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This stone was, according to Church tradition, part of the Roman Pavement at Jesus' Trial. It was discovered at the site of the Fortress of Antonia which was connected to the Jerusalem Temple at the NW corner. The large rectangular paving stone was part of a large limestone pavement courtyard and this particular stone has evidence of a game board that might have been used by Roman soldiers.
The Bible mentions in John 19:13 the "Pavement" were Pontius Pilate had his judgment seat outside the Praetorium. It was called in Hebrew "Gabbatha", and the Greek word is "Lithostroton" which means paved with stones. It was here that Pontius Pilate brought Jesus and presented him before the Jewish people. Pilate said to them "behold your king" and they all shouted "crucify him" and he said to them "shall I crucify your king" and the chief priests replied "we have no king but Caesar".
It is impossible to know with certainty whether "the pavement" mentioned in John 19:13 was located at the citadel on the west side of the city of Jerusalem near the modern Jaffa Gate, or at the Antonia Fortress located at the NW corner of the Temple, the site of the earlier Hasmonean fortress..
Pilate's Residence in Jerusalem
There were two primary residences of Herod in Jerusalem that Pontius Pilate might have stayed during the Passover: one was adjacent to the three towers at the citadel near the west end of the city, and the other was the Fortress of Antonia which was connected to the Jerusalem Temple at the NW corner. Only the Fortress of Antonia contained a limestone pavement according to archaeology. There was excavated a large stone pavement (105 x 155 feet) which has portions located under three buildings, The Convent of the Flagellation, The Convent of Our Lady of Sion, and The Greek Orthodox Convent.
"When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with [him], away with [him], crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. - John 19:13-15
The Place of Jesus' Trial?
According to later Church tradition the Praetorium was at the Antonia Fortress where Pontius Pilate judged Jesus, but it is also possible that Jesus was judged at the Herodian fortress on the opposite end (NW) of the city near the modern Jaffa Gate. Herod's palace was the official residence of the Roman procurator's when they came to Jerusalem during the major Jewish festivals. Many scholars favor the Antonia Fortress because of the balconies overlooking the Temple Court. There is also mention in John 19:13 of "the pavement" as the site of the trial. The Via Dolorosa assumes that the Antonia Fortress is the site of the trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate. The statements of Josephus are very convincing that the headquarters of the Roman procurator were at Herod's palace. See International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
Two possible praetorium sites in Jerusalem have been proposed: the Antonia Fortress and Herod's Palace. Early pilgrims to Jerusalem generally identified the praetorium with the Antonia Fortress, where the traditional Way of the Cross begins. The archaeological evidence, which dates the fortress remnants to the 2nd century AD, as well as the tense situation requiring Pilate to be near the Second Temple as the center of Passover activity, support the Antonia Fortress location. - Wikipedia
Gabbatha in Fausset's Bible Dictionary. (gab' buh tha) English transliteration of Greek transliteration of Aramaic place name meaning, “elevation.” A platform in front of the praetorium or governor's palace in Jerusalem, where Pilate sat in judgment over Jesus (John 19:13), pronouncing the sentence to crucify Jesus. Before announcing the decision, however, Pilate introduced Jesus as King of the Jews, giving the Jewish leaders one last chance to confess their Messiah. The Greek name for the place was lithostrotos, or “stone pavement.” The location is either the fortress Antonia or Herod's palace. Tourists see the Antonia site at the present Convent of the Sisters of Zion, but archaeologists have dated the pavement there later than Jesus' time.
Gabbatha in Smith's Bible Dictionary. (elevated; a platform) the Hebrew or Chaldee appellation of a place, also called "Pavement," where the judgment-seat or bema was planted, from his place on which Pilate delivered our Lord to death. Joh 19:13 It was a tessellated platform outside the praetorium, on the western hill of Jerusalem, for Pilate brought Jesus forth from thence to it.
Gabbatha in Easton's Bible Dictionary. Gab Baitha, i.e., "the ridge of the house" = "the temple-mound," on a part of which the fortress of Antonia was built. This "temple-mound" was covered with a tesselated "pavement" (Gr. lithostroton, i.e., "stone-paved"). A judgement-seat (bema) was placed on this "pavement" outside the hall of the "praetorium" (q.v.), the judgment-hall (John 18:28; 19:13).
The ISBE Bible Encyclopedia. gab'-a-tha: Given (Jn 19:13) as the
name of a special pavement (to lithostroton), and is probably a
transcription in Greek of the Aramaic gabhetha', meaning "height" or
"ridge." Tradition which now locates the Pretorium at the Antonia
and associates the triple Roman arch near there with the "Ecce Homo"
scene, naturally identifies an extensive area of massive Roman
pavement, with blocks 4 ft. x 3 1/2 ft. and 2 ft. thick, near the
"Ecce Homo Arch," as the Gabbatha. This paved area is in places
roughened for a roadway, and in other places is marked with incised
designs for Roman games of chance. The site is a lofty one, the
ground falling away rapidly to the East and West, and it must have
been close to, or perhaps included in, the Antonia. But apart from
the fact that it is quite improbable that the Pretorium was here
(see PRAETORIUM), it is almost certain that the lithostroton was a
mosaic pavement (compare Est 1:6), such as was very common in those
days, and the site is irretrievably lost.
Proverbs 18:10 "The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe."
Herod the Great built the Antonia fortress to protect the city, should an enemy breach its mighty walls. This no doubt pleased the Jews because the leaders of the day had not trusted in the Lord to be their protector. They had trusted in the arm of the flesh to protect them, and their wonderful city Jerusalem, the joy of the whole earth. God had prepared them as a bride to receive their Messiah and when He arrived their hearts were hardened. They were ruled by greed and were envious of the Messiah’s favor with the common people.
