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We are on top of the Mount of Olives, looking across the Brook of Kidron toward the temple courtyard area. In the center of the courtyard is an Arab mosque that occupies the probable site of Solomon’s temple. This is the city of Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities in all the world. Abraham came to this city about 1,800 years before Christ. Melchizedek was the king of Salem, which means “peace”…so Jerusalem means “city of peace.” When Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, he did not take Jerusalem. It was under Jebusite control. Many years later David and his army captured it. Solomon built his temple on this site. Nebuchadnezzar came and destroyed it. Zerubbabel rebuilt the temple. Many years later, in the time of Jesus, Herod the Great redecorated and enlarged it. This was the very area where Jesus walked and talked, taught and performed miracles. It was here that Paul was captured by his own Jewish people and then made his great speech from the stairway of the Tower of Antonia.
This map will orient us to some of the key places in the city of Jerusalem. Around the temple is the courtyard. On the right side of that area is the "stoa1", or "Porch of Solomon". In the southwest corner is the Royal Stoa, also known as "Robinson’s Viaduct2". The dark area outside the walls to the east is the Brook of Kidron. The Garden of Gethsemane is at the top and right of the Brook. The Golden Gate is next to the Garden of Gethsemane. The Mount of Olives is along the right hand border. We’ll be looking from the Mount of Olives toward the west. The temple courtyard is the dominant site of all these areas.
Now if we look again in that same direction we see the long wall in the center of the picture that run from north to south (right to left) for about 1,500 feet, then it turns toward the west. We want to remember this turn, because at the southeast corner of the temple area we’ll see some other things that are very important to us. The gold dome in the center is an Arab mosque. It is a sacred place to the Muslims. The gold dome, or Dome of the Rock, probably occupies the very site of Solomon’s temple, and this would be the area of the temple in the time of Jesus.
South of that area (to the left of the Dome of the Rock) is the silver-domed mosque called the Al-Aksa. It is also in the temple courtyard area. The hill behind the mosque drops off into the Valley of Hinnom. It is called Gehenna in Greek and Hebrew, and Jesus made several references to this. The Valley of Hinnom and the Kidron Valley meet below the southwest corner of the temple courtyard area.
The Kidron Valley is the lowest point in this picture. We see a Muslim cemetery here. The Kidron is the dry stream bed which runs from north to south, from right to left. In the center of the picture is a reconstruction of the Beautiful Gate that was standing in the time of Jesus. This could have been the way Jesus made his way up and down from the Valley of Kidron to the courtyard.
To the right of the Kidron, which is still visible in the lower part of the picture, is a Russian Orthodox Church3. Behind it is the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane. The buildings on the horizon are on Mt. Scopus4. This is the highest and best point from which to see the city of Jerusalem. It was from this point that Titus the Roman general came to conquer Jerusalem in 70 AD. He camped with his Roman Legion on the very place.
We’re looking again at the Valley of Kidron. It separates the eastern wall of the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. No doubt at one time this Mount was covered with olive trees. It is said that Titus cut down all the trees in his siege5 of Jerusalem. The Kidron is a dry stream bed. It runs only in the winter months, when the rains come. The origin of the word “Kidron” probably comes from words for “winter torrent” or “flowing.” In the winter months the heavy rains would come from the mountains and flow towards the valleys. This is called the valley of Jehosophat in Joel 3. The valley of Kidron is located outside of the eastern wall of the city of Jerusalem.
The Dome of the Rock is the second most sacred spot to the Muslims in all the world. Behind it you can see how close the houses are to each other. It is said that during the time of Jesus, the city numbered 70,000. We have no way of knowing if this figure is accurate or not, but it is interesting to note that in 1965 this was the population of the Arab sector of the city. Jerusalem is divided into two parts. At the very top of the picture you are looking at the western, or Jewish, sector. The oldest part of the city of Jerusalem is occupied by Arab people. All of the sites we are really interested in are located in this section of the city.
We are now looking at a close-up of the wall. The wall on this side is about 1,550 feet long. The left side of the picture shows the southeast corner of the wall of the city of Jerusalem. This may be the point that is referred to as the highest point of the temple. Josephus6 makes a reference to it and says that when one looks down from this point, one gets dizzy. It could have been the highest part as it drops off into the Kidron Valley. This could have been the place where the Devil tempted Jesus. Of course, this wall is a reconstruction of the original wall, but it is built on the very site where the eastern wall was located during the time of Jesus.
