Sacred Geometry--Unlocking the Secrets of the Temple Mount
(A two-part article appearing in Biblical Archaeology Review July/August and September/October 1999.)
A response by Jeffrey J. Harrison
[This response to Jacobson's theory was published in the January/February 2000 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review in "Queries & Comments," p. 63. The points made here were vindicated and enlarged on in an article by Leen Ritmeyer in the March/April 2000 issue. To read a version of Leen's critique available on the internet, follow the link that appears at the bottom of this page.]
David Jacobson’s two-part article was an interesting read, and I’m delighted to hear what he has to say, as well as to see the 19th-century photos showing a previously ignored monumental stairway (“Sacred Geometry—Unlocking the Secrets of the Temple Mount," July/August and September/October 1999). But I must say I’m unconvinced.
Mathematical relationships are nice, but there’s no guarantee they were used unless there is physical evidence. The extension of the eastern wall in the north proves nothing in light of the more than 15-foot-high bedrock scarp in the northwest corner of the Temple Mount. This scarp is definitive proof that the northern wall did not go where Jacobson says it did. His explanation that the Antonia Fortress occupied the area weakens his mathematical theory and does nothing to explain the placement or the orientation of that scarp. He also makes no attempt to explain the northernmost stretch of the western wall that juts out slightly to the west, breaking the line of the wall, and further weakening his mathematical theory.
Regarding the center of the Temple compound, Jacobson’s arguments are equally weak. He places the monumental stairway just inside the soreg, but this requires the hel (the terrace) of the Temple, to which the stairs presumably led, to be much, much larger than is mentioned in the Mishnah, which says it was only 10 cubits wide. The other alternative would be to move the inner courts further south, but this would destroy his identification of al-Sakhra with the Holy Place (sanctuary).
Jacobson’s scheme just doesn’t work, which is probably why all the different elements of his theory were not included in the final illustration of the second article. The editor was forced into the weak explanation (in the caption) “that [perhaps] the monumental steps were not needed on all sides because of inconsistencies in the level of the bedrock.” A more accurate explanation for their omission is “because of inconsistencies in the author’s argument.”
Yes, the monumental stairway was probably part of a temple, but not the Temple of the God of Israel—rather the temple to Jupiter built by Hadrian in about 135 A.D.