The Secret Key to the Dome of the Rock

(This article is the intellectual property of A.S.K. (Associates for Scriptural Knowledge))

The Secret Key to
the Dome of the Rock

By Ernest L. Martin, PH. D., October 1999

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There is a key message found within two inscriptions in Arabic inscribed on the first cornice supported by large columns that encircles the interior region of the Dome of the Rock. One inscription is found on the outside area of the cornice and the other on the inside area. Both writings provide the real secret to the meaning of the significance behind the Dome of the Rock.

Once that secret is known, a whole new understanding of early Islam in its relation to Christianity comes on the scene that greatly enhances our comprehension of the theological history of the period. It reveals religious attitudes that existed between early Muslims, Jews and Christians.

There is a linguistic key that has great relevance in knowing why the Dome of the Rock was constructed and it provides the true meaning for its existence. Once this is realized, it will help divert Muslim attention away from their present attitude of reverent holiness toward the Dome and it will redirect their attention to the Al Aqsa Mosque located to the south, and it will further emphasize the importance of Mecca in the eyes of all Muslims. This new information will also aid Christians to know that the Dome of the Rock was actually built by Abd al-Malik in 692 A.D. as a rebuilt Christian Church that once stood in its place. The Rock that sanctified the shrine was first an important Christian holy place and NOT an early Jewish sacred spot (nor was it the site of the former Temples).

The first inscription on the outside is meant for all Muslims and the inner inscription is written for Christians ALONE. Jews are not even considered in the context of the inner (or even the outer) inscription. The analysis of these two inscriptions shows that Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock t o satisfy Christian religious matters and it shows that the Dome of the Rock HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH JEWISH MATTERS WHATEVER! The historical evidence shows conclusively that no Jewish person was ever interested in any religious or national manner to the “Rock” under the Dome of the Rock until the time of the First Crusade. The area was NEVER considered a sacred spot of Jews until the time of Benjamin of Tudela in the twelfth century (check other articles on the ASK Web Page on the Internet for proof of this). The site of the Dome of the Rock was ONLY of Christian significance BEFORE the time of Omar and Abd al-Malik. It only became important to Muslims in the eighth century to the eleventh, and only important to Jews in the twelfth century.

In actual fact, Omar (the Second Caliph and the first Muslim leader to enter Jerusalem) and Abd al-Malik about 50 years later actually honored the real site of the Jewish Temple that were shown to them on the southeast ridge and over the Gihon Spring (that is the very thing that Omar came to Jerusalem to accomplish) but these early Muslim leaders did NOT show the same type of reverence to the Rock now under the Dome of the Rock. The Dome was built by Muslims to wean Christians from the site, NOT to make it a more sanctified spot in Islam nor did the building of the Dome of the Rock have anything to do with Jewish religious matters or aspirations. Indeed, the “rock” underneath the Dome of the Rock was specifically and significantly of Christian importance and that the Jews up to the time of the Crusades showed no interest whatever in this former Christian spot that Abd al-Malik rebuilt as a Christian type of building (with its characteristic Byzantine dome) in order to wean Christians (who comprised at least 90% of the population of Jerusalem in the seventh century) from New Testament teachings and to win them over to the doctrines then being taught by Islam in and through the Koran.

Now for a question: What was happening at the time the Dome was built that inspired this display of theological symbolism in the erection of certain buildings in Jerusalem and also in Mecca? The answer has relevance in knowing prophecy for us today.

One of the most volatile geopolitical hot spots on earth today revolves around the national or religious possession of this natural outcropping of an oblong rock located in the City of Jerusalem. That spot is the Rock that is presently situated under the building now known as the Dome of the Rock. The building itself is without doubt the most beautiful piece of architecture in the City of Jerusalem and it represents the centerpiece of religious importance in the Holy City for both Muslims and Jews. But strange as it may seem, history shows that Christians also have a stake in its symbolic relevance. Little do Christians know, but that “Rock” was at first considered by both Muslims and Jews (in the early days of Islam) as being a Christian holy place and NOT one that Muslims or Jews thought as having high religious value. That’s right! The spot is actually of Christian importance. The real story behind the significance of the site of the Dome of the Rock will cause Muslims and Jews to reevaluate its meaning in relation to their own belief systems that they have erroneously accepted over the centuries since the beginning of Islam.

The proper identity of the “Rock” under the Dome of the Rock will truly be a revelation to all modern religious groups when they discover the truth of its biblical relevance. They will be amazed when they realize that the area was NOT the site of the former Temples of Solomon, Zerubbabel and Herod. It was a “Rock” purely of Christian importance and it was formerly recognized by Christians until the seventh century (and even historically until the time of the Crusades) as a most prominent Christian site that was singled out in the Gospel of John as a “Rock” that dealt directly with the mission of Christ Jesus to this earth. The early Christians, Jews and Muslims knew this. The reason the Dome was built by Abd al-Malik in 692 A.D. was to direct Christians away from that “Rock” and to orient them toward the newly constructed Al Aqsa Mosque (which they reckoned to be the re-christened Muslim Temple of Solomon) that was located near the south wall of the Haram esh-Sharif. This in turn was intended to further lead Christians directly toward the City of Mecca where Allah (the Arabic for “God”) now had symbolic residence.

To understand why the Dome of the Rock was built by Abd al-Malik, we first have to understand how Muslims looked (and still look) upon the significance of their central shrine in Mecca that is shaped as a cube (as was the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple). That holy building of the Muslims contains the black meteorite stone that the ancient Arabs used to worship in their pagan days but which Muhammad placed in the southeast corner of his building called the Ka’aba toward which all Muslims must pray five times a day (and, if possible, visit on pilgrimage at least once). Wherever Muslims find themselves in the world, they must direct their prayers toward the Ka’aba in Mecca. When they go on their pilgrimage, they gather at the southeast angle of the cube-style sanctuary. Though the ground level design is a perfect square, the building is angled so that the corner where the meteorite stone is located is just south of east (at about 100 degrees in direction). The required circumambulation (walking or trotting around) the building begins opposite this stone with the people at first facing north toward the region of the heavens to which all biblical peoples believed God dwelt in His heavenly abode (Psalm 75:6). The Muslim ritual at the Ka’aba has profound astronomical (that is, astrological) significance and it is designed to mimic the motions of the inner and outer planets within our solar system. The Temple at Jerusalem had a similar astronomical basis but with an entirely different liturgical motif. There was in both sanctuaries deep symbolism involved and what was ritualistically accomplished was of religious value.

What did Muslim pilgrims perform at the Ka’aba in Mecca? In the monumental work by Sir Richard Francis Burton in the last century (who was the first Christian or European to clandestinely enter the sacred area of Mecca and describe it in detail), we are informed of the liturgical factors that Muslims were expected to perform when they made their pilgrimage to Mecca. They were to assemble at the southeast corner of the Ka’aba and face northward. Each person’s left shoulder was always to be toward the building housing the meteorite stone (idol) as they circle the structure in a counterclockwise fashion (this is the same manner the Jews entered the Temple and exited it). They are required to circle the building seven times (the first three with a slow pace “like walking in sand” and the last four with a faster pace). This represents the movements of the heavenly bodies. The three outer planets as viewed from the earth (Saturn, Jupiter and Mars) move slowly in the heavens relative to the fixed stars, while the inner celestial bodies (Sun, Mercury, Venus and Moon) appear to move faster. In early astrological view, the earth was believed to be the center of the universe with Saturn being the furthest planet away from earth, with Jupiter nearer and Mars nearer still. Then came the Sun, Mercury, Venus and the nearest of all was the Moon. Thus, the first circuit of the Ka’aba was in honor of Saturn, the second Jupiter and on through to the seventh, the Moon. The last circuit symbolically confirmed the pilgrims as being true Muslims and their astronomical symbol became the Moon (the Moon was singled out in the seventh circuit of the Ka’aba). At the end of the seventh circling (and after having recited certain prescribed prayers at various points in their seven circlings), the Muslim pilgrims found themselves back at the place they started opposite the black stone and again facing north to where God was actually thought to have His residence in heaven. There was much mimicking by early Muslims of the Temple rituals performed in Jerusalem by the Jews as demanded in the Scriptures and in Jewish tradition. Muhammad kept the same themes in his ritualistic interpretations. This is important to know in viewing the architectural design of the Dome of the Rock and the ritual focus intended by Abd al-Malik.

