THE TEMPLE MOUNT
AND FORT ANTONIA
by Ernest Martin
We all remember the proverb that a picture is worth a thousand words. This is
so true. When we are able to view a site that we have been reading or hearing
about, the historical and architectural information associated with the area becomes
much more meaningful and the subject better understood. That is certainly the
case with the Temple built by Herod the Great that existed in the time of Christ
Jesus along with the adjacent fortress that dominated the landscape known as Fort
The truth is, no one in modern history (nor for the past 1900 years) has actually
witnessed the complex of buildings that comprised the Holy Sanctuary and the fort
that was built to protect it. This is one of the reasons why I have wanted to
present to all of you on the ASK mailing list the first general view of what the
Temple and Fort Antonia looked like to the inhabitants of Jerusalem during the
time of Jesus.
Once we recognize the actual situation of the two structures that I show in the
illustrations, and once you realize their dimensions, many points of teaching
that we observe in the New Testament will make much better sense to us. In a word,
a true perspective of those two buildings that occupied the greater part of northeastern
Jerusalem (west of the Mount of Olives and the Mount of Offense) will provide
a panoramic view that will show the sheer beauty and majesty of the Mother City
of the Jews in the early part of the first century. Without doubt, it was a splendid
and awesome display of architectural grandeur at its best. My new book "The
Temples that Jerusalem Forgot" will present the full and interesting details.
What you are about the see in the illustrations at the conclusion of this Report
is the description of the Temple and Fort Antonia as presented by Josephus, the
Jewish historian. He was an eyewitness to the City of Jerusalem before the Romans
destroyed it in A.D. 70. I have had our artist draw both a horizontal aspect as
though you would view the buildings from above (in outline form as an architect
would draw the edifices), and also to show a vertical aspect that gives a three
dimensional effect as seen from the east side of the buildings.
The squared or rectangular stones that comprise both structures are very large
but they are not drawn to exact scale. They represent an artist's impression given
with my directions in accord with the descriptions recorded by Josephus. If you
will read Josephus yourself, you will find that our illustrations simply depict
the eyewitness accounts of Josephus as he stated them in his literature.
The vertical sight will be that from the top of the southern part of the Mount
of Olives known as the Mount of Offense which was directly east of the old city
of David formerly located south of the Gihon Spring. This is the best place to
view ancient Jerusalem. My new book will illustrate these points clearly.
A Panoramic View of Ancient Jerusalem
Let me start by mentioning a scene that usually occupies the attention of each
person who visits Jerusalem for the first time (or who returns year after year
to see the archaeological remains of the Jerusalem of Herod and Jesus). That particular
scene is observed from the Mount of Olives just in front of the Seven Arches Hotel.
This is where people can obtain the best over-all view of the ancient and modern
City of Jerusalem. Before I present you with some details concerning this inspiring
and unforgettable prospect, let me relate a little about myself for some of you
who only recently have come on the A.S.K. mailing list through the Internet. This
will allow you to understand my deep interest and my personal involvement with
the City of Jerusalem over the past four decades.
My first visit to Jerusalem was in the year 1961. Since then I have returned to
the city over thirty times from areas in Europe or America where I have lived.
Though I am an American, I have professionally taught college in England where
I lived for fourteen years (from 1958 to 1972). In Jerusalem, I worked personally
on a daily basis with Professor Benjamin Mazar in the archaeological excavations
at the western and southern walls of the Haram esh-Sharif. My working association
with Professor Mazar on that site lasted for two months each summer during the
years 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1973.
Over that period of five summers, I was the academic supervisor for 450 college
students from around the world who were digging at that archaeological excavation
directed by Professor Mazar. Time magazine in its Education Section for
September 3, 1973 featured my academic program for granting college credits for
students who worked under my superintendence at Professor Mazar's archaeological
excavation sponsored by the Israel Exploration Society and Hebrew University.
Besides this particular professional association at the excavation, I have personally
guided more than 800 people around all areas of Israel explaining its biblical
and secular history.
Though I am not an archaeologist by profession (my M.A. is in Theology and my
Ph.D. is in Education), I have written several books and other major studies on
the history and geography of Jerusalem especially in the periods of Jesus, the
Roman Empire and Byzantium. I mention these brief biographical points to show
that I have had considerable opportunity to study and to know the history of ancient
With this in mind, let's return to the top of the Mount of Olives to be reminded
of the splendid panoramic perspective depicting the remnants of ancient Jerusalem
as well as witnessing the vibrant and bustling modern City of Jerusalem. For the
450 college students and the 800 persons I have guided in their visits to Jerusalem,
I have always taken them to this spot on the Mount of Olives in order for them
to visualize, as a beginning lesson, what ancient Jerusalem was really like.
Observing Jerusalem from the Mount
The view is spectacular. There is no scene from other areas of Jerusalem that
can replicate the grandeur of the ancient archaeological remains of the city.
What dominates the scene, as one looks westward, is a rectangular body of walls
with gigantic stones perfectly aligned with one another in their lower courses.
