What is…
Herod's Temple

also known as: The Herodian Temple and The Third Temple


The First temple of Jerusalem was built by King Solomon at the request of his father King David. However, because the Israelites soon turned from Jehovah to idolatry and many other sins, God used a foreign enemy to destroy it and lead the people into captivity (a judgment of God). After years of remorse, a Second Temple was erected by sorrowful returning exiles from Babylon. That stood for about 500 years. By the time when Herod the Great became king of Judea, the old temple coplex had suffered considerably from natural decay as well as from the assaults of hostile armies.

King Herod the Great, desiring to gain the favor of the Jews, proposed to rebuild it. This offer was accepted, and the work was begun (B.C. 18), and carried out at great labor and expense, and on a scale of surpassing splendor.

Streaming video— 
Animation of The Third Temple-Herod’s Crowning Glory
Video by Israel’s Megalim Institute
Length: 15 minutes


The main part of the building was completed in 10 years, but the erection of the outer courts and the embellishment of the whole continued on during the entire period of Jesus' life on Earth (John 2:16, 19-21), and the temple was only truly completed by 65 AD.


However, God did not permit this temple to exist for long. Within 40 years after our Lord's crucifixion, His prediction of its overthrow was accomplished (Luke 19:41-44). The Roman legions took the city of Jerusalem by storm, and notwithstanding the strenuous efforts Titus made to preserve the temple, his soldiers set fire to it in several places, and it was utterly destroyed in A.D. 70) and was never rebuilt.


Various remains of Herod's stately ruined temple have been brought to light by archaeologists.

It had two courts, one intended for the Israelites only, and the other, a large outer court, called “the court of the Gentiles,” intended for the use of strangers of all nations.

These two courts were separated by a low wall, as Josephus states, some 4½ feet high, with thirteen openings. Along the top of this dividing wall, at regular intervals, were placed pillars bearing in Greek an inscription to the effect that no stranger was, on the pain of death, to pass from the court of the Gentiles into that of the Jews.

At the entrance to a graveyard at the northwestern angle of the Haram wall, a stone was discovered by M. Ganneau in 1871, built into the wall, bearing the following inscription in Greek capitals: “No stranger is to enter within the partition wall and enclosure around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will be responsible to himself for his death, which will ensue.”

There can be no doubt that this stone was one of those originally placed on the boundary wall which separated the Jews from the Gentiles, of which Josephus speaks.

It is of importance to notice that the word rendered “sanctuary” in the inscription was used in a specific sense of the inner court, the court of the Israelites, and is the word rendered “temple” in John 2:15 and Acts 21:28, 29.

When Paul speaks of the middle wall of partition (Ephesians 2:14), he is probably alluding to this dividing wall. Within this partition wall stood the temple proper, consisting of:

  1. the court of the women, 8 feet higher than the outer court
  2. 10 feet higher than this court was the court of Israel
  3. the court of the priests, again 3 feet higher
  4. the temple floor, 8 feet above that

Thus, in all, 29 feet above the level of the outer court.

Islamic takeover

The summit of Mount Moriah, on which the temple stood, is now occupied by the Haram esh-Sherif, i.e., “the sacred enclosure.”

This enclosure is about 1,500 feet from north to south, with a breadth of about 1,000 feet, covering in all a space of about 35 acres. About the center of the enclosure is a raised platform, 16 feet above the surrounding space, and paved with large stone slabs, on which stands the Islamic mosque called Kubbet es-Sahkra i.e., the “Dome of the Rock,” or the Mosque of Omar.

This mosque apparently covers part of the site of Solomon's temple. It is well known that in the center of the dome there is a bare, projecting rock, the highest part of Moriah, measuring 60 feet by 40, standing 6 feet above the floor of the mosque, called the sahkra, i.e., “rock.”

Some believe that over this rock the altar of burnt-offerings stood.

The exact position on this “sacred enclosure” which the temple occupied has not been yet definitely ascertained. Some believe that Herod's temple covered the site of Solomon's temple and palace, and in addition enclosed a square of 300 feet at the southwestern angle. The temple courts thus are supposed to have occupied the southern portion of the “enclosure,” forming in all a square of more than 900 feet.