The “Rock” at the Dome of the Rock Was of Christian Value, NOT Jewish or Muslim

The “Rock” under the Dome of the Rock is the most conspicuous natural feature within the whole of the Haram esh-Sharif. For anyone to build a magnificent shrine over it shows that the “Rock” must have had great significance. And it did. The first Christian pilgrim that has left us a record of his journey to Jerusalem was the Bordeaux Pilgrim who in 333 A.D. mentioned that the most significant building east of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (then being built) was the Roman Praetorium where Pilate sentenced Jesus. This structure had its walls centered directly within the Tyropoeon Valley. This was NOT the site of the Temple in the eyes of the Bordeaux Pilgrim. He had already described the Temple site (and several other buildings around it) a few paragraphs before. But only later (after concluding his account of the Temple and its associated buildings) did the Bordeaux Pilgrim mention the imposing structure to the east of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with its walls within the valley which he called the Praetorium where Pilate judged Jesus (see John Wilkinson’s excellent translation of the Bordeaux Pilgrim in his book Egeria’s Travels, p.158). Clearly, the Pilgrim was describing the Haram esh-Sharif as being the Praetorium. He was looking mainly toward the southwest angle of the Haram and northward toward the spot where the “Wailing Wall” of the Jews is presently located. The Pilgrim said this “walled area” contained the residence of Pilate. It was the Roman Praetorium that also went by the name of “Fort Antonia.” In Roman usage, the Praetorium was the headquarters of a military unit and could refer to the whole camp or to the commander’s tent. There was associated with the military fort a prominent “Rock” The apostle John was well aware of its significance in Christian history. Within this walled enclosure of the Praetorium was the “Rock” called in John’s Gospel (John 19:13) “the Pavement-Stone” (in Greek, lithostrotos and in HebrewGabbatha).

This particular “Rock” within the Praetorium area had a “Pavement” or flagstones around it. The “Rock” was associated with the Praetorium and was part of Fort Antonia, the permanent Roman Camp that was located in Jerusalem in the time of Pilate and Jesus. And what did Josephus say (he was the Jewish historian of the first century and an eyewitness to the early Praetorium of the Romans called Fort Antonia)? He stated that the central feature of Fort Antonia was a major rock. He said: “The tower of Antonia…was built upon [around] a rock fifty cubits high and on all sides precipitous…the rock was covered from its base upwards with smooth flagstones” (Jewish War, V.v,8 para.238). Before construction of the fortress, the “Rock” was 50 cubits high (75 feet), but Herod later built a platform around it (when it became the north/south center of the walled fortress) and this made it not as high and it became accessible for judicial purposes. That “Rock” around which Fort Antonia was built (and mentioned by Josephus) was the chief geographical feature of the site. It was near this “Rock” that Pilate had his residence at the time of Jesus’ trial. Later Christians believed that some indentions in that “Rock” must have come from the footprints of Jesus as he stood before Pilate and God supposedly allowed his feet to sink into the “Rock.” Though these indentions were not the actual footprints of Jesus (a great deal of Christian folklore became associated with the “Rock”), early Christians came to believe they were the literal outlines of Jesus’ feet. It is easy to explain how this conclusion came to be associated with the “Rock” under the Dome of the Rock.

The so-called footprints came into vogue when later Christians noticed in the New Testament that a “Judgment Seat” was placed by Pilate on the “Rock” (called in Greek abematos). That word comes from the root word bema that literally means footprint, or by common usage a footstool where a king or a ruler in judgment would place his feet when he sat on a throne in order to sentence people in any official judicial event. Indeed, even the throne of God was reckoned in the Bible as a spot where God placed His feet below the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple when He sat or stood to make His divine judgments (Psalms 99:5; 132:7; Lamentations 2:1). Each military governor of the Romans carried his official bema or bematos with him in order to make his judgments on behalf of the emperor, and Julius Caesar carried one with him everywhere he went in order to render official judgments (see “Praetorium,” Hasting’s Bible Dictionary). Later Christians simply confused the literal meaning of bema [footprint] and the indentions they saw in the natural outcropping of rock became “Jesus’ footprints.” Though this was error, the reckoning became an indelible identifying mark associated with the “Rock” where Pilate made his judgment against Jesus. This “Rock” (called “the Pavement” by the apostle John) was well known in the time of Constantine. The records show that Helena, the mother of Constantine, ordered that a small Christian Church with the name “St.Cyrus and St.John” be built over that “Rock” (see Life of Constantine in Wilkinson’s Jerusalem Pilgrims Before the Crusades, p. 204). This small church was later enlarged probably in the fifth century to become a major church in Jerusalem called “The Church of the Holy Wisdom.” This church is described very well (and accurately) in a sixth century work written by the Piacenza Pilgrim. He said (with words in brackets mine):

“We also prayed at the Praetorium, where the Lord’s case was heard: what is there now is the basilica of Saint Sophia [the Holy Wisdom Church], which is in front [north] of the Temple of Solomon [located] below the street [east and downslope] which runs down to the spring of Siloam outside of Solomon’s porch [the eastern wall of Solomon’s Temple]. In this basilica is the seat where Pilate sat to hear the Lord’s case, and there is also the oblong stone [I emphasize this point about the “oblong stone” to help identify the spot] which used to be in the center of the Praetorium [the Praetorium tent was moveable]. The accused person whose case was being heard was made to mount this stone so that everyone could hear and see him. The Lord mounted it when he was heard by Pilate, and his footprints [italicized for emphasis] are still on it. He had a well-shaped foot, small and delicate.”

This Church of the Holy Wisdom (which the Pilgrim had just described) was built over “the oblong stone” which the people thought had the footprints of Jesus embedded in it. Just as Josephus stated that the “Rock” was the most prominent part of Fort Antonia [thePraetorium area], so this “oblong stone” was the central feature of the Church of the Holy Wisdom (that was destroyed by the Persians and Jewish soldiers in 614 A.D.). This is the same “Rock” that is now under the Dome of the Rock in the Haram esh-Sharif. The fact that later Christians thought the footprints of Jesus were embedded in this “Rock,” is a key for identification. There are historical references both Christian and Muslim that attest that the “Rock” over which the Dome of the Rock now stands was the same “Rock or Stone” that had the footprints of Jesus inlayed as foot-like depressions sunk into the “Rock.” Indeed, even as late as the period of the Crusades we read that the court recorder of Saladin (the Muslim who reconquered Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187 A.D.) made mention that Jesus’ footprints had been embedded in the “Rock” underneath the Dome of the Rock (see article “Saladin” in Brill’s First Encyclopaedia of Islam). There are several other Muslim references to these footprints of Jesus in the “Rock” under the Dome of the Rock that I have present in a more extended context in my new book “The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot.” In fact, in the book I will show in a future article that those footprints of Jesus were sawed away from the “Rock” and placed in a location within the Haram esh-Sharif about 200 yards north of the Dome of the Rock. This later fact is a most interesting and important aspect of the story.

