by John Michell
Solomon's Temple, its reappearance
Here is some startling news, which is also very good news â€“ for many people the best news that they could possibly hope to hear. It concerns that disturbed and controversial part of the world, which is called Israel, Palestine, the Holy Land and the Near or Middle East. In particular it is about that most controversial and mysterious building, the Temple at Jerusalem, founded by King Solomon in the tenth century BC, destroyed by the armies of Babylon in 587 BC and rebuilt by the Jews who returned to Jerusalem after the captivity. King Herod replaced it with a new, larger temple, commonly called the Second Temple, a few years before the birth of Christ. This magnificent structure took many years to build, and it was barely completed by 70 AD when it was demolished by the Romans. So thoroughly was it obliterated that no trace of it remains above ground, and in the course of time even the place where it stood was forgotten.
That was the situation until recently. It was an awkward and dangerous situation, awkward for the religious Jews who are instructed by their law to rebuild the Temple, and dangerous because the walled platform around the site is entirely controlled by the Muslims. Their most holy shrines in the country are located on the Temple Mount (also called Mount Moriah and Haram al Sharif), including the great Aqsa mosque and the sacred rock beneath the golden dome, Jerusalem's most famous landmark. Any attempt to excavate for the site of the lost Temple, let alone set about rebuilding it, would be so fiercely opposed by the whole Muslim world that total and calamitous war would be the likely outcome.
This question of rebuilding the Temple is not just of theoretic or historical interest but immediate and urgent. For the Jews, the necessity of undertaking that task as soon as possible is emphasised by the stern dictum that "a generation that does not rebuild the Temple is judged as if it had destroyed it". This is taken seriously by the religious, and fanatically by certain extremists, who would like to seize the sanctuary area, demolish the Muslim architecture and start construction. A first step to this would be to blow up the golden dome, exposing at Sakhra, the sacred rock beneath it.
This rock is at the centre of Jerusalem's mysteries. Abraham bound Isaac for sacrifice upon it, and it is the rock from which Mohammed ascended to heaven while travelling from Mecca and back in one night. A mark on its surface is identified as the hoofmark of al Burak, Mohammed's flying horse who carried him on the miraculous journey. It has been sanctified from pagan times. Some believe that this rock is the Even Shettiyah, the Rock of Foundation, that stood at the centre of the world in the Holy of Holies within Solomon's Temple. Alternatively, it was the rock of sacrifice. It is also identified as the threshing floor that King David purchased from Oman the Jesubite after an angel had appeared on it (1 Chronicles, 20). Some of these legends are contradictory, but the fact of their existence shows that this is not a rock to be trifled with.
The good news, completely changing the situation, transcending all difficulties, fulfilling every religious duty and delightful to every inhabitant and lover of Jerusalem, is that the peaceful restoration of the Temple is now actually in process. This is no metaphor or poetic fancy but a physical, concrete fact. Yet no demolition or construction is required, for the site of the Temple has been disclosed, and there it is, fashioned by the ancient builders as that temple of all people, prophesied by Isaiah.
In the book the Temple is carefully displayed, allowing everyone with a serious interest in the subject to consider the evidence and decide for themselves on its implications. Anyone can see the structure, and religious people will recognise it as the temple referred to in both Jewish and Christian prophecy, which descends ready-made from heaven. There is no need to build it, because here it stands, revealed.