Using maps created in 1866 by a British explorer and passages from the Jewish Mishnah, an Israeli archaeologist and professor at Hebrew University says he has pinpointed the location of the sacred Jewish Temple, twice built and twice destroyed in ancient times.
While popular consensus places the Temple, built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. and rebuilt by Jews who returned from Babylon in the 5th century B.C., on the site of the present Muslim Dome of the Rock, Prof. Joseph Patrich says archaeological remains show its exact location – and the consensus is wrong.
Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, facing west.
According to Patrich, the Temple, its corresponding courtyards, chambers and gates were oriented in a more southeasterly direction, sitting diagonally on what is the modern Temple Mount. The difference in orientation and the placement further eastward varies from the east-facing orientation of other scholars who believe the Temple was closer to today’s Western Wall.
However, that difference is why, Patrich says, the Temple did not sit over the rock believed by Jews to be the site where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac and where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended into heaven.
Patrich’s siting of the Temple is derived from information collected by British engineer Sir Charles Wilson in 1866 on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund. Wilson mapped a series of ancient cisterns below the present Temple Mount platform. One of those, Patrich says, preserves a vestige of the Temple that stood until it was destroyed by Rome in A.D. 70.
The cistern mapped by Wilson, approximately 15 feet wide, 170 feet long and 45 feet deep, was located near the Temple Mount’s southeast corner. It was oriented in a southeasterly direction with branches extending north and south.
Patrich’s reconstruction of Temple in 1st century A.D., facing northeast. Courtesy Hebrew University. (Drawing by Leen Ritmeyer)
“Until now no one has ever thought that the location of the cistern on the Temple Mount and its unique shape were derived from the shape and location of the altar and sanctuary,” Patrich told YNetNews.
According to the archaeologist, this cistern is the only one found on the Temple Mount that corresponds to descriptions in the Jewish Mishnah – the rabbinic oral tradition compiled in the 3rd century A.D. – of daily purification and sacrificial duties carried out by the priests on the altar in the Temple courtyard.
The Mishnah says water was drawn by a waterwheel mechanism from a cistern and held in a large basin, or laver, for daily purification by the Temple’s priests before they ascended the nearby ramp to the altar to offer sacrifices.
Patrich’s reconstruction of Temple in 1st century A.D. overlaid on modern Temple Mount. Octagonal feature is Dome of the Rock. Diagram is oriented east up. Courtesy Hebrew University. (Drawing by Leen Ritmeyer)
Patrich believes the placement of the waterwheel and laver can be reconstructed from Wilson’s map of the giant southeast-trending cistern and from that, the location of the altar and the Temple itself.
Patrich’s siting has the Temple further east and south of locations proposed by other scholars and diagonal, rather than perpendicular to the Temple Mount’s eastern and western walls. It also leaves the rock in the Dome of the Rock outside of the confines of the Temple itself.
Patrich said his research on the Temple’s location is strictly academic, and political connotations should not be attributed to it.