A: The thesis of Martin's book is that the Temple in Jerusalem was built above the Gihon Spring in the City of David. As a result, he claims that the huge Roman structure known as the Temple Mount, and generally identified to be the remains of the ancient Jewish Temple, was actually the Antonia Fortress. This is a claim that, as he admits, goes against all the accumulated knowledge of both the archeological and historical professions, as well as the traditional religious beliefs of Jews, Christians, and Moslems (pp. 1-6).
That's quite an uphill fight. But Martin advances boldly into the fray with a book that fairly bristles with literary references to ancient Jerusalem and the Temple in particular. Unfortunately for his cause, he has neglected to supply himself with ammunition from the one source that is absolutely vital to making his case: the field of archeology. This is quite odd, especially given his work with Benjamin Mazar, the famous archeologist, in his Temple Mount excavation. But it's not just that he neglects the archeological evidence, he rejects it out of hand. Oddly, Martin claims that "none of the stones of the City of Jerusalem and the Temple from their glory before 70 C.E. is any longer on site for archaeologists to discover.... This has resulted in the total obliteration of the former City of Jerusalem" (p. 169). The only exception to this, he maintains, is the Haram es-Sharif, commonly known as the Temple Mount, which he identifies with the Antonia Fortress. "The only remnants to be seen of any buildings in the Jerusalem area that pre-date the 70 C.E. period are those walls surrounding the Haram" (p. 168).
These seemingly irrational statements, offered without supporting archeological evidence of any kind, are repeated throughout the book. With these few words, Martin sweeps away the life work of archeologists who have spent their entire professional careers studying precisely those remains that he claims not to exist in the city of Jerusalem, or even the area around it. Entire books, filled with beautiful photographic illustrations that meticulously document the discoveries of Second Temple Jerusalem, Martin proclaims for naught. Wiped out by his statements are the poignant discovery of the Burnt House, the elegant Herodian Quarter with its stately mansions, the impressive Hippicus Tower (still standing to a height of about 50 feet), the foundations of the Western City Wall (the so-called First Wall), the Essene Gate, the Third Wall (on the north side of the city), the Struthion Pool, the Sheep Pools of Bezetha, the splendid aqueducts that brought water into the city, and a multitude of other discoveries that are seen every day by the thousands of tourists that visit the city. For most knowledgeable readers, and certainly for those who have ever visited Jerusalem, such preposterous claims will be the end of the story, and Martin's book closed for good.
Destroyed To Its Foundations
But unfortunately many around the world are not familiar with the archeological discoveries in Jerusalem, and as a result might be swayed by such radical claims which they have no way to prove or disprove. This makes it necessary to take a more detailed look at the errors in Martin's logic that have led him to reject wholesale what for professionals in the field and for all those familiar with the facts has been proven without question.
As mentioned above, Martin's argument is built almost entirely on literary references, of which he offers many. But his argument rests largely on his own peculiar interpretation of certain standard phrases used in ancient times to describe the destruction of a city. He points out, for example, passage after passage in which Jerusalem is said to have been completely destroyed, "to its foundations" (p. 17, 33, 34, etc.) On this slim basis, he claims, incredibly, that every single rock was removed from the ancient city of Jerusalem, with even its foundations being dug out of the ground, and that, as a result, not a single tiny bit of archeological evidence of Second Temple Jerusalem remains (Jerusalem from before the war of 66-70 A.D.; with the exception of what he calls the Antonia Fortress).
But in arriving at this bizarre conclusion, which runs contrary to all the available archeological evidence, he fails to note that this same expression--being destroyed "to its foundations"--was a common one in antiquity for the destruction of a city. Yet the ruins of other ancient cities similarly destroyed still exist, and can be explored by archeologists. And there is no reason to believe it is any different in the case of Jerusalem, as archeology has abundantly confirmed. Clearly the expression "to its foundations" does not mean that the foundations were dug out, as he interprets it, but rather that the buildings were destroyed down to the level of their foundations, leaving the foundations intact.
