Christian Leadership Center



Biblical Archaeology Index



Class Twenty





“Herod the Great and His Family”


King Herod

By 63 B.C. Judea was clearly under Roman rule, although the Jews had a certain amount of freedom.  Throughout the following years, up until 48, Aristobulus made several futile attempts to regain power.  But this came to an end with the Roman civil war.  Hyrcanus and Antipater supported Julius Caesar; for this they were rewarded well--Hyrcanus was made ethnarch as well as High Priest, and Antipater was made procurator of Judea.  Caesar also made Antigonus, a son of Aristobulus, a governor, and placed Herod over Galilee.

After Julius Caeser was killed in 44 B.C., the country suffered under Cassius and then Antony.  But in the year 40, when the Parthians invaded Syria and Palestine, Antigonus joined them and with their support captured Jerusalem.  He then cut off the ears of Hyrcanus so that he could no longer serve as High Priest in that mutilated condition.  Antigonus held control for three years until he was defeated by Herod and then beheaded by Rome.

When Herod destroyed Antigonus he brought the Hasmonean line to an end.  It is unlikely that many mourned the end of an era that had non-Davidic kings, non-Zadokite priests, endless wars and much corruption in high places.  But through their wars and policies of forced conversions, Idumea and Galilee were now part of the Jewish state along with Judea, with only the area of Samaria left out.  Interestingly, with the loss of Judean autonomy, the Pharisees quit their political involvement and became more concerned with devotion to the Law.  They no longer concerned themselves with who ruled the country, as long as they were allowed their religion.  The Pharisees' retreat left room for the Sadducees in the governing class to exercise more control.  Nevertheless, the Pharisees, continued to represent essential Judaism.  As for the Essenes, it seems that they became less monastic at about this time, possibly due in part to the end of the despised Hasmonean priesthood.   

Having failed in their attempt at self rule, the Jews now were to be subjected to foreign rule once again.  Herod was the client king, while Rome held the power.  And this Herod was the son of Antipater the Idumean, a descendant of Edom--Esau of all people!  Antipater had seen to it that Herod was made governor in Galilee; but Herod was a diplomat in his own right.  Not only did he gain the favor of Caesar, he also found favor with Cassius and Antony: in 40 B.C. with the help of bribes he was able to obtain the appointment as King of Judea; and with the help of Rome he was able to take control of the kingdom by defeating Antigonus.  Then, in the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. Herod found himself on the losing side with his support of Antony and Cleopatra.  But somehow he managed to convince Octavian (Augustus) that he could be just as loyal to him.

So Herod remained a vassal under Rome; he was limited in making wars and treaties, but he was free from tribute and had the right to levy taxes.  He embarked on an enormous building program to make his country a prestigious Hellenistic state.  Even though he did not live the Jewish faith, he tried to represent himself as a Jew, to appease the Jews.  He tore down the 500 year old Temple and began building a new one to match his other building projects.  It would be the greatest religious building complex in the known world.  As part of this appeal to the Jews he was careful to do it according to Jewish laws, using consecrated priests trained to do much of the work.  But his pagan ways and his sinful life drew much opposition.  He may have found favor with Rome, and he may have sought to appease the Jews, but he still made enemies on every level, including his own family. 

Herod tried to link himself to the Hasmoneans by marrying Mariamme, the daughter of Hyrcanus II and the niece of his enemy Antigonus.  He still needed to replace the mutilated priest, and so he used this chance to appease the pious Jews who thought he was a half-Jew, an Idumean, and a friend of the Romans.  He chose Hananeel, a Zadokite of Babylon.  But after great opposition to this selection, he yielded and made the popular Aristobulus the High Priest--whom he subsequently drowned while swimming.  Claiming to be innocent and displaying great sadness, he was able to gain acquittal from Rome for this crime, probably through a bribe.

By eliminating the Hasmoneans Herod brought to an end the line of royal priests.  He appointed seven high priests during his tenure; consequently, there were a number of ex-high priests around in the days of Jesus.[1]  Annas served from 6-15, and his son-in-law, Caiaphas, who tried Jesus, served from 18-36.  Herod and his successors, Archelaus and the procurators, controlled the High Priests by retaining all their garments and implements until needed.        

Herod’s reign was contemptible in the eyes of the righteous.  He interfered with the High Priesthood, appointing priests and deposing them at will.  He was accommodating to pagan ways, making temples and athletic arenas in the Roman mode.  His building projects at Caesarea and in Jerusalem were magnificent; and his desert fortresses were absolutely amazing.  But they all speak of one who was paranoid.  And well should he have been; even though he was a powerful and effective ruler, he was also ruthless and cruel.  He was responsible for the death of his wife Mariamme, as well as several of his own sons and relatives. It is not hard to imagine how such a man could command the killing of the innocent children when he heard of the birth of a king (Mt. 2).

But even though Herod ruled as a tyrant and levied heavy taxes, he did create a kingdom with magnificent buildings, garrisons, and a first-rate harbor at Caesarea.  But probably most significantly, he gave the people a generation of peace, something they had not had for ages.  After what the Jews had been through for decades before, this time was most welcome.


The Herodian Kings

Herod died in 4 B.C. (thus the birth of Jesus would have occurred in late 5 B.C. or early 4 B.C.[2]).  His will made his son Archelaus king, and his other sons tetrarchs, Antipas in Galilee and Perea, and Philip in the northeast.  Caesar Augustus ratified the will, but reduced Archelaus to ethnarch of Judea, Samaria and Idumea.  Archelaus had a cruel reign of about ten years, 4 B.C. to 6 A.D.  He angered the Jews by marrying his brother’s widow and deposing High Priests; he was subsequently banished by Rome and the office replaced with procurators.

Consequently, from 6 to 66 A.D. Judea was under the authority of these prefects or procurators who ruled from Caesarea.  Most of them were powerful military governors, but were not very wise or capable men in other respects.  Some of the policies at the very beginning prompted the formation of the zealot movement.  And later, Pontius Pilate had nothing but trouble during his ten years in Judea (from 26-36).  In fact, he was removed by Rome for cruelty, which must have been excessive because Rome itself was not known for softness.

The other sons of Herod the Great lasted longer.  Philip had a long reign in the northeast territories (from 4 B.C. to 34 A.D.).  Herod Antipas also held on to his territory for a number of years (until about 40 A.D.).  Antipas is known in the Bible for his deposing of his wife and marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias. (It is not clear whether this was Philip the tetrarch or another relative named Philip).  John the Baptist preached against his evil practices and was beheaded (Mt. 14:1-12).  Jesus referred to Herod Antipas as “that fox” (Lk. 13:32).  But his only encounter with this king was at his trial:  Herod Antipas was in Jerusalem as part of his pilgrimage, and Pilate, who had the jurisdiction, sent Jesus to him, perhaps trying to avoid the decision, or perhaps out of professional courtesy (Lk. 23:6-12).  Herod took no action.

