Antonia Fortress and the Temple in Jerusalem
The tradition teaches that the Temple in Jerusalem was located at the top of the Temple Mount and that the Romans' Antonia Fortress was only a small addition next to the Temple. By studying the Bible and the texts of Josephus the historian, we come to realize that it was the Romans' Antonia Fortress, which was located at the top of the Temple Mount, and the Temple in Jerusalem was situated lower on the side of the mountain. This is crucial to understand. Wrong teaching and tradition have wrongly placed the Temple on the top of the Temple Mount, and if you believe the tradition, you won't be able to see the truth about the real location of the Temple in Jerusalem, which is something that we can find from the word of God and from the testimony of history.
This is an important matter, because tradition can break our bond and connection to the source of living water that is our Lord Jesus. The truth is connected to our Lord Jesus, who is the source of living water. The Gihon spring was the only source of water in Jerusalem and its nearness and water flow was extremely necessary for the Temple area. Tradition places the Temple at the top of the Temple Mount, and it would have been impossible to force the Gihon spring water to go up to the top of the Temple Mount. Tradition breaks our connection to the living water, the truth of God’s word and to the Lord Jesus.
Wrong teaching and tradition can have a strong and blinding impact, and if you believe the tradition, it will prevent you from seeing the truth. I’m not writing this text to be above others, because I have also in the past believed that the location of the Temple in Jerusalem was at the top of the Temple Mount. I know how it feels to be blinded by tradition and how the truth of God’s words can open those blind eyes. I am not writing this to cause arguments or to hit others, nor am I writing this in an attempt to be better than other people, but I write this because of my love for truth and I write this with sensitivity, as I have been mistaken about this matter as well.
I have studied this matter for a long time now. This issue is bigger than the location of the Temple. Tradition distorts the truth; it also distorts the Greek texts of the New Testament, in order to make it seem like the Temple in Jerusalem had been at the top of the Temple Mount. But the truth is different, and we can find it in the Bible with plentiful evidences.
I felt how the Spirit of God encouraged me to study this matter and how it inspired and helped me to carry out my investigation, as I searched for the truth about the real location of the Temple in Jerusalem. I had to rely on God in my prayers in this matter too, because I wouldn’t have been able to find on my own all that was given to me through prayer that led me to different sources, from which the Bible has been the most important source. I am a small and helpless man myself, but luckily, we have a great Lord and an Almighty God, who can help us find the truth.
The Bible tells us in the Old Testament the location of the Temple, and we believers must have faith in the Bible, rather than having faith in people’s traditions, which will mislead us away from the truth. Study and test my writing through the truth of God’s words and through prayer.
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The upper image shows Jerusalem and its walls today and we can see how the wall goes around the Temple Mount. The image underneath the first one shows Avi Yonah’s small scale model of Jerusalem in the first century, and in the model the Temple is situated at the top of the Temple Mount and the Antonia Fortress is attached to the Temple. In Avi Yonah’s model the Antonia Fortress is depicted as a small addition next to the Temple.
When people try to situate the Temple in Jerusalem, these two images often lead them to place the Temple at the top of the Temple Mount, and the Romans’ small Antonia Fortress it thought to be attached to the side. These two images lead peoples’ understanding about where the Temple was in Jerusalem.
Those two images above are distorted depictions of the original location of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Bible, in the Old and New Testament, clearly tells us the location of the Temple, and it wasn’t at the top of the Temple Mount. Jewish historian Josephus describes in detail the Temple and its whereabouts in his works, and his descriptions corroborate with the Bible testimony.
2 Sam 5:
6 ¶ And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land: which spake unto David, saying, Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither: thinking, David cannot come in hither.
7 Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David.
8 And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind, that are hated of David’s soul, he shall be chief and captain. Wherefore they said, The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.
9 So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward.
1 Ch 11:7 And David dwelt in the castle; therefore they called it the city of David.
2 Sam chapter 5 brings up in verses 6-9 how the city conquered from the Jebusites was Jerusalem, which was also called Zion and the city of David. The Bible also says that near the city of David there was a water source. 1 Chr 11:7 reinforces this by saying that David dwelt in the castle, which was called the city of David.
2 Ch 3:1 ¶ Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the LORD appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.
David conquered the fortress on the Mount Zion, and that fortress was called the city of David, which is the same thing as Jerusalem of that time. According to the Bible the threshing floor of Ornan was in Jerusalem, in the city of David, not at the top of the Temple Mount, but lower on the side of the mountain. The threshing floor of Ornan was on the mountain, but not at the top, because it was in Jerusalem in the city of David, and inside the walls of the city, which existed during king David and king Solomon’s time, where Solomon built the Temple of the Lord.
2 Sam 5:8 What David said on that day was, “In order to attack the Y’vusi, you have to climb up [from the spring outside the city] through the water tunnel. Then you can do away with those [so-called] ‘lame and blind’” (whom David despises — hence the expression, “The ‘blind and lame’ keep him from entering the house”). Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
The Bible says that David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites. According to the Bible the fortress on Mount Zion became the city of David, and it is the same thing as Jerusalem. There was a water spring near Jerusalem. This is significant, because the Gihon spring was the only water source in the city of Jerusalem, and that spring was in a cave, which was located on an Eastern slope of the city of David above the Kidron Valley.
The Bible says in 2 Sam 5:8 that in Jerusalem (Jebus), which later became the city of David, ruled by the Jebusites there was a water pipe (according to the original text it was some sort of a canal or chute, and the water ran through it). During the time of the Jebusites there was some kind of a water system in Jerusalem, and that was how water was led into the city of Jerusalem.
