- - Friday, July 25, 2014

As conflict rages in Gaza, and anti-Semitic riots erupt in European cities, something is happening deep within Jerusalem that could change the course of history.

Israel’s holy city is dominated by the 36-acre Temple Mount, on which sits the Dome of the Rock, or Mosque of Omar, which has occupied the spot since around 692 A.D., following the Muslim conquest in 638 A.D. The building is atop a massive foundation built more than 2,000 years ago.

It has been believed since the Crusades about 1,000 years ago that the Temple Mount was the site of Solomon’s Temple, which the Babylonians destroyed in 586 B.C., some lesser temples and finally, Herod's Temple, which the Roman general Titus destroyed in 70 A.D.

Part of the Temple Mount structure constitutes the Wailing Wall, which Jews believe is the sole remaining section of Herod's Temple and which is the holiest site in Judaism.

The problem: The Bible itself in several places clearly says that both temples were erected in the City of David or Zion, which is a far smaller, 12-acre area now being excavated about 600 feet south of the Temple Mount in the City of David Jerusalem Walls National Park.

The implications are enormous, as explained in a new book, “Temple,” by Robert Cornuke of the Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration Institute, based in Colorado Springs. Mr. Cornuke, who some describe as the “Christian Indiana Jones,” is an FBI-trained investigator and former SWAT team member who has spent years searching for prominent places in the Bible.

Following strictly biblical references, he earlier found striking evidence for an alternative Mount Sinai, such as an inexplicably burned up mountaintop and 12 stone altars at the mountain’s base. That account is in his book “The Search for the Real Mt. Sinai.”

His current offering has far greater potential to shake up prophetic Holy Land debates.

Last summer, Mr. Cornuke accompanied Eli Shukron, director of excavations at the City of David, through recently discovered passages buried for centuries. Mr. Cornuke, who is also a novelist, draws a suspenseful, nonfiction narrative as he takes the reader down ancient pathways.

His case for the City of David temple site, at least to this non-archaeologist journalist, is quite compelling. Located there is the Gihon Spring, where Solomon was crowned king of Israel and which is the only natural water source big enough to wash away massive blood flows from temple animal sacrifices.

There is no such water source up on the Temple Mount, Mr. Cornuke notes.

There is also Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which was discovered in 1880 by some adventurous boys. Second Chronicles 32:30 says, “This same [King] Hezekiah also stopped the water outlet of Upper Gihon, and brought the water by tunnel to the west side of the City of David.”

If several Jewish historians are correct that priests ritually washed in the Gihon Spring before entering the Temple, “why would they then walk almost a quarter mile to the traditional Temple Mount area?” Mr. Cornuke asks, adding, “That discovery in 1880 almost single-handedly blasted to pieces the false understanding of Zion’s placement on the upper city hill area.”

The City of David, Mr. Cornuke explains, is the site of Ornan the Jebusite’s threshing floor, which David purchased after defeating the Jebusites and occupying the city. In 2 Chronicles 3:1, it says, “Now Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” There is not space for the many fascinating details, but here’s one more: The massive structure on the Temple Mount over which the Dome of the Rock was built has the hallmarks of a Roman fortress, not a Jewish temple. In Herod's time, an entire Roman legion was housed in Jerusalem, which meant fortifying a base for 6,000 soldiers and 4,000 support personnel.

It makes no sense that the Romans would build a small fortress beneath a Jewish edifice on the Temple Mount when they could seize the summit. Mr. Cornuke concludes that the Wailing Wall was part of a Roman fortress, not Herod's Temple. Despite the explosive nature of this claim, Mr. Cornuke told me that no scholar in Israel has yet taken issue with the facts that he has presented.

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