When Philip the tetrarch died, Herod Agrippa I, a grandson of Herod the Great, replaced him.  Agrippa I was a good friend of Caligula in Rome; and when Caligula became emperor he gave Agrippa the tetrarchy as well as the title of king (34 A.D.).  This made Agrippa’s sister Herodias jealous; she persuaded her husband, Antipas, to seek royal status also.  But Agrippa persuaded Caligula of the evils of Antipas and got him banished to Gaul.  By 41 A.D. Agrippa I had been given all the territory of Antipas as well as Samaria, Judea and Idumea.  While this king seems to have been the least offensive of the lot, he did persecute the Christians, putting James to death (Acts 12:l-3).  But then in the height of his pride while on stage in the theater at Caesarea he was struck down by God and suffered a horrible death himself (Acts 12:20-23 and Josephus).

The Emperor Claudius made the kingdom a province under procurators. And with Jewish zeal for independence rising once again, these governors did little to appease the people.  Two of them, Felix and Festus, mentioned in the Book of Acts, were basically despots who paved the way for the war that marked the end of the Jewish state.

Herod Agrippa II, the son of Agrippa I, was made the king of Philip’s tetrarchy and the guardian of the Temple with the right to appoint the High Priest.  Even though this was meant by Rome to appease the Jews, it did not work.  He was as bad as the others; and in the war of 66-70 he sided with Rome.  It was this Agrippa II who heard Paul’s speech (Acts 26).

There were two major wars with Rome that brought an end to the Jewish state.  The first war broke out in Caesarea in 66 A.D.  It was over in 70 with the capture of Jerusalem; but the Zealots dragged it on until 73.  The political situation leading up to the war was about the same as it had been, but the excesses of the governors and the temper of the zealots were sufficient to ignite the conflict.  When the Temple treasury was diverted into Roman hands, the people reacted strongly and were met with retaliation.  The governor of Syria could not quell the rebellion, and so in 67 Vespasian came and subdued Galilee. 

In Jerusalem the Zealots took complete charge of the war effort, but while they were doing this Vespasian gained control of all the surrounding area. In the middle of 69 Vespasian returned to Rome and left the siege of Jerusalem to his son Titus.  Five months later the city was taken, the Temple burned, the people killed or imprisoned, and most of the city leveled.  The war was over except for the strongholds still in Jewish hands, Masada being the last to fall in 73.

The land was devastated by this war.  Judaism survived, of course, but without the Temple, the priests, or the sacrifices.  The pious were left to develop the new form of the religion, making use of the Synagogue for the study of the Scriptures and the keeping of the Law.  A new Council was organized in Jamnia, near Joppa.  And the leaders now were known as rabbis, since the political parties and their controversies ceased with the destruction of Jerusalem.

The second war, the great war of Rome and the Jews, came in the days of Hadrian (131-135 A.D.).  Under Trajan there were many conflicts between Jews and Greeks that were met by harsh punishment from Rome.  Old issues from the first war were still unresolved, and Zealot refugees stirred up the hatred.  Moreover, Jewish Messianic enthusiasm was growing.  When Hadrian replaced Trajan it appeared that better times lay ahead; but those hopes were quickly dashed.  Hadrian prohibited Jewish customs, especially circumcision, and began his plans to build a temple to Jupiter on the Temple mount, and another temple on the place of the crucifixion.  The unrest broke into war all over the land in 131 and continued until 135 when the final blow came.  It was finally over. 

The land would now be known as Palestine.  Jerusalem was rebuilt as a Roman colony and Jews were prohibited from entering it or Bethlehem.  And rabbinic religious activity that stayed in the land moved to Tiberias in Galilee.   



     [1]Thus, it would be possible in a tribunal not to know which man was actually the current High Priest, as indeed happened with Paul.

     [2]There is sufficient time for the events in this period.  Jesus would have been born in late 5 B.C. or early 4 B.C.  The Wise Men came shortly thereafter.  Mary and Joseph then took Jesus and went down into Egypt in the early spring.  They heard later that Herod was dead--that could have been in the summer time, depending on how fast the news arrived.  And they then returned to Nazareth.  See the chronology notes at the end of this study guide.




“Herod’s Massive Building Projects”


1.   Masada


Herod the Great built a series of fortresses for himself that would allow him to escape from the Romans or any other group that would threaten him.  The first fortress to the south and east of Jerusalem was Herodium, on the edge of the desert.  Then, down by the Dead Sea on the western side he built Masada (pronounced with a sharp “s”: mah-tsah-dah).  And then across the Dead Sea on the edge of the Jordanian plateau he built Macchaerus.  Time does not permit a detailed study of all of these; that would truly require a visit to each of them.  But Masada does deserve a thorough discussion.

Masada is an immense rock mountain that is on the western side of the Dead Sea.  It is located 15 miles south of En Gedi.  It is best known as the last holdout of the Jewish zealots in the war with Rome.  Masada was finally seized by the Romans in 73 A.D. when they scaled the western side of the mountain--only to find that almost all of the 960 Jews were dead, by their own hands.

Masada is part of the rocky edge of the Judean plateau, but the way that it is shaped makes it largely inaccessible.  It has a flat top, a plateau, that narrows to a point on both the north and the south ends, and is wider in the middle, measuring 650 yards from north to south, and 216 yards from east to west.  Masada has a sharp drop on all sides, but the drop on the Dead Sea side is 1300 feet.


Historical Overview

There is some evidence of earlier occupation on the plateau.  It may be that this site was a safe haven for David when fleeing from King Saul through this region (see 1 Sam. 24:22); it is not far from En Gedi where he hid in the cave (from the top one can see the green canyon of En Gedi).  Several times David said that the LORD was his “rock and his fortress.”  The word “fortress” is Hebrew mesudah (pronounced meh-tsoo-dah).  If David did climb up here for safety, the imagery would be powerful for his psalms.

Josephus says that Jonathan was the first to build a fortress on the plateau (in the middle of the second century B.C.).  But the archaeology attests that this first builder was Alexander Jannai, also known as Jonathan the High Priest, some fifty years later.     

But the real building of Masada was done by Herod the Great.  Herod used the mountain fortress several times for himself and for his family when he was struggling to gain power.  He appreciated the strategic value of the place, and so when he became king he set about turning it into a magnificent place just in case he would have to flee for refuge.  The work was done between 37 and 30 B.C.

Herod was rather paranoid; but then his conduct and the world in which he lived probably necessitated the precautions.  Some of his buildings had the same usefulness of bunkers built by modern day dictators.  But Herod had style.



Surveying what the archaeologists uncovered on Masada tells us a great deal about the building projects of Herod the Great.  In fact, the story of the archaeological work itself is fascinating.  After all, this was no ordinary mound to be dug.