There must have been a water source near the Temple, because the priests had to purify themselves in flowing water before going into the Temple to serve, and the blood of sacrificed animals was washed and purified in flowing water as well. The Gihon spring was the only water source in Jerusalem, which means that the threshing floor of Ornan, where Solomon built the Temple, must have been near this water source. A significant fact is that the Temple of Solomon was built before there were any reservoirs built in Jerusalem. This also proves that the Temple could have not been at the top of the Temple Mount, because they couldn’t have directed the flowing water there, and that water would have been necessary in the temple. Water does not flow upwards, but downwards and this detail also debunks the idea that the top of the Temple Mount would have been the location of the Temple. From the Gihon spring water was led down into the city and into the Temple area, because water was an essential part of the Temple service.
Jerusalem had only one water source in a harsh environment in the middle of Jerusalem, the city of David. This is an example of God, who in the Lord Jesus is the only source of living water, which refreshes the hearts of the hungry and the thirsty with truth and love, which flows from God’s spring of living water through the Lord Jesus.
Jud 19:10 But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem; and there were with him two asses saddled, his concubine also was with him.
The above image is from king David’s time. The city named Jebus is the city of Jerusalem, the city of David, which David conquered from the Jebusites. The area of Jerusalem (Jebus) had only one water source, the Gihon spring, which is the reason why the Jebusites chose to settle in Jebus. Without a water source they would have not survived in Jerusalem. When God chose a Temple place for David in Jebusites’ threshing floor of Ornan, near the city of Jebus (Jerusalem – the city of David), it had to be close to a water source, because without water they would have not survived. Jebusites’ threshing floor of Ornan must have had a water source nearby, where the Temple was built, because in Temple service water was needed for when the priests washed themselves and for purifying the blood of sacrificed animals, and the Bible states it was namely flowing water that was needed. The Gihon spring is a flowing spring. The city of David was very close to the Gihon spring, which was the place where the Temple of Solomon was located, at the threshing floor of Ornan.
2 Ch 27:3 He built the high gate of the house of the LORD, and on the wall of Ophel he built much.
King Jotham built the Upper Gate of the Temple of the Lord and parts of the Ophel wall as well. Why does the Bible mention Ophel in relation to the Temple? The Bible gives us a clear answer.
certain place which they called Ophlas, where it was joined to the eastern cloister of the temple - Josephus Wars of the Jews V chapter 4
The Bible says that the Temple servants lived in Ophel at the Eastern Water Gate. In the image above the Eastern Water Gate is attached to the Temple wall. Notice that there are two water gates in the picture, the other one is near the Tunnel of Hezekiah, and the Eastern Water Gate is attached to the Temple wall. The Bible says that Jotham built the Upper Gate of the Temple of the Lord and parts of the Ophel wall, because a part of the Ophel wall was attached to the Temple and its walls. Josephus uses the word Ophlas, which means the same thing as Ophel. That is why the Temple was located near a place called Ophel.
The Bible says that the priests repaired the wall above the Horse Gate, each one repairing where their house was. From the above image we can see how the Horse Gate was located right next to the Temple. Where else would the priests have lived if not near the Temple? The Horse Gate was situated near Ophel. The Temple was in the city of David in Ophel or in very close.
2 Ch 27:3 He built the high gate of the house of the LORD, and on the wall of Ophel he built much.
2 Ch 23:20 And he took the captains of hundreds, and the nobles, and the governors of the people, and all the people of the land, and brought down the king from the house of the LORD (the temple): and they came through the high gate into the king’s house, and set the king upon the throne of the kingdom.
The Bible says that the Upper Gate was located at the Temple. The Bible brings up how there was a straight passage into the king’s castle from the Temple of the Lord through the Upper Gate. The Bible says that in the city of David (Jerusalem) the Temple and the king’s castle were close to each other. If the Temple would have been at the top of the Temple Mount, there would have not been a straight passage into the king’s castle from the Upper Gate of the Temple, in such a case they would have had to walk some ways down to the city of David. The Bible testifies that the Temple was in the city of David, and not at the top of the Temple Mount.
The above image depicts the area from king Solomon’s time to king Hezekiah’s time, and the Temple and the king’s castle can be seen next to each other in the image. If you look at the current gates and walls of Jerusalem, you will be misled from the truth, because during the time of Solomon and even during the time of Jesus the walls were in different places to where they are now. Jerusalem was razed and destroyed in 70 AD, which means that the terrain has also changed significantly, but we can still understand and situate the Temple in the area of Ophel.
In the image above the Temple has been wrongly placed at the top of the Temple Mount, but the location of Ophel (marked in green) is correct. The city and its walls, where Solomon built the Temple, were surrounded by walls differently during David’s time than what can be seen in the image. The Temple of the Lord fits inside the walls of the city of David during the time of Solomon. We can also see this elsewhere, for example, when Jotham built the Temple of the Lord and parts of the Ophel wall.
Ophel is situated lower on the side of the mountain, where the Temple of the Lord used to be as well, as it was near the Gihon spring, which provided flowing water for the Temple. It would have been impossible to make the flowing water go up to the top of the Temple Mount. The image above with a white base also situates Ophel in the right place.
The image above shows the location of the Dome of the Rock at the top of the Temple Mount. You can see from the image how lower on the slope in the area of Ophel there is the city of David, where the Temple used to be, because the Temple was originally in the area of Ophel.
The wrongful depiction of the Temple in Jerusalem in Avi Yonah’s small scale model makes it more difficult to understand this issue correctly, as well as tradition, which teaches wrongful information. When and if people try to approach this matter through tradition and faulty depictions, they won’t be able to see the truth. Only the Bible can tell us the final truth. That is why we must put aside tradition and its interpretations and study this matter in the light of the Bible and its truthful words, because only then can we find the truth by the grace of God.
