In recent years, several professing evangelicals have been claiming that the present-day Temple Mount in Jerusalem is not where Solomon and Herod’s Temple originally stood. Temple Mount revisionists claim that the Temple was originally located in the City of David, about 1/3 mile south of the present Temple Mount location. They argue that the Temple was originally over or near the Gihon Spring. This idea was advocated by Ernest Martin and then popularized by retired police officer, Robert Cornuke. It has been promoted in YouTube videos (drawing millions of views) and has penetrated the local church.
The purpose of this brief article is to provide a summary of sources outlining the biblical, historical, and archaeological evidence which demonstrate not only the inaccuracy, but the impossibility of the revisionist claims. This webpage will include academic, online, and video resources. New sources of information will be added on an ongoing basis.
Digging for Truth TV
In conjunction with Lighthouse TV, ABR produced a three-part episode of Digging for Truth which discussed Temple Mount Revisionism in detail. The virtual roundtable included archaeologist Dr. Scott Stripling, ABR Director Scott Lanser, and ABR staff member Henry Smith. These shows are must-watch TV and a critical starting point for anyone who wants to understand the claims of the revisionists and their manifold biblical, exegetical, historical, and archaeological errors.
(Episode seven of Digging for Truth provides an earlier and general sketch of the subject).
Summary of Revisionist Errors
1. Jesus did not predict that every single stone in every single building in first century Jerusalem would be torn down to bedrock by the Romans. This hyper literalizing of Jesus’ words is not supported by the context of his statements, the point he was making, or the archaeological evidence (Mt 24:1–2, Mk 13:1–2, Lk 21:5–6, Lk 19:41–44). Paradoxically, revisionists (wrongly) claim the existing Temple Mount platform was actually the superstructure of the Antonia Fortress. If this were the case, and the hyper literal interpretation of Jesus is correct, then why is the platform consisting of 30 courses of stone still there?
2. The present-day Temple Mount was not the superstructure of the Roman Antonia Fortress. Its remnants have been found on the northwest corner of the Temple Mount, confirming Josephus’ statements about its location and its destruction by Jewish rebels during the Great Revolt.
3. Josephus did not claim that an entire Roman legion could have been housed or must have been housed in the Antonia Fortress. The word Josephus uses to describe the Roman legion is distorted by the revisionists to support this claim.
4. Archaeological evidence unearthed from around the Temple Mount is entirely Jewish in nature. This includes inscriptions and iconic objects near Robinson’s Arch, gentile prohibition and the place of trumpeting inscriptions, opus sectile pavers, and Jewish ritual baths (miqvaot). If the Temple Mount was the Roman Antonia Fortress instead, there would be no such archaeological evidence.
5. Revisionists misinterpret future looking prophetic passages in Joel and Ezekiel to claim that there must have been a spring in the Temple complex. Nowhere does the Bible say that there was a spring inside the Temple complex in antiquity.
6. The Temple did not need a spring inside its complex to operate the biblical sacrificial system. Millions of gallons of water were available by way of cisterns, aqueducts, and miqvaot. Water could also be brought by manual labor from the Gihon Spring, and also from the Strouthian Pool, and the Pools of Bethesda and Siloam. Thus, the Temple did not have to be over or next to the Gihon Spring.
7. Upon close examination and analysis, ancient sources which purport that the Temple had a spring within its precinct are problematic and unreliable. The Letter of Aristeas to Philocrates (§§83–120) is the best-known example. As it pertains to the geography of Israel, Aristeas is unreliable. The letter states that the Jordan River flows into the Mediterranean Sea! It clearly was not authored by someone who had visited Jerusalem. Dr. Stripling and Dr. Craig Evans will examine Aristeas and other sources in detail in a forthcoming article in the Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin.
8. Archaeological evidence from the City of David has irrefutably shown that a massive garbage dump was there in the first century, right where the revisionists claim that the Temple stood. This makes it physically impossible for the Temple to have stood in the City of David in the days of Jesus.
