On The Location of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem
by Lambert Dolphin and Michael Kollen
The Site of the Ancient Jewish Temples
The Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem measures today approximately 45 acres in
extent. It is surrounded by a trapezoidal wall: The South wall measures about 910 feet, the North
about 1025, the East wall about 1520 and the West wall about 1580 feet in length. The average
height above sea level on the platform is about 2400 feet above sea level. Most of the buildings
and surface features are Islamic–no visible traces of the First or Second Temples can be found
on the platform today.
The Platform area of the Temple Mount lies just below the peak of a Jerusalem ridge system
known as Mount Moriah. This is the site David purchased from a Jebusite named Ornan late in
his reign. King David prepared the area in order build a permanent House of God to replace the
Tabernacle of Moses which accompanied the Jews after their Exodus from Egypt to the Promised
Land. David had the plans drawn up for a building whose dimensions were twice those of the
Tabernacle, and he amassed great quantities of building materials: stone, cedar, and much gold
and silver. However, it was his son Solomon who actually built the First Jewish temple (1
Chronicles 22:14-15, 28:11-20).
The ridge system where the Temple Mount is now located is believed by many reputable sources
to be the site where Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-2). While Solomon built
the First Temple about 3000 years ago, Abraham’s visit to Mt. Moriah was about a thousand
According to Rabbinical sources both the First and Second Temples were built on the same
foundations, at the same location somewhere on the Temple Mount. The site had to be
consecrated ground that had not been previously used for tombs and that was not a previous
pagan worship site (“high place”). The innermost sanctuary of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, or
Kodesh Hakodeshim, where the Ark of the Covenant was placed, marked the exact center of the
world, and was the innermost zone in holiness or sanctity in Jewish thought. The manifest
presence of God, the Shekinah, was centered between the cherubim of the Ark and especially
noted at the dedication of the First Temple,
When Solomon had ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt
offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could
not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house.
When all the children of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the
temple, they bowed down with their faces to the earth on the pavement, and worshiped and gave
thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.” (2
Moving outwards from the Holy of Holies one came to The Holy Place, and then to the Courts of
the priests, and of the women and of the Jewish people, then the Court of the Gentiles, and so on,
out into the world in decreasing degrees of holiness.
The long history of the First and Second Temples is detailed both in the Bible and in many
extra-biblical sources. For more details on the history of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount see
the separate historical essays listed on the main menu.
Both Temples are of interest to Christians as well as to Jews. The Second Temple was modest in
size and furnishing until Herod the Great began his grand remodeling plans which went on for 40
years. It was in this enlarged and expanded Second Jewish Temple and its grand courts where the
naming and circumcision of Jesus took place (Luke 2:21-39). Later, Jesus astonished and
religious leaders with his understanding and insight as a twelve-year-old boy (Luke 2:41-50). On
two separate occasions Jesus entered and cleansed the temple by throwing out the money
changers and commercial vendors from the courts, (John 2:12-25; Matthew 21:23-26).
In one of his final discussions with his disciples (Matthew 24), Jesus predicted the destruction of
the Second Temple. It was in fact leveled to the ground on the 9th day of the month of Av in 70
C.E. The temple was thoroughly razed and the site has been so extensively modified during the
late Romans, Muslim and Crusader eras that considerable doubt exists as to where the temples
Where did the Temple stand?
Among the numerous controversies about the Temple is the precise location of the original.
There are three primary conjectures under active discussion in recent years. These three areas of
interest on the Temple Mount have been the focus of intense investigation, much debate and
discussion, and growing controversy—as discussions about the building of a Third Jewish
Temple have been brought forward in recent years. The areas of are:
The present site of the Dome of the Rock. This is the so-called “traditional location.”
North of the Dome of the Rock. Physicist Asher Kaufman proposed the Northern location
about two decades ago.
South of the Dome of the Rock. Tuvia Sagiv, a Tel Aviv architect has proposed a Southern
location for the Temples with extensive documentation and research during the past five
The Traditional Site
The traditional site of the Temple is where there is presently a Muslim shrine known as the
Dome of the Rock. Ostensibly built by the Muslims to overlay the location of the original Jewish
Temple(s), most rabbis in Israel today associate the original Temple location with this site.