These four walls present to the observer a feeling of majesty and awe at what
the ancients were capable of accomplishing by their architectural achievements.
These walls surround the area presently known as the Haram esh-Sharif (the Noble
Enclosure). The stones of the lower courses in those walls are in their pristine
positions. They are still placed neatly on top of another without any major displacement
from their original alignments. These lower stones are clearly Herodian in origin,
and in some places in the eastern portion of the wall they are pre-Herodian. There
are certainly more than 10,000 of these stones still in place as they were in
the time of Herod and Jesus.
No archaeological authority has been able to count all the stones of the four
walls surrounding the Haram esh-Sharif because many of the stones are still hidden
from view. But at the holy site at the Western Wall (often called the "Wailing
Wall") there are seven courses presently visible within that 197 feet length
of the wall in the north/south exposure. That section contains about 450 Herodian
There are, however, eight more courses of Herodian stones underneath the soil
down to the ground level that existed in the time of Herod and Jesus. Even below
that former ground level, there are a further nine courses of foundation stones.
If that whole section of the "Wailing Wall" could be exposed, one could
no doubt count around 1250 Herodian stones (probably more) of various sizes.
Most stones are about three to four feet high and three feet to twelve feet long,
but there are varying lengths up to 40 feet (with the larger stones weighing about
70 tons). One stone has been found in the Western Wall that has the prodigious
weight of 400 tons (Meir Ben-Dov, Mordechai Naor, Zeev Aner, "The Western
Wall," pp.61, 215). If one could extend by extrapolating the number of
stones making up the four walls surrounding the Haram, there has to be over 10,000
Herodian and pre-Herodian stones still very much in place as they were some 2000
years ago. All of these stones in those four walls survived the Roman/Jewish War
The grand centerpiece within the whole enclosure is the Muslim shrine called the
Dome of the Rock. It is centrally located in a north/south dimension within the
rectangular area of the Haram. To the south of the Dome and abutting to the southern
wall is another large building called the Al Aqsa Mosque with its smaller dome.
And though from the Mount of Olives modern Jerusalem can be seen in the background
(and its contemporary skyline of buildings is interesting), the whole area is
overshadowed and dominated by the Haram esh-Sharif with those ancient walls that
impressively highlight the scene.
This is the view that modern viewers are accustomed to see. But let us now go
back over 1900 years and imagine viewing Jerusalem from this same spot. It is
from this vantagepoint that Titus (the Roman General) looked on the ruins of Jerusalem
after the Roman/Jewish War in A.D.70. The description of what Titus saw is very
instructive. We should read his appraisal in the accounts preserved by Josephus
because Josephus and Titus were both eyewitnesses. Notice not only what Titus
observed, but also what he left out of the narrative (War VII.1,1).
This omission will become of prime importance in our inquiry regarding the true
location of the Temple. Titus commanded that only a part of a wall and three forts
were to remain of what was once the glorious City of Jerusalem. Notice what is
stated in War VII.1,1.
"Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because
there remained none to be the objects of their fury (for they would not have spared
any, had there remained any other work to be done), Caesar gave orders that
they should now demolish the entire city and Temple, but should leave as many
of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminence; that is, Phasaelus, and
Hippicus, and mne; and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west
side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie
in garrison [in the Upper City], as were the towers [the three forts] also spared,
in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified,
which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall [surrounding
Jerusalem], it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug
it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither
believe it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited. This was the end which
Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise
of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind" (Whiston trans.,
italics, bracketed words mine).
This eyewitness account about the total ruin of Jerusalem has given visitors to
Jerusalem a major problem in relation to what we witness of ancient Jerusalem
today. The fact is, Titus gave orders that the Temple was to be demolished. The
only man-made structures to be left in Jerusalem was to be a portion of the western
wall and the three fortresses located in the Upper City. This was Titus' intention
at first. But within a short time, even that portion of the western wall and the
three fortresses in the west were so thoroughly destroyed that not a trace of
them remained (unless the so-called "Tower of David" near the present
day Jaffa Gate as scholars guess is a part of the foundation of Hippicus or Phasaelus).
At the conclusion of the war, the Tenth Legion left Jerusalem a mass of ruins.
Stones from those ruins were finally used in the following century to build a
new city called Aelia. But by late A.D.70, there was nothing left standing of
the Temple or the buildings of Jerusalem. Josephus stated:
"And truly, the very view itself was a melancholy thing; for those places
which were adorned with trees and pleasant gardens, were now become desolate country
every way, and its trees were all cut down. Nor could any foreigner that had formerly
seen Judaea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert,
but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change. For the war had laid all signs
of beauty quite waste. Nor had anyone who had known the place before, had
come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again. But though he [a foreigner]
were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it" (War VI.1,1).
What the Modern Visitor Observes
These descriptions by Josephus are what he and Titus saw from the Mount of Olives.