According to the Strongs dictionary ophel (06077 hill) is the same thing as Strongs’ 06076 (hill, mound, fort, stronghold, Ophel, tumour, hemorrhoid) ophel word.
The fourth chapter of Micah tells about the Millennium, a time of peace. The Bible says that the Lord will be their King during the time of peace, meaning the King of all who have been saved by God, for the people who live there. The Bible refers to Mount Zion and says that it’s the castle of the daughters of Zion (Ophel). This is a clear indication and a clue that Solomon built the Temple in the place pointed to David to the threshing floor of Ornan in the city of David, which was in Ophel at Mount Zion, which is the same as Mount Moriah.
2 Sam 5:7 Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David.
1 Ch 11:7 And David dwelt in the castle; therefore they called it the city of David.
The city of David is called Zion and the Temple was in the city of David, which was located at Mount Moriah, which is also called Mount Zion, when it is being referred to that the city of David used to be there where the Temple was. That is why the Bible says that in the Millennial Kingdom the Lord Jesus rules from Jerusalem, from Zion, from the city of David, where the Temple of the Lord used to be.
This does not mean, however, that there would be a man-made Temple in the Millennial Kingdom, because the sin offering of the Lord Jesus ended the temple service of the Old Covenant, and we will not go back to it. In chapter four of Micah, however, it is revealed that Ophel was the place, where the Temple of the Lord used to be, at the side of Mount Zion, but not at the top.
The Bible tells how Solomon was going to build his own castle in the city of David, the Temple of the Lord, and that he surrounded Jerusalem (the city of David) with a wall, which held the Temple of the Lord inside.
Because the Temple contained gold treasures and were a sacred place for the Israelis, the Temple could not have been built unprotected at the top of the mountain, but inside the walls of the city, where the king lived and from where the army could best protect the Temple and its treasury. But the most important criterion was the nearness of the Gihon spring, which enabled water flow into the Temple area for the priests to wash themselves and to purify the blood of sacrificed animals.
1 Ki 7:51 So was ended all the work that king Solomon made for the house of the LORD (the temple). And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated; even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, did he put among the treasures of the house of the LORD.
In chapter 7 and 8 of the First Book of Kings it is revealed that the Temple was in the city of David. The Bible says that the Temple of the Lord was finished, and that on the feast during the Month of Ethanim the Ark of the Covenant was taken out of the city of David because of the celebration. So many animals were sacrificed during the celebration that they couldn’t count the number of them. That is why it was done outside the Temple and the city, because it would have not been possible to sacrifice that many animals in the Temple area or in the Temple. After the celebration the Ark of the Covenant was brought back in the Temple and placed in the most holy place. This Bible verse undoubtedly proves that the Temple was in the city of David, and not at the top of the Temple Mount. The Ark was brought out from the Temple for the celebration and was returned to the Temple, which lied in the city of David, as the 1 Kings 8 says.
Testimony of the Bible is the most important testimony for the location of the Temple in Jerusalem and for all other teachings regarding what the Bible has announced. Testimony of Jewish historian Josephus about the location of the Temple in Jerusalem is significant, because he says that the Temple was in Jerusalem, in the city of David.
He also enjoined them to cut out large stones for the foundations of the temple, and that they should fit them and unite them together in the mountain, and so bring them to the city. - Josephus Antiquites of the Jews Book VIII chapter 2
According to the Josephus account large temple cornerstones were made at the mountain, where they were matched together and when they matched, they were brought into the city. The Bible says that Solomon had to build the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, in the city of David. Josephus’ historical testimony says that the cornerstones of the Temple were brought from the mountain into the city (the city of David), because the Temple was built in the city of David.
And that if any of the people of his countrey had differences of great consequence, they should send them out of the other cities to these Judges, who would be obliged to give righteous sentences concerning such causes; and this with the greater care, because it is proper that the sentences which are given in that city wherein the temple of God is, and wherein the King dwells, be given with great care, and the utmost justice. - Josephus Antiquites of the Jews Book IX chapter 1
Josephus talks about sentences, which the judges passed in the city, where the Temple of God used to be and the king used to live, and how these sentences were to be passed as cautious and as justifiably as possible. Josephus says that the Temple was in Jerusalem, where the king lived. Jerusalem (the city of David) held the king’s castle and the Temple of the Lord.
Now the King of Babylon was very intent and earnest upon the siege of Jerusalem. ........ And when the city was taken, about mid-night, and the enemies generals were entred into the temple; and when Zedekiah was sensible of it, he took his wives, and his children, and his captains, and his friends; and with them fled out of the city, through the fortified ditch; and through the desert. - Josephus Antiquites of the Jews Book X chapter 8
Josephus tells about the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king, conquering of the city and how the warlords of the enemy entered the Temple. This account by Josephus also reveals that the Temple was in Jerusalem, in the city of David.
1. At this treatment Pompey was very angry, and took Aristobulus into custody. And when he was come to the city, he looked about where he might make his attack; for he saw the walls were so firm that it would be hard to overcome them, and that the valley before the walls was terrible; and that the temple, which was within that valley, was itself encompassed with a very strong wall, insomuch, that if the city were taken, that temple would be a second place of refuge for the enemy to retire to.- Josephus The Jewish War Book I chapter 7
Roman military commander Pompey besieged and conquered Jerusalem in 63 BC. Josephus tells how Pompey planned his attack on Jerusalem. Pompey saw the strong walls and how the valley before the walls was terrifying (the Kidron Valley) and how the Temple that was also near the valley, was also surrounded by walls (a temple surrounded by walls). The word within in the translation of Josephus’ texts usually means inside etc., but when referring to distances, it can also mean a certain distance from something. The Temple in Jerusalem was not located in the Kidron Valley, and that is why within means a distance, and in this particular instance it means a short distance.
