual north wall of the mount we see today. No defined wall, and no defined northwest corner and there never was a wall there. Fort Antonia was built on the old Nehemiah wall, which ran along the north end of the Dome of the Rock platform.
The Place of the Trumpeting Stone
The “Place of the Trumpeting” and the place above the Xystus Plaza reveal the real location of the Temple.
We learn about the Place of the Trumpeting through Josephus as he describes the towers built by the Jewish Rebels between 66 and 70 AD. The rebels had taken over the city prior to its destruction in 70 AD. These rebels had split into two groups and began warring against each other. One faction held the Temple and they built towers on the corners of the Temple compound to get a higher advantage for their arrows. One of those towers was built above the Xystus. So first we need to find out where that was located.
We look at the Temple Mount today and see four corners and automatically think those were the four corners where the rebels built these towers, but Josephus is describing a Temple Mount that we don't see today! One where the Temple compound was only 600 x 600 feet. Actually only one of those corners can be seen today. And that is the Southwest corner of the Temple Mount.
So this is a diagram of the southwest corner. Josephus traces the path of the first wall of Jerusalem (once known as Nehemiah's wall). The War of the Jews 4.2: “Now that wall began on the north, at the tower called "Hippicus" and extended as far as the "Xistus" a place so called, and then, joining to the council-house, ended at the west cloister of the temple.”
The Xystus was a plaza used for assembly, to hear public speeches made from the west wall of the Temple Mount.
Archeologist have found Xistus Plaza, and also the ruins of the Council House. The ruins of the Council House were discovered by Charles Warren in the 1870′s. It is located near the Western Wall and the bridge over Wilson’s Arch. It was not located at the North end of the Mount we see today.
Josephus tells the location of the towers that the rebels built on the corners of the Temple compound.
The “Place of the Trumpeting” was located at what is now the southwest corner of the Temple Mount where one of the towers was built by the rebels.
The first tower was built at the NorthEast corner of the Temple compound. (600 feet across from the west wall)
The second was built on the corner of the Temple across from the Xystus plaza on the west wall. In other words near Wilson's Arch, which is not anywhere near the Northwest corner of the Temple Mount today.
The third tower was built on the corner overlooking the City of David. Scholars trying to place these towers have great difficulty with the southern corner tower. Placing a tower at the southeast corner of the Mount, of today, doesn’t really work because it overlooks the Kidron Valley, not the City. This would have been useless in fighting off attacks from the city. They end up placing it at the southwest corner, which actually places towers 3 and 4 in the same place! This just leads to confusion. The place of the third corner tower that overlooked the City of David can only be explained by Norma's Temple theory as you can see by this diagram, because her Temple extends beyond the south wall of the Temple Mount and creates a different southwest corner which no longer exists.
Josephus places the fourth tower at the corner of the “Place of the Trumpeting.” This was where the Priest stood to blow the shofa. It was within the Herod’s Temple compound.
At the base of the southwest corner the remains of “The Place of the Trumpeting” stone was found when excavating the Herodian first century street. The conerstone laid where it had landed after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. It had cracked the slabs of the first century street below so it is the original place. This is the only real proof needed for us to know that the Temple was located on the Temple Mount, and not located in the City of David.
The Ancient steps at the south wall of the Temple Mount
Within Solomon’s southern court were steps leading up to the upper gate and inner wall of the upper courts. These ancient steps reveal a lot about the Ophel Mound, which would have been about half way up the hill. The top of the hill, or mountain, is where the Dome of the Rock was later built.
The Herodians extended that southern court of Solomon's compound creating Herod's Stoa, a covered court 600 feet long. Josephus describes the Stoa and also the steps going up to the Upper Gate, which entered into to the sacred courts.
The ancient steps were originally cut into the bedrock, which protruded out of the earth. This is evidence of a gigantic rock mounding out of the ground at the top of Ophel hill. Norma believes these steps lead up to the threshing floor that King David bought, and the place where Solomon later built the Temple.
Josephus speaks of a certain set of steps that hid part of the inner wall of the Temple courts. Quote; "This court was four-square, and had a wall about it peculiar to itself; the height of its building, although it were on the outside was 58 ft, was hidden by the steps, and on the inside that height was but 36 ft, for it being built over against a higher part of the hill with steps. (War of the Jews 5, 5)
So according to Josephus these steps rose 22 feet from the plaza below and brought one up to the level of Upper Gate which entered into the sacred area.
In this diagram we can see how that works.
The Archaeology of the Jerusalem Area, p. 154 says the massive stairs lead up to the platform and its FOUNDATION STEPS ARE CUT INTO THE BEDROCK. “From a wide plaza below on the south the STAIRWAY RISES 22 FEET to the platform in front of the Double Gate.”
This is the exact amount required to be the same steps that rose up 22 feet and hid part of the wall from view that Josephus spoke of.
These might actually be the same steps where Jesus over-turned the tables.
This is a diagram of Herod’s temple compound with Herod's stoa, a three-aisled, covered, structure seen at the bottom. If this is the true location of the Temple then we would see evidence of the many pillars near the base of the ancient steps on the Ophel.
This photograph shows the base of many columns in a row, exactly where those columns should have been located to be part of Herod's Stoa. Meaning that everything to the south of the pillars in this photograph was included in the covered area of the stoa.
It is amazing how much evidence still remains of Solomon and Herod's Temple compound, but only if we look in the right place.
To learn more about this theory for the location of Solomon's Temple, and the rest of the evidence showing why this is the true location of the first and second Temples, please visit Norma's website at templemountlocation.com