In short, there can be no doubt of the identification. The “Rock” of the Dome of the Rock (which is clearly oblong in shape) and the “oblong stone” within the Church of the Holy Wisdom were one and the same “Rock/Stone.” Sophronius, the Archbishop of Jerusalem in the time of Omar when the Muslims first conquered Jerusalem, called the Church of the Holy Wisdom (when it was yet standing before its destruction in 614 A.D.) as “the House and the Stone” (Sophronius, Antacroeontica as translated by John Wilkinson in Jerusalem Pilgrims Before the Crusades, p.91). This fact shows that Sophronius saw great significance in the “Rock/ Stone.” That “Rock” that later became the spot for the Dome of the Rock to Sophronius was the very stone called “the Pavement” mentioned in John 19:13 (rendered in Greek as the Lithostrotos, and in Hebrew Gabbatha).

Why the Dome of the Rock Was Built by Abd al-Malik in 692 A.D.

During the first hundred years of Muslim rule in Jerusalem (since more than 90% of the population was Christian) was one of conciliation and ecumenism between Muslims and Christians and between Muslims and Jews. This does not mean that the Muslims wanted to embrace some of the teachings of Christianity. The Muslims abhorred what they believed to be outright idolatry among Christians with their statues, pictures and pagan practices within the Christian community, but they still thought in this early period that they could wean Christians away from their religious beliefs unto the new Islam that God had now revealed to the world by Muhammad. This was the central reason why Abd al-Malik first devised and designed the building called the Dome of the Rock to be built over the Christian spot where once the Church of the Holy Wisdom had stood. His attempt was ecumenical in its spiritual intent, but still to show the superiority of Islam over what Abd al-Malik believed to be a decadent type of Christianity. The fact is, the Dome of the Rock was built exclusively to vie with (and to appeal to) Christians in Jerusalem to accept the new truth of Islam which was (in the Muslim view) a major advance in proper religious interpretation that the “Peoples of the Book” (the Christians and Jews) ought to have enough sense to accept. And though Jews were also accounted as being “People of the Book,” the construction of the Dome of the Rock was NOT intended in any manner to influence Jews. After all, Jews would NOT have reckoned as important a “Rock” that was exclusively a Christian religious site because it was identified with “the Pavement” recorded in the Gospel of John (John 19:13). In a word, Abd al-Malik and the early Muslims felt they could effectively (in an intellectual and philosophical way) convince Christians that Islam was correct by constructing the Dome of the Rock and to include within it a message from Islam that would glorify Muslim theology.

So, Abd al-Malik set out in 692 A.D. to woo the Christians to Islam. What he did was to rebuild in the exact spot and in the precise form “The Church of the Holy Wisdom” that had been destroyed by the Persians and Jews in 614 A.D. (and he desired it to have as much architectural grandeur as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre). He then built what looked like a grand Byzantine “Church” directly over the very “Rock” that Christians believed contained the footprints of Jesus. Abd al-Malik did not design the Dome of the Rock as a Muslim type of building. He wanted it to appear as a rebuilt Church of the Holy Wisdom (the reason for this I will explain in my new book on the Temples). The Muslim Caliph designed the building to be like a “Church,” but one that contained the new and advanced teaching of Islam. Within this new (or renewed) “Church,” Abd al-Malik placed two inscriptions in Arabic. One was to Muslims in general (the outer inscription), and the other was exclusively for Christians (the inner inscription next to the “Rock” itself). That inner inscription specifically mentions Jesus and the supposed errors of some Christian doctrines. Abd al-Malik was appealing exclusively to Christians by emphasizing this Christian holy spot through Muslim eyes, NOT to Jews who did not yet accept Jesus as the Messiah as did Muslims and Christians. And in attempting to wean the Christians from their former beliefs unto the new Islam, Abd al-Malik used every architectural artifice and symbolic nuance he knew in a brilliant maneuver to woo the Christians of Jerusalem to accept Islam in a non-offensive way. He did so with a deliberate and steadfast allegiance to Muhammad that made Islam the dominant religion for all mankind, including those who then accepted Christianity.

One must carefully notice every architectural device used by Abd al-Malik to see what his intentions were and they must be minutely observed with utmost precision to the dotting of an “I” to the crossing of a “T.” Every detail of the architecture that the Caliph designed was meant to systematically lead Christians (NOT Jews, in this case) to the advanced teachings of Islam as he believed them to be. And what a master he was in his endeavor! Though he built the Dome of the Rock as a facsimile of the Church of the Holy Wisdom (there was NOT the slightest intention on the part of Abd al-Malik to give heed to ANY JEWISH PERSON OR EDIFICE WHATEVER in the architectural design of the Dome of the Rock), he changed the entrance to the octagonal building from its original design with its entrance on the west. Abd al-Malik deliberately altered the entrance to Dome of the Rock to be from the south. This is most UN-Muslim! The ideal for those north of Mecca is (like the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem) to enter from the north and pray toward the qibla (the direction to Mecca) in the south. Not so the Dome of the Rock! Abd al-Malik designed it to be entered from the south with one’s back to Mecca (at the start of the liturgical theme)! Why do we know this? Because the two inscriptions in Arabic (containing vital information from cardinal verses in the Koran and also a religious commentary by Abd al-Malik himself as the successor of Muhammad) are a direct appeal to Muslims in general (the outer inscription) and then to Christians exclusively (the inner inscription that is written closer to the “Rock”). A significant feature of the inner inscription is the fact that it can only be read with one’s back to the “Rock.” This was intended to give a negative emotional reaction to the reader of the inscription that the architecture was designed to evoke. The inner inscription was not designed to be read by Jews who did not believe in Jesus in the first place (like the Muslims and Christians). The writings on the cornice were to give definite and decisive positive and negative psychological impressions through liturgical and ritualistic themes that Abd al-Malik designed into the architecture. Again (and it is important to note) the Caliph did NOT address any Jews nor did he show the slightest interest in Jewish matters or religious beliefs when he designed the Dome of the Rock. He built the Dome of the Rock to appeal strictly to Christians, NOT Jews! [To read what the two inscriptions state in English, read the excellent translations with outstanding pictures and explanatory text in Professor Oleg Grabar’s book titled The Shape of the Holy.]

A Historical Review of What Happened Surrounding the Site of the “Rock.”

In 638 A.D., when Omar (the Second Caliph) went to Jerusalem, he asked Sophronius the archbishop to show him where King David had prayed before the building of the Temple. Omar said he wished to pray in the same spot. Sophronius showed him, first, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which Omar rejected. Then Sophronius took the Caliph to the traditional Zion on the southwest hill. Omar rejected that spot too. Then, when Omar stated that he wished to build a shrine at the place where David prayed, Sophronius then took him to the place over and near the Gihon Spring where the Jews had attempted to rebuild the Temple in the time of Constantine (as permitted in the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. and with construction continuing to 325 A.D.) and also in the time of Julian the Apostate (362 A.D.). At that former Temple site over the Gihon Spring, Omar was impressed. He dug through the filth and found a stone that he removed and took it through the South Gate of the Haram esh-Sharif. There he placed it near the qibla [the site toward which Muslim pray as they bow toward Mecca] on the elevated platform directly abutting the southern wall. He called the place the Al Aqsa (and a Mosque was soon built there). But one of Omar’s generals named Ka’ab (a recent convert from Judaism who had extensive Christian indoctrination) found the place of the “Rock” where the former Church of the Holy Wisdom once stood. He told Omar that it would be better to place the qibla NORTH of this “Rock” and NOT down at the southern end of the Haram. Omar rejected this suggestion of Ka’ab and chided the general for making such a suggestion. That would have given much prestige to that “Rock” in the north, and Omar steadfastly refused. He turned his back on that “Rock” where the Christian church once stood, and went back south to the qibla of the Al Aqsa area. The truth is, Omar (in his role as the Second Caliph and the divine successor of Muhammad in Muslim theology) totally rejected that northern “Rock.” And later, Abd al-Malik wanted to show a further rejection by building the Dome over that northern “Rock” some fifty years afterwards.

