Tuesday, November 17, 2015

No, not wailing at the wrong wall

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Wailing at the wrong wall? (Popular Archaeology).
For hundreds of years, the long-accepted traditional location of the temple of Solomon and the later Second Temple expanded upon by Herod the Great in Jerusalem has placed them within the precinct that now contains the famous Haram al-Sharif (Dome of the Rock), otherwise known as the “Noble Sanctuary”. It has been a sacred space for three major world religions for centuries.

In recent years, however, some scholars have challenged the traditional view. Not without controversy, they have revolved their arguments around what they consider to be a misreading or dismissal of the literature by Josephus and others regarding the size and location of Fortress Antonia, the Roman enclave in 1st century Roman-occupied central Jerusalem that represented the might of Rome in the otherwise troublesome (for the Romans) province of Judaea.

This opening makes it sound as though there is an interesting controversy over the locations of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem. There isn't. The article refers to some notions by Dr. Ernest L. Martin and "researcher and author" Marilyn Sams, neither of whom is (was, in the case of the late Dr. Martin) a trained specialist in the archaeology of ancient Israel. Dr. Martin's PhD was in education from Ambassador College. Ms. Sams's degrees are in English. Their notions about the Temples are not presented at scholarly conferences or debated in peer-review journals. They are not on the radar for specialist discussion of the archaeology of ancient Jerusalem.

This, of course, does not necessarily prove they are wrong, but it does indicate that no specialist has found their ideas interesting enough to bring them into the discussion, which is not a good sign. And quite a few years ago Dr. Leen Ritmeyer, who is familiar to regular readers of PaleoJudaica (recently here and here) and who is a specialist in the archaeology of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, replied to Dr. Martin's ideas. See here, where his essay from 2001 is reproduced. And see also his blog post here.

If Ms. Sams or anyone else wants to argue that the Temples did not stand on the Temple Mount, she needs to produce arguments of a standard to be published in the peer-review scholarly literature. Scholars are always excited by new theories that are based in credible new understandings of the evidence. That is how any field advances. But the peer-review hurdle must be passed for new ideas to be taken seriously.

I am disappointed in Popular Archaeology. It has published some good popular articles and I have linked to it from time to time, but it needs to improve its filters for what counts as a scholarly theory. Caveat lector.

Related posts in which the location of the Temples also figures are here and links.

UPDATE (18 November): Leen Ritmeyer comments here.