But this is NOT what we observe today. We see something remaining from the period
of Herod and Jesus that is quite different. Directly to the west, we view an awe-inspiring
architectural relic of the past that is splendidly positioned directly in front
of us. It dominates the whole western prospect of this panoramic view. That ancient
structure is the Haram esh-Sharif. Its rectangular walls are so large in dimension
that the Haram effectively obscures much of the view of the present old city of
Jerusalem. And certainly, without the slightest doubt, the Haram (in its lower
courses of stones that make up its walls) is a building that survived the Roman/Jewish
War. Indeed, it is an outstanding example of the early architectural grandeur
that once graced the Jerusalem of Herod and Jesus that has withstood two thousand
years of weathering, earthquakes, wars and natural deterioration.
What is strange, and almost inexplicable at first, is the fact that Josephus mentioned
the utter ruin of the Temple and all the City of Jerusalem, but he gave no reference
whatever to the Haram esh-Sharif or that Titus had commanded that those walls
should remain intact. And through the centuries, up to our modern period, there
are over 10,000 stones still in their original positions making up the four walls
of the Haram. As a matter of fact, in Titus' time there were probably another
5,000 stones that were left on the upper courses of the four walls that have been
dislodged and fallen to the ground over the centuries since the first century.
What must be recognized is the fact that Titus deliberately left the rectangular
shaped Haram esh-Sharif practically in the state he found it when he first got
to Jerusalem with his legions. Strangely, Titus must have ordered that those four
walls be retained for all future ages to see.
Without doubt, the Haram esh-Sharif with its gigantic walls was a survivor of
the war. But how could Josephus have failed to account for the retention of such
a spacious and magnificent building that was clearly in existence in pre-war Jerusalem?
The continued existence of those extensive remains of the Haram esh-Sharif seem
(at first glance) to nullify the appraisal of Josephus and Titus. Remember, they
said that nothing of Jerusalem was left. "It [Jerusalem] was so thoroughly
laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there
was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it [Jerusalem] had
ever been inhabited."
What is even more strange is the modern belief that the Haram esh-Sharif must
be reckoned as the site of the Temple Mount. If present scholarly opinion is correct,
this means that Titus and the Roman legions did not destroy the outer walls of
the Temple in its middle and lower courses. The Romans left over 10,000 stones
in place around the Haram. This modern belief of scholars and religious authorities
(whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian) that the retention of those 10,000 stones
around the Haram represents the remnants of the walls of the Temple make the above
descriptions of their demolition by Josephus and Titus as being outlandish exaggerations.
And true enough, this is precisely how most modern scholars, theologians, religious
leaders and archaeologists view the matter.
Professor on, who translated Josephus, said this was the case. He remarked
that the thorough desolation that Titus was supposed to have seen in front of
him was: "An exaggeration. A great deal of the southern part of the Temple
enclosure was spared. The whole of the south wall of its successor, the present
wall round the Haram esh-Sharif, the southern section of the west wall (the 'Wailing
Wall', where the fall of Jerusalem is still lamented) and a short stretch of the
east wall running up from the southeast corner are Herodian to a considerable
height" (The Jewish War, p.454, note 2). We will see abundant evidence
in my new book that Josephus was not exaggerating. This is because that enclosure
known as the Haram esh-Sharif was NOT the Temple Mount, nor was the structure
then officially reckoned as a part of the municipality of Jerusalem.
Our modern scholars and religious authorities consistently state that we cannot
believe Josephus literally in his accounts concerning the important descriptions
that he provides. We will discover, however, that it is the modern scholars and
the religious leaders who are wrong and not Josephus. Josephus, the historian/priest,
knew what he was talking about. Jerusalem and the Temple were totally destroyed
and not a stone of them was left in place. The truth is, the Haram esh-Sharif
was NOT the Temple Mount.
Josephus Was Not Exaggerating
It is time for us to realize that it is the modern scholars who are wrong, not
the eyewitness accounts of Josephus and Titus. Jerusalem and the Temple were
indeed destroyed to the bedrock just as they relate. Regarding this, there are
other sections of Josephus' accounts to show that he was not exaggerating. Josephus
was keen on telling his readers that all the walls around Jerusalem were
leveled to the ground. Note his observation: "Now the Romans set fire
to the extreme parts of the city [the suburbs] and burnt them down, and entirely
demolished its [Jerusalem's] walls" (War VI.9,4.).
This reference shows that all the walls, even those enclosing the outskirts of
Jerusalem, were finally leveled to the ground. To reinforce the matter, Josephus
said elsewhere: "When he [Titus] entirely demolished the rest of the city,
and overthrew its walls, he left these towers [the three towers mentioned
above] as a monument of his good fortune, which had proved [the destructive power
of] his auxiliaries, and enabled him to take what could not otherwise have been
taken by him" (War VI.9,1).
These two accounts by Josephus, along with the previous observations given above,
confirm that there was a literal destruction of all the walls surrounding Jerusalem
(except the small section of the wall in the western part of the Upper City that
was afterward destroyed because not a trace of it has been mentioned of its retention
by later eyewitnesses or found by modern archaeologists). Indeed, after A.D.70
there is not a word by any historical record that even speaks of those three fortresses
in the Upper City having a continuance that Titus at first thought to leave as
standing monuments showing the power of Rome over the Jews.
