Well, first of all, the Dome is very pretty and it sure will make a nice Church some day.
But secondly, the idea that people are still talking about how a Jewish Temple must one day (soon) stand in the place of the Muslim Dome of the Rock is pure superstition. It is founded upon a tradition—infused with some imagination—and not upon any command or prediction of God’s Word.
With all of the talk and Bible study concerning the Jewish Temple Mount, you would expect the Bible to have much to say about that particular Mount. But most Christians—especially the ones who lecture us most about a coming rebuilt Temple—would certainly be surprised by how little the Bible actually says about that location, let alone any future physical building upon it. Most of what is assured to us today—and what is the subject of geopolitical tension and theological fighting—is founded upon little more than assumptions.
We are told in 2 Chronicles 3:1 that Solomon built the Temple on Mount Moriah and that this was the location of Ornan’s threshingfloor which David purchased. Today archeological evidence places the site of the Second Temple (Herod’s Temple, the one which stood when Jesus walked the earth) where the golden-domed Mosque now stands. But surprisingly, there is no archaeological proof that the first Temple, Solomon’s Temple, stood on that same location, although there is no evidence of it being anywhere else, either. But this is not the main point of the story.
Before we go further, we should remember that there are actually a series of mountains associated with the city of Jerusalem: Mounts Moriah, Zion, Olives, and a few others that have little or no biblical significance of which we can tell. Mt. Zion is the highest peak, and stands almost half a mile west of the Temple Mount itself, which is Mt. Moriah. Between the two is a considerable valley. Even farther east of the Temple Mount, across an even deeper valley, rises the Mount of Olives which is also higher than Mt. Moriah. From this peak, Jesus and His disciples looked westward upon the Temple, and Jesus declared its pending destruction (Matt. 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). A picture from the Mount of Olives today reveals the Mosque to the west where the Temple once was, and the clearly much higher ridge of Mt. Zion farther in the western background. Here’s a simple cross-section on Wikipedia illustrating the relationship in size and location of Mt. Zion (left) and the Temple Mount, Moriah.
The Biblical Data
On what grounds was the Temple ever built on Mt. Moriah to begin with?
For the location of the Temple, the Bible tells us Solomon chose Mt. Moriah, “where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (2 Chron 3:1 ESV). “Appointed” is more properly “prepared,” as the KJV and NASB have it. David not only appointed this place, but actively established, made ready, or set up the site. And why did David establish this as a site for a “permanent” Temple? Did he have a command from God to do so?
Not really. The story of David and Ornan is told a few chapters earlier in 1 Chronicles 21. God had sent a plague upon the people of Israel as punishment for David numbering the people (1 Chron. 21:1–14). Via the Angel of the Lord, the plague killed 70,000 men. When the Angel reached Jerusalem, God stopped short of destroying the city, and the Angel was stopped at the point of Ornan’s threshingfloor.
Then God sent the prophet Gad to instruct David to go to Ornan’s threshingfloor and set up an altar in that place. This would have been a simple altar of uncut stones and without steps, according to God’s law (Ex. 20:24–26). David obeyed. The altar was eventually set up, David offered sacrifices and prayers to God, and God answered by fire from heaven upon the altar. All said and done, the Angel of the Lord was commanded to sheathe his sword, officially ending the plague upon Israel.
It is important to note all that was required of David, and the purpose for it. David was only required by God to build an altar, not even necessarily to sacrifice on it. And the purpose of the altar was clearly in response to the presence of God’s wrath via the Angel of the Lord and the temporary instance of the plague. There is no indication anywhere that God intended this to be a permanent location, and there certainly is no requirement, commandment, or statute that it should be so.
Ornan, however, was actually willing to donate the whole property to the King for this purpose. David insisted on paying for it. The transaction went down. Therefore, the property legally belonged to David. Since God never indicated any need to dedicate the property to the Lord or a Temple or Priesthood, then we can only assume that for the rest of David’s life, the property legally belonged to the King.
Consequently, it was purely David’s decision—not God’s command—that the Temple be built at the site of Ornan’s (Araunah in 2 Sam. 24) threshingfloor.
But David himself was not allowed to build a house for God; God forbid him to do so because he had been a man of bloodshed and war (1 Chron. 22:8). Rather, David’s future son would build the house, and “his name shall be Solomon” (1 Chron. 22:9). He would be a man of rest.
As a side note, we could easily assume that God referred to David’s then immediate son Solomon. But remember, when that Solomon was born, it was David who named him Solomon; God sent the prophet Nathan to give the child a different God-given name, Jedidiah (2 Sam. 12:24–25). God did not see David’s “Solomon” as Solomon, but Jedidiah. Moreover, David’s words to Solomon indicate that the son who would build the Temple and bring peace was yet to be born: “Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest” (1 Chron. 22:9). Obviously, as David spoke, his Solomon was already born, alive and listening to his father speak. We are left to conclude that the ultimate Solomon—“peaceable and perfect”—which God promised David was Jesus. In the mean time, Solomon would provide a type of that yet-to-come True Solomon.