Cisterns and Aqueducts.  Herod first had to provide water for the place; this was done by constructing dams in the canyons to collect the water, aqueducts and channels to bring it to Masada, and then immense cisterns to hold it.  A number of cisterns were hewn in the side of the cliffs and supplied by rock aqueducts that brought water from the valleys above when they were filled in the rainy season.  Other cisterns were built on the plateau itself, on the sides, or on top.  The largest cistern is the one on top, one into which the visitor must descend a large number of steps to stand on the bottom.  It has been estimated that the cisterns had a capacity of 1,400,000 cubic feet for the water.  With ample water a community could not just survive on the top, but live for some time quite well, and even grow food.  There is evidence that vines and fruit trees and various other plants were cultivated on top as a constant supply of food.

Casemate Wall.  Herod then built a stone casemate wall around the summit, some 1500 yards in all.  This wall had about 70 rooms in it, thirty-eight towers, and four gates. 

Storage Rooms.  The storage area on the plateau was large enough to hold food and supplies for a very long time.  Josephus describes it and its contents at some length (for which see).

Herod’s Residence.  At the northern end of the plateau Herod built his private residence, what is called the North Palace (although it was not his working palace).  This was a distinctive three-tiered villa.  The top level held the living quarters, a large rectangular shaped building with nine rooms and a magnificent semi-circular porch bounded by the sides of the cliff.   The floors were decorated with beautiful mosaics.  From the porch one can look down to the other terraces.  The middle terrace is 66 feet down the north end; the remains of two concentric circular walls can clearly be seen.  Yadin suggested it was the summer house.  The lowest level, another 46 feet down, is a square terrace; it had an inner courtyard surrounded by elaborate pillars.  The building was decorated with frescoes that remain partially intact.  There was a small scale bath area south of this. 

On the steps to the pool they found three skeletons, a man, a woman, and a child.  There was also with them armor, arrow heads, a prayer shawl, and Hebrew ostracon.  Yadin wondered if this was the zealot who drew the lot to ensure that none were alive when the Romans got there.

Bath House.  There was a large, well-preserved Roman style bath house.  The individual would enter and prepare for the bath.  He would then move to the cool water room, called the frigidarium; he would then move to the warm room, called the tepidarium; and finally he would move to the hot water room, the steam room, called the caldarium.  In this bath this last room still retains some of the clay pipes against the walls and more than 200 small piers in the underground heating chamber on which the floor rested and through which hot air passed.  From a furnace outside hot air would be circulated under the floor and through the pipes to create the heated air and steam.  The ceiling was arched so that water from the steam would not drip down on the bathers, but roll down the curved ceiling and walls to the floor.

Ritual Bath and Synagogue.  During their holdout here in 70-73 A.D. the zealots added a mikweh or ritual bath--one of the earliest found.  Likewise, they built a synagogue against the western wall, a small room with seats and pillars.  This too was one of the earliest synagogues found in the land (the one at Gamla was destroyed in 67 A.D.).  Within this area some scrolls were found.

The Western Palace.  In the western part of the plateau Herod had another palace built.  It covered an area of about 43,000 square feet and included the royal apartments, servants’ quarters, storerooms, and administrative buildings.  The floor in the antechamber had magnificent mosaics that have been preserved.

Other Finds.  Also on top of Masada were three smaller palaces, a swimming pool, and other ritual baths, and storerooms.  Later, the zealots converted some of the palace space into living quarters, and built other rooms along the wall.

The Roman Ramp.  The remains of the ramp that the Romans built to scale the western side clearly show how they built it.  There were logs that held the rubble in place; some of these logs of wood still remain, and stick out on the side, some 1900 years later.  The siege ramp has worn down considerably, but it is still definitive.

Roman Camps.  All around Masada the Romans built a siege wall (its stones still in place) and eight camps for the soldiers.  The rubble of the walls and buildings of these camps are in place, and from the top of Masada the camps can be easily outlined.   The Roman legions were clearly there for the long run--even though it must have been terribly hot and unpleasant for them out in the desert region of Masada.

Archaeologists also found small piles of ashes in the rooms that the zealots had occupied.  Josephus tells us that each family had collected their belongings and set them on fire.  They did not have much that was valuable; this was more in defiance than against Rome.


2.  Herodium


In the desert near Bethlehem Herod the Great won a great victory over the Hasmoneans in 40 B.C.  So on that spot he built Herodium, as a fortress, a memorial, and a capital.  He did this in 24 B.C. shortly after his marriage to Mariamme.  He built the palace on a natural hill, but added the artificial upper part to make it look cone-shaped, like the crater of a volcano.  It rises some 2500 feet above sea level. From the top one can gain a spectacular view, the towers on the Mount of Olives by Jerusalem on one side, Bethlehem and Tekoa down below, and to the east the Dead Sea and Moab beyond the Jordan Valley.

Josephus says that around the top of the walls extending up from the slopes he built towers, one of them a larger, main tower.  Inside the fortress there was a garden surrounded by columns, and across from this the elegant palace, Roman bathhouse, colonnaded walls, and an early synagogue.  The remains of the synagogue provide one of the early samples of a synagogue structure.  Access into this place was through an underground tunnel from the base of the hill. 

Josephus says that Herod’s body was brought to Herodium for burial (see Antiq. xvii, 196-199).  Herodium later fell to the Romans; but it was used as a command post by Bar Kochba in the war against Hadrian..

Down below and outside of Herodium on ground level there was a second palace with a large pool for water. 


3.   Caesarea Maritima


“Caesarea by the Sea,” or Caesarea Maritima as it appears, is located about 25 miles south of Haifa on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  The city was built by Herod the Great to be the showpiece of the whole Mediterranean.  When completed it may have occupied an area half the size of Manhattan; and estimates of it population run as high as 250,000.  It became the Roman capital, the residence of the procurators.


Historical Overview

Caesarea was founded as a small port by the Phoenician king Strato in the fourth century B.C.  It was called Strato’s Tower.  In 259 B.C. the region passed to Ptolemaic control.  The Hasmonean king Alexander Jannai then brought it under Jewish rule in c. 103 B.C.  But it was under Herod that Caesarea came into prominence.  When Caesar Augustus confirmed Herod’s rule and extended it to the coast, Herod showed his gratitude by building this city and harbor to be the most beautiful harbor of the Mediterranean.  He started the work in 22 B.C. and finished it twelve years later, naming it after Caesar Augustus.  At the death of Herod the city passed to his son, Archelaus; but it soon became the residence of the Roman procurators who replaced the king.  It remained under Roman rule except for a three year period (41-44) when Herod Agrippa I was given control over it.

According to Josephus the city was magnificent; and the harbor was an engineering feat that turned a small harbor into a leading maritime port.  The aqueducts themselves are amazing for their architecture and function.  And, one notable feature of the city was an underground sewage system that was designed to be flushed clean by rising and falling tides.      

