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The Temple of Jerusalem.


In our last we briefly alluded, to several communications concerning the Solomonic Temple, which had just reached our eye; but as it was so near the end of the month, (the 20th,) it was impossible  for us to do more than merely state that such publications had been made. But in order to afford our readers the opportunity of perusing what had been said on this interesting topic, we transfer the whole article to our pages, since we believe thus to render service to the cause of religion by using the details from the perishable form of a daily paper. As the article is so long, it would occupy more space than we can afford to comment on it at full length; but this much we cannot avoid saying, that we do not approve Judge Noah’s offering a sort of apology for the inaccuracy of the gospel prophecies. They are either literally true or they are not; if the former, then no stone should have been left on the other, in accordance with the prediction; and we well recollect that some Christian travellers have laboured hard to do away with the impression which the west wall of Herod’s temple, existing as it does within the circumference of the mosque of Omar, must make against the accuracy of the alleged predictions, by saying that it appears that the stones had been replaced in their present position after having been disjointed by the destruction of the entire building, when it is evident that no one would likely take the pains to reproduce a ruin, which when restored could <<551>>answer no useful purpose. If, therefore, Christians find it difficult to reconcile the predictions with the faith, we do not see why our Israelites should seek for vain, grounds to justify the evident incongruities which the gospels present. And suppose that the prophecies are not to be literally accomplished, then we ask what sort of accomplishment will be enough to satisfy an inquirer? Is in the present case the destruction of one half, or one third, or one quarter, sufficient for the purpose? We may freely ask for an answer before we proceed further. Besides all this, we know of no Hebrew idiom equivalent to “not having one stone on the other;” on the contrary if we mistake not it is Greek, and nowise expressible in the same Hebrew words. But we said we would not comment at the present time; so we must break off, with the expression of the hope that the subject may elicit further discussion before long.—Ed. Oc.

(From the Journal of Commerce of Dec. 20.)

Messrs. Editors:—In the course of my remarks in the address delivered on Thanksgiving day, relative to the contemplated erection of a magnificent place of worship by the Jews at Jerusalem, I stated, that a considerable portion of the ruins of the temple, chambers, splendid columns, &c., were still in existence, showing the error of that prediction which declared, that not one stone of that building should stand upon another. The statement naturally produced a spirit of inquiry, on a prediction of so much importance, and I am called upon by one of your correspondents, and many others also, to furnish my authority for this declaration, which unsettles a very remarkable passage of sacred history. This is just and proper, because both religion and history should have truth as their bases, if enlightened men are required to believe in them. Before I proceed, however, with facts, allow me to correct one error, which I perceive exists in the minds of many persons.

There is no intention among the Jews at the present time, to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem, with all its magnificence and former services and sacrifices;—that great event can only be accomplished after the restoration, in a state of profound peace, and then under such modifications of forms and ceremonies, as shall be required by the progress of the age. The place of worship to be erected may be called a Temple, but it is simply a Synagogue on a large scale, for the accommodation of the increasing number of Jewish emigrants and residents; nor are the Jews at the present. day taking any measures of a political nature <<552>>for the restoration of the nation to its ancient heritage, beyond indispensable preparations of education, science, enlarged and liberal principles.

The Jewish people who turn their attention to this interesting subject, rely upon the justice of Christians, who, having dispossessed them, will, under divine Providence, essentially aid in restoring them to the land which God gave to them as a perpetual inheritance. The incipient steps are now taking in the Christian world for the consummation of that great and interesting event, and the Jews are patiently regarding these movements, and calmly awaiting the assured fulfillment of their destiny. Your correspondent is curious to know how any of the remains of the Temple can possibly exist, when historians declared that so complete was its destruction that the Roman plough passed over it. You have no doubt heard of what is called the “pious frauds” practised in the early days of the church, and well know that one of the most important references to the founder of the Christian faith in Josephus, is admitted to have been an interpolation, by the most enlightened historians and prelates of that faith, and I proceed to give you the facts that history is less reliable in relation to the utter destruction of the Temple. The firing of that magnificent edifice during the siege of Jerusalem, it is known was the result of accident. Titus Vespasianus, though anxious to reduce the city, was too great a patron of the arts to destroy a structure so splendid. On the contrary, he made every effort to save the building when he found it on fire. The Jewish historians are naturally severe and bitter in their resentments against Titus, to whom they attributed all their misfortunes. I have considered the capture of Jerusalem by Pompey, and subsequently by Titus, as events connected with the career of a warlike nation, aiming at universal conquest, and indifferent where the blow was struck, so that it added to the triumph of the Roman arms.

