First Century Temple Stairs Uncovered -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 01:3 (Summer 1972)
Article: First Century Temple Stairs Uncovered
Author: Anonymous

First Century Temple Stairs Uncovered

The temple that stood in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, the so called “Third Temple” or “Herod’s Temple”, was built by the Roman ruler Herod the Great. Work on the temple started in 20 B.C. and reached its final completion in A.D. 64, just six years before the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem.

The Temple of Jerusalem in Jesus’ Day

Professor Binjamin Mazar of the Hebrew University has been conducting excavations in the vicinity of the Temple Mount since 1968. (The Temple Mount is the large built-up platform on which the temple rested.) One of the more significant finds in 1971 was that of a flight of stairs leading up to one of the two Hulda Gates in the southern wall of the Temple Mount enclosure. Professor Mazar dated the stairs to the first century. The location of the Hulda Gates is marked today by the Double and Triple Gates, both of which are sealed.

Neither the stairs nor the Hulda Gates, are specifically mentioned in the New Testament. Since these stairs were used by pilgrims going up to the Temple, however, it is possible that Jesus and His Disciples used them. The only parts of the Temple mentioned specifically in the New Testament are the Beautiful Gate and Solomon’s Porch (Acts 3:2, 10, 11; 5:12; John 10:23).

Beneath the Double Gates the archaeologists found a tunnel cut through the rock underlying the Temple Mount. It is believed that the priests gained entrance to the Temple through this tunnel, rather than using the Hulda Gates. The tunnel, uncovered to a length of 22 feet, is high enough for a man to stand in and is two feet wide. It has soot-blackened niches on either side where oil lamps once burned.

Fresco and stucco fragments have been found below the gates. The fragments are part of the decorative reliefs that once adorned the gates and the upper part of the basilica that stood at the southern end of the Temple Mount. Coins and pottery of the Herodian period were also found in the area.

It is interesting to note that none of the beautiful fresco carvings found depict animal or human figures. Floral and geometrical patterns are the only motifs used. The Jews were very careful not to transgress the second commandment prohibiting the making of images (Exodus 20:4). The frescos exhibit a high quality of workmanship and the stones in the stairs a...

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