First Century Romano-Jewish historian Josephus wrote about “the point where it was custom for one of the priests to stand and give notice, by sound of trumpet, in the afternoon of the approach, and on the following evening of the close of every seventh day.” (Drawing – Ritmeyer Archaeological Design)
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” – Matthew 24:1-2 (ESV)
Crowning remnants of Herodian architecture found resting at the foot of still-standing retaining walls on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, offer a compelling argument that this was the location of the so-called Second Temple. Most compelling is an inscribed basalt stone that may have adorned the ledge atop the wall surrounding the Temple.
What came to be known as the “Trumpeting Stone” was discovered by Prof. Benjamin Mazar, who directed the Temple Mount Excavations from 1968 to 1978.
According to Leen Ritmeyer, Mazar’s crew had dug down through the level of the Roman destruction and found a large cornerstone lying a short distance from what many believe was the southwest corner of the temple. This cornerstone lay under other Herodian era stones, so the Trumpeting Stone appears to have fallen first.
“A niche was cut out of the inner slope of the stone on its southern side,” said Ritmeyer, a noted archaeological illustrator, in a recent blog post titled Trumpeting on the Temple Mount. “Above this niche was an inscription written in Hebrew, which reads (from right to left) “l’bet hatquia l’hakh . . .” The first two words, explained Ritmeyer, mean “to the place of trumpeting”. The last Hebrew word is incomplete, but a majority of scholars support a full reading of the inscription as follows: “to the place of trumpeting to announce.”
“High above this corner stood the Royal Stoa, so that the Trumpeting Stone was located some 138 feet (42 m) above street level,” said Ritmeyer, who spent time in Israel during the Temple Mount Excavations and worked directly with Dr. Benjamin Mazar. “From this elevated position, a trumpet call could be heard all over the city.”
This tradition is confirmed by the Romano-Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD) who lived through the destruction of the Temple by the Roman army in 70 AD. In his work The Jewish War, Josephus described this part of the temple. “. . . the point where it was custom for one of the priests to stand and give notice, by sound of trumpet, in the afternoon of the approach, and on the following evening of the close, of every seventh day.” (Source: Trumpeting Place inscription/Wikipedia)
“There are many people . . . that deny the Temple Mount is the place where the Jewish Temple once stood,” stated Ritmeyer in his recent post. Some people say there never was a Temple. Others argue that Herod’s Second Temple was built, instead, in the City of David.
The Antonia Fortress
“The problem for people like that is that the Temple Mount walls are still standing,” said Ritmeyer in another blog post entitled The Antonia Fortress.
To explain this away, advocates of the City of David theory say these are the walls of the Antonia Fortress, not the outer walls of the Temple. There are several problems with that theory, according to Ritmeyer. First off, the Romans built the Antonia Fortress to keep a tight grip on the Jewish people, whose daily lives centered on the Temple. Ritmeyer cited Josephus’ statements in The Jewish War as proof of this purpose.
Describing the Antonia Fortress (War 5:242) Josephus said it “commanded a view of the whole area of the Temple.”
Describing the purpose of the fortress (War 5:244) Josephus said “a Roman cohort was permanently quartered there, and at the festivals took up positions in arms around the porticoes to watch the people and repress any insurrectionary movement.”
Ritmeyer pointed out that the Antonia Fortress was located on a higher, smaller rock at the northwest corner of the Herodian Temple Mount. Since the walls of the mount are still standing, they should not be confused with the walls of the Antonia Fortress, which the Roman commander Titus ordered completely removed prior to the AD 70 destruction of the Temple.
Again, Josephus speaks from the past: “Titus now ordered the troops that were with him to raze the foundations of Antonia and prepare an easy ascent [into the Temple Mount] for the whole army,” he stated (War 6:93)
Later in The Jewish War, Josephus wrote, “Meanwhile the rest of the Roman army, having in seven days overthrown the foundations of Antonia, had prepared a broad ascent to the Temple.” (War 6:149)
Modern archaeology seems to corroborate Josephus’ observations. The rocky outcrop Ritmeyer identified as the location of the Antonia Fortress has produced virtually no archaeological remains. Meanwhile, a portion of the Temple Mount retaining walls still stand. These walls, Ritmeyer asserted, “could never have belonged to Antonia.”
Moreover, in the rubble of the Temple Mount walls was found a Hebrew inscription “korban” which Ritmeyer said means “sacrifice.” Below the inscription are the images of two upside-down doves or pigeons.
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. – Matthew 21:12 (also Mark 11:15) (ESV)
“It is impossible to suggest that a Hebrew inscription of this kind once belonged to a Roman fortress,” Ritmeyer declared of those who contend that the Antonia Fortress once occupied the entire Temple Mount. So, he reasoned, it must be the retaining walls surrounding the actual Second Temple, which remain standing.
With the Antonia theory disproved, and since the Trumpeting Stone, which plays a key role in the temple life, was found at the base of a wall on the Temple Mount, there is strong evidence that this was the Second Temple location.
But wait… there’s more.
Another Recent Discovery
“…and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. –John 10:23 (also Acts 3:4 and 5:12) (ESV)
Capital from Solomon’s Colonnade. (Photo Credit: Vladimir Naychin)
Within the last 12 months, a capital that may have sat atop one of the columns surrounding the Temple Mount plaza was found by The Temple Mount Sifting Project. The New Testament refers to this feature of the Herodian Second Temple as Solomon’s colonnade, portico, or porch.
As we pointed out in our Sept. 15, 2016 Thinker Update, “The Temple Mount Sifting Project, headed by Zachi Dvira and Dr. Gabriel Barkay, has been meticulously searching through materials illegally removed from the Temple Mount and dumped in the nearby Kidron Valley. The purpose of the Sifting Project is to salvage whatever archaeological artifacts it can.
The discovery of this capital was reported in the April 4, 2017 issue of the Israel Haymon newspaper which explained that the colonnade was constructed to provide shade for the pilgrims who visited the Temple Mount.
“A capital forms the topmost member of a column. It mediates between the column and the load thrusting down upon it, broadening the area of the columns supporting surface.” (Source: Capital – Architecture/Wikipedia)
According to Dr. Barkay, “The columns were erected in two parallel rows, and were topped with cedar rafters that supported the roofing.”
Again, history speaks of these columns. In The Jewish War, Josephus wrote, “All the cloisters were double, and the pillars belonging to them were 25 cubits in height, and supported the cloisters . . . The natural magnificence and excellent polish and harmony of the joints in these cloisters afforded a prospect that was very remarkable.”
Israel Haymon quoted Dr. Barkay as saying, “A column like this is impressive testimony of the immensity of the structures on the Temple Mount in the Second Temple era, and fits in well with Josephus’ narrative, which describes what he saw with his own eyes.”
Dr. Barkay continued, “One can imagine the pilgrims arriving at the Temple Mount for the three major festivals, amazed at the immense structure that appeared before them after they passed through the gates to the Temple Mount into the plaza that surrounded the Temple. The columns around the plaza provide shade for the thousands of visitors that would be on the mount at once.”