Let me explain how this rejection is designed into the Dome. The original entrance designed by Abd al-Malik was from the southern most octant of the octagonal design. Once a person entered the Dome, he was directed to read the start of the first inscription that was located at the top of the cornice on the far right side of the southern octant. Since Arabic (like Hebrew) is written from right to left, the first inscription contained no message for Christians and it was meant for Muslims in general. To read the whole inscription one must start with one’s back to Mecca (this is important to note), but then circle around the whole of the Dome clockwise (just the opposite from what Muslims do in circling the Ka’aba at Mecca) until one comes to the exact spot where one commenced his reading (when one returns to this southern point the person can conveniently turn his back to the “Rock” and pray directly toward Mecca in the south). The design of the outer message is to circle the “Rock” in the wrong direction (which gives a negative impression to any early Muslim, Jew or Christian). But the complete encirclement requires one to return to the south once again and the person is forced to face Mecca when one leaves the Dome with one’s back to the “Rock” as Omar insisted one must do (and Abd al-Malik designed this symbolic stance – with one’s back to the “Rock” – into the liturgy associated with the architecture of the Dome of the Rock).

The inner inscription is different. One must go further into the Dome to the other side of the same cornice and look upward at the same southern octant, but to its far-left side if one is facing the “Rock” (indeed, one must look at its far left side only when facing the “Rock” itself, but inside the inner area of the Dome one must look southerly and also upwards at the start of the inscription which will be seen on one’s upper right side – this requires a person to have his back to the “Rock” and looking toward Mecca). To read the inner inscription one must crane the neck upward to see the start of the inscription that is circling and facing the “Rock.” One then begins to read the inscription in Arabic devoted strictly to Christians (NOT to Jews) because the whole emphasis of the message is about the importance of Jesus in Muslim theology. One must read this inscription which completely encircles the Dome (like the outer one in the opposite direction), but one must do so in a counterclockwise manner as one does at Mecca (a positive sign) but this time with one’s back to the “Rock” (another positive sign from a Muslim point of view, and a negative one as Christians would view it).

Now note this important point. All the time a Christian is reading the teaching from Abd al-Malik in the inner inscription, he has to do so with his back deliberately turned away from the “Rock” and with his head craned upward in the most uncomfortable position that one can imagine. The whole anatomical awkwardness forced upon the human observer is a deliberate attempt to show disdain for the symbolic meaning that Christians had placed on the “Rock.” The original symbolism for Christians was different. The Christian entered the Domed Church from the west and looked eastward toward the Mount of Olives. Once the circuit of the “Rock” was made, the Christian could again look through the “Rock” eastward toward Olivet in symbolic anticipation for the Second Advent (Christ is to come back from the east – as the sun in its circuit of the earth).

However, Abd al-Malik designed the Dome of the Rock to be entered from the southern octant. But even if a Christian entered from the south (as designed by Abd al-Malik), though his circuit around the “Rock” would be all negative to Christianity because his or her back would always be away from the “Rock” (while reading the inner inscription), the Christian upon completing the circuit could simply refuse to face Mecca when his circuit ended in the south. He could then turn directly northward and pray through the “Rock” (which symbolized the rule of Christ in his or her life) and direct his ultimate attention to the north quarter of the sky where all people knew God the Father had His residence. If Abd al-Malik saw a Christian do this after the circuit deposited the person in the south, then Abd al-Malik knew that the person would never be a Muslim and the Christian would be accepted as a “Person of the Book” (the Holy Scriptures) but inferior to Muslims. Thus, the person would then pay the poll tax to the Muslims and carry on with his own beliefs.

Still, when one completed the circuit by reading either the outer or the inner inscription in order to exit the Dome of the Rock as intended by Abd al-Malik, the person is forced to face directly toward Mecca. But there is one other thing. The person is also facing directly toward the Al Aqsa Mosque established by Omar the Second Caliph, and directly through the former site of the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s Temple (because the Muslims knew then where Solomon’s Temple was formerly located over the Gihon Spring). The prayer of the Muslim would transverse Solomon’s Temple and focus onward to the Ka’aba in Mecca. Every device imaginable was used by Abd al-Malik in his building of the Dome of the Rock to direct people (both Muslims and Christians) AWAY FROM any significance of the “Rock” (just as Omar had demanded when he was first in Jerusalem). This is because it was well known in the seventh century that the “Rock” was actually a Christian holy spot.

What is most important for us of modern times to realize is the fact that the site of the “Rock” under the Dome of the Rock is purely and simply a Christian holy place (before the time of Omar and Abd al-Malik), and it did not become a Muslim holy site until many folklore traditions about the “Night Journey” of Muhammad began to be associated with the “Rock” from the eighth century on to the time of the Crusades. I explain in my book “The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot” how the many Muslim mythic accounts (which were outright fables and lies that even Muslim historians admit to be so) erroneously got attached to the “Rock” under the Dome of the Rock. As for the Jews, NO JEW showed any interest whatever in the “Rock” and the Dome of the Rock until the time of the First Crusade. This is a fact! For more information see further articles on this subject on our ASK Web Site.

So, the Dome of the Rock was built over a prime Christian holy place (where the Church of the Holy Wisdom was once situated). Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock with the intended purpose of getting Christians to forget the “Rock” on which Jesus was judged at the time of Pilate. Abd al-Malik wanted Christians to abandon the Christian significance to the “Rock” by having them turn their “backs” on it and he wanted Christians to convert to Islam and then to focus on the Ka’aba stone where Muslims supposed Abraham erected at Mecca in Arabia for the true worship of God. My book “The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot” provides more details to this important historical fact.

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The Temple in Jerusalem was not located over the Dome of the Rock:

The Temple in Jerusalem was not located over the Dome of the Rock:

Solomon built the temple on the threshing floor David bought. The Dome of the rock is the highest point of the temple mount. Threshing floors were never built on hills, but in curved valleys, like directly under the Al Kas Fountain. Under the dome of the Rock, was where the Fortress of Antonia stood. In 135 AD, Hadrian filled in about 50 feet of earth over top of where the temple stood and enlarged the temple mount and built a temple of Jupiter where we see the Dome of the rock today. In 325 AD Contanstine tore down the Temple of Jupiter and assumed Hadrian built the temple of Jupiter on top of the spot where the temple of Solomon once stood. Constantine built an octagon church on the site. In 700 AD the Muslims found the foundations of Constanine’s octagon church and built the dome of the Rock we see today.