But again, these descriptions of Josephus and Titus of total ruin seem to be at
variance with what we witness today. Let's face it. From the Mount of Olives we
behold the four walls of the Haram still erect in all their glory, and they are
prominently displayed ajesty that dominates the whole of present-day Jerusalem.
The lower courses of those walls clearly have 10,000+Herodian and pre-Herodian
stones on top of one another. As a matter of fact, those rectangular walls are
even functioning ramparts of Jerusalem today. They have been in constant use throughout
the intervening centuries to protect the buildings that were built in the interior
of that enclosure called the Haram esh-Sharif.
Again I say, if those rectangular walls are those which formerly surrounded the
Temple Mount (as we are confidently informed by all authorities today), why did
Josephus and Titus leave out of their eyewitness accounts any mention about
this retention of this magnificent Haram structure? They spoke of the utter ruin
and desolation of Jerusalem and of the Temple, not the survival of any buildings
that the Jewish authorities once controlled. Be this as it may, Josephus and Titus
were certainly aware that the walls of the Haram survived the war. Why did Josephus
and Titus not refer to those walls of the Haram that remained standing in their
time? My new book will explain the reason why, and very clearly.
A Quandary for Modern Christians
These facts present a major problem for Christians. If those rectangular walls
of the Haram are indeed the same walls (in their lower courses) that formerly
embraced the Temple Mount, why are these stones (more than 10,000 in number) yet
so firmly on top of one another? The continued existence of those gigantic and
majestic walls would show that Titus did not destroy the walls of the Temple,
if those walls did surround the Temple. Why is this a difficulty for Christian
belief? The reason is plain.
Christians are aware of four prophecies given by Jesus in the New Testament that
there would not be one stone left upon another either of the Temple
and its walls or even of the City of Jerusalem and its walls (Matthew 24:1,2;
Mark 13:1,2; Luke 19:43,44; 21:5,6.). But strange as it may appear, the walls
surrounding the Haram esh-Sharif still remain in their glory with their 10,000+
Herodian and pre-Herodian stones solidly in place in their lower courses. If those
stones are those of the Temple, the prophecies of Jesus can be seriously doubted
as having any historical value or merit in any analysis by intelligent and unbiased
Indeed, the majority of Christian visitors to Jerusalem who first view those huge
stones surrounding the rectangular area of the Haram (and who know the prophecies
of Jesus) are normally perplexed and often shocked at what they see. And they
ought to be. The surprise at what they observe has been the case with numerous
people that I have guided around Jerusalem and Israel. They have asked for an
explanation concerning this apparent failure of the prophecies of Jesus. Why do
those gigantic walls still exist? If those walls represent the stones around the
Temple, then the prophecies of Christ are invalid.
The usual explanation, however, to justify the credibility to Jesus' prophecies
is to say that Jesus could only have been speaking about the inner Temple and
its buildings, NOT the outer Temple and its walls that surrounded it. This is
the customary and the conciliatory answer that most scholars provide (and it is
the explanation that I formerly gave my students or associates). The truth is,
however, this explanation will not hold water when one looks at what Jesus prophesied.
One should carefully observe the prophecies of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels.
They plainly state that one stone would not rest on another of the Temple, its
buildings, and his prophecies also embraced its outer walls. The Greek word Jesus
used in his prophetic context to describe the Temple and its buildings was heiron
(this means the entire Temple including its exterior buildings and walls).
Notice what Vincent says about the meaning of heiron.
"The word temple
(heiron, lit., sacred
place) signifies the whole compass of the sacred
enclosure, with its porticos, courts, and other subordinate buildings; and should
be carefully distinguished from the other word, naos, also rendered temple,
which means the temple itself the "Holy Place" and the "Holy
of Holies." When we read, for instance, of Christ teaching in the temple
(heiron) we must refer it to one of the
temple-porches [outer colonnades]. So it is from the heiron, the court
of the Gentiles, that Christ expels the money-changers and cattle-merchants"(
Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. I., p.50).
The exterior buildings of the Temple including its walls were always reckoned
within the meaning of the word heiron that Jesus used in his prophecies
concerning the total destruction of the Temple. There were several outer divisions
of the Temple that were distinguished from the Inner Temple, and these outer appurtenances
were accounted to be cardinal features of the Sanctuary. As an example, note the
New Testament account stating that Satan took Jesus to the "pinnacle of the
Temple" (Matthew 4:5). The pinnacle section was the southeastern corner of
the outer wall that surrounded the whole of the Temple complex. The wording in
the New Testament shows that this southeastern angle belonged to the Temple
it was a pinnacle [a wing] "of the Temple." That area was very much
a part of the sacred edifice to which Jesus referred when he prophesied that not
one stone would remain on another.
