Presence magazine -
Defying all logic, a 35-acre landmass surrounded by
ancient walls is ground zero to the end-time dreams
and fears of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Known by Muslims as the Haram esh-Sharif or Noble
Enclosure since A.D. 638, these fortress walls guard
Islam's third holiest site, the golden "Dome of
the Rock" and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Despite thirteen centuries of Islamic heritage,
Jews today consider the Haram as their Temple
Mount. Tradition calls it "the navel of the world
... situated in the center of the world."
The Temple Mount, thought to be the site of the
First and Second Jewish temples, abuts the Haram's
"Western Wall"—-considered by Jews to be
the only stones left intact from the Roman sacking of
Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The outcropping under the Dome
of the Rock is thought to be the crest of Mount Moriah
where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son.
Increasingly, zealous Jews in Israel and End-Time
Christians in America are calling for the rebuilding
of a "Third Temple" where the Dome of the
In his book, Arabs and Jews: Wounded Spirits In
A Promised Land, New York Times journalist David
Shipler reports, "During my five years in
Jerusalem, the idea of building a Third Temple in
place of Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock evolved from
a wild notion held by a very few fringe militants into
a goal embraced and legitimized by parts of the
established right wing."
Shipler continues, "Some groups had a
letterhead printed with a composite aerial photograph
of the Old City as it is today and the Temple Mount as
they wish it to be tomorrow: clear of mosques and
dominated by a huge temple."
In a recent book, The End of Days:
Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount,"
Israeli journalist, Gershon Gorenberg writes,
"The Temple Mount beckons seductively to
believers eager to restart redemption." Although
journalists or theologians often mock them, Gorenberg
claims governments need to take their apocalyptic
schemes seriously. According to messianic groups in
Jerusalem such as the Temple Mount Faithful, three
events must take place before the Jewish messiah
comes: the reconstitution of Israel, the return of the
Jews to their homeland; and the construction of a
As religious Jews tell it, the first two events
came about through the founding of the Jewish State in
1948. They believe the third has become possible due
to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Israel found herself
capturing the West Bank and East Jerusalem. "The
Temple Mount is in our hands," proclaimed Motta
Gur, the Israeli commander. But on the fourth day of
occupation, then Defense-minister Moshe Dayan decided
to return control of the Haram compound to clerics
from the Islamic Trust or Waqf.
Despite the control of the Haram by the Waqf, the
continued occupation of the Old City of Jerusalem by
Israel has transformed the rebuilding of the Temple
for extreme Jews from a divine prophecy into an
attainable human endeavor.
Palestinians have always felt the goal of Jewish
Zionism is, as its name implies, control of the Temple
Mount and the construction of the Third Temple. In
1995, an Arab editorial declared, "The weeping of
the Jews by the Wailing Wall and their kisses do not
come of their love for the wall itself, but from their
secret desire to win control of the Haram esh-Sharif,
as everyone knows."
Palestinian uneasiness about Jewish extremism is
understandable. On more than one hundred occasions
since 1967, members of the "Jewish
underground" have initiated plots to siege or
destroy the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque, acts
that would have rendered peace with the Arab world
Igniting World War III?
The rhetoric about the Temple Mount has inflamed
passions on all sides. Indeed, it was a principal
factor, if not the key factor, in derailing the U.S.
brokered Camp David peace talks in 2000. Israelis
insisted on dual ownership of the Haram, something
Arafat said no Arab leader could accept.
Making matters worse, Israeli hard-liner Ariel
Sharon entered the Haram several weeks later with an
armed security force of 1,000 Israeli soldiers,
provoking a new round of violence in which nearly 500
people have died, largely Palestinians.
Amidst these fears, a new film was released in
Israel. By December, Hahesder, or "Time of
Favor," became a hit movie. The film revolves
around a plot by ultra-religious Jews to blow up
Islamic holy places on the Temple Mount. The Israeli
Shin Bet followed up the movie's release with warnings
about the possible eruption of Jewish violence
centered on the Temple Mount.