After Jerusalem had been reduced, Titus returned to Rome with his spoils, and some 15,000 Jewish captives, and there ended the spirit of conquest and revenge; consequently ploughing up the ground for vindictive objects could not have been reasonable. It is known that when David and Samuel had projected the plan of the Temple, and all the details of building, worship, and general organization had been decided upon, David purchased Mount Moriah from Aurunah, a Jebusite agriculturist of some importance, being a fine piece of table land, used as a threshing-floor, and consecrated by the tradition, that this was the spot where Abraham offered up his son. Having purchased the piece of table-land, and finally the whole mountain, he furnished Solomon <<553>>with a plan of the whole building, which, at immense cost, required eight years to complete. All writers unite in opinion that for durability and strength, no building could compare with it.

Mr. James Nathan, of this city, made a journey to Egypt and the Holy Land, and visited the remains of the Temple. The following is his own statement of what he saw on that occasion:

“Two months had now passed over us at Jerusalem, and every attempt to get by fair means a glance at the interior of either of the two mosques that occupy the site of the temple of Solomon had proved fruitless. The opening that accident had made in one of the outer walls, and of which some fortunate travellers before us had availed themselves, was recently walled up and closed by the fanatic and jealous Musselmen, and convinced that nothing but some stratagem could gain us admission, we—Dr. Titus Tobler of Switzerland, and the writer—resorted to the following:

“A Jewish lad, in my employ as servant, had brought us on a former occasion, a poor Arab mason to lead us to the forbidden localities of the ‘Birket el Brach,’ a business he had then faithfully performed, and hearing that this man had worked on the walling up of the above mentioned opening, and on various other parts of the mosques, we hit upon him either to reopen the same, or in some way procure us an entry, and after long and tedious preliminaries, amongst which was a promise of 200 piasters, ‘Backshees,’ was not the least effective, succeeded in persuading him to open during night some small place or aperture, whereby we might enter the subterranean passages and archways that we know support the mosques.

“After some few days the Arab said he had accomplished his task, but could not accompany us until after several more days, when the present rites and prayers of the Musselmen had passed, and the mosques became less subject to night visits from the dervishes and devotees.

“Though fully conscious of the unlawfulness and hazard of our purpose, so anxious were we to realise this most cherished of all our objects at Jerusalem, as to feel much impatient and mortified at the delay, and thus hailed with delight the 28th of January, 1846, as the day fixed upon for our expedition.

“On the evening of that day, and after dark had fairly set in, the doctor, myself and servant, preceded by the Arab, and provided with lantern, compass, and measures, set out for the mosque, and passing concealed, between heaps of rubbish, and huge cactus trees, down that <<554>>part of the Tyropean valley, which separates Zion from Moriah, towards the ‘Babel Magariah,’ climbed a little to the north-east of it over an old and dilapidated stone fence, and crossed by a sort of foot-path an open field, already strictly prohibited to the ‘infidel dog,’ in a north-west direction, towards the south wall of the mosque ‘el aksa;’ and very near the centre of this wall, and where the city wall joins it, entered a door-way and stumbled over lots of dirt and mason work, through two arched and quadrangular rooms of modern structure, and over what seemed to me an inclining surface, to the hole or opening made by the Arab, and being in the south foundation wall of the ‘Aksa’ of about twelve inches in height, and sixteen in width.

