Coins Reveal New History for Temple Mount

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JERUSALEM -- A new archaeological discovery in Jerusalem indicates an ancient king known as "The Builder" did not construct the historic Western Wall of the Temple Mount.

One of the greatest projects credited to King Herod was the expansion of the Temple Mount. With a circumference of about a mile, it's the largest edifice ever built in the land of Israel.

The Western Wall, where Jewish people and others pray, is a part of the outer retaining wall of the ancient temple.

For nearly 2,000 years, it was believed that Herod built those walls. But now archaeologists say new evidence shows he never saw them.

"Before the wall was built, there were domestic houses here. Each was taken off by Herod's workers. What they did not or could not take away -- those parts which were cut in bedrock, like cisterns, basements, mikvaot, which are ritual Jewish ritual baths," explained Ronny Reich, an archaeologist with the University of Haifa.

Workers filled one of those baths with debris before building the Western Wall's first layer.

Under that layer, archaeologists found ancient coins that provided key evidence.

"If Herod passed away in the year 4 B.C., the coins are 15/16 Common Era. It means they were minted 20 years after his death, which means that the first layer of stones of the Western Wall at this particular point could not have been earlier," Reich told CBN News.

Reich has been digging around Jerusalem for more than 40 years.

"We know today [the wall] took several generations to complete," he said. "Not only during Herod's days, but probably in the forties or fifties of the first century Common Era," he explained.

That means the expanded Temple Mount stood for about only 20 years before the Romans destroyed the temple.

This discovery came during work by the Israel Antiquities Authority on a 2,000-year-old drainage canal.

Earlier this year, excavations of that canal yielded a gold bell believed to have fallen from the high priest's garment.

The gospel of John backs up the idea that it took a long time to build the temple. Speaking of His body as the temple, Jesus says if it's destroyed He could rebuild it in three days.

"Then His disciples say how come this edifice that was built for 46 years and you can do it in three days. I don't know if it took 46 years. But 46 years matches perfectly with the long duration that we are now speaking of," Reich said.

According to Reich, the most exciting thing about the discovery is adding information about the history of Jerusalem.

"If I add something new, what we didn't know, then I'm happy," he said.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Reporter

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