One Israeli security official told the BBC,
"To harm the mosque, it means a global war
between the Arab world and the Islamic world against
Israel, and no doubt that it could be a war that may
bring destruction to the state of Israel."
Israeli academics have been equally alarmed by
"Third Temple" ideas. In January, Keshev—the
Center for the Protection of Democracy in Tel Aviv
issued a 12-page report entitled, "Targeting the
Temple Mount," which examined current threats to
the Temple Mount from extreme militant and messianic
groups. The report said, "Threats to the Temple
Mount have reached a critical stage." The danger,
the report said, comes from some ten organizations who
influence tens of thousands of people and who are
acting to reinstitute Temple practices and rituals.
The secular research continued, "In the event
of damage to the holy sites, all the blame will be
placed on Israel and apocalyptically destructive
forces may be unleashed." It urged the Israeli
government "to stop all support and funding of
Temple lovers' organizations and institutions"
and "publicly disassociate themselves from
rabbinical calls to ‘destroy the mosques.' Our lives
depend on it."
The Battle for Jerusalem
Historically, following Bar Kochba's revolt in A.D.
135, the idea of rebuilding the Jewish Temple was
disavowed by Judaism. Only the messiah, it was
believed, was capable of rebuilding the Temple. This
idea has been challenged in our time by more than a
century of Jewish Zionism.
What is surprising about this extreme brand of
messianic Judaism and its fixation on the Temple Mount
is that its greatest sector of support now is coming
from apocalyptic Christians in America.
Fifteen years ago the radical Jewish "Temple
Mount Faithful" had practically disappeared in
Jerusalem. Then it made connections with End-Time
churches in the U.S. Since then, its founder, Gershon
Salomon, has been promoted by Pat Robinson's Christian
Broadcasting Network and cash flow has been steady.
Gorenberg feels that the alliance between End-Time
Jews and Christians is an ironic one, for evangelicals
see the creation of Israel and the reestablishment of
the Temple as prerequisites for the End of Days when,
according to apocalyptic scenarios, two-thirds of all
Jews will die in the battle of Armageddon.
Still, the rebuilding of a "Third Temple"
is almost axiomatic among true believers, as witnessed
in Bible prophecy books such as The Coming Last
Days Temple by Randall Price.
Diffusing the Bomb?
Is it inevitable that the Temple Mount will
explode, taking both Israelis and Arabs to the gates
of hell? Dr. Ernest L. Martin, a forty-year historian
on Jerusalem, thinks not.
In March of 2000 he published a surprising new
book, The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot, which
argues that the Jewish Temples never were built on the
present "Temple Mount" and actually were
located a fourth of a mile south over Gihon Spring.
Upon first hearing, Martin admits, the thesis
sounds incredible. But Martin bases his conclusions on
multiple lines of evidence, biblical, historical and
He further claims that Dr. Benjamin Mazar, the
former president of Hebrew University and leading
Jewish excavator outside the Haram walls from 1967 to
1978, was leaning toward the same conclusion before
If anything, since its release a year ago, Martin's
book has caused scholars to take another look at the
works of Flavius Josephus, who offered eyewitness
accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem and its
temple in A.D. 70.
One eyewitness worth examining is Eleazar, the
Jewish rebel commander at Masada in A.D. 73. In The
War of the Jews (VII.8,6), Josephus cities him as
saying, "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 that hath destroyed it, which still
dwells upon its ruins."
Martin claims that a proper reading of Eleazar's
quote would support the view that only the Camp of the
Roman Tenth Legion was left standing among the ruins
of Jerusalem's city and temple.
Martin identifies the Haram esh-Sharif as that
remaining camp or Fort Antonia, which Herod named
after Mark Anthony. He shows how the Haram's 35 acres
were comparable in size and water supply to other
Roman fortresses built to guard occupied cities.
Martin writes, "Josephus reported that Fort
Antonia was as large as a city and could hold a full
Legion of troops, or 5,000 soldiers plus support
personnel. Although Herod the Great had built it up
since the year 6 A.D., the Romans had used the camp as
their base, and they had no reason to destroy it after
the war. As a security measure, the Roman Empire
continued to use Antonia to house the Tenth Legion
after the fall of Jerusalem and remained there for
more than 200 years."
