Category Archives: Jerusalem

A.D. 70 The Destruction of the Temple — Where did the Temple Treasure Go? Part 3

As noted in a previous post, most of the articles from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem had been placed in the Temple of Peace in Rome—but in A.D. 192 the Temple of Peace was burned down.  There are two important discussions that trace the history of the articles after this event—one by Fredric Brandfon and the other by Clyde Billington (see below).

A.D. 192 — Billington (p. 18) argues that “. .. the Temple Menorah and the other ‘Treasures of the Jews’ were rescued and placed in the royal palace where, according to the Byzantine historian Procopius, they remained until the mid 5th Century AD.”   This would mean that they were kept in one of the Palaces on the Palatine Hill.

A Garden from the Palace of Domitian on the Palatine Hill in Rome—where the Royal Palaces were located. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Click Here to view images of and on the Palatine Hill.

In A.D. 445 Gaiseric and the Vandals conquered and looted the city of Rome and “carried off the Temple Menorah and the other Treasures of the Jews . . .” to their capital city of Carthage in North Africa (Billington, 18).   Procopius of Caesarea also describes how later, the Byzantine general Belisarius conquered Carthage in A.D. 534.   He then goes on to describe the victory parade of the booty in Constantinople in the presence of the Emperor, Justinian (r. 527–565).  Conveniently, Billington provides his translation of the relevant passage from Procopius of Caesarea’s, History of the Wars (p. 18).

. . . and then followed all of the royal treasure which was worth an exceedingly great amount, because Gizeric (The vandal king) had looted the (Imperial) Palace in Rome, as was stated in a preceding portion of this history.  among the items take from the Palace in Rome were the Treasures of the Jews, which Titus, the son of Vespasian, and others had brought to Rome after the capture of Jerusalem.”

The Hippodrome in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) where the victory Parade may have taken place.

Thus the Temple Treasure was brought to Constantinople in A.D. 534.  But Procopius also says that one of the Jews warned that a curse would fall on Justinian, the Emperor, if the treasure was not returned to Jerusalem!  Billington’s translation continues . . .

When the Emperor (Justinian) heard of the things that were said (by this Jewish man), he became frightened, and with all haste sent all of these (sacred Jewish) items to the Christian churches in Jerusalem.

At this point, Billington has a detailed discussion of exactly when the articles were sent to Jerusalem, but both he and Brandfon agree that they were placed, for a time, in the newly built Nea Church dedicated A.D. 543.

Sixth Century Map on the floor of a Church in Madaba (Jordan). The Nea Church is in the upper right corner. The map is east oriented (at the top).

Some of the remains of the Nea Church have been excavated (Nahum Avigad) and are located in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem—but much of it is covered by the Jewish Quarter Parking Lot!

View looking northeast at the Parking Lot of the Jewish Quarter. The Nea Church is buried under part of it!

View looking north at the southern wall of the Old City outside the Jewish Quarter. Two courses of the stone foundation of the Nea Church protrude from under the wall of the Old City.

On March 14, 2019, AL-MONITOR published an article entitled Decades after discovery, Jerusalem’s Byzantine masterpiece may open to the PublicThe article is worth a read as it describes the current state of the remains of the Nea Church.

I hope to publish the next (hopefully last) installment of this saga later this week.


Brandfon, Fredric. “Did the Temple Menorah Come Back to Jerusalem?” Biblical Archaeology Review 43, no. 5 (September/October, 2017): 40–49, 70.

Billington, Clyde E. “What Happened to the Golden Temple Menorah?” Artifax 34, no. 1 (Winter, 2019): 18–21.

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Warning to Gentiles from the Days of Jesus — Inscriptions

The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was surrounded by a fence (balustrade) that was about 5 ft. [1.5 m.] high.  On this fence were mounted inscriptions in Latin and Greek forbidding Gentiles from entering the temple area proper (image below).

One complete inscription was found in Jerusalem in 1871 and is now on display on the third floor of the “Archaeological Museum” in Istanbul.

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The Temple Inscription warning Gentiles not to proceed beyond this barrier—on threat of death. Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

The Greek text has been translated:  “Foreigners must not enter inside the balustrade or into the forecourt around the sanctuary.  Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”

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The first century Jewish historian Josephus mentions the barrier and inscription in two places:

(193) When you go through these [first] cloisters, unto the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; (194) upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that “no foreigner should go within that sanctuary;” for that second [court of the] temple was called “the Sanctuary;” (Josephus Jewish War.5.5.1 [193–194]

(417) Thus was the first enclosure. In the midst of which, and not far from it, was the second, to be gone up to by a few steps; this was encompassed by a stone wall for a partition, with an inscription, which forbade any foreigner to go in, under pain of death. (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 15.11.5 [417]

Compare the accusation against Paul found in Acts 21:28-29:

Acts 21:28 shouting, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.”  29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.)

