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The Temple Mount

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Step Onto the Temple Mount

Location – The Old City of Jerusalem

Map Coordinates - 31.777775, 35.235855

All of our Octagon Tour groups get the opportunity to stand on the Temple Mount, just like Jesus did.

There’s a lot to see here. About one-tenth of all the stories about Jesus took place on The Temple Mount.  Today this platform, which comprises about 35 acres (or one-fifth of the entire Old City of Jerusalem), is sacred to the Jews, Muslims, and Christians.


For the Jews, the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, because two Jewish Temples stood on this site. This is where the Holy of Holy was, and where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.


For the Muslims, this is the third-most holy site in the world, next the two shrines where Muhammad was born and died.  It is also the location of two of the oldest Islamic buildings – the Dome of the Rock, and the Al Aqsa Mosque.


For the Christians, as mentioned earlier, one-tenth of all the stories about Jesus in the Gospels took place on this Temple platform. Christians also embrace all of the Old Testament stories here too, including Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice Isaac on this site.


c. 2075 BC. Mount Moriah, Abraham, and the Binding of Isaac.


Abraham attempting to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22).

Before there was anything here, there was a mountain called Moriah. Abraham was the patriarchal father of both Judaism and Islam, and Jewish tradition holds that on this mountain Abraham, in a test of his faith, was required to raise his knife and sacrifice his son Isaac, only to be stopped by an angel of the Lord (Genesis 22)


Muslims have a different take on this story. They believe that Abraham didn’t attempt to sacrifice Isaac, but rather he tried to sacrifice his other son, Ishmael. 


Mount Moriah was flanked on three sides by valleys. To the east was the Kidron Valley. To the south was the Hinnom Valley, and to the west was the Tyropean Valley. This third valley has been raised up, and in that process it has completely disappeared.


c. 1010 BC. King David.


King David purchases the threshing floor of Araunah.

The Bible teaches that on this spot King David, who was a Jewish king, purchased the threshing floor of Araunah for fifty shekels of silver (2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21). In addition, he paid 600 shekels of gold for the entire Mountain of Moriah. This purchase is an important fact, since it demonstrates that the Jews received this area through a legal transaction. That was the last time that anyone has ever purchased this land. David then chose this mountain as the site of a great temple to house the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 24:18-25).


c. 957 BC. King Solomon and the First Temple.

The sanctuary of Solomon’s Temple.


40 years later, around the year 962 BC, King Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem.  In order to build the Temple platform, Solomon had to level off the mountain, creating a mesa that was about 17 square acres in size, which is about half the size of the current Temple Mount.


The Temple's two main purposes were to house the Ark of the Covenant and provide a place for people to worship. The Temple platform had a large courtyard, which included a huge bronze basin for priestly sacrifices, and storehouses. The Temple itself was a small rectangular building oriented toward the east, and made up of three parts: a porch, a main room for services, and a Holy of Holies, which housed the Ark.


Solomon dedicates the Temple (1 Kings 8).

The Ark of the Covenant was considered the dwelling place of the Divine Presence. So sacred was the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies that it could only be entered by the high priest on the Day of Atonement (called by the Jews Yom Kippur). From the beginning the temple of Jerusalem was an important center of religious and national identity.


If the Temple stood on the very same spot as the Dome of the Rock does today, then the Holy of Holies was built directly over the rock that lies beneath this dome.


957 BC. The Cave of Souls.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.777927, 35.235365

Under the foundation stone in the Temple there was (and is) a cave. This cave is partly natural, and partly man-made, called the Cave or Well of Souls, because of an Islamic tradition that the souls of the dead reside here, awaiting Judgment Day. It is believed that in this cave the Ark of the Covenant was stored or even hidden during perilous times. Even more interesting is that there is a man-made concrete wall on one side of this cave, which brings up a discussion about tunnels under the Temple Mount. There are exactly 45 cisterns, chambers, tunnels, and caves under the Temple Mount platform. However, archaeology is entirely forbidden. It is very likely that this concrete wall in the Cave of Souls covers one of the entry points to the tunnels that exist under the Temple Mount.


Here I am in the Cave of Souls underneath the Dome of the Rock.

Today the Cave of Souls is used as a Muslim prayer room. Another interesting thing about this cave is that under the carpeting there is ornate marble tile work, and that the floor in the very center beneath this tile is hollow, but no one knows what is down there.


There are four little prayer altars in this cave – one dedicated to Abraham, one to David, one to Solomon, and one to Elijah. All of these persons are Jewish Old Testament figures. On the concrete wall there is a prayer niched, called the mihrab. In Muslim places of worship the mihrab always faces toward Mecca, which is the direction that Muslims are told to pray. This is the oldest mihrab in existence, dating sometime around the ninth century.


The Babylonian Talmud, which is a Jewish document written in the third century, refers to this cave. We also know that the Crusaders knew about this cave in the 12th century. What is so interesting about this cave is that it was mostly-likely positioned directly under the Holy of Holies.


The Muslims have used this cave as a prayer room ever since they discovered it. The marble floor beneath the carpet is intricately laid, and most scholars believe that it was part of the original décor of the Dome of the Rock. Unless you’re around when the carpeting is being replaced, you won’t see the marble tile beneath it. It has an 8-pointed star in the middle, corresponding to the eight sides of the shrine itself. This star is near, but not exactly in the center of the Dome of the Rock, but it’s under the rock. One theory I have is that the star marks the spot where the earliest Muslims believe Muhammad was catapulted into heaven on his famous night journey. However, there is a small dome outdoors (the Dome of the Ascension) that competes with this star for this reputation.   


