Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Mount of Olives in YEHOVAH God's Plan
For some strange reason the Christian Church of the first few centuries after the Messiah held a location on the Mount of Olives in special regard. Christians visiting Jerusalem always gravitated to this site. Also, when the Jewish authorities of the early Islamic period returned to Jerusalem, they went directly to the Mount of Olives. What was it that drew these diverse peoples to this spot? What about the strange tradition of Adam's skull being associated with this mountain to the east of Jerusalem?
by John D. Keyser
A study of the Bible will quickly reveal that the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is a key site in both the Old and New Testaments. From the time of our first ancestor Adam, the summit of this mount to the east of the old city was ordained as a place of worship of the Most High God YEHOVAH. While the Israelites themselves desecrated this holy place with idols of false gods down through their history, YEHOVAH never forgot His promise of a Messiah. And, as we shall see, the Mount of Olives is the FOCAL POINT in the fulfillment of YEHOVAH’s redemptive plan for all humankind.
The First Sacrificial Altar
According to The Torah Anthology, translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Adam constructed the first sacrificial altar to YEHOVAH God. Following this, the same altar was successively rebuilt by Abel, Noah and Abraham (ibid., Vol. 1, pp. 287, 375; Vol 2, p. 332). In the passages in Genesis (4:4; 8:20; 22:9) that deal with this subject, the Hebrew word, banah, has been translated “built” in most of the English versions of the Bible. However, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (#1129) indicates that this word may also be translated as “rebuilt” or “restored” -- which, in fact, more accurately describes what really took place.
Now WHERE was this sacrificial altar located, asks Peter Michas -- and WHY was it so important to YEHOVAH that it be maintained as the site of sin sacrifice? It’s only when we understand the significance of this altar in regard to YEHOVAH’s Master Plan that we can hope to answer these questions. This understanding will also help lead us to an even DEEPER knowledge and appreciation for the extraordinary precision and beauty of YEHOVAH’s redemptive plan for each and every one of us (The Rod of an Almond Tree in God's Master Plan, p. 80).
The majority of Jewish scholars believe that this particular altar was situated on Mount Moriah from the time of Adam down to Abraham. However, it is quite apparent that TWO SEPARATE ALTARS existed and must be clearly differentiated. One altar is mentioned in Genesis 12:
And he [Abram] moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there HE BUILT AN ALTAR to the LORD [YEHOVAH] and called on the name of YEHOVAH (verse 8).
In order to accurately determine the location of these two altars, we must first locate the “Bethel” mentioned in this passage. Complicating the issue is the fact that the name “Bethel” was attached to two separate sites mentioned in the Bible. The later Bethel -- 12 miles north of Jerusalem -- was the site of a rival sanctuary established at time of the divided kingdom -- see I Kings 12:27-29. However, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols, by Ellen Frankel and Betty Teutsch, shows that the original Bethel should be identified with Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.
Mount Moriah is profoundly significant in YEHOVAH’s plan. Here, YEHOVAH God’s Shekinah Glory fellowshipped with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Here, too, the Temple was built that housed YEHOVAH’s Shekinah Glory in the Holy of Holies. Without a doubt, Mount Moriah is of primary importance in YEHOVAH’s prophetic work.
And, as we shall see, the Mount of Olives is equally important. From the scripture just mentioned, it can be seen that Abram built an altar EAST OF MOUNT MORIAH (Bethel). The mountain opposite Moriah is the Mount of Olives -- and it was here that Adam built an altar of sin sacrifice. This line of reasoning is consistent with the fact that the Mount of Olives became the permanent site for the burning of all sin sacrifices and the spot where the most holy sin sacrifice of all, the RED HEIFER, was offered up. And here, too, the Messiah will be a king and priest to his Father YEHOVAH God during the Millennial Kingdom!
It also fits the pattern of the Garden of Eden in that the Tree of Life was on Mount Moriah and Adam was expelled EAST of the garden. Therefore, the sacrificial altar must have been constructed on the Mount of Olives. The Torah Anthology confirms that the altar of sin sacrifice was located in Jerusalem opposite the “Throne of Glory” (Vol. 2, p. 332). The “Throne of Glory,” of course, refers to the Holy of Holies in the Temple where YEHOVAH’s Shekinah Glory resided. Since the Temple entrance was located on its EASTERN SIDE, “opposite the Holy of Holies,” this clearly indicates the Mount of Olives. Mark 13:3 also shows this -- “Now as He [the Messiah] sat on the Mount of Olives OPPOSITE THE TEMPLE....”