It was in Caesarea that Philip the evangelist lived (Acts 8:40, 21:8).  Paul stopped here on the beginning of his journey to Damascus (Acts 9:30).  Peter baptized the Centurion Cornelius and his household as the first Gentiles in the Church (Acts 10:1-48; 11:11).  It was here that Herod Agrippa I made his dramatic presentation on stage in the theater and subsequently died (Acts 12:10-23).  Paul came here on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 18:22).  He later stayed at the home of Philip (Acts 21:8-16).  And it was in this city that Paul was imprisoned under the governors Felix and Festus (Acts 23:22-35).  Here he was judged by Felix (Acts 24:1-27), then Festus (Acts 25:1-22), and finally Agrippa II (Acts 25:23--26:32), before being sent to Rome on appeal to Caesar (Acts 27:1; summer of 59 A.D.).

          In 60 A.D. the Jews of Caesarea were persecuted and killed, setting off discontent and revolt.  The revolt broke out in Caesarea against the Syrians and the Romans in 66 A.D.; there is evidence that as many as 20,000 Jews were massacred in one day.  In the war that followed Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, before returning to Caesarea with the spoils of war.  He also brought 2500 Jews as prisoners to die in the “games” against the wild beasts in the amphitheater (70 A.D.).  Then, in the war of 132-135 Caesarea was the major Roman supply depot for the Romans.

Caesarea later became an important base for Gentile Church leaders.  It was here in 195 A.D., for example, that the Church decided to move Easter celebrations to the first day of the week, Sunday.  In the 3rd century Origen established the Caesarean school here.  It was famous for its learning and for the accuracy of its copies of the Scriptures, especially the Greek Old Testament commonly referred to as the Septuagint.  Origen was the first Christian scholar to work with various manuscripts and do textual criticism.  He produced the Hexapla, a manuscript of the Bible in six columns using different versions and recensions.

His work was continued by Eusebius, who became the Bishop of Caesarea at the beginning of the fourth century.  Eusebius is best known for his writings on the History of the Church, and the Onomastikon on names and places.  When Constantine came to the faith and founded his capital at Constantinople, he gave to the churches 50 copies of the Bible that had been copied in Caesarea.  One of these may have been the famous Codex Sinaiticus, one early manuscript of the Bible written in Greek and discovered at St. Catharine’s monastery in the Sinai.

In 639 the city fell to the Arabs.  It remained a beautiful city for a while, but then began to fall into decay.  In 1101 it was captured by crusader king of Jerusalem, King Baldwin, and the Genoese fleet—and all its residents were put to the sword.  In 1187 it was recaptured by the Saracens under Saladin.  Over the following years it change hands several times.  Finally, in 1251 Louis IX of France captured the city and built the crusader fortifications that stand to this day.  A few years later the sultan Baybars captured it anyway.  After that it was abandoned and over time covered by sand.

A village was founded here at the end of the 19th century by immigrants from Bosnia.  Today, the theater in Caesarea is used for public concerts; and, for those interested, the modern area of Caesarea has the only golf course in Israel.



Roman Hippodrome.  There is a Hippodrome that dates from about the second century A.D., but it has not been thoroughly excavated.  However, this evidence adds to the picture of Caesarea’s Roman culture.  The course of the Hippodrome apparently could hold about 20,000 people.  It had an obelisk in the center around which the races went; it also had three pillars known as “horse-frighteners” (polished to reflect the sun in the horses eyes and get them to run fast).

The Theater.  About 300 yards south of the harbor is the theater.  Most of the present theater has been reconstructed by archaeologists from all the materials that lay in ruins.  There would have been more to the construction, such as a backdrop to the stage (as at Bet Shean).  In a beautiful city, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, this theater would have been in a delightful setting for various performances.  But to the pious Jews it was typically Gentile or pagan.

The Church remembers this theater for one significant event that is recorded in Acts 12:10-23.  The Bible tells how Herod (Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great) stood on this very stage to give his presentation, and the people all cried out that it was the voice of a god and not a man.  The Bible then simply reports that because of this the king was struck down and died.   It is presented as divine judgment on this one who had begun to persecute the Church.

We are fortunate to have an account of the same event by the historian Josephus (Antiquities 19. 8. 2).  Whereas the Bible wished to focus on the king’s pride and the divine judgment, Josephus was interested in more of the details of the events. According to Josephus, the occasion was a festival in honor of the Emperor, possibly on August 1, 44 A.D., the anniversary of his birthday.  Early on the second morning of the festival the king entered the theater, when the rays of the rising sun made his silver robe shine so brightly that the people were dazzled by it and cried out that he was a god.  They cried, “Be gracious to us; if hitherto we have reverenced you as a human, henceforth we acknowledge that you are of more than mortal nature.”  The king neither repudiated nor rebuked this.  But then he saw an owl sitting above him, and he recognized that to be an evil omen in accordance with a prophecy once made to him.  He was immediately seized with violent pains, carried home, and died five days later.  On the main points Luke and Josephus are in agreement; but Josephus has further information that is helpful in envisioning the whole scene.  

The “Pontius Pilate” Inscription.  In the excavation there was found a stone with the names of Pontius Pilate and the emperor Tiberius inscribed on it:

“[To the people of Caesarea, in honor of] Tiberius; Pontius Pilate, the Prefect                                                      of Judea,] has dedicated a temple." 

Pilate lived here between 26 and 36 A.D.  The original stone is in the museum in Jerusalem. 

The Promontory Palace.  On the rocky peninsula that extends out into the sea near the theater there is a large pool and a number of (later and secondary) channels cut into the rock. This has become the object of fascination for archaeologists.  From the remains, and by comparison to other Herodian constructions, it now seems likely that Herod had built a small palace on the peninsula, and that the pool was a swimming pool.  Some have thought that it was a fish pool—the Romans had a fascination for such.   But comparisons with other palaces clearly suggest a swimming pool.  This palace gave Herod the luxury of a villa with a wonderful view of the Mediterranean Sea to the west, and the beauty and convenience of his port city all around him.

The Amphitheater.  Between the theater and the harbor are the remains of Caesaria’s amphitheater—the site is the focus of recent intense archaeological work.  This amphitheater may have been J-shaped rather than oval since it opened to and faced the sea; it was about 260 by 50 meters in size and could hold 10,000 people.  The plan has been nicely laid out for visitors with a walkway along the shore to the harbor section of the city.  Behind the amphitheater the excavations have uncovered the main street and residences with beautiful mosaic floors.  

The Harbor.  Herod’s harbor was the first man-made harbor in antiquity.  How it was made with its underwater frames and concrete is a fascinating study in itself.  But by all assessments it was grand; it could hold up to 200 ships.  Herod named it Sebastos, the Greek word for Augustus. 

