Israel is the most contested piece of real estate in the world. And the most contested piece of real estate within Israel is the temple mount in the old city of Jerusalem. Nearly every Jew believes that the Muslim Dome of the Rock, which dominates that thirty-six acre site, sits on the spot of all previous Jewish Temples, including the last one destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Many Jews and Christians believe that the temple must be and will be rebuilt on that spot. Therein lies the problem. Can you think of a faster way to start World War III?
Thankfully, new evidence is just coming to light that might reveal a more peaceful solution. The Jewish Temple may not have been on the Temple Mount but just outside the current walls of the old city. I had the privilege of seeing this evidence several days ago along with a few others participating on our CrossExamined.org trip to Israel. Our guide was the man who uncovered the new evidence: Israeli archaeologist Eli Shukron.
Since 1995, Shukron has been digging up the twelve-acre area called the City of David that juts out from the southern wall of the old city of Jerusalem. He and his team have removed thousands of tones of dirt to discover, among other things, the Pool of Siloam where Jesus healed a blind person (John 9:7), and the once impenetrable fortress of the Jebusites that David and his men captured by sneaking up an underground water shaft (2 Sam 5:7-8).
Near that water shaft, about 1,000 feet south of the Temple Mount, Shukron discovered the remains of an ancient temple just a few feet from the Gihon Spring. Shukron led us about forty feet underground into the well-secured area. As the lead archaeologist, only he has the key. The area is bedrock, which means there was no civilization below it.
The excavated site has grooves cut into that bedrock for an olive press and sacrifice tables, and loops cut into the walls presumably to secure animals. Slightly uphill and to the left of the olive press is a long channel cut into the floor most likely designed to drain off blood. Behind it Shukron unlocked a steel box he had built to protect something on the floor. As he swung the doors open, we saw an ancient upright stone (called a “stele”) surrounded by a foundation of smaller stones.
Frank Turek is coauthor of I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, and the author of Stealing from God: Why atheists need God to make their case. See more of his work at CrossExamined.org.