Sunday, August 31, 2008

Location of Solomon’s Temple 8: “Let us Ascend”

Biblical texts consistently describe going to the Temple as an ascent. The narrative of David’s capture of Jerusalem is a good starting point. The “city of David” (ʿîr Davīd) in the tenth century BC is explicitly said to be the citadel of the old Jebusite city on the Silwan ridge that David captured as described in 2 Sam 5. After conquering Jerusalem (2 Sam 5:6-8), “David captured the citadel/fortress of Zion (meṣudāh ṣîyôn), which is the city of David (ʿîr Davīd)” (2 Sam 5:7, 1 Chr 11:5). “So David dwelt in the citadel/fortress (meṣudāh, from which the name Masada), and called it “the city of David” (2 Sam 5:9, 1 Chr 11:7). This citadel/city of David is also distinguished from “the rest of the city” (1 Chr 11:8). Now in ancient fortification strategies, the meṣudāh/citadel was an independent fortress (often including a palace complex) within the city walls, but designed to be independently defensible. That is to say, citadels were designed so that if the city itself fell, the citadel could still be independently defended. It was invariably on the highest point within a city so that, if the city itself fell, the enemy would not have an elevated position from which to shoot down onto the walls of the citadel. What this means is that ancient fortification strategy dictated that the meṣudāh/citadel of Jebusite Jerusalem was on the northernmost and highest part of the Jebusite city, on the top of the modern Silwan ridge.

Thereafter, David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the “city of David,” meaning, into the citadel. The text specifically states that David “brought up” (or more literally, “caused to ascend”) the Ark into the “city of David” (2 Sam 6:12 yaʿal ʾet; 2 Sam 6:15 maʿălîm ʾet, a participle form of ʿlh)—not just into Jerusalem, but specifically into the citadel of Jerusalem, that he called the city of David. The verb ʿlh in Hebrew means “to ascend,” and refers to literally going from a lower place to a higher place.

The tale of Aruana, which we discussed in the previous post, provides another clue as to the location of the Temple. David’s spatial relationship with Arauna is clearly described as David “going up” to Arauna’s threshing floor. That is to say, Arauna’s threshing floor is higher than David’s palace/citadel, the “city of David” described above. In 2 Sam 24:18-20, Gad tells David to “go up” (ʿălēh) to Arauna (18). The next verse says David “went up” (yaʿal) (19), and Arauna saw David “come up” (ʿālāy) towards him (20). This tells us that the threshing floor of Arauna was either higher in elevation than the city of Jerusalem, or, more minimally, that the threshing floor was higher within the city than David’s palace. (This later interpretation is unlikely, however, since, as noted earlier, placing a threshing floor within the city walls blocks the wind, thereby undermining the efficiency of the winnowing process, and the citadel was almost always the highest place in a city.)

The relationship between the city of David/citadel and the site of the Temple is further clarified in the discussion of Solomon installing the Ark of the Covenant within his new Temple (1 Kgs 8, 2 Chr 5). Here the relationship is also explicit. Solomon gathered the people together “to bring up (haʿălôt) the Ark of YHWH’s covenant from Zion, which is the city of David” to Solomon’s new Temple (1 Kgs 8:1), after which “the priests took the Ark, and they brought up (yaʿălû) the Ark of YHWH” to the Temple (1 Kgs 8:3-4). Notice that the narratives are all consistent here. David “brought up” the Ark into the citadel/city of David, after which Solomon “brought up” the Ark from the city of David to the site of the Temple. The only conclusion that can be drawn here is that the Temple site was higher than the citadel/city of David. This is consistent with the assumption that the Temple was built on the contemporary Temple Mount, but doesn’t make sense if we assume the Temple was built in old Jebusite Jerusalem on the Silwan ridge. Indeed, it is clear that the Temple was not built on the same place where David had installed the Ark within the citadel/city of David, since they carried the Ark from the place where David put it in a tabernacle, to a higher place where the Temple had been built.

