There's something in every atheist, itching to believe, and something in every believer, itching to doubt. ~Mignon McLaughlin
Jews dream about it. Christians prophesy of it. Muslims consider it holy. One of the most contested political areas of the middle east is Mount Moriah, also known as The Temple Mount. Sacred to many religions, including the 3 main Abrahamic ones, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It has been the focus of prayers, stories, song, and movies since mankind inhabited the region.
According to Jewish tradition, Mount Moriah is where G-D first created the earth and it expanded to what it encompasses today. This is also where G-D gathered dust and created Adam (PBUH). G-D also chose this particular spot to have fellowship with the High Priest in the "Holy Of Holies." according to Jewish tradition, this is also where a third temple will be built.
According to Christianity, Jesus (PBUH) amazed the rabbis with his knowledge and understanding of the TANAHK and other holy writings. He also tossed the money changers that had dishonored the holy place. According to some interpretations of the book of Revelations, is where a sign of the end of time will evolve, by the reconstruction of the a "third" temple.
According to Islam, the site is revered as the destination of the Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) journey to Jerusalem, and the location of his ascent to heaven. The site is also associated with biblical prophets who are also revered in Islam.
In modern times, the site is still a very sacred place. It is a place where ideology of the past connects with the thoughts of those living in the present, and brings hope for the future.
For Jews, religious restrictions on entering the most sacred areas of the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, a retaining wall the Temple Mount and remnant of the Second Temple structure, is considered the holiest accessible site for Jews to pray. Most Jews will not set foot on the Mount so as not to incur the severe punishment of karet, spiritual death.
For Christians, it symbolizes the very essence of belief. It delineates the words and actions outlined in the gospels, from fact to fiction. The concept of Jesus (PBUH) walking on the stones, teaching at fountains, praying at the temple, gives a sense of awe and reality to the faith. It disavows any potential for doubt. It also signifies a future. Without Mount Moriah, the potential of any last days prophecy would be cast into doubt.
For Muslims, the site is the location of the where The Prophet (PBUH) ascended to heaven. A shrine was constructed signifying the even, and became known as the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhra قبة الصخرة). In 715 the Umayyads led by the Caliph al-Walid I, rebuilt the Temple's nearby Chanuyos into a mosque, which is named al-Masjid al-Aqsa المسجد الأقصى, the al-Aqsa Mosque or in translation "the furthest mosque", corresponding to the Muslim belief of Muhammad's (PBUH) miraculous nocturnal journey as recounted in the Holy Quran and Hadith.
All three religions have contested over ownership. All three religions have fought and killed over control of it. It is located in one of the most highly documented, highly escavated, and highly misunderstood city in all the world, Jerusalem. What is the history of the temple?
The first temple was built by King Solomon (PBUH). He completed the task of erecting the First Temple at the site in 960 BCE. The Temple itself was a magnificent structure, made of the finest materials. It was a stone building standing within a royal compound which also housed the palace, a Hall of Judgment, the Hall of Cedars, and a house for Solomon's wife, Pharaoh's daughter. The Temple was 60 cubits (90 feet) long, 20 cubits (30 feet) wide, and 30 cubits (45 feet) high (one cubit = c. 18 inches). It was faced by the patio of the forecourt, which added ten cubits to its length. The main structure was surrounded by a three-story building divided into chambers, with the levels connected by trapdoors. These probably served as storerooms for the Temple treasures. The main building was divided into an inner room, the Holy of Holies (the devir) on the west, measuring 20 by 20 cubits, and an outer room (the azarah) measuring 20 by 40 cubits on the east. Around the Temple was a walled-in compound. The entrance to the Temple was through the porch, on each side of which stood a massive bronze pillar.
The inner walls of the Temple were paneled with cedar wood. The floor of the Holy of Holies was likewise of cedar wood, while that of the outer room was of less expensive cypress wood. The walls were decorated with carvings of gourds, cherubs, palm trees, and flowers in bloom, and were encrusted with gold. There were doors to both the outer room and the Holy of Holies. The walls of the latter were decorated on both sides, and its floor was plated with gold (I Kings 6:29-30).
The Temple was repaired numerous times and changes were introduced in its structure and furnishings. King Joash (836-798 BCE) ordered that the money brought to the priests be utilized for repairing the breaches in the Temple and for refurbishing those implements that required repair (II Kings 12). King Josiah (639-609) was responsible for renovations (II Kings 22). Unfortunately, under Kings Manasseh (698-642), possibly as a concession to the king of Assyria, and Amon (641-640), the worship of other gods was introduced to the Temple
Solomon's Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon in 586 BCE.
Construction of the Second Temple is understood to have begun under Cyrus in around 538 BCE, and completed in 516 BCE. The second Temple was built on the ruins of Solomon's Temple on the Temple mount. A very incomplete description of the plan of the structure built under the direction of Zerubbabel is found in a copy of the original decree by Cyrus (Ezra 6:3-4; 1 Esdras 6:24-25). The Temple was to be a place of sacrifice--so that the altar was to be rebuilt--and was to be sixty cubits (ninety feet) high and sixty cubits (ninety feet) wide with three courses of well-polished stones and one of timber.
The history of the Temple during the Persian and early Hellenistic periods is largely unknown, owing to a lack of sources. Presumably, it still existed and operations went on within it as normal. There is one reference from this period to consider. A work written by a certain Hecataeus of Abdera, a philosopher who lived in the fourth and third centuries BCE and who wrote a work about the Jews.
