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Herod's Temple

Archaeology and the Temple


The Western (Wailing) Wall is all that remains of the Jerusalem Temple where Jesus ministered. This wall formed part of the Plaza within the Temple area. King Herod's incredible remodeling project began in 19 B.C. and continued long after his death. It was finally completed only seven years before the Romans came and destroyed the Temple in 70 AD.


The Western (Wailing) Wall

The Western (Wailing) Wall is all that remains of the Jerusalem Temple where Jesus ministered. This wall formed part of the Plaza within the Temple area. It is the most sacred place of prayer in the Jewish world. The below image shows the size of the wall in relation to the entire temple in the red rectangle.


The Western (Wailing) Wall in the Model

The Western (Wailing) Wall is indicated in the red box in the above photo of the Temple model wall. The Wall aboveground consisted of 24 rows of stones of different dressing and age, reaching a total height of 18 m. with 6 m. above the level of the Temple Mount. In 1867 excavations revealed that 19 more rows lay buried underground, the lowest being sunk into the natural rock of the Tyropoeon Valley.



Osctracon from Arad
Herod's Temple - Osctracon from Arad

The above Ostracon is from Arad, the early 6th century B.C. and was inscribed with a letter addressed to Eliashib and mentions "the House of God" in Jerusalem. This is the earliest known reference to the original Temple outside of the Bible.



The Place of Trumpeting Stone

The above stone was discovered by archaeologists excavating the Temple Mount area. It is inscribed with the words "To the place of trumpeting" and the photo below is the block of stone.




The above stone was discovered by archaeologists excavating the Temple Mount area. It is inscribed with the words "To the place of trumpeting" and the photo above is the close up.

When Israeli tanks rumble into Jerusalem's Old City in 1967, it was the first time (except for a brief moment in 135 AD) that the Jews actually controlled the site since 70 A.D.



Bar Kochba Coin

The above coin was struck by Bar Kochba, the leader of the Jewish revolt against the Romans in 132 A.D., it reveals the entrance to the Holy Place within the Temple.



Arch of Titus Frieze

This frieze above is from the Arch of Titus in Rome and depicts the triumphant Roman soldiers carrying off the seven-branched menorah and other spoils captured from the Temple in Jerusalem. It reveals the dreadful crushing of the Jewish revolt in 70 A.D. by Titus.



Temple Warning

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:




Korban Inscription

Cast of the top of a stone vessel incised with two doves and the Hebrew word "Korban" (Sacrifice). Found in excavations at the wailing wall, Jerusalem, Herodian Period. The Israeli Museum, Jerusalem.



Menorah and other Temple Implements

Incised on plaster of a house wall found in the Jewish quarter of old Jerusalem. Herodís time (40-48 A.D.) The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.



Roman Legion Inscription

Tile inscribed with "Legio X Fretensis" Ė the name of the Roman legion which destroyed Jerusalem. Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Jerusalem.


Emperor Vespasian Coin

"Judea Capta" coin with head of Roman Emperor Vespasian. Struck in 71 A.D. following the crushing of the Great Revolt against the Romans and the destruction of the Temple. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 

Herod's Temple - Introduction Herod's Temple - Overview Herod's Temple - The Site (Mount Moriah) Herod's Temple - Solomon's Temple History Herod's Temple - Zerubbabel's Temple History Herod's Temple - Herodian Temple History Herod's Temple - The Golden Gate Herod's Temple - The Court of the Gentiles Herod's Temple - Solomon's Porticos Herod's Temple - The Antonia Fortress Herod's Temple - The Inner Courts Herod's Temple - The Women's Court Herod's Temple - The Court of Israel Herod's Temple - The Court of the Priests Herod's Temple - The Altar of Sacrifice Herod's Temple - The Holy Place Herod's Temple - The Holy of Holies Herod's Temple - Jesus and the Temple Herod's Temple - Archaeology and the Jerusalem Temple Herod's Temple - Historical Writings Herod's Temple - Scriptures Dictionaries Herod's Temple - Encyclopedias Herod's Temple - Heart Message Herod's Temple in Jerusalem

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The Jewish Temple in the First Century A.D.