There is another smaller marble mosaic, due east of the star. Because of its shape and position, I believe that this smaller mosaic is symbolic of the Dome of the Chain, which is also very near and due east of the Dome of the Rock. According to the early Muslims, the Dome of the chain was the center of the world. The size of the circle of the large mosaic compared to the size of the smaller mosaic is proportional to the difference in the size of the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain. As you can see, the association between the two actual buildings on the Temple Mount, and these two mosaics is inescapable. If all of that is true, the floor of the Cave of Souls is actually a map, perhaps marking the location of the center of the world, and the point of Muhammad’s ascent into heaven.

957 BC. The Ark of the Covenant.


People have repeatedly asked where is the Ark of the Covenant? If you believe in the Jewish writings of the second century, there is no doubt where the Ark went initially.


The Ark of the Covenant.

The Mishnah, which is a collection of Jewish Teachings written in the late second century, records that the Ark of the Covenant was hidden by King Josiah in a secret passageway sometime before 610 BC, and to enter this passageway you had to go through a certain room called the Chamber of Wood, which was located in the northwestern corner of the Women’s Courtyard of the Temple. According to the Mishnah, there was an underground room, and we know approximately where it was, but no excavations to find it have ever been recorded. It is impossible to do any excavating from the top of the Temple Mount because it is under Islamic control. However, it is very likely that after years of conquests, destruction, building and rebuilding, if the ark was ever there, it is gone now. Or maybe it was moved to another location where it was hidden.


598 BC. Nebuchadnezzar I, and the Siege of Jerusalem.


The Babylonian deportation under Nebuchadnezzar.

In the year 598 BC Solomon’s Temple was destroyed and looted of its treasures by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. Many of the Jews were deported to Babylon between 586 and 582 BC in what is known as the Babylonian Exile. It is also likely that Nebuchadnezzar took the Ark of the Covenant, and its future was lost in obscurity.


538 BC. Cyrus.


In the year 538 BC, the Persian king Cyrus II (who had conquered Babylonia) allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple.


516 BC. Nehemiah.


Only some of the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity, but when they did this was the place where Nehemiah completed his Temple, sometime around 516 BC. It was a modest version of the original, without the Ark of the Covenant or any other ritual objects. The Temple resumed its role as the religious center of Judaism, with elaborate rituals conducted by priests and Levites.

 Nehemiah inspects the rubble of Solomon’s Temple.

c. 140 BC. The Hasmonean Dynasty.


The next few centuries saw Jerusalem occupied by several foreign rulers, and the Temple was respected by these foreign rulers until a man named Antiochus IV Epiphanes, plundered the Temple in 169 BC, and desecrated it two years later by commanding that sacrifices be made to the pagan god Zeus inside. This sparked the Hasmonean revolt, in which the Jews were victorious, and their leader, Judas Maccabaeus, rededicated the Temple. This event is still celebrated today in the annual festival called Hanukkah. During this time the Temple mount grew a little larger during the first century BC.


63 BC. The Roman Empire.


The Roman empire occupied Jerusalem starting in 63 BC, and to kick things off they desecrated the Holy of Holies, but they left the Temple intact. In 54 BC the Romans looted the Temple treasury, and in the year 37 BC the Romans completely displaced the last reigning Hasmonean ruler.


The Temple Mount in the first century, built by Herod the Great.

37 BC. Herod the Great.


The Romans installed a puppet king, Herod the Great, over the entire land of Israel in the year 37 BC. 


20 BC. The Temple Mount Expansion.


Starting in 20 BC, Herod the Great doubled the size of the Temple Mount, expanding it to the south, and he began building what we today call the Herodian Temple, which became the centerpiece of his colossal building program. This was the holiest place on earth for Jews at the time of Jesus, and it was a massive sacred complex that included a sanctuary, a state treasury and a slaughterhouse. The Temple Mount also became the headquarters of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews during the Roman period. For the most part, the Temple Mount was completed in 26 AD, before Jesus started His ministry.


The Temple stood high above the city at the center of this gigantic stone platform, girded by a massive retaining wall of huge fitted stones, each one about 13 feet thick.  Several of these stones weigh over 100 tons. One stone in the master course of the western retaining wall measures an incredible 41 feet long, by 11.5 feet high by an estimated 14 feet wide, and weighs an amazing 570 tons.


The southern expansion of the Temple was supported by a series of vaulted arches in order to reduce pressure on the retaining walls. The Crusaders called this area Solomon’s Stables, although unknown to the Crusaders, this part of the Temple Mount did not exist in the days of Solomon. The Crusaders used this underground vault as their own infantry stable.


Surrounding the Herodian Temple were four courts: The large area around the Temple was called the Court of the Gentiles, and anyone could ascend the stairs of the Temple and walk around in this area. 

Going further in, there was an enclosed compound called the Court of Women, restricted only to Jewish men and women, and could be entered by three large gates.

At the western side of this court a flight of 15 curved stairs led up to the Nicanor Gate, beyond which lay another court – the Court of Israel, where Jewish men assembled for Temple services. No women were allowed there.

Then after this section was the Court of Priests, accessible only to the priests and Levites who served in the Temple.


