Thursday, August 8, 2013

Temple Mount

In 1921 BC Yahweh called Abraham to move from Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan. In 1896 Abraham's wife Sarah gave birth to their only child Isaac. In 1871 Yahweh tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac on a mountain in the land of Moriah (Genesis 22:2). Tradition identifies the site of this testing as Mount Moriah in what is now Jerusalem.

David, ruler of Israel, seized control of Jerusalem in 1048.

Solomon dedicated the first temple to Yhwh in 1005. Tradition poetically tells us that he had it built on Mount Moriah where Yahweh had tested Abraham and Abraham had almost sacrificed his son Isaac to Yahweh.

Outside Solomon's temple was an outer courtyard for the people of Israel and an inner courtyard for priests. With their construction the original Temple Mount was completed.

Inside the temple was a large room used only by priests and a small room used only once a year by the high priest alone. Inside this small room rested the Ark of the Covenant, a small wooden box covered with gold, containing the flat stones upon which God had written the Ten Commandments in 1491 BC.

This first temple was a small building. It measured only 90 feet long, 35 feet wide, and 45 feet high (27 x 9 x 14 m). In comparison, the Parthenon in Athens, finished in 438 BC, measured 228 x 104 x 79 feet (70 x 31 x 24 m).

Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, burned down that first temple and most of the city, and exiled most Jerusalemites to Babylon in 588.

In 515 Jews who had returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon finished constructing a second temple to Yahweh. They too built it on Mount Moriah on the site of the first temple.

Starting in 20 BC, Herod, ruler of Judea, had this second temple completely rebuilt. He also had it centered in a greatly expanded Temple Mount (37 acres or 15 hectares) supported by four massive stone walls measuring in length 975 (north) x 1540 (east) x 920 (south) x 1600 (west) feet (315 x 470 x 280 x 488 meters). In comparison, the Acropolis in Athens measures 500 ft (width) x 1150 (length) (150 x 350 m).

In AD 70 the Romans destroyed Herod's rebuilt temple and most of Jerusalem at the conclusion of the first rebellion of Jews in Judea against them. A surviving and still visible section of Herod's massive supporting stone wall is known today as the Western or Wailing Wall.

In the 130s Hadrian, the ruler of the Roman state, had a temple built where the first and second temples dedicated to Yahweh had stood. He, of course, dedicated his to Jupiter.

Around 325 Helena, mother of the Roman ruler Constantine, had Hadrian's temple replaced with a church building dedicated to Saints Cyrus and John.

In the 530s Justinian, ruler of the Roman state, had a church building constructed at the southern end of Temple Mount dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

A Persian army destroyed both of these church buildings when it captured Jerusalem in 614.

Islamic tradition understands the Quran to contain the written record of the revelations of God spoken by his angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad between 610 and 632. Islamic tradition also understands the Hadith to contain the written record of words and acts of Muhammad not recorded in the Quran.

The Quran and Hadith tell us that, in 621, Muhammad traveled one night from the Grand Mosque in Mecca to the Farthest Mosque (or Place of Prayer) in Jerusalem where he led a company of prophets, including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, in prayer. From there he ascended into Heaven, where God spoke to him about the importance of Muslims praying five times daily, before returning to Mecca.

In 637, after Arab Muslim armies had captured Jerusalem, Umar, ruler of the Islamic state, ordered the construction of two buildings. The first was built along the southern wall at the place where Justinian had financed construction of a church and, later, where Muhammad had led the prophets in prayer. The second was constructed on the site of Herod's temple and the spot where Muhammad had ascended into Heaven.

Abd al-Malik, ruler of the Islamic state, ordered the construction of an octagonal building topped with a golden dome to replace the wooden building commissioned by Umar. Completed in 691, this building became known as the Dome of the Rock standing, as it does, atop the barely visible summit of rocky Mount Moriah.

The architects of the Dome took their measurements from the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Dome is both 66 feet (20 m) high and in diameter. The Dome rests on a circular structure surrounded by an octagonal building. Each of its eight sides is 60 feet (18 m) wide and 36 feet (11 m) high. The whole structure stands about 120 feet (37 m) tall.

Abd al-Malik ordered the rebuilding and enlargement of Umar's building along the southern wall. His son Al-Walid saw the completion of this construction in 705. The finished building came to be called the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In 1033 a major earthquake destroyed the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Its reconstructed form is the one which we know today.

When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, they used the Dome of the Rock as a church building. They used the al-Aqsa Mosque first as their royal palace and later as the headquarters of the Knights Templar.

When Salah ad-Din's Islamic army recaptured Jerusalem in 1187, he had both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque rededicated to their previous Islamic purposes.

During his reign, Suleiman, ruler of the Ottoman state (1520-1566), had the exterior of the Dome covered with brilliant tiles.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.