Underwater archaeological workers have explored the area and charted where Herod’s harbor would have been.  The northern breakwater stretched out into the sea some 280 meters, and the southern one ran about 800 meters to the west and then turned to the north, enclosing an area of about four acres.  There would have been immense lighthouse facilities at the end of these breakwaters to guide the ships.  And then, once a ship entered the harbor the first thing to catch the eye was a Roman temple on top of the hill overlooking the harbor.   For maps and drawings see Herod’s Dream, Caesarea by the Sea, by Kenneth G. Holum, et al.

The Roman Aqueducts. Herod built a high aqueduct that brought fresh water all the way from springs on Mount Carmel twelve miles away to the city of Caesarea.  A second aqueduct was joined to it by Hadrian about 150 years later.  A third one built on ground level in the Byzantine period lies on the ground about 100 yards east.      

The Crusader City.  This city covered an area of about 35 acres (the earlier Byzantine city was six times larger).  The wall has a moat that is 30 feet wide; and the walls rise 30 to 40 feet above the bottom of the moat.  The builders of the Crusader city used much of the Roman material—in fact, one could say that Herod had supplied the people of this region with building supplies for centuries to come. 

The main entrance goes over a bridge and through an indirect gate system at right angles.  The roadway from the gate down to the harbor was paved with earlier Roman marble blocks.  On the top of the rise overlooking the harbor are a couple of remains—a Crusader cathedral and a temple area.  The cathedral was never finished.  The northern aisle rested on a Roman warehouse arch that collapsed. 

The other area shows the remains of an octagonal structure.  Such constructions were used by the early Church to commemorate a historically significant spot, or to reclaim a holy spot from some pagan worship.  The Roman Temple had been on the top of this hill overlooking the harbor; the Church then replaced it with its building in order to show the triumph of Christianity.



The city of Caesarea by the Sea provides an excellent picture of the clash of cultures in the land of Israel in the first century.  Here was a Roman city with all the trappings of such—a theater, an amphitheater, a hippodrome, a Roman temple, and of course international commerce.  The Roman government was located here, Roman legions, and merchants and seamen from all countries.  The monuments and the statues all represent the pagan Gentile culture with half-naked gods of drink and revelry.  But it was in the land of Israel; and the Jews who lived here would have had a very difficult time with this monument to Roman values on their coast.  The ruins at Caesarea give only a glimpse of that life.  A graphic description might help bring the point home:

“Rome was a flea market of borrowed gods and conquered peoples, a bargain basement on two floors, earth and heaven, a mass of filth convoluted in a triple knot as in an intestinal obstruction.  Dacians, Herulians, Scythians, Sarmatians, Hyperboreans, heavy wheels without spokes, eyes sunk in fat, sodomy, double chins, illiterate emperors, fish fed on the flesh of learned slaves.  There were more people in the world than there have ever been since, all crammed into the passages of the Coliseum, and all wretched . . . . And then, into this tasteless heap of gold and marble, He came, light and clothed in an aura, emphatically human, deliberately provincial, Galilean, and at that moment gods and nations ceased to be and man came into being” (Boris Pasternak,  Doctor Zhivago, p. 43). 

But it was into such a pagan setting that God first brought the Gospel to the Gentiles, to a man named Cornelius.  We can understand Peter’s feelings about the Gentiles, and the need for the heavenly vision of the unclean animals.  But Peter rose to the occasion and came to Caesarea.  And with Cornelius’ conversion the Church changed its direction forever; it was now to be made up of Jews and Gentiles.  But the tensions that the Jews felt about Gentiles, especially in Caesarea, would surface again within the Church, necessitating the Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15).

Another thing that comes to mind at Caesarea is just how much went on here.  On the one hand it represents the best of all Herod’s buildings.  He truly did succeed in building a monument to Caesar—and to himself.  Herod so wanted to please Rome, and appease the Jews, and protect himself all at once.  He was a master builder and politician.  But look at what is left of it—stones washed away, or under the surface of the sea and the sand, buried for centuries under the dirt.

But on the other hand the biblical accounts of events that took place here only refer to the place as the setting.  The magnificent city is not what is to be remembered.  Here also the apostles came in their mission to the Gentiles.  They built nothing with stone.  But what they began to build has not only survived, but has covered the face of the earth.  And those later Church Fathers who labored here in copying manuscripts and writing Church histories—they too had a powerful share in the growth of the Church.  It should remind Christians that God wants them to be spreading His Word and building His Church, rather than constructing transitory monuments to themselves. 



4.   The Temple of Jerusalem


No city in the world has attracted as much attention as Jerusalem.  The steady flow of pilgrims to this holy city from every corner of the earth gives witness to its importance, and not just for Christianity, but for Judaism and Islam as well.  But what is amazing is that this has been going on for millennia, as any reading of the history of Jerusalem will show.

It would be impossible to cover the city of Jerusalem in a few short pages like this.  One could spend weeks investigating what is here and still not cover it all.  So this discussion will offer a general introduction to the major points of interest from the Herodians, and a later discussion will look at the Christian buildings and locations.  But first, a general description.


Historical Overview

The first settlement in the area was on the Eastern Hill around 3500 B.C.  The earliest mention of the city by name is from the Ebla tablets about 2500 B.C.  It is also listed in the standard Egyptian sources—the Execration texts, and the Amarna letters.  

The biblical references are far too numerous to list here, for Jerusalem is the most frequently mentioned city in the Bible.  This was the ancient Jebusite stronghold of Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20).  Even though the city was attacked by the Israelites, the city was not taken until David made it his capital.  Then it became the religious and political center of not only the nation but the theocracy.  And even though down through history it has been attacked, sacked, looted, burned, and passed from one oppressing ruler to another, it remained the focal point of the theocracy primarily because of the activities of Jesus the Messiah. 

Jerusalem has had many names given to it over the years.  It is called Salem in Genesis 14:18, Jebus (for the Jebusites who lived here) in Judges 19:10, and of course Jerusalem throughout Scripture.  The Bible also calls it The City of God (Ps. 46:4), Zion (named for the hill[1] on which it stands), The Holy City (Isa. 52:1), Hephzibah (Isa. 62:4); and Ariel (Isa. 29:1-7).  Hadrian named it Aelia Capitolina in 135 A.D.  And the Arabic name is Al-Kuds (“the Holy”).  Jeremiah says that it will be known as YHWH Sidqenu, “The LORD our Righteousness.”

Jerusalem is set on a hill with mountains all around it that are separated from Mount Zion by valleys (see Ps. 125:1,2).  Nevi Samwil (“the prophet Samuel”) is 2942 feet above sea level; it may be the “high place of Gibeon” where the Tabernacle once stood.  Mount Scopus is 2720 feet above sea level; it is the location of the original campus of the Hebrew University.  The Mount of Olives is 2680 feet above sea level, and 240 feet above Jerusalem.  The mount was once heavily wooded, providing oil for the Temple, but most of the trees were cut down by the Romans in their wars. 