We come now to the Garden of Gethsemane. We are interested in this area because this is the traditional site of the garden. There are a lot of places in the Bible Lands that are not authentic; traditions have grown up around them. But this is a section where some of the oldest olive trees are to be found. A remarkable thing about the olive tree is that it continues to grow and get larger all of its life. It never reaches maturity. It continues to bear olives until it dies. This site is owned and operated today by the Greek Orthodox Church. Visitors are not allowed to walk in this garden. It is fenced to protect the olive trees.
These are some of the largest of all the trees known in the Mediterranean world. Some of them have been cut, and it has been found that some have as many as 1,900 rings. In other words some of these trees are probably 1,900 years old and could have been growing during the time of Jesus. So we are looking at the oldest olive trees in the world today, in the traditional place of the Garden of Gethsemane.
This is a close-up of the gnarled bark of the olive tree. The wood is not usually used for building. A few small objects are carved from the wood. Trinkets of olive wood are made and sold in the Bible lands today, but the wood is never used for building houses. Its chief reason for existence was to bear olives, and certainly that was a favorite food of people in ancient times as well as today. The word “Gethsemane” means “olive press.” It was in this spot that Jesus agonized concerning his crucifixion that was just before Him. He was in Gethsemane before going to the place of the Pavement, Gabbatha, for his judgment before Pilate, and then to Golgotha, the place of the Skull, for his crucifixion. Notice these three G’s and what a ring they have to our ears: Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha. There is a hardness about all three.
We are still looking from the Garden of Gethsemane. This picture will give us some idea as to its proximity to the temple courtyard. You can see the Dome of the Rock in the distance and the wall between us and it. The Lord would have descended from the Mount of Olives here and crossed the Kidron to go up through the gate to the temple courtyard.
Today this is called the Golden Gate. It is probably reconstructed on the very site of the original Beautiful Gate. At the Beautiful Gate Peter and John healed a man who could not walk. It was the main entrance on the east side of the temple area. It was probably through this gate that Jesus would have come in his Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21:1-9) into the city of Jerusalem. The Arabs have closed this gate, because there is a tradition that the one who conquers the city of Jerusalem will come through this gate.
Just across the Kidron, directly opposite the Beautiful Gate, is a very ancient tomb. It is called "Absolom’s Tomb", named after King David’s son Absolom. However, there is reason to believe that it was not here during the time of Absalom, II Samuel 18:18 says that Absalom set up a pillar for himself in the King’s Valley, which is probably the Kidron Valley. This tomb was probably here during the time of Jesus. Josephus makes reference to some of these ancient tombs.
In the same area is a complex of other tombs. The one shaped like a pyramid is commonly referred to as the tomb of Zachariah, the last of the prophets of God in the Old Testament to be slain. To the left is the so-called Tomb of James, the apostle who was killed in the city of Jerusalem. However, these tombs were built in the second century and were not there during the time of Jesus. We are looking from the Kidron Valley up toward the slope of the Mount of Olives.
We are looking at another map, in order to get a few things in mind before we proceed further with our slides. Look again at the Temple area, the light portion of our map. You see the Valley of Kidron and the Beautiful Gate. The Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane are to the right of our picture, and the Valley of Hinnom is toward the south of our picture. Now look again at the temple area. We’re interested in the southeast corner of the temple courtyard area. Follow the wall toward the west, or to the left of the picture, to Robinson’s Viaduct. It connects with the southwest corner. Now we’ll follow the wall all the way up toward the north to the fortress of Antonia. In the purple area is the Wailing Wall. We are especially interested in the temple courtyard area.
This southeast corner of the wall has been excavated. Toward the right of the picture, where the trees are, you can see where the earth was removed. Large Herodian stones have been found here. Portions of this wall, no doubt, were underground when Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. Herod the Great built this section of the temple enclosure. His building is marked by the use of these large Herodian stones. We will see them in several parts of the temple area. Now follow the wall toward the west as it proceeds toward the silver dome. This is the south wall, and sections of it contain Herodian stones.
We are now at the southwest corner. You can see how much dirt has been removed from this section of the wall. In fact, this whole area is in the process of being excavated. To the left you will see a tower. This is the minaret of a mosque, but it is built on the very site of the Tower of Antonia, which was built by Herod the Great. The Praetorium7 of Pilate was enclosed in this area, the northwest corner of the temple enclosure. You can see people just beneath it, showing just how large this area is. The large stones in the southwest corner of the temple were probably put there by Herod the Great. Herod began reigning about forty years before the birth of Jesus. Herod tried to kill the infant Jesus. Shortly after Jesus’ birth Herod died.
