Saturday, August 23, 2008

Location of Solomon's Temple, 1: Methodological Issues

Recently in the LDS blogosphere, there have appeared a couple of essays on the question of the location of Solomon’s Temple. The first, “New Proposed Location for Solomon’s Temple” by John Pratt, V. Garth Norman, Lance Harding and Jason Jones, appeared in the Online Meridian Magazine:

The second, building on the first, appeared in David Larsen’s “Heavenly Ascents.”

Over the next little while I’ll be responding to a number of issues raised in these discussions. To begin with I’d like to offer a few methodological considerations.

First is an epistemological consideration. It is important to recognize our ultimate ignorance about the topic. The data is simply too limited and too ambiguous to allow us to make any firm conclusion. The only correct answer to the question “What was the location of Solomon’s Temple?” is: “We don’t know.” Now it may be possible that future excavations on the Temple Mount/Haram may eventually provide us new data that can resolve the issue, but, given the current political situation in the Middle East, this is unlikely to happen any time in the near future. But even if we could completely excavate the Temple Mount/Haram, it is quite possible that all remains of Solomon’s original temple were removed in subsequent rebuilding programs of Zerubbabel, the Hasmoneans, Herod, the Romans, the early Christians, three possible abortive reconstruction attempts by the Jews, the early Arab Muslims, the Christians during the Crusades, and post-crusader Muslim building activities. Barring the discovery of new direct archaeological data, we simply do not, and indeed, cannot know the location of Solomon’s Temple.

Second, we need to consider methodological issues. The most helpful way to deal with the problem is to work from the known to the unknown—that is, from well-established properly dated and contextualized physical, textual and artistic evidence to the ambiguous and uncertain data and interpretations. Too often speculative theorists begin with their own unexamined assumptions and theories, which they use to interpret the data, rather than beginning with the well-established data and work towards a complete synthesis of all the ambiguous data. In this regard it is important to note that almost nothing visible on the plaza inside the Haram today dates from Solomon’s time. Most of what we see today was built by the Muslims after 638. There are also a number of crusader structures as well. Any interpretation of the Temple Mount must first deal with the dating and interpretation of the visible structures. Only then can we proceed to the interpretation of the pre-Muslim materials.

For those wanting to pursue the matter further, some key surveys on the pre-Islamic archaeology of the Temple Mount include:
Gibson, Shimon, and David Jacobson. 1996. Below the Temple Mount in Jerusalem: A Sourcebook on the Cisterns, Subterranean Chambers and Conduits of the Haram al-Sharif. Oxford: Tempus Reparatum.
Ritmeyer, L. 2006. The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Carta and the Lamb Foundation.
Shanks, Hershel, 2007. Jerusalem’s Temple Mount: From Solomon to the Golden Dome, Continuum.

Key Bibliography on the post-Muslim Temple Mount/Haram include:
Auld, S. and R. Hillenbrand (eds.), 2000. Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City. Tajir.
Boas, A. 2001. Jerusalem in the Time of the Crusades.
Burgoyne, M. 1989. Mamluk Jerusalem: An Architectural Study. Tajir.
Grabar, Oleg. 1996. The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem. Princeton UP.
Grabar, Oleg, and S. Nuseibeh, 1996. The Dome of the Rock. Rizzoli.
Grabar, Oleg, 2006. The Dome of the Rock. Belknap.
Hillenbrand, R. and R. Auld (eds.) 2007. Ayyubid Jerusalem. Tajir.
Johns, Jeremy (ed.) 2000. Bayt-al-Maqdis: Part II: Jerusalem and Early Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kaplony, Andreas. 2002. The Haram of Jerusalem, 324-1099. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.
Makiya, K. 2001. The Rock: A Tale of Seventh Century Jerusalem. New York: Pantheon.
Pringle, D. 2007. The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: Volume 3, the City of Jerusalem.
Raby, J. and J. Johns (eds.) 1992. Bayt al-Maqdis: ʿAbd al-Malik’s Jerusalem. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rosen-Ayalon, Myriam. 1989. The Early Islamic Monuments of al-Haram al-Sharīf: an Iconographic Study. Qedem vol. 28. Jerusalem: Institute of Archaeology of Hebrew University.
Rosen-Ayalon, Myriam. 2006. Islamic Art and Archaeology in Palestine. Left Coast Press.


S.Faux said...

Great stuff. I appreciate your academic orientation to topics. I have you now listed on my sidebar on Mormon Insights.

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Grandpa Enoch said...

Thanks. I'll give it a try; I hope your suggestions do not exceed my TDS = techno-deficiency syndrome.

davidjlarsen said...

Grandpa Enoch,
I want to commend you on your new blog. I have really enjoyed your posts on Solomon's Temple. Thank you for your well-researched perspective. Thank you for the link to my post.

Regarding my post, I assume--correct me if I'm wrong-- that you would probably include Margaret Barker as a "speculative theorist." I agree that she is looking at this from a different perspective--certainly not a strictly archaeological one. She is going more on tradition than data. However, since there really isn't much data, as you explain here, looking at history and tradition is very interesting. Sure it's speculative, but isn't that the case for so much of what we try to understand of ancient history?
Keep up the great work here!
David Larsen

Grandpa Enoch said...

I was using the term more to refer to the Pratt group on Meridian. I use the word speculative to refer to conclusions drawn from insufficient evidence. Ancient studies must always contain an element of speculation because of lack of data and ambiguous data. What is important is that we clearly distinguish--both in our own minds and for our readers--between what the evidence shows, and our speculations that move beyond the evidence. I'll engage the Silwan theory for the location of the temple--which Barker seems to tentatively support--more directly later.