Multiple, irrefutable flaws void claims that Judaism’s Temple in Jerusalem was located at the present mosque, The Dome of the Rock. Convincing evidence from Mt. of Olives contours demonstrate vital importance of the Law of the Red Heifer in such analyses. Details about Temple articles, cubit lengths, archaeological finds and “threshingfloor” function bring emphatic evidence to force an obvious conclusion on this question.
TWO RIVAL THEORIES
Various scholars challenge Asher Kaufman’s conclusion that the Holy of Holies was located at the present position on the Temple Mount identified as the Dome of the Tablets. That point is about 100 meters northwest of the “traditional” Temple position at the Dome of the Rock. Despite the amount and quality of evidence, overwhelmingly convincing in favor of Kaufman’s analysis, two respected scholars, Dr. Leen Ritmeyer and Dr. David Jacobson, – identified as “Central Theorists” – insist the traditional site at the Dome of the Rock is authentic. The fundamental argument involves conclusions of each scholar concerning exact location of the Shethiyah; i.e., the Foundation Stone where the Ark of The Covenant Ark rested in Solomon’s Temple.
TEMPLE WAS NOT AT THE DOME OF THE ROCK
We shall demonstrate why neither of the Centerist’s conclusions is valid, primarily based upon the Law of the Red Heifer, as well as other factors. We submit several data items positively indicating toward accepting Asher Kaufman’s proposed site at the Dome of the Tablets. Still, no conclusive evidence is available at present that prove Prof. Kaufman’s conclusion is correct. Nevertheless, we remain confident the evidence presented shows that surely the Dome of the Rock cannot be the correct site. The most obvious and most disqualifying defect in Central Theorist proposals is lack of compliance with rituals in the Talmudic Law of the Red Heifer ceremony. That Temple rite is THE most important element of Temple worship, because ALL Temple articles must be purified by the ashes of the Red Heifer before any worship can be conducted. There also are many other faults.
Major contributions to Centerist errors result through improper choices of cubit lengths, far exceeding Jewish historians’ descriptions of that measuring unit. Accurate cubit measurement is demonstrated as vitally critical in this analysis. Concurrent to that inaccuracy is the location of the Dome of the Rock. It is more easterly on the Temple Mount, resulting in placing the kohain (priest) too far east on the Mt. of Olives.
THE LAW OF THE RED HEIFER IS PARAMOUNT
Principal among Centerist failures within The Law is the kohain’s inability to view the doors of the Temple from the point on the Mount of Olives where Centerist analyses would position the Miphkad Altar. The priest must stand at that point, viewing the Temple doors, as he sprinkles the heifer’s blood “directly toward the Tabernacle.” The Miphkad Altar must be located “outside the camp;” i.e., one Sabbath Limit (approx. 1000 yds.) due east from the Holy of Holies in the Temple. All Centerists position the kohain, as he stands behind the Miphkad Altar, on the “flat” summit of the Mount of Olives. Sectioning from map contours for that mount clearly illustrates the kohain’s inability to view the Temple doors from such a position. He would need actually to see through the mountain! — Again, this failure is the single most serious failing in Central Theorist proposals reviewed to date.
CUBIT SIZE IS VITALLY IMPORTANT
Ritmeyer’s entire thesis is founded upon a “Royal” cubit dimension = 20.67 in. = 52.5 cm. There is no foundation for use of a Royal cubit, of more than seven handbreadths in length, in any Jewish Temple construction. Many other cultures existing throughout ancient history used what were termed “Royal cubits” – having greatly diverse lengths. The cubit of Arye ben David at 22.08 in = 56.08 cm., has been mentioned by certain scholars, and is in fact nearly eight handbreadths in length! Talmud specifies that Solomon’s Temple was based upon the “Standard” Moses’ cubit = six handbreadths and the Second Temple was built with a slightly (1/2 “fingerbreadth”) longer cubit. This was done to reduce possibility that a contractor might even unintentionally fabricate a piece that would be short. – A sort of tolerance “pad,” if you will, in order that he would avoid “offence” against The House through “liability to a trespass offering.” (Pesachim 86a)
Jacobson specified cubit length = 0.465 meters, saying it is “about 18 inches.” Actually, it is 18.307 in. Considering critical effects of cubit dimensions in these analyses, “about” is an inappropriate word. It is apparent that his analysis did not consider the Sabbath Limit (almost 2000 cubits) to the kohain’s station. Cubit length at such distance is obviously critical. This is especially important regarding the impact of Olivet contours in these analyses.
