Searching for the True Location of Solomon’s Temple

Solomon’s Temple

Recently, LDS researcher John Pratt (along with V. Garth Norman, Lance Harding, and Jason Jones) wrote a piece for Meridian Magazine entitled “New Proposed Location for Solomon’s Temple” in which he claims to have discovered the original location of Solomon’s Temple (Israel’s first temple) on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. My purpose in writing this post is not so much to analyze or necessarily discredit the work that Pratt has done, but to perhaps provide some alternative ideas regarding where the Temple may have been located. Specifically, I want to present the ideas of Margaret Barker on the topic, which differ quite significantly from the views of Pratt and others.

Pratt, et al., begin their article with a rather broad statement regarding current scholarly opinion about the location of Solomon’s Temple:

Exactly where was Solomon’s temple located? Virtually all investigators agree that it was on the Temple Mount Platform in Jerusalem, but its precise location has been in question.

The main initial reasoning for this conclusion is that “All tradition and evidence indicate that Solomon’s Temple was built at or near David’s Altar, atop the hill formerly known to Abraham as Mount Moriah.”  The popular assumption, which Pratt accepts, is that the big slab of rock that is currently located inside the Muslim Dome of the Rock is the very same rock which both Abraham and David used as an altar.

Although I am quite certain that I heard a very similar theory on a trip to Israel in 1993, I commend Pratt for his dilligent research and desire to find a suitable location for a temple to be built on the Temple Mount platform without disturbing the Dome of the Rock.  However, as I said, this post is not an in-depth analysis of Pratt’s findings.  I am also not going to argue that Pratt did not find something significant. What I would suggest, however, is that we keep in mind that if there is any visible evidence of any ancient temple on top of the Temple Mount platform, it is much more likely to be remains of the Second Temple–more specifically, the Temple of Herod–and not the original Temple of Solomon. 

The Temple Mount
The Temple Mount

The First Temple, which is what Pratt appears to be looking for evidence of, was destroyed in 587 BC. If the Second Temple was built in the same spot, any remains of the First Temple would have been levelled and built upon–I highly doubt that anything from the First Temple would be visible on top of the current Temple Mount platform.  I am no archaeologist, but it seems to me that that is how these things usually work–newer structures are built on top of older structures, requiring archaeologists to dig down several layers of ruins to find the increasingly ancient structures.

On this note I turn to the theory of Margaret Barker that “the site of the first temple was not the site of the second temple.” To get this theory from the source, you can listen to Barker give a brief overview of her thoughts during her interview with Dr. Bill Hamblin (Margaret Barker Interview – Part 7a–Location of the Temple). Also, she outlines these views in her recent book, The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Basically, her theory is that Solomon’s Temple was built on Mount Zion, which is supposed to be to the southeast of the current Temple Mount, over the sacred Gihon spring. She also cites evidence from the Bible itself indicating that the Second Temple was to be built on a new site. She specifically cites Zechariah 4:6–9, which speaks of the rebuilding of the temple by Zerubbabel.

6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.
7 Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
8 Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you.

Given this visionary statement regarding the site of the new temple, Barker reasons:

Now flattening a mountain top would not have been necessary had the new temple been on the original site…A new site is the most likely explanation for the words in Zechariah about the temple site, especially as Enoch remembers that the original temple was not on the temple mount, but on the hill to the south-east of it. “And from there I was taken to the center of the earth, and I saw a blessed place in which were trees–with branches alive and sprouting from a felled tree. And there I saw a holy mountain. Issuing out from beneath this mountain, from the east side, water flowed down towards the south” (1 Enoch 26:1-2). This stream must be the Gihon spring, which flows from the south-eastern hill, not from the present “Temple Mount” (Hidden Tradition, p. 11).

Although I have been there, I am no expert in the geography of Jerusalem. So, doing the best I can from this description, we can see on the aerial photo below that Barker’s proposed site for the first temple would be situated somewhat above and to the left of the raised Temple Mount (recognizable by the gold-domed Dome of the Rock).

Here is the site from another angle, with Mount Zion pin-pointed to the southeast of the current Temple Mount.

Just for fun, here is another image–looking south from the Mount of Olives.

According to Barker, in her interview with Dr. Hamblin, the location of the original Mount Zion has often been confused. To the south of the Temple Mount there are two hills. The original Mt. Zion is the eastern hill, but many early Christian pilgrims identified the western hill as Mt. Zion–a title that it holds to today.

The Gihon Spring

Barker mentions that Christian Byzantine Emperor Justinian built his version of Ezekiel’s envisioned temple on the spot that he believed to be the location of Solomon’s Temple–Mount Zion. However, he didn’t realize that Mt. Zion had switched from the eastern hill to the western. So his church/temple, the Nea (or the New Church of St. Mary), was intended to be a restoration of Solomon’s Temple on the original site, but was built on the wrong Mt. Zion.  He even had to construct a complex water system under the site in order to match Ezekiel’s description, whereas the original temple would have been built over the Gihon spring to the east. 