20 BC. The Temple Treasury.

Map Coordinates - 31.778262, 35.235394

Merged Gospels story - 141


Jesus identifies the poor woman who gave a single mite just outside the Treasury of the Temple (The Merged Gospels, story 232).

The Temple Treasury was on the north side of the Temple sanctuary. The most notable words of Jesus in this location are “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32), and ‘Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).


The Temple Treasury was a storehouse used for several purposes. It contained expensive vessels used in Temple worship. It was also used for storing the grain for the Priests, and as a vault for the Temple’s cash storage.


20 AD. The Royal Stoa.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.776044, 35.236219

The Royal Stoa on the Temple Mount.

On the southern side of Herod’s Temple mount, and running the entire 900-foot length of this span, was an open-air portico called the Royal Stoa, which was used mostly for public business and trade. Every major Roman city had a basilica which was used for banking, law courts, and other commercial transactions. In Jerusalem, the Royal Stoa was the center of this activity. We have strong reason to believe that in this colonnade Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple. In fact, many of the Gospel stories which took place on the Temple Mount actually happened in the Royal Stoa. This is probably where the Temple guards gave their report to the Jewish Rulers of Jesus’ disappearance from the tomb (Matthew 28:11-15). The Royal Stoa served many purposes, including a center for purchasing sacrificial animals, and an area for money exchange from incoming tourists who came with foreign currencies. In short, it housed the law courts as well as all the commercial operations on which the Temple's monetary and sacrificial systems depended.


Here Jesus cleanses the Temple at the Royal Stoa.

The law specified that any animals offered must be perfect and unblemished. The Temple appointed inspectors to examine sacrificial animals, and they charged a fee. It was certain that animals brought in by pilgrims from their own herds would be rejected after inspection. Therefore, replacement animals had to be purchased inside the Temple for overly inflated prices. It was bare-faced extortion and blackmail in the name of religion, and Jesus knew this.


20 AD. The Court of the Sanhedrin.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.776192, 35.237327

The Court of the Sanhedrin.

On the far southeast side of the Temple Mount inside the Royal Stoa was the location of the Court of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was both the Jewish supreme court and a political body, which voted the laws and had its own Temple guard. It controlled everything having to do with religion.


This is where the Jewish council met twice to decide how they were going to deal with Jesus.  Some have even suggested that this is where Saint Steven gave his final sermon, as we read it in Acts, chapter 7. It could very well be the place where the Jewish rulers met with Judas Iscariot when they paid him 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus, and where he threw the money back at them. Peter and John were tried in the court of the Sanhedrin here. In fact, it is likely that almost every time a group of Jewish leaders met, they did so in this place.


20 AD. The Place of the Trumpeter.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.775652, 35.234683

The Place of the Trumpeter, announcing the beginning and end of the Sabbath.

On the southwest corner, or pinnacle of the Temple Mount was a place from which a trumpet or ram's horn would be blown to signal the start of the Sabbath and holy days. Discovered on the pavement below this southwest corner in the Ophel there was found a piece of stone that bears a dedicatory inscription reading "to the Place of Trumpeting". This location overlooked most of Jerusalem's neighborhoods, and the recovery of this inscription confirms that the southwest corner is the site where the trumpeting took place.


20 BC. The Antonia Fortress.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.780155, 35.234401

The Antonia Fortress, housing Roman soldiers during the first century.

Along the northern side of the Temple Mount stood the massive Antonia Fortress, named after Herod's patron Mark Antony. This fortress was connected to the Court of Gentiles by a stairway and underground passageway. The 600 Roman soldiers stationed there were always on alert for disturbances in the Temple compound. It was in this building that Paul the Apostle appealed to Caesar. Traditionally, it has been thought that the Antonia Fortress was the site of the Praetorium, and that this latter building was the place where Jesus was taken to stand before Pilate.

20 AD. The Golden Gate.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.778912, 35.237110

The Golden Gate, as it is called in Christian literature, is a single gate that once accessed the center of the Temple Mount from the eastern wall.

The Golden Gate (the Gate Called Beautiful) on the eastern wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

One theory suggests that the present gate was built in the 520s AD as part of Justinian I's building program in Jerusalem. An alternate theory holds that the current gate was built in the later part of the 7th century by Byzantine artisans. However, remains of a much older gate dating to the time of Jesus, called the Beautiful Gate, have been found underneath the current gate.

According to Jewish tradition, the Shekinah glory used to appear through this older gate, and will appear again when the Messiah comes (Ezekiel 44:1–3). In Christian apocryphal texts, the older gate was the scene of a meeting between the parents of Mary, Joachim and Anne. It is also said that Jesus passed through this same gate on Palm Sunday.

Muslims closed the present gate in 810 AD. It was reopened in 1102 AD by the Christian Crusaders, but then walled up again by the Muslim Sultan Saladin, after regaining Jerusalem in 1187.


The Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent sealed off the Golden Gate again in 1541 AD, and it has been closed ever since. While this may have been purely for defensive reasons, it has been suggested that Suleiman sealed off the Golden Gate to prevent the Messiah's entrance. The Ottomans also built a cemetery in front of the gate, in the belief that the precursor to the Messiah, Elijah, would not be able to pass through the Golden Gate and thus the Messiah would not come.

Nevertheless, all of that trouble created by the Muslims to stop the Jewish Messiah from coming through this eastern Gate of Mercy is in vain. This is the gate that Jesus rode through on a humble donkey on the day the Passover lambs were being selected (Palm Sunday), fulfilling Zechariah’s Messianic prophecy in chapter 9 verse 9.

