Digging Deep…

Verifying the Historicity of the Bible

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In recent years, some doubt has emerged as to whether or not the Temple of Solomon existed at all. After the destruction of the Temple the ancient Israelites were left with little else but a memory of the Temple. Today, we are left with the insurmountable task of attempting to discover it, but without wreaking havoc upon the Temple Mount. There are several ways of going about to argue for its existence: some methods include archaeological discoveries around the Temple Mount and the city of Jerusalem, as well as comparing biblical descriptions of the Temple to contemporary Iron Age temples that have been excavated. Even though archaeologists such as Eliat Mazar have claimed to have discovered a section of a city wall dating around the tenth century BCE in Jerusalem (February 2010), which could plausibly have been built by King Solomon. There is a strong case for this to be true (large stone masonry, as well as the pottery found at the site dating from around the tenth century BCE). However, in the fervour that followed, time was not taken to analyze the finds before going to press. These finds may or may not prove to be significant.

Fortunately, we are not bound to the confines of determining its existence based on the chance of discovering tenth century structures around the Ophel area (Jerusalem’s Old City). We can expand our searches beyond Jerusalem by comparing the biblical descriptions of the Temple with contemporary Iron Age temples at ‘Ain Dara’, Tell Ta’yinat and Arad. In sum, these Iron Age are Syro-Phoenician and the Phoenicians were the master masons during this time. All three structures are tripartite langraum (“long-room”) temples. According to 1 Kings: 6-7 and Ezekiel 40-42 the Temple was of a similar structure. Similar building materials were also used; the hekal (vestibule) was paneled with cedar wood and the floor of cypress (1 Kgs 6:15). In Biblical times, cedar trees from Lebanon were extremely valued and would have been imported to Jerusalem from Lebanon (1 Kgs 6). Interestingly, the May 21 online version of Biblical Archaeological Society notes that the wooden beams excavated from Herod’s Jerusalem Temple (c. 70 CE) could have been re-used (“secondary use” in archaeological terms) from the Temple of Solomon. Perhaps, then, this type of discovery can be used to validate not only Eliat Mazar’s claim to have uncovered some remnants of the Temple, but it also validates the argument to incorporate textual analysis of the Biblical texts with contemporary Syro-Phoenician temples.

Images: Temple Mount, ‘Ain Dara’.
For more information about Tell Ta’yinat, visit Tayinat Archaeological Project.

This post is based on research I conducted for my thesis, Writing and Remembering: Descriptions of the Temple of Solomon at the University of Toronto.

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4 thoughts on “Digging Deep…

  1. Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    Paarsurrey says:
    For the temple of Solomon; they Kashmir people claim that it is located there; this should also be looked into.
    I quote from Wikipedia in this connection:
    “The hill is also called by the muslim name Takht i Suleiman (Throne of Solomon) and the temple also called “Throne of Solomon.”[3][4]
    The temple is significant to claims of the Ahmadiyya movement since Ahmadiyya writer Khwaja Nazir Ahmad in Jesus in Heaven on Earth (1956, p407-409) used a photograph of two inscriptions purportedly from the Takht-i-Sulaiman, Srinagar to support Ghulam Ahmad’s claims in Masih Hindustan-mein(1899) that Jesus had visited Kashmir.[5] However one of the populist writers supporting Nazir Ahmad’s claims, the German esoteric writer Holger Kersten, claims that the Buddhists of Ladakh believe the Throne of Solomon to have been the abode not of the Hindu holy man Adi Shankara, but of the Buddhist holy man Padmasambhava, a Kashmiri who took Mahayana Buddhism from Kashmir to Tibet in the eighth century. Kersten does not give a source for this claim.[6] [7] Many Buddhist and Hindu temples were fully or partially islamized during the Mughal period of Kashmir’s history and had Buddhist traditions adapted to islamic traditions.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shankaracharya_Temple

    • Thank you, Paarsurrey. You make some very interesting and poignant remarks! Naturally, due to the fact that the Temple has not been conclusively identified in archaeological excavations around the Temple Mount, its precise location can always be debated, especially because it is of such significance to many groups of people (Jews, Christians, Freemasons and, as you say, the Ahmadiyya). And, of course, the Temple Mount is of incredible significance to Muslims. However, I think that the claim that the Temple is located in the Kashmir is a bit more stretched (though I wouldn’t 100% dispute it). This is because of the reasons that determined where to build the Temple, according to ancient Israelite and Near Eastern beliefs and temple-building practices.

      King David, who commissioned the building of the Temple, hired the Phoenician King Hiram of Tyre to supply the artisans and the building materials for its construction; King Solomon had a good relationship with the King (cf. 1 Kings 5:15-32), and the Phoenicians were the master craftsmen of the Levant at that time. Also, King Solomon commanded that King Hiram provide cedars from Lebanon for the construction (1 Kgs 5:6). Phoenicia was along the coastline of what is now Lebanon, so that would be a distance of close to 4,000 miles to transport the labour and building materials to the site of the Temple.

      There is a lot of tradition and religious beliefs that determined where the Temple would be built; for ancient temple builders it was a prerequisite that the site possessed a sacred history, which can be determined by its geographical, thematic and mythic space. According to Jeremiah 7:2-15 Yahweh already resided in Jerusalem, so there was a pre-existing security from the forces of chaos. The Temple Mount was already considered sacred, as it was considered to be where the primordial act of creation occurred (usually a “high place”, ‘bamah’ in Hebrew).

      I fear my reply is getting too long! But when I looked at the link you included, I think the significance of the Throne of Solomon is extremely important for the Temple’s connection to the Kashmir. I hazard to guess that the Temple of Solomon also being called the “Throne of Solomon” could refer to the fact that the Temple grounds is where Solomon conducted the business affairs of Jerusalem and was where his throne would have been located. That said, it is quite probable that after the Temple’s destruction by the Babylonians that the Throne was taken by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and after the all of Babylon it is thought to have been taken by King Darius of Persia to Medea. I am not really sure about this but I found that info here: http://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/1345/jewish/King-Solomons-Throne.htm

      Thanks! Feel free to reply 🙂

      • I just pointed out that there is a different approach on the subject as well. In Kashmir the names of the places and many words of the Kashmiri language are common with the ancient Jerusalem/Judea. When people migrate from a place en-masse they name the places from their native place.

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