There is also the possibility that this barrier is referred to by Paul when he writes:

Eph. 2:14     For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

 

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This six-line fragment of the Temple Warning was found by J. H. Iliffe east of the Old City of Jerusalem wall—near the Lion’s Gate.

 

Translation of the inscription from Elwell, Walter A., and Yarbrough, Robert W., eds.  Readings from the First–Century World: Primary Sources for New Testament Study.  Encountering Biblical Studies, general editor and New Testament editor Walter A. Elwell.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998, p. 83. Click Here to view for purchase from amazon.com.

A Potter’s Village — A “Potter’s Field?” — Matthew 27 — An Aramaic Inscription from Jerusalem

Recently it was announced that a Potter’s Inscription was found in secondary usage (= spolia) near the International Convention Center in West Jerusalem.  Is it possible that the “Potters’ Field,” mentioned in Matthew 27, was located near here (see end of post)?

The Aramaic inscription reads “Hanania son of Dudolos from Jerusalem.” Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The Aramaic inscription reads “Hanania son of Dudolos from Jerusalem.” It is the first epigraphic evidence to the name “Jerusalem” spelled as Yerushalayim (as it is written Hebrew today), as opposed to Yerushalem or Shalem.

The full “column” that bears the Aramaic Inscription—it is about 2 feet tall.

The column was originally part of a building that stood in a Jewish potters’ village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. “The site was eventually converted by the Tenth Roman Legion into a workshop for ceramic building products [aka “roof tiles”]. The column drum probably came from a workshop or some other structure belonging to Hanania or a public building that he helped finance. Hanania’s father’s name — Dudolos — is based on the name of the mythological Greek artist Daedalos; it may have been a nickname alluding to the father’s artistic abilities. it is interesting to note that although the village was very close to the city, Hanania still found it meaningful to mention his Jerusalem origins.” Source: Israel Museum Label


In a recent edition of Artifax (Autumn 2018, p. 2) the editor notes that it is interesting that the 30 pieces of silvers that Judas returned to the Temple was used to purchase a “Potter’s Field.”  This “potter’s village” is only a few miles west of the site of the Second Temple.

7 So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8 That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

“Perhaps the field that was purchased was located in the vicinity of the potter’s village where this stone inscription was found.” (Artifax p. 2)


“‘Jerusalem’ Inscribed on Column Dating to 100 BC.”  Artifax (Autumn 2018; vol. 33, no. 4), p. 2.  http://www.BibleArtifax.com

The “Fast Train” from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — An Epic Journey ;-) !

Greetings!  I am in between projects here in Israel and Mary and I are spending a week relaxing in Tel Aviv.  I love railroads and today we decided to take the new “fast train” to Jerusalem.  Spoiler alert: this is not a high–speed “bullet train.”

The “fast train” in the Navon Station in Jerusalem. DEEP underground!

The journey is divided into two parts.  The first part is the normal train ride from Tel Aviv (HaShalom Station) to Ben Gurion Airport (15 min. ride).  At Ben Gurion we changed to the “fast train” to Jerusalem.  A lot of travelers with luggage boarded the train with us—it was about 1/2 full.  The cars are very clean and the journey took 25 minutes.  We arrived at the brand new Yitzak Navon deep–underground station.  Most travelers took the elevators to the surface.  But we just got on the return train back to Tel Aviv.  The train from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion was e-m-p-t-y.

My Impressions:  The train is not as “fast” as I thought it would be.  But it is non–stop between Ben Gurion and Jerusalem.  I was expecting some great vistas because for many years we have seen the tressels over the Aijalon Valley (Joshua and sun standing still) and over the deep Soreq Valley system near Jerusalem.  Unfortunately, all the windows were dirty or “cloudy” and so the pictures did not turn out too well.  In addition, at least 1/2 of the journey is in tunnels—so no views at all.  Actually, it was basically ALL long tunnels from the Aijalon Valley up to the Soreq Valley, just outside of Jerusalem—and then we had a 30 second view of the Soreq before entering the last tunnel into Jerusalem.  It was interesting, that as we were ascending to Jerusalem in one of the tunnels we, and the travelers around us, began to feel discomfort in our ears—it soon faded.

The following are some photos I took.  My photo processor is not working on this trip, so the photos are direct from the camera to you—sorry about that.