This is a large excavation south of the temple enclosure. The building in the horizon is the Panorama Hotel. It is at the south end of the Mount of Olives. If you went far to the right, you would come to the Pool of Siloam and Gihon Spring. You would also reach the lowest point of the Valley of Hinnom.
The Jews, after taking the city of Jerusalem from the Arabs have begun excavation. These excavations have now reached the point of 1st century ruins. The Jews are interested, however, in finding relics from the time of Solomon. Archaeologists doubt that much will be found from that period.
These are some of the Herodian stones. The stones above them are probably Crusader8 stones. The history of Jerusalem covers twenty centuries. Many battles have been fought here, and many different people have occupied it.
At the top of our picture we see something sticking out of the wall. This is called "Robinson’s Arch". In 1938 an archaeologist named Edward R. Robinson excavated in this area and found this arch in the 1st century wall. It was first believed that it was a viaduct that led across the Valley of the Tyropoeon. This low place in this area was called "The Valley of the Cheesemakers". The name doesn’t appear in the Bible, but Josephus made reference to it. It is believed that it went to the other hill, where the Sanhedrin9 met, and this gave them ready access to the temple courtyard.
This is a closer view of Robinson’s Arch. Some archaeologists today believe that it may not have been an arch, but was an entrance way into the temple area. Beneath it we can see the large stones that were put there by Herod as he renovated and redecorated the Temple before Jesus was born.
This large area opens up into what we know today as the Wailing Wall. This area we are walking through would have been known as the "Tyropoeon", or "The Valley of the Cheesemakers". It is crowded with people today, because all of the Jewish people are interested in this particular section. It opens up on what they believe is one section of the wall that comes from the time of Solomon.
You see many different costumes in Israel today. This man is a member of the Maysheream, one of the many sects of Jews today. They say that the Messiah will not come as long as they have set up their own government, and so they fight even against Israel. They will not serve in the army and will not pay taxes. They do not cut the corners of their beards and they let their front locks of their sideburns grow very long and curl them.
This is the Wailing Wall. You can see again the large stones, probably from the time of Herod. Above them are square stones which are probably from Crusader time. So there are three different kinds of stones in this wall. There is no doubt that this is the west wall of the temple enclosure, and it is probable that Solomon’s temple wall followed the line of the enclosure wall. The Jews feel that this is the only section of Solomon’s temple still in existence, but few archaeologists believe that any of the original temple is left. The Wailing Wall area is separated, so that the men go up to the wall on the left side, and the women on the right.
Now we are facing that wall. And as you look at the top you can see one set of stones. In the center you see some square cut stones, and at the very bottom the long stones. The stones across the bottom probably come from Herod’s building of the temple. Look up to the top left-hand corner of the slide. You can see the Dome of the Rock.
Now we are looking to the north. To our right you can see the Wailing Wall. Jews have come here for centuries, as often as they could to wail the fact that Jerusalem is not theirs and the Temple has not been restored. It has earned the name “Wailing Wall” because so many cried and prayed that God would restore to Israel its land and its place. At the top of the picture you see the minaret of the mosque that is built on the site of the Tower of Antonia. Herod built this too. That will help us to recognize the temple enclosure in the area we want to look at now. You still see the Dome in the right-hand part of our picture.
As we come into the temple enclosure we are looking toward the north. This portion of the Dome of the Rock is facing south. The pool that is immediately in front of us is for the Arab worshippers to wash their feet. They remove their shoes when they go into any mosque. It thrills us when we realize that this is probably the very site of Solomon’s temple. David wanted to buy this from Araunah. The story is found in 1 Samuel 24. It was at this place that he wanted to build his temple to God. He was not permitted to build the temple. His son, Solomon, built the temple on Mount Moriah. It was somewhere in this area that Abraham tried to sacrifice Isaac10. So this place is filled with historical significance.
We are now looking at one of the most beautiful buildings in all the world. This mosque was built in 691 AD. Jerusalem has been controlled the last 2,000 years, more by Arabs than Jews. A little bit of history might be of help here. Titus, the Roman general, took the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD and destroyed the temple. The Jews revolted in 132 AD, and this revolt was put down by Roman Emperor, Hadrian. In 570 AD Mohammed was born. He was the founder of Islam. The Muslims captured Jerusalem in 637 AD. It was about this time that Omar began to build the first mosque on the site for the Muslim world. However, the building we see today is probably larger and more elaborate than the original and was built by Abd Al Malik in 691 AD. It has been enlarged and redecorated.
