I’ve written on this topic in other places, but today’s reading offers another opportunity to present an intriguing concept. The general historical belief is that the 1st and 2nd temples in Jerusalem were built on the Temple Mount. This has been ingrained in both Muslim and Jewish minds over the centuries. It’s one of the reasons that Islam has made such a big deal out of that piece of real estate. One of the things Muslims did over the years was to make up out of whole cloth that Jerusalem is one of Islam’s three holy cities. They fabricated that Muhammad took a famous “night ride” on his flying horse – taking off from the Temple Mount – traveling into the heavens to meet the prophets and God. That insistence on Islam’s part may have contributed to Jewish thinking about the location of their prior temples and where the 3rd (Tribulation) temple should be built. In fact, this has become so ingrained that any evidence to the contrary as to the temple’s location is dismissed out of hand.
It’s an interesting dynamic. Of course, religious (Orthodox) Jews insist on the Temple Mount as THE place. However, even Messianic Jews adhere to that narrative and won’t consider any alternative. You would think that Messianic Jews – especially those who believe in the pre-Tribulation Rapture of the church – might see the possibility of error. The reason, naturally, is that the 3rd temple – when built – will be done through deceit and false understanding (Isaiah 28:15,18). The Jews are still looking for Messiah and think that in constructing this building it will encourage His coming. They completely reject that Jesus came 2,000 years ago, so when they have the upcoming opportunity to worship in the temple during the Tribulation, they will do so under false pretenses, maybe even thinking that Antichrist is Messiah. All that could be an indicator that everyone has the temple location pegged in the wrong spot.
This all comes up because of the account of Paul when he went to Jerusalem. There were some Jews in the city who believed in Jesus, but many more who were zealous for the law and misunderstood Paul’s message of Christ (Acts 21:20-21). As often happened, inciters stirred up a group of men to become a mob. James and the other elders thought Paul could calm down their false belief about him by adhering to some of the Jewish legal, purification functions. That didn’t work. The mob got crazy as mobs do and dragged him out of the temple.
Israel was under Roman occupation. One of the functions of Roman troops was to keep the peace and prevent the Jews from getting too uppity against their occupiers. When he heard of the disturbance, the Roman tribune (i.e. the Roman official tasked with keeping the peace) did the following, as recounted in Acts 21:32:
He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
Notice the wording: ran down to them. Words mean things.
Under the typical narrative that the Temple Mount held the Jewish temple and the Roman garrison (the Antonia Fortress) was on the adjoining bit of land to the north, there’s a problem with this. The reason is that the Temple Mount is above this other area of land that is supposed to have been the site of the old City of David. In other words, if we’re to believe what history has supposedly told us, it’s that the Roman fortress was built on a lower plane than the temple. If that’s the case, how was it that the Roman soldiers going to retrieve Paul ran down? Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Here’s another bit of Biblical evidence to chew on. We’re told that the soldiers came from their barracks, grabbed Paul, and were about to take him back to those barracks. But Paul wanted to speak to the crowd. Acts 21:40 tells us:
And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:
Let’s use a bit of logic. If someone wanted to speak to a group of people, would he do it from a higher or lower place? Obviously, from a higher perspective unless he was in an amphitheater with proper acoustics and the seats rising up from the stage. If we take the earlier verse that says the soldiers came down and look at this verse saying they were going to take Paul back to their barracks, then obviously they would be going up to do that. For Paul to stand on the steps means that he would be above the crowd to a degree and have the means to speak more easily to them.
All this to say that the historical perspective that says the Jewish temple was built on the Temple Mount has a hole in it when we study this passage. Perhaps the Temple Mount housed the Antonia Fortress and the temple was actually built on that smaller spit of land to the north.
There are other pieces of evidence toward this conclusion. One is the typical size of a Roman garrison and the amount of land necessary to build the infrastructure for the soldiers and the supporting personnel. Historically, examining similar fortresses the Romans built elsewhere, that small adjoining piece of land to the north is simply too small logistically to accommodate such a fortress.In the book Temple by Robert Cornuke, he explores the various other Scriptural clues and writings from secular sources that provide the stunning conclusion that where everyone thinks the temple was and will be is incorrect. I highly recommend the book if this topic is of interest; it will certainly make you think, and possibly reconsider what you’ve always known to be true: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1578216885/. Perhaps it isn’t.