by Gordon Franz
In his latest book, Temple: Amazing New Discoveries that Change Everything About the Location of Solomon’s Temple (2014), Robert Cornuke advocates that the Temples of King Solomon and Herod the Great were not located on the Temple Mount as vast majority of scholars believe, but were situated over the Gihon Spring in the City of David. Mr. Cornuke identifies the traditional Temple Mount with the Antonia’s Fortress, home to 10,000 troops and support personnel of the Tenth Roman Legion. Cornuke’s theory is simply a restatement of an old theory by Dr. Ernest L. Martin, The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot (2006).
Here I offer eight reasons why the Temples of King Solomon and Herod the Great could NOT have been located over the Gihon Spring in the City of David.
(1) The Temple Mount platform built during the First Temple period and supported the Temple of King Solomon will not fit in the City of David. Josephus, the First-century AD Jewish historian, and the Mishnah gives the dimension of the platform supporting Solomon’s Temple was built on as 500 x 500 cubits (861 feet x 861 feet, almost three football fields long!), a size much too large for the narrow hillock comprising the City of David. The square platform would have extended over the Kidron Valley and up the slopes of the Mount of Olives and would have covered known buildings and tombs that have been excavated by archaeologists (click here for diagram). This understanding reveals that the maps and drawings in the book are inaccurate. Bottom Line: Cornuke’s Square Temple Platform is way too small for the ancient literary sources and the 500 x 500 Square Platform is way too big for the City of David.
(2) The Lord Jesus did not prophesy the destruction of the Temple platform. When the Lord Jesus prophesied that “not one stone would be left upon another” of the buildings of the Temple (Matt. 24: 1-2; Mark 13: 1-2; Luke 21: 5-6), He was referring to the Temple of Herod, the surrounding buildings, and the Royal Stoa; but not the lower retaining walls that supported the Temple platform. These retaining walls were not buildings!
(3) The normal locations of threshing floors are always outside the city, and generally on top of hills. This fact contradicts Cornuke’s proposal to locate the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite downslope near the Gihon Spring inside the City of David. A threshing floor near the Gihon Spring would not catch the gentle evening breeze for winnowing the wheat and chaff. The ideal location for a threshing floor in Jerusalem is the area of the Temple Mount, the place where the ancient sources have always placed it.
(4) The book misrepresents what the Pilgrim of Bordeaux wrote in his travel-log. By ignoring the fact that the Pilgrim had already described his visit to the Temple Mount, Cornuke incorrectly identifies it as the Pilgrim’s location of the Praetorium.
(5) Eleazar Ben-Yair, the commander of Masada during the First Jewish Revolt and a non-eyewitness to the fall of Jerusalem, was misunderstood in the book. Conuke’s theory wrongly attributes Eleazar Ben-Yair’s description of the Citadel near today’s Jaffa Gate with an alleged Praetorium on the Temple Mount. Only by confusing these buildings does Cornuke find support for his proposal.
(6) Cornuke’s 600-feet bridge between the Antonia’s Fortress and the Temple Mount is a misreading of Josephus. A careful reading of the passage shows that Josephus is describing porticoes around the entire Temple Mount and the stairs leading down from the Antonia’s Fortress to the Outer Courts of the Temple. Josephus never wrote of a bridge between the Temple and Antonia Fortress.
(7) The alleged evidence of a coin dated to AD 20, recently found under the Western Wall does not prove that Herod the Great did not build the Temple on the Temple Mount. To the contrary, it disproves Cornuke’s theory that the whole Temple Mount was the Antonia’s Fortress. This is because Herod built and finished the Antonia’s Fortress in his lifetime, but the coin only indicates that the enclosure of the Temple Mount was not completed during his lifetime.
(8) The book misunderstands the early Muslim history of the Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock was built by the Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik (AD 685-705). Its octagonal shape indicated that it was a commemorative building, and not a mosque. ‘Abd al-Malik constructed the Dome of the Rock as a commemorative building over the site of the Solomon’s Temple that had been identified for him by the Jewish people who came to Jerusalem with ‘Abd al-Milik. Bottom Line: The Muslims built the Dome of the Rock because it was the place of the former Temple of Solomon.
FURTHER READING: For a highly researched and meticulously documented critique of Cornuke’s Temple theory, based on my first-hand experience of living, studying, teaching, and working in Jerusalem, I invite you to read my 46-page essay: “Cornuke’s Temple Book: ‘The Greatest Archaeological Blunder of All Time.’”. For critiques of other alleged “discoveries” by Mr. Cornuke, see “How Accurate are Bob Cornuke’s Claims”.