The city of Jerusalem was fortified with three walls, on such parts as were not encompassed with unpassable valleys. Josephus Wars of the Jews Book V chapter 4
The above image depicts Solomon’s time during king Hezekiah’s day. Josephus described how there were three walls in Jerusalem during king Herod’s time, apart from valleys unfit to be passageways, which were not surrounded by walls. We should understand that the current walls around Jerusalem were not the same walls that used to surround Jerusalem during the time of Jesus and king Solomon. If we look at Jerusalem and the walls through the current location of the walls and gates, we won’t be able to find the Biblical truth.
But John held the temple, and the parts thereto adjoining, for a great way; as also Ophla, and the valley called the valley of Cedron. - Josephus The Jewish War Book V chapter 6
Josephus tells how John held the Temple and the areas next to it, including Ophel (Ophlas) and the Kidron Valley. Josephus says that Ophel was right next to the Temple. According to Josephus’ testimony the Temple was located in the area of Ophel or next to it.
But if we go the other way westward, it began at the same place; and extended through a place called Bethso, to the gate of the Essens: and after that it went southward: having its bending above the fountain Siloam; where it also bends again towards the east at Solomon’s pool, and reaches as far as a certain place which they called Ophlas, where it was joined to the eastern cloister of the temple. The second wall took its beginning from that gate which they called Gennath, which belonged to the first wall. It only encompassed the northern quarter of the city, and reached as far as the tower Antonia. - Josephus The Jewish War Book V chapter 4
Jerusalem had three parts of the wall. Josephus says here about the Jerusalem city wall that extends to Ophel (Ophlas), where it is connected to an Eastern colonnade of the Temple. Ophel was very close to the Temple, because from Ophel the wall extended all the way to the Eastern colonnade of the Temple (causeway of colonnades) The account by Josephus reinforces the Bible testimony about the Temple’s location in the Ophel area. Josephus says that the second wall began from the Gennath Gate of the first wall. Josephus tells how the second wall went around the Northern part and extended (ended) all the way to Antonia Fortress.
The image above is an image reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and Antonia Fortress, which isn’t quite right in the sense that the Temple was clearly situated lower than the Antonia Fortress. The image is not a precise depiction in any case, but we can still make out from the picture how the other wall of the city might have extended to the Antonia Fortress. According to Josephus the causeway of colonnades (ca. 183m long - 600 feet) lay between the Temple and the Antonia Fortress uniting them. We will discuss more of this later.
According to Josephus’ account the Temple in Jerusalem was inside the walls of the city of David, as can be seen in the image above, although this might not be a completely precise depiction either, but it still reveals how the Temple used to be lower on the side of the mountain inside the walls of the city of David, as the Bible states.
The above image shows very accurately the true location of the Temple. On the picture can be seen the Kidron Valley, which is to the East when looking for the Temple. According to Josephus military commander Pompey saw that the Temple wasn’t far away from the Kidron Valley. Images that have been produced afterwards might confuse and mislead, and that is why one shouldn’t rely too much on them. Josephus, however, brought up many times that the Temple in Jerusalem lies in the city of David. Josephus doesn’t say that the Temple would have been at the top of the Temple Mount, but he says it was in the city of David, which is concordant with the Bible testimony.
Now this temple, as I have already said,14 was built upon a strong hill. At first the plain at the top was hardly sufficient for the holy house and the altar: for the ground about it was very uneven, and like a precipice. But when King Solomon, who was the person that built the temple, had built a wall to it, on its east side, there was then added one cloister, founded on a bank cast up for it, and on the other parts the holy house stood naked. But in future ages the people added new banks; (12) and the hill became a larger plain. They then brake down the wall on the north side, and took in as much as sufficed afterward for the compass of the entire temple. And when they had built walls on three sides of the temple round about, from the bottom of the hill; and had performed a work that was greater than could be hoped for; - Josephus The Jewish War Book V chapter 5
Josephus says that Solomon built the Temple on a strong hill, and how in the beginning there were hardly enough space on the hill to the Temple, because the terrain was uneven and steep. According to Josephus Solomon built a wall in the Eastern part of the Temple. According to Josephus the terrain for the Temple was enlarged later, making it a larger flat area, and the Temple was surrounded by three walls. Josephus says that Solomon built a wall on the East side of the Temple and a wall surrounding the whole Temple as well.
The account by Josephus reveals that there weren’t much space on the hill (not on the top of the mountain, but on the flat area on top of a hill on the side of the mountain) and that they were barely able to build it in the flat area, which was steep and uneven. The walls that were built after the expansion in the area had enough space to surround the Temple from three angles.
Tradition says that the Temple and the Antonia Fortress were both at the top of a mountain. Josephus’ account debunks this tradition and claim.
