Josephus and the Temple Mount

Josephus states that the square Solomonic Temple Mount was four stades in circumference in Antiquities of the Jews. However, he also says six stades, including Fortress Antonia, in his earlier work, Wars of the Jews. A stade in Early Roman Palestine measured roughly 185 meters. Now, it is well known that the original, square Temple Mount was 500 Egyptian cubit-and-hands breadths, or 861.25 feet (262.51 meters), in both length and width beginning with the reign of Hezekiah and possibly even before. These borders were the same as the outer borders of the Court of Gentiles. According to Josephus in Wars, Herod doubled the size of the Temple courts. The present Temple Mount, however, measures 1540 meters, or just over 8 stades! How do we reconcile Josephus and archaeological fact? The closest we can get is assuming Josephus, knowing the sides of the square Temple Mount were roughly a stade in length, and that Herod roughly doubled the size of the Hasmonean Temple Mount, and knowing increasing the four stade circumference of a square to six stades would just over double the area of the square, attributed the area remaining to Fortress Antonia. Perhaps the six-stade estimate was corroborated by a rounded-up 1110 meter (six stade) estimate of the 1050 meter circumference of the Square Temple Mount which Josephus mistakenly ascribed to the Herodian Temple Mount.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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