Tag Archives: Menorah

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

In my previous blog, I noted that both Brandfon and Billington trace the objects taken by the Roman’s from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 to the Nea Church in Jerusalem.

At that point, the story becomes very complex because of the Persian invasion and capture of Jerusalem in A.D. 614.  It is complex partially because the Jews initially assisted the Persians, and may have gained possession of the objects then.  But soon, the Persians sided with the Christian.   And eventually the Byzantine ruler Heraclius captured Jerusalem in 630 and was harsh on the Jewish population.

Both Brandfon and Billington cite a number of Jewish sources from this period.  They concluded that when the Muslims took control of Jerusalem in 638 the trail goes cold!  Billington writes:

I have searched through every Byzantine, medieval Catholic, Crusader, and Arab historical source that I could find, and these sacred Jewish items disappear from historical sources at the time that Omar took Jerusalem in 638 AD. . . .

It appears that the Jews wisely hid their sacred items from Omar and the Muslim Arabs before they [?] surrendered Jerusalem to them. . . .

My best guess—and it is only a guess—is that the 7th Century Jews hid their Golden Temple Menorah and their other sacred Temple items somewhere inside of the Temple Mount . . . But this is only a guess.  (Billington pp. 21–22)

The end?  Well not quite, as my teachers and later colleague Anson Rainey used to tell his students—”let me enrich you with some new uncertainties!”

Steven Fine, who has been scanning the Arch of Titus in Rome, has an article that traces the echos of beliefs that the objects remained in Rome!  Among other sources, Fine draws our attention to a passage found in The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela (12th century):

In the church of St. John in the Lateran there are two copper columns that were in the Temple, the handiwork of King Solomon, peace be upon him.  . . . There also is the cave where Titus the son of Vespasian hid away the Temple vessels which he brought from Jerusalem. (Fine p. 62)

Fine concludes:

 By the end of the 13th century, then, the Lateran [church!] was claiming to have the Temple booty of the Solomonic Temple, taken anachronistically by ‘Titus and Vespasian’ and on display (or in a reliquary).  Though neither Christians nor Jews could actually see the Menorah, its presence was intense” (p. 63).

The Church of Saint John in the Lateran in Rome.


Fine, Steven. “The Temple Menorah—Where is It?” Biblical Archaeology Review 31, no. 4 (July/August, 2005): 18–25, 62–63.

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.

Fine, Steven. “True Colors: Digital Reconstruction Restores Original Brilliance to the Arch of Titus.” Biblical Archaeology Review 43, no. 3 (May/June, 2005): 28–35, 60–61.

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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.

A.D. 70 The Destruction of the Temple — Where did the Temple Treasure Go? Part 2

All visitors to Rome will have visited the Colosseum, Arch of Titus, and the Roman Forum.  But one of the places that visitors, and guides, will normally pass over are the additions to the Roman Forum called The Roman Fora.  “Fora” is plural for the cluster of Forums that  Julius Caesar, Augustus, Vespasian/Domitian, Nerva, and Trajan built  north of the more frequently visited “Roman Forum.”  Normally all of this “pile of ruins” is passed over by guides and visitors except the Column of Trajan that is so conspicuous.

The 125 ft. tall Column of Trajan at the west end of his Forum.

The Temple of Peace was located at the east end of these Fora.  It was constructed by Vespasian after his conquest of Judea and Jerusalem and dedicated in A.D. 75—images below.

View looking west at the southwest portico—where the seven columns are—and the southwest portion of the large “garden” that was west of the Temple of Peace.

In the center of the image are two parallel walls that are joined in the center of the image. This is a part of one of six such low structures. Some believe that these were actually raised gardens and had a small aqueduct flowing on top of them. A partial one is seen to the right of this one.