Next to this, and before you come to the edifice it self of the tower, there was a wall, three cubits high; but within that wall all the space of the tower of Antonia it self was built upon, to the height of forty cubits. The inward parts had the largeness and form of a palace. It being parted into all kinds of rooms, and other conveniencies; such as courts, and places for bathing, and broad spaces for camps: insomuch that by having all conveniencies that cities wanted, it might seem to be composed of several cities; but by its magnificence it seemed a palace. And as the intire structure resembled that of a tower, it contained also four other distinct towers, at its four corners. Whereof the others were but fifty cubits high: whereas that which lay upon the south east corner was seventy cubits high: that from thence the whole temple might be viewed. But on the corner, where it joined to the two cloisters of the temple, it had passages down to them both: through which the guards (for there always lay in this tower a Roman legion) went several ways among the cloisters, with their arms, on the Jewish festivals; in order to watch the people, that they might not there attempt to make any innovations. For the temple was a fortress, that guarded the city; as was the tower of Antonia a guard to the temple. And in that tower were the guards of those three (14). There was also a peculiar fortress belonging to the upper city, which was Herod’s palace. But for the hill Bezetha, it was divided from the tower of Antonia, as we have already told you.23 And as that hill on which the tower of Antonia stood, was the highest of these three, so did it adjoin to the new city:24 and was the only place that hindred the sight of the temple on the north. - Josephus The Jewish War Book V
Titus, a Roman military commander
We are told by Josephus, when you read his accounts carefully, that the whole northern wall of the Temple was parallel to and flanking the full length of the southern wall of Fort Antonia. He said there was an open space of 600 feet (a stade) between the two walls. ............ Recall that Herod built the Tower of Antonia as a fortress to protect the Temple and the City of Jerusalem. In order to render direct protection to the Temple from Fort Antonia, Herod built a causeway of two colonnades (situated alongside one another - one on the west and another adjacent to it on the east with a narrow open space in between). They spanned a distance of one stade (600 feet) from the southwest angle of wall of Fort Antonia directly southward to encounter the northwest angle of the northern and western colonnades of the outer walls of the Temple. Remember that Josephus himself stated that the distance between the southern wall of Fort Antonia and the northern wall of the Temple was exactly one stade (600 feet). Ernest L. Martin The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot Chapter 32
Because the account by Josephus about the Antonia Fortress describes it as if it were comprised of many cities, it debunks the claim that the Temple and the Antonia Fortress would have been side by side at the top of the Temple Mount. According to Josephus it was as if Antonia Fortress was comprised of many cities. The area in Temple Mount is ca. 36 acres and it could fit a large Roman fortress, which seems to consist of many cities.
According to Josephus the corner in the southeast part of Antonia Fortress was 70 cubits high, from where the whole Temple was visible. The image above is Avi Yonah’s traditional view of the location of the Antonia Fortress and the Temple, which are attached to each other.
Josephus tells how the Antonia Fortress was situated on a higher hill than the palace of Herod and the Temple. Josephus tells how Titus the military commander of Romans said that the Antonia Fortress was located on a mountain top and how they will be above the enemy. This detail also debunks the idea that the Temple and the Fortress would have not been attached to each other.
According to Josephus’ testimony the Temple was situated lower on a mountain slope, whereas the Antonia Fortress at the top of the mountain, from where you could see the whole Temple, as Josephus stated. According to Josephus the Antonia Fortress was so large that it prevented anyone seeing the Temple from North. The above image depicting the small-scale model of the Antonia Fortress by Avi Yonah does not correspond with the way that the Antonia Fortress was like in actuality.
According to Josephus there were two causeways of colonnades between the Antonia Fortress and the Temple, and they went from the Fortress down to the Temple. Between the Antonia Fortress and the Temple there used to be a wall of the Antonia Fortress and a wall of the Temple, and the distance between these two walls used to be 600 feet (ca. 183m) The two causeways of colonnades of the Antonia Fortress united the Fortress and the Temple with two causeways of colonnades. According to Josephus account the distance between Antonia Fortress and the Temple was ca. 183 meters, and there were two causeways of colonnades between, and they went from the Fortress down to the Temple. In the model by Avi Yonah the walls of the Fortress and the Temple are attached to each other. Avi Yonah’s model is not correct depiction.
And now Herod, in the eighteenth year of his reign,15 and after the acts already mentioned, undertook a very great work; that is to build of himself the temple of God, (28) and make it larger in compass, and to raise it to a most magnificent altitude: as esteeming it to be the most glorious of all his actions, as it really was, to bring it to perfection; and that this would be sufficient for an everlasting memorial of him ...................... So Herod took away the old foundations, and laid others, and erected the temple upon them: being in length an hundred cubits; and in height twenty additional cubits: which [twenty], upon the sinking of their foundations, fell down. - Josephus Antiquities of the Jews Book XV chapter 11
Herod built the Antonia Fortress ca. 37-35 BC. Herod began expanding the Temple ca. 19-20 BC. Herod first built the Antonia Fortress and after about 15-16 years he began the expansion of the Temple, making the Temple larger than before. According to Josephus Herod removed the foundations of the old Temple and laid new foundations, and the Temple was built on those foundations. The distance between the Temple of Herod and the Antonia Fortress walls was 600 feet, which means that Avi Yonah’s model distorts the truth, because of Yonah’s model the Temple and the Fortress are side by side.
The image above is indicative, and it is missing the other causeway of colonnades, but we can still see how the distance between the Temple and the Antonia Fortress walls was ca. 183 meters, and how the Temple was situated noticeably lower than the Fortress. When Herod built and expanded the Temple, he also built two causeways of colonnades between the Temple and the Fortress. Herod’s intention to build the Antonia Fortress was to protect the Temple and that is why he built two causeways of colonnades into the expanded Temple, so that there would be a quick passage into the Temple and its area from the Fortress.
Now as to the tower of Antonia, it was situate at the corner of two cloisters of the court of the temple:21 of that on the west, and that on the north. Josephus Wars of the Jews Book V chapter 5
Antonia Fortress was situated at the Western and Northern corner of two causeways of colonnades (causeway of colonnades) of the Temple. The causeways of colonnades had around 600 feet between them and the Temple was situated on a lower elevation on the mountain.