Recent journal articles still support this view. (1) Former Jerusalem District archaeologist Dr.
Dan Bahat vigorously defends the traditional location drawing on his years of experience and
study of the entire city and its history. His lectures on the subject are thorough, convincing and
captivating. However, so also are the alternative theories currently proposed!
The Northern Conjecture
Based on the number of topological and archeological considerations, research by Dr. Asher
Kaufman over the past two decades has resulted in serious consideration being given to a site 330
feet to the north of the Dome of the Rock.
The Mt. Moriah bedrock outcrops within the Dome of Rock, as is well known. Although the
bedrock elevation drops sharply to the South in the direction of the City of David, the level of the
bedrock is just beneath the paving stones for over 100 meters to the North of the Dome of the
Rock shrine. One particular level outcropping of this bedrock lies under a small Islamic shrine
known as “The Dome of the Tablets” or “The Dome of the Spirits,” to the Arabs. Both names
suggest an association with the Jewish Temples. It is under this small, unimpressive canopy
supported by pillars that Dr. Kaufman locates the Temple site. (2)
The Southern Conjecture
Many people who have been following these developments may not yet be aware of a third view,
which might well be called “the Southern Conjecture.” Since this model is less well known, it
will be more fully described here and on these web pages. This view has been championed in the
past five years by Tuvia Sagiv, a prominent Israeli architect.
There are a number of problems with each of the previously mentioned locations. To fully
appreciate some of the difficulties, it is necessary to visualize the topography of the Temple
Topographic Map of Jerusalem (Contour interval 10 meters)
The bed rock rises when going northward from the base of the City of David to highest ground
north of the Temple Mount area. (This is obscured on site since the Temple Mount Platform
itself is a large flat area surrounded by retaining wall.) The Southern end of the Platform is
actually built up on tall underground pillars and arches.
To the East of the Temple Mount lies the Kidron Valley, and the Mount of Olives. To the South,
the City of David and the Hinnom Valley. To the West, the famed Western Wall (“Wailing
Wall”.) To the north was Antonia Fortress, and then, further, the high ground outside the city
walls, which many believe was the site of Golgotha. The bedrock of Mt. Moriah continues to rise
to the North–outcroppings in the Northern wall reveal road cuts that have been made in the
bedrock at the North end of the Old City outside the Damascus Gate and along the main road to
the East. The crest of Mt. Moriah is just above the present Garden Tomb.
Critical Issues in Locating the Temple Site:
When one compiles all the known factors into a three-dimensional computer model of the
Temple Mount area, several problems emerge:
1. Where was the Antonia Fortress?
Ancient Jerusalem was protected on the east, south, and west by valleys. The Antonia Fortress
was located to the north to protect the weaker north side of the city. (In fact, it was from the north
that Titus Vespasian breached the walls in his famous attack in 70 C.E.)
According to ancient sources, the fortress was on a hill about 25 meters high. The current El
Omriah school building is on a rock only 5 meters high. From many stratographic and other
considerations it is doubled by some experts that his was the actual location of the Antonia
Fortress. Tuvia Sagiv’s papers discuss the critical issue of the actual location of the Fortress
Antonia, which he believes was well to the South, perhaps at the location of the Dome of the
2. The Location of the ancient North Moat (the Fosse)
Traditional renderings show a deep, filled-in fosse (moat), north of the Temple Mount, lying
south of the Antonia Fortress, between the fortress and the Temple Mount.
According to ancient sources, however, the Antonia Fortress and the Temple Mount were
adjacent to each other. The moat should be to the north of the Tower for protection, placing the
Antonia about where the Dome of the Rock stands today! Asher Kaufman’s location of the
Temples places the moat immediately to the North of the spot where the Temples stood. In fact
Dan Bahat jokes that Kaufman’s temple would “fall into the moat!”