That the Temple was higher than the rest of the city of Jerusalem is confirmed by numerous incidental references in biblical texts; only a few will be given here. Isaiah 2:3, declared “let us go up (naʿăleh) to the mountain of YHWH, to the temple of the God of Jacob.” Likewise, Ps 24:3 asks “who shall ascend (yaʿăleh) to the mountain of the Lord?” Jeremiah also describes the inner court of the priests as the “upper [or higher] court” (Jer 36:10), implying that the Temple and court of the priests was higher than the surrounding plaza. As far as I am aware, there is no text that describes anyone “going down” to the Temple. All of this data is consistent with the location of the Temple higher than old Jebusite Jerusalem, and probably on the highest place on the Temple Mount, but requires significant special pleading to make sense with a location on the Silwan ridge.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Location of Solomon’s Temple 7: The Threshing Floor

The background narrative about the selection of the site for Solomon’s Temple provides some more interesting bits of evidence on its location. Near the end of his life David decided to conduct a census of his kingdom (2 Sam 24; 1 Chr 21). But the angel of death appears and a plague sweeps over Israel (2 Sam 24:10-15). The angel stands on the “threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” preparing to destroy Jerusalem with this plague, but God stops the angel and saves Jerusalem (2 Sam 24:15-17). (Note that according to 2 Chr 3:1 this is site is equated with Mt. Moriah, where Abraham was prepared to offer his son Isaac as sacrifice, but was stopped by the Lord (Gen 22:2, 14). The incidents were obviously meant to be parallel, where the Lord saves Isaac on the one hand, and Jerusalem on the other.) David is ordered to build an altar and offer sacrifice on the site of “the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” where the Lord appeared and saved Jerusalem from destruction (2 Sam 24:18), which he does. This is the site upon which the Temple will eventually be built (2 Chr 3:1)

No specific details are given about the location of Araunah’s threshing floor, but several hints are provided. 2 Chr 3:1 states that Solomon built the Temple “on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” First, note that the location is on a mountain, a har in Hebrew. This certainly matches the geography of the Temple Mount, but Silwan is a ridge attached to the higher mount, and is lower in elevation than the Temple Mount itself.

An understanding of the nature of the ancient threshing process can also help us envisage its location. Threshing in the process of separating the grains of wheat from the stalks and sheaves, of chaff that contain it. It was often done by beating, stamping, or dragging weighted sledges over the stalks of wheat or barley. Once the stalks were separated from the grains, the result was a mixture of grain and dry chaff, which needed to be further separated by the winnowing process, since the chaff is inedible to humans. This usually involved taking the mixture of grain and chaff, throwing it into the air on a windy day, and letting the wind blow the light chaff away, while the heavy grains fall back to the earth. This process is generally undertaken in high places with direct exposure to a strong wind. Inside Jebusite Jerusalem on the Silwan ridge, the power of the wind would have been constrained by both the higher ridges to the north, west, and east, and by the walls of the city. Having a threshing floor inside a city wall, below a larger hill that would serve as a windbreak would make no sense from an ancient point of view. On the other hand, a rocky outcrop on the undeveloped top of a hill directly exposed to the wind would have been an idea place for a threshing floor.

Another important hint is provided by the story of David paying for the threshing floor. Araunah offers to give King David the site for free (2 Sam 24:19-23). But David refuses the offer, insisting: “I will buy them from you at a price. I cannot sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24:24). David emphasizes that the site of the future Temple must be paid for; that is to say, the offering to the Lord must come from David himself, not from something others have given to him. Now, if the Temple were built within the city walls of old Jebusite Jerusalem, it would have necessitated the purchase and demolition of a number of houses that were already there. But no mention is made of purchasing other houses, nor of their confiscation or demolition, even though this type of activity was condemned by the biblical authors (e.g. 1 Kgs 21 where Ahab is condemned for confiscating the vineyard of Naboth.) The account implies that purchase of the threshing floor of Araunah provided sufficient space to eventually build the Temple. This would make sense if it were an empty rocky outcrop such as the Temple Mount was at that time, but would not make sense if the location were inside a densely populated Middle East city.