This is, in fact, expressly stated in one of the passages of Josephus to which he refers (p. 14,15,17 etc.): "But for all the rest of the wall [of the city], it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation" (Wars, 7.1.1). The walls did not have their foundations excavated (as archeological evidence has clearly shown), but were, as Josephus states,"laid even with the ground," that is, the portions above ground level were toppled. The mention here of digging refers to the work of military sappers, of which Martin, though claiming to be a historian, appears to be unaware, who dug into the base of standing walls to make them topple. This was standard procedure in ancient warfare (read for example the account of the fall of Gamla in Wars 4.1.9). Josephus is simply remarking that they did their work of sapping "up to the foundation," in other words, they levelled the walls to ground level, up to the foundations, but no farther. Since the foundations of the very same walls mentioned by Josephus have been found intact by archeologists, this is the only possible interpretation of these passages.
The inherent contradiction of Martin's claims emerges most dramatically in another set of passages that he seeks to minimize, since they directly challenge his idea that the Temple Mount was the Antonia Fortress (pp. 35-37). Martin himself claims that only the Antonia Fortress remained after the war of the whole ancient city of Jerusalem, "splendidly in place in the lower courses" (p. 173). But Josephus says, by contrast, that "Titus gave orders to his soldiers that were with him to dig up the foundations of the tower of Antonia" (Wars 6.2.1 [6.93]). This order was quickly carried out: "The Roman army had, in seven days' time, overthrown the foundations of the tower of Antonia" (Wars 6.2.7 [6.149]; see also 6.5.4 [6.311]). If "digging up the foundations," when used of the Temple and the city, refers to removing the foundations, as Martin claims, then this means that the Antonia, too, was completely destroyed and removed, just like the rest of the city. And as a result, his entire theory of identifying the Temple Mount with the Antonia Fortress falls to the ground. Since the same language is used by the same writer both for the destruction of the Antonia and for the destruction of the Temple and the city, there is no reason to believe Martin's claim that one was completely destroyed and removed while the other was left essentially intact.
But in spite of the clear wording and clear meaning of these passages that tell of the destruction of the Antonia, Martin claims that Titus, the Roman general, quickly changed his mind, and that as a result, the Antonia was only partially destroyed. This, he says, took place only on the north side, which is odd, since the entire purpose of tearing down the Antonia was to gain access to the Temple on its southern side. After this, Martin claims, again without evidence, the Antonia was quickly repaired (p. 37). One might be tempted to believe this unusual reconstruction, since Titus is said after this to have viewed a battle from the Antonia and to have "retired into the tower of Antonia" (Wars 6.4.4,5 [6.246,249]). But a notice yet subsequent to this clearly asserts again that the Antonia had been completely destroyed: "For the Jews by demolishing the tower of Antonia, had made their Temple foursquare" (Wars 6.5.4 [6.310,311]). Josephus connects this with a prophecy that the city and Temple would be destroyed "when once their Temple should become foursquare." This could hardly have been the case if the Antonia was still largely intact, even less had it been repaired and returned to its original condition. This significant change in the Temple's appearance could only have taken place if the Antonia was completely destroyed. So how then did Titus look down from the Antonia and retire into the Antonia after it had been destroyed? Even after the destruction of the fortress, the tall stony precipice on which it had been built remained (see more below). This strategic position continued to be useful even after the fort's destruction, which together with its ruins most logically continued to be called by its previous name.
By the way, this notice that the destruction of the Antonia made the Temple into a square is unintelligible to Martin's reconstruction, which claims that the Temple was already a square, and removed by a considerable distance (600 feet) from the much larger Antonia (p. 256, 445). Only if the Antonia was considerably smaller than the Temple, and attached to it as a sort of appendage (which is how Josephus describes it), can this description make any sense at all.
Another stumbling block for Martin is the word "ruins" (as p. 45, etc.). Whenever he finds a reference that says the Temple or the city was in ruins or destroyed after the war, he takes this to confirm his odd theory that its very stones had been dug up and removed. But the word itself indicates quite the opposite. "Ruins" mean that the original structures remain and can be identified, though they are in a broken-down condition. If the stones had all been physically removed, as he claims took place (pp. 34, 169), this would no longer be a ruin. So when the Emperor Hadrian came in 130 A.D. to survey the city, and "found...God's Holy Temple a ruin" (p. 45) this tells us that the foundations of the Temple were not at all removed (as Martin claims), but that it was still recognizable, though in a pitiful and broken-down condition. And the same applies to many other references quoted by him.