The Temple of Peace and this Forum were built by Vespasian. It was financed from spoils from the First Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66–70) and was inaugurated in A.D. 75 to commemorate the end of the civil wars that followed the death of Nero. The “Forum” was actually a garden and the Temple of Peace and associated rooms and Porticos housed works of art, a library, and precious objects from the Temple of the Jew in Jerusalem.

Fortunately, in recent years portions of the “Temple of Peace” have been excavated.  But it seems that the key part, the Temple itself, is covered over by the street—the Via dei Fori Imperiali.

Josephus, the Jewish historian  lived in Rome during the time of Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, etc., and probably witnessed the construction and dedication of the Temple of Peace.  He wrote:

War.7.5.7. (158) After these triumphs [a procession through the old Forum—see Arch of Titus] were over, and after the affairs of the Romans were settled on the surest foundation, Vespasian resolved to build a temple to Peace, which he finished in so short a time, and in so glorious a manner, as was beyond all human expectations and opinion: (159) for he having now by Providence a vast quantity of wealth, besides what he had formerly gained in his other exploits, he had this temple adorned with pictures and statues; (160) for in this temple were collected and deposited all such rarities as men aforetime used to wander all over the habitable world to see, when they had a desire to see them one after another: (161) he also laid up therein, as ensigns of his glory, those golden vessels and instruments that were taken out of the Jewish temple. (162) But still he gave orders that they should lay up their Law, and the purple veils of the holy place, in the royal palace itself, and keep them there.

It is interesting to “muse” that Josephus, who claims to have been a priest, probably saw these objects in THE TEMPLE in Jerusalem—before it was destroyed, but also witnessed their being deposited in a pagan temple and in the palace of the Emperor who had slaughtered so many of his people and had destroyed the very Temple of God!

View looking south at the southwest portico—where the seven columns are—and the southwest portion of the large “garden” that was west of the Temple of Peace.

From left to right in the center of the image, there are two parallel walls that are joined in the center of the image. This is a part of one of six such low structures. Some believe that these were actually raised gardens and had a small aqueduct flowing on top of them. A partial one is seen to the right of this one.  The large building in the upper right is the Curia—Roman Senate House.

In A.D. 192 the Temple of Peace burned down!  So what happened to the Menorah, golden vessels and utensils then?

You are invited to check out “Part 3” of this series in the not-to-distant future.

A.D. 70 The Destruction of the Temple — Where Did the Temple Treasure Go? Part 1

The Arch of Titus (Roman Emperor A.D. 79–81) is located in Rome on the east end of the ancient Roman Forum not too far from the Colosseum.  The emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96) built it soon after the death of Titus in A.D. 81.

View looking west at the Arch of Titus from the east. Click on Images to Enlarge and/or Download.

The arch commemorates the victories of Vespasian (A.D. 69–79) and his son Titus—particularly their putting down the Jewish revolt in Judea and the capture of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

It is well to remember that this commemorative arch was built by Domitian, to commemorate a triumphal parade of the previous emperor Vespasian and his son Titus who was the actual conquer of Jerusalem.  On the south inner side of the arch, Roman soldiers carry the booty from the Jerusalem Temple in triumph into Rome—see end of blog for quote from Josephus.

View looking southwest at the relief carved on the southern pier of the Arch of Titus in Rome that depicts the procession of booty taken from Titus’ capture of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

From right to left note the representation of a Triumphal Gate with two chariot groups on top of it (enlarge the image to view details).  To the left of this are two crossed (silver) trumpets taken from the Temple in Jerusalem.  Faintly visible (enlarge image) is a representation of one of the tables that held the “show bread” in the Holy Place of the Temple.

On the left side of the image one of the seven-branched candlesticks (menorah) from the Jerusalem Temple.  This is one of the earliest representations of a menorah in existence!  Also visible are several rectangular placards on poles.  These probably were painted with inscriptions naming either cities or peoples conquered—or identifying the objects that were being displayed in triumph.

One of the seven-branched candlesticks (menorah) from the Jerusalem Temple.  Note the figures on its base!  This is one of the earliest representations of a menorah in existence!