The gold on the dome of the Dome of the Rock is not really gold. It is a specially treated aluminum which is very expensive. The Arabs began redecorating the mosque in 1965, spending a million dollars. From the year 700 AD until the close of the eleventh century Jerusalem was occupied by the Arabs. The most sacred spot for the Muslims was Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In order to keep worshippers from leaving Jerusalem and going to Mecca, the Dome of the Rock became a center of worship, their second most sacred spot. The Crusades began about 1100 AD. The Crusaders took the city of Jerusalem in about 1099 AD. Then Jerusalem was no longer a center of Arab worship, but what we know as Crusaders Christianity took over the city of Jerusalem.
The Dome of the Rock is visible from almost every part of Jerusalem. You can see how beautiful the outside of the mosque is. The Arabs do very fine mosaic work. Mosaics are small cut pieces of stone or glass of various kinds, some semi-precious stones. The columns in front are marble and come from various Arab countries. The thing that thrills us is that we are in the courtyard of the temple itself. This is where Jesus would have walked.
There are delicate decorations inside. The floors of all mosques are covered with rugs. There are no pews or seats. The Arabs come in and worship by bowing toward Mecca and praying. Mosques are usually open to the public.
This is the inside of the Dome of the Rock. It is covered with gold leaf and red coral stone. This large dome is directly over an enormous rock. The rock is about 55 feet long and 45 feet wide. It was probably very significant in ancient times. It may be the very place where Abraham tried to sacrifice Isaac. Muslims say that Mohammed took his night journey from this rock. Some say that Solomon's altar was built on this stone, and that it was at the entrance to the temple in the time of our Lord. Muslims also say that Jesus ascended to heaven from here.
On the outside of the mosque is a dark blue border just below the dome. The Arab writing, a script, is from the Koran, the sacred book of the Muslims.
These windows go all around the mosque on each of its eight sides. The windows are decorated in various ways. The small circles are openings that let light in.
The lower part of the mosque has another border of very dark blue. It is probably of glass paste and is set with semi-precious cut stones to form this mosaic. It has taken many years to put this all together and bring it to its present beauty.
Here is a close-up of some of the windows. You can see how delicate the work is. It is a breathtaking sight and one of the most beautiful in all the world.
Directly in front of the Dome of the Rock is what is called the Baby Mosque. There are several stories to explain this. Some Arab guides say that this is the place where two women came to Solomon in disagreement over whose child the baby was, and he said to divide the child in two and give half to each woman. (1 Kings 3:16-28) The truth of the matter is that this building was a model used by the early architects in building the Dome of the Rock. It was left there, and you may see it there today.
This is the eastern wall. Beyond the wall is the Mount of Olives. This is the back side of the Beautiful Gate or Golden Gate. There were probably steps that led from the gate to the temple courtyard.
This is called "St. Stephen's Gate" that opens on the eastern side to the Kidron Valley. It could have been named after Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Some think that he was killed right outside this area.
Look at the lions at the top of this gate. When Suleiman I, the Turk, rebuilt the wall, he had a terrible dream that his body was torn apart by four lions. When he rebuilt this gate he put these lions at the top to commemorate that dream that had caused him to rebuild the wall.
This is the courtyard area of the temple. The Arabs have built a number of gates or entrances to the courtyard. The cleansing of the temple would have been in the outer courtyard area.
The Arabs have built many small structures for prayer. Islam worshippers from various parts of the world come to their own prayer houses in Jerusalem.
1 The Greek word stoa means a covered walkway.
2 A viaduct is a passageway for people to come from and go to certain place.
3 This is the Greek version of the Catholic Church.
4 "Scopus” is a Greek word that means “I see.” Our word “telescope” means “to see perfectly”.
5 A siege is when an army surrounds a city and does not let anyone or anything pass into or out of it until the city becomes weak and they can go inside and capture it.
6 Josephus was a Jewish historian who lived during the time of the New Testament.
7 The Praetorium was the place where the Roman Emperor’s special guards stayed. These guards were assigned to protect important Roman leaders
8 The Crusaders were European invaders who came to expel the Muslims from power in Jerusalem from the end of the 11th to the end of the 13th centuries.
9 The Sanhedrin was a court during the time of the New Testament.
10 This story is found in Genesis 22:1-14.
Original text and slides from "Bible Cities and Geography", ©1974 Star Bible Publications. Unlawful to duplicate or reproduce in any form or manner. Used by permission. Various edits and new audio recordings by the Bible Study Center 2006-2014.
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