When Solomon later built a house to the Lord, he followed through with what his father had already established and prepared (2 Chron. 3:1). Like his father, Solomon had no explicit direction or command from God where to put the Temple, but only directions to build it and how. In addition to having bought the real estate and established it as the site, David also prepared raw materials, construction supplies, organized labor, and secured government clearances, support, and aid for the construction project he put before his son (1 Chron. 22:2–5, 14–19).
The whole project, from conception to completion, was David’s design. The only exception was the pattern for the Temple and its instruments: these God supplied to David (1 Chron. 28:11–19). But of the location of the Temple, God commanded nothing. It was David’s decision.
David decided this location not because he had a command from God or directions from the prophet, but because he was afraid of the Angel of the Lord that had been stationed at Ornan’s threshingfloor. Even though God had accepted David’s sacrifices, the Angel of the Lord had sheathed His sword, and the plague and threat were ended, David nevertheless was afraid.
Meanwhile, the actual priesthood, the tabernacle, and the ark of the covenant were all fifteen miles away in Gibeon (1 Chron. 21:29; 16:37–43). But, “David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord” (1 Chron. 21:30). Yet in the very next verse (22:1), we find David declaring of Ornan’s threshingfloor, “Here shall be the house of the Lord God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”
So not only did David not have a command from God where to build, but he never even asked God. Afraid to leave the place he was at, he just declared it, unilaterally, the site of God’s House.
Thus the location of Solomon’s Temple was the result of David’s momentary weakness and self-interested convenience.
[This essay and many more like it are available in the author’s book Jesus v. Jerusalem: Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel.]
Zion or Moriah?
Many people have argued that the site on Mt. Moriah is significant for the Temple because it is the same spot where Abraham bound Isaac as a sacrifice, and where God provided the substitute. Thus David’s altar was upon the same spot as Abraham’s altar, and thus the Temple belongs there. The proof of this is supposed to be in Genesis 22:2, where God tells Abraham, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Notice, however, that God here does not designate “Mount Moriah” as it is designated in 2 Chronicles 3:1. Here it only says the “land of Moriah,” which is a general area. Remember that this area, assuming it is the Jerusalem area, has several mountains. In this general area, God promises to reveal to Abraham “one of the mountains” on which to sacrifice. In the rest of the story in Genesis 22, we are never told exactly which one of the mountains God chose. Anyone arguing that it must be Mount Moriah is trying to get away with an argument from silence—a pure assumption unwarranted by the Scripture.
But there is good reason for this silence. God does not want any particular geographic location to become an idol for His people. He wants us to be free from all idolatry, including inordinate attachments to the rituals and rudiments he once commanded. At other times, God has “hidden” certain things in order to prevent idolatry. He would not allow the whereabouts of Moses’ body to be known after his death (Deut. 34:5–6). Similarly, He allowed the ark of the covenant to be lost (contemporary claims notwithstanding), as the Jews had allowed the mere presence of it along with the Temple rituals to become idolatry. Even after the Solomonic Temple was destroyed and the Second Temple rebuilt, the ark was never restored. Thus the writer of Hebrews could not speak of its existence (Heb. 9:5). Likewise, nowhere does Scripture specifically prescribe the location of the alleged Temple Mount. The word “Moriah” only appears in Scripture in two places (Gen. 22:2 and 2 Chron. 3:1), and “Mount Moriah” only the one time, and this was David’s choice, not God’s.
Scripture does say where God has chosen to dwell forever, and it is, in fact, in Jerusalem. Psalm 132:13–14 says it plainly: “For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: this is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” But this does not require a Jewish Temple to be rebuilt at all, let alone on Mt. Moriah. Even if we presumed to interpret this literally (and we should not), and presumed that God’s “dwelling place” indicates a literal Temple, then we should more properly desire a Temple upon the higher peak of Mt. Zion rather than Moriah; for the text says, “the Lord has chosen Zion.” Now, many times, especially in the Psalms, Scripture uses “Zion” to designate the entire city of Jerusalem. But this would rather expand the available real estate rather than narrow it to the so-called Temple Mount: we should then be open to place such a rebuilt Temple anywhere in Jerusalem.
I will summarize all I have said to this point: Scripture nowhere designates the so-called Temple Mount as a necessary place for a Jewish Temple. It never did, God never said it, God never required it, and He does not require it now or anytime in the future.
In fact, the new Temple is not literal to begin with. God has chosen Zion, and Hebrews 12 makes quite clear that those who believe in Christ has joined the body of the faithful and “have come [past tense; “arrived at already”] to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22).
A Re-Built Temple?
