It has been called the most contested plot of land in the world -- the fissure at which three major faiths come together, and break apart.
There have been holy wars fought over it and holy writ foretelling of battles yet to come. It's Jerusalem's Temple Mount.
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But what if history got it wrong? What if the spot where Solomon built the first Jewish Temple, and Herod built the second, was actually about 600 feet to the south, in a place known as the ancient City of David?
Enter Robert Cornuke. He travels the world solving Bible mysteries: Noah's Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, he's studied them in depth. Now, he's obsessed with the Jewish Temple.
His self-deprecating sense of humor and easy-going style have helped him gain access to some of the world's most sensitive archaeological sites.
But don't be fooled.
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He attacks each mission with the doggedness of a street cop skilled in investigations. That's because he was a street cop for nearly a decade in California before a three-hour gun battle with a man holed up with 700 rounds of ammo some years ago caused him to rethink his career options.
His new book, "Temple: Amazing New Discoveries that Change Everything About the Location of Solomon's Temple," is turning heads in scholarly circles for its pure audacity.
To suggest that the traditional Temple Mount, where Jews have prayed at the Wailing Wall and where Muslims pray at the Dome of the Rock, is actually not the holy ground they believe it to be, is sacrilege to many historians and archaeologists, not to mention clerics.
Yet, his case is so well researched that it's hard to ignore. Many are reading, and re-reading, perhaps hoping to find some obvious blunder that would allow them to discount its conclusion.
Because, if it is true, that means the unthinkable for Muslims, and opens new possibilities for Jews.
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"We have an opportunity to impact history, positively or negatively," Cornuke said. "What we're sitting on is the kryptonite of Bible archaeology."
He was careful to point out this was not his idea. He merely followed up and expanded upon the work of Ernest L. Martin, an archaeologist who wrote the 1994 book, "The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot."
Filmmaker Ken Klein has also delved into the subject in his documentary, "Jerusalem and the Lost Temple of the Jews."
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"This is not my brainchild," he told WND. "I'm the benefactor of Dr. Martin, who really came up with this research but his book didn't get much attention because it contained a lot of minutia that people had to wade through. I tried to write a book that is readable.
"The site has been misdiagnosed and been accepted for so long that no one has ever dared challenge it," Cornuke continued. "I researched it to the best of my ability, from the standpoint of a police investigator, and came up with a reasonable conclusion."
Because he's dared to question what has become historically sacrosanct – the location of the first and second Jewish temples – he's getting a lot of phone calls.
"I've had a lot of scholars, guys with PhDs and working on PhDs, going over this with me, and two are now doing their doctoral dissertations on where the temple was located, because this has opened up a whole new vein," Cornuke said. "It seems preposterous but these guys are calling me and saying, 'Wait a minute; this is crazy, and why haven't we ever seen this before?'"
His book has only been out about six months, but it's starting to upset the apple cart.
"It's just one of those things, word of mouth, where people are talking about it, and literally I can't get much work done now because I'm taking calls and referring people to our distributor," he said. "It started small at first and is really catching on now."
He realizes some will scoff while others will read and appraise the body of evidence on its merits.
"Bible archaeology is considered to be the most controversial subject within archaeology, and the Temple Mount is the most controversial part of Bible archaeology, according to Discovery Channel," Cornuke said. "Literally, what I'm doing is taking on the most controversial subject in archaeology. So I'm surprised I have not received a personal email or someone hasn't called me or confronted me and said, 'You're wrong with this premise, and here's why.'"
So, exactly what is the proof behind his premise? And if the Western Wall is not the ruins of the ancient temple, then what is it?
The answers Cornuke gives to these questions, if proven true, could rock the prophetic world and shake the Middle East to its core.
'Not one stone left upon another'
He starts his story with the strategic placement of the Dome of the Rock and moves on to the teachings of Jesus and an eyewitness account by Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.
The Arab caliph Adb al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock in 691 A.D. on a site chosen largely because it overshadowed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the place where Jesus is believed to have risen from the dead. Muslims see their religion as the perfection of Judaism and Christianity and this supersessionist mentality influences their architecture throughout the Middle East. To build the Dome of the Rock larger and above the church commemorating Christ's resurrection was meant as a statement to Christians, who were the dominant religion in the area before the Muslim invaders arrived.
Then comes the prophecy of Jesus. In Matthew 24, He and His disciples exited the Temple, and Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down."
But the Western Wall where Jews still pray has thousands of stones remaining intact. They believe it is the western wall of their temple and, therefore, a holy place, often referred to as the Wailing Wall.
But historical accounts say the Romans so fully destroyed the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D., it became nothing but a field of weeds. Many Jews were carried off to captivity, and those who were left with a memory of the true location eventually died off, Cornuke argues.
Josephus's account of Roman fortress
But there is a written account from Josephus, the first century author of "Jewish Wars," whose works are considered highly credible on other topics, but for some reason his description of the temple location is denigrated and dismissed by modern historians.
