[by Dean Smith] The Muslim’s Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem has been a source of conflict between Muslims and Jews for years. In a video at the end of this article, you will see a confrontation between a group of Muslim agitators and US senator Dennis Ross when he recently visited the Dome.
According to tradition, the Dome of the Rock sits on the original site of the Jewish Temple before the Romans destroyed it in 70 AD. The Dome, built in 691 AD, is considered one of Islam’s oldest buildings. The State of Jordan operates and manages the Dome, which is probably Jerusalem’s most notable land mark.
But recently some are suggesting the Dome of the Rock was not the original site of the Jewish Temple.
The Temple from ancient times was a place of Jewish prayer and for a while early Christians even prayed there (Acts 3:1).
The Wailing Wall or Western Wall located just below the Dome of the Rock is thought to be the remains of the outer wall surrounding the Temple. Around the 4th century, 300 years after the Temple’s destruction, Jews started praying at this wall. But in recent years, some Jews have demanded access to the area around the Dome in order to pray. This has caused significant strife between Jews and Muslims. To this point, Israeli police have prevented Jews from praying at what is believed to be the original Temple site.
However, author Robert Cornuke, a former police officer, says the Jews have it all wrong. The Dome of the Rock is not the former Temple site and its original location was south of the Dome by about 600 feet — in an area known as the old City of David.
If he is right, it puts a news spin on Jewish plans to build a Temple. Up to now, the Jews have not built a new temple largely because of the Dome, but there is room to build in area designated as the City of David.
In his book, Temple: Amazing New Discoveries that change everything about the location of Solomon’s temple, Cornuke puts forth his case.
The Destruction of the Temple
In the New Testament, we read how Jesus prophesied the Temple’s destruction saying there would not be a single stone sitting on another.
Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2 And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” (Matthew 24:1-2 NASV)
This is exactly what the Romans did in 70 AD.
Titus Flavius Josephus (35 – 100 AD) an early Jewish historian, who lived in Jerusalem, was in the city shortly after the Romans leveled the Jewish Temple. He said the site was totally barren and without previous knowledge he would have not known where the Temple originally sat.
Obviously if the outer Temple wall had survived, it would have been easy to determine the Temple’s former location, so it seems the wall no longer existed.
Other writers from this time describe the Temple site as totally barren and over run with weeds.
So, if the Jews are not praying at the Temple wall, what are they praying at?
Dome of the Rock built on the site of an ancient Roman Fort
Though generally considered by many to be a reliable source of information, Cornuke says Josephus’ description of the Temple Mount has been discarded because it does not agree with the current dogma.
Josephus said what is now considered the site of the old Temple — the Muslim Dome of the Rock and the wailing wall — was actually Fort Antonia, the home base of the Roman Garrison in Jerusalem.
The thought Jews have been praying at a Roman wall — the ones who destroyed the Temple — all these years is enough to make any Jewish Rabbi cry heresy.
If the wall is in fact a remnant of Fort Antonia, it suggests there was a significant Roman presence in Jerusalem.
Though Jews acknowledge there was a Roman detachment in Jerusalem, some have relegated it to a cohort made up of a 480 men, requiring a small base.
However, Cornuke says at times Jerusalem’s population reached upwards of 275,000 people during the festivals. There was also an active Jewish resistance opposed to the Roman occupation, some who even appeared among Jesus’ disciples such as Simon the Zealot (Acts 1:13).
Cornuke says a cohort would not have had enough men to control ancient Jerusalem and surrounding area.
He points to a passage after Paul’s arrest, which eventually led to his imprisonment in Rome, where 470 soldiers transported Paul from Jerusalem to Caeserea to meet with Felix. Would a Roman commander, so concerned about security he needed 470 soldiers to transport a single prisoner, leave only 10 soldiers behind guarding his garrison?
23 Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, ‘Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. 24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.’ (Acts 23:23 NIV)
Cornuke argues there was actually a Tagma — 6,000 soldiers with 4,000 support staff — in Jerusalem requiring a larger base and fortifications. Josephus agrees with Cornuke’s assessment stating that Fort Antonia was bigger than the walled Jewish Temple.
Eleazar Bin Jari, a Jewish rebel leader who eventually died at the Jewish stronghold of Masada, described Jerusalem this way:
“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 (Fort Antonia) that hath destroyed it, which still dwells upon its ruins.”
When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, they would have left their fortress intact and that is why some of its wall remains to this day.
The high point
Then there is the geographical feature. The Dome of the Rock sits at the highest point of the Temple Mount.
Cornuke points to the passage in Acts that led to Paul’s arrest.
In Acts 21, the Apostle Paul entered the Temple in Jerusalem with some Christian gentile friends (v 26). When the Jewish leaders heard about this, they were outraged. A crowd gathered and they forcibly threw Paul and his friends off the grounds.
When the Roman commander heard about the commotion, he led troops to the Temple and arrested Paul. Cornuke points to an interesting verse:
32 At once he took along some soldiers and centurions and ran down to them; and when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. (Acts 21:32 NASV)
The soldiers “ran down” from their base to the temple. This meant the fortress had the higher ground, and the temple the lower. Verse 35 adds that when the Romans took Paul back to the their base, they carried the apostle up a set of stairs to the Roman Garrison. And even today — as you will note in the video below — stairs are used to climb up to the Dome of the Rock.
Since the Dome of the Rock sits at the highest point of the hill, based on Luke’s description in Acts, it can’t be the original spot of the Temple, but rather the fortress.
Cornuke, who provides more evidence than what I discussed in this article, makes an intriguing case the Dome of the Rock is not the site of the Jewish Temple. Others are even starting to research these claims. Cornuke admits he built his case on a 1994 analysis of the Temple Mount by archaeologist Ernest L. Martin, who came to the same conclusion.
If accepted, it means the Temple could be built. If that were to happen the Jewish Temple and Muslim Dome of the Rock would only be a couple hundred yards apart.