But many Christians today, swayed by the old dispensational school of theology, believe strongly that the exact location of the Temple Mount, Mt. Moriah, must be the location of a future Jewish Temple. And, of course, the problem is that large golden-domed Al Sakhra Mosque (and actually a second mosque as well, the Al Aqsa, sits within the southern wall of the Temple Mount) sits on that location. Supporters of a rebuilt Temple, therefore, wish for the day that Mosque will be removed. For example, one dispensationalist woman in the video Waiting for Armageddon is so committed to the claims of that system that she punctuates her tour of the Temple Mount with the exclamation: “There’s no place for that Mosque. It has to be removed.” In the same production, tour guide and dispensational scholar H. Wayne House imposes his belief in a rebuilt Temple via Photoshop: he displays a picture of the tour group with Temple Mount in the background, but he has digitally cut out the Dome-of-the-Rock, and spliced in a rendering of the Jewish Temple. Voila! A digitally-answered prayer for a future re-built Jewish Temple on Mt. Moriah.
This prayer bears two parts: 1) that a future Temple must be built, and 2) that it must be built exactly where the Dome sits now.
The first claim often makes reference to Revelation 11:1–2. There John is told to “measure the temple of God.” Dispensationalists assume that this must refer to a Temple that will be built in the future. One reason for this is due to their belief that Revelation was not written until AD 90, when no Jewish Temple was left standing. But this assumption rests on highly fragile footing, surprising considering that so many people are ready to stake an international holocaust on it. But the work of Kenneth Gentry and others on the dating of Revelation has left this “late date” view severely crippled. His book Before Jerusalem Fell has established for decades now that Revelation was much more likely written before AD 70. David Chilton’s Days of Vengeance shows why such a dating allows the book to make much more sense: it pertained to localized events of that time and place. And with an “early date” of AD 66 or 68 or so, it makes sense for John to be told to “measure the temple,” because the Jerusalem Temple was still standing.
Nevertheless, even if we granted that Revelation 11 speaks of a future Temple, it says absolutely nothing about where that Temple must be located. Silence. Anyone who assumes it must be Mt. Moriah, in the place of the Dome-of-the-Rock, is adding to Scripture.
Why Not Start Tomorrow?
So we are absent any—and I mean any—Scripture mandate about where a Temple should have been, or should be located. This is no big deal to me, of course, since I do not expect a rebuilt Temple anyway—certainly not one of any prophetic significance. But it should be quite freeing to a Zionist or a dispensationalist. For these people now no longer have to worry about replacing the Dome-of-the-Rock (perhaps, for my service in providing this illumination, they may desire to send a donation to American Vision). Since the whole complex of mountains called “Zion” is at their disposal, they could biblically and prophetically start building a Temple tomorrow, or even today.
Israel has control over all of Mt. Zion except the Mosque-domed Temple Mount. But Israel doesn’t need this, biblically speaking. So, I have a proposition: every Zionist, Orthodox Jew, Dispensationalist, and Premillennialist who believes there must be a rebuilt Temple ought immediately to start a foundation and a movement to build a Temple anywhere in Jerusalem that Israel already controls. This will hasten the last days and the coming of Jesus Himself!
Of course, failure to do this will be a tacit admission that all of these parties are more interested in bashing Muslims than advancing their own religion. Thus, their motivation to capture the Temple Mount when they don’t really need it will be revealed as pure envy.
Such a motivation may be masked by arguments about the special significance of the actual rock beneath that Dome—being the rock on which Abraham meant to sacrifice Isaac, or David stood, etc.—but we have already seen how none of these arguments has merit. To insist on these positions is to declare oneself in the service of the traditions of men, or ancient superstitions. Ironically, to do this puts the Christian or Jew on no better grounds than the Muslims who occupy that rock now, clinging to the superstition that Mohammed ascended to heaven from than spot.
Why trade one superstition for another? Especially with the risk of bloodshed and war, which cost David the privilege of building a Temple to begin with?
There is no biblical reason that any Temple should ever stand (or ever should have stood) upon Mt. Moriah. If anything, it should be upon Mt. Zion, taken either as the particular peak named Zion—a half-mile West of Mt. Moriah—or as anywhere in the general area of Jerusalem. To insist on anything more specific is to trade the dictates of Scripture for superstition.
I say let the Dome-of-the-Rock stand. In fact, I will go so far as to say that it would be non-Christian and unbiblical to call for its replacement by a Jewish Temple. Rather, in due time, Christ reigning from his current throne will spread the Gospel and subdue all His enemies—even the Muslim and Jewish enemies. He will bring them into the Church—His body—the only True Temple and Dwelling Place of God. Even Zion has been “spiritualized,” if you will—revealed to be fulfilled in the person of the Ascended Christ: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb. 12:22–24). (Was the writer of Hebrews really guilty of “spiritualizing” the text?!Hint: yes, he was. And we must deal with it.)
What is Zion but the Spirit-Indwelt people of God? What is the Temple except these same Indwelt people of God? To trade this truth for any stack of concrete blocks on any hill is to trample the Son of God underfoot, slap God in the face, and blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
Someday, even Muslims and Jews will be converted and understand this truth. Some dispensationalists may see it, too. When that day comes, that beautiful golden-domed Mosque may just make a very pretty church.
Before then, I would hate to see it spoiled with the worthless blood of bulls and goats, and the idolatrous incantations of would-be Sadducees (Heb. 9).
[This essay and many more like it are available in the author’s commentary on Luke 9:51-20:26, Jesus v. Jerusalem: Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel.]