There is an important geographical factor that proves this point. When Jesus made
his prophecy that no stone would be left on one another, Matthew said that Jesus
and his disciples had just departed from the outer precincts of the Temple. This
means that all of them were at the time viewing the exterior sections of the Temple
(the heiron) when he gave his prophecy (Matthew 24:1). The Gospel of Mark
goes even further and makes it clear that the outside walls of the Temple were
very much in the mind of Jesus when he said they would be uprooted from their
very foundations. "And as he [Jesus] went out of the Temple [note that Jesus
and the disciples were standing outside the Temple walls and looking back
toward the Temple enclosure], one of his disciples saith unto him, 'Master, see
what buildings are here!' And Jesus answering said unto him, 'Seest thou these
great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not
be thrown down'"(Matthew 24:1). Without the slightest doubt, when Jesus in
his prophecy spoke about the destruction of the Temple, he was certainly including
in his prophecy the stones of the outer walls that enclosed the Temple as well
as the buildings of the inner Temple.
The Whole City of Jerusalem Also to
Jesus went even further than simply prophesying about the destruction of the Temple
and its walls. He also included within his prophetic predictions the stones that
made up the whole City of Jerusalem (with every building and house that comprised
the metropolis including the walls that embraced its urban area). According
to Jesus in Luke 19:43,44, every structure of Jewish Jerusalem would be leveled
to the ground to the very bedrock. "For the days shall come upon thee
[Jerusalem], that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee
round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground,
and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon
So, in the prophecies of Jesus, not only the stones that made up the Temple and
its walls were to be torn down, but he also included within that scope of destruction
even the stones that comprised the totality of the City of Jerusalem. We are left
with no ambiguity concerning this matter. The prophecies about the Temple and
the City of Jerusalem either happened exactly as Jesus predicted or those prophecies
must be reckoned as false and unreliable. There can be no middle ground on the
issue. If one is honest with the plain meaning of the texts of the Gospels, Jesus
taught that nothing would be left of the Temple, nothing
left of the whole City of Jerusalem, and nothing left of
the walls of the Temple and the City.
Josephus and Titus Agree With Jesus
Was Jesus correct in his prophecies? Was Jerusalem with its Temple and walls leveled
to the ground? What is remarkable is the fact that the eyewitness accounts given
by Josephus and Titus agree precisely with what Jesus prophesied. Note what these
two men observed. "It [Jerusalem with its walls] was so thoroughly laid
even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that
there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it
[Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited" (War VII.1,1).
All the land surrounding the city of Jerusalem was a desolate wasteland. Note
"They had cut down all the trees, that were in the country that adjoined
to the city, and that for ninety stadia round about [for nearly ten miles], as
I have already related. And truly, the very view itself was a melancholy thing.
Those places that were before adorned with trees and pleasant gardens were now
become a desolate country in every way, and its trees were all cut down. Nor could
any foreigner that had formerly seen Judaea and the most beautiful suburbs of
the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a
change. For the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste. Nor, if any one
that had known the place before, and had come on a sudden to it now, would he
have known it again. But though he were at the city itself, yet would he have
inquired for it notwithstanding" (War VI.1,1, following the Whiston
After A.D. 70, people would have seen utter desolation in all directions. Every
stone of every building and wall in Jerusalem was dislodged from its original
position and thrown down to the ground. Josephus provides reasonable accounts
of later events after the war was over to show how this complete destruction was
accomplished. Much of the destruction came after the war had ceased.
For six months after the war, Josephus tells us that the Tenth Legion "dug
up" the ruins of the houses, buildings and walls looking for plunder. They
systematically excavated beneath the foundations of the ruined buildings and houses
(they had many of the Jewish captives do the work for them). They also had the
whole area turned upside down looking for gold and other precious metals that
became molten when the fires were raging. This caused the precious metals to melt
and flow into the lower crevices of the stones. Even the foundation stones contained
melted gold from the great fires that devoured Jerusalem. This plundering of every
former building or wall in the municipality of Jerusalem resulted in the troops
overturning (or having the remaining Jewish captives overturn for them) every
stone within the city. We will soon see that this activity resulted in every
stone of Jewish Jerusalem being displaced.
This continual digging up of the city occurred over a period of several months
after the war. Indeed, after an absence of about four months, Titus returned to
Jerusalem from Antioch and once again viewed the ruined city. Josephus records
what Titus saw.
"As he came to Jerusalem in his progress [in returning from Antioch to Egypt],
and compared the melancholy condition he saw it then in, with the ancient glory
of the city [compared] with the greatness of its present ruins (as well as its
ancient splendor). He could not but pity the destruction of the city
there was no small quantity of the riches that had been in that city still found
among the ruins, a great deal of which the Romans dug up; but the greatest part
was discovered by those who were captives [Jewish captives were forced by the
Roman troops to dig up the stones of their own city looking for gold], and so
they [the Romans] carried it away; I mean the gold and the silver, and the rest
of that most precious furniture which the Jews had, and which the owners had treasured
up under ground against the uncertainties of war."
