Was Jesus wrong about
the temple's destruction?

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Does the modern existence of Jerusalem's Western Wall (known as the Wailing Wall) prove Jesus was wrong regarding the temple's destruction? The Western Wall, found in an raised area known as the temple mount, is believed by many to be the last remaining piece standing from Herod the Great's expansion of the area completed c. 65 A.D.

Jesus prophesied that total destruction would come upon Jerusalem and her magnificent temple. The first prophecy was given on the day the Lord mounted a colt to make his triumphal entry into the city less than a week before his death. The second was offered, three days later, as part of his Mount of Olives prophecies.

And when He came near and saw the city (Jerusalem), He wept over it . . . "For the days shall come upon you that your enemies shall cast a rampart about you, and shall enclose you around and keep you in on every side, and shall LEVEL YOU TO THE GROUND, and your children within you; and they shall NOT LEAVE IN YOU A STONE UPON A STONE . . ." (Luke 19:41, 43 - 44, HBFV throughout).

And after going out, Jesus departed from the temple; and His disciples came to Him to point out the buildings of the temple. But Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, there shall not be left here even a stone upon a stone that shall not be thrown down." (Matthew 24:1 - 2, see also Mark 13:1 - 2, Luke 21:5 - 6).

Possible solutions?

How are we to reconcile Jesus' prophecy with the existence of the Western (Wailing) Wall?

A popular argument is that the Western Wall was merely one of several buttresses used to define and support the raised area or mount where God's house was believed built. As such, it was not a part of the temple proper and therefore escaped destruction based on the Olivet prophecies. Luke 19, however, states the temple AND the entire city would be leveled. The wall's current existence would still contradict the Lord's words.

Another possible argument is that Jesus' statements could be viewed as hyperbole, meaning he did not literally mean every stone would be knocked over. The problem is, however, Luke 19 again leaves little room for this interpretation. The phrases "level you to the ground" and "shall not leave in you a stone upon a stone" (Luke 19:44) mean exactly what they say. They are too specific to be hyperbole. The Lord meant the entire city, including the temple complex, would be destroyed as if they never existed!

A potential elegant solution, however, exists that perfectly reconciles Jesus' prophecies and what actually happened to Jerusalem and her house of prayer.


Another location?

Some modern research contradicts the commonly held belief that what is called "the temple mount" was the location of Solomon's (and Herod's) temples (The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot by E. Martin). This research shows that Jerusalem's temples were built within the original city of David near the Gihon Spring. This location is roughly 1,700 feet (1/3 of a mile or 1/2 kilometer) SOUTH of the center of the Dome of the Rock building!

Building such a magnificent structure near the Gihon Spring would be ideal, as it was the city's only supply of fresh water in antiquity. It was the place where Solomon, who would build the structure, was anointed king (1Kings 1:32 - 39). The temple required running water for many of its ceremonies and its existence near the spring is alluded to in many scriptures (Ezekiel 47:1, Zechariah 14:8 - 9, Joel 3:16 - 18, Revelation 21:2, 6, 22:1, 17, etc.).

Possible location of Herod's Temple in Jerusalem
Possible location of Herod's
temple compared to Wailing Wall.

Remaining structures

The walls that survived the destruction of Titus in 70 A.D. enclose an area now called the Haram esh-Sharif that is holy to Islam. This area today includes the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque. The walls, which include the western or wailing wall, are actually those of Fort Antonia named and built by Herod the Great.

Fort Antonia (Haram esh-Sharif) survived intact because Titus wanted to continue to use it as a Roman fortress and keep it as a "monument" of the empire's victory. It was not officially considered part of the municipality of Jerusalem as it was controlled and occupied by the Roman Empire.

Eleazar, who commanded the remaining Jewish forces at Masada three years after Jerusalem's destruction, was an eyewitness to the city's destruction. Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, records a speech by him that states all Jerusalem was destroyed except for Fort Antonia.

"And where is now that great city, the metropolis of the Jewish nation, which was fortified by so many walls round about . . . It is now demolished to the very foundations, and hath nothing but that monument of it preserved, I mean the camp of those that hath destroyed it (the camp of the Romans or Fort Antonia), which still dwells upon its ruins" (Wars of the Jews by Josephus, Book 7, Chapter 8, Section 7).

Josephus himself, an eyewitness to Titus' siege of the city, also states the entire city and its temple were leveled to the ground with only the army camp at Fort Antonia left standing.

"Now as soon as the (Roman) army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury . . . Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and Temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminence . . .

"This wall was spared (the walls of Fort Antonia now surrounding the Haram esh-Sharif), in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison . . .

"in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued but for all the rest of the wall (surrounding Jerusalem), it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it (Jerusalem) had ever been inhabited" (Wars of the Jews, 7.1.1).

Conclusion

Jesus was, of course, not wrong regarding the total destruction of Jerusalem and her temple. The apparent contradiction between the existence of the Western (Wailing) Wall and his prophecies is solved by the building's existence south of the Haram esh-Sharif. Its likely true location, near the Gihon Spring in the original city of David, was completely leveled along with the rest of Jerusalem by Roman general (later Emperor) Titus.

The wall around Fort Antonia (which includes the Western Wall) and the buildings it enclosed escaped destruction because they were owned by the Roman Empire and surrounded Rome's ongoing military base in Jerusalem.

This short article only scratches the surface regarding the real location of Jerusalem's temple and the identity of the Wailing Wall in relation to Jesus' prophecy. The reader is encouraged to review online chapters of "The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot" and still more articles related to God's house for additional information.

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