The Two Altar Sites
In I Chronicles and II Samuel we find evidence to support the idea that there was two separate and distinct -- yet closely associated -- altars. Notice I Chronicles 21, where David is instructed by “the angel of YEHOVAH” to build an altar to YEHOVAH on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite –
Then the angel of YEHOVAH commanded Gad to say to David that David should go and erect an ALTAR to YEHOVAH on the THRESHING FLOOR OF ORNAN THE JEBUSITE....(Verse 18)
Then David said to Ornan, “Grant me the place of this threshing floor, that I may build an ALTAR on it to YEHOVAH. You shall grant it to me at the full price, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people....(Verse 22)
So David gave ORNAN six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the place (Verse 25).
And David built there an ALTAR to YEHOVAH, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on YEHOVAH; and He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burnt offering.
This threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, purchased by David for 600 shekels of gold became the site for the Tabernacle; and eventually David’s son, Solomon, would replace the portable Tabernacle with the more permanent Temple on Mount Moriah -- see II Chronicles 3:1. Writes Peter A. Michas: “It is highly significant that gold was used to purchase this particular site because gold represents deity in the Bible. Indeed, the Divine Presence, as manifested by the Shekinah (Glory Cloud), dwelled in the Holy of Holies on top of Mount Moriah” (The Rod of an Almond Tree in God’s Master Plan, p.82).
However, as we will see, this was not the ONLY site that David was instructed to purchase for the express purpose of erecting an altar to YEHOVAH. According to II Samuel 24:
And Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, erect an altar to YEHOVAH on THE THRESHING FLOOR OF ARAUNAH the Jebusite” (Verse 18).
Then Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” And David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to YEHOVAH, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people” (Verse 21).
Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to YEHOVAH my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen FOR FIFTY SHEKELS OF SILVER (Verse 24).
And David BUILT THERE AN ALTAR to YEHOVAH, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So YEHOVAH heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel (Verse 25).
It is clearly evident from these verses that the threshing floor of ARAUNAH (purchased for 50 shekels of silver) is separate and distinct from the threshing floor of ORNAN, purchased for 600 shekels of gold. The threshing floor of Araunah was located on the Mount of Olives; and the altar built by David was built on the same site where Abraham had offered his son Isaac.
This threshing floor on the Mount of Olives also became the site of the RED HEIFER SACRIFICE and the place where all sin sacrifices were burnt. Once again, there is a symbolic meaning to be found in the purchase price -- with regard to the Tabernacle, silver symbolized redemption. This was to become the site of the future redemption of all mankind in the sacrifice of the Messiah.
The Covenant with Abraham
It is evident that Abraham returned to this altar on the Mount of Olives at the time YEHOVAH God made a covenant with him in Genesis 15. Notes Peter Michas: “This covenant (promise) was sealed by the blood sacrifice of animals and was symbolic of the greater covenant to come -- the covenant sealed by the blood sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah that is available to all who put their trust in him. In making His covenant with Abraham, God [YEHOVAH] revealed significant details of His redemptive plan for humankind, including the PLACE where the ultimate sacrifice would take place” (The Rod of an Almond Tree in God’s Master Plan, p. 83).
YEHOVAH God promised Abram that he would have a multitude of descendants and renamed him “Abraham” (”father of multitudes”) to reflect this promise. To his elderly parents, Isaac was born in fulfillment of that promise. Years later, when Isaac was a young man, YEHOVAH called upon Abraham to return with Isaac to the place where He had made a covenant with Abraham. We read about this in Genesis 22:
And he [YEHOVAH] said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to THE LAND OF MORIAH, and offer him [Isaac] there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Most scholars assume that Mount Moriah was the location YEHOVAH chose for this sacrifice. However, a close scrutiny of the passage above reveals that YEHOVAH instructed Abraham to go to the “land of Moriah” and that once there YEHOVAH would direct him to the appropriate mountain for the burnt sacrifice. YEHOVAH God first directed Abraham to the land of Moriah and then specifically guided him to the summit of the mountain to the east of Jerusalem that would later be known as the Mount of Olives.