The Construction of the Nea Church (Tower of David Museum)
The Construction of the Nea Church (Tower of David Museum)

The point, however, is that Justinian knew of the tradition that the original temple had been built on Mt. Zion and not the Temple Mount.

Ruins of the Nea
Ruins of the Nea

To me, this seems like a more likely theory than that of the Temple Mount theory. The more I read about the Second Temple, the more I come to believe that almost everything about it was different from the first.  It would be very possible for it (and the Temple Mount with it) to have been built in a totally separate location chosen by Zerubbabel and the Zadokite priests.

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  1. david
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Ok, if digging is all we lack to prove where Solomon’s temple really was- why not dig?

  2. Posted May 25, 2015 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    It is best to rely on eye-witness accounts of the temples’ site and then
    secondary sources for its actual location. It is clear from the sources that Zerubbabel’s temple and Herod’s expansion of it were on the same site as Solomon’s temple, because Josephus’s account of Solomon’s temple foundations includes Herod’s expansion of it. The returning exiles were so poor, they built a sorry version of Solomon’s temple, but on the same foundations, which Josephus describes as 450 feet high. The temple foundations were prodigious and more visually impressive than the temple and its inner precincts. According to Josephus, these foundations were four-furlongs square and the east wall was built within the Kidron Valley. Josippon’s version of War says that from the height of the east wall, the water could be seen running in the Kidron Brook a cubit’s distance from the wall. This matches Nehemiah’s description of the “great tower lying out,” a description of Solomon’s temple. The great tower lying out was close to the water and prison gates in the City of David. These gates gave access to the Gihon Spring, the city’s major water supply, and the prison in the royal palace, just south of the temple, and was where Nehemiah’s two parties celebrating the completion of the walls stopped and then entered into the temple. The Psalms describe God’s throne as being in the midst of Mount Zion and waters under his throne. Descriptions in Maccabees and Hecateus of Abdera (In Josephus) explain the sanctuary in the Greek period was in the center of the city (on the southeastern hill) on Mount Zion. Mount Zion was a term for the southeastern hill, the hill the temple was built on in the center of it, and for the sanctuary itself. This hill is the lowest in Jerusalem, and in Special Laws, Eusebius described the temple as being built in a “low” situation. Other descriptions from Byzantine pilgrims say the temple was in the southern part of the city and the lower part of the city. In the Cairo geniza documents, the 70 families of Jews who requested permission to move into Jerusalem in the time of Omar, asked to be near the temple ruins, the waters of Shiloah (the Gihon Spring), in the southern part of the city. The Jerusalem Talmud says the waters of Shiloah were in the middle of the city–the same location where Hecateus places the temple. Aristeas said there was an abundant spring within the temple, and the Gihon Spring is the only one known in Jerusalem. The Byzantine pilgrimage accounts show they identified what is now known as the temple mount as the Praetorium. They show that the Church of St. Sophia stood over a large square stone (el Sakrah), which Caliph abd al-Malik destroyed to build the Dome of the Rock, and that the Al-Aqsa mosque was built over the ruins of the Church of Our Blessed Lady was built. On the other hand, Eutychius says the Christians did not build a church over the temple ruins, because Christ’s prophecy had said not one stone would be standing upon another. This was the state of the southeastern hill in his era, but the Praetorium continued on as a 36-acre edifice with over 10,000 Herodian stones standing one upon another. Numerous other ancient descriptions of the temple and its location are incompatible with the current traditional location of it and ongoing excavations are turning up more and more evidence of a temple having been built there, though no stones standing one upon another. Eli Shukron, one of the major archaeologists of the City of David, believes the temple stood there. Please see three articles I have written on this topic, available at, and containing the references to the sources I have noted. “The Byzantine Presence on the Temple Mount,” “The Two 600-Foot Aerial Bridges Connecting the Temple in the City of David to Fort Antonia (the Alleged Temple Mount),” and “The Temple in the City of David: Ancient Authenticating Descriptions.” It is important to know that Eleazar, an eye-witness and general at Masada (in Josephus) said the only remaining monument in Jerusalem after its destruction in 70 A.D. was the Roman camp, while the temple had been dug up by its foundations. In summary, the descriptions show the temple was
    built in the City of David, in the center of the southeastern hill (called both
    Mount Zion and Mount Moriah), over the Gihon Spring, and that this city
    (the City of David Jerusalem) was shaped like a theater, with walls “bending
    back,” like an “arc,” and a “moon when she is horned”–all describing the shape of the southeastern hill, without any northerly extension added to include the temple and the acropolis.

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