3. The Hulda Gates
The Hulda Gates were the primary access to the Temple area from the south. According to the
Mishna, the difference in heights between the Hulda Gates and the Holy of the Holies was
approximately 10 meters, with about 39( between the entrance to the Temple mount and the level
of the Temple itself. The traditional Dome of the Rock proposals require 20 meters and 80(
The current assumptions regarding Hulda Gate tunnels are not mentioned in the ancient sources.
The discrepancies suggest a lower, and therefore, more southerly, location. Tuvia Sagiv in his
essays discusses the problem of the Southern Gates and their elevation with respect to the
4. The View from the North
Josephus Flavius describes the fact that the Bizita Hill (Golgotha?) was located north of the
Temple Mount and obscured the view of the Temple from the north.
If the Temple stood at the Dome of the Rock, it would be visible from as far away as the town of
Ramallah. In order to obscure the view from the north, it would have to be at a lower level, that
is, to the south.
5. King Herod Agrippa’s View of the Temple from the West
Josephus, in The Jewish Wars, describes the fact that King Herod Agrippa could look out from
his Hasmonean Palace (at our near the present Citadel at the Jaffa Gate), and view the sacrifices
at the Azarah, at the altar of the Second Temple. This incensed the Jews who then built a wall
extending the height of the Western rear wall of the Temple proper in order to block the view.
Roman soldiers, patrolling the western threshold—thus unable to view the Azarah—demanded
that the wall be demolished. The Jews objected, and even obtained the consent of Emperor Nero
to leave the wall in place.
If the Temple were at the location of the Dome of the Rock, it would have required a Palace
tower height of 75 meters to view into the Azarah. There never was a building of such a height in
Jerusalem. This all implies a lower, more southern location of the Temple.
6. The Jerusalem Water Aqueduct
The water canals that supplied Jerusalem began in the area of the Hebron mountains, passed
through the Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem, and flowed to Jerusalem. The lowest canal reached
the Temple Mount through the Jewish Quarter and the Wilson Bridge. According to the ancient
authorities, the water conduit supplied water to the High Priests’ mikveh (ritual bath) located
above the Water Gate, and it also supplied water for the rinsing of the blood off the Azarah.
Portions of this aqueduct are plainly visible to this day.
“Living water,” that is fresh, flowing water, not water from a cistern was required for the ritual
bath (mikveh) used by the temple priests, and for the washings of the temple in connection with
A survey of the level of the aqueduct reveals that if the Temple had been located at the same
elevation as the present Dome of the Rock shrine, the aqueduct would be over 20 meters too low
to serve either the Azarah or the Water Gate. From this survey, it appears that the Temple must
have been 20 meters lower, and, thus, to the south.
7. Electronic Measurements
Preliminary ground penetrating radar probes by Tuvia Sagiv, while not conclusive, suggest
vaults, perhaps “kippim” (rabbinical arches), and other structures which one would expect below
the Temple, to the south. The northern sites are virtually solid rock.
More recently Sagiv has conducted thermal-infrared scanning of the walls and the platform.
During the day the sun heats the Temple Mount uniformly, but at night the cooling (by
conduction and radiation) is not uniform, this revealing subsurface anomalies. In the images
shown below “hotter” areas are bright indicating massive foundations beneath the paving stones.
The radar and IR research is discussed in Sagiv’s third paper Penetrating Insights Into the Temple
Thermal Infrared Imagery, ( Pre-dawn) of the Dome of the Rock
8. Research into Later Roman Temple Architecture
After the Bar Kochba revolt in 132 C.E., the Romans leveled the entire city of Jerusalem and a
built a Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, on the ruins. To obliterate any Jewish presence on the
Temple Mount, they built a temple to Jupiter on the site.
A similar temple, built by the same builder at about the same time, has been discovered at
The Roman architectural practices of the time featured a rectangular basilica, and a polygon
structure opposite a courtyard. When this architecture is overlaid on the Temple Mount, it
matches the Al Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock exactly.
This unique architectural similarity suggests that the Roman Temple to Jupiter may have been on
this very site, converted for Christian purposes in the 4th Century, and then served as the
foundation for the present Muslim structures, the Al Aksa Mosque an the Dome of the Rock,
which were built in the 7th Century.