“We could not implicitly trust in a man like our Arab, who would secretly, and for money, violate what openly he professed and worshipped, and therefore, I put my hand and head through the aperture, to ascertain something of the earth we might be launched upon, in passing through it; but finding a powerful current of air rushing towards me and extinguishing the candle that was three or four times relit, we made, the Arab pass first, and then squeezed ourselves feet foremost, pulled by the Arab on the other side, and shoved by the other two of our party on this side, through  the opening into, we knew not where, and landed successively, and with our dresses nearly stripped off us, some considerable distance, beneath the level of the side we came from.

“Proceeding a few steps direct north, my eyes were struck with the tall and graceful proportions of two white marble pillars about nine or ten feet apart, supporting a handsome arch and constituting, originally, a high and most noble gateway.

“The pillar on the west side of the entry was partly walled in, by mean Arab mason work; the one on the east, however, was clear, and measures 6½ feet in circumference about 5 feet from its base, where it has a gentle swell that tapers gradually towards the top.

“The capital of projecting leaves, tastefully carved, is by far the most beautiful I had ever before seen, and resembles nearest the Corinthian, which seems merely the extension and embellishment of the same style, but in comparison overdone and deprived of the chaste and exquisite simplicity of the former. On scraping a little of the dirt from the surface of the easterly pillar, it presented a soft alabaster and glistening whiteness, that shone in candle light, like diamonds in pearl dust.

“Close to this pillar, and to the east of it, the 16 to 18 feet high wall, is composed of four large stones, the undermost of which is 15 feet long, 4 feet high, and 5 feet in thickness, and precisely like the often <<555>>described stones in the wall of the ‘weeping place,’ which are admitted by all to be of the court wall of the ancient temple.

“The arched room or chamber in which we now were, is 45 feet wide, from east to west, 37½ feet long from south to north, commencing from the gateway as the most southerly line, and as near as can be told without measurement, about 25 feet in height, and supported in the centre by two large pillars, one of which measures 14½ feet in circumference, and the other seems of the same size, and was therefore not measured. The arched roof or ceiling is divided into small compartments, the three most southerly and nearest the gateway, have round grounded centres, with cornices and a sort of rosette, which, however, I had much difficulty to discern by candle light, and will therefore not be too positive in their character. Dr. T. being short-sighted, regretted much not to be able to see and examine them.

“In the east and west walls were several niches, with straw matting on the floor in front of them. The Arab said they were graves, but it is more likely they are praying places for the dervishes. Two of these niches were rather large recesses, and bore strong evidence of antiquity.

“We also came to a large oblong and door-like opening in the centre of the east wall, which the Arab said was the mouth of a very large ‘Birket,’ (cistern). Having no ladder with us, and finding no other way of descending, we dropped some stones down, and judging from the sound and time it. took to reach the bottom, there was no water, but considerable depth. From memory I think we concluded about eighty feet.

“Between some rude mason work that forms part of the south wall, on the west side of the entry, the upper portions of a pillar, precisely like those of the two white marble ones in the gateway, rear their proud features, in captive but unconquered beauty.

“A stair-way of nine steps hewn out of solid rock, commences 37½ feet north of the gateway, and is as wide as the chamber just described, and as the continuation of it, to which it leads. This continuation measures 150 additional feet, from south to north, and is as much lower in ceiling as the nine steps are high, say from 6 to 7 feet.

“Six colossal pillars at regular intervals, and in a straight line with the two centre ones above mentioned, support the rocky roof, some of them, if not all, are of one piece, and cut out of one gigantic rock, that must have lain imbedded here for geological ages, and out of which, I cannot but believe, this entire continuation must have been excavated. The second pillar north of the stairway, is 11½ feet in circumference, the first one was not measured, but is much larger. A piece of one of <<556>>the pillars I knocked off with some difficulty, to carry with me, and now hold for some future geological examination.

“We looked carefully at various parts of the east and west walls, and could find no place where they seemed joined, but they felt somewhat smoothed either by friction or some coat of paint or polish, that once might have been on it.

“The roof has no embellishments besides the curved lines that bend down into the pillars, and give it the appearance of one grand and massive, yet lofty and self-supporting structure, so peculiar to the most ancient orders.

