Topography Of Jerusalem -- By: Joseph P. Thompson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 015:58 (Apr 1858)
Article: Topography Of Jerusalem
Author: Joseph P. Thompson


Topography Of Jerusalem1

Joseph P. Thompson

When Josephus wrote the fifth book of his Jewish War, he intended to give so accurate a description of the site and the structure of Jerusalem, that one familiar with the city should be able to reconstruct it in imagination; and, that the stranger should also be able to construct it upon a map, and to trace the siege of Titus, from wall to wall and tower to tower, as a spectator might have done from the summit of the mount of Olives, But in sketching the battle-ground of the Roman general, the Jewish historian only projected a battle-ground for future topographers; and squadrons of Rabbinists, traditionists, archæologists, geographers, explorers, engineers, and draughtsmen, sciolists and scholars, English, German, American, have deployed about the city, from Hippicus to Antonia, assaulting chiefly the second wall of their antagonists, and waging the fiercest conflict over the Tyropœon valley. Within the last twenty years, especially, the topography of Jerusalem has become a subject not only of renewed investigation, but of elaborate and even acrimonious controversy. Travellers, by no means versed in archaeology, and with no previous thought of historical investigations, are incited by the view of unquestionable remains of the Jewish and the Roman periods of the city, to put forth descriptions and theories of its ancient structure with all the assurance and profundity of antiquarian research; and thus the public mind is perplexed and divided according to the seeming competence and authority of the witnesses. Others have visited the city with partisan theo-

ries as to its principal points of historic interest, only to confirm themselves in preconceived opinions. Geographers have attempted, in the quiet of the study, to reconstruct upon paper the city as described by Josephus, and to harmonize with his detailed account the briefer allusions of other ancient writers, and the conflicting representations of travellers; but in so doing they have only provided new materials for controversy. Indeed, as Isaac Taylor has said — in making what at first view appears to be so simple a thing as a Plan of Ancient Jerusalem, one must “take position upon a battle-field; and he must prepare himself to defend, by all available means, every inch of that position; he must, in fact, make himself a party in an eager controversy, which has enlisted, and which continues to enlist, feelings and prepossessions of no ordinary depth and intensity.” 2

This diversity and controversy are owing, in part, to occasional obscurities and discrepancies in Josephus himself; to the im...

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