New Testament Walk in Jerusalem

the group on the steps to the Temple Mount

On Wednesday we had a field trip to Jerusalem for a New Testament walk thru of the city. Our first stop was on the Temple Mount which is on the southeast end of the Old City. The Dome of the Rock on top of the Temple Mount was built in 691 AD, and is said by the Muslim’s to be the location where Mohamed ascended. This, however, is not the most holy site for Muslims, but the Al Aqsa Mosque is considered more holy in their eyes, and is conveniently located across the way from the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.

Southeast on the Temple Mount is Solomon’s Stable which was built in the Heriodian Period and is now used as an underground mosque. Jews find the Temple Mount significant because the rock that the Dome of the Rock was built under is the rock that the earth was born out of (Genesis 22, 2 Chronicles 3). The Dome of the Rock recently had the mount on it gold plated in the 1990’s which cost around 15 million dollars.

me and my roommates at the Dome of the Rock

The location of the Temple Mount is said to be the mountain where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac. This mountain is the same one where Solomon built the temple and where the Holy of Holies was.

The Temple Mount in contemporary time has two platforms while in the time of Christ it was a flat layer of stone all the way to the temple. The temple was destroyed in 70 AD; however, Herod began to refurbish the temple which took 83 years. The temple was rather small compared to the temple mount which is as big as seven football fields and is the home of parks, trees and homes (1 Kings 6:2). If you looked to the east of the Temple Mount there is the Mount of Olives, where Jesus ascended and will return one day.  Also on the Temple Mount was the Royal Stoa where, in the time of Christ, the Sanhedrin, made up of Pharisees and Sadducees, would meet. Also in the eastern side of The Temple Mount was Solomon’s portico which is mentioned in John 10, Acts 3 and Acts 5:12. If you look toward the Dome of the Rock from here, you would see the Dome of the Chain in front of it. This housed something called Solomon’s Chain and was once used to tell if a person was telling the truth, if they could hold onto the chain.

Some say the Dome of the Rock is sitting on where the temple used to stand. There is even said to be a stone in the Dome of the Rock to the exact measurements as the holy of holies and is thought to be where it once sat; sadly no one besides Muslims are allowed into the Dome of the Rock. However, opposing views believe the temple used to be where the Dome of the Spirits is, which is laid out in a way that the eastern gate and the Mount of Olives would be a straight shot to the entrance to the entrance of the temple.

We visited the Eastern Gate that led to the temple mount (Ezekiel 44). Contemporarily, it is closed off; however, the original gate from the time of Christ is found underneath it, but is not excavated due to Muslim tombs around the modern gate.

the eastern gate to the Temple Mount and the Mt. of Olives in the distance

While at the eastern gate, we read John 2 where John cleanses the temple during the Feast of Passover. In the passage, Jesus tells them to destroy the temple and he will rebuild it in three days; the rebuilding of the temple would have taken years; however, Jesus was speaking of His body which he will raise Himself from the grave after three days after being crucified.

While still on the Temple Mount we walked to the Northern Gate, which is the highest point on Mount Moria. This was the original location for Antonio’s Fortress, the place where Paul last stopped before dying. From here, we went to Ritmire’s Step, which is an original stone from the 1st temple period and the from the original platform from the temple of Hezekiah and Solomon.

After we left, we went outside the Temple Mount walls to see the stones that Herod the Great used to construct it. The stones were so big they weighed over 40 tons. The construction used to build the walls was a method called dry construction where the wall was held together by the weight of the stone alone.

the stones of the Temple Mount that Herod built

To build the temple, the thousands workers weren’t just slaves, but highly trained builders, planners and engineers. The highly sophisticated Roman irrigation system made more workers accessible to work on the construction of building the Temple Mount and renovating the temple. The money which funding this great undertaking was from the toll that Herod took from the spice route which went through the Gaza Strip. It took around 3-4 years to build the Temple Mount and 80 to restore the temple.

The original temple that Solomon built was already noted for its small stature; however the Temple Mount was a lot larger. Solomon had many reasons for and small but extravagant temple and large Temple Mount. One being that Solomon wanted to make a name for himself. Sages used to think that it was done as an act of repentance. While some believe it was in order to please the Jews. The Temple Mount was built in order to solve a major traffic problem. A few times a year, Jews came all over the country to offer sacrifices in one place, the temple. To hold hundreds of thousands of people, the Temple Mount was built.

Next, we saw a stone that had engraved in “belonging to that place of the trumpeter” that fell off of the top of the Temple Mount. From here, we went to the south side of the Temple Mount and read Psalm 120-124.

reading the Psalms(Songs of Ascents) while going up to the south side of the Temple Mount

The steps leading up to the Temple Mount are long and short and are in sets of 15; therefore, people think it is so you can prepare your heart before you go to the Lord, also to read the 15 Song of Ascents in Psalms.

After our journey throughout the Temple Mount, we headed to the Wool Archeology Museum. Here, we saw a house that was on the western hill and was excavated in the 1970’s. This home were most likely the home of rich priests’ because of the large size. The homes were highly influenced by Roman culture which included frescos and mosaics. But, the mosaics in these homes did not include pagan animal or humans but simple geometric shapes. In one of the rooms we saw stone water jars, much like the ones used in Cana when Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding. We also read Luke 22 where Jesus is on trial in a high priests’ home, much like the one we were in.

The Burnt House Museum Next we went to the Burnt House Museum and saw a movie about the destruction of Jerusalem. After the movie we left to go to the Church of the Holy Seplechure. In 325 AD it was built by Constantine’s mother and it is also said that she found parts of the cross, nails, and Jesus’ crown of thorns. This is the traditional location of Christ’s crucifixion and burial. In Jesus’ time the location was a rock quarry so it was an easy place to dig tombs. We even saw a 1st century tomb in the church. The tomb was a shaft tomb, which the dead body is placed in for a year then the left over bones are put in a box. However, Jesus was most likely buried in a bench tomb because in John 20:12, “They were sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying. One angel was where Jesus‘ head had been, and the other was where his feet had been.” The shaft tombs were way too small barely enough room to fit the dead body let alone two other angels.

the location for the tomb of Christ

The church itself was very ornate and beautiful, however, it was very Catholic. Cross and candles were everywhere, people kissing the stone that was said the be where Jesus laid, and even a confessional(which didn’t make sense because Christ came so we can have a restored relationship with God and talk to Him directly, not through a priest, but by the High Priest, Jesus who intercedes for us). But once I got past the showy façade, it really hit me that the God of the universe, came to earth humbling himself to the point of death, even death for a wretched sinner like myself. And I was standing in the location where Jesus Christ hung on a cross and bore the wrathful payment for MY sin. However it was also the same location of his burial. But praise be to God that Jesus rose three days later and conquered death once and for all (Acts 10:40). For a Christians life is foolish if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave. Everything is based around His death and resurrection. My sinful self was on a hell-bound race and towards God’s perfect judgment and wrath; however, glory to God for salvation, for He bore the judgment and wrath that meant for a worthless person like me. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

 

One Response

  1. Sarah,
    As I read this post, tears came to my eyes as you recalled what a Wonderful, Lord and Savior we have!!

    Love you,
    Mom

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