This is where The Merged Gospels Story 148 (The Feast of Dedication) took place. This is where Jesus said, “Just as I said to you, ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.’”  This was also the gate where Peter healed the crippled beggar in Acts 3:1-10.


If this was the gate that Jesus traveled through on a donkey, He must have dismounted before entering the Temple Mount, since donkeys were unclean animals, and were therefore not allowed in the Temple proper.

20 AD. Solomon’s Portico.

Solomon’s Portico on the east side of the Temple Mount.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.779547, 35.236986

In the first century there was an eastern colonnade called "Solomon's Porch," a nostalgic reference to the Israeli king who built the first Temple on this site a thousand years earlier. However, this first-century structure had no connection whatsoever to Solomon.


This portico is mentioned three times in the New Testament, namely, in John 10:23; Acts 3:11, "the porch that is called Solomon's"; and Acts 5:12.


30 AD. Pentecost in the Royal Stoa.

This is a tiny version of The Miracle of Pentecost, one of the largest paintings in the world, 124 feet wide, that was destroyed in the 2005 fire at the Dallas Biblical Arts Center. This painting shows the miracle of Pentecost having occurred in the Royal Stoa on the Temple Mount.

Jean Restout’s painting of the miracle of Pentecost shows the event occurring in the Royal Stoa at the Temple Mount.

Many commentators believe that the Royal Stoa was the location of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2. The notion of them meeting in the “Upper Room” where Jesus had instituted the Christian Passover is presumably an erroneous assumption.


Here’s why. In the period of the Mishnah a large residential room measured 15 feet by 12 feet.  A large room of 300 sq. ft. would probably have been satisfactory for eleven men to sleep and store some of their possessions. However, Acts 1:20 states that 120 persons were meeting together when on Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended upon them (Acts 2:1–4). Fitting 120 people into a 300 sq. ft. room would possibly allow for a standing-room-only crowd, and probably a little more weight than a typical residential room or rooftop could handle. This proposal won’t work, as Acts 2:1 states that all 120 were seated. An average person seated requires six square feet per person. For all to be seated would have required at least 720 square feet, or well over double the size of a large residential room.


Lastly, the implication of the Greek language is that the group, including women and children, actually comprised about 120 families, e.g. Greek: onoma “names” (Acts 1:15) not individuals, presumably encompassing in all about 500 people. For 500 people to be seated for a religious event at 6 sq. ft. per person requires at least 3,000 sq. ft. which is way too large for any ordinary residential upper room to accommodate. The point of this analysis is that neither the Upper Room of Acts 1:13 nor the Upper Room of Luke 22:8–10 and Mark 14:13 could have been the venue for the advent of the Holy Spirit.


The likely solution to the enigma raised above is that the Apostles and their followers assembled on the Temple Mount (Acts 2:1) in the Royal Stoa, or one of the large halls in the Temple court available for public religious meetings. On the day of Pentecost all were seated (Acts 2:2) in a building for holy day services. The Royal Stoa would have exposed access, allowing for people in the building to be easily seen and heard from outside the colonnade. The apostles then were immediately accessible to thousands of Jews and proselytes gathered for the festival in a massive public facility.


While Acts 2:2 says that the sound of wind filled the whole “house”, Jesus refers to the Temple with the term house four times (John 2:16,17, Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46). In Acts 5:21 Luke refers to a prison as a house. Several times in the Old Testament, the Temple is referred to as a house.


At Passover, the huge Temple esplanade was jammed with tens of thousands of pilgrims from fifteen different countries speaking multiple languages. The description in Acts chapter two clearly indicates that the miracle of Pentecost was witnessed by people who spoke multiple languages. This event could only have occurred on the Temple Mount, where pilgrims from various parts of the world had congregated for the feast. Crowds speaking multiple languages would not have congregated around a dining room in upper Jerusalem.

66 AD. The Great Revolt.


The Temple Mount was the focal point of the Roman invasion under emperor Vespasian in the First Jewish Revolt of 66-70 AD, which brought ancient Judaism to an abrupt end. After the destruction of Jerusalem this Temple Mount was left in complete ruins. During this war the Roman soldiers tore down the Temple, and threw much of it over the side of the Temple platform, and many of the stones are still down there. This destruction was ordered by general Titus on August 10, 70 AD.

The event is commemorated (complete with a stone relief, showing the looting of some of the Temple furnishings by Roman soldiers) on the Arch of Titus in Rome. All that remained after this siege was a portion of the Western Wall, which is the focus of Jewish pilgrimage in Jerusalem today. Ever since this destruction, Jews around the world have continued to cherish the hope that the Temple will one day be rebuilt.

A relief sculpture from the Arch of Titus in Rome, showing Roman soldiers looting the Temple in Jerusalem.

Since the Romans destroyed the Temple there was nothing but rubble on the Temple platform for over 600 years, with one exception. For a brief time, the Roman Emperor Hadrian put a statue of Jupiter on this rock, sometime around 130 AD.  


117 AD. Emperor Hadrian and the Kitos War.


There was a second Jewish revolt in 117 AD, called the Kitos War. In 130 AD, the Roman Emperor at that time, Hadrian, thought that he should make friends with the Jews, and what better way to do that than to rebuild their city that was destroyed by a previous emperor. 