Furthering buttressing the thesis that the Haram is
indeed Fort Antonia is testimony from various Church
Fathers and pilgrims from the fourth to sixth
centuries that spoke of a large rock outcropping as
the Praetorium—where Pilate judged Jesus
(John 18:20). The Dome of the Rock would later be
built over this permanent natural feature. In
contrast, Martin claims, the Temple was built over a
threshing floor, and its "foundation stone"
Wailing at the Wrong Wall?
If Martin's thesis is correct that the Haram was
Fort Antonia, it would cast in doubt an unquestioned
modern-day Jewish tenet: that the "Wailing
Wall" was part of the walls enclosing Herod's
By connecting a series of historical dots and clues
which others have overlooked, Martin documents that
two "western walls" were known to Judaism
before the time of the Crusades. Neither was a
remainder of the Second Temple and neither was located
near the present "Wailing Wall." Both were
aborted attempts to rebuild the Third Jewish temple
under the Roman Emperor Constantine from A.D. 313 to
324 and later under Julian in 362.
Over the past 130 years archaeologists have
confirmed that the original City of David was built on
the southeastern ridge of Jerusalem, where Martin
claims the Jewish Temples were located. What changed
the prevailing opinion that Jerusalem grew up on its
western hill was the famous discovery of Hezekiah's
water tunnel under the Ophel mount in the 1870s.
Martin feels that archaeologists were right a
century ago to move the site of David's ancient city
to southeast Jerusalem, but failed at that time to
reevaluate their traditional thinking about the
location of the Jewish Temples.
The confusion over Jerusalem's geography, Martin
claims, began a century and a half before Jesus' time.
In the days of Simon the Hasmonean, Mount Zion, also
known as the Akra or stronghold, had become
indefensible. Jewish leaders then literally leveled
down "Mount Zion," which overlooked the
Temple. Over a period of three years the entire
geography of Jerusalem was changed, as a "New
Jerusalem" was built on the western hill, save
for the Temple itself.
The Actual Temple
Martin also turns to biblical statements to show
that the original tabernacle of David and the Temple
of Solomon were built above Gihon Spring (2 Sam. 6:17,
1 Kg. 1:38-39). Martin claims that ancient Jewish law
required that a live spring be located within the
Temple for ritual purification. The Davidic psalms
testify that "living water" flowed through
the temple (Ps. 46:3,4; 87:1-2,7).
There even exists two extra-biblical confirmations
of the Temple containing a water source. Martin
writes, "We have the eyewitness account of a
person from Egypt named Aristeas who viewed the Temple
in about 285 B.C. He stated quite categorically that
the Temple was located over an inexhaustible spring
that welled up within the interior part of the
Temple." He also cites Roman historian, Tacitus,
in about A.D.105, stating that "the Temple at
Jerusalem had within its precincts a natural spring of
No natural springs have ever been found within the
Haram esh-Sharif, only cisterns for collecting water.
Geologically, the only natural spring in Jerusalem for
five miles in any distance is Gihon Spring.
Martin documents how the Islamic rulers from the
seventh to the eleventh century allowed the Jews to
live near their Temple ruins at the Gihon, but forbade
them to enter the Haram, further showing that the
locations were not synonymous.
"What has been amazing to me," Martin
writes, "is the vast amount of Jewish, Muslim,
and Christian records that remain available from the
first to the sixteenth centuries that clearly
vindicate the conclusions that I have reached in this
Taking Josephus' descriptions at face value, Martin
has recreated a depiction of Herod's Temple and Fort
Antonia and with architectural precision. If one would
have stood on the southern slopes of the Mount of
Olives and looked northwestward they would see these
two buildings occupying the greater part of eastern
Jerusalem. According to Josephus, the Temple site was
shaped as a perfect square of 600 feet on each of its
four sides, and towered upward from the floor of
Kidron Valley some 450 feet, or forty stories. Fort
Antonia lay to its north by another 600 feet,
connected by double colonnades. Slanted flagstones
surrounded Fort Antonia on its east for external
Not everyone is impressed by Martin's renderings.