Cæsar gave orders that they should now demolish the intire city, and temple: but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency, that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne: and so much of the wall as inclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison: as were the towers also spared in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valour had subdued. But for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground, by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to, by the madness of those that were for innovations. A city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind. - Josephus The Jewish War Book VII chapter 1
According to Josephus the whole city and Temple had to be destroyed, except for three towers and a part of the city wall in the West.
Eleazar Ben Yair Jewish military commander of Masada:
Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? It is now demolished to the very foundations: and hath nothing but that monument of it preserved; I mean the camp of those that hath destroyed it: which still dwells upon its ruins. Some unfortunate old men also lie upon the ashes of the temple; and a few women are there preserved alive by the enemy, for our bitter shame and reproach. .... And I cannot but wish that we had all died, before we had seen that holy city demolished by the hands of our enemies; or the foundations of our holy temple dug up after so profane a manner. - Josephus The Jewish War Book VII chapter 8
The Jewish military commander of Masada said that the city of Jerusalem had been destroyed completely, and the only thing that had survived was a Roman fortress. According to Eleazar the Temple had been destroyed to the ground all the way to its foundations.
While they overthrew the city themselves; and forced the Romans, whether they would or no, to gain a melancholy reputation by acting gloriously against them: and did almost draw that fire upon the temple, which they seemed to think came too slowly. And indeed, when they saw that temple burning, from the upper city, they were neither troubled at it, nor did they shed any tears on that account. - Josephus The Jewish War Book V chapter 10
Josephus tells in his fifth book how people watched the fire raging in the Temple from a higher part in the city. The city faced many riots, and the fire described here is not the fire that led to the complete destruction of the Temple.
And besides, one of those that went into the place prevented Cæsar, when he ran so hastily out to restrain the soldiers: and threw the fire upon the hinges of the gate, in the dark. Whereby the flame burst out from within the holy house itself immediately: when the commanders retired, and Cæsar with them; and when nobody any longer forbad those that were without to set fire to it. And thus was the holy house burnt down, without Cæsar’s approbation. - Josephus The Jewish War Book VI chapter 4
Josephus tells in his sixth book (Keep in mind! After the events of the fifth book) how the Temple was burned and destroyed to the ground. Later, after the destruction of the Temple the whole temple area was destroyed.
(Endnote number 7) We may here note, that Titus is here called a King, and Cæsar by Josephus, even while he was no more than the Emperor’s son, and general of the Roman army; and his father Vespasian was still alive. - Josephus The Jewish War Book V chapter 5
In the concluding remarks (Endnote) in Josephus’ book it is stated that Josephus used the words king and Caesar when referring to Titus in his book, although Titus was only a son of a Caesar and a commander of the Roman army, and how his father Caesar Vespasian was still alive. This concluding remark clarifies why Josephus writes so much about Caesar and that the context refers to Titus.
When I came near your temple, I again departed from the laws of war, and exhorted you to spare your own sanctuary, and to preserve your holy house to yourselves. I allowed you a quiet exit out of it: and security for your preservation. Nay, if you had a mind, I gave you leave to fight in another place. Yet have you still despised every one of my proposals: and have set fire to your holy house with your own hands. And now, vile wretches, do you desire to treat with me by word of mouth? To what purpose is it that you would save such an holy house as this was, which is now destroyed? What preservation can you now desire, after the destruction of your temple? - Josephus The Jewish War Book VI chapter 6
Josephus keeps describing how the Temple has been destroyed and wiped out.
The Lord Jesus said that there would be nothing left of the Temple and its buildings. Josephus confirms the prophecy of Jesus by telling how the Temple in Jerusalem, its buildings and the city were destroyed. There was nothing left of the Temple and its buildings, and only the Romans fortress was left to stand its foundations, which means that the Western Wall is a part the Roman Antonia Fortress.
Many say that John 5:2 proves that the Temple was situated at the top of the Temple Mount, because the pool of Betesda was located at the Northern side of the mountain, next to the Antonia Fortress, which were both next to the Sheep Gate, as is said in John 5:2. We have seen many Biblical proofs that the location of the Temple was not at the top of the Temple Mount. How so John 5:2 would speak about the Sheep Gate? It doesn't, the word Sheep Gate is wrong translation, because the original text doesn't have the word Sheep Gate in John 5:2. Next I bring up the evidences that the Sheep Gate doesn't belong to the original text.
Bēzatha (Bethsaida).291 Pool in Jerusalem which is (called probatike and interpreted by us) "sheep." Once it had five porticos. There are now pointed out twin pools, of which one is filled by the rain water (winter rains) and the other it appears that the water becomes miraculously red, as they say, bearing the traces of the sacrificial victims formerly washed in it. So it is called the sheep after the sacrifice. (Red like blood which in itself is seen as a sign of old. The sacrificial victims were brought unbound by the priests into the bath, whence it received its name.) - Eusebius Onomasticon
Eusebius writes in his work Onomasticon about the pool of Bethesda, saying that is called probatike, which is interpreted by us sheep. Eusebius doesn't say that the word probatike means the Sheep Gate, but a sheep.
By the Sheep Market in Jerusalem there used to be a pool with five colonnades, four of which enclosed the pool, while the fifth spanned it midway. Here large numbers of sick would lie (unbelief also was rise among the Jews). - Cyril of Jerusalem - Homily on the Paralyctic at the Pool
Cyril of Jerusalem writes about the Sheep Market in Jerusalem, in which used to be a pool with five colonnades. Cyril of Jerusalem speaks about pool in Jerusalem and the Sheep Market, but do not mention the Sheep Gate.