However, what he actually did was make them angrier. He completely rebuilt the city, and reconstructed the streets. He also decided not to rebuild the Temple, because he thought that that would just encourage the Jews to coalesce into a fighting force again. Then he renamed the city Aelia Capitolina. (Aelia was his family’s name, and Captialina meant that the city was dedicated to the Roman god Jupiter.)  He also renamed the entire country Palestine, which came from the word Philistines, who were the historic enemies of the Jews.

The Roman Emperor Hadrian.


132 - 135 AD. The Bar Kochba Revolt.


A third Jewish revolt occurred in 132 AD, led by Simon Bar Kokhba. Jerusalem was liberated for about three years, during which time reconstruction of the Temple probably began. But in 135, Roman armies retook Jerusalem and forbade Jews to enter the city. Emperor Hadrian continued his construction of the new Roman city.


324 AD. Constantine I.


In 324 AD, Constantine I, who was the first “so-called” Christian emperor, tore down all of the pagan statues that Hadrian built in and around Jerusalem, and started building churches. Constantine wanted to leave the Temple mount in ruins, in order to send a message to the Jews. After all, to him the Temple Mount represented the old Jerusalem, and he called the Holy Sepulcher Church “The New Jerusalem”.


324 – 638 AD. The Byzantine Empire in the Holy Land.


Up until 610 AD, Jerusalem was basically a Christian city. During the Byzantine period, Jews were permitted to visit the Temple at least once a year, on the anniversary of the destruction in 70 AD, at which they would weep and tear their garments. The Temple Mount was mostly ignored, and its stones continued to be looted for use in other structures.


361 AD. Julian the Apostate.

There was another emperor after Constantine who was not a Christian. He was called by the Christians Julian the Apostate, the last pagan emperor of Rome. He didn’t want Christianity to be the dominant religion, so he brought back paganism. Just so he could keep Christianity suppressed he even allowed the Jews to rebuild their Temple, with donations not only from Rome, but from Jews around the world. However, an earthquake in 363 AD put an end to that project. At this time, according to an ancient historian, "fearful balls of fire breaking out near the foundations continued their attacks until the workmen, after repeated scorchings, could approach no more: and he (the architect) gave up the attempt" (Ammianus Marcellinus). Besides these things, the Jews had already embraced a form of “rabbinic” Judaism that did not include the Temple, and they weren’t very enthused about the project. Emperor Julian died within the year and the project was abandoned.


Julian the Apostate - the last pagan emperor of the Roman Empire.

614 AD. The Persian Conquest of the Holy Land.


In 614 AD, Persian forces invaded Jerusalem, slaughtering the inhabitants and destroying the churches. They also stole the fragment of the “True Cross" of Jesus that was archived in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

620 AD. Muhammad.


In 620 AD the prophet Muhammad supposedly visited the Temple Mount while he was sleeping in Mecca, 900 miles away, riding a flying horse with a human head (called a buraq. It’s pronounced just as the name Barack.) into heaven. As the story goes, when they arrived at the Temple Mount, Mohammed dismounted the buraq, and prayed on the rock on which the Jewish Holy of Holies once stood. Then Muhammad, the angel Gabriel and the buraq went up to the seventh heaven, and spoke with Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Then the buraq instantly flew back to Mecca, and the next morning Mohammad woke up and told everyone about his “experience”.  As you can imagine, there is today much controversy in Islam as to whether this was just a dream, or whether this was a physical journey.


638 AD. The Muslim Conquest of the Holy Land Under Umar I.


Islamic historians record that the Muslims, under the leadership of Caliph Umar, captured the city in 638 AD. At that time Umar found the Temple Mount completely destroyed, and recalling the story about Muhammad’s night journey, he was convinced that the place formerly known as the Temple Mount should now become an Islamic shrine. His first task was to build a small prayer house on the Temple platform, which later became the Al-Aqsa Mosque.


The Temple Mount in Jerusalem (specifically the Al-Aqsa Mosque is regarded by Muslims as the third holiest site outside the cities of Mecca and Medina.


692 AD. The Dome of the Rock.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.777927, 35.235365

The Dome of the Rock in 1913 AD.

In 692 AD, the Muslims completed the Dome of Rock, making it one of the oldest existing Islamic structures in the world. It sits on or near the site of the Herodian Temple. 


Here is an interesting fact - the original church of the Holy Sepulcher was a thousand feet away from this spot. The size of the dome on the Dome of the Rock is almost exactly the same as the dome on the original Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The difference between the two domes was very small. It is obvious that the people who built the Dome of the Rock were deliberately copying the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The builders of the dome apparently wanted to erect a beautiful Muslim building that would compete with the majestic churches of Christianity, and would serve as a symbolic statement to both Jews and Christians of the superiority of Islam.


This domed building was fashioned in the shape of an octagon. It’s important to remember what the octagon symbolized in Christianity. It symbolized the divinity of Christ, and up until the Muslim conquest, the message of Jesus’ resurrection was everywhere in Palestine. All across the land, churches had been built with an octagonal shape, each one making an architectural statement that Jesus was both Lord and God.  Notice that when the Muslims copied the octagonal scheme of the Byzantine churches, they were copying this architectural statement – that Jesus was divine, which is a teaching that Muslims deny. And yet this building stands here with all the symbols that point to the truth of the divinity of Christ. If the builders had understood that this is what the number eight symbolized, they might have reconsidered building the dome with eight sides. But as it is, the Dome of the Rock, being Jerusalem’s most recognizable landmark, is, in itself today, a standing witness that Jesus Christ is both Lord and God, and this is the epitome of irony. Instead of just being a statement against Christianity, the people who worship here find themselves occupying a dome that, by its design, affirms the truth of Christianity. 


