Friday, December 28, 2012

Ancient Israelite Temple Discovered

Those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible often fail to realize how long many of the stories it contains survived as oral tradition before being written down. The text of the Torah is believed to have been compiled following the Babylonian Captivity which ended in 538 BCE, but includes many accounts dated much earlier. These include the stories of David and Solomon, regarding which little hard evidence exists. Many experts have argued that at the very least the power and wealth of Israel during this "Golden Age" was exaggerated, as such a prominent nation should have left behind more traces of its influence.

Now a new archaeological discovery made in Israel may help to settle this debate. The site at Tel Motza, west of Jerusalem, was once home to a temple that dates back to what are believed to be the early years of King David's reign.

According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the finds -- which include 2,750-year-old pottery figurines of men and horses -- provide rare evidence of a ritual cult at the beginning of the period of the monarchy.

“The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judea at the time of the First Temple,” excavation directors Anna Eirikh, Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz told The Times of Israel.

The Jerusalem Post noted the rarity of the find, given that "around the time of Hezekiah and Isaiah, Judaism abolished many ritual sites" so the Temple in Jerusalem could concentrate its symbolic power.

This consolidation of power may prove an absolute boon to researchers hoping to unearth details regarding Israelite religious practices that went on centuries before the Captivity. One of the problems with excavations in places such as Jerusalem is that the city is quite small and within it most sites have been built up and torn down multiple times over the course of the last three millennia. In comparison, the Tel Motza site was abandoned and as a result is better preserved. It will be interesting to see if the data that can be gleaned from it matches the Biblical accounts, or if it reflects something entirely different.

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Hypnovatos said...

So... if this is the original site of THE temple, where the site of the temple was VERY important as it housed the well of souls and what not, how would this impact the importance of the second temple and the site of the future temple? If this is truly the site, could they not fullfill their prophecies by building again on this site instead of the one at the temple mound? Would this not be a more holy site than the second one which would have meant the second site was just for show and more grandiose? so taht Herod was more concerned with size and display than actual ritual?

Scott Stenwick said...

My understanding is that the prophecy about rebuilding the temple relates specifically to the temple of Solomon, which would have been built on the temple mount.

It's not clear that this is the first Israelite temple either - it looks to date back to the early reign of King David, and presumably there was some sort of permanent temple erected before then.

That means there should be another site out there that's older still - at least if you believe the Bible account. However, it may have been built over during the last couple of millennia