“We had now passed under the entire ‘mosque of Aksa’ to its northern extremity—187½ feet north of the first described magnificent gateway—and noticed to the northeast a small inverted arch, the meaning of which we did not fathom, and in the northwest corner a door, through an opening of which we looked, and saw a stairs leading up to the centre grounds of the ‘Haarem Sherief,’ and had the ‘Kubbet el Sukra’ (copula of the stone) right in front of us.

“On our return we re-examined every object leisurely for correction; and leaving the place by the way we had entered, ordered the Arab to replace the stone and close the hole he had made, which. a day or two thereafter he said he had done, and when cautioning him not to speak of what had passed, he said, if he did it would be his last speech.

“From the locality, character, and expression of the entire structure, and the various objects therein, here described, no less than from that thorough conviction that is forced upon the mind, whenever it meet with truth and genuineness, I cannot but sincerely believe in the antiquity of these relics, but reserve to myself the privilege of an opinion more in detail, for some future time, and after some more study and reflection, as to whether the whole or what part thereof, belongs to the temples built by the Jews under Solomon, Cyrus, or Herod.

“James Nathan.”

“P. S.—The floor was measured by steps calculated here at 2½ feet each, the other measurement is of French feet.”

I could have no doubt, from this statement of Mr. Nathan, that these were the remains, not ruins, of the Temple, and I proceeded to make further investigations, with the most entire success. Mr. Catherwood, well known as an enterprising traveller, was, in 1833, in the service of Ibraham Pacha, at Jerusalem, as a civil engineer, and wearing the dress and speaking the language of the Mussulman, he strayed one day into <<557>>the boundaries of the great mosque of Omar, and took a drawing of the interior. He proceeded to the mosque El Aksa, and descended into the subterranean vaults, and, without having the idea impressed upon his mind, that these were the remains of the temple, he says,—“At the southeast corner of this rock, (a limestone rock under the dome of the  mosque,) there is an excavated chamber, to which there is a descent by a flight of stone steps. This chamber is irregular in form, and its superficial area is about six hundred feet, the average height seven feet.” In another part of his description he says, in reference to these ruins,—“Here are fifteen rows of square pillars, from which spring arches, supporting the platform. The whole substruction appears to me of Roman origin, and in connexion with the golden gate, and the one beneath the El Aksa, together with the ancient bridge, to have formed a connected plan of foundations, to the great temple of Herod.” After describing the length of the last wall, 1520 feet, of the south 940, of the west wall 1617 feet, and of the north 1020, the remains of which, still existing, Mr. Catherwood says, in conclusion,—“The mosque of Omar occupies the position of the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s Temple.”

Here are two authorities unknown to each other, who have seen the remains of the temple under El Aksa; but I have others fully as conclusive. Shubert, the German traveller, who visited Jerusalem in 1837, says in his travels—“We heard of those walls under the temple hill, which are supported on thousands of columns, and also of the reservoirs for water, which are in connexion with them.” Mr. Tipping, in 1842, was more fortunate. In making his researches under the brow of the hill, he came to a small grated window, which is at the end of the subterranean aisle, and on attempting to raise his friend Mr. Walcott up, to gain an inside view from the grated window, he was assailed by a number of Mahomedans, who drove them off, but in wandering about the spot, a deaf and dumb boy, suspecting what their object was, made signs to go with him, and he led them to a small break in the wall. Both gentlemen squeezed through the narrow entrance. Let us hear Mr. Tipping’s account, which does not materially vary from Mr. Nathan’s, with this difference, that Mr. Nathan paid it a single and a short visit; Mr. Tipping went often to make drawings. After having entered the crypts, Mr. T. says, that the double gateway “consists of a square, or rather quadrangular entrance hall, the four flattishly-vaulted groined roofs of which are supported by a central monolith of white stone, with a capital bearing traces of a perpendicular palm-leaf ornament, certainly not Corinthian, or any other of the five classical <<558>>orders. From this hall sprung originally two sets of steps, leading up to the long passage, divided by a row of square columns of 3 or 4 stones each, corresponding with the divisions of the gateway and the monolith. The groined roof of the hall is Roman in style, of excellent workmanship, and bearing altogether a finer stamp than the entablature. Might we not safely attribute it to Herod? The broad division between the arches consists of bevelled stones of Cyclopedian dimensions; the sides of the long passage are also built of huge bevelled stones; but the walls of the hall are apparently plain and Roman, though of great size. This seeming anomaly perplexed me for a long time; but at length, and while examining these side walls closely, I ascertained by visible traces, that it had been bevelled, but that in order to construct side pilasters, corresponding with the central pillar, and bearing the two arches springing from it, the bevelling had been chisselled away, thus affording a slight relief to the pilaster. This was the crowning discovery; inasmuch as it furnishes incontestable evidence of a third epoch in the structure, and of a far ulterior antiquity. Is there room possibly for more than one conclusion as to the original, or more ancient masonry, considering under what circumstances of national decay the second temple was built? Do not those vaults and passages, as to their ulterior structure, belong to the age of Solomon?”

