New theory claims Temple Mount not center of Jewish life in Jerusalem in biblical era

New theory claims Temple Mount not center of Jewish life in Jerusalem in biblical era

A new theory has been presented using indirect evidence to conclude that the Temple Mount did not play a central role in the Biblical era. A closer look shows that the theory might be based more on political predilection than on ancient bedrock. 

Haaretz published an article on Friday in its online archaeology section titled, “King David’s Jerusalem Wasn’t Where We Thought, New Study Argues”. As its title suggests, the article presents what it claims is “the Jerusalem problem”, i.e. that archaeologists don’t know where exactly Jerusalem began. Implicit in this question is a doubt shed on the historicity of the Biblical accounts of the most central city in the entire Bible, the Davidic dynasty, and the two Jewish Temples described in the Bible as being the focus of Jewish history.

“Researchers have long maintained that the original core of what would become Jerusalem wasn’t inside the Old City of Jerusalem,” Haaretz claimed. “But on a ridge immediately south of that.”

The article brings as its proof an article recently published in the Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. Haaretz was clear that its interest was political and not strictly academic, noting that the topic “touches on key questions about the historicity of the biblical text and crosses over into the explosive politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the flashpoint heritage site that many identify, perhaps mistakenly, as the city once ruled by the likes of David and Solomon.”

The article then went on to claim a dearth of physical evidence that the City of David was the focus of a bustling Jewish capital. 

The article in the journal, written by Nadav Na’aman, a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University, examines indirect evidence from tiny cuneiform inscriptions and Egyptian-style seal impressions dating to the Middle and Late Bronze Age, from the 18th to the 14th centuries BCE found in the Ophel;,  an elevated archaeological area located along the southern wall of Temple Mount.

The article brought many sources discussing the historical development of Jerusalem, finally citing Hillel Geva of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Alon De Groot of the Israel Antiquities Authority noted in a 2017 article that while there are ancient ruins aplenty in the City of David, “no archaeological evidence, direct or indirect, supports the proposal that ancient Jerusalem should be sought within the present-day Temple Mount.”

In the Haaretz article, Solomon’s Temple was built on top of a previous Canaanite shrine

It should be emphasized that Na’aman’s scholarly article did not bring into question the existence of the Temples or the historicity of the Biblical account. It brings into question whether, during the second millennium BCE, the governing center of Jerusalem was located on the Temple Mount. 

Eli Shukron, the head archaeologist of the City of David, was familiar with the theory that the Jewish Temples did not exist on the Temple Mount but did not give it much credence.

“We live in a free world and people are free to write whatever they want,” Shukron told Israel365 News. “For the time being, this remains a theory with no physical evidence indicating the Temples existed anywhere else other than the Temple Mount.”

“The problem is that due to the political situation, no archaeology can be done on the Temple Mount. So even though there is ample indirect evidence from artifacts found around the Temple Mount and from the Temple Mount, it cannot be stated that it has been definitively proven by archeology that the Temples stood on the Temple Mount.”

Cry for Zion, a movement of Jews and Christians that support the Jewish people’s rights to sovereignty over the Temple Mount, held a conference in 2018 refuting the theory that the Jewish Temples stood in the City of David. John Enarson, the Christian Relations Director for Cry For Zion, responded to the Haaretz article.

“This is a hypothetical argument,” Enarson said. “The original proponent of this theory, Axel Knauf, admitted that it is a hypothesis that ‘cannot be tested or refuted archaeologically’. It relies largely on arguments from silence which are unacceptable in academia because it is not testable. It can’t be disproven but neither can it be proven.”

“Even if proven, the most that can be said is that the central point of administration was in the Ophel and not the Temple Mount,” Enarson said. “That is not a significant point that deemphasizes the role of Jerusalem in Jewish history. It seems that this article is an attempt by the minimalist camp at Tel Aviv University and Haaretz to squeeze the archeological evidence to make it seem that there is a contradiction with the Bible.

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