From 1973 to 1978, Dr. Leen Ritmeyer served as the
lead architect associated with the archaeological
excavations of the Haram's south walls. As author of Secrets
of Jerusalem's Temple Mount (Biblical Archaeology
Society, 1998), Ritmeyer feels that Martin ignores
"the archaeological evidence that has been
excavated in Jerusalem." If the Temple Mount was
merely a Roman Camp, he asks, why have Hebrew
inscriptions such as the "Trumpeting Stone"
been found at the base of the Haram walls in Herodian
strata? Martin claims the fallen inscription from top
of the southwest wall could just as easily be related
to military camp life and revelry than to summon
people for the Sabbath. As for the inscription in
Hebrew, Martin notes Fort Antonia was built by Herod
the Great for his own soldiers, long before the Tenth
Roman Legion arrived.
Martin claims his theory is consistent with
excavations done both outside and within the Haram. He
notes that a hundred years ago, Sir Charles Warren,
the great surveyor of Jerusalem, meticulously examined
all the nooks, crannies, holes, cisterns and tunnels
beneath the Haram, and found no archaeological remains
identified with the Second Temple.
Most people are totally unaware that Jerusalem in
Jesus' day was one of the biggest cities between
Alexandria and Damascus. It was a prosperous
metropolitan city of more than 80,000 people, with two
or three times that many visiting during festival
seasons. Herod the Great had restored the Temple as a
For Christians, Martin's reconstruction solves the
quandary of Jesus' prophecy repeated four times in the
gospel, that "not one stone would be left upon
another" (Mark 13:1-2, Matt. 24:1-3, Luke
Martin, who takes the words of Jesus literally,
argues that the total removal of the Second Temple
down to its foundations in A.D. 70 is in accord with
Is then all of the evidence of the Second Temple's
archaeological record gone?
Martin thinks so, given the complete destruction of
Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Some might consider this a
convenient excuse for non-verification, but
archaeologists never have uncovered any ruins
identified with other structures Herod built in
Jerusalem, including his lavish Palace, the Greek
Gymnasium or the Roman Hippodrome.
Given the testimony of eyewitnesses as to the utter
ruin of Jerusalem—dug up from its very foundations,
it is unlikely that any evidence of the Second Temple
or other massive Herodian buildings will ever be
This past January Martin spent a week in Jerusalem
presenting his "Temple theory." More than
200 Palestinian academics and western scholars
attended a series of meetings hosted by the Sabeel
Theology Center. Many were associated with well-known
groups such as Ecole Biblique, the Albright Institute
or Al-Quds University. Upon returning, Martin told Presence
magazine that, "I did not get a negative comment
the entire time I was there."
If proven correct, Martin's "Temple
theory" could have profound effect on how Jews
and Muslims approach the future of Jerusalem. If the
Temple never was located at the supposed "Temple
Mount" then a major obstacle dividing Israelis
and Palestinians could be put to rest. The
"Temple Time Bomb" could be diffused and
Jews could transfer their focus south from the western
Haram wall to Gihon Springs, in order to build a Third
Still, most that hear Martin's theory consider it
"preposterous" at first. This was true of
Dr. James D. Tabor, religious studies professor at the
University of North Carolina. After studying Martin's
arguments, however, Tabor wrote, "Martin's thesis
is so bold, so utterly non-conventional, and so
potentially upsetting, radically altering central
aspects of the theological, historical, cultural and
political understanding of Jerusalem and its holy
places, it should not be ignored."
Read the complete story of how fulfilled prophecy
can diffuse the Temple time bomb. Purchase a copy of The
Temple That Jerusalem Forgot from Presence
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or visit our web, http://www.livingpresence.org/books
Leen Ritmeyer has posted his
critique of Martin's "Temple Theory" online
Martin has responded at: http://www.askelm.com