Josephus, who was probably an eye-witness to this Triumphal Procession describes it as follows:

(148) and for the other spoils, they were carried in great plenty. But for those that were taken in the temple of Jerusalem, they made the greatest figure of them all; that is, the golden table, of the weight of many talents; the candlestick also, that was made of gold, though its construction were now changed from that which we made use of: (149) for its middle shaft was fixed upon a basis, and the small branches were produced out of it to a great length, having the likeness of a trident in their position, and had every one a socket made of brass for a lamp at the tops of them. These lamps were in number seven, and represented the dignity of the number seven among the Jews; (150) and the last of all the spoils was carried the Law of the Jews. [= Torah scroll(s)?] (151) After these spoils passed by a great many men, carrying the images of Victory, whose structure was entirely either of ivory or of gold. (152) After which Vespasian [Emperor at the time] marched in the first place, and Titus [son of Vespasian] followed him; Domitian [son of Vespasian] also rode along with them, and made a glorious appearance, and rode on a horse that was worthy of admiration.  (Josephus War 7.148-152 [7.5.4])

Evidently, all this booty, along with other treasures from Judea, were deposited in Vespasian’s “Temple of Peace!”

What is the “Temple of Peace” you ask?  We will take a look at that in my next blog.


Click Here to view additional images of the Arch of Titus.

First Century Synagogue at Magdala — Did Jesus Worship Here?

MagdalaPano

Click on Panorama to view descriptive details.

In 2009, in preparation for the construction of a Franciscan Retreat Center on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, excavations took place before the construction began.  Much to the surprise of the excavators they came down upon a first century A.D. synagogue.

INSGMG03

The Interior of the First Century Synagogue at Magdala at the time of excavation
Note the benches around the side, the frescoed columns, and especially the unique stone box in the center of the image
Click to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

The synagogue measures 33 x 33 ft. and has benches on all four walls.  There is evidence that it was renovated between A.D. 40 and 50.  A coin from A.D. 29 was found among the debris and the synagogue was destroyed in A.D. 67 when Titus (the Roman General, later emperor) leveled the city.

If this dating, and interpretation are correct, it is very probable that Jesus, His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and others worshiped in this structure!!

INSGMG04

The “Stone Box” in-situ
Note the representation of a Seven Branch Menorah (on a tripod) that is flanked by two vases and clusters of columns
Click on Image to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

This solid “stone box” is totally unique.  Who ever carved the menorah probably saw the ones in the Temple in Jerusalem (prior to its destruction in A.D. 70).

For brief comments on Magdala see below
For 12 images of the Stone Box, Frescos,
and Mosaics of the Synagogue Click Here.
Many of these images are courtesy of Gordon Franz who publishes
articles on his website Life and Land

The site of al–Majdal (Arabic for “tower”) is located 4 mi. northwest of Tiberias, along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  This is evidently the site of New Testament Magdala (from migdol “tower”) that is the same as Taricheae (“the place of salted fish”) mentioned by Josephus where a bloody naval battle took place between the Jews and Romans during the first Jewish Revolt (ca. A.D. 66–70; War 3.10.1–10 [462–542]).

It was evidently the home of Mary Magdalene, one of the followers of Jesus who is mentioned 12 times in the NT.  It actually may also be the site of “Magadan: (Matt 15:39) and/or “Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10).

The site was excavated in the 1970’s and more recent (ongoing) excavations have found the remains of an early Jewish Synagogue dated to the first century A.D. as well as ritual baths, streets, houses, and even the wharf.

One of the Best Preserved Ancient Synagogues in Israel

In a past issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review the process of the reconstruction of the synagogue at Umm el–Kanatir was described.  The following are some images of the site.  Additional images of this interesting synagogue can be viewed on my website.  See HERE for a recent Jerusalem Post article on the synagoguge.

