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In recent years, Bob Cornuke and Dr. Ernest Martin have proposed that the Temple was not actually located on what we today call the Temple Mount.
While the idea certainly is novel, is it really plausible in the light of Biblical and archaeological evidence?
Does it fit with the predictions of Bible prophecy?
Dr. Ernest Martin's Temple Theory
In 1867, archaeologists made the stunning discovery that the original City of David was located to the south of - and outside of - the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Taking this research further, Dr Martin suggested that
1. The Temple needed water to rinse away the sacrifices. It therefore had to be located close to Jerusalem's only water source - the Gihon spring in the City of David - rather than at the modern 'Temple Mount'.
2. Furthermore, Dr. Martin pointed to Jesus' prediction of 'not one stone being left upon another'. He proclaimed that the massive stones left in the Western Wall contradict Jesus' words if the Temple Mount was the site.
3. Primarily based on these two main ideas, Dr Martin proclaimed that the Temple must therefore have been located in the City of David and not on the Temple Mount
4. Finally, building on references from Josephus, Dr Martin made the case that the massive structure today known as the 'Temple Mount' was rather the Roman Fortress of Antonia
The implications of this theory when it comes to Bible Prophecy are dramatic. If this theory was true, it could open the way for the rebuilding of the Temple without sparking World War 3!
While proponents of the theory are excited about this possibility, does it actually fit the Biblical and archaeological evidence?
The Biblical Evidence
The Scriptures are very clear that the Temple of Solomon was built on Mount Moriah. 2 Chron. 3:1 tells us: "Now Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite"
Does Mount Moriah fit with Dr. Martin's theory?
UK based Bible teacher Pastor Derek Walker points out that the City of David is hardly a mountain. It is surrounded by mountains but is situated lower down than the surrounding areas - and is therefore to start off with a poor fit for 'Mount Moriah'
Furthermore, Mount Moriah is first mentioned in the story of Abraham going to sacrifice his son Isaac on this mountain. Derek Walker points out that if Mount Moriah was located inside the City of David - as necessitated by this theory - then at the time of Abraham, it would have been inside the city of Salem where Melchizedek was serving as priest. However, the biblical account gives no indication that the sacrifice of Isaac was taking place inside a bustling city!
Finally, the Scriptural account tells us that the Temple of Solomon was built on a threshing floor on Mount Moriah. Threshing floors were places where the wheat was threshed and separated from the chaff - and the worthless chaff would blow away in the wind.
Therefore threshing floors were not generally located inside a city - as the chaff would go everywhere in town! Threshing floors would often be located on higher ground outside a city to facilitate for the wind to gently blow away the chaff, leaving only the precious grain behind.
Further contradicting Dr. Martin's theory, 2 Chron 5:2 tells us that the Ark of the covenant was taken 'out of the City of David' to the temple built by King Solomon.
It would appear that the Scriptural account contradicts the view that the Temple was located in the City of David.
The Temple Mount is the fuse in the Israeli / Muslim conflict and due to its extreme sensitivity, archaeologists are unable to carry out archaeological digs at the site. Never the less, Archaeology has found compelling evidence linking the Temple Mount to the original Temple location.
One of the most compelling pieces of evidence is known as the Stone of Trumpeting. This stone was inscribed in clear Hebrew with the words 'to the place of trumpeting' and was found among other stones that the Romans had thrown down from the Temple Mount to the pavement below. While Martin and Cornuke assert that the Temple Mount was a Roman garrison, it is hard to see what a stone with this inscription would do in a Roman fortress!
The Trumpeting stone does however fit many other archaeological finds and strengthens the case for the Temple Mount being the original location of Solomon and Herod's Temples.
As Jesus was gazing at the magnificent Temple buildings (Matt 24:1-2), it is true that He said: 'not one stone will remain upon another'. And while the Temple buildings were destroyed as foretold, the gigantic retaining wall that upheld the huge Temple Mount plaza remains standing to this day.
While a completely destroyed Temple Mount as suggested by Martin & Cornuke could fit Jesus' prediction, the current Temple Mount with its retaining wall intact does not necessarily contradict Jesus' words.
Finally, Dr Martin's theory asserts that the Temple needed a source of water to wash away the sacrifices - and that since the Spring of Gihon in the City of David was Jerusalem's only source of water, the Temple would have to be located nearby. However, the Jewish records tell of how the Temple was supplied independently with water via an aquaduct, overcoming this hindrance.
In addition, critics of Martin & Cornuke have pointed out that building the Temple over Jerusalem's only water source and polluting it with the blood and guts of thousands of sacrifices would hardly have been a good idea!
In short, I believe that both the Scriptural and the archaeological records better support the traditional view of the Temple Mount rather than the more recent Martin & Cornuke theory.
X Marks the Spot
The fact that there is such an intense religious power struggle over this site indicates to me that there is more to the site than it simply being an ancient roman fortress.
God decreed in the Scriptures that He would place His heart and His eyes at the site of the Temple forever (2 Chron. 7:16). The repeated waves of violence that have broken out to 'defend the Al-Aqsa mosque' and the ongoing silencing of Christian and Jewish prayer at the site, is indicative of the spiritual conflict over these grounds.
I believe that we as Christians are not called to simply sit in our arm chairs and watch prophecy unfold, but have an active role to play through prayer and intercession. Let us pray for God's purposes to come to pass, for His decrees and Will to be done on earth as in Heaven.
God has always longed to dwell among His people, and the day is coming soon when He will indeed return and dwell among Jew and Gentile. May that day come soon and may we all be found ready at His Coming!