692 AD. Christian References in the Dome of the Rock.


The interior of the Dome of the Rock, looking down on the rock itself.

Here is something that surprises most people. The builders of this dome had a huge preoccupation with Jesus, and that is evidenced by the fact that we read about Jesus in the inscriptions that refer to Him all over this dome. In fact, about one-third of all the inscriptions on the dome of the rock are about Jesus. Most of what is written praises Jesus as a true prophet, and a couple of lines exhort Christians to depart from, what they call, the error of the divinity of Jesus.

Below are the inscriptions on the Inside of the Dome of the Rock. (Those passages which are in reference or refutation to Jesus or Christianity are in purple.)

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. There is no god but God alone. He has no associate. Unto Him belongs dominion, and unto Him belongs praise. He gives life, and He gives death; and He has Power over all things. Muhammad is the servant of God and His Messenger.

God and His angels send blessings on the Prophet. O you who believe!  Send blessings on him and salute him with all respect. May God bless him and grant him peace and mercy.

O People of the Book (referring to the Bible), do not go beyond the bounds of your religion, nor say anything but the truth about God. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, His Word that He committed to Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him. So believe in God and His messengers. Do not say, ‘Three’. Stop! It is better for you!  God is only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. And God is sufficient as Defender. The Messiah will not disdain to be God’s servant, nor will the angels who are stationed near to Him. Whoso scorns His service and is proud, all such will He assemble unto Him. Oh God, bless Your Messenger and Your servant, Jesus, son of Mary. Peace be on him the day he was born, and the day he dies, and the day he shall be raised alive!  Such was Jesus, son of Mary. This is a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt. It does not befit the Majesty of God that He should take unto Himself a son. Glory be to Him!

When He decrees a thing, He only says “Be!” and it is. God is my Lord and your Lord. So, serve Him. That is the right path. God Himself is witness that there is no God except Him. And the angels and the men of learning are also witnesses. Maintaining His creation in justice, there is no God except Him, the Almighty, the Wise. Religion with God is Islam. Those who formerly received the Book (probably referring to the Bible) differed only after knowledge came unto them, through transgression among themselves. Whoever does not believe the revelations of God will find that, lo, God is swift at reckoning.

In the name of God, the Merciful the Compassionate. There is no god but God. He is One. He has no associate. Say, “He is God, the One! God, the eternally One, sought by all!  He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him. Muhammad is the Messenger of God. The blessing of God be on him. In the name of God, the Merciful the Compassionate. There is no god but God.  He is One. He has no associate. Muhammad is the Messenger of God.  Lo!  God and His angels send blessings on the Prophet.

O, you who believe!  Ask blessings on him and salute him with all respect. In the name of God, the Merciful the Compassionate. There is no god but God. He is One. Praise be to God, Who has not taken unto Himself a son, and Who has no partner in the Sovereignty, nor has He any protecting friend through dependence. And magnify Him with all magnificence. 

Muhammad is the Messenger of God, the blessing of God be on him and the angels and His prophets, and peace be on him, and may God have mercy. In the name of God, the Merciful the Compassionate. There is no god but God. He is One. He has no associate.

Unto Him belongs sovereignty, and unto Him belongs praise. He gives life, and He gives death. And He has Power over all things. Muhammad is the Messenger of God. The blessing of God be on him. May He accept his intercession on the Day of Judgment on behalf of his people. In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. There is no god but God alone, without a partner. Muhammad is God’s messenger. May God bless him.

Why is there so much written about Jesus on this dome? You have to remember that starting in 325 AD, this entire land was a Christian nation, that is, during the Byzantine era, and the Dome of the Rock was built very soon after the Byzantine age ended. The most important thing on the mind of the new Muslim landlords was to defeat the prevailing idea that God had a Son. What they failed to understand is that God doesn’t just have a son. God is a Son. He is a Father. And He is a Spirit. He is one God who expresses himself in multiple persons. 

When it was built, this dome was a statement to the Jews because of its location, being on the same site as their former Temple. It was a statement to Christians because of the inscriptions written on the dome, and because the builders intended it to be the same size as the dome that covered the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

When you walk around the inside of this dome, it is obvious that when it was created the Muslims were definitely on a mission to convert Christians to Islam. But here is the reality. In Islam Muhammad is not called the Messiah. In Islam only Jesus is called the Messiah (The Quran calls Jesus the Messiah at least five times). By portraying Jesus as the Messiah, Islam increases the chances that persons who are born Muslim would gravitate to Jesus. However, because Christianity predates Islam, there is no attractive picture of Muhammad that is conveyed to Christians. In other words, Christianity does not endorse Muhammad, but Islam does endorse Jesus. As a result, there are a vast number of Muslims who are becoming followers of Jesus, but relatively few people would venture to leave the Christian faith in order to follow Islam.


The Golden Dome.

The Dome of the Rock has been sitting on the site of the Jewish Temple since 692 AD. It has looked virtually the same for over 1300 years. In 1993 King Hussein of Jordan purchased 80 kilograms of gold for 8.2 million dollars, and this gold is what covers the Dome today. 

The Foundation Stone.

An overhead view of this rock beneath the dome reveals many geometric cuts that were made by the Crusaders in the twelfth century, who turned this building into a church, and this foundation stone was used to support a staircase and marble slabs. 