John 5:2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
Why do the John 5:2 translations mention the word Sheep Gate, which would situate the Temple at the top of the mountain? The answer is quite simple. Tradition, which says that the Temple was at the top of the Temple Mount, translates John 5:2 wrong in many translations, because the Greek texts don’t have the word Sheep Gate, instead they have the words sheep pool or sheep pond.
John 5:2 Now in Jerusalem there is a bath beside the sheep-pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethzatha; it has five porticoes, James Moffat New Testament 1913
James Moffat translates according to the original text and uses words' sheep-pool.
John 5:2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep [market] a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Belzetha, having five cloisters William Whiston New Testament
John 5:2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the place pertaining to sheep, a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches. A Conservative Version 2010
John 5:2 Now there is at Hierusalem by the sheepe market, a poole, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, hauing fiue porches. KJV 1611
Joh 5:2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. KJV 1769
John 5:2 And in Jerusalem is a washing place, that in Hebrew is called Bethesda, and hath five porches. Wycliffe Bible (WYC)
John 5:2 And there is at Jerusalem by the place of the sheep, a [b]pool called in Hebrew [c]Bethesda, having five porches: 1599 Geneva Bible (GNV)
John 5:2 And there is a pool at the sheep-market, called in Hebrew Bethzatha, having five porches. Godbey New Testament
John 5:2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. KJV Pure Cambridge Edition
John 5:2 And there is at Hierusalem by the sheepe market, a poole, which is called in the Hebrue tonge Bethesda, hauyng fyue porches Bishops Bible
John 5:2 Now there is at Jerusalem near the sheep-market a pool, called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porticos Thomas Haweis New Testament
John 5:2 Now there is at Jerusalem near the sheep-market a pool, called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticos about it. Worsley New Testament
There are also other Bible translation that don't use the words Sheep Gate, because in the original text there is not word Sheep Gate. Next we study John 5:2 in a light of the original text:
The word probatikos (probatike) is an adjective pertaining to sheep, which requires to be completed with another word, which says what it really means. The Jews have translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek called the Septuagint, in which is used Greek word Sheep Gate and this proves that John 5:2 doesn't have the word Sheep Gate in the text.
Joh 5:2 εστιν δε εν τοις ιεροσολυμοις επι τη προβατικη (sheep) κολυμβηθρα (pool, pond) η επιλεγομενη εβραιστι βηθεσδα πεντε στοας εχουσα
John 5:2 Greek text contains the words probatike (sheep) and kolumbethra (pond – pool), which means that according to the original Greek text, John 5:2 says that there is a sheep pool in Jerusalem, and it’s called Betesda in Hebrew (in Aramaic originally). This Bible verse shows us the awkward reality, how tradition distorts the truth of God’s words by changing sheep pool into Sheep Gate.
If we look at the Greek Septuagint translation, it will also show us that Sheep Gate is not translated into Greek only as probatike:
Ne 3:1 και ανεστη ελισουβ ο ιερευς ο μεγας και οι αδελφοι αυτου οι ιερεις και ωκοδομησαν την πυλην την προβατικην αυτοι ηγιασαν αυτην και εστησαν θυρας αυτης και εως πυργου των εκατον ηγιασαν εως πυργου ανανεηλ
Neh 3:1 Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate (ten pulen ten probatiken); they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.
The Greek word pule means gate. Septuagint Nehemiah 3:1 uses the Greek words pules probatikes for Sheep Gate, not the word probatike alone (John 5:2).
Ne 3:32 και ανα μεσον αναβασεως της πυλης της προβατικης εκρατησαν οι χαλκεις και οι ροποπωλαι
Neh 3:32 And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate (tes pyles tes probatikes) repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants.
Septuagint Ne 3:2 doesn’t use the Greek word probatike for Sheep Gate, but words pules probatikes.
Ne 12:39 και υπερανω της πυλης εφραιμ και επι πυλην της ισανα και επι πυλην την ιχθυηραν και πυργω ανανεηλ και εως πυλης της προβατικης και εστησαν εν πυλη της φυλακης
Neh 12:39 And from above the gate of Ephraim, and above the old gate, and above the fish gate, and the tower of Hananeel, and the tower of Meah, even unto the sheep gate (pules tes probatikes): and they stood still in the prison gate.
Septuagint Ne 12:39 doesn’t use the Greek word probatike for Sheep Gate, but words pules probatikes.
John 5:2 Sheep Gate translation is wrong, which has probably been wrongfully translated because of tradition, and how it can blind people. It is also a very bad error and fabrication, because anyone who has a slight understanding of the Greek language would know that probatikes (kolymbethra) doesn’t mean Sheep Gate, but sheep pond or pool. On the other hand, John 5:2 faulty translation also shows us how tradition doesn’t respect the truth, but instead tries to purposefully distort the truth. However, there might be some, who have sincerely understood and translated this verse wrong, because tradition leads them into the wrong direction.
Many dictionaries assign the word probatikos (probatike, probatikes, probatiken) the meaning of sheep, related to sheep, sheep gate. The meaning of sheep gate for the word probatikos in dictionaries is the interpretation of tradition, not the real meaning of the word. The Septuagint uses the word pule (gate) with the word probatikos, which in the Septuagint has the meaning of Sheep Gate three times.
In the New Testament in John 5:2 there is no word for gate (pule), instead the word probatikos (sheep) is connected to pool (kolumbethra). If John 5:2 was about the Sheep Gate, the text should include the word pule (gate), as well, according to the Septuagint, but there is no mention of the word gate in the whole verse (John 5:2).