  1. The most popular view is that the temple was located over the Dome of the Rock.
  2. Leen Ritmeyer in 1994 used a small rectangular shaped hollow carved out of the Dome of the Rock as the actual resting place for the Ark of the Covenant.
  3. Joseph Patrich in 2007 placed the temple to line up with “cistern 3” and “cistern 5” in the 1864 AD map by Charles Wilson and Charles Warren. This of course, gives the temple a noticeable south east orientation at “9° north of west”. With the input of Leen Ritmeyer, Patrich moved the temple east so that half of the “Rock” was outside the temple.
  4. We are not sure if Leen Ritmeyer has abandoned his 1994 AD theory or if he believes Patrich’s new theory is more likely.
  5. Both theories of Ritmeyer and Patrich are based upon rather random superficial features since one can find almost any angle as a reference point for some reason on the Temple mount. Ritmeyer focused on a small rectangular carved out chunk of the Rock (under the Dome) and Patrich focused on the “9° north of west” of cisterns 3 & 5 to orient the temple. Both theories could have been deduced with the Wilson/Warren map, a good photograph of the “Rock” under the dome, a kitchen table and a bit of speculative imagination.
  6. Kaufman notes all these angles in his 1983 AD theory that the temple was located over the Dome of the Tablets. Joseph Patrich’s “new theory” is based upon little more than recycled speculation that could be deduces by little more than looking at “cistern 3” on Wilson’s and Warren’s 1864 AD map, combined with Kaufman’s 1983 AD angle calculations.
  7. It is likely that none of the current visible features of the Temple Mount relate in any way to the Herodian temple, since we know that the current temple mount is about 50 feet higher than it was in Jesus’ day. Looking at the 1864 AD field notes of Charles Wilson and Charles Warren, we can see that none of the “cisterns” were deeper than 50 feet, except for cisterns 7 and 11, which were 60 feet deep. If we remove this 50 feet, none of the current cisterns existed in Jesus time, but were built after the destruction of Jerusalem.

A. Charles Wilson’s work in 1864 AD:

  1. Charles Wilson was able to do much work on the temple mount and map caverns, cisterns and caves.
  2. See more: 1864 AD field notes of Charles Wilson and Charles Warren
  3. Here is the plan of Charles Warren and Charles Wilson:
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  4. Their drawing of the Dome of the Rock in 1864 AD:
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B. Joseph Patrich’s theory:

  1. Joseph Patrich of Hebrew University announced in February 2007, a modified “south east diagonal position” was announced for the Temple located over the Dome of the Rock.
  2. The new non-east orientation of the Holy of Holies was based upon maps of ancient cisterns below the present Temple Mount platform drawn by Sir Charles Wilson 1866 AD and descriptions in the Jewish Mishnah, the rabbinical oral tradition compiled in the 3rd century A.D.
  3. This new theory is based upon a cistern located near the southeast corner of the Temple Mount, has an unusual orientation with dimensions of about 15 feet wide x 170 feet long x 45 feet deep with branches extending north and south. Joseph Patrich said, “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.” The theory is also based upon the Mishnah description of how the priests would ceremonially cleanse themselves with water before working at the alter of burnt offerings. The Mishnah says that water wheel was used to transfer water from a cistern into a laver where the priests would wash themselves according to the law of Moses.

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C. Leen Ritmeyer’s 1984 AD theory: “that rectangular carved depression”
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  1. Notice the small (red on map) rectangular shape in the Rock. Ritmeyer believes this carved out hollow is a remnant of where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. Ritmeyer moved the footprint of the temple to make this rectangle cut out to be dead center in the Holy of Holies, but outside the footprint of the Dome of the Rock.
  2. Ritmeyer admits that the Crusaders mutilated the rock in 1099 AD and placed a marble floor on it. Ritmeyer reasons that the crusaders would not trouble themselves to carve out this rectangular depression if they were going to cover it up with a marble floor. Its the same reasoning as to why we do not put three coats of decorator paint on walls we intend to immediately wallpaper over. But while this explanation fits, it is highly speculative and uncertain.
  3. But before the Crusaders laid the floor, Ritmeyer admits they also dug out caves underneath, the covered the cave openings with a floor. During this rather extensive “construction” the Crusaders could have carved out the rectangular section as a temporarily place for a “statue” that was out of the way of “construction zone”, but still on the rock. This is equally speculative and uncertain but it also works.
  4. Then of course, we have no way of knowing if the early Muslims carved out this rectangular section when Caliph Abd al-Malik built the dome of the rock in 687 AD. After all the rock marks the very spot where Muhammad made his Miraaj (Night Journey) into heaven (Qur’an 17:1). This Islamic myth, (Muhammad was never actually physically in Jerusalem) recorded in the Qur’an 50 years after Muhammad died, may have been why they carved out the rectangular section. Perhaps it was just a block of rock set in place as a seat where Islamic pilgrims could sit to meditate while viewing the exact center portion of the rock where Muhammad “launched into heaven from”. This nicely explains why the carved depression was not in the center, but off to one side.
  5. We feel that a better and more likely explanation of this small (red on map) rectangular carved shape in the Rock is off center is because it was carved by those who built the temple of Jupiter under the oversight of Hadrian in 135 AD. Tuvia Sagiv believes that both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque were built on the remnants of the temple of Jupiter which the Muslims wrongly assumed were the Jewish Temple. If the Dome was the former site of the Temple of Jupiter, you would expect the idol to be set up near the rear of the room and center, and this is exactly what we see today. Notice that the north/south center line lines up the Dome of the Rock, the rectangular carved shape in the rock, with the Al-Aqsa mosque. You can draw a line through the dome and the Al-Aqsa mosque and it exactly hits the small (red on map) rectangular carved shape in the Rock.
    Click to View

Leen Ritmeyer’s view explained:

(Excerpt from: Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out)

Has Archaeology Found the Place of the Ark?

Ever since the Babylonian captivity 2,500 years ago, the exact location of the Ark has been unknown. Although rumors persist that the Ark of the Covenant has been located here or there, no archaeological evidence has been produced to substantiate any of the claims. However, we may now be able to figure out where the Ark once rested within the ancient Holy of Holies. If, as we saw in the previous chapter, it is possible to deduce the location of the Temple building and its Holy of Holies, then it might be possible to locate where the Ark once was placed within this structure. According to ancient sources such as Josephus and the Mishnah tractate Middot, the Ark had rested on a bedrock platform. In Jewish tradition, this platform was called `Even Ha-Shetiyah (“the Foundation Stone”), and in Arabic, es-Sakhra (“the Rock”). According to research done by Leen Ritmeyer, former chief architect of the Temple Mount excavations and today director of Ritmeyer Archaeological Design in England, the huge rock within the present-day Islamic Dome of the Rock has to be the bedrock platform within the Holy of Holies. Ritmeyer explains how he came to this determination:

“It took me 20 years to figure it out. I was convinced that the Temple must have stood here somewhere. I started to look at the measurements of the Rock and the interior measurements of the Temple. We know that the interior measurements of the Temple were 20 cubits wide. The Holy [Place] was 40 cubits long and the Holy of Holies was 20 by 20 cubits. If you use the measurements of the 500 cubits measurements from the Mishnah it would measure 10.5 meters [34 feet] thereabouts. Comparing that with the size of the Rock, the Rock is larger than the Holy of Holies. Yet, the Mishnah [Yoma 5:2] says that this stone is called `Even Ha-Shetiyah, “the Foundation Stone.” Why would they call it the Foundation Stone? Because if the Holy of Holies was smaller than the Rock, then the Rock would have served as a foundation for at least one of the Tem-ples. With that information in mind, I started looking closer at the Rock for a foundation.” (Transcript from annual meeting of the Near Eastern Archeological society, Nov 20, 1996, Jacksonville, Miss.)

