Where Was Herod’s Temple?
Note: The following Post is taken from an upcoming book by Joseph Lenard entitled Mysteries of Jesus’ Life Revealed—His Birth, Death, Resurrection, and Ascensions. For an overview and complete chapter listing of this fascinating study, click here.
What the Eyewitnesses Saw
In this Post we consider the eyewitness accounts of two important first century historians: Flavius Josephus and Eleazar ben Ya’ir. Josephus was a Jewish rebel leader captured by the Romans during the early part of the Roman-Jewish War who then became a valued historian in the service of Rome. On the other hand, Eleazar was the head of the Jewish forces at the mountaintop fortress of Masada who withstood a nearly year-long siege by the Roman army before finally succumbing to an assault on the fortress in AD 73. Both Josephus and Eleazar witnessed firsthand the destruction of the Temple and of Jewish Jerusalem. However, with Eleazar’s account – which was actually written by Josephus – we have unique testimony regarding the preservation of the Roman Fort amid the destruction of the rest of Jerusalem.
These eyewitness accounts constitute the second of nine puzzle pieces in my case regarding the location of the Jewish Temples and figure significantly in the determination of the true locations of both the Temples and the Roman Fort Antonia.
In AD 73 Eleazar gave an eyewitness account of the survival of the Roman Fort (camp), which was the lone facility to survive the destruction of Jerusalem. Here are his words, as recorded by Dr. Ernest Martin in his exceptional book, The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot (2000):
“And where is now that great city [Jerusalem], the metropolis of the Jewish nation, which was fortified by so many walls round about, which had so many fortresses and large towers to defend it, which could hardly contain the instruments prepared for the war, and which had so many ten thousands of men to fight for it? Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? It 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 (camp) still dwells upon its ruins; some unfortunate men also lie upon the ashes of the Temple [then in total ruins – burnt to ashes], and a few women are there preserved alive by the enemy, for our bitter shame and reproach.”
Eleazer’s account is one of utter ruin of both the city and the Temple. Only the Roman camp (Fort Antonia) survived. He further observed that God “abandoned His most holy city to be burnt and razed to the ground” and concluded his eyewitness account with the following words:
“I cannot but wish that we had all died before we had seen that holy city demolished by the hands of our enemies, or the foundations of our Holy Temple dug up, after so profane a manner.”
It should be noted that during the destruction, the foundation stones of the Temple complex (including its walls) were “dug up,” and the very foundations were destroyed. According to Eleazar, the only thing that survived was Fort Antonia. This is incredibly significant! The Roman Fort was Roman imperial property – not part of Jewish Jerusalem – and, consequently, was not destroyed by the Roman General Titus. He only destroyed Jewish buildings, including the very walls of both the Temple and the city.
Fort Antonia had been a Roman fortress since AD 6. With its 60-foot walls, 37 cisterns, and special aqueduct to supply it with water, the Fort was a valuable resource which Titus decided to preserve as home to the Roman Tenth Legion. The Fort was located on what is now referred to as the “Temple Mount.” According to Dr. Martin, the fact that every Jewish structure, wall, and foundation in the city of Jerusalem were destroyed – including the Temple – is powerful evidence that the Jewish Temple was not at this site.
According to Dr. Martin, the Temple which was located to the south of the “Temple Mount” and above the Gihon Spring was totally destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, while Fort Antonia – on the site of the traditional “Temple Mount”- was preserved by Titus. This is what Muslims refer to today as Haram esh-Sharif.
Josephus provides additional, powerful evidence that Haram esh-Sharif is actually Fort Antonia and not the site of the Temples of Jerusalem. Josephus’ physical descriptions of the Temple and of Fort Antonia offer convincing arguments that the Temples were located to the south of Fort Antonia. These descriptions have – for some reason – been overlooked in history. I will examine the descriptions of Josephus and their impact on my case for the location of the Temples in detail in several upcoming Posts.
Note: In my next Post, I provide additional evidence supporting the true locations of the City of David, the Gihon Spring, and the Jewish Temples.