Martin claims to find further support for his idea that all the stones of the Temple were removed in references that speak of the Temple area being plowed to plant crops (as p. 183). But it seems to have escaped his notice that a large percentage of the 35 acre Temple Mount is still plowed today, and grows olive trees and other plants in abundance. This does not at all imply the removal of the Temple's stones: it simply means that enough dirt accumulated over the years to grow things on it, just as it is today.
The Antonia Fortress
While Martin upholds the authority of Josephus against all modern authorities, and dares us to accept the accuracy of his reports (p. 13, etc.), he would do well to listen more closely to what Josephus actually says, himself. For example, he claims that the speech of Eleazar at Masada supports his idea that the Antonia Fortress (which for him is the Temple Mount) is all that remained standing in Jerusalem after the war against the Romans. This, he says, was used by them as a military base (p. 33-35). Yet this same passage, which never mentions the Antonia by name, says that the camp of the Romans was established "upon its [the city's] ruins" (Wars 7.8.7), not adjacent to and outside the city proper, as Martin maintains the Antonia to have been. That the Roman camp was built on the city's "ruins" clearly indicates that it was established after the city's fall, and not before, as the Temple Mount obviously was.
The location of the Roman camp after the war is one of the few points on which Martin does draw in some archeological references (pp. 40-42, 46). But all they prove is that the camp of the 10th Legion has not yet been discovered, and that it may not have been located in the southwest part of the city, where many assumed it was. This leaves open the possibility that it was in one of the many remaining unexcavated parts of the city.
But Martin insists that the most logical place for the Roman camp was on the Temple Mount. Putting aside for the moment Martin's peculiar identification of the Temple Mount with the Antonia fortress, wouldn't the Temple Mount have been an attractive place for Titus to house his troops? "Indeed, just looking at the remains of the walls of the Haram [the Temple Mount] from the Mount of Olives would make any ordinary person see that such a compound surrounded by thick and impressive walls on all sides would have made a wonderful Roman Camp for the Tenth Legion" (p. 47). This certainly seems plausible given the present appearance of the Temple Mount. But Martin's theory seems to have blinded him to the fact that all the upper walls of the Temple Mount were torn down in the destruction of the war of 70 A.D. As anyone with clear eyesight can see, all the layers of the wall above the level (and some even below the level) of the inner Temple platform are of a completely different style, smaller and much less elegant, than the massive Herodian stones below. In all these places, the original stones were thrown down by the Romans, where they have been found by archeologists in jumbled piles below. How odd that Martin appears ignorant of the source and meaning of these massive stones, when he claims to have participated in the very dig that discovered them! The resulting bare platform, with no remaining wall around it, was of no use to the Romans. If this was the Antonia Fortress, which the Romans continued to use for many years (as Martin claims), who threw down these stones, and why? Yet these massive stones were found lying directly on Second Temple period pavements laid down just before the war. This indicates clearly, without any question, that these stones were thrown down at the time of the war, and not later. These facts alone destroy Martin's theory that the Temple Mount was the Antonia Fortress.
Martin's theory requires that the Antonia Fortress "occupied the whole region north of the actual Temple Mount, not simply at the Temple's northwest angle of its outer walls" (p. 58). Yet this, too, is expressly contradicted by Josephus, who says, "Now, as to the tower of Antonia, it was situated at the corner of two cloisters of the court of the Temple; of that on the west, and that on the north.... [this] was the only place that hindered the sight of the Temple on the north" (Wars 5.5.8 [5.238, 246]). This directly contradicts Martin's idea that the Antonia extended all the way along the Temple's northern side, and was bigger than the Temple itself. Other passages from Josephus that he presents to support his view state only that the Antonia was north of the Temple, and not at all that it was situated in the manner he describes (p. 58). On the contrary, Josephus gives a clear sense of the size and relative scale of the Temple and the Antonia when he says, "For the Temple was a fortress that guarded the city, as was the tower of Antonia a guard to the Temple" (Wars 5.5.8). In other words, just as the Temple, as a guard to the city, was smaller than the city, so the Antonia, which guarded the Temple, was also smaller than the Temple.