ALL ASHES POURED-OUT AT THE MIPHKAD ALTAR
The Miphkad Altar was located at the spot on the Mount of Olives where ALL burnt offerings as well as ALL ashes and scorched remains, etc. from the sacrifices at the Temple Altar were “poured out.” These ashes were to “naturally pour down” toward the Temple. Whereas, from evidence of Centerists’ positions on that same map for the kohain and the Miphkad Altar, the ashes would most certainly not “naturally pour down” toward the Temple. In fact, they would just stream downhill in an indiscriminate direction, if anything – southeastwardly and away from the Temple! (Ref. Ex. 29:14, Lev. 4:11 – 12, 16:27 – Yoma 68 and Zebahim 105b)
ABUNDANCE OF FAULTS IN THE DOME OF THE ROCK SITE
Middoth 2:3 states that all Temple steps were half a cubit in height. Using Ritmeyer’s Royal cubit would result in Temple steps being 10 to 11 in. high. Anthropological data, as well as archaeological evidence shows, typically, Jewish men of the 1st century were very short in stature. There were no railings or banisters on the steps leading up to the Temple. Steps of such height then certainly would have been difficult for short Judean legs to climb, especially without the support of a rail or banister. Even six-footers today would find such stairs an “exerting” challenge.
Yoma 5:4 describes the Shethiyah (Foundation Stone), upon which the Holy Ark rested, as a projection extending three fingers above ground. – In contrast, Ritmeyer proposes a rectangular depression in the rock under the Dome of the Rock, purportedly the same size as the Holy Ark (using Royal cubit size), having been cut several centimeters deep into the rock. That rectangular depression must therefore be rejected as the Shethiyah.
One of the most convincing archaeological features of the Temple Mount supporting Kaufman’s proposal, while simultaneously and equally convincingly negating claims for the Dome of the Rock, is what must be considered the obvious near proximity of the Fortress of Antonia. Surviving ruins of that structure are supported by most scholars as an “authenticated” site. Antonia’s Southeast Tower was adjacent Temple northern courts.
That tower, according to Josephus, Wars 5.5.8/242 – 244, was erected adjacent to the north wall of the Temple and was much taller (70 cubits vs. 50 cubits) than the other three towers. In this way, activities of Jews in Temple courts below could be monitored for formation of plots for mischief and rebellions, just by noting “who” was talking with “whom,” “when,” etc.
Menahoth 98a specifies the Ark was oriented with the longer axis extending parallel to the Temple width; i.e., north – south. The rectangular depression proposed by Ritmeyer is oriented with the long axis parallel to the Temple length, east – west. Ritmeyer attempts to rationalize that orientation, saying of the “staves” (or “poles”) the bearers used to carry the Holy Ark: “The only way to remove the staves was by keeping the short side facing the partition that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.” That declaration is refuted in Exodus 25:15 as well as Talmud Yoma 72a and Makkoth 22a confirming the staves were permanently installed through the support rings and could never be removed.
Further, it would be “profane” to face the Ark as Ritmeyer proposes, since the cherubim were at the ends of the Ark. Such arrangement would have one cherub standing in front of the Lord’s Presence! – His Shekhinah — Never! – Again, on basis of historical records of Temple details, the rectangular depression cannot qualify as the Shethiyah.
THE SHETHIYAH MUST BE A THRESHINGFLOOR
The Rock in no way fits requirements for a “threshingfloor.” There is hardly a smooth, flat spot anywhere on that huge rock formation. However, the smooth, flat, circular stone beneath the humble little Dome of the Tablets meets all criteria for a perfect threshingfloor, as was purchased from Araunah, the Jebusite, by King David, (II Samuel 24:24).
We have shown several of the most significant faults in claiming the Dome of the Rock as the Jewish Temple site. Principally, these are: topographical limitations preventing the kohain from observing the Temple doors in compliance with Laws of the Red Heifer Ceremony and ninety degrees improper orientation of the Rock’s “rectangular depression,” and lack of characteristics required for the surface supporting the Holy Ark, the Shethiyah, to have been a “threshingfloor.” Asher Kaufman’s site appears to be much more authentic, based upon Biblical, historical, archaeological and geological evidence.