The Mount of Olives was the place to which David fled before Absalom; and it was the fourth and last place the Shekainah glory was seen as its departure marked the end of the monarchy (Ezek. 11:23).  It is the location of Bethany, Bethpage, Jewish tombs, the place where Jesus wept over the city, Gethsemane, and the site of the Ascension.  To its east is the wilderness.

The Mount of Offense is 2450 feet above sea level.  Here Solomon built foreign temples for his wives (1 Kings 1:7-8).  The Mount of Evil Counsel today is occupied by the United Nations headquarters.  Mount Zion in the upper city is 2510 feet above sea level.  This is the later Zion, the upper city of the New Testament period, and the birth place of Hebrew Christianity.

On every hill and in every valley separating the hills from Jerusalem there are scores of archaeological sites, religious shrines, and historical commemorations.  In some places different religious groups may have competing chapels and churches for events (like the Ascension); and in other cases they may share portions of the same building (like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher), not all too harmoniously either.

The old city today is divided into four quarters: Jewish, Christian, Armenian, and Moslem.  It has a population of about 27,000.  The circumference of the old city is two and half miles. 

The Jewish Quarter occupies the southeast section of the city.  The quarter is bordered by the Western Wall on the east, the wall between the Dung and Zion Gates on the south, the Armenian Quarter on the west, and Street of the Chain on the north.  It was first settled by the Kings of Judah in the eighth century B.C.  Some of Hezekiah's walls, such as the Broad Wall, can be seen in this section, even where it cuts through a house's foundation (see Isa. 22:10).  It was resettled in the Hasmonean period until it was destroyed in 70 A.D. (see the burnt house).  Here from Jesus' time are the remains of the wealthy houses of the Herodians, probably the families of the High Priests. It was resettled in the seventh century after the Moslem conquest; but it was evacuated by the crusaders in the 12th century.  It was resettled in 1400, destroyed in 1948, and rebuilt in 1967.  The main street in the section is Jewish Quarter Road.

In the Jewish Quarter you will find among other things the remains of the Cardo, the main north-south street from the Roman city; portions of the city walls that have been excavated, including Hezekiah’s broad wall (2 Chron. 32:5), and of course the Western Wall; the burnt house, destroyed in 70 A.D.; several synagogues; and the Herodian Quarter, the wealthy homes from the Herodian period.

The Armenian Quarter is the southwest section of the city.  The main road through the area is the Armenian Patriarchate Road.  This is the oldest Christian community.  Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity in the third century under St. Gregory (and so, the Gregorian Church); the Armenians began coming in the third century and soon established their place here.  They were almost destroyed by the Persian invasion in 614 A.D.  They then were persecuted by the Byzantines who regained the control, and so actually welcomed the Arab invasion in 638. The crusaders treated them with contempt, but in the 12th century they gained respect and their rightful place in the city, due to intermarriage by royal families in Europe.  In WWI the Turks killed 1.5 million Armenians, an all but forgotten genocide.  Christ Church is located in the Armenian Quarter (David Street marks the East-West boundary).

In the Quarter Saint James Cathedral, named after James the brother of John, was built in the 11th century on sixth century foundations.  The head of James is said to be buried under the church.  There is also an Armenian Museum, and a seminary. 

The Moslem Quarter, the northeast section of the city, is densely populated with people who are descendants of the Moslems who settled here after the Crusaders were expelled in 1187. The main north-south street is the Suk (Shuk), or the Cardo from Roman times, which ran from the Damascus Gate to the Zion Gate.  There are two main east-west streets, David Street, which extends from Jaffa Gate toward al Kuds, and the Street of the Chain.  The Street of the Chain forms the southern border of the area; it has several large Mameluke structures.  Beth Habad street marks the western border. 

The Moslem Quarter contains a number of Christian institutions, including the Via Dolorosa.  The Pools of Bethesda are also in the Moslem Quarter, enclosed within the property of the Church of Saint Anne, a wonderfully preserved Crusader Church.  Along the Cardo at the end of David Street are the Markets (Butcher’s, Spice, and Goldsmiths), dating from the crusader times.  There is also the covered Cotton Merchants Market, which dates from 1336. 

The Christian Quarter is in the northwest section of the city.  It is bordered by the Christian Quarter Road, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate Road, the Greek Catholic Patriarchate Road, and the Latin Patriarchate Road.  Besides a number of churches in this area, most notable are the Latin Patriarchate, established by the crusaders in 1099,[2] the Greek Catholic Patriarchate, established in 1772 afer breaking away from the Greek Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, established in 451 by the Council of Chalcedon, situated on the site of the church of James, the first bishop of Jerusalem, and covering three acres of land,[3] the Ethiopian Patriarchate, the Coptic (Greek for “Egypt” is Aegyptios) Patriarchate (behind the Church of the Holy Sepulcher), first settled in the Byzantine period, the German Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Christ Church, and of course the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  In addition there is the Roman Column, a lamp post with the inscription honoring the tenth legion, the legion that destroyed Jerusalem.  Also of special interest is St. Mark’s Church and Convent, the headquarters of the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Jacobites.  It is a monophysite sect that owns part of Mary’s Tomb and the Church of the Ascension.  It was to this place that the newly found Dead Sea Scrolls were brought.  The location is believed to be the site of the home of Mark, and according to the Syrian tradition, the Upper Room.[4]



Archaeological work in the area of the old city is greatly limited due to the density of the population and buildings, as well as the political issues involved. The main work going on today is at the south eastern corner of the Temple Mount, where archaeologists have gotten down to the first century street with the shops that were located along it.  Other existing sites were dug at earlier times, such as the tunnel along the western wall, or in the city of David, and pretty much remain the same today. Some of the work along the southern side of the Temple area will stop with the Arab period for a practical purpose of fostering political harmony.


The Walls of the City of Jerusalem

A study of Jerusalem inevitably involves a study of the three walls and when they were constructed.  This is a difficult task because excavation in the area is greatly limited.  The walls that currently surround the Old City were built by Suleyman the Magnificent, the Ottoman (Turkish) emperor who ruled the land in the 1500s.  We have already noted the size and shape of the City of David; so now we must trace the successive expansions and fortifications of the city down through the centuries.

The First Wall.  Josephus said that the first wall, or the innermost wall, was the most ancient (Wars 5.142).  He thought it went back to the time of David or Solomon, and he was partly correct in that the later walls ran along the same line as Hezekiah's wall and even used older Iron Age wall sections (which can be seen in the Cardo area of Jerusalem).  Kenyon concluded that the northern extremity was Maccabean (ca. 140 B.C.). 

The evidence shows that this wall ran from the Herodian Citadel across the Tyropoeon Valley to the Temple Mount, roughly along David Street.  The exact location of the southern edge of this wall concerns the location of Josephus’ “fountain of Siloam,” which may refer to a recently excavated pool that caught the overflow of the Pool of Siloam.  The following drawing shows the layout of the city with these expansions by Hezekiah ca. 700 B.C.       