This is confirmed by Josephus' other descriptions of the Temple. "This Temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow" (Wars 5.5.6 [5.223]). This would certainly not be the case if the dominating architectural structure were the Antonia Fortress, as Martin claims the Temple Mount to have been, overshadowing the much smaller Temple beside it.
In another place, Martin claims that the Antonia was built around a rock mentioned by Josephus, that he identifies with the bedrock under the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount (pp. 82,83). But in this passage, Josephus specifically says the Antonia "was erected upon [literally, above] a rock, of fifty cubits in height, and was on a great precipice" (Wars 5.5.8, emphasis added). This description does not match the Temple Mount in any way. The cliffs covered with facing stones in Martin's artistic reconstruction are imaginary. Rather, deep trenches were excavated into the earth to reach the bedrock its massive walls required. But exactly the kind of towering, rocky cliff Josephus describes can still be seen beyond the northwest perimeter of the Temple Mount: the traditional location of the Antonia Fortress.
Evidence From The Temple Mount
In contrast to Martin's claims, the actual archeological discoveries from the Temple Mount provide clear evidence that this was in fact a Jewish Temple structure. The famous Hebrew inscription "to the place of trumpeting" would hardly have been written in that language for a Roman garrison manned with foreign troops. The protruding pilasters of its upper courses also appear at the Machpelah cave in Hebron, another Herodian structure used for Jewish religious worship. Design elements in the ceilings of the southern entrance tunnels (the Huldah gates) match designs found in other Roman period temples, as do these tunnel-type entrances themselves (see David Jacobson's article, "Herod's Roman Temple" in the March/April 2002 issue of Biblical Archeology Review). Yet the strict avoidance of representational art in these tunnels matches Jewish, not Roman, religious scruples.
The location of the inner stairs to which these tunnels lead, together with seams in the eastern wall of the Temple Mount and other pieces of evidence, confirm that the Temple Mount was a 500 cubit (222 meter) square before the time of Herod, exactly as recorded in the Mishnah (Middoth 2:1; as documented by Leen Ritmeyer in several articles in Biblical Archaeology Review, compiled in Reconstructing Herod's Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Biblical Arcaeology Society, 1990). There is no room for such a large structure above the Gihon spring (see below).
Arguments could be multiplied: For example, why would Herod go to such unprecented expense to build a military garrison here? As mentioned above, deep trenches had to be dug to reach bedrock, greatly increasing the expense of the project. Why not build it somewhere nearby, where the expense would be considerably less? To level the site, a vast complex of inner supporting walls had to be built, greatly increasing the difficulty of construction. To hold up these inner walls, the size of the exterior walls had to be greatly increased. The smallest stones used were in the range of 30-60 tons each, the largest found so far is about 600 tons. Surely there was an unusually compelling reason to build such a difficult project in such an inconvenient location.
The Temple Above The Gihon Spring?
Martin's placement of the Temple above the Gihon spring is also faced with overwhelming difficulties. His argument for its location here is circular: he claims that the Temple's stones were removed, therefore the lack of physical evidence here confirms his claims. But this is an argument from silence, that offers no positive evidence for its accuracy. Again, he is forced to rely completely on literary evidence, evidence which when read in its original context does not support his claims.
The most important of these literary references, and the one that seems to have motivated Martin's beliefs, is Jesus' prophecy that "not one stone will be left upon another" (Matt. 24:2, Mark 13:2). This Martin takes to mean that the entire Temple structure was not only destroyed, but completely removed from its place. Therefore, he claims, the Temple Mount structure seen today cannot be the site of the ancient Temple, since so many of its stones remain in place. Is Martin correct about this? Not at all. This statement of Jesus very clearly refers to the "Temple buildings" (Matt. 24:1, Mark 13:1), that is, the buildings located on the Temple Mount, not the supporting Temple Mount structure. Here is what the Bible actually says: "And after he went out of the Temple, Jesus was departing; and his disciples came up to show him the Temple
buildings. But he answered and said to them, 'Do you
not see all these? Amen, I say to you, there will certainly not be left one stone upon another that will not be torn down'" (Matt. 24:1,2; emphasis added). The context requires that the "all these" Jesus mentions are the "Temple buildings" they were talking about. And in fact, every single building, and even every single stone of these buildings was literally torn down in exact fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus. To claim that the continued existence of the Temple Mount platform somehow violates this prophecy is to twist the words of Jesus out of their original context and meaning.