Three Years After the War
We now come to the final appraisal of the complete desolation of Jerusalem. Note
what Eleazar, the final Jewish commander at Masada, related three years after
the war was finished at Jerusalem. He gives an eyewitness account of how the Romans
preserved Fort Antonia (the Haram) among the ruins. What Eleazar said to the 960
Jewish people (who were to commit suicide rather than fall into the hands of General
Silva who was on the verge of capturing the Fortress of Masada) is very important
in regard to our present inquiry. This final Jewish commander lamented over the
sad state of affairs that everyone could witness at this twilight period of the
conflict after the main war with the Romans was over.
Jerusalem was to Eleazar a disastrous spectacle of utter ruin. There was only
one thing that remained of the former Jerusalem that Eleazar could single
out as still standing. This was the Camp of the Romans that Titus permitted to
remain as a monument of humiliation over the Mother City of the Jews. Eleazar
acknowledged that this military encampment had been in Jerusalem before the
war, and that Titus let it continue after the war. The retention of this
single Camp of the Romans, according to Eleazar, was a symbol of the victory that
Rome had achieved over the Jewish people. His words are recorded in War
VII.8,7. Several words and phrases need emphasizing, and I hope I have done so:
"And where is now that great city [Jerusalem], the metropolis of the Jewish
nation, which was fortified by so many walls round about, which had so many fortresses
and large towers to defend it, which could hardly contain the instruments prepared
for the war, and which had so many ten thousands of men to fight for it? Where
is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? it
is now demolished to the very foundations, and hath nothing left but THAT MONUMENT
of it preserved, I mean THE CAMP OF THOSE [the Romans] that hath
destroyed it, WHICH STILL DWELLS UPON ITS RUINS; some unfortunate old
men also lie ashes upon the of the Temple [the Temple was then in total
ruins all of it had been burnt to ashes], and a few women are there preserved
alive by the enemy, for our bitter shame and reproach."
What Eleazar said must be reckoned as an eyewitness account of the state of Jerusalem
in the year A.D. 73. This narrative is of utmost importance to our question at
hand. This is because Eleazar admitted that the City of Jerusalem and all its
Jewish fortresses had indeed been demolished "to the very foundations."
There was nothing left of the City or the Temple. This is precisely what Jesus
prophesied would happen.
Eleazar even enforced this. He mentioned the "wholesale destruction"
of the city. He said that God had "abandoned His most holy city to be burnt
and razed to the ground" (War VII.8,6 Loeb). And then, a short time
later, Eleazar concluded his eyewitness account by stating: "I cannot but
wish that we had all died before we had seen that holy city demolished
by the hands of our enemies, or the foundations of our Holy Temple dug up,
after so profane a manner" (War VII.8,7).
Yes, even the very foundation stones that comprised the Temple complex (including
its walls) had been uprooted and demolished. They were then "dug up"
and not even the lower courses of base stones were left in place. According to
Eleazar, the only thing left in the Jerusalem area was a single Roman Camp that
still hovered triumphantly over the ruins of the City and the Temple. He said
that Jewish Jerusalem "hath nothing left." The only thing continuing
to exist was the "monument" (a single monument) preserved by Titus.
And what was that "monument"? Eleazar said it was "the camp
of those that destroyed it [Jerusalem], which still dwells
upon its ruins."
What could this Camp of the Romans have been? This is quite easy to discover when
one reads the accounts of the war as recorded by Josephus. The main military establishment
in Jerusalem prior to the war was Fort Antonia located to the north of the Temple
(which is now the Haram esh-Sharif). In my new book "The Temples that Jerusalem
Forgot," I will give an abundance of information to show that the Haram was
considered Roman property even before the war. Because Antonia was the property
of Rome, they had no reason to destroy those buildings that already belonged to
the Romans. That is why Titus left Fort Antonia (the Haram esh-Sharif) and its
walls in tact (as we see them today).
Ernest L. Martin’s Book
that Jerusalem Forgot”
gives a different perspective of the Temple than what is accepted by most historians
today. This may be due to the Jews’ distrust of Josephus for having capitulated
to the Romans during the onslaught of Jerusalem. In reality, he was trying to
save his people from the destruction and terror that would inevitably befall
them with their continued resistance. Unfortunately, Josephus’ capitulation
to the Romans caused many within the Jewish community to view him as a traitor,
and thus many within Jewish academia have dismissed him as a historian.
Josephus was fully aware of the cardinal features of the Temple Mount: It was
built directly over the subterranean Spring of Gihon, and there were caves within
its subsurface. These features were also witnessed by Aristeas of Egypt
three hundred years before Josephus and confirmed by the Roman historian Tacitus
(115 AD), who quoted eyewitnesses that were in Jerusalem before 70 AD.
us that Mount Zion, the City of David, was the first citadel protecting the
Temple Mount from the south. Later, John Hyrcanus (Maccabees) built a palace
north of the Temple Mount called Baris. Hasmonaean princes used this palace,
and later, Herod the Great made it into a citadel. He renamed it Fort Antonia,
in honor of Marcus Anthony. With great effort, Herod built Fort Antonia
into a large enclosed area for the Romans to garrison an entire Legion along
with their auxiliary personnel.
the Symbolism of the Gihon Spring
Spring was the only natural spring of pure water within five miles of Jerusalem
in any direction. Pure water was an indispensable requirement for the essential
rituals of the Temple. Because of this spring of pure water, the Temple was
a microcosm of the Garden of Eden. (One of the rivers that flowed through the
Garden of Eden was the river Gihon.) The water of Gihon was symbolic of the
Water of Life. Ophel and the Gihon Spring are synonymous.