Ritmeyer’s look at the Rock began first by eliminating the signs of Crusader quarrying on the Rock, which in A.D. 1099had been captured from the Muslims and converted into a Christian church called Templum Domini (“the Temple of the Lord”). He attributed cuts in the Rock on the north, south, and west sides to their actions. The Crusaders thought that the rock disfigured the Temple of the Lord and shaped it into what they believed was a more acceptable size, then built an altar on top of the Rock. In 1187, when the caliph Saladin recaptured the Dome of the Rock for the Muslims, they found it covered with marble slabs. Upon removing the slabs they found that the Rock had been mutilated. This mutilation included the enlarging of a cave and some deep tunnels dug beneath the Rock, which may indicate that the Crusaders were trying to locate the suspected hiding place of the Ark. The natural cave below the Rock was identified by them as the Holy of Holies, where they commemorated the angel’s visit to Zacharias. They enlarged this cave in order to use it as a sanctuary, and because they burned candles and incense in the cave, it was necessary for them to cut a vertical shaft for ventilation (this formed the present hole in the Rock).

Thus, before the Crusaders disfigured the Rock, the upper level would have been larger and flatter. Ritmeyer then measured the flat areas in the southern part of the Rock, which he identified as foundation trenches. Their combined dimensions agreed perfectly with the known thickness of the walls of the Second Temple (6 cubits or 10 feet and 4 inches). This foundation trench revealed the location of the southern wall of the Holy of Holies. The back wall would then have rested against the unchangeable natural rockscarp to the west. The northern wall would have been adjacent to the northern end of the Rock itself. This placement of the walls also agreed with Ritmeyer’s earlier calculations about the placement of the original Temple platform. He found that the direction of the western scarp was virtually identical to that of the steps, which he had identified previously, and the eastern wall of the Temple Mount. So, the First and Second Temples would have had the same orientation -the longitudinal axis of the Temple at right angles with the eastern wall. This axis is also aligned with the highest point on the Mount of Olives, where the sacrifice of the red heifer (necessary for ritual purification-Numbers 19) took place. This became a further confirmation to Ritmeyer of his location of the Temple.

The Site of the Ark Discovered

Having identified these structures, Ritmeyer began looking for additional clues to position the Holy of Holies. He tells the story of how this identification was first realized:

“Once I began to research this problem in the Spring of 1994, the secrets of the Sakhra revealed themselves to me in such rapid succession that it was sometimes breathtaking. While flying to Israel, 30,000 feet high in the air, I got my first glimpse of the most spectacular of all the discoveries, namely that of the former location of the Ark of the Covenant! Averting my gaze from the in-flight video, I took out a large photograph of the Sakhra from my briefcase and tried to trace again those flat areas, which, of course, were familiar to me as foundation trenches…. I sketched over the flat areas on the photograph of the Sakhra the line of the southern wall of the Holy of Holies….I drew the western edge of the Rock and the northern wall at the northern end of the exposed rock…. I also drew a dotted line where the veil, which separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy [Place], would have hung. I did not expect to find any remains as no wall had existed there. I then suddenly noticed in the middle of this square a dark rectangle! What could it be? The first thing that came to mind was, of course, the [place of the] Ark of the Covenant, which once stood in the centre of the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple. But that surely could not be true, I thought…. [However,] according to my plan, it falls exactly in the centre of the Holy of Holies. The dimensions of this level basin agree with those of the Ark of the Covenant, which were 1.5 x 2.5 cubits (2’7″ x 4’4″ or 79 cm. x 131 cm.), with the longitudinal axis coinciding with that of the Temple. Its location is rather unique, as it could only have been the place where the Ark of the Covenant once stood. It is clear that without such a flat area the Ark would have wobbled about in an undignified manner, which would not conceivably have been allowed.” (Leen Ritmeyer, The temple and the Rock, 1996, p24, 24, 41)

According to Ritmeyer, then, this depression in the Rock served as a base to secure the Ark within the Holy of Holies. It could not have been created by the Crusaders because they covered the Rock with slabs to hide it, and would have placed a statue (in such a base) in the middle of the Rock, not at the north of the Rock (where the depression would have been at that time). (cf. Leen Ritmeyer, The Ark of the Covenant, where it stood in Solomon’s temple, Biblical Archeological Review Jan/Feb 1996; Leen Ritmeyer, Locating the Original Temple Mount, Biblical Archeological Review Mar/Apr 1992)

We can summarize Ritmeyer’s research in the accompanying diagram, which he drew. Litmeyer was invited to comment on his error in the compass bearing on his drawing, but never replied.

Click to View

It depicts a north-south section through the Herodian Temple Mount and its Courts in relation to the present-day Dome of the Rock. One can see the original bedrock designated “Sakhra,” which was the highest point on Mount Moriah-where Abraham had offered Isaac and the Angel of the Lord had stood in the days of King David. Inside is the natural cave from Solomon’s time; the western scarp of which is where the western wall would have been built. The floor of the Holy of Holies has an indented area where the Ark of the Covenant would have been placed in Solomon’s Temple. While it’s impossible to archaeologically investigate the Rock to confirm Ritmeyer’s conclusions, if he is correct, we now have for the first time identified the site of the Holy of Holies and of the former location of the Ark of the Covenant itself. In this case, the stone of stones has shouted with evidence that the Ark existed! (Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out, 1997, p211-217)


  1. Hadrian did such a good job of hiding the temple mount, it is still hidden to this day.
  2. The Dome of the rock is the highest point of the temple mount. Threshing floors were never built on hills, but in curved valleys, like directly under the Al Kas Fountain.
  3. Under the dome of the Rock, was where the Fortress of Antonia stood.
  4. In 135 AD, Hadrian filled in about 50 feet of earth over top of where the temple stood and enlarged the temple mount and built a temple of Jupiter where we see the Dome of the rock today. In 325 AD Contanstine tore down the Temple of Jupiter and assumed Hadrian built the temple of Jupiter on top of the spot where the temple of Solomon once stood.
  5. Constantine built an octagon church on the site. In 700 AD the Muslims found the foundations of Constanine’s octagon church and built the dome of the Rock we see today.

Is the Temple Location Really South of the Dome of the Rock?

Is the Temple Location Really South of the Dome of the Rock?

Contender Ministries                                            

There are various theories as to the location of the Temple and the Holy of Holies, three of which are more common and have many very convincing evidences to support them.  The most popular and widely known theory is that the temple was located under the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  There are, however, two other well-supported theories that put the Temple either north of the Dome of the Rock or just south of the Dome of the Rock.  The third theory, placing the location of the temple south of the Dome of the Rock, is less well known than the other two, and for this reason will be the focus of this article.  This is not to say the southern conjecture is more correct than the other locations, only that it is worthy of further examination and raises interesting questions for those interested in Bible study and prophecy.  After examining the facts, it is up to each of us to come to our own conclusions as to which theory seems more likely.  After all, they are only theories and no concrete and conclusive evidence decisively points to one of them as the only possible location for the future temple that will be rebuilt prior to Christ’s return.

