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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