In Genesis 22:4 we read that Abraham “saw the place from a distance” after a journey of three days. He and Isaac left behind the two young men who had accompanied them to this point and took the wood, fire and knife for the sacrifice. As they were walking to the sacrifice spot --
...Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
And Abraham said, “My son, YEHOVAH will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” And the two of them went together.
We see that Abraham showed total trust in YEHOVAH God. YEHOVAH had done the seemingly impossible and fulfilled His promise of a son when Abraham was 100 years old. YEHOVAH had also promised that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. It is clearly evident that Abraham trusted YEHOVAH to fulfill this promise as well -- not necessarily knowing how. Perhaps he thought that YEHOVAH would resurrect Isaac -- or perhaps he trusted YEHOVAH to make another provision in this special circumstance.
At this time, according to The Torah Anthology, Isaac was no longer a child as is often depicted by theologians, but rather a young man in his thirties. Therefore, it is clear that he voluntarily allowed his father Abraham to bind him for the sacrifice. Isaac must have trusted YEHOVAH as much as Abraham. This scenario, in YEHOVAH’s plan, foreshadowed the willing sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah in accordance with his Father’s will. It seems that even his approximate age was indicated.
Just at the time Abraham was about to plunge the knife into Isaac’s chest, the angel of YEHOVAH called to him from heaven –
“Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am” (Verse 11).
And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear YEHOVAH, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Verse 12).
The Place of Worship
The first mention of the Mount of Olives by name in the Bible appears in the Old Testament where David escapes from Jerusalem when his son Absalom attempts to seize the throne. David had to flee the city for his life. The account in II Samuel 15:23 states that he “passed over” the brook Kidron during his escape. Then, after crossing the Kidron Valley, David climbed the Mount of Olives.
It is interesting to realize that the only way David could “pass over” the Kidron Valley was by way of an arched stone bridge which connected the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives. The Mishna, in Parah 3:6, mentions this bridge. A thousand years later the Messiah, the descendant of David, would also walk this same route “over” the Kidron Valley on a single bridge that was part of the Temple complex built by Herod. This arched stone bridge -- and the later one -- provided the only ritually clean path by which the priests could take sin offerings from the Tabernacle or Temple to the summit of the Mount of Olives -- the site of the sin sacrifice altar. According to Peter Michas, “the stone arch-over arch design of the bridge ensued that the priests were protected from ritual uncleanness, such as the remains of dead bodies [below].”
After crossing the Kidron bridge, David followed this pathway which ascended the Mount of Olives “to the summit where YEHOVAH was worshiped.” In II Samuel 15:32 the Hebrew words ha rosh translate in most Bibles as “the summit.” However, these words can also be translated as “the head” or “the skull” -- for a very good reason! Notice that the verses in question call this site “the Place of THE Head [or THE Skull] -- not “the Place of A Head [or A Skull] -- or heads or skulls plural! It is very definitely referring to a particular head or skull. While many people have conjectured, over the centuries, that this phrase indicates a geographical feature that looks like a skull or the top of a skull, the fact remains that it refers to a LITERAL and PARTICULAR skull!
We find in the book The Cross in Tradition, History, and Art, by William Wood Seymour, that “it was an early tradition that Christ was crucified IN THE SAME PLACE WHERE ADAM WAS BURIED. S. Chrysostom alludes to it: ‘Some say that Adam died there, and there lieth, and that Jesus, in that place where death had reigned, there also set up the trophy’” (p. 99).
Tentzelius’ “Numial Treatise,” quoted in Southey’s Omniana (Vol. I, p. 281) records this amazing episode in ancient history: “The tree [of life], with the bones of Adam, was preserved in the ark by Noah, who divided the relics among his sons. The SKULL fell to the share of SHEM [Noah’s son], who buried it in a MOUNT OF JUDEA called from this circumstance CALVARY and GOLGOTHA [the Place of the Skull].” The Aramaic word Golgotha, found in Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; Luke 23:33 and John 19:17 literally means the “Place of THE Skull.” Note the similarity of its meaning to that of the Hebrew ha rosh, “the skull.” In Latin the name is CALVARY.