The Second Wall.  The second wall was a relatively short one.  It branched off the first wall just east from the Herodian Towers at a Gennath Gate.  The area of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was a stone quarry, outside the second wall.  The wall ran north, but turned toward the Antonia at the northeast corner of the quarry.  The wall then would have continued north on the east of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  So the quarry area would have been to the west of the wall, “without the gate” (Heb. 13:12).  After the wall went past the quarry, Josephus says it went north to the Damascus Gate, then around and south to the Antonia. 

The Third Wall.  The third wall dates from the first century A.D. This wall was probably built by Herod Agrippa, but did not have a long life, because of the Roman destruction in 70 A.D. 

There is some disagreement over the witness of Josephus and the archaeological evidence concerning where the third wall ran.  Josephus said the wall went north to the Psephinus tower and then east past the Helena monuments (generally) and through the royal caverns (as the present wall does).  Excavations under the present Damascus Gate revealed that the area was unoccupied and outside the city in the first part of the first century A.D.; but with Herod Agrippa I (42,43 A.D.) there is intensive construction with a triple arched entrance to the city with the line of the wall on either side of the towers almost identical to the present day location.  The following drawing of Jerusalem in the New Testament period shows this third wall surrounding the New City on the north around to the eastern side of the Temple Mount.

The Gates of the Old City.  A study of the walls and the gates of Jerusalem down through history can be a rather involved project.  Since we have today the walls built by Suleiman, we will survey the current gates around the city.  Starting from the northwest corner of the city, in the Christian Quarter, there is the New Gate, built in 1899.  To its east is the Shechem Gate, or Damascus Gate in Arabic, because it leads north to Damascus.  This is the largest of the city gates.  Then there is Herod’s Gate, the main gate for the market area.  On the eastern wall the first gate is Lion’s Gate, or St. Stephen’s Gate, the one that pilgrims use to enter the old city, Moslems to their holy shrine, and Christians tracing the way from Gethsemane to the Via Dolorosa.  Next is the Golden Gate with its two arches, closed by the Arabs in 810, opened by the crusaders, closed again in 1187, and re-walled in 1546.  On the south side of the city there is the single gate, the triple gate, and the double gate, all at the top of the steps at the wall of the Temple Mount, and all sealed shut.  The latter two were the eastern and western Huldah gates that went into the temple precinct.  People would enter and leave the Temple through these gates and their tunnels that went up to the platform.  On the west is the Dung Gate, the lowest of all the gates; it leads into the Tyropean Valley.  Then there is the Zion Gate, built in 1541.  And on the west is the Jaffa Gate, so-named because it leads west to Jaffa/Joppa on the coast.


The Temple Mount

Its History.  The Temple Precinct was central to the faith of Israel.  It was here that Isaac was taken to be sacrificed (Gen. 22:1-18, “Mount Moriah” was Jerusalem's Temple Mount according to the Chronicler).  This was the area acquired by David (2 Sam. 24:15-20).  It was here that Solomon built the Temple, with the "rock" apparently where the high altar would have been in front of the Holy Place.

The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:9).  The Second Temple was built under the leadership of  Zerubbabel in 515 B.C. (Ezra 3:8—6:22).  This one was greatly expanded and improved by Herod beginning about 20 B.C.  He used immense blocks of stone to build a retaining wall around the crown of the hill, and then filled it in where necessary to make the temple platform.  Then the actual construction of the Temple could commence.  His project was never actually finished; it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., who used the mount for a temple to Jupiter by Hadrian.  That was destroyed by the Byzantine Christians.  In 361 Julian the Apostate tried to rebuild the Temple. 

In 638 in the Moslem Conquest, Omar cleared the mount of rubbish (it had been used for refuse in the Byzantine period) and built the monument over the rock and the mosque at the southern end.  In 691 the present Dome of the Rock was built by Abdul-Malik Ibn Merwan of the Ummayyads.  In 1099 the Crusaders turned it into a shrine— Templum Domini, “the Temple of the Lord” (and they were known as the Knights Templar).   In 1187 it was retaken by Saladin and has remained under Moslem control ever since.  During the Ottoman Turkish period (1517-1917) renovations were made and ceramic tiles added to the outside of the octagon.  The dome was originally made of lead. It was replaced in 1966 with a dome of aluminum bronze alloy.  The present dome was completed in 1994; it was made of 1200 brass sheets coated with nickel and copper for hardiness and then electroplated with a special brush impregnated with liquified gold.  About 80 kg of gold was used (1994 market value of $1.5 million).  The Arabic name is Haram esh-Sharif, “The Venerable Sanctuary.”

The Dome of the Rock is the third holiest spot in Islam, after Mecca and Medina.  Islam recognizes its biblical sanctity as the place of the sacrifice of Isaac/Ishmael.  Apart from being associated with Solomon's Temple, Islam sees the rock as the place from which Mohammed ascended into Heaven on his horse and then returned with his revelation.[5] The cave in the rock is the “well of the spirits” where four prayed with Mohammed—Abraham, David, Solomon, and Gabriel.      

Herod's Temple.  Herod  began  rebuilding  the  Temple,  about 20 or 19 B.C. in  order to appease the Jews.  Josephus said the work continued until 62-64 A.D.  There are no remains of the Herodian Temple because of the destruction by Rome.  But there are considerable remains of the platform itself, of the stairway at the southern end, and other items that fell from the platform.  Herod had doubled the size of the Solomonic platform.  To do this the walls of the platform were based on bedrock and ascended to the level of the Rock.  The slopes of the original temple mount then were brought up to the level of the present platform.  Such a precinct was necessary to build the Temple, the courts and the colonnades.  The Herodian platform was about 35 acres.  The existing Herodian wall at the southeastern corner is about 130 feet.

Josephus describes the Temple itself as 90 feet high, 90 feet long, and 30 feet wide.  The priests' chambers along the sides added another 60 feet to the temple's height, making the total height of the building 150 feet.  Sharp golden spikes were on top of the temple, and golden vines hung down from the entrance.  Twelve steps led up to the holy place from the east.

All around the precinct Herod had built colonnades, formed in places by two rows of roofed columns. Josephus says the colonnade was formed of pure white marble, each about 38 feet high.  Josephus says a part of the wall on the east of the platform was Solomonic; the Herodian colonnade there was called “Solomon’s colonnade” and was one place Jesus taught (Jn. 10:23; also Acts 5:12-16, 17-25, 42).  The southern colonnade was the most magnificent—it had three aisles and four rows of columns, 162 in all.  The columns were 27 feet high.  Fragments of the columns, their capitals, as well as sundials, panels, friezes and cornices were found in the debris.

The Court of the Gentiles where Jesus often taught (John 10:23) was just outside the sacred precinct.  It would have been here that the blind and the lame came to Jesus, since they could not enter the sacred area.  The blind man in John 9 would have met Jesus at the southern gates of the temple platform, since Jesus was on his way out of the area.  Jesus healed him and sent him to Siloam, just south of the temple area.