9. All relevant biblical texts indicate that the Temple was built on Mount Moriah, not in the City of David.
10. Revisionists wrongly argue that the statement “Solomon repaired the millo” means he built the Temple in the City of David (1 Kgs 9:18, 9:24, 11:27). The biblical texts say no such thing, and they clearly distinguish the Temple from the millo: “And this is the account of the forced labor that King Solomon drafted to build the house of the Lord and his own house and the Millo and the wall of Jerusalem and Hazor and Megiddo and Gezer” (I Kings 9:15).
11. The use of the term “Zion” in the Bible does not necessitate that the Temple was in the City of David. The meaning of Zion changed over time and was used differently depending on the context. “Zion” is used over 150 times in the OT, often as a synonym for Jerusalem. "For out of Zion shall go forth the Law [Torah], and the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3). The term is not limited to the City of David, and often encompassed what it now the Temple Mount. The phrase "Mount Zion'' is also used many times and is not limited to the City of David.
12. Archaeological discoveries found in and around the Temple Mount indicate that the Temple stood there, not down in the City of David. Archaeological evidence does not migrate uphill. Erosion migrates archaeological material downhill. This is Archaeology 101.
13. Solomon brought the ark of the covenant UP AND OUT of the City of David and into the Temple. Thus, the Temple was not in the City of David. “Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion” (II Chronicles 5:2).
14. Araunah’s threshing floor was not located in the Jebusite fortress in the City of David (2 Sam 24:18–25, 1 Chron 21:18–30, 2 Chron 3:1). The threshing floor and the Temple itself were on Mount Moriah: “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (2 Chronicles 3:1).
15. A large city wall from the time of Hezekiah on the eastern slope of the City of David has been discovered just south of the Gihon Spring. This wall stood at the time when the revisionists claim that the Temple and its massive superstructure stood in the same place. This discovery, like the garbage dump from the time of Jesus, makes the revisionist theory physically impossible.
16. Qualified, trained, and credentialed archaeologists disagree with one another on just about everything regarding the archaeology of Israel with one salient exception—the location of Solomon’s and Herod’s Temple on the modern-day Temple Mount in Jerusalem!
We strongly urge professing Christians to reject theories and arguments which advocate (re)locating the Temple in the City of David. The arguments are vacuous and do not advance the case for the reliability of the Bible or the Gospel itself.
Temple Mount Revisionism: REST IN PEACE!
Sources for Further Study and Research:
Evans, Craig A. and D. Scott Stripling 2021. “Literary and Archaeological Evidence for the Location of Jerusalem’s Jewish Temple(s),” NEASB: forthcoming.
Hedrick, Gary 2017. "Where Did Solomon Build The Temple?" (off site PDF link).
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome 2004. “Where was the Antonia Fortress?” Revue Biblique 111: 78–89. A devastating critique of Ernest Martin’s arguments. Includes a helpful discussion of Josephus’ statements about the Roman Legion housed in Jerusalem.
Franz, Gordon 2019. "Were Solomon and Herod's Temples in the City of David Over the Gihon Spring?" In Geography of Holy Land: Jerusalem, Regional Cities, Small Towns, and Rural Places by William A. Dando. Taiwan: Holy Light Theological Seminary Press. (Off site link). An in-depth treatment of the insurmountable problems with the revisionist arguments. A devastating critique of both Cornuke’s and Martin’s theories.
Ritmeyer, Leen 2006. The Quest. Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Jerusalem: Carta. Written by the world’s foremost expert on the archaeology of the Temple Mount. (Available in the ABR Bookstore).
Online articles by Dr. Leen Ritmeyer (off site links)
Ancient City Wall Discovered in Jerusalem (off site link). This wall from the time of Hezekiah proves it was physically impossible for Solomon’s Temple to have stood in the City of David.