In early art Adam is frequently shown as rising up (from the grave) at the very foot of the cross, holding a chalice or cup to catch the blood of the Messiah as it fell from the tortured body. Many paintings or drawings of the crucifixion scene show Adam’s SKULL beneath the stauros or cross of the Messiah.
This belief that Adam’s skull was buried at Golgotha on the Mount of Olives was common in the early church. Origen speaks of it as a well known fact in his time; and St. Augustine wrote: “The ancients hold that because Adam was the first man, and was buried there [at Golgotha], it was called Calvary, because it holds the HEAD of the human race” (De Civitate Dei, cap. 32).
St. Basil said, “probably Noah was not ignorant of the sepulchre of our forefather [Adam] and that of the first born of all mortals, and in that place, CALVARY, the Lord suffered, the origin of death there being destroyed” (Isa. Cap. 5).
Clearly, the phrase “the skull” refers to the literal skull of Adam. In fact, Golgotha is named from Adam’s skull, is the summit of the Mount of Olives, the site of the Red Heifer altar, “the place where God was worshiped”! Even Hebrew translations of the New Testament use the words ha rosh to refer directly to the crucifixion site.
The Place “Outside the Camp”
In the Old Testament there are many references to a location called “outside the camp.” This is where sin sacrifices took place: “But the flesh of the bull...you shall burn with fire OUTSIDE THE CAMP; it is a sin offering” (Exodus 29:14). Then, in Leviticus:
Then he shall carry the bull OUTSIDE THE CAMP, and burn it as he burned the first bull. It is a sin offering for the assembly (4:21).
The bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place [Temple], shall be carried OUTSIDE THE CAMP. And they shall burn in the fire their skins, their flesh, and their offal (16:27).
Here we see that the place “OUTSIDE THE CAMP”points to a specific location ordained by YEHOVAH God. During the years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, “outside the camp” was located directly EAST of the entrance to the Tabernacle -- at a distance of 2,000 cubits (see the Mishna, Tractate Parah). It was here that all the sin sacrifices were burned -- including those animals sacrificed inside the Tabernacle. And, note this, it was also the place where the Red Heifer was sacrificed and burned, its ashes then used in purification rites.
Writes Peter Michas –
Once the Israelites settled in Jerusalem, the Temple was built as a permanent sanctuary to replace the portable Tabernacle. The place called “outside the camp” retained the same specific designation in reference to the location of the sanctuary -- 2000 cubits east of the Temple. Marking the distance (3000 feet, a little over one-half mile), one comes to the summit of the Mount of Olives, at the site of the Red Heifer altar (The Rod of an Almond Tree in God’s Master Plan, p. 90).
Not only that, but the location “outside the camp” was closely associated with a location referred to as “a clean place” –
Then he shall take off his garments, put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to A CLEAN PLACE (Leviticus 6:11).
Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store them outside the camp in A CLEAN PLACE; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin (Numbers 19:9).
Both of these passages refer to the area of the altar on the Mount of Olives. Now, in the New Testament, there are also references to this location on the Mount of Olives:
For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned OUTSIDE THE CAMP (Hebrews 13:11).
Therefore, let us go forth to Him [the Messiah], OUTSIDE THE CAMP, bearing His reproach (Hebrews 13:13).
These New Testament verses make it clear that the place where sin sacrifices were burned was exactly the same during the time of the Messiah as it was during Old Testament times. Also, verse 13 makes a direct reference to the place where the Messiah himself suffered -- the summit of the Mount of Olives. When we read the entire passage in Hebrews (from verse 11 to 13) this fact is clearly underscored –
For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp (Verse 11).
Therefore Jesus ALSO, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the [eastern] gate (Verse 12).
Therefore, let us go forth to Him [the Messiah], outside the camp, bearing His reproach (Verse 13).