It is interesting that in the Middle East certain places have remained holy throughout the centuries, even if another religion may have taken possession of them. Today the Moslem Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is the prominent building where the Jewish temple once stood.

When Jesus came to Jerusalem, the Temple had just been marvelously rebuilt by Herod the Great. The Temple area had been enlarged to a size of about thirty-five acres. Around the Temple area were double colonnades.

The Jewish historian Josephus describes the colonnades:

"All the cloisters were double, and the pillars to them belonging were twenty-five cubits in height, and supported -the cloisters. These pillars were of one entire stone each of them, and that stone was white marble; and the roofs were adorned with cedar, curiously graven. The natural magnificence, and excellent polish, and the harmony of the joints in these cloisters, afforded a prospect that was very remarkable; nor was it on the outside adorned with any work of the painter or engraver. The cloisters -(of the outmost court) were in breadth thirty cubits, while the entire compass of it was by measure six furlongs, including the tower of Antonia; those entire courts that were exposed to the air were laid with stones of all sorts" (Jewish War 5. 5. 2).

The eastern portico was named after King Solomon and the part to the south, which overlooked the Valley of Kidron, was called "Royal." On the east side the high corner was possibly the pinnacle of the temple, mentioned in the story of the temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:5).

There were eight gates leading into the temple.

There were the two Huldah Gates or "mole" Gates from the south, which passed underneath the Royal Porch.

To the east was the Gate of Susa, still visible as the Golden Gate which was walled up by the Byzantines.

In the western wall was the main gate named the Gate of Coponius after the first procurator; it was decorated with the golden eagle as a sign that the Temple had been placed under the protection of Rome.

Anyone was allowed to enter the outer area, which was therefore called the Court of the Gentiles. The actual Temple was enclosed by a balustrade, and at the entrances to it were warning notices, one of them is now in a museum in Istanbul. It says that foreigners have freedom of access provided they do not go beyond the balustrade which went all around the central edifice and which no uncircumcised could cross without incurring the death penalty.

Fourteen steps led through the Beautiful Gate to the Court of the women where the poor boxes were, into one of which the poor widow cast her two mites (Luke 21:1-4).

Another fifteen steps led up to the famous Gate of Nicanor, to which Mary had brought the child at the time of his presentation; this led through the Court of the Men to that of the priests, which had in its center the altar for the burnt offerings and to the left of it a large basin called the Brazen Sea resting upon twelve bulls cast in bronze.

Further steps led up to the actual temple, a comparatively small building. A priceless curtain, embroidered with a map of the known world, concealed from view what lay beyond, and none except the priest on duty was allowed to go farther.

It contained the golden altar at which incense was offered and next to it the seven-branched candelabrum and the table with the twelve loaves of shewbread, which were replaced by fresh ones every sabbath. Beyond it, behind another large curtain, lay the Holy of Holies, which none except the high priest was allowed to enter, and he only on the Day of Atonement. A stone designated the place where once the Ark of the Covenant had stood.

Jesus came to the Temple at a very young age and in Solomon's Porch the boy argued with the rabbis, astonishing them with his questions and with his answers. He remained behind when his parents left, and when his worried mother at last found him he said to her enigmatically: "'Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"' (Luke 2:49).

It is one of the most original sayings of Jesus, in which he speaks of God for the first time as "avi" (My Father) which was an expression reserved for the Son of God.

Today the Western Wall, the so-called Wailing Wall, is all that remains of the ancient walls of Herod's Temple; one can still see the pilaster and the beginning of Robinsonís Arch, which was part of a large viaduct leading to the upper city. Excavations in 1967, led by the well-known archaeologist Benjamin Mazar, revealed the cornerstone. Adjacent to it on the southern side remain traces of the road from which the pilgrims entered the gates.


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