Location of Solomon’s Temple 6: The Royal Palace

The location for Solomon’s Temple must also include space for the royal complex, described in 1 Kgs 7:1-12 (no parallels in 2 Chr). The “House of the Forest of Lebanon”—which was designed for administrative, judicial and court functions (1 Kgs 7:7)—was alone nearly twice the size of the Temple: 100x50c, and 30c high (1 Kgs 7:2), while the Temple was only 60x20c (1 Kgs 6:2, 2 Chr 3:3). In addition there was a “porch of the pillars,” which was 50x30c (1 Kgs 7:6), a “Portico of the Throne,” Solomon’s personal palace, and the palace of his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh, all of unknown dimensions (1 Kgs 7:7-8). Finally, there were courtyards surrounding these palaces (1 Kgs 7:8-9, 12).

Neither the precise location of the royal complex, nor its relationship to the Temple is provided. However, we do know that there was a “great court” or plaza around the royal complex, just as there was around the Temple complex. Furthermore, “the great court [of the royal complex] had three courses of hewn stone around [it], and one row of cedar beams, like the inner court of the house of YHWH and the porch of the house” (1 Kgs 7:12, cf. 1 Kgs 6:36). Although not certain, this implies to me that the courts were adjacent, and had one large wall encompassing the combined great courts of both the royal and Temple complexes. However this may be, the royal complex had to be somewhere. The location for the Temple must include space for both the Temple complex and the royal complex.

By looking at the previous maps we can see that trying to build the royal complex (twice the size of the Temple complex) and Temple complex both within the old Jebusite walls of Jerusalem would have taken more than half the pre-Davidic Jeubsite city, all of which was urbanized. This would require the displacement of half the population. Now this is not impossible, but seems much more likely the new building projects would have simply expanded the city north into the empty space, rather than demolish half the old town, and displace its population. As we shall see in the next part, this is exactly what the biblical narratives describe in the story of David and the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (2 Sam 24:16-25; 1 Chr 21:15-27).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Altar scene from St. Denis

(Click on image for larger view.)
This scene, from the same panel at St. Denis (directly below the previous one), shows the altar of the Celestial Temple from the Book of Revelation. The altar is in the middle, flanked by a lamb and lion together, fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy. The altar is surrounded by the same four cherub-creatures as the previous scene--eagle, man, lion and bull. Above the hand of God reaches down to either bless the worshippers or accept the offerings. (The hand of God reaching through the clouds to symbolize divine interaction is quite common in medieval art.) The Latin text at the bottom reads: "Deo fit caro, iuncta Deo" = "God became flesh joined with God."

Ezekiel's Divine Chariot

(Click on image for larger view.)
The Cathedral of St. Denis in Paris has a remarkable stained glass panel mixing a number of different Temple motifs. First, it represents Ezekiel's celestial chariot, with the four cherub/hayyot in the four corners. The central figure is the chariot with the four wheels. It is also, however, associated with the Ark of the Covenant (Latin: "arca foederis Domini"). Christ is represented as the figure on the divine chariot. Finally, the Green cross in the center of the image is a representation of the Cross as the living Tree of Life. Thus we have a symbolic conflation in the sanctuary of St. Denis's Cathedral of chariot, cherubs, ark of the covenant, cross and Tree of Life.

Location of Solomon’s Temple 5: Orientation

Ezekiel’s description of the Temple also provides us with two other important clues. First, the door of the Temple was oriented towards the east. This is apparent from Ezekiel 8:16, which reads: “And he [God] brought me [Ezekiel] into the inner court of the house of the LORD; there, at the entrance of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east, prostrating themselves to the sun toward the east.” (NRSV)

The objection here seems to be that the priests were praying towards the sun (and perhaps worshipping the sun), rather than facing the Holy of Holies to pray to the LORD. But from the perspective of the location of the Temple this tells us that the “the entrance of the temple of the LORD” faced east, since men facing east had their backs to that entrance. In and of itself, this doesn’t tell us much about the size of the Temple, but it does tell us that the Temple did not have a north-south alignment, which would have made an easier fit on the Silwan Ridge.