In these verses Paul is referring to a particular place -- well known to all Jews at the time -- as “outside the camp.” Additional proof that the Mount of Olives is indicated here can also be found in the descriptive phrase “outside the gate” in verse 12. It, of course, refers to the EASTERN GATE of the Temple Mount which was directly EAST of the Temple entrance and opposite the Mount of Olives. Clearly, then, the crucifixion of the Messiah took place on the summit of the Mount of Olives -- close to the altar used to burn all sin sacrifices!
When YEHOVAH God Became Angry
When Moses became angry with the Israelites over the Golden Calf incident, he took his own tent (to which the people had come to receive instructions from Moses) and moved it “outside the camp” in order to remove himself from the rebellious camp of Israel -- see Exodus 33:7. Unfortunately, this verse in the King James Version says that Moses took “the tabernacle and pitched it without the camp,” when in fact this was NOT the later Tabernacle called the “Tent of Appointment” -- which was only set up in the first month of the second year of the Exodus (Exodus 40). This particular “Tent of Appointment” -- or sometimes translated as “Tabernacle of the Congregation” or the “Tent of Meeting” -- was simply Moses’ own headquarters tent which he temporarily set up “outside the camp” of Israel when he and YEHOVAH God became angry with the conduct of the Israelites. Later, Moses moved this tent (his own tent) back into the camp after he came down from Mount Sinai with the Law the second time. Moses then had the new Tabernacle built which became known as “God’s House,” and he made it the new “Tent of Meeting” on the first day of Nisan (the first month) in the second year of the Exodus.
Now there is something we should understand regarding the place for the temporary “Tent of Appointment” -- Moses set it up “outside the camp.” Even though the King James Version of the Bible shows that it was set up “afar off” from the camp, all Jewish commentators know that it was positioned just 2,000 cubits from the central part of the camp.
When all of Israel observed Moses approaching the entrance to this temporary “Tent of Appointment” located “outside the camp,” they also saw the Shekinah Glory of YEHOVAH God -- like a pillar of fire at night and a bright cloud in the day -- hover over that entrance to this “Tent of Appointment” (Exodus 33:9-10). Now realize this important point: When YEHOVAH God got angry with Israel this first time, He had Moses, Joshua and the “Tent of Appointment” leave the camp of Israel and place themselves on the EAST side of the camp in full view of all the Israelites who remained in the camp. In fact, before the official “Tent of Appointment” (which later became the Tabernacle -- called the Temple or House of YEHOVAH God) was set up, YEHOVAH God already set up the “Temple” or “House of God” EAST of Israel and “outside the camp.” This was the first sign to the Israelites that when YEHOVAH God became angry with them, He would withdraw from the camp and position His headquarters “outside the camp” on its EAST side.
When YEHOVAH became angry in the time of Ezekiel, He had His Shekinah Glory withdraw from the Temple and the camp of Israel and position itself just “outside the camp” on the Mount of Olives -- see Ezekiel 11:22-23. And then, when YEHOVAH became angry with Israel in 66 A.D., He also had His Shekinah Glory retreat to the summit of the Mount of Olives just to the east of Jerusalem and just “outside the camp,” in order to show his displeasure at what the Israelites were doing at the time. This was witnesses by one Rabbi Jonathan, as recorded in Midrash Rabba Lamentations (Soncino Edition, p.51), and also recorded by the first Christian historian Eusebius in his Proof of the Gospel (VI, xviii.288).
Notes Ernest Martin –
The symbolism in these matters is unmistakable. When God is angry with Israel for their ways, he pulls up stakes and leaves their camp. But he does not go too far away. He sets up his abode (as God did in the time of Moses, in the time of Ezekiel, and in the year of A.D.66) just to the east of the camp of Israel, but in full view of Israelites still within the camp. This means that the only area surrounding the camp of Israel to which God would retreat as having any semblance of holiness (in his periods of anger with them) was just to the east of the camp of Israel. And in the time of Ezekiel and that of the apostles, that meant near the summit of the Mount of Olives, and in full view of the camp of Israel to the west. God moved out of the camp on three different occasions: in the time of Moses, in the time of Ezekiel, and in the year A.D.66 (An A.S.K. Research Update #2, p. 3).
YEHOVAH God abandoned Israel three times and set up His tent (His House) just “outside the camp” east of Israel’s encampment. In these historical illustrations, YEHOVAH is surely pointing out the importance of this very strategic eastern region just “outside the camp.”