Entrance to synagogue at Umm el–Qanatir

Umm el–Q/Kanatir (The Mother of the Arch) is a site located on the upper reaches of the Wadi Samekh, 5 mi. [8.5 km.] east of the Sea of Galilee on the Golan Heights.  It boasts one of the best-preserved ancient synagogues in the land—90% of the remains (collapsed) were still in place after the earthquake of AD 749.  It is in the process of being reconstructed (anastylosis) by Yehoshua Dray and his colleagues.

Menorah — One of Several Found in the Remains of the Synagogue at Umm el–Qanatir

The village—ancient name not known—was constructed in the fourth or fifth century AD and was destroyed by the devastating earthquake of AD 749.

Spring and Flax Processing Installation

In addition to the synagogue, remnants of a flax processing installation have been discovered by the spring in the village.

To view additional high-resolution images of Umm el-Qanatir Click Here.

For additional information about Umm el–Q/Kanatir see Yeshu Dray’s web site and Singer, Suzanne F. “Rising Again — Hi–tech Tools Reconstruct Umm el–Kanatir.”Biblical Archaeological Review vol. 33, no. 6 (November/December, 2007): 52–55, 59.

For the recent article see:  Ben David, Chaim. “Um [sic] el–Kanatir — Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again.” Biblical Archaeological Review 42, no. 4 (July/August 2016): 40–49.

See also the recent Jerusalem Post article.

Jewish Presence in Asia Minor — Andriace Part 2

In a previous post I emphasized the importance of the synagogue that was found at Andriace (a port visited by Paul).  In the remains of the synagogue a number of marble plaques were found.  The excavator believes that the synagogue was located in the upper floor of the building and that the inscriptions/plaques fell from that floor to where they were found (commentary/data from the museum in Antalya).

TWTQAD20

One of the placques found in the Synagogue at Andriace
Note the Menorah, the tripod on which it stands, the “lulav” and the “shophar”
Click on the image to Enlarge/Download

This is one of several inscriptions/plaques that were found in the synagogue.  It measures 2.9 x 1.4 ft. (87 x 44 cm.).  Note in the main panel the seven branch candelabrum (menorah) that is standing upon a tripod (two legs are visible)—these are typical symbols of Judaism during this period (compare the capital found at Capernaum in Israel).  On the lower right is a shofar (ram’s horn) and to the lower left an etrog and a lulav (symbols associated with the feast of Succoth [tabernacles]) are visible.  Some have suggested that the two “curls” just below where the seven branches join the stem of the lamp are Torah Scrolls. The excavators believe they have discovered a mate to this plaque (with a completion of this inscription, but only partly preserved in its upper portion; see Çevik et al. below).

TWTQAD21

Detail of the Inscription (in Greek!)
Note the Menorah to the left of the inscription
(its tripod, shofar [to the right], and the lulav [to its left]
For a translation, see below. Click on the image to Enlarge/Download

Note the second, smaller, menorah (seven branch candelabrum), on a tripod and a shofar (ram’s horn) and a lulav (associated with the feast of Succoth) in this upper portion of the larger plaque.  The excavators believe that a similar, partially preserved, plaque was placed next to this one, and on this mate, this inscription is completed.

The excavators suggest a translation of the combination of both plaques follows:

‘Offering of Makedonios, son of Roman[os], and his [Makedonios’] wife
Prokle and their parents Romanos and Theodote.
(May there be) pea[ce] onto all Israel! Amen! Shalom.’  [Çevik, p. 346]
[Bracket] = estimated missing text and underline portions are from the second plaque/panel (pictured in the article noted below, p. 363).

Nevzat Çevik, Özgü Çomezoglu, Hüseyin Sami Öztürk, and Inci Türkoglu, “A Unique Discovery in Lycia: The Ancient Synagogue at Andriake, Port of Myra.”  Adalya XIII (2010), 335–66.

All images were photographed in the Museum in Antalya
(within their photographic guidelines).

To view additional images of Andriace Click Here.