Gihon Spring was about a quarter mile south from today’s Dome of the Rock. There
are no caves or spring in the vicinity of today’s Dome of the Rock. This
information is crucial in determining the correct location of the Temple Mount.
Josephus was fully
aware of the symbolism involving the Gihon Spring and the Throne or the Holy
of Holies of Almighty God, which the learned men of Judaism have ignored.
The Location of
Mount Zion, Ophel, and Fort Antonia
understood that the original site of Mount Zion (it was actually a mound) was
located on the southern third of the southeast ridge. This was where David
had built his city, and it became known as the “Lower City” of Jerusalem. The
limits of David and Solomon’s Jerusalem were between Kidron Valley to the east
and Tyropoeon Valley to the west, with both valleys merging at the south end
of the southeast ridge. The Tyropoeon Valley was gradually populated as Jerusalem
grew toward the west during the time of King Uzziah. In the latter part of the
second century BC, the Maccabees extensively populated this valley, and it became
known as the “Upper City.”
Hinnim Valley was to the immediate west at the south end of the western hill
adjoining the Kidron and Tyropoeon Valleys at the foot of the southeast ridge.
On the southern third of this ridge there were two mounds: Zion and “Ophel”
(literally “humped mount”). From south to north, the two mounds together
were about 400 yards in length. The distance from the top of Mount Zion to the
top of Mount Ophel was over 200 yards. This ridge continued to ascend northward
from Mount Ophel to where an outcrop of rock was protruding, which, today, is
called the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Rock is located over 600
yards north from the top of Mount Zion and 400 yards from the top of Mount Ophel.
Temple Mount was built on Mount Ophel over the subterranean Gihon Spring of
which below were numerous subsurface caves. From this mount, the Water of Life
for the Temple services was immediately available. It was renowned for its purity
(sweet water) over that of any other spring in the entire region.
of this, Josephus states, “Now on the north side of the Temple was built a citadel
(Fort Antonia), whose walls were square and strong and of extraordinary firmness.
The kings of the Hasmonaean dynasty, who were also high priests before the time
of Herod, called it the Tower.” Josephus further informs us “Fort Antonia dominated
the Temple.” This fortress guarded the security of the Temple, the city of Jerusalem
and the fortress itself.
the north, it was impossible for one to see the Temple because Fort Antonia
obscured the view. The hill on which the Tower of Antonia stood was the highest
of the three mounds (Zion, Ophel, and Fort Antonia) on the north end of the
During the Hasmonaean
dynasty, the tower of Baris was expanded to become Fort Antonia. It adjoined
the new city Bezetha and further obscured the Temple Mount from the north of
Jerusalem. An aqueduct coming from Bethlehem supplied Fort Antonia with water
that was stored in 37 cisterns for the Tenth Legion and their support personnel,
which numbered approximately 10,000 men.
No Rock Outcropping
Associated with the Temple
is no reference in Scripture or any secular historical source that describes
a natural outcropping of rock located at the highest point of the ridge or hill
that was associated with the Temple Mount. This includes the sites of the Temple
floor, the Holy of Holies and the Altar of Burnt Offering.
Altar of Burnt Offering was formally used as a threshing floor. It is
clear that the threshing floor was a level area on top of Mount Ophel, not an
irregular formation of rock on top of a ridge.
built the east wall of the Temple that reached upwards from the base on the
east side of the hill. The foundation was built below the Kidron Valley
floor, and the visible wall began from the bottom of the valley and extended
upwards for three hundred cubits (450 feet). The top of the hill and an
artificial embankment that Solomon had built along the Kidron Valley was completely
filled in with rubble and large rocks known as millo. The millo filled this
embankment until it reached the top of Mount Ophel, 300 cubits -- about 40 to
45 stories -- above the Kidron Valley floor, further extending the Temple platform
to the east. As viewed from the Mount of Olives on the east, the temple
area looked like a modern skyscraper with a huge platform 150 by 450 feet.
built no walls on the north, west, and south sides. However, in the course of
time this hilltop area was enlarged, filling in some of those areas and enclosing
the hill from its base at the floor of the Kidron Valley in the east and the
Tyropoeon Valley in the west. Its southern and northern sides extended westward
over the ridge between the Kidron and Tyropoeon valleys. The final foundation
of the Temple was shaped like a cube, and the area on top of the Temple Mount
was a perfect square platform.
his palace and judgment hall just south of the Temple. This was the area of
Mount Zion and the city of David, around which Jerusalem evolved. In the second
century BC, Mount Zion was leveled during the time of Simon the Hasmonaean,
just south of Mount Ophel. After that time the Temple Mount was not obscured
from the south by the higher elevation of Mount Zion.
