In this study we are going to look at the various areas in and around the Temple and give you a good feel for the area. You will need a goo, current overview of the Temple and underground cisterns. A good site for this would be “Jerusalem Temple Study” and go to the “Teachings” menu and then the photo gallery. You can also go to the Internet and look up the things we will mention so you can see where we are talking about.
Without a shadow of doubt we know that the Temple was on the Temple Mount, not the Gihon Spring (current theory going around in 2016) or any other place. When looking at an overview of the Temple area (with west at the top), you will see the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the left. That is the third most holy site in Islam, behind Mecca and Medina. The Dome of the Rock is not a mosque, it is a monument. There are certain area on the Temple Mount that Orthodox Jews will not walk in because of kedusha.
When looking at any overview of the Temple Mount, you will see a concrete area on the lower left (southeast corner) called Solomon’s Stables (more on this later) and below that there is a mosque. Going north along the eastern wall you will see the Golden Gate. The trapezoid shape where the Dome of the Rock sits is called the Moslem Platform.
In the 1860’s and 1870’s Britain was involved in an archaeological endeavor involving the Temple Mount. They did an elevation study, among other things. They made an arrangement with the Moslem authorities for a new water system for Jerusalem on the condition that the Palestinian Exploration Fund surveyors could survey the water system and cisterns on the Temple Mount. Of course, they agreed and elevations were mapped out by Lt Claude Condor of the Royal Engineers with the PEF. As a result, if you superimpose the Temple complex over the Temple Mount, with the Dome of the Rock being where the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim was, you can see where and what cisterns were used in the Temple. These chambers and places in the Temple line up perfectly with the cisterns that were supposed to be used by the chambers.
Today there are no visible remains of the Temnple, but that has not always been the case. The last one disappeared about 1993, and the last major one about 145 years ago. We will need to go to the Tanach, the Mishnah, the Talmud and Josephus, along with some other Jewish writings to get the information we need to learn.
While doing the research and surveying, cisterns and even the Huldah passages were found. The Huldah passages were used by the worshippers going into the Temple, and that means Yeshua used these passageways when he entered the Temple. Going back to Solomon’s Stables. This area is named that because the Crusaders thought that the Dome of the Rock was the actual Temple (they weren’t exactly Bible scholars). They found this massive area to the southeast which was used for a storage area, so they put their horses in it and called it Solomon’s Stables. It has nothing to do with Solomon in reality. Now, if you go to the photo on Jerusalem Temple Study or any other source that will show you the Huldah passages, if you go to the most western of the two passages, if you proceed north you will see two, t-shaped cisterns. These were used as mikva’ot (immersion baths) for the people to immerse in before they went into the inner courts. If you go a little bit east, they found the area where the toilets were. As a result, they found where various buildings were and even the exact location of where the Temple building stood, all because they were able to find the cisterns, passageways and conduits. All of this put together tells us exactly where things were, even when there is no visible remains of them above ground anymore.
The original Temple Mount was not the whole mount that people call it today. The Temple Mount was a 500 cubit x 500 cubit square only. The overlay of the Temple, with all the latest research, fits into this square area perfectly. With all the information today, the Temple complex has exactly expanded in the last 20 years. The arrangement of mikva’ot, toilets and the Monumental Stairway can be seen on the Jerusalem Temple Study site in some of their photos. Now, just a quick word on the Monumental Stairway. In the 1870’s, several pictures were taken of the Dome of the Rock, one looking north and the other looking south. A stairway can be seen in the picture but it was going nowhere. They have found out that the stairway was the remnant of the stairs leading up to the Chel to the Azarah from the south
During the time of the Hasmoneans, and later King Herod, extensions were added to the Temple Mount. Massive amounts of dirt had to be put in to bring that side up to a flat elevation, with walls to extend the area out, especially in the south. These areas will never have the kedusah of the Temple Mount. There are pictures you can see on the Internet if you do some research on the Hasmonean and Herodian extensions. As a result of some of the research, as we have mentioned, they found where the toilets were on the south, in the outer courts. These toilets are mentioned in the the Mishnah tractate Negaim. These toilets were located near the two mikva’ot we mentioned earlier. One of these cisterns used as a mikvah (immersion bath, a “tevilah” is an immersion) is larger than the other one. This is because one was used for the men, who were required to be in the Temple, and the smaller one was for the women, who had the option to come. As a result, more men were in the Temple so a larger mikvah was needed, and that is exactly what was found.
Now, if you proceed north from this area, you will come to a stairway that was there in 1870. A photographer took a picture of this stairway and it is called the “Monumental Stairway.” This is a remnant of a stairway that led to the Chel on the southside. Josephus described a stairway with 14 steps on the southside. The photographer soon died after taking the pictures, so his “photo’s” were sent to his family and not back to the PEF. The family eventually sent the photos to the PEF a few years ago and the photo archivist “rediscovered” the photo. After doing some extensive research, it was determined that the stairway seen in the picture was the remains of the stairway Josephus talked about, leading to the Chel on the south. It showed the top three or four steps, and in one picture you can see pavement which was the Chel itself. However, very soon after the photo was taken in the 1870’s, the Moslems did a renovation on the Temple Mount and these steps were covered up, or destroyed, because they are not seen anymore. A retaining wall was built, trees planted and so on. But, these steps, or at least where these steps were, can still be recreated because there were things right next to the steps that can still be seen.
There was a chamber in the Temple called the Lishkat Ha Metzorim, or “Chamber of the Lepers.” The tractate Negaim in the Mishnah says there was a mikvah beneath this chamber so the metzora (the one with Zara’at, or “leprosy”) can do an immersion. A cistern was found under the area where they believe the Lishkat Ha Metzorim was. It had stairs leading down to it. If you can find the mikvah, you can place the Chamber of the Lepers.
As we have mentioned before, there was an extension to the south of the 500 cubit x 500 cubit Temple Mount added by the Hasmoneans. Just as a side note, these were the guys that were involved in the first Chanukah, who fought the Syrian Greeks and recovered the Temple area. This extension will not have the same kedusha and the Temple Mount (500 x 500 cubit square). King Herod came along later and really adds to this and it is called the Herodian Extension. He will not only add to the south, but he also extends to the west and to the north.
In Part 2, we will pick up here and discuss the area called the “Southern Steps” and the Huldah passageways, and discuss what this has to do with Acts 3.2 and the astronaut Neil Armstrong.