John 5:2 doesn’t say that the Sheep Gate would be at the Betesda pool, however, faulty translations state the opposite, but we must believe the truth and a wrongly translated verse shouldn’t guide our faith, but only the truth of God’s words. According to the testimony of the Bible, as we have seen above, the Temple was located in the area of Ophel or very close to it lower on a mountain slope. All other Bible verses that discuss the location of the Temple, except John 5:2, situate it in or next to it. It is even said directly that there was a straight passage way to the king’s castle from the Temple through the Upper Gate. The king’s castle was in the city of David.
Acts in chapter 21 tells how Paul was in the Temple and how he was brought out of the Temple and the gates were shut due to a riot caused by Paul that began in the Temple. Paul and his capturers were in the Temple area even after the gates were shut. The Bible says how Roman soldiers and chiefs ran down (down a causeway of colonnades) to Paul and his capturers, who were in the Temple area. Paul was taken to the castle, that is to the Antonia Fortress.
This Bible verse proves undoubtedly that the Antonia Fortress was located at the top of the Temple Mount and the Temple lower on the side of the mountain. If the Temple had been at the top and attached to the Antonia Fortress, as is in the model by Avi Yonah, Bible wouldn’t say that soldiers ran down from the Fortress to the Temple area.
In the Acts in chapter 22 verse 30 says that the Roman chief took Paul down to the high priests (probably in this means the leaders of the service courses of priests) and to the Council (Sanhedrin). The Sanhedrin was a great Jewish Council, which comprised of 71 religious leaders. The Sanhedrin was the highest legal council of the Jews. At the time of Jesus Sanhedrin gathered in the Temple in Jerusalem, where they had their own place of gathering.
The Roman commanding chief took Paul down to the Temple to Sanhedrin from the Antonia Fortress. This Bible verse also proves that the Temple was situated lower than the Antonia Fortress.
Chapter 23 of the Acts tells about the events, when Paul was with Sanhedrin in the Temple. A great dissension began with the gathering of the Sanhedrin, and that is why the Roman chief of the army commanded the soldiers to come down from the Fortress to take Paul back up into the Fortress. The Bible testifies in Acts chapters 21-23 many times that the Antonia Fortress was at the top of the Temple Mount and the Temple farther down on the side of the mountain. Avi Yonah’s model is a fabrication of Jerusalem the first century in terms of the locations of the Temple and the Antonia Fortress. It is crystal clear that the testimony of God’s words is the truth in terms of where the Antonia Fortress and the Temple were situated.
According to the Bible prophecy the Third Temple will be built in Jerusalem near the end of time. The sin offering of the Lord Jesus, his blood, carries the eternal sin offering for all sins and salvation, which means that there will be no more man-made Temples and animal sacrifices by the will of God and by His command.
The coming Third Temple in Jerusalem might be built at the top of the Temple Mount, or in its original location further down on a slope in the mountain side, or perhaps somewhere else. Building of the Third Temple, where ever it’s going to be built, and its introduction are anti-Christian plans, not the will of God.
The fact that Islamic mosques lie at the top of the Temple Mount nullifies the Jews rights to the whole Moriah mountain. If the Temple is built in its original place or at the top of the Temple Mount, it would be partially in Muslims’ possession in either case. Placement of the coming Third Temple in its original location would still be the works of lies, despite the location being accurate, because of the sin offering and blood of our Lord Jesus, it is unnecessary, and it’s an anti-Christian plan. Placing the Third Temple at the top of the Temple Mount, however, is an even bigger lie, as it makes people believe that it was the original location of the Temple, although it was actually lower on the side of the mountain in the Ophel area or near it.
Joel 3:2 I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.
I cannot say where the Third Temple will be built. Will it rise in its original place in Ophel, that I cannot be certain of? Or will it happen that because of the division plan of Jerusalem, in which to Palestinians will be suggested that because they have obtained parts of Jerusalem, they should make compromises as well, as the Jews have done. Would that be the kind of compromise, where the Palestinians accept the Third Temple being built somewhere on the Temple Mount? I don’t know what will happen, but time will tell, but we can still be certain that the Temple will be built in Jerusalem before the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.
Building of the third temple in Jerusalem is an anti-Christian plan, in which Antichrist shall go to the third temple and declaring and showing himself that he is "God". The Lord Jesus is only Messiah, who shall come back and return to bring His bride to the marriage of the Lamb.
What could possibly be the kind of compromise that would make Palestinians accept the building of the Third Temple on Temple Mount? After Eastern Jerusalem and some other parts have officially been given to the Palestinians and the East Jerusalem has been declared as the capital of Palestine, it could be possible that the Palestinians will be reminded of the compromises the Jews have made, and suggested that they make a compromise too, which would be the building of the Temple at Temple Mount. I’m not saying that this will certainly happen, but this kind of thought and possibility has come into my heart.
The above compromise that affects both parties would be something that might be thought to bring peace in the Middle East, but it would still be a false peace, because according to the Bible prophecy of the end of times, according to the prophecy from Zechariah and Joel, many heathen nations will attack Israel. Heathen nations will attack Israel from the Kidron (Jehoshaphat) Valley. The heathen nations will suffer a total loss. The division of Israel will take place at the end of times (Palestinians will be given parts of Jerusalem and other parts), but in the end God will condemn all of those, who have been a part of and accepted the division of Israel, and will destroy every heathen nation that has attacked Israel.
Author Petri Paavola (15.4.2019 Finnish Version)
Translation from Finnish to English Miriam Paavola 25.4.2019