More importantly, another passage in Ezekiel describes the Glory of Yahweh (the LORD) leaving the Holy of Holies “from the middle of the city” and going to “mountain east of the city” (Ezek 11:23). This is generally assumed to have reference to the Mount of Olives, which in Zechariah’s day, “lay before Jerusalem on the east” (Zech 14:4), and likewise faced the Temple in Jesus’ day (Mk 13:3). This is also the mountain from which, according to Acts, Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:12), and on which you can still visit the Mosque/Church of Ascension, which is a converted crusader shrine on the site of an ancient Constantinian basilica. Later Rabbinic tradition in the Mishnah likewise remembers that “all the walls [of the Temple] were high, save only the eastern wall, because the [High] Priest that burns the [Red] Heifer and stands on the top of the mount of Olives should be able to look directly into the entrance of the Sanctuary when the blood is sprinkled” (Middot 2.4).

This map shows the geographical relationship of all of these elements. The red oval shows the Temple Mount, the red line giving its due east orientation. The blue oval shows the Silwan ridge, with the blue line given its east orientation (from a presumed northern Silwan site of the Temple). The black oval to the north is Mount Scopus. The white oval in the middle is the Mount of Olives, while the green oval to the south is the “Mount of Offense.” The yellow square is the site of the Mosque/Church of the Ascension, which is roughly the top of the Mount of Olives. Notice that the natural dividing lines between these three mountains are clearly indicated by the gray east-west roads to the north and south of the Mount of Olives, which follow the least steep topography.

What this map shows is that a Temple Mount location for Solomon’s Temple more clearly matches the both biblical traditions of the Mount of Olives being to the east of the Temple, and the Rabbinic tradition that the High Priest could see the gate of the Temple from the “top of the Mount of Olives.” While it is not impossible that a Silwan temple location could broadly match these criteria, this relationship is much more clear and consistent with a Temple Mount location.

The “Mount of Offense” (KJV “Mount of Corruption,” NRSV “Mount of Destruction,” JPS “Mount of the Destroyer”; 2 Kgs 23:13, cf. 1 Kgs 11:7), marked in green on the map, is linked with ancient idolatry. “The king [Josiah] defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the Mount of Destruction, which King Solomon of Israel had built for Astarte the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites” (2 Kgs 23:13 NRSV). This passage describes the reforms of Josiah, who destroyed the pagan shrines that Solomon had earlier permitted (1 Kgs 11:7; the implication that pagan shrines had existed there for three centuries is also interesting). This is described as being southeast of Jerusalem, which matches the contemporary location of the Mount of Offence; the mount gets its name from its traditional association with these events.

In Hebrew the term “Mount of Destruction” is har ha-mašḥît, (cf. Jer 51:25), which seems to be a play on words with har ha-mašḥah, “the mount of anointing,” with mašḥah “anointing” derived from the same root māšaḥ “to anoint,” from whence māšîaḥ, “one who has been anointed,” the “anointed one,” or the messiah (with Christ as an Anglicized version of the Greek christos, which is simply Greek for “anointed one.”) Hence there is an apparent antitype between the Mount of Destruction/the Destroyer, and the Mount of Anointing/the Anointed One/the Messiah, which may illuminate Christ’s associations with the Mount of Olives in the New Testament.


