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The Retaining Walls of the Temple Mount

I am often asked the question, "How can you say the Temple was on the Temple Mount when Jesus said not one stone will be upon another?  Those retaining walls sure are a lot of stones one upon another."    That was put into the minds of a lot of people by Dr. E Martin and now by Bob Cornuke repeating Martin's words.

I have a few things to say about that.  Firstly, Jesus never said anything about the walls.  Secondly, the walls we see today, and call the Temple Mount retaining walls, were not there at the time of Jesus, because the Temple complex retaining walls He was looking at don't exist today.


Here is the text being referred to.  Matt in green, Mark in blue, and Luke light red.

Mat 24:1 Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him.
Mar 13:1 As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"
Luk 21:5 And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said,

Mat 24:2 And He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down."
Mar 13:2 And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down."
Luk 21:6 "{As for} these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down."

What beautiful buildings were they speaking of to Jesus? Herod's Temple. The beautiful white stones he used to build the temple and outer buildings.  Jesus was not being shown the walls of the Mount, only the buildings that Herod built.

Jesus was being specific. "Do you see these great buildings?  Not one stone will be left upon another.  By 30 AD Herod the Great had built the Temple and all the buildings of the Temple court and the Woman's court, and also Fort Antonia, but Herod the Great died in 4 BC, long before the Southwest wall of the Temple Mount was built.  It was Herod's son and grandson that slowly, over the next 70 years, that built the west wall. The last court of Herod's Temple to be built was the lower court, according to Josephus. The Lower Court was called "lower" because it was built on a lower part of the hill. The Lower Court contained Herod's Royal Stoa. The work on this lower court was not finished until 66 AD, 36 years after Jesus was crucified.   I doubt they had even built the foundation of the lower court when Jesus walked in the Temple.  Coins in an old mikveh were found under the foundation stones deep below Robinson's Arch that were dated from 17-18 AD.  That doesn't even have to mean these foundation stones that were laid at the depth of the Tyropoeon Valley were laid that very year. The coins could be many years old when they were dropped.  


Thirdly, the Temple's east wall, that  Jesus and the apostles were looking at on that day, wasn't what we see today.  They were looking at an east wall built by Solomon, because Herod refused to let his masons rebuild that ancient work, because of the great time and expense involved. (Josephus Flavius Ant. 20:9, section 7) "These cloisters belonged to the outer court (Woman's court), and were situated in a deep valley, and had walls that reached four hundred cubits [in length], and were built of square and very white stones, the length of each of which stones was twenty cubits, and their height six cubits. This was the work of king Solomon, who first of all built the entire temple. But king Agrippa, who had the care of the temple committed to him by Claudius Caesar, considering that it is easy to demolish any building, but hard to build it up again, and that it was particularly hard to do it to these cloisters, which would require a considerable time, and great sums of money, he denied the petitioners their request about that matter;"
 Josephus, when giving measurements of the Temple complex, called the east wall Solomon's wall.  That 400 cubit wall can not be seen today.  If the whole Lower Court hadn't been torn down after 70 AD then maybe we could still see the ruins of it,  but it was torn down.  The rest of the Temple complex walls were either torn down or the remnants of them buried deep below the earth. Only the Herodian west wall up to Wilson's arch remained standing, but as I pointed out, Jesus never said the walls would be torn down, only the buildings. Also the buildings of the City would be laid even with the ground, with not one stone upon another.  

 The high east wall of todays Temple Mount began as a low City wall that Nehemiah rebuilt. He described the city wall all around Jerusalem (see scripture). That wall was not a wall of the Temple.  In fact 
Nehemiah did not rebuild any of the Temple walls, only the city walls.  

Nehemiah's City Walls
Nehemiah wall seen as dashed line on map

So how did the Temple Mount become the huge rectangle it is today?  

We can thank the Roman Emperor Hadrain for that piece of handy work.  I am sure you have heard that the whole Temple Mount was Fort Antonia. That is not true. Fort Antonia only took up a small portion of  it.  Josephus tells us that the Temple and Fort Antonia together measure six furlong around.  A furlong is approximately 600 feet.  This means that not only was Herod's Temple complex 600 x 600 feet, but Fort Antonia was also 600 x 600 feet. Pretty much occupying the elevated platform of the Dome of the Rock area. Josephus tells us that they built a low wall around the top of the Mountain and filled it in with dirt and covered it with flagstone and  there they built the fortress.   It sat above and overlooked the Temple and the Temple overlooked the city.

Fort Antonia
The Temple platform sat about 30 feet lower on the mountain than Fort Antonia

Once the destruction of the Jerusalem took place the 10th Legion was housed near Jaffa Gate, where they had always been located.  They were told to tear down the city but to leave a section of the west city wall standing, with three of it's impressive towers, so that any one passing by would see the power of the city he had overthrown.

In 135 AD Hadrian began the building of a new city,  and began work on his Temple of Jupiter.  At first the remaining Jews thought he was going to rebuild their Temple and were actually helping him.  When they found out he wasn't, they rebelled.  If you read Josephus you would understand that Fort Antonia was built on a hill that was 50 foot high, whereas, the Temple was built at a lower elevation on the mountain, on the threshing floor.   That is what Hadrian had to deal with. He needed a huge flat surface for his Temple complex.    If we look at the northern section of the West wall it is apparent it was not built by Herod. When the Herodians built a wall or buildings they dug down to the  bedrock to place the foundation course of stone.  This completely wiped away any buildings or ruins leaving no trace along the rout of the wall. This is not the case with the west wall from  above Wilson's gate to the north.  That section was some sort of colonnade for people of  the suburbs of north Jerusalem to walk to the Temple area. That walkway still remains and is part of the west wall tunnel tour.  As for a North wall, there has never been one.   Its border is determined by the ancient Pool of Israel.  The suburbs, called New City by Josephus, had a land bridge connecting it to the eastern ridge so the Jews cut a moat to separate the two hills. The foss of that moat can still be seen today.


This is the design of Hadrian's Temple complex in Lebanon (in blue) laid over Warren's map.  

Temple of Jupiter on the Temple Mount


Not only was the SE corner, between the tower and the straight joint,  not built by the Herodians, but was actually built of  mis-matched recycled Herodian stones, as we can see in this diagram drawn by Charles Warren.  Cap. Warren  dug a 90 foot shaft to examine the SE section of the east wall in the 1800's.  Here is what he found.



As you can see it is not the beautiful wall of  a Herodian builders, but mismatch stone work.  That means that the terraced arches of Solomon's Stables, given that name by the Crusaders, was most likely built by Hadrian in 135 AD to raise up a SE corner to the level needed to build his Temple of Jupiter.  Triple Gate  and Double gate Halls were also used for this purpose. The rest of the southern section of the Temple Mount is filled in with fill dirt and rubble, as Warren tells us in his work.  What Warren didn't realize is that the threshing floor lay beneath that fill dirt.

Solomons Temple diagrams 

There is so much more about these things that can be found on my index page under the What's New" section, which are not in my videos.  I hope you will take the time to investigate all of it.  


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