"The same man describe our city Jerusalem also itself as of a most excellent structure, and very large, and inhabited from the most ancient times. He also discourses of the multitude of men in it, and of the construction of our temple, after the following manner: "There are many strong places and villages (says he) in the country of Judea; but one strong city there is, about fifty furlongs in circumference, which is inhabited by a hundred and twenty thousand men, or thereabouts; they call it Jerusalem. There is about the middle of the city a wall of stone, whose length is five hundred feet (five plethra), and the breadth a hundred cubits, having a pair of gates; wherein there is a square altar, not made of hewn stone, but composed of white stones gathered together, having each side twenty cubits long, and its altitude ten cubits. Hard by it is a large edifice, wherein there is an altar and a lampstand, both of gold, and in weight two talents: upon these there is a light that is never extinguished, either by night or by day. There is no image, nor any thing, nor any donations therein; nothing at all is there planted, neither grove, nor any thing of that sort. The priests abide therein both nights and days, performing certain purifications, and drinking not the least drop of wine while they are in the temple."
Hecataeus describes a somewhat barren temple. He describes a pair of gates that implies that the Temple is surrounded by a wall. He describes the altar, which was square (twenty cubits x twenty cubits and ten cubits high) and made of unhewn stones. Beside the altar, a building containing an incense altar, a lampstand, both made of gold. The lamps on the lampstand are never extinguished. He remarks that in the Temple there are no statues or votive offerings, and no vegetation, in the form of sacred groves.
This second temple was missing the Ark of the Covenant, the Urim and Thummim, the holy oil, the sacred fire, the Ten Commandments, the pot of manna, and Aaron's rod. The Kodesh Hakodashim was separated by curtains rather than a wall as in the first Temple. As in the Tabernacle, there was in it only one golden lamp for the holy place, one table of showbread, and the incense altar, with golden censers, and many of the vessels of gold that had belonged to Solomon's Temple that had been carried to Babylon but restored by Cyrus (Ezra 1:7-11).
In 168 BCE Antiochus IV Epiphanes plundered the Jerusalem Temple, including the veil separating the holy place from the holy of holies. He also built another altar on the altar already in the Temple. After several years of armed struggle, Judas Maccabees took control of the Temple, but found it in a state of disrepair. The description of the state of the Temple after the Antiochan persecution and Judas's restoration of it in 1 Macc 4.36-51:
"Then Judas and his brothers said, "See, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it." 37 So all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion. 38 There they saw the sanctuary desolate, the altar profaned, and the gates burned. In the courts they saw bushes sprung up as in a thicket, or as on one of the mountains. They saw also the chambers of the priests in ruins. 39 Then they tore their clothes and mourned with great lamentation; they sprinkled themselves with ashes 40 and fell face down on the ground. And when the signal was given with the trumpets, they cried out to Heaven. 41 Then Judas detailed men to fight against those in the citadel until he had cleansed the sanctuary. 42 He chose blameless priests devoted to the law, 43 and they cleansed the sanctuary and removed the defiled stones to an unclean place. 44 They deliberated what to do about the altar of burnt offering, which had been profaned. 45 And they thought it best to tear it down, so that it would not be a lasting shame to them that the Gentiles had defiled it. So they tore down the altar, 46 and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until a prophet should come to tell what to do with them. 47 Then they took unhewn stones, as the law directs, and built a new altar like the former one. 48 They also rebuilt the sanctuary and the interior of the temple, and consecrated the courts. 49 They made new holy vessels, and brought the lampstand, the altar of incense, and the table into the temple. 50 Then they offered incense on the altar and lit the lamps on the lampstand, and these gave light in the temple. 51 They placed the bread on the table and hung up the curtains. Thus they finished all the work they had undertaken."~ 1 Macc 4.36-51
By some accounts, this describes the destruction and rebuilding of the temple in Jeruslaem. That would indicate that the Herodian Temple may actually be the fourth incarnation.
Around 19 BCE, Herod the Great (an illegal usurper to the throne of Israel) destroyed the "second temple", further expanded the Mount and rebuilt the temple, creating the fourth in the line of Jewish Holy Temples.
The Jews were angry to have their Temple pulled down. They felt that he defiled the sanctity of the temple by destroying an established holy place. He did not properly adhere to Jewish laws concerning the decommissioning of the "second temple." Due to this, certain sects of Judaism did not even recognize the new temple as being of proper intent. He also had a history of erecting many heathen temples. There is evidence in contemporary Jewish writing, that he was referred to as "Rome's Beast," due to his views on rule, worship, and social class, trying to placate and compete with Rome in many aspects of his kingdom. Even Jesus compared him to a fox, an animal that was ritually unclean.
Many Jews feared that it might not be rebuilt, but have a heathen temple erected in its place. To demonstrate his good faith, Herod accumulated the materials for the new building before the old one was taken down. The new Temple was rebuilt as rapidly as possible, being finished in a year and a half, although work was in progress on the out-buildings and courts for eighty years. As it was unlawful for any but priests to enter the Temple, Herod employed 1,000 of them as masons and carpenters.
In addition to restoration of the Temple, its courtyards, and porticoes, Herod also built Antonia Fortress abutting the northwestern corner of the Temple Mount, and a rainwater reservoir, Birket Israel, in the northeast. As a result of the First Jewish-Roman War, the fortress was destroyed by Roman emperor Vespasian, in 70 CE, under the command of his son and imperial heir, Titus.
In fact, there is even speculation that a fourth temple may have been constructed after this third temple was destroyed, based upon irregular measurements that do not line up with recorded period documents and archeological evidence, such as a coin being minted displaying a "new temple" on a shekel from approx 150 CE.
"Christianity is not being destroyed by the confusions and concussions of the time; it is being discovered." ~Hugh E. Brown