Even a passing familiarity with the area above the Gihon Spring is enough to show the impossibility of putting the Temple here. This is an area known today as the City of David, the location of the original Jebusite city conquered by David. It consists of a long, narrow hill, about 400 m long (1,312 ft) from north to south and averaging about 100 m (328 ft) wide from east to west (shaded yellow in the photo above). It is surrounded on the east, west, and south by the steep-sided canyons of the Kidron and Tyropoean Valleys, both of which were deeper and steeper in ancient times. The Gihon Spring is located down in the Kidron Valley below the northeast corner of the City of David, right at the point where the hill above is the most narrow (see also the photo below). From there, the hill continues to rise to the north through a broader area known as the Ophel (shaded red in the photo above) until it reaches the peak of the hill behind the large walls of the Temple Mount (at the upper left of the photo above).
Two things immediately become clear from this simple description. The available land above the Gihon Spring is simply not enough for even the inner courts of the Temple, much less the larger outer courts. The Mishnah gives the east-west dimension of the inner courts as at least 150 m (492 ft), half again as much as the area above the Gihon Spring (Mishnah Middoth 2.5,6). If the inner courts would not fit here, what about the even larger outer courts, such as the Court of the Gentiles? In the reconstruction drawing at the back of Martin's book, these have been reduced to a narrow walkway around the inner courts. The truth is that there simply is not enough room for the Temple above the Gihon Spring.
The only archeological evidence of a large structure here is the "Stepped Structure" of Area G in the archeological excavations of the City of David (shaded yellow in the photo to the right). This is a massive support wall built, most likely by the Jebusites, to hold up a large palace or fortress above it, just inside the city's northern wall. This likely became David's palace after his conquest of the city. According to Martin, this structure, which he also identifies with David (though incorrectly with the Tower of Edar, which was near Bethlehem), was replaced by Solomon's Temple (p. 257). This puts the Temple inside the city walls. But this directly contradicts the Bible, which says that Solomon built the Temple not on the site of a fortress, but on the site of a threshing floor (2 Chron. 3:1; the threshing floor of Araunah, also known as Ornan; 2 Sam. 24:21, 2 Chron. 3:1).
Threshing floors were always located outside the walls of a city. Why? A threshing floor requires exposure to the wind to help in the separation of the wheat and the chaff. As a result, the threshing floors in Israel, including those still used by Palestinian farmers today, are located at the top of hills, to catch the breeze. A threshing floor within the city walls would be unusable. The most logical place for a threshing floor near the Jerusalem of David would be at the top of the original Mt. Zion (Mt. Moriah), which was at the site of the present Dome of the Rock in the Temple Mount. This is strong support for the traditional location of the Temple, and strong evidence against Martin's theory.
As can be seen in the photo above, the Stepped Structure (Area G) that Martin associates with the Temple is on top of the hill, while the Gihon Spring is far below at the bottom of the hill. This shows the absurdity of his claim that the waters of the Gihon sprang up within the Temple grounds themselves (p. 284 ff.). How did the water get from the bottom of the mountain to the top of the mountain?
The historical sources he mentions refer to huge reservoirs of water within the Temple. But if this is the location of the Temple, where are they? The area above the Gihon includes a single rock-cut tunnel in which steps descend to the Gihon spring below (Warren's Shaft). A couple of small horizontal shafts down at the level of the spring itself led water off to the south (Hezekiah's tunnel and the Siloam channel). Only a single sizeable reservoir has recently been found, but it, too, is down at the level of the spring, at the bottom of the hill, and dates to before the construction of the Temple. These water installations have been well preserved. But there is no sign of the huge reservoirs claimed by Martin to have once been here. These facts create great difficulties for Martin's theory. Yet the actual Temple site on the Temple Mount is underlain by thirty-four rock-cut pools (cisterns), some incredibly large, that were fed by elaborate aqueducts bringing water from miles away. These pools and the aqueducts that fed them perfectly match the descriptions in the sources quoted by Martin.
