Somewhere on Jerusalem’s majestic Temple Mount—the largest man-made platform in the ancient world, the size of 24 football fields, nearly 145 acres—Herod the Great (37–4 B.C.) built a new Temple to the Israelite God Yahweh,a doubtless on the very spot where the exiles returning from Babylonia more than 500 years earlier had rebuilt the original Temple, first erected in the tenth century B.C. by King Solomon. But where was that spot?
Efforts to locate it have sought clues from archaeological evidence on the Mount itself and from two famous descriptions of Herod’s Temple—one by the first-century A.D. Jewish historian Josephus and the other in a tractate of the Mishnahb called Middot. All these efforts to locate the site of the Temple have foundered, however, on the seemingly contradictory descriptions of Josephus and Middot and on the paucity of archaeological clues.
But all have focused on elements of the Temple, rather than on the Temple Mount. I would like to try a different approach. I would like to reverse the process—first to locate the Temple Mount in various periods and only then—and at present, only tentatively—to place the Temple on the Temple Mount during each period.