You thus perceive, Messrs. Editors, that Mr. Catherwood and Mr. Tipping, both eminent travellers, speak of these extraordinary remains of a splendid edifice, as the remains of the Temple, and Mr. Nathan, one of our own citizens, and of the Hebrew faith, in passing through them, could arrive at no other conclusion. Saracenic they are not; Roman though in style, they were not built by the Romans, for they destroyed what they could in Jerusalem, and built nothing. The convictions to which I have arrived from these facts are, that these chambers, pillars, archways, groined roofs, and entablatures, are the remains of the first floor or basement of Solomon’s temple, upon which Herod erected the  temple destroyed at the siege of Jerusalem under Titus.

The first temple of Solomon was erected 1012 years B. C., and was finally destroyed by the Babylonians 588 B. C., having stood 424 years. After the return from Babylon, it was plainly rebuilt, and stood until Herod rebuilt it with great splendour, and it was finally destroyed seventy years after the death of the founder of the Christian religion.

After the burning of the temple by Titus, and the Romans finally abandoning Jerusalem, the ruins remained five hundred years without disturbance, during which long period the earth accumulated over those ruins, covering up and concealing them some twelve or fifteen feet below <<559>>the surface. And when a site was required for the great mosque of Omar, the commanding position of Mount Moriah, was naturally considered the most eligible for the new structure, and the ground was levelled over the remains of the temple as now discovered, and the mosques of Omar and El Aksa erected over them. I entertain no doubt that if those mosques were removed, and the earth laid bare on Mount Moriah, the entire ground floor, or the first story of the temple, would be laid open. If, therefore, such a prediction was ever made, it certainly appears, by these discoveries, that it was not verified. I have always doubted, whether it ever was made in the accepted sense we receive it, and with every respect for the opinion of others, I proceed to give my reasons. The New Testament was written at intervals by the apostles, more to preserve. a record of events, occurring in their time, than to constitute a religious companion for the Bible. Several of the books were lost, and amended when found, and brought into its present form nearly 200 years after the Christian era. It must necessarily have undergone many changes by the early fathers of the church. But the most important fact, equally applicable to the Old Testament as well as the New, is, that we adopt passages literally which are meant only as figuratively—a style and mode of speaking, laconic and abbreviated, even at this day prevailing in the oriental countries; consequently we discover throughout the Scriptures printed in the English language, incongruities, corruptions, and erroneous translations, ad infinitum. Here, however, are the stately remains of the temple, and here we have another illustration of the historic truth of the Bible. Your correspondent, I hope, will be satisfied that I have not ventured upon an important statement, without being in possession of all the facts.

M. M. Noah.

We return our  thanks to the Messrs. Harper & Brothers, for their kind loan of the accompanying engravings,* made from drawings by Mr. Tipping.—Ed. Oc.

* The illustrations referred to are not included in the microfilm reels from which these transcripts are being made. We are attempting to locate a hard copy of this issue of The Occident which contains the illustration which will then be scanned and uploaded to this website.—Jewish-history.com