It is argued by others that Herod's temple occupied a square of 600 feet at the southwest of the “enclosure.”

Location of the temple

Based on various evidences, the EXACT location of Herod’s temple is the subject of some debate. However, the general location is well established. We are well aware of claims to the contrary, that the temple was not on the mount but in the City of David and have followed relevant publications and videos on this for a number of year. We do not find these claims credible. Based on all the evidence we have seen, we still believe the temple was on the Temple Mount.

Gary Byers of Associates for Biblical Research, a Christian Answers Team Member, reviewed book The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by Leen Ritmeyer (Jerusalem: Carta). He says, “There is no one alive today, Christian, Moslem or Jew, who has seen, measured, drawn and photographed more of the Temple Mount than Leen Ritmeyer.” Read review

To help you understand some of the evidence, we found this recent YouTube video which explains a number of the historical and archaeological issues involved.

Streaming video of interest— 
“Where was the Temple”
Video by Israel MyChannel (in no way related to or endorsed by Christian Answers)
Length: 24 minutes

The Western Wall’s “Wilson’s Arch” construction date confirmed

Wilson’s Arch is the modern name of part of “a giant bridge that enabled Jews to flock to the Temple in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.”

The 13-meter arch supported a 100-meter bridge or causeway that carried both a street and an aqueduct. The bridge allowed access to a gate that was level with the surface of the Temple Mount. It is the first in a row of arches that supported the bridge connecting the Temple Mount with the Upper City on the opposite Western Hill. The Arch springs from the Western Wall and is still visible underneath later buildings set against the Wall.

The name Wilson's Arch is also used to refer to the hall that it partially covers, which is currently used as a synagogue. This hall opens towards the Western Wall Plaza at the Plaza's northeast corner, so that it appears on the left of the prayer section of the Western Wall to visitors facing the Wall.

Based on “radiocarbon dating of tiny samples [40 samples] of short-lived organic materials, mainly seeds, twigs and blades of grass” found in the mortar of the arch in 2015-2019, “experts conclude that the structure was initiated by Herod the Great and completed, or at least majorly refurbished, under Roman governors, possibly even the infamous Pontius Pilate, the official best known for sentencing Jesus to death.”1

Associates for Biblical Research notes dating of the arch:

Throughout the years, various dates had been proposed for the construction of Wilson’s Arch, named after the 19th century geographer Charles Wilson who surveyed Jerusalem. Some thought it was constructed in the early Roman era (before AD 70), others believed it was built in the mid-Roman period (1st or 2nd century) and still others held to the theory that it was constructed in the early Islamic period, 600 years later.

Researchers were able to settle this dispute by a carbon-date of charred seeds in the mortar between the stones that was once a part of the original structure, not added later. The results showed that Wilson’s Arch was constructed during the early Roman period under King Herod, and was originally 7.5 meters wide. The bridge was expanded several decades later becoming 15 meters wide.

An interdisciplinary team from the Weizmann Institute and the Israel Antiquities Authority has used “microarchaeology,” collecting and carbon-dating minuscule samples taken from ancient mortar to identify when Wilson’s Arch at the Temple Mount was constructed. Their study was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE in an article entitled, “Radiocarbon dating and microarchaeology untangle the history of Jerusalem's Temple Mount: A view from Wilson's Arch.”

The new methodology and technology associated with “microarchaeology” has the potential of dating monumental structures throughout the ancient world. —Bryan Windle, Associates for Biblical Research, a Christian Answers Team Member (2020)

The Temple that Jesus knew

Streaming video— 
“Herod’s Temple: The Temple Jesus Knew”
A Christian documentary / Director: Tom Dallis / Featuring: Dean Shipley, Nicholas Veatch and others
Video by Vision Video
Length: 30 minutes
  1. Ariel David, “Mystery Solved: Who Really Built Ancient Bridge to Jerusalem Temple,” Haaretz (June 5, 2020)

More information

Article Version: July 15, 2021