692 AD. Islam and Jesus.


Muslims believe that Jesus was a highly esteemed prophet, like Muhammad. As I said, the Quran calls Jesus the Messiah. They believe that he had a virgin birth. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the only woman mentioned in the Quran (32 times exactly). Muslims believe in every miracle that Jesus performed, including raising people from the dead. They believe that he ascended into heaven, and that He will return for a second coming. They believe that John the Baptist was a prophet.

It is interesting to note that the Jews reject every one of those beliefs – but Islam does not. Those are the points where Christianity and Islam agree. 

But here is where they differ. The three most-important truths in Christianity are the ones that Muslims reject:

1. They don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus.

2. They don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross - probably Simon the Cyrene died on the cross instead.

3. They don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus. They believe that He ascended into Heaven as an old man.


There’s more. During Jesus’ second coming, Muslims believe that He will return before the day of Judgement in order to kill someone called the false prophet (which, according to Muslims, is an eschatological character who will rise up to deceive the world against Islam). They teach that, after His second coming, Jesus will live on the earth for 40 years, at which time He will die. Muslims also teach that at His second coming Jesus will kill all pigs (which are unclean animals in Islam), and that he will destroy all crosses, since Muslims believe that the story about Jesus dying on the cross is untrue. And lastly, Jesus’ job at his second coming is to draw all Jews and Christians to Islam. Then eventually the entire world will embrace Islam. 


No divinity means that Jesus is not the one who can save you. No divinity means that he doesn’t have the credentials to have any effect on your salvation. 

They say the cross can’t save you, because Jesus didn’t die on it. No death means no sacrifice on the cross for your sins. 

They say His resurrection can’t save you, because He didn’t rise from the dead. No resurrection means no conquering death and the grave, which, according to the Christians’ teaching, makes everyone’s resurrection possible. 

So whatever Christians and Muslims agree on regarding Jesus is irrelevant if they reject the three most important things that the Gospels clearly teach about Jesus – that he was divine, that He died on the cross for our sins, and that His resurrection was the way that He defeated the power that hell and the grave have over us. According to Muslims, Jesus is just a prophet, and that these three major truths just mentioned are simply perverted teachings of the Christian church.


692 AD. The Dome of the Chain.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.778052, 35.235685

This small dome is in the exact geographic center of the Temple Mount, and it is 46 feet in diameter – three times smaller than the Dome of the Rock itself. You can see a prayer niche called a mihrab on the southern wall of this outdoor chapel facing Mecca, as all mihrabs in the world face Mecca. 


According to Islamic tradition, this dome is the center of the world - the spot where everyone on Judgment Day will pass through, and that there will be a chain that partitions the righteous from the unrighteous. Hence this is called The Dome of the Chain. Modern Muslims may not believe that, but the builders of this dome did.


705 AD. The Al Aqsa Mosque.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.776222, 35.235691

In 705 AD the Muslims built the Al Aqsa Mosque on the southern end of the mount. For Muslims, this is the third holiest place in all of Islam. The holiest place in Islam is the Grand Mosque in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, where their prophet Muhammad was born. Their second most holy place is the tomb of Mohammad, called The Mosque of the Prophet in Medina, also in Saudi Arabia.


Ever since the seventh century, they have been referring to the entire Temple Mount as the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  The word “mosque” means “place of worship”, and with the word “Al-Aqsa” attached, it means “The farthest mosque”, because it was the farthest mosque away from Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which was the birthplace of Islam. From the beginning of the second millennium, the Muslims also started referring to this place as Haram al-Sharif - “the noble sanctuary”.  For the Muslims, the Temple Mount really has two names, even though today some people use the word Haram al-Sharif to refer to the entire Temple mount, and they refer to the congregational building on the southern part of the Mount as the Al-Aqsa Mosque.


After an earthquake in 746 AD, the mosque was completely destroyed and rebuilt in 754 and then again in 780. Another earthquake destroyed most of al-Aqsa in 1033, but two years later another mosque was built, which has stood to the present day.


When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 AD, they used the mosque as a palace and church, but its function as a mosque was restored after its recapture by Saladin in 1187 AD.


c. 7th – 10th Centuries. The Dome of the Ascension.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates – 31.778382, 35.234726

This is the oldest of the small domes on the Temple Mount, built sometime between the 7th and 10th centuries. Some believe that it was built on the spot from which Muhammad ascended into Heaven on his night journey.


c. 10th Century. The Dome of the Spirits.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.778733, 35.234793

Also called the Dome of the Tablets, this small dome was built in the tenth century. Other than the rock beneath the Dome of the Rock, this is the only patch of exposed limestone of Mount Moriah. 

One theory claims that it is above the “Spirits Cave” where the spirits of the dead gather for prayer.  Another theory claims that it is called the Dome of the Tablets, referring to the tablets that were kept inside the Ark of the Covenant, implying that this might be the location of the Holy of Holies – a theory with which most scholars disagree.


1539 AD. The Dome of the Prophet.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.778225, 35.234825

The Dome of the Prophet is a free-standing dome in the northern part of the Temple Mount. Built in 1539 AD it is traditionally held that on this spot Muhammad led the former Jewish prophets (including Jesus) and angels in prayer on the night that he rose into heaven.