I added a new final paragraph to the "Location of Solomon's Temple 4."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Location of Solomon's Temple 4: Ezekiel's Courtyards

In the previous post I noted, “the size of the court and plaza are not given in construction narratives.” On the other hand, we do have a detailed description of the Temple court and plaza in Ezekiel chapters 40-48. Unfortunately, the precise context of these chapters is uncertain. Chapters 40-48 are dated by Ezekiel in “the twenty-fifth year of our exile” (40:1) which is generally equated with 573 BC. This means these chapters were written after the destruction of the Temple in 587/6. Ezekiel also calls these chapters “visions” (40:2). In his vision he is obviously not seeing the contemporary Temple of Solomon, since it had been destroyed. These facts raise some exegetical questions. The basic question thus becomes: “What is Ezekiel describing?” The Temple of Solomon as it was before its destruction? An idealized and glorified version of the historical Solomon’s Temple? An eschatological vision of the future rebuilding of the Temple as it should be after the return from the Babylonian exile, or in the last days? Or a vision of the celestial Temple, as in Revelation? Unfortunately, we don’t know for certain. We do know, however that Ezekiel was a priest (1:2), and an eyewitness of the Temple as it stood in the last years before its destruction. His testimony should be given careful consideration in attempting to locate Solomon’s Temple.

Without going into the details, Ezekiel describes the Temple building itself as almost precisely the same size as Solomon’s Temple in the construction narratives (Ezek 40:48-41:4; 1 Kg 6:2-6, 2 Chr 3:3-4). In addition, however—and unlike the construction narratives—Ezekiel also describes the court of the priests and the outer plaza. The inner court of the priests directly in front of the Temple proper was said to be 100x100c (Ezek 40:19), while the entire inner courtyard, including the Temple itself and open court area to its sides and rear, was about 100x200c. Note that these are roughly the same proportional dimensions for the inner court that we speculatively derived by doubling the size of the Tabernacle and its court, as described in the previous post, to match the fact that Solomon’s Temple was exactly twice the size of the Tabernacle. From this we can conclude that, broadly speaking, Ezekiel’s description of the Temple and court of the priests is consistent with the known historical dimensions of Solomon’s Temple.

The question then arises, what about his description of the outer plaza? Ezekiel’s entire complex, including the outer plaza and side chambers, measured 500x500c (derived from adding the figures given in chapters 40-42). Since Ezekiel’s dimensions for the Temple and court of the priests are historically realistic, can we assume that his description of the dimensions of the outer plaza are also roughly accurate? That, unfortunately, is simply not known. The outer plaza of Solomon’s Temple may have been smaller than the one described by Ezekiel. But, given Ezekiel’s general accuracy in describing the size of the Temple, we should probably give him the benefit of the doubt and assume his description of the size of the plaza is roughly accurate, if perhaps idealized.

What we can say for certain, however, is that if Ezekiel’s description of a 500x500c plaza is accurate, it is impossible that the structure could have been built on the Silwan ridge. It must have been somewhere to the north, on the Temple Mount. The preceding illustration shows why. The blue rectangle shows the rough size of the Temple and court of the priests according to Ezekiel, while the green square shows the rough size of Ezekiel’s plaza. It becomes clear from the topographical map that, while the Temple and court of the priests would fit on the Silwan ridge, the plaza would not. It would have required the construction of massive retaining walls that would have left clear archaeological evidence and have greatly reduced the current steep slope of the Silwan ridge on the east side.

Whether or not Ezekiel’s Temple of Ezek 40-48 is idealized or eschatological—and is thus larger than the real Solomon’s Temple of his day—the fact remains that Ezekiel, who was a priest and thus an eyewitness of the size of Solomon’s Temple just before its destruction, could conceive of the Temple complex as a whole measuring 500x500c. That is, he believed that such a plaza could fit in the area of the Temple. This fits well with the Temple Mount as the site of Solomon’s Temple, but is impossible for a Silwan location. (For an attempt to situate the 500x500c plaza on the Temple Mount, see L. Ritmeyer, The Quest, (Jerusalem: Carta, 2006).)

iPhones are cool

With my iPhone I can blog from anywhere. Whether this is a good or
bad thing remains to be seen.

Location of Solomon's Temple 3: Size of Temple Complex

Having established the parameters of the possible location of Solomon’s Temple—that is, within the confines of the urban boundaries of Jerusalem in the tenth century BC, or in other words, the contemporary Temple Mount and Silwan ridge—we can now examine the size of Solomon’s Temple. (Silwan is the name of the modern Arab village/suburb on the ridge south of the Temple Mount, derived from the name of the Siloam pool which is on the southern edge of the ridge.) From one perspective this is fairly straightforward, since, unusually, the size of the Temple is described in some detail.