Significantly, this is the exact location where Yeshua the Messiah was crucified for all Israel and the world. This, therefore, is one of the main reasons why Eusebius mentioned, in his book Proof of the Gospel, that early Christians considered this region, at the summit of the Mount of Olives, as the new Temple (or House of YEHOVAH God) once the Temple on Mount Moriah was destroyed as predicted by the Messiah and the prophets. The Jewish authorities have tried, on three different occasions, to rebuild the Temple on Mount Moriah -- in the times of the emperors Hadrian, Constantine and Julian. And, on all three occasions, they have been thwarted from doing so. As long as YEHOVAH God is angry with Israel for their evil ways, the only place He will position Himself in the Jerusalem area is just to the EAST of the camp of Israel (but still “outside the camp”) as He did in the time of Moses, Ezekiel and in 66 A.D. And -- even more important than that -- it is a fact that Isaiah and Ezekiel show that Zion will be moved from Mount Moriah to the highest mountain in the Jerusalem area (Mount of Olives) when Yeshua the Messiah builds a new House of YEHOVAH God, upon his return, to house YEHOVAH God’s returning Shekinah Glory! It is time that Jews, as well as Christians, begin to realize these important Biblical and historical points. The simple truth is that the only place that YEHOVAH God now holds as having any semblance of holiness in the Jerusalem area (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter) is THE WESTERN SUMMIT OF THE MOUNT OF OLIVES -- WHERE YESHUA THE MESSIAH WAS CRUCIFIED FOR THE SINS OF ISRAEL AND FOR ALL HUMAN-KIND!
In the Presence of YEHOVAH God
The place where the Jews executed criminals (blasphemers -- which Yeshua was judged to be by the Sanhedrin) was also “outside the camp.” Notice –
Take OUTSIDE THE CAMP him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him (Leviticus 24:14).
Then YEHOVAH said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones OUTSIDE THE CAMP” (Numbers 15:35).
Now since, in Jewish Law, a person accused of the sin of blasphemy had to be tried, convicted, and killed in the presence of YEHOVAH God, the only appropriate execution place was the summit of the Mount of Olives. Since YEHOVAH’s presence (Shekinah Glory) resided in the Holy of Holies of the Temple, the condemned man had a clear, unobstructed view of the ONLY entrance to the Temple on its EASTERN side. Therefore, the Messiah died on the Mount of Olives facing the Temple and “in the presence of YEHOVAH.”
There is no doubt that Yeshua was led, like the Red Heifer (Israel’s holiest sin sacrifice), from the Temple through the Eastern gate, across the Kidron bridge and up the ascent of the Mount of Olives to the summit. Writes Peter Michas –
This was the only path from the Temple to the summit that afforded ritual purity necessary for an acceptable sacrifice. And, just as the Red Heifer’s face was turned toward the entrance of the Temple as it was sacrificed, so too Yeshua died -- the ultimate holy sacrifice -- His face turned toward the Temple! (The Rod of an Almond Tree in God’s Master Plan, p. 92).
There is other evidence from the New Testament to show that the death of the Messiah occurred on the Mount of Olives. It is recorded that at the exact moment of the Messiah’s death the huge veil of the Temple was torn in two from TOP to bottom. Matthew writes that this event was witnessed by the Roman centurion (and others) -- who were so convicted by it that they exclaimed that the Messiah was the “Son of God [YEHOVAH].” Since this veil was attached to the front of the Temple, the only place the witnesses could see it from was the Mount of Olives -- the only place in Jerusalem that afforded the crucial vantage point required to see this event.
The Garden Site
The New Testament identifies the place of crucifixion as a garden -- see John 19:
Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid (Verse 41).
So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jew’s Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby (Verse 42).
The Greek word translated “garden” in verse 41 does not refer to a garden in our Western sense. Rather, it describes a “tree orchard.” During the time of Yeshua the Messiah -- and up to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. -- olive tree orchards covered a large area of the Mount of Olives. This included the place called Gethsemane, where an olive press was located. Therefore, as we have seen, the Mount of Olives fits the actual New Testament description of the place where the Messiah was both put to death and buried.