In his book The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot, Ernest L. Martin presents his thesis that both the first and second Jewish temples were located south of the presently accepted Dome of the Rock location.  His theory places the temple location in the ancient City of David over the Ophel Spring, and supports the belief that Jesus’ words when he predicted the complete destruction of the temple with “not a stone left on another” were literally fulfilled.1

Martin’s first proof of the location of the temple deals with the real location of Mount Zion.  Any modern map of Jerusalem will correctly show the true location of the original Mount Zion, or City of David, at the southern end of the southeastern ridge of Jerusalem.  Due to the efforts of W.F. Birch and the discovery in 1880 C.E. of the Hezekiahan inscription about the construction of the tunnel from the Gihon Spring to the southern end of the southeast ridge, the controversy over the location of “Zion” was finally settled.  It was then determined that the southeast ridge was the actual site of Mount Zion and this was the true City of David.  Dr. Martin contends that Jerusalem was built in ancient times around and over the Gihon Spring in order to have water form the only spring within a radius of five miles of the city.  Unfortunately, says Martin, while scholars recognized the true site of Zion, they did not consider the location of the Temple in this correction and still consider the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount to be the location of the first and second temple.  They do this, he says, in spite of the fact that many texts in the Bible identify “Zion” as equivalent to the “Temple”, and the Bible even indicates that the Temple was abutting to the northern side of the “City of David.”

Martin points to the Gihon Spring as his second proof for the southern location of the Temple.  The Gihon Spring is the only spring within the city limits of Jerusalem.  An eyewitness named Aristeas who viewed the Temple in about 285 B.C. stated that the Temple was located over an inexhaustible spring that welled up within the interior part of the Temple.2   The Roman historian Tacitus also gave a reference that the Temple at Jerusalem had within its precincts a natural spring of water that issued from its interior.3   Martin believes that this water source in the center of the Temple is the Gihon Spring south of the Dome of the Rock and on the southeastern ridge of Jerusalem.

The location of the Gihon Spring is also important.  Aristeas said that a peson could look northward from the top of the City of David and could easily witness all priestly activities within the Temple precincts.4   Martin points out that the area of the Dome of the Rock is 1000 feet north of the original City of David and is much too far away for anyone to look down into the courts of the Temple.  In addition, there has never been a natural water spring within the Haram esh-Sharif where the Dome of the Rock is located.

As was stated earlier Aristeas and Tacitus both stated that the Temple had an inexhaustible spring within its interior and the Gihon is the only spring in Jerusalem.  Martin also points out that spring water is mentioned in numerous ways throughout the Psalms as the “waters of salvation” that come from the Throne or House of God.  Spring waters were an essential part of Temple requirements and are to accompany any future Temple.  (See Ezekiel 47:1, Revelation 21:2-6; 22:1, 17)

Interestingly, we have an eyewitness account by Hecateus of Abdera written near the time of Alexander the Great that tells us that the Temple was located “nearly in the center of the City of David”.5  Josephus said that the “Lower City” which was once the site of the City of David was on a ridge shaped like a crescent moon.  The horns of this crescent pointed toward the Kidron Valley with the northern horn near the present southern wall of the Haram esh-Sharif and the southern horn just north of the confluence of the Valley of Hinnom.  The exact center of this cresent-shaped ridge would have been at the Ophel Mound directly over the Gihon Spring.1   The Bible even tells us that the Temple was located in the center of Jerusalem.

Psalm 116:18, 19 “I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord – in your midst(center), O Jerusalem, Praise the Lord.”  (In Hebrew, the English word rendered “midst” means “center” in geographical contexts and is so translated by several versions.)

Martin also says that the destruction of the Temple after the Jewish/Roman War of 66 to 70 A.D. puts the Temple location south of the Dome of the Rock over the Gihon Spring.  Jesus told his disciples, when describing the coming destruction of the Temple, that not one stone of the Temple and its support buildings would be left on top of another.

Matthew 21:1-2 “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.  “Do you see all these things?” He asked.  “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Martin presents eyewitness accounts of both Josephus and Titus (the Roman general who conducted the war against the Jews) who give the description of utter ruin and thorough destruction of Jerusalem.  Josephus and Titus mentioned that if they had not been in Jerusalem during the war and personally seen the demolition that took place, they would not have believed that there was once a city in the area. Josephus even described it as Jesus said it would be when he wrote of the destruction of Jerusalem following the war.

“It [Jerusalem] was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was nothing left to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited.”7  

Martin explains as Josephus did why every stone was turned over in the city.  It was customary for Jews to hide their gold and other valuables in the walls of their homes when their homes were threatened.  The Temple itself was also the treasury of the Jewish nation and when the fires consumed the Temple and the city, the gold that was hidden in the walls melted and descended into the cracks and crevices of the stone foundations of the Temple.  In order to recover the gold, the Roman army had the Jewish captives uproot every stone of the Temple and the whole of the City.  This left Jerusalem a land of dislodged and uprooted stones.

According to Martin, though the Temple was completely destroyed, one man-made construction did come through the war, and is still in use today as the complex where the Dome of the Rock was built.  This remaining building was used by the Tenth Legion after the war as their military headquarters when they remained behind to prevent any further revolutions.  An eyewitness, Eleazer, the leader of the last remnant of Jews in Masada who finally committed suicide rather than fall into the hands of General Silva of the Tenth Legion three years after the main war was over, said that the Temple then lay in ruins and the City of Jerusalem was utterly destroyed.  His comments follow:

“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: some unfortunate old men also lie upon the ashes of the Temple, and a few women are there preserved alive by the enemy [for prostitution purposes], for our bitter shame and reproach.” 8

The remaining building still left standing, according to Martin’s theory, was Fort Antonia, the fortress built by Herod the Great that was much larger than the Temple in size.  Josephus said it was as large as a city and could hold a full Legion of troops.  Josephus also said that Fort Antonia was built around a massive and prominent outcropping of rock that was a notable protective feature within its precincts.10   This description fits perfectly with the present Haram esh-Sharif and the Dome of the Rock now covering that significant outcropping of rock.  This rock was also called the Roman Praetorium and it was the place where Pilate sentenced Jesus to crucifixion.  The rock was a significant spot in the fortress, and even the apostle John singled it out for comment regarding the judgement of Jesus.  John called it the lithostrothon [a rock, on which people could stand and be judged,].11

Martin theorizes that the Haram esh-Sharif was built around this well known “rock outcropping” and was the only building with its four massive walls to survive the Jewish/Roman War.  The walls of Fort Antonio also make up what is now called the Wailing Wall and the rock in the center of the Dome of the Rock is not the Holy of Holies, but the rock on which Jesus stood when he was judged and sentenced to crucifixion.  Later Pilgrims to the area also identified this building as the Praetorium and not the Jewish Temple.  In fact, historical evidence shows that the rock under the Dome of the Rock was identified by people throughout the early Byzantine period and as late as the time of Saladin in 1187 C.E. as the site of the Praetorium, or the central part of Fort Antonia.  It was the former site of the Church of the Holy Wisdom (which enshrined the revered “oblong rock”) where Christians had long believed Pilate sentenced Jesus.  The feet of Jesus were believed to have stood on that very rock that the New Testament identified as the lithostrothon (John 19:13). 12  

Martin also points out that there was never a stationary rock associated with the Temples in any Bible scripture.  The most significant feature of the Temple in the Bible is that it should be built over a threshing floor (II Samuel 24:16, 18, 24).  In Hebrew, a threshing floor means just that, a leveled floor.

Another fact that seems to eliminate the possibility of a stationary rock within the temple is that the Holy of Holies was relocated further north each time the Temple platform was extended when the temple courtyards were made larger and larger over the centuries. History shows that the Holy of Holies moved each time the Temple was expanded.  The Sanctuary part of the Temple was first located 50 feet north of the south wall with the Holy of Holies in the center of that width in Solomon’s time.  Later, in the time of Alexander the Great, it was positioned 75 feet north from the south wall.  Later, the Sanctuary was moved again and relocated 150 feet north of the south wall with the Holy of Holies evenly spaced between the north and south walls (Josephus, Contra Apion I.22).  During Herod’s time it was moved further north and spaced 300 feet north of the south wall and equidistant from the north and south walls of the Temple square.  Josephus described Herod’s temple as an exact square of 600 feet on each side with the Holy of Holies in its center.  So, this shows that the Holy of Holies was at different positions within the Temple every time it was enlarged with only the south wall of the temple remaining in the same place throughout that time.  This well-known fact precludes any stationary rock on a ridge as being the placement of the Holy of Holies and eliminates the rock under the Dome of the Rock as a possibility.