Solomon’s Temple was measured in cubits (ʾammāh, literally “forearm,” see Anchor Bible Dictionary 6:899-900). Unfortunately, the exact length of a cubit is not known. (Hereafter cubit will be abbreviated as “c”.) Technically, it was the distance of the “forearm” from and the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, a distance that would obviously vary from person to person. It also varied through time. 2 Chronicle 3:3, written after the return from Babylon (2 Chr 36:23), says Solomon’s Temple was built using the “old measure” (middāh ha-rīʾšônāh, literally the “first” or “primordial” measure). Obviously the author of Chronicles recognized that the length of the cubit in his own day was different from that in Solomon’s day; probably the Jews had adopted the Babylonian cubit while in captivity in Babylon. At any rate, scholars generally see the cubit as ranging from 18-21 inches, with the longer “royal cubit” used for religious and monumental building (see Ezek 40:5, 43:13, where he describes such a long cubit of “a cubit and a palm” in length—a cubit consisted of six palms). For purposes of simplicity, I will here use a conversion of 2 cubits to a yard. It should be noted that this is, in fact, a minimalist measurement. The actual size of Solomon’s Temple may have been 15% larger than the converted measurements used here.

The Temple proper is described as 60c long by 20c wide (1 Kg 6:2, 2 Chr 3:3). In addition there were side rooms attached to Temple = 7c on each side, or 14c total. The total width of the Temple was thus 34c. Furthermore, 1 Kgs 6:3 and 2 Chr 3:4 describes the porch (portico, Heb. ʿulām, Greek pronaos, from which the name of this blog derives) as being 20c long. Thus, the grand total for the Temple is 80c by 34c, or, roughly 40 yards long and 17 yards wide. In addition, however, there were two courts surrounding the Temple, the “court (ḥăṣar) of the priests and the great plaza (ʿăzārāh)” (2 Chr 4:9). The court of the priests was also later called the “inner court” (1 Kgs 6:36, 7:12) or “upper court” (Jer 36:10). The “great,” or more literally “big” plaza (ha-ʿăzārāh ha-gĕdôlah) was, by its name, obviously larger than the courtyard of the priests, and probably encompassed it. Based on these names, and parallels with later usage in Herod’s temple, we can assume access to the inner/upper court of the priests was restricted to the priests (and apparently the king) for their sacrificial operations. Non-priests could come and participate in the outer or great plaza. In addition, the “great court had three courses of dressed stone to one layer of cedar beams all around; so had the inner court of the house of the LORD, and the vestibule of the house” (1 Kgs 7:12, NRSV). (The “vestibule” (ʿulām, porch or portico) may have had its own wall, separating the zone of the Levites from the Priests, with the inner veil demarcating Priest from High Priest zones.) This passage is generally assumed to describe an inner wall separating the inner court of the priests from the outer great plaza, and an outer wall separating the great plaza from the profane space outside the temple. The inner wall may have been a 3-4 foot high barrier that would allow people in the great plaza to view the activities of the priests.

The point of all of this is that a viable location for Solomon’s Temple simply doesn’t need to be able to contain the size of the Temple structure itself, but also the surrounding court of the priests and great plaza. Unfortunately, the size of the court and plaza are not given in construction narratives (though Ezekiel describes them in Ezek 40-48, to be discussed later). We do, however, have a possible proportional analogy from the description of the Tabernacle in Exodus chapters 26 and 36. Without going into detail, the Tabernacle proper is described as being 10c wide and 30c long, precisely half the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple. The courtyard surrounding the Tabernacle was 50c by 100c. This creates a 50x50c courtyard between the door of the Tabernacle and the main gate leading into the courtyard, allowing some room behind the Tabernacle. If we assume that the courtyard of Solomon’s Temple kept the same proportional relationship of Temple court to Tabernacle court, Solomon’s Temple court would be twice the size of Tabernacle court, just as his Temple was twice the size of the Tabernacle. If this assumption is correct, Solomon’s Temple court (inner or outer or both?) would have been 100x200c, or 50x100 yards, or roughly the size of a football field. In other words, the place for the location of Solomon’s Temple must probably be roughly the size of a football field, or minimally perhaps 70-80 yards long. Otherwise, it is hard to imagine that there would be insufficient room in front of the Temple for the altar, basin, and cultic activities necessary for the function of the Temple.