1099 AD. The Crusaders.


The Catholic crusaders came to the Holy Land in 1099 AD, and for about 200 years there was a back-and-forth struggle between the Christians and the Muslims over who was going to control Jerusalem. The Crusaders wasted no time christening the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount. They called the Dome of the Rock the temple of the Lord, and the Al Aqsa Mosque was called the temple of Solomon, a building that provided the headquarters for the Crusader knights.


1187 AD. Muslim Control.


The Muslims finally prevailed over the Crusaders in 1187 AD.


1997 AD. The Al-Marwani Mosque.

Location – The Temple Mount

Map Coordinates - 31.776192, 35.237327

In 1997, the Waqf (the controlling Muslim council of the Temple Mount) began digging up the southeastern area of the Temple Mount that was once occupied by the Royal Stoa, drawing criticism from archaeologists who said that archaeological finds were being damaged in the process, and the excavations weakened the stability of the Southern Wall. This was done to construct a new access point for the new El-Marwani mosque, which occupied the area known to the crusaders as Solomon’s Stables, which was actually the subterranean vaults for Herod’s Temple platform expansion.


Material dug from the site was dumped in the Kidron Valley, and an operation to sift through the debris was started to rescue any remaining artifacts. The resulting Temple Mount Sifting Project has resulted in the recovery of many architectural fragments from the Second Temple buildings and other remnants.


These excavations on the Temple Mount are thought to have been responsible for creating a large, visible bulge in the Southern Wall that threatened the structural integrity of the Temple Mount, necessitating major repairs. These repairs have been called "unsightly", because they appear as a large, bright, white patch of smooth stones in the middle of the older golden tan stones.

Islam and the Temple Mount.


Muslims hope to eventually be the sole owners of this platform within the context of a country that has no Jews in it at all. While Muslims are the current tenants of the Temple Mount, they publicly deny that there was ever a Jewish Temple on this site. They claim that the entire 35-acre Temple Mount was built by Emperor Hadrian long after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. However, that defies logic, because there is no reason why Hadrian would build something this large for no apparent reason. Privately everyone knows that there is ample archeological evidence that there was a Temple here, and there are several ancient historical writings which describe the Jewish Temple as sitting on this very platform. But that evidence is ignored or suppressed in order to quell any discussion about building a future Temple on this site.


It is obvious that the reason why Muslims deny that the Temple was here does not come from scientific proof, but more from their own logic. They say, “Look, there are two main buildings on Haram al-Sharif, and both are Muslim – the Dome of the Rock, and the Al Aqsa Mosque.”  The Muslims took over Jerusalem in 638 AD. The dome has been here since 692 AD, and the prayer house has been here since 705 AD. Their point is, “If Allah determined for this place to be a shrine to honor himself and the prophet Mohammad, why would he have allowed a Jewish temple to have ever been here at any time?” In their thinking, Allah would never have allowed the same space to be occupied by two opposing faiths. And the fact that the Muslim shrines have been here for fourteen centuries, and not Jewish shrines, proves, in their minds, that Allah’s intention since creation was for this to be a place for Muslims and not Jews.


The Jews and the Temple Mount.


Someday the Jews hope to have a new Temple on the site of the Temple Mount. Due to its extreme sanctity, many Jews will not walk on the mount itself, to avoid unintentionally entering the area where the Holy of Holies stood, since, according to Rabbinical law, some aspect of the divine presence is still present at the site. It was from the Holy of Holies that the High Priest communicated directly with God.


These turbulent events have not changed the state of affairs at the Temple Mount, however, which continues to be administered by the Waqf, the Supreme Muslim Religious Council. Access to the Temple Mount is free and open to the public and is a popular stop for tourists and pilgrims. In general, Jews still do not enter the Temple Mount, instead focusing their prayers and lamentations on the famous Western Wall.


Needless to say, this is the most hotly contested piece of real estate in the entire world. What happens here could ignite World War III.


Do Jews ever come up here? Since the year 1448, Jews have been forbidden by many of their leaders to enter the Temple Mount. This is because the rabbis believe that the sites that were once occupied by the Temple should, even now, only be trod upon by God’s elected priests. But the problem is that there is no way for anyone to be ritually cleansed, like the priests were required to be, so that they could set foot on these sites. Plus, only the high priest was allowed into the Holy of Holies, and no one knows exactly where that was, so someone could accidentally desecrate the spot by inadvertently walking on it. Some Jews come up here on occasion, but it’s not very common.


Regarding whether or not a third Temple should ever be built, the Jews have two opposing viewpoints. The most conservative Jews, the ultra-Orthodox, believe that only the coming Messiah should build the next Jewish Temple. There are other Jews, however, who believe that when the political conditions are favorable, a third Jewish Temple should be built here regardless whether or not the Messiah has made his appearance to the world. This second group is working around the clock, raising money and drawing up plans to eventually break ground for the next Jewish Temple, as soon as conditions allow it.   


There are many Jews who claim that the Temple Mount is their rightful property, because they were here first. After all, Judaism predates Islam. The Jews also lay claim to this site, because they say it was legally purchased by one of their ancestors, King David, a Jewish king, which was, in fact, the only time in history that this land has ever been sold, so therefore, they say, it remains the legitimate property of the Jewish people only.


Since the Crusades, the Muslim community of Jerusalem has managed the site without interruption. As the site is part of the Old City, controlled by Israel since 1967, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim sovereignty over it, and it remains a major focal point of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In an attempt to keep the status quo, the Israeli government enforces a controversial ban on prayer by non-Muslims.

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