From a tressel looking east towards Jerusalem. The Soreq Valley is on the far right of the picture.

One of the very few random Hill Country Valleys that are visible on the train ride.

My conclusions:  I was fun to do this!  1) If you are traveling with a group, the bus pickup at Ben Gurion is the way to go.  2) If you are alone, if you take the train, then you will need to take a Taxi from the Navon Station in Jerusalem to your hotel.  3) If you have friends from Jerusalem that are picking you up, you can save them a lot of time by not going to Ben Gurion to pick you up.  Just have them pick you up at the Navon Station in Jerusalem.  The reverse will work slick as well.  BTW — I don’t think the train operates all night, you will have to check.

Also, 4) if you are traveling to Tel Aviv or points north, I think the “regular train,” that seems to operate every half hour, will take you to, for example, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Haifa, and Nahariya—this would be slick!

So there you go!  I hope the comments are helpful.  We enjoyed the journey and are very glad we had the chance to do it.

Next project: the train from Haifa to Beth Shean.  Hmm . . . we’ll see!

PS — the whole round trip cost for each of us was 13.50 NIS, about = $3.80.  I am not sure if we missed paying for extra tickets somwhere along the way, but hey . . . .

Yom Kippur 1973 — Did Golda Meir Know An Attack Was Coming?

Today, September 18/19 2018, is Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)—the Jewish Fast Day when there is no work, no traffic, no TV, no radio, etc.,.  On Yom Kippur 1973, Saturday, October 6, my family and the family of Jim Monson were walking below the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament,  when we saw a few cars racing up and down the street.

Israel’s Kenesset—Parlement.

We wondered what was going on, in light of the fact that driving, especially in Jerusalem, was/is forbidden on the day.  Soon the air raid sirens went off!!   In a coördinated surprise attack, both Egypt and Syria had attacked Israel on its most sacred day (BTW it was also Ramadan!).

The Monson’s headed back to their house, and we headed back to our apartment.  When we arrived at our apartment we found our neighbors cleaning out old mattresses, bicycles, etc., from the bomb shelter.  The husband of one of our friends was stationed in one of the Israeli forts on the east side of the Suez Canal—the ones that the Egyptians overran.  But his fort was the only one not to be overrun!

How much of a surprise was the attack?  A  telegram (pre-internet age) from the head of Mossad, Zvi Zamir, to Prime Minister Golda Meir, warned, in the morning of Yom Kippur, that Egypt would attack that afternoon.

See Ynet for the telegram and English summary and commentary please see the interesting article:

We all know what happened!

Siloam Inscription from Hezekiah’s Tunnel

Because of the clarity of this photo, I thought I would post it again.  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.  Enjoy!

On a trip to Turkey I was able to rephotograph the Siloam Inscription from Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem.  In the past I have found it difficult to photograph because of the glass cover over it and difficult lighting conditions.  This time I think my photograph turned out quite well and by clicking on the image you can actually read many of the letters.

The Siloam Inscription — Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

The Siloam Inscription — Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

This six line Hebrew inscription describes the digging of Hezekiah’s Tunnel that joins the Gihon Spring and the Pool of Siloam in the ancient city of Jerusalem.  It was found carved into the wall of the tunnel.

In was found in 1880 and was chiseled out of its original place and is now on display on the second/third floor of the “Archaeological Museum” in Istanbul.  It’s language, script, and content suggest that it was inscribed in the late eighth century during the reign of the Judean king Hezekiah (715–686 B.C.; see 2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chron 32:20).

For a translation of this text see pages 171-172 in Arnold, Bill T., and Beyer, Bryan E. eds.  Readings from the Ancient Near East: Primary Sources for Old Testament Study.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001.  Click Here  to view for purchase from amazon.com.

Gabi Barkay On the Tombs of Jerusalem

Our friends over at the Jerusalem Perspective have made available (free) a wonderful 50 minute illustrated video of a 2006 lecture by Dr. Gabriel Barkay entitled “Was Jesus Buried in the Garden Tomb?  First–Century Burial In Jerusalem.”

Spoiler alert: In the video, Gabi compares the Garden Tomb to other First Temple Tombs and contrasts the Garden Tomb with First Century Tombs.  It is classic “Gabi.”  Thorough, informative, and captivating—by THE authority on the archaeology and history of Jeruslem.

The entrance to the Garden Tomb.

Gabriel Barkay peering into the burial chamber of one of the Ketef Hinnom Tombs — from the First Temple Period.

One of the burial benches and repository in one of the chambers in the First Temple (Iron Age) Tombs on the grounds of the Ecole Biblique.