Among the many other errors and unsupported claims that Martin makes is that "there was no 'Upper City' on the western hill" until the 2nd cent. B.C. (p. 267; the Western Hill or Upper City includes the areas known as Mt. Zion today, a name that has shifted in the city over time, as well as the Armenian and Jewish Quarters). The belief that the Western Hill was long uninhabited, once shared by some archeologists, was conclusively disproved in the 1970's by the discovery of an imposing stretch of the "Broad Wall" built by King Hezekiah in the 8th cent. B.C. This massive, 7 meter thick stone wall was constructed over pre-existing homes, exactly as mentioned by the prophet Isaiah (in Isa. 22:10). Many subsequent discoveries have confirmed the early occupation of the Western Hill, including a huge tower (the "Israelite Tower"), preserved to the remarkable height of 26 feet (8 meters), built over pre-existing occupation. This tower and a section of the wall to which it was attached faced the Babylonian assault of the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, of which evidence was found at the site, including Babylonian arrowheads. Additional conclusive evidence of early occupation has been found all over the Western Hill. Of these amazing, well-documented discoveries, Martin appears to be ignorant.
Instead, Martin claims, incredibly, that Simon the Hasmonean was the first to initiate settlement of the Western Hill. And he did this in the most remarkable way: he "had [the old] Mount Zion destroyed, [and] moved as many (probably most) of the buildings [on Mt. Zion] (including Davids' tomb) up to the southeast [sic] ridge in what became known as the Upper City. In effect, Simon simply moved 'Mount Zion' and most of its buildings directly west across the Tyropoeon Valley and up to the top of the western hill" (p. 342-45). But Martin offers no physical evidence to prove that this incredibly costly feat, unprecedented in world history, actually took place. On the contrary, the location of David's tomb in the City of David was known and can be documented right up through the end of the Second Temple period (70 A.D.). Only in the 10th cent. A.D., more than a thousand years after the time of Simon, is David's Tomb mentioned on the Western Hill for the first time. The cenotaph (large stone marker) of the Tomb of David that Martin claims was constructed by Simon actually dates to the Crusader period (11th-12th cent. A.D.). Once again, Martin's extravagant claims are made without supporting physical evidence and in direct contradiction of the known facts.
There are many additional errors and unsupported claims in the book, but those mentioned here are sufficient to expose the weakness of his overlying theory. Martin also briefly mentions his belief, published in another book, that Jesus was crucified on the Mt. of Olives. For the evidence against this idea in general, please see our review of Peter Michas' The Rod of an Almond Tree in God's Master Plan in the section labelled "The Mount of Olives," points 9 and 10.
I'm sure it's exciting to believe that you alone are in possession of evidence that overturns all previous scholarship and the claims of all "present religious authorities" (pp. 1-6). But for this to mean anything in the real world, you've got to have the facts to back it up. While Martin does write in a compelling manner, the facts that he needs are lacking. At its heart, his argument is circular: the Temple above the Gihon was completely destroyed and removed by the Romans, therefore no physical evidence remains. But an argument from silence is inadequate for the bold reevaluation of history and tradition he proposes, especially since the existing evidence so strongly refutes his theory. This evidence overwhelmingly supports the traditional location of the ancient Jewish Temple, not above the Gihon Spring, but in the enclosed area known today as the Temple Mount on Mt. Moriah.
To read Leen Ritmeyer's critique of Martin's book, visit homepage.ntlworld.com/ritmeyer/theories.html. This page also includes a detailed refutation of David Jacobson's theory about the Temple.
To read our own critique of Jacobson's theory, which was published in Biblical Archeology Review, visit Sacred Geometry--Unlocking the Secrets of the Temple Mount.