Some of the important things to study in conjunction with the Temple Mount are the archaeological activities at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount, Robinson’s arch and its Pier, the inscribed quotation from Isaiah 66:14, the paved Herodian street, the steps to the Temple and the arches for the entrance to the temple (double gate and triple gate, the  “Huldah Gates”) where Jesus and his disciples surely entered, and the ritual immersion pools which undoubtedly were used by the disciples for the baptisms on the Day of Pentecost (Jews were very used to self-immersion, but here the meaning was different).  Of course, the purification of Mary and the dedication of Jesus may have also taken place here (Luke 2:21-24,39).


 Significant Sites in and around Jerusalem

The Western Wall.  Following the old city wall a few yards down to the area of the parking lots you can enter the Jewish Quarter of the city.  If you come this way you will pass the remains of the Cardo, the main street from Roman times.  It extended from the Damascus Gate on the north to the Zion Gate on the south.  Only some of its columns and paving stones are left to see, and in places sections of the old city walls from Old Testament times.  Further east in the Jewish Quarter you will find the Burnt House display.  Here are the remains of a house belonging to a priestly family known as Bar Kathros.  It was destroyed in 70 A.D.  Then, descending the steps toward the Temple Mount area you will come into the plaza area by the Western Wall.  Most visitors will visit this place several times over because it is truly one of the more intriguing and ominous places in Jerusalem.  This wall is what remains of the western wall of the Temple complex.  For those permitted to enter the synagogue to the left of the wall, channels have been dug by archaeologists to show that the wall has seventeen more layers of stone below the ground level—it goes down to bedrock.  The length of the wall is 1500 feet, divided into places for men and women to pray.  This is as close as the pious Jews can get to the Holy Place, and so it has become holy to them.  A visit to the wall usually leaves Christians with very mixed emotions.  Here is a place of prayer, where sincerity and piety certainly can be witnessed at all hours.  But much of it in blindness to the fact that the Messiah has fulfilled all that the Temple prefigured.   

The Citadel of David.  Just inside Jaffa Gate is the site of David’s Tower, a name given by the Crusaders to the Tower of Phasael of the Herodian Palace. While most of the walls of this area, as well as the walls of the old city, were built in the Ottoman period, the blocks at the base of these towers are clearly Herodian.  It was here that Herod the Great had his palace; and it was here that Jesus would have been tried, perhaps by Pilate, perhaps by Herod Antipas.  The museum of the city of Jerusalem inside the citadel is worth visiting.

The Kidron Valley divides Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  This is a long valley, extending some twenty miles from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. There are several remarkable tombs in the valley cut from the rock, some of which tradition has identified with Absalom, James, Zechariah, and others.  These traditions are difficult to evaluate; but the tombs may be those of priestly families.  On the left you will see the walls of the city that border the Temple area.  The southwest corner of this wall may very well be the “pinnacle of the Temple” which was the site of the second temptation of Jesus (Matt. 4:5-7).  Others suggest the corner of the building itself inside the complex. 

The Mount of Olives.  East of the old city across the Kidron Valley is the Mount, or the mountains called Olives. It was once very heavily wooded with olive trees providing oil for the Temple.  Its summit is 240 feet above the city, giving a wonderful overview of the Sanctuary area and the old city behind it.  As illustrated below, if Herod’s Temple were set beside the golden dome of today’s Islamic structure, it would be about a twenty-five percent higher.  The Herodian Temple was an amazingly large and beautiful place.

The Pools of Bethesda. Just inside St. Stephen’s Gate, or Lion’s Gate, you come to the Church of St. Anne, the best preserved Crusader Church in Jerusalem.  It was built in 1140 over an old Byzantine Church to commemorate the birthplace of the Virgin Mary and her parents, Anne and Joachim.  The church became the possession of the French after the Crimean War in 1856.  The acoustics in the church are terrific, and so not surprisingly groups love to sing here.  In the courtyard of the church are the remains of the pools of Bethesda with their tradition of the healing waters (John 5:2-9).  Here Jesus healed the man without the help of the troubled waters.

The Holy Land Hotel has a marvelous scale model of the old city in the first century.  Some of its details need to be modified, but overall it will give a clearer picture of what Jerusalem was like in the days of Jesus.  It is a large model, put together brick by brick.  And so a good hour or so could be spent here studying what the Temple looked like, or Herod’s palace, or the city walls by Calvary.



The impact of Jerusalem is very powerful on those who come here with any knowledge of the faith.  It would be impossible in a short visit of several days to take in all that is here, let alone even see it all.  The events that have occurred here and the ideas presented here have shaped the human race.  This is the ancient seat of Melchizedek, the friend of Abraham.  This is ancient Moriah.  It is the City of David, and of Solomon, and all the kings of Judah, the Hezekiahs and Josiahs with their reforms.  It is the home of Isaiah and Jeremiah and Habakkuk and Zachariah, Haggai, and Malachi.  It is where Ezra and Nehemiah came to rebuild and to restore.

And it is the focus of the ministry of Jesus the Messiah, his teaching and his mighty works in the Temple and in the areas surrounding the city, his Last Supper in the Upper Room, and most notably his crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension.

Today the city of Jerusalem is at the heart of the settlement negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  Whose city is it, historically?  It has been conquered some thirty times over the centuries.  It has been the possession of the Jebusites, the Egyptians, the Israelites, the Babylonians, the Persians, Greeks, the Jews again, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Arabs again, the Turks, the British by mandate, the Jordanians, and now the Israelis.  Some of the Jewish people believe strongly that this is the fulfillment of that promise and it is their destiny to have it.  Other Jewish people do not think the promises will be realized until Messiah comes.  The Palestinians, of course, claim it by virtue of their presence in the land. It looks like only the second coming of Jesus the Messiah will sort this one out, as indeed he predicted.  

Hoppe, Leslie J.  The Synagogues and Churches of Ancient Palestine.  Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1994.

Mare, W. Harold.  The Archaeology of the Jerusalem Area.  Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.





     [1] Mount Zion in biblical times referred to the area of the Temple.  The Mount Zion on the western hills was a later use of the name for a different area of the city.

     [2] The Roman Catholic Church has approximately 170 churches in Israel and 180 religious institutions.  Jerusalem has seventeen Catholic Orders; Israel has 21 monasteries and convents.

     [3] The church moved to Constantinople when the crusader kingdom was established in 1099, and returned in 1187 when Saladin evicted the Roman Catholics.  The Catholics were allowed to return in the 14th century, and there has been conflict between the two ever since.

     [4]Unless otherwise designated, all maps and drawings in this section are taken from W. Harold Mare, The Archaeology of the Jerusalem Area.

     [5]Islam believes Jesus was a prophet, and that he too ascended to heaven.  But they say that Mohammed came back.  When Jesus comes back, they say, he will be Islamic.