The Royal Porticoes - First Century Jerusalem

The Temple Porticoes
Photo of the Royal Porticoes in the Second Temple Model of Jerusalem



The Outer Court was surrounded by covered colonnade porches. 162 columns in length which were used for teaching.





John 10:23. A portion of the temple which according to Josephus (B. J. 5:5, section 1; Ant. 20:9, section 7) remained from Solomon's time. It rose from a great depth, occupying part of the valley, and supported by a wall 400 cubits high, formed of immense stones, some 20 cubits long. The Chaldaeans spared it, perhaps for its strength and beauty. Our Lord walked in its shelter in winter.




(por'-ti-ko), (he stoa he kaloumene Solomontos): This important element of Herod's temple, preserving in its name a traditional connection with Solomon, is thrice referred to in the New Testament, namely, in John 10:23; Acts 3:11, "the porch that is called Solomon's"; and Acts 5:12. In these passages the Greek word stoa is translated "porch" but in the Revised Version margin of Acts 3:11 more correctly "portico". In architecture a "porch" is strictly an exterior structure forming a covered approach to the entrance of a building; a "portico" is an ambulatory, consisting of a roof supported by columns placed at regular intervals-a roofed colonnade. The portico bearing Solomon's name was that running along the eastern wall in the Court of the Gentiles of Herod's temple. It had double columns, while that on the South known as the Royal Portico had four rows (compare Josephus, Ant, XV, xi, 3; BJ, V, v, and see TEMPLE, HEROD'S). The portico was the scene of Christ's teaching at the Feast of the Dedication (John 10:23), and was flocked to by the multitude after the healing of the lame man (Acts 3:11). There the apostles preached and wrought other miracles (Acts 5:12).


Jesus preached in the Court of the Gentiles which Herod's builders had doubled in size and surrounded with an elaborate Hellenistic portico. This model at the Holy Land Hotel is a Scholar's conception showing how the site may have looked in Jesus' day.  Josephus the Jewish historian wrote about the warning signs that were on the barrier that separated the court of the gentiles from the other courts in the Temple. Not until recent times did archaeologists actually discover one. Its seven line inscription read as follows:










The Holy Temple Entrance
Photo of the Entrance to the Temple in the Second Temple Model of Jerusalem



Map of Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (Click to Enlarge)

Ancient Jerusalem - First Century Jerusalem Market Pavilions Hill of Calvary (Golgotha) Phasael Tower Hippicus Tower Mariamne Tower Hyrcanus Monument Herod's Barracks Click here to view the illlustration Herod's Palace Upper Agora Hasmonean Palace Xystus Market Palace of Annas Herod's Theater Palace of Caiaphas Tomb of King David Dyers Quarter Wilson's Arch Robinson's Arch Western Wall Adiabenian Palaces Synagogue of the Freedmen Sports Hippodrome Pool of Siloam Huldah Gates Tomb of Huldah Temple Facade Antonia Fortress Pool of Bethesda Alexander Jannaeus Monument Jerusalem Roads Tomb of Absalom Gihon Spring Tunnel of Hezekiah Hakeldama - Field of Blood First Century Jerusalem - Roads Serpent's Pool Western Road Hinnom Valley Kidron Valley Tyropoeon Valley New City Upper City Jerusalem's Lower City City of David Mount of Olives Damascus Gate New City Kidron Valley Pilate's Aquaduct Herod's Bridge Jerusalem Temple Court of the Gentiles Court of the Gentiles Golden Gate Introduction Kidron Bridge Walls Walls Jerusalem's Walls Walls Lower City Walls Hyrcanus Monument Jerusalem Walls Jerusalem Walls Walls Jerusalem Walls Pinnacle of the Temple

"Whoever has not seen Jerusalem in its splendor has never seen a fine city." Babylonian Talmud (Succah, 51b)

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Primary Sources for the Study of First Century Jerusalem: Josephus, The Mishnah, The New Testament, Pliny.

First Century Jerusalem

The Jerusalem of Herod the Great


The Jerusalem Jesus knew nowhere near resembled the city David conquered in the tenth century BC. At that time, it had been a small, isolated hill fortress, valued more for its location than its size or splendor. Yet from that time on it was known as the City of David, and the kings of David's dynasty, especially his son Solomon, had enlarged and beautified it.


In the sixth century BC, the army of Nebuchadnezzar leveled Jerusalem and drove its citizens into exile. During the long years of captivity in Babylon, the Jews in exiles' prayers and longings focused on the distant Holy City. But the city rebuilt by the Jews who returned a century later was far inferior to its former splendor. It was, ironically, the hated tyrant Herod the Great who restored Jerusalem to its former grandeur.


In the 33 years of his reign (37-4 B.C.), Herod transformed the city as had no other ruler since Solomon. Building palaces and citadels, a theatre and an amphitheatre, viaducts (bridges) and public monuments. These ambitious building projects, some completed long after his death, were part of the king's single-minded campaign to increase his capital's importance in the eyes of the Roman Empire.


No visitor seeing Jerusalem for the first time could fail to be impressed by its visual splendor. The long, difficult ascent from Jericho to the Holy City ended as the traveler rounded the Mount of Olives, and suddenly caught sight of a vista like few others in the world. Across the Kidron Valley, set among the surrounding hills, was Jerusalem, "the perfection of beauty," in the words of Lamentations, "the joy of all the world."


The view from the Mount of Olives was dominated by the gleaming, gold-embellished Temple which was located in the most holy spot in the Jewish world and really God's world. This was the Lord's earthly dwelling place, He mediated His throne here and raised up a people to perform rituals and ceremonies here that would foreshadow the coming of His Messiah kinsman redeemer who would be the lamb of God, slain for the sins of the whole world.


The Temple stood high above the old City of David, at the center of a gigantic white stone platform.


To the south of the temple was THE LOWER CITY, a group of limestone houses, yellow-brown colored from years of sun and wind. Narrow, unpaved streets and houses that sloped downward toward the Tyropean Valley, which ran through the center of Jerusalem.


Rising upward to the west was THE UPPER CITY, or Zion, where the white marble villas and palaces of the very rich stood out like patches of snow. Two large arched passageways spanned the valley, crossing from the Upper City to the temple.


A high, thick, gray stone wall encircled Jerusalem. It had been damaged, repaired and enlarged over the centuries, and in Jesus' day it was about 4 miles in circumference, bringing about 25,000 people into an area about a square mile. At intervals along the wall were massive gateways. Just inside each gate was a customs station, where publicans collected taxes on all goods entering or leaving the city.


First Century Jerusalem

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