So, you might be asking why people have selected Haram esh-Sharif and the Dome of the Rock as the place of Solomon’s temple.  Martin contends that the people in the period of the Crusades accepted the region of the Haram esh-Sharif as the Temple site because Omar took a portable stone from the remains of two Jewish attempts to rebuild the Temples at the correct site over the Gihon Spring and brought that portable stone from those ruined Temples to his Al Aksa Mosque that he was beginning to construct.  Omar made that portable stone from this ruined Temple site into the qibla stone that pointed Muslim worshippers in his Al Aksa Mosque toward Mecca.  By applying a Muslim belief called baraka, later Muslims felt that a stone from one Temple or holy site could be dislodged and taken to another place and that the latter place would take on the same degree of holiness as the former spot.  When the Crusaders arrived in Jerusalem, Christians also began to call the Al Aksa Mosque by the name “Solomon’s Temple” even while they knew of the tradition that Jesus’ footprints were indelibly on the Rock within the Mosque and even though they felt that Herod’s extension of the Temple was located at the Dome of the Rock (which they then called the Lord’s Temple).13

Another interesting point that Martin makes in his theory is regarding the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall where the Jewish people now congregate as their holiest place in Judaism.  On his website he shows that the Jewish people paid no attention whatever to the present Western Wall until they finally took over the site from the Muslims in about 1570 C.E.  The Muslims had renovated it from being a Christian holy place where Christian women would discard soiled undergarments.  So, the Wailing Wall as a Jewish holy place, Martin claims, is a modern invention that was selected for Jewish worship, not based on historical precedent.  The Western Wall was selected by Isaac Luria and was only sanctified and initiated by Rabbi Luria 430 years ago.  Martin also notes that, Luria is known for many geographical mistakes.14

Martin comes to the conclusion then that the Jews are not worshipping at the wall of their lost temple, but at the wall of Fort Antonia that was built by King Herod, and that the Romans took as their fortress in Jerusalem at the end of the Jewish/Roman War.  The shrine at the center of the Dome of the Rock is not the Holy of Holies, but a part of the Roman Praetorium where Jesus was judged by Pilate.  The true site of the Jewish Temple according to Martin lies in ruin in the Ophel part of the southeastern ridge.



1.  The View from the North – Josephus Flavius describes the fact that the Bizita Hill was located north of the Temple Mount and obscured the view of the Temple from the north.  If the Temple stood at the Dome of the Rock, it would be visible from as far away as the town of Ramalla.  In order to obscure the view from the north, it would have to be at a lower level, that is, to the south.15

2.  King Herod Agrippa’s View of the Temple from the West – Josephus, in the Jewish Wars, describes the fact that King Herod Agrippa could look out from his Hasmonean Palace (at or near the present Citadel at the Jaffa Gate), and view the sacrifices at the Azarah, at the altar of the Second Temple.  This incensed the Jews, who then built a wall extending the height of the western rear wall of the Temple proper in order to block the view.  Roman soldiers, patrolling the western threshold – thus unable to view the Azarah – demanded that the wall be demolished.  The Jews objected, and even obtained the consent of Emperor Nero to leave the wall in place.

If the Temple were at the location of the Dome of the Rock, it would have required a Palace tower height of 75 meters to view into Azarah.  There never was a building of such a height in Jerusalem.  This all implies a lower, more southern location of the Temple.16

3.  The Jerusalem Water Aqueduct from the Judean Hills – The water canals that supplied Jerusalem began in the area of the Hebron mountains, passed through the Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem, and flowed to Jerusalem.  The lowest canal reached the Temple Mount through the Jewish Quarter and the Wilson Bridge.  According to the ancient authorities, the water conduit supplied water to the High Priests’ mikveh (ritual bath) located above the Water Gate, and it also supplied water for the rinsing of the blood off the Azarah.  Portions of this aqueduct are plainly visible to this day.

“Living water,” that is, fresh, flowing water, not water from a  cistern, was required for the ritual bath (mikveh) used by the temple priests, and for the washings of the temple in connection with the sacrifices.

A survey of the level of the aqueduct reveals that if the Temple had been located at the same elevation as the present Dome of the Rock shrine, the aqueduct would be over 20 meters too low to serve either the Azarah or the Water Gate.  From this survey, it appears that the Temple must have been 20 meters lower and, thus, to the south.17 


1.  Abridged Edition of The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot, Dr. Ernest L. Martin,

2.  Aristeas, translation by Eusebius, chapter 38

3.  Tacitus, History, Bk.5, para.12.

4.  Aristeas lines 100 to 104 as translated by Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel, chapter 38 (Grand Rapids:Baker, 1982)

5.  Hecateus of Abdera, see Josephus Contra Apion I.22.

6.  War VI.1,1; VII.1,1.

7.  War VII.1,1.

8.  War VII.8,7

9.  War V.5,8 and War III.5,2

10.  War V.5,8

11.  The Gospel of John 19:13, translated “pavement” in most translations.

12.  The Bordeaux Pilgrim in 333 C.E. Describes the Haram Esh-Sharif as the Praetorium, Abridged Edition of The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot, Dr. Ernest L. Martin,

12.  The Scriptures Show that No Stationary Rock was ever Associate dwith the Temples, Abridged Edition of The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot, Dr. Ernest L. Martin,

13.  Why Later People Selected the Haram esh-Sharif as the Place of Solomon’s Temple, Abridged Edition of The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot, Dr. Ernest L. Martin,

14.  The Western Wall of the Jewns, Abridged Edition of The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot, Dr. Ernest L. Martin,

15.  On the Location of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, Critical Issues in Locating the Temple Site, by Lambert Dolphin and Michael Kollen,

16.  ibid.

17.  ibid.



Study of ancient cisterns pinpoints sacred site,

Published: 02/11/2007 at 1:00 AM

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.


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At left are thumbnails of 3 diagrams of the temple site next to Fort Antonia as they appeared in the time of Jesus.  The top 2 diagrams are views looking to the northwest.  The bottom diagram is a birds eye view.  Click on the thumbnails to see the full size diagrams. 

The wailing wall that many Jews visit is not the western wall from the ancient Jewish temple, but in fact is the western wall of the Roman Fort Antonia.  Fort Antonia was a permanent Roman fort at the time of Jesus.  Fort Antonia was 800 feet north of the temple and the southern wall of the fort was connected to the northern wall of the temple by double colonnades.

Jesus made it clear that the temple would be destroyed so thoroughly that “[t]here shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”  Matthew 24:1,2; Mark 13:1,2; Luke 19:43,44; 21:5,6.  The Jews are all too happy to deceive the world into believing that Jesus was wrong.  In fact, the prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled perfectly.  The temple was completely destroyed down to the last stone, the remains that are left standing today are the remains of Fort Antonia, not the temple.

The Dome of the Rock is not as it is supposed the place where Mohamad ascended into heaven.  The Dome of the Rock is a pagan Islamic shrine built over the Roman Praetorium,which was where Pilate sentenced Jesus.  The Praetorium and was inside Fort Antonia, not the Jewish temple.