Proverbs 18:11 "The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit."
Jesus was their true protector and they rejected Him. They turned Him over to Pontius Pilate who was the Roman Governor of Judea from 26 – 37 A.D. He came on the scene about the same time that Jesus began His public ministry. Although his official residence was in Caesarea, he would reside in Jerusalem during the Passover feast to maintain order. Pontius Pilate was a cruel and brutal man with a thirst for blood as the other Roman rulers of his time including the emperors. It is recorded in the Bible and in historical documents that Pilate had mingled the blood of Galileans with their sacrifices (Luke 13:1).
It is interesting how the humble man Jesus had made such a powerful impression upon the not so gentle ruler Pontius Pilate. Whether Jesus was a man of dark skin with a hooked nose, according to one tradition, or a man of light skin with long blonde hair, according to another tradition, there was no doubt something awesome about His countenance. Even with a bloodied face and a crown of thorns upon His head, Pilate feared Him.
Pilate did not want to crucify Jesus and would only have Him scourged, that is until the Jewish leaders threatened to report him to Caesar. Pilate finally consented to their pressure and ordered Jesus crucified.
Proverbs 18:12 "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility."
The Jewish authorities were filled to the brim with greed and haughtiness and did not want the Lord to be their protector any longer. When Pilate offered to release Jesus, their King, they cried, "we have no king but Caesar… let His blood be on us and on our children."
How fearfully their cry was fulfilled for in 70 A.D. Titus with his Roman legions arrived at the outermost northern Wall of Jerusalem on the Passover of 70 A.D. The Romans built embankments of earthenwork, they placed battering rams and the siege began. When Titus initiated his extreme assault into the Temple area it was from the Antonia Fortress.
Over one million Jewish men women and children were killed and 95,000 were taken as captives.
The walls were battered down, the great Temple was left in ashes, the city was burned down, ruined and desolate, and the massive strength of Jerusalem's fortifications Titus of Rome brought to rubble.
There will come a time when the Jewish people as a whole will trust in the Lord again and receive Jesus as their Messiah and protector.
The Bible mentions a lot regarding
Ezra 6:3 - In the first year of Cyrus the king [the same] Cyrus the king made a decree [concerning] the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, [and] the breadth thereof threescore cubits;
1 Kings 12:27 - If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, [even] unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.
Zechariah 3:2 - And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: [is] not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
Jeremiah 44:9 - Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and the wickedness of their wives, and your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they have committed in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem?
2 Kings 12:18 - And Jehoash king of Judah took all the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat, and Jehoram, and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own hallowed things, and all the gold [that was] found in the treasures of the house of the LORD, and in the king's house, and sent [it] to Hazael king of Syria: and he went away from Jerusalem.
Lamentations 2:13 - What thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? for thy breach [is] great like the sea: who can heal thee?
2 Kings 19:21 - This [is] the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, [and] laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.
Isaiah 37:22 - This [is] the word which the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, [and] laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.
Jeremiah 24:1 - The LORD shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs [were] set before the temple of the LORD, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon.
1 Chronicles 29:27 - And the time that he reigned over Israel [was] forty years; seven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three [years] reigned he in Jerusalem.
Zechariah 14:4 - And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which [is] before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, [and there shall be] a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
Isaiah 40:9 - O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift [it] up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Isaiah 66:20 - And they shall bring all your brethren [for] an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.
1 Kings 10:26 - And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen: and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots, and with the king at Jerusalem.
1 Chronicles 28:1 - And David assembled all the princes of Israel, the princes of the tribes, and the captains of the companies that ministered to the king by course, and the captains over the thousands, and captains over the hundreds, and the stewards over all the substance and possession of the king, and of his sons, with the officers, and with the mighty men, and with all the valiant men, unto Jerusalem.
2 Samuel 5:5 - In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.
Jeremiah 52:13 - And burned the house of the LORD, and the king's house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great [men], burned he with fire:
Joshua 15:8 - And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom unto the south side of the Jebusite; the same [is] Jerusalem: and the border went up to the top of the mountain that [lieth] before the valley of Hinnom westward, which [is] at the end of the valley of the giants northward:
2 Kings 25:8 - And in the fifth month, on the seventh [day] of the month, which [is] the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem:
1 Kings 2:11 - And the days that David reigned over Israel [were] forty years: seven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in Jerusalem.
2 Samuel 24:16 - And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.
Ezra 5:17 - Now therefore, if [it seem] good to the king, let there be search made in the king's treasure house, which [is] there at Babylon, whether it be [so], that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter.
Ecclesiastes 1:16 - I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all [they] that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.
2 Samuel 10:14 - And when the children of Ammon saw that the Syrians were fled, then fled they also before Abishai, and entered into the city. So Joab returned from the children of Ammon, and came to Jerusalem.
Ezekiel 17:12 - Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these [things mean]? tell [them], Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon;
1 Kings 14:21 - And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam [was] forty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. And his mother's name [was] Naamah an Ammonitess.
2 Kings 23:5 - And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
2 Chronicles 34:3 - For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images.
Jeremiah 17:26 - And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD.
Nehemiah 13:19 - And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and [some] of my servants set I at the gates, [that] there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day.
Bibliography on Ancient Images
The Art of Ancient Egypt, Revised
by Robins, 272 Pages, Pub. 2008
© Bible History Online (http://www.bible-history.com)