Josephus wrote that the site that today is considered the Temple Mount was actually a Roman fort called Fort Antonia. The fortress was large enough to support the Roman Tenth Legion, about 6,000 soldiers plus support staff for a total of about 10,000 personnel.
"The Roman fort would need at least the area of the present day Temple Mount (36 acres) to sustain itself," Cornuke writes. "Josephus wrote that the fort was said to be much larger than the temple, but scholars say the temple area is much bigger than the fort. Again, who is right? According to many academics, Josephus exaggerated and is the culprit."
In 1973, the famous historian Michael Avi-Yonah made a model of first-century Jerusalem showing the Roman fort as a small appendage to the temple on the northwest corner.
This fits nicely with tradition while ignoring eyewitness accounts, Cornuke says. "This has all resulted in us having today almost every television documentary on the subject of the temple showing the Avi-Yonah model as an 'accurate in every way' illustrative prop."
There's only one problem: That prop is far too small to accommodate the Roman legion described by Josephus.
And there is another caveat to consider. Apparently a translator of Josephus's work mistranslated a word, tagma, or legion as a "cohort," which is a much smaller contingent of about 480 men. Every other time Josephus uses the word tagma, he uses it to describe much larger numbers of soldiers, such as the fifth, 10th, 12th and 15th legions.
"A small Roman cohort would certainly harmonize with a small Roman fort as we have in the Avi-Yonah model," Cornuke writes.
But would 480 men have been sufficient to maintain order in a province populated by riot-prone Jews? During religious festivals, Jerusalem's population swelled from about 175,000 during the time of Christ to upward of 300,000.
Not to mention, the Book of Acts says Paul was arrested and escorted by 470 men from Fort Antonia to Caesarea. "So, are we to believe that a garrison of only about 480 men would send 470 of them off to Caesarea to protect a single prisoner bound in chains, and then leave the entire garrison practically empty with a handful of soldiers to defend and control as many as a quarter million, depending on festival crowds?" Cornuke asks.
Another eyewitness and clues from the Bible
Another eyewitness was Eleazar Bin Jari, commander of the Jewish rebels at Masada. He described Jerusalem as lying in total ruins: "It (Jerusalem) is now demolished to the very foundations, and hath nothing left but that monument of it preserved, I mean the camp of those (the Romans) that hath destroyed it, which still dwells upon its ruins."
In other words, nothing was left standing in Jerusalem other than the Roman Fort Antonia, with its high stone walls still intact. Eleazar said the temple was completely gone, even its very foundation uprooted, fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus.
This account also fulfills the prophecy of Micah 3:12: It says "Zion (which is the City of David) shall be plowed like a field. Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins. And the mountains of the Temple like the bare hills of the forest."
So, if Jerusalem was left with the western wall of the temple still standing, that forces one to consider thinking of Micah as a false prophet.
Cornuke cites a slew of other Bible verses that support his theory about the temple site being at "the stronghold of Zion" in the City of David.
A powerful clue can be found in 2 Chronicles 3:1, which describes the location where Solomon built the temple "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."
This threshing floor, where wheat was separated from chaff, had been purchased by David after he conquered a 12-acre fortress on a hill south of today's Old City section of Jerusalem. That hill is today located within the City of David Jerusalem Walls National Park.
Another clue, the clincher for Cornuke, came when he read the New Testament Book of Acts, Chapter 21: 27-32. It describes a riot scene in which Paul was arrested at the temple by the commander of the Roman garrison.
The commander "immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them (toward the temple)."
"The 'aha moment' for me came when I read Acts 21," Cornuke said, "where it says they went down the steps to get Paul. Well, there are no steps coming down from the traditional Temple Mount complex. From a cop's point of view, there's no other way."
Or, as he writes in his book, "If the Temple Mount was the place of Paul's riot scene, then the big question is where would someone go down from to reach Paul?"
Of course the answer is, you couldn't. Unless the traditional Temple Mount was actually the Roman Fort and the true temple site was below, at the City of David.
Clues from scrolls and in water
Cornuke also found clues in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which contained this cryptic instruction:
"You shall make a channel all-round the laver within the building. The channel runs (from the building) of the laver to a shaft, goes down and disappears in the middle of the earth so that the water flows and runs through it and is lost in the middle of the earth."
The description is of a natural spring of water below the Jewish temple.
Tacitus, the Roman historian, likewise recorded that the temple at Jerusalem had a natural spring of water that welled from its interior.
There is only one spring this could be referring to, the Gihon Spring, in the old City of David, also called the stronghold of Zion in Scripture.
"There is no other such spring anywhere else in Jerusalem," Cornuke writes. "The spring connection, especially a robust gushing spring, seems to be like a laser pointer aimed at the City of David and not at the Temple Mount as the temple site."
Cornuke cites Joel 3:18, which says, "A fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord," and Psalm 87:5,7, which says, "And of Zion it will be said ... Both the singers and the players on the instruments say, 'All my springs are within you.'"
And another nugget is found in Ezekiel 47:1-2:
"Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south to the altar."