The Gihon Spring
Temple Mount had a natural spring with an unlimited supply of water coming from
underneath the Holy of Holies. Scriptural references require a water source
to be associated with the Temple and its function. The Gihon Spring is referred
to numerous times in the book of Psalms and by the prophets.
the time of David and Solomon, Gihon Spring supplied the Siloam Pool and fed
the Kidron Valley. Toward the end of the eighth century BC, King Hezekiah built
a tunnel to supply underground water from the Gihon Spring to western Jerusalem
(II Chron. 32:30). Hezekiah built this tunnel because he was expecting
a siege against Jerusalem by Sennacherib, the king of Assyria.
70 AD, the Jews often used the word “Siloam” to describe the whole system of
the Gihon Spring -- Siloam Pool, Hezekiah’s underground tunnel and the channels
into the Kidron Valley. (Christians did not use the name “Gihon” but continued
to use “Siloam” to describe this water network even into modern times.)
It is most significant
that the pure water of Gihon Spring under the Temple Mount ran near the seat
of the Holy of Holies, symbolic of the seat of Almighty God’s throne. John’s
description of God’s throne in Revelation shows a river of water coming out
from beneath the throne: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear
as crystal, proceeding out of the Throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev. 22:1).
Destruction of the
prophesied the destruction of the Temple (Mic.3:10-12): “Hear this, I pray you,
ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor
justice, and pervert all iniquity. They build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem
with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for a bribe, and the priests thereof
teach for pay, and the prophets thereof divine for money. Yet will they lean
upon the Lord, saying is not the Lord among us? No harm can come upon us. Therefore
shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps
of ruins, and the mountain of the Temple as the bare hills.”
confirmed this prophecy as the writers of the gospels agree: Matthew 24:1-2
and Mark 13:1-2: “And Jesus went out, and departed from the Temple; and His
disciples came to Him for to show Him the buildings of the Temple. And Jesus
said unto them. ‘See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall
not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
19:43-44: “For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall build
an embankment about thee, and surround thee and close you in on every side.
And shall level thee even with the ground and thy children within thee; and
they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knowest not
the time of their visitation.”
21:5-6: “And some spoke of the Temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones
and gifts, He said, ‘As for these things which ye behold, the days will come
in that which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not
be thrown down.’”
Antonia’s walls were 40 cubits (60 feet) high. Inside these walls, the buildings
and grounds were built on a level platform. At the four corners of the walls
were towers. Three of these towers were 50 cubits (75 feet) high, and the southwest
tower was 70 cubits (105 feet) high. This higher tower overlooked the entire
Temple court to the south of Fort Antonia.
that all of Fort Antonia was built over and around a rock outcrop at the summit
of the ridge. Today, a mosque stands over this rock formation known as
the Dome of the Rock. Completed by Abdul el-Malik in 691 AD, the mosque covers
the remainder of this protruding rock but occupies only a very small fraction
of the entire surface area of the 36-acre artificial platform that the Romans
Fort Antonia and
the Roman Legion
Roman Legion had 5,000 infantry troops and with them 5,000 support personnel.
There were 833 military personal per acre within Fort Antonia.
Roman garrison was the dominant feature of Jerusalem, a continuous reminder
to the Jews of Rome’s supremacy. Further, being four and one-half times greater
in area than the Temple Mount, Fort Antonia was intimidating and therefore a
successful tool of psychological warfare to secure Jewish conformity to Roman
The crowds that
assembled at the Temple during the Holy Days were overseen by 2,000 Roman troops.
In order to prevent disorder and riots among the Jews, they were stationed on
a 45-foot wide walkway built atop the four colonnades that surrounded the Temple
grounds. During the Jewish festivals, there were three rotations of guards,
totaling 6,000 soldiers, each day.
of the Colonnades
colonnades between the Temple and Fort Antonia were extended around the outer
edge of the entire Temple Mount platform. These colonnades were roofed with
the roadway 30 cubits (45 feet) wide. The colonnade roadway was the vantage
point from which the Roman troops were able to guard the entrances and exits
to and from the Temple as well as keep a watchful eye on the inside area of
the court (with the exception of the inside of the Temple). In addition,
the colonnade roadway gave them nearly instant access to the Temple area from
Fort Antonia. The double colonnade-bridge that connected the Temple with
Fort Antonia was one stade (600 feet). Josephus described two colonnades
as military roadways that were an integral part of the Temple. These two colonnades
led from the south (west corner) wall of Fort Antonia to the gate on the north
(west corner) wall of the Temple Mount. Called the Tadi Gate, this north wall
was not used by the general public but only by the Roman Legion.
The Romans were
very astute in military engineering, and constructed their fortifications with
this advantage. They understood well that the key to controlling Jerusalem was
to manage and control the Temple Mount. Fort Antonia’s protection was its dominant
position over the Temple Mount.