The accompanying Google Map shows the contemporary Temple Mount to the north, with the Silwan ridge to the south. The purple line shows the rough outline of what most scholars think was the Jebusite city of Jerusalem before David’s conquest. The red line shows the generally accepted expansion of the city northward sometime during or after Solomon’s reign. Superimposed on this map are two rival regional locations for Solomon’s Temple, one on the Temple Mount, the other within the walls of old Jebusite Jerusalem. (Where exactly the Temple may have rested within these two respective zones is a different question.) The green line shows the size of the Temple itself, the black the hypothetical minimal size of the courtyard as discussed above, with the blue square showing the size of Ezekiel’s 500x500c plaza described in Ezek 40-48, which will be discussed later. What this shows is that, although it is a very tight fit, Solomon’s Temple could have fit on the Silwan ridge. However, it should be emphasized that the eastern slope of the ridge is very steep. (You can see on the map that the eastern slope has no houses on it.) Even assuming a minimal size for the courtyard, Solomon’s Temple and courtyard will barely fit on the Silwan ridge.

In the next post I will deal with the issue of Solomon’s Palace complex and Ezekiel’s description of the Temple.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Location of Solomon’s Temple, 2: Which Jerusalem?

That Solomon’s Temple was in Jerusalem is a given. The question is, “which Jerusalem?” The reason this question is pertinent is because the boundaries of the city of Jerusalem have changed throughout history, sometimes dramatically. The boundaries of ancient Jerusalem in the different periods are not clearly delimited, but can be roughly established through pottery typology and stratification through archaeological soundings and excavations. What this data establishes is that, at the time of Solomon, urbanized Jerusalem was restricted to the region along the north-west running ridge, the zone now known as the Temple Mount and the modern Arab village-suburb of Silwan, outside the southeast walls of the modern Jerusalem. (For maps, see the bibliography listed below.)

There is no archaeological evidence of any 10th century BC urban settlements outside of this area—although we should remember that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” that is to say, there may have been urban settlement there during that period, which has remained undiscovered. On the other hand, the obvious place to search for the location of Solomon’s temple is in the area where we have already discovered archaeological data from the proper time period. Unfortunately, there has been little serious archaeology done on the Temple Mount, although recent sifting of the excavated fill from Muslim constructions there has uncovered pottery and seals from the First Temple Period (c. 1000-586 BC), indicating urban activity in that area. Furthermore, the discovery of animal bones from the Temple Mount fill is consistent with animal sacrifice in that area. (On the other hand, the animal bones may simply be from normal cooking.)

The point to emphasize here is that, based on the archaeological data, the location of Solomon’s Temple should be sought somewhere on either the current Temple Mount, or on the extension to the Silwan ridge directly south of the Temple Mount extending down to the Siloam pool.

Bahat, D. 1989. The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem. New York: Simon and Schuster. 20-33.
Be-Dov, M. 2006. Carta’s Illustrated History of Jerusalem. 2nd ed. Jerusalem: Carta.
Shanks, B. 1995.  Jerusalem: an Archaeological Biography. New York: Random House.

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.

Blogging by iphone

This is a test to see if I can blog with my iphone.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Alma as an authentic Jewish male name


I'm Grandpa Enoch.  (Well, not really, it's a pseudonym.)  I'm starting this blog as part of my exploration of traditions regarding ancient and medieval temples and celestial ascent.  I'll be posting occasional observations and essays from a Latter-day Saint perspective.