The Roman Temple at Baalbek, Lebanon
(Jerome’s commentary on Isaiah mentions an equestrian statue of the Emperor Hadrian being
placed directly over the site of the Holy of the Holies. If the Baalbek architecture is the correct
model, this would place the Holy of the Holies somewhere beneath the present El Kas
When a map of the Baalbek Temple is overlaid on the present structures of the Temple Mount a
striking similarity can be seen:
Baalbek Temple plan overlaid on the Temple Mount
Which Conjecture is Correct?
In Israel it is often said that if you have two Jews you will have three opinions! Only time will
tell which of the above views is correct. These conjectures will continue to be debated until Israel
is able to conduct a thorough archaeological investigation beneath the Temple Mount itself. (3)
Unfortunately, the Temple Mount presently remains under the supervision on the Waqf, the
Supreme Muslim Council, and they have presented any archeological studies. In fact, the Waqf
has gotten increasingly resistive to investigations of any kind on the Platform which they
consider to be a huge outdoor mosque sacred to Islam.
Who knows what events developing in the history of Jerusalem will one day change the status
quo allowing scientific investigation of the entire Temple Mount, below ground as well as above.
The, according to the hopes and dreams of devout Jews for centuries, a Third Temple can be built
on the foundations of the First and Second Temples and temple worship according to the Torah
Addendum: Personal Notes
For more than twenty years this writer has maintained an active interest in archaeology in Israel,
and especially in the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Dr. Asher Kaufman, retired Professor of Physics at the Racah Institute of Physics of the Hebrew
University in Jerusalem, and I began corresponding in the early ’80’s and have been good friends
I have followed with great interest Asher’s hypothesis that the First and Second Temples were
located 110 meters North of the Dome Rock on the Mount. The area in question would put the
Holy of Holies and the Foundation Stone under a small Islamic structure known as the Dome of
the Tablets or the Dome of the Spirits. Exposed bedrock outcrops beneath this small structure.
Dr. Dan Bahat, former District Archaeologist for Jerusalem, and now Professor at Bar Ilan
University is also a good friend. His arguments, vast knowledge, and experience convince him
that the First and Second Temples are located in the immediate vicinity of the Muslim Dome of
the Rock. His case is also a persuasive one!
Several years ago my friend (since 1982), Stanley Goldfoot introduced me to Tuvia Sagiv, a
talented and enterprising Tel Aviv architect. Tuvia has spent hundreds of hours and many
thousands of dollars of his own money researching the temple locations and has now built a
strong and convincing case that the Temples were immediately East of the present Western Wall,
with the Holy of Holies probably located under the El Kas Fountain. This fountain lies
approximately midway between the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque.
The bedrock drops rapidly just South of the Dome of the Rock. If Tuvia’s model is correct the
Temples would be lower that the outcropping bedrock under the Dome of the Rock. In fact
Tuvia’s recent research suggests the Dome site may have been originally a Canaanite High Place
with tombs beneath, and later (until the reforms of Josiah) the location of an Ashoreh pillar.
Until I have time to complete this chapter, please order the outstanding briefing package The
Coming Temple by Chuck Missler, available from Koinonia House. This briefing package
contains two audio cassette tapes, 22 pages of notes with 30 diagrams.
Each year for four years Chuck Missler and I co-hosted an annual International Conference on
the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in conjunction with Chuck Missler’s tour group visit to Israel.
Video and audio tapes of speakers at these outstanding meetings are also available from
Koinonia House and are highly recommended.
1. Leen Ritmeyer, Biblical Archeological Review, March/April, 1992.
2. Dr. Asher Selig Kaufman, Biblical Archeological Review, March/April 1983; Tractate
Middot, Har Yearíeh Press, Jerusalem, 1991.
3. Tapes, videos and reports of Temple Mount Conferences featuring speakers defending all three
proposed locations for the Temples may be obtained from Koinonia House, PO Box D, Coeur
d’alene, Idaho 83816-0347.
On the Location of the First and Second Temples
by Lambert Dolphin and Michael Kollen
Web Pages: http://www.ldolphin.org/
Created July 21, 1995. Updated, May 15, 1996.