The many animals slaughtered for the temple sacrifices would have required a powerful water source to wash away the tremendous amount of blood that would have been left behind. The City of David site has this water source, the traditional Temple Mount would have been nearly a quarter mile away from the Gihon Spring.
By this point, the long-held narrative of history's writers begins to unravel. As a former cop, Cornuke is not so surprised.
"You know how many people are sitting in jail right now who were falsely accused, because you can always take somebody and make him the bad guy but not everything fits," Cornuke told WND. "It's like a Rubik's cube that starts coming together, but you're just a little bit off. Or think of the wheel on a car. If you don’t have the right size wheel, the holes aren't going to align with the little studs, and so you have to find parts that fit. And nothing really fit on the Temple Mount complex; it just didn't align there."
Implications 'staggering' for Jews and Muslims
Bible scholar Chuck Missler, when presented with Cornuke's evidence, said the implications for the future are staggering.
"As Chuck Missler told me, if this is true, this changes everything," Cornuke told WND. "This turns archaeology in the Middle East on its head."
It's a game-changer because it releases the Jewish people to start rebuilding on a site that is already in their control.
"What it means is, the Jews now have a place they can rebuild their long-foretold temple, and for Muslims, they would lose control, which they love having over the Jews," Cornuke said. "They can say, 'You can pray here' or 'You can't pray there,' and the Jews are really frustrated by all this. But if they can rebuild there, in the City of David, and can do it tomorrow, what does that do with end-time prophecy, which says the antichrist will go there and sit in the temple and that leads to the coming of Christ? People have been fighting over that patch of real estate for thousands of years and that now kind of changes the whole game in the Middle East."
Cornuke calls it "the biggest blunder in archaeological history that no one has really challenged."
"Every book I read said this is the one place that is undisputed and that we can really rely upon, but archaeology is not a science. It's an art. You have to take a lot of things in to develop a conclusion, and then it's your best guess. It's not empirical evidence. I'm not an archaeologist. I have PhD in Bible and theology, and a background as a police investigator, so what I do have is a very well-established background in investigations. I used those skills."
Cornuke said he lacks the professional constraints of archaeologists, freeing him to take more risks.
"Scholars want to be published. They want prestige, or they want to be promoted," he said. "That's the university system they work under.
"Police detectives have a completely different method: We're interested in, what are the problems and what are the possibilities?
"Josephus said the fortress overlooked the temple. Nothing fits on the Temple Mount, but the tour guides have said it for so many years, the same thing year after year. After so long, no one ever questions it. This is the way it is."
By its very nature, university scholarship is reluctant to "test the waters," Cornuke said.
"They want to stay in the safe harbor because testing things would open them up to scrutiny, and you're going to get hammered, whether you're right or wrong, and most scholars don't want to have that, so they wait on others.
"I don't want to bash scholarship," he continued. "I want to say, hey, this is the evidence, and the evidence is very provocative to say the least."
The Jewish response
On a recent visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Cornuke said he did an informal straw poll of Jewish people at the Wailing Wall.
"Everyone over 40 years old said, 'I don’t care what you say, or what evidence you have, it's not going to change the way I think. My father brought me here, my grandfather brought me here, and it's all been at the Western Wailing Wall.'"
Those under 40 were less wedded to tradition.
"They said, 'Cool, now we can rebuild our temple.' They were excited. They wanted to know more. Then their father would come over and say, 'Don't talk anymore to this gentile."
I even had a man who represents an Israeli cabinet official that wanted to get my book to (Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu, so I signed it and he was delivering it that day to Netanyahu."
That was just two weeks ago.
"And I've had several rabbis that have contacted me," Cornuke said. "I gave a talk in New Hampshire where the Jewish community was asked to come out and hear my presentation. Before I even started a father, mother, daughter and son got up and walked out. They obviously wanted to make a point. But after my presentation, the Jewish community, who was there in numbers, stood up with tears in their eyes and said we are sorry we have missed this in history, and thank you.' I was astounded at that response."
Cornuke says he can understand the reluctance for Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to accept his theory, because to do so requires them to come to grips with the fact that they've been praying at the wall of a Roman fort all these years. But if evaluated objectively, he sees the evidence as overwhelming.
"This is not a guess by me. As a police investigator, I feel this book would win a jury over," he said. "I didn’t write it to be right; I wrote it as a gift to the Jewish people, so they can rebuild their temple."
But the response of older Jews at the Wailing Wall was not positive.
"They kinda held up their hands, and they pointed to the foundation and said, 'Look, there are thousands of huge stones, foundation stones, here,' and your Jesus is wrong, because our Temple is here.'"
So Cornuke, or perhaps others following up his lead have more work to convince the Jewish people they have a free and clear site upon which to rebuild their holy temple
"There comes a time when you have to force feed your mind past reason and logic to accept some of these things that tradition teaches," he said. "Jesus said: 'Every stone will be thrown down,' and every word of His prophecy has been fulfilled."
If some aren't ready to accept his findings, that's OK, he said.
"We will never discover anything," he said. "God reveals it in His time, in His way, for His glory, but He can always use a knucklehead cop from California to do this."