The “Footstool of YEHOVAH”
The Jewish authorities came to believe that the area on the Mount of Olives where YEHOVAH’s Shekinah Glory moved just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., was “the footstool of YEHOVAH God” because it stated in Zechariah 14 that YEHOVAH God would certainly stand on the Mount of Olives. A rock outcropping was even shown on the summit area that was supposed to represent this “footstool of YEHOVAH.” The Jews came to believe that this was “the footstool of YEHOVAH” mentioned in Isaiah 60:13 and 66:1. Notice –
The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the pine, and the box tree together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary; and I will make the place of My feet glorious.
Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?
Then, in Acts 7:49, we read:
“Heaven is My throne,” says Adonai, “and the earth is My footstool. What kind of house could you build for Me? What kind of place could you devise for My rest?”
This indicates that the Mount of Olives was the spot where YEHOVAH God would teach His people His laws and His ways. But it meant more than that -- it also meant YEHOVAH God’s “Temple.” Writes Ernest L. Martin –
The symbol of the “footstool” for God’s feet meant nothing less than this spot was where God figuratively dwelt on earth and where God’s people were to gather to worship him. In other words, the phrase “footstool” represented God’s holy residence on earth (his Tabernacle and later his Temple). It meant the official place to worship God (An ASK Research Update #3, p. 6).
Notice what Psalm 132:7 says: “We will go into his tabernacle [the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies]: we will worship at his footstool.”
Then, in Psalm 99:5: “Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.”
Also, Lamentations 2:1: “How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool [His Temple] in the day of his anger.” It was called “the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious” (Isaiah 60:13).
As we can see, these passages from the Bible clearly indicate that “the footstool of God” was considered to be the holiest place on earth, and the place where people were officially required to worship YEHOVAH God. Therefore, it is no accident that the Jewish authorities of the early Islamic period returned to Jerusalem and went DIRECTLY TO THE MOUNT OF OLIVES. They consistently called that mount “God’s footstool.” They seemed to understand that YEHOVAH God had abandoned the Temple mount as the place of His “footstool” and was now choosing the Mount of Olives as the proper “footstool of God.”
This was the place where YEHOVAH’s people could gather around “his feet” to worship Him and to learn His ways. This is why Zechariah 14:4 said that YEHOVAH God would one day stand on the Mount of Olives at the end of the age (Olivet represented His “footstool.”) This is more than likely the reason why the Jewish authorities placed the second site of the Sanhedrin at Bethphage on the Mount of Olives during the time of the Second Temple. They came to this area to worship at YEHOVAH God’s “feet.” In Acts 22:3 the apostle Paul gave a symbolic teaching of learning when he stated that he was trained at Gamaliel’s feet.
Notes Ernest L. Martin –
The Christian community at Jerusalem after the destruction of the city and Temple in A.D. 70, also came to see this region on the Mount of Olives as being the official “footstool” of God (until God would restore Shiloh to that position in the Millennium). In fact, it can now be shown that Christians established their top headquarters after A.D. 70 (and in one way of looking at it, until the time of Constantine) at this spot on the Mount of Olives (ibid., page 7).
In fact, the Christian authorities became so influential in this area on the Mount of Olives that the Jewish authorities felt it better to move their Sanhedrin away from the “Christian” region of Jerusalem after 70 A.D. They relocated to Jabneh (Jamnia) on the coast of Palestine and remained there until 135 A.D. From there they moved into other regions of Galilee until 429 A.D. when the Romans disbanded the Sanhedrin. It was only later, with the arrival of Islam, that the Jewish authorities raised up another Sanhedrin (which they eventually called the “Great Sanhedrin”) -- and they did this by returning to the summit of the Mount of Olives (the place of “God’s footstool”) so that they could be in close association with YEHOVAH God. (See the Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. XII, pp. 481-485).
The Christian authorities continued to be powerful on the Mount of Olives until Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on the western side of Jerusalem. Both Christians and Jews, after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., saw the significance of the Mount of Olives in YEHOVAH’s eyes. They recognized the symbolic holiness of the area -- not only because (as Christians saw it) the Messiah was crucified in that area, but also because Ezekiel saw, with his own eyes, the Shekinah