A Christian View from the Temple Mount
Now the outward face of the temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men’s minds or their eyes, for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun’s own rays. But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for, as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white.1
The writer was the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus who recorded not only the splendor of the magnificent Herodian Temple but also the Roman destruction of it in A.D. 70. Josephus’ accuracy is literally set in stone in the massive Arch of Titus in Rome. A scene on the arch depicts legionnaires returning triumphantly from Judea carrying spoils from the Jewish Temple. Included in the booty are the gold menorah, the table of showbread, and the silver trumpets associated with the feast of Rosh Hashanah.
These historical realities irrefutably authenticate the biblical and extrabiblical sources that speak of the Jewish Temples located on Mount Moriah in the Holy City, beginning with Solomon’s house of worship built nearly 3,000 years ago. After being ravaged by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., the Temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C. by the Jewish exiles whom Persian King Cyrus permitted to return from Babylon. Later it was greatly embellished by Herod the Great under the Romans and endured as the center of Jewish worship until it was destroyed in A.D. 70.
It wasn’t until 692 that the fledgling Muslim crusaders under Caliph Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock on the site of the Jewish Temples. In 715 the al-Aqsa mosque was added to the complex.
These are the facts regarding the small piece of land that has become the most controversial acreage on the planet.
Stuff and Nonsense
Of recent vintage is the outrageous Islamic revisionist nonsense being peddled by some Muslim “intellectuals” who claim the site has nothing to do with Jews or Judaism, but is wholly Muslim, and that the al-Aqsa mosque possibly dates back to Adam and the creation of the world.
In an article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, Nadav Shragai reported the following:
Increasing numbers of Muslim academics and religious leaders claim it [al-Aqsa] existed even before Jesus and Moses and that Islam preceded Judaism in Jerusalem….An Islamic legal pronouncement (fatwa) on the Jerusalem Waqf (Muslim religious trust) Web site says King Solomon and King Herod did not build the Temple at all, but merely refurbished an existing structure that had been there from the days of Adam. Today, many Muslims call the Temple “the greatest fraud crime in history.”2
In an interview with WorldNetDaily (WND), Waqf official and chief Palestinian Justice Taysir Tamimi claimed no Jewish Temples ever existed on the Temple Mount.
“About these so-called two Temples,” Tamimi told WND, “they never existed….Israel started since 1967 making archaeological digs to show Jewish signs to prove the relationship between Judaism and the city and they found nothing. There is no Jewish connection to Israel before the Jews invaded in the 1880s.”
WND reported that, when asked about the Western Wall, “Tamimi said the structure was a tying post for Muhammad’s horse and that it is part of the al-Aqsa mosque, even though the Wall predates the mosque by more than 1,000 years.”3
And so it goes. From creating outright fabrications to conducting illegal digs that destroy artifacts from the Temples, Islam is determined to use any means available to obliterate evidence of the historical Jewish presence on the Mount or, for that matter, in Jerusalem’s Old City.
With these facts in mind, it is clear that the Temple Mount is what we might call occupied territory—a term reserved exclusively these days to describe land Israel holds to ensure its survival.
When it comes to the wishful thinking of some beguiled Western leaders and left-leaning Israelis who believe Jerusalem will become a shared entity in a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli dilemma, one need but look at the present state of affairs at the Temple Mount. Islam is an exclusivist religion with a special measure of animosity reserved for Jews who believe they have a right to a Jewish state in their homeland or a claim to their legitimate, religious roots in the Middle East. And that fact will not change by planting a Palestinian flag on land excised from a truncated State of Israel.
Turn the clock back to Jordan’s dreadful, 19-year occupation of the Jewish sector of the Old City after 1948. With a no-Jews-allowed policy in force, the Arabs deliberately and maliciously destroyed synagogues and turned the street in front of the Western Wall into a dung heap. That condition did not change until Israel liberated the area during the Six-Day War in 1967. And now Israel’s adversaries are suing, with international assistance, to reverse the outcome of that war.
However, any objective evaluation of the situation confirms Israel’s biblical, historical, moral, and legal right to its land and full and free access to the Temple Mount.
Why Should This Matter to Christians?
Why should this matter indeed?
It matters because truth is essential for survival. Free people cannot preserve their freedom if they ignore the reality that big lies—even preposterous ones—if told with force, frequency, and determination can eventually win the day. Such lies must be challenged.
Then there is the matter of perception. An example is the rewriting of World War II history. Throughout much of the Arab world, the demented dogma of Holocaust denial stokes the popular anti-Semitic refrain, “All Jews are pathological liars.”
Distortions and lies muddle the mind. And the rising ideology of “who knows what’s right or wrong?” allows people to believe whatever they consider relevant and makes chaos a future certainty.
Finally, there is the issue of motivation. Why do Muslims concoct deliberate, nefarious lies?
Because two elements motivate Islam’s drive to create for itself an exclusive and perpetual right of ownership to the Temple Mount and surrounding acreage: the desire to (1) control the land and (2) dominate the world’s religions. Islam is following the same pattern as when it expelled Jewish people from territories it considered Islamic. Little matter that prior ownership and occupancy pre-date Islam’s birth by millennia. Destroying all Jewish associations with the area is vital to Islam’s exclusive occupation of the Mount.
In addition, Islam wants to establish religious dominance over Judaism and Christianity, both of which are rooted in the Temple Mount and the historical records of the Bible—Old and New Testaments. Were there no Jewish Temples on Moriah, it follows that the biblical records of events and worship there would be riddled with mythology and false claims; and the credibility of both religions would be destroyed. Judaism and Christianity would be gigantic frauds “exposed” by Islam.
Christianity’s Sacred Ties to the Temple
The New Testament is replete with accounts of Jesus’ pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem during the nation’s festive celebrations. As recorded in the Gospels, Jesus attended at least three Passovers, the Feast of Tabernacles, the “unknown feast” (probably Rosh Hashanah), and the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah). It was on those sacred occasions that He made some of the greatest declarations concerning His person and mission on behalf of mankind.
It was around Passover, in a conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus, that Jesus said,
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (Jn. 3:16–17).
At the Temple in John 5, we find these words:
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (v. 24).
At Tabernacles, He declared,
If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM (7:37–38; 8:12, 58).
Especially appropriate for this season of the year, when Jewish friends light Hanukkah candles to commemorate the Temple’s deliverance from the infamous Antiochus Epiphanes and Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, are His words spoken at the Temple during the feast of Hanukkah:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand (10: 27–29).4
Surpassingly appropriate in this declaration, which fuses events from the archives of the Chosen People, the Temple, and the nation, is the fusion of thought for both Jews and Christians. For the Jewish people there is the profound reality that, try as they might, the forces bent on the destruction of Judaism and Israel will never succeed. God raised up deliverers and pre-served the nation when all seemed to be lost. And to this day, the lights of that deliverance still burn brightly throughout the world, testifying to the faithfulness of Israel’s God.
For Christians, the imagery is unmistakable. Just as Israel was secure in Jehovah’s grasp, so believers are forever safe in the Savior’s hand. No force on Earth or beyond will ever be able to snatch them away.
For this reason, we can stand together on the Temple Mount and give thanks to God that events there can never be erased by the fallacious claims of those who try to destroy the truth and the liberty it assures.
- Josephus, The Wars of the Jews5.6.
- Nadav Shragai, “Digs, lies and the Mugrabi Bridge,” March 14, 2007 <haaretz.com/hasen/spages/824139.html>.
- Aaron Klein, “Olmert allows Muslims to dig on Temple Mount,” July 11, 2007 <worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=56626>.
- For more on this subject, see The Outpouring by Elwood McQuaid (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1990).