Summary: Today we visited the courtyard of the former and future Jewish temples, roamed the Jewish quarter of the old city, went to the upper room where Jesus celebratee Passover with his disciples shortly before His crucifixion, and stopped at an open air market on Ben Yehuda street.
Temple Courtyard: This morning we visited what is referred to in the Bible as the “courtyard” of the former and future Jewish Temples. It is also commonly called the “Temple Mount” in the West or the “Noble Sanctury” in the Islamic world. It is also referred to in scripture as Mt Moriah, the location where Abraham offered his one and only son Isaac to God around 2000 BC. King Solomon later erected a temple which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, and a second temple was erected on the site by Jews returning from the captivity which was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. It has been a site holy to the Jews since the time of Abraham. Ironically, there is a sign near the entrance forbidding religious Jews from entering because they are afraid they will unknowingly walk where the holy of holies in their old temple was. This is why they pray at the Western Wall today despite controlling the site. It will also be the site of a future Jewish temple, where the antichrist will enter and declare himself to be God, ushering in the great tribulation.
Currently the site is being used as a mosque. The Al Aqsa mosque is on the Northern end and was built in 715AD. It is where the king of Jordan was assassinated in 1951 because radical elements feared he would enter a peace treaty with the newly formed state of Israel. The dome of the rock (built in 691 AD) is also here in the center of the courtyard, presumably where the former Jewish temples were located. There are also a few smaller domes on site, one called the dome of ascension, and another called the dome of spirits. Muslims generally believe that Muhammad ascended from the dome of the rock, although their sources record that he ascended from a mosque in 631AD, 60 years before Muslims developed the site. Another idea is that the dome of the rock was built to prove that Islam could build beautiful structures as a new religion in a land filled with beautiful Byzantine churches. It also intentionally desecrated the former Jewish sacred spot showing dominance over the religion. The inscriptions inside the dome are well documented and declare that God does not have a Son, and specify that Jesus is not God’s Son, a complete rejection of the Biblical Jesus. Making matters worse, this is where Abraham offered His son, a picture of God’s future salvation which was achieved by God’s Son on nearby Golgotha. So in that building, Islam has defiled one religion’s holiest place and declared another’s to be wholly untrue. Islam has put up something intentionally offensive to both Christians and Jews and appears to have created late stories to justify the significance as a holy site. Because what the building stands for is highly offensive to Christianity, we are not going to give any honor to the structure, and certainly are not going to post pictures here on our blog.
As a bonus, many wonder how the prophecy could be fulfilled regarding a rebuilt temple when the site is currently home to Islamic structures. One possibility is that they could build the temple right beside the dome of the rock. There are a minority who believe that exposed bedrock under the “dome of spirits” is actually where the temple once stood and suggest building a future temple over it. It is interesting that the scripture seems to indicate shared use of the space by various religions when the temple is rebuilt.
“Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.”
Revelation 11:1-2 ESV
If you decide to visit the courtyard, there are limited time slots for people to visit and the lines can be long. We left our hotel at 7:30AM instead of 8:00AM to make sure we were able to go. We had relative freedom to explore the site, except that infidels are forbidden from entering any of the Mosques here, a recent development. Prior to Ariel Sharon’s famous visit to the Temple Mount about 20 years ago that triggered the 2nd infitada, tourists were allowed to go inside them. The site is famous for its tension and often makes the news. Our favorite part of the visit was seeing the Eastern gate from the inside. This is the gate that Muslims sealed off to keep Jesus from entering when He returns. The Bible says that when Jesus steps foot on the Mt of Olives it is going to split in two, we doubt that a little stone wall built in the Middle Ages will slow him down too much…
The Upper Room: Just outside the old city walls (but inside the city walls at the time of Christ) is a site that remembers the last supper. The site has very good support from archeology and very early (1st century) tradition. The current building was built by the crusaders in the 12th century but occupies the same air space as the original upper room. Directly below the room are the remains of older churches and a place currently occupied by a synagogue called the tomb of David. The site is not the location of the tomb of David, which scripture indicates is located in the city of David, but it does contain a meeting space dating to the first century which has an apse (indentation) facing the church of the holy sepulcher, not the Temple Mount. Ancient inscriptions show the site was used by Messianic believers! This is very likely the original church gathering spot in Jerusalem!
In addition to the archeology of the site, the building is also located in the area of Jerusalem that contains large houses from the 1st century which would have been capable of handling the supper. The area was wealthy because it was higher up on the mountain and got a better breeze in the summer, providing some relief from the heat. In John’s gospel, this is where the Lord’s supper is instituted, and where Jesus left to go to the garden of Gethsemane. Now for some speculation. Have you ever wondered why the book of Mark mentions a naked man fleeing during Jesus’ arrest?
“And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” – Mark 14:51-52 ESV
In Acts 12, Peter is arrested, put in jail, and then set free. He heads to the place where the church was meeting in Jerusalem, and a servant lady answers the door (she forgets to let him in in the excitement of telling everyone). It tells us in Acts 12:12 that the place was John Mark’s mother’s house. There are limited places with spacious rooms in Jerusalem where disciples could gather. It is at least possible that the same house where the church was meeting after the resurrection was the upper room used for the Passover before the crucifixion. It would have had to be in the same vicinity. How many early believers had enough money to have space to house them in the rich western side of Jerusalem? Here is the conjecture- In the middle of supper we know that Judas left to retrieve security to arrest Jesus. Maybe they headed back to the upper room first, and when Jesus wasn’t there, then went to the garden? If it was John Mark’s home, maybe Mark was sleeping when they showed up, and tried to warn Jesus but didn’t take time to get dressed in his haste. Maybe that’s why Mark mentions the account. Perhaps it was his signature on the book, well known to the early believers.
We also visited an open air market, where we enjoyed one last cup of Aroma Cafe before stopping at the first Protestant Seminary being planted in Jerusalem. There are Catholic, Orthodox, and even Mormon ones here, but none yet representing Protestant christianity. Hopefully God waters it and causes it to grow. To understand some of the need, there are currently around 4000 languages with New Testaments, but only 500 of those have old testaments, and of those, only 150 were translated directly from Hebrew. There is a great need for Hebrew translators. That will be one of the focuses. They also hope to provide an MDiv program for those aspiring to vocational ministry (or perhaps a semester of study while pursuing one elsewhere) and a free noncredited resource for believers everywhere.
Hike the Good Hike!
Sherpa and Porter (and Cheerio)