The Silwan Location thesis maintains that the Jewish Temple was located in the northern end of the Palestinian neighborhood called Silwan that refers to the entirety of the southwest ridge of Jerusalem under which is located the remains of the City of David, the original city of Jerusalem.
We know from Josephus that the Temple could not possibly have been located on the platform of the Haram ash-Sharif.
The other reason it could not be located there is that it lacked a feature every temple had to have: a natural spring of flowing water. The only spring within a five mile radius of Jerusalem is the Gihon Spring. It is located on the eastern slope of Silwan.
All descriptions of the temples place the temple above the spring of Silwan. Flowing spring water along qualified for Jewish ritual cleansing, of which much was demanded by Temple practices, and for mikveh, the Jewish ritual bath, which remains a requirement for Orthodox Jews to this day.
This is the second major reason the temples cannot have been located at the Haram, which has plenty of cisterns but no naturally flowing spring.
Photo credit: Emek Shaveh
This is where the Jewish Temples were located. It is a shot of the Haram from the south. In the foreground is the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Golden Dome of the Dome of the Rock.
The foreground where the Temples were located forms the northern area of the red area below marked “Silwan / Ir David”. Ir David is Hebrew for “City of David”, which occupied all of the red area. It contained the Temple and the Citadel. The citadel was dismantled by king Simon the Hasmonaean and replaced by a fort called the Baris on the site of the Haram. Herod then built Fort Antonia on the site, which remained the home base of the Tenth Frementina Legion from 70 CE until it was moved to Eilat in 289 CE.
Photo credit: Fubar and Grill
The universally held belief that the Jewish Temple was located on the platform of the Haram ash-Sharif is simply, wrong. The Temple could not possibly been located there. Here is why:
Josephus gives us as an eye-witness the dimensions of Herold’s Temple. Its area was a perfect square 600′ x 600′ – a little more than eight acres or the size of a city block in Chicago.
Josephus tells us that its southwest corner plunged 245 feet into the bed of the Kedron Valley, a distance of 40 – 45 stories, which is why it was called the Pinnacle of the Temple from which Satan tempted Jesus to through himself off to “prove” his trust in God in the Gospel accounts of Matthewn4:5 and Luke 4:9.
We also know that two colonnades also 600′, or another city block long connected the Temple from its northwest corner to the Antonia.
The Antonia was located higher than the Temple. It dominated it and blocked the view of it from the north.
Thus we have minimally a three square block collection of skyscrapers rising from 40 -45 stories to more than 50 stories including the four towers on the Antonia.
These skyscraper would have stood more than 200 feet higher than the Mount of Olives, and would have been one of the engineering Seven Wonders of the World of the Roman Empire.
The location of the Jewish Temple there is a physical impossibility.
It has been objected by the few critics who have deigned to examine the Silwan location thesis that Josephus is engaging in “wild exaggerations.” While there may be exaggerations in the head counts and the body counts, which are always estimates and often guess work, Josephus would not have exaggerated the physically observable dimensions of the Temple, which were no doubt touted by every Jewish pilgrimage guide of the day.
Moreover, among Josephus’ readers was the emperor Titus who spent five months capturing the Temple and ending the Jewish revolt and another three months destroying every building in Jewish Jerusalem with particular attention to tearing down the Temple to its foundation stones.
Titus surely would have noticed Josephus lying about the fact that the Temple platform was 45 stories high. The Haram location of the Temple thesis falls on this alone.
What is needed is for serious scholars particularly of Roman, Late Antiquity, and Islamic eras to seriously investigate and weigh the evidence that Ernest L. Martin has marshaled for the first time in his writings.
It has been unquestioned and unquestionable orthodoxy for the last millennium that the Jewish Temples in Jerusalem were located on the platform of the Haram ash-Sharif with its stunning masterpiece of Islamic architecture, the Dome of the Rock.
There is a mass of evidence, however, that the location of all the Jewish Temples was located one block, or 600 feet south of the Haram underneath the northern part of the poor Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan that occupies the entire southeastern ridge of Jerusalem that is the site of the original City of David, which is the origin of the City of Jerusalem we know today.
The Silwan Location thesis has been most fully articulated so far by Ernest L. Martin in his book The Temples Jerusalem Forgotand in his subsequent articles at Associates For Scriptural Knowledge. (ASK) In future posts I will lay out the arguments and evidence for the Silwan location.
The corollary of the Silwan location of the Temple is the location of Fort Antonia over the entire platform of the Haram ash-Sharif. It has no connection whatsoever with anything Jewish at all.
The first fortress to guard the Temple to the south in Silwan was built by the Jewish king Simon the Hasmonaean during his reign 147 – 135 BCE, and known as the Baris.
Herod the Great greatly expanded the Baris and renamed it the Antonia in honor of Mark Anthony who lost our the Octavian who became the emperor to succeed the Caesar, as the emperor Augustus Caesar.
In 6 BC the Antonia passed out of Jewish control and became the center of Roman control over Jerusalem. It was designed as a standard Roman Praetorium or military camp to hold a legion of 5000 soldiers with another 5000 support personnel.
After 6 BCE it was no longer a part of Jewish Jerusalem. It is not “the Temple Mount”. Jews wailing at the Western Wall are wailing at the walls of the Roman fortress from which the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE by Titus, who subsequently became emperor.
The actual wailing wall is located under the home of poor Palestinians one block south of the Haram ash-Sharif.
The entirety of the Haram is the Fort Antonia.
Below is a reconstruction of the Temple at its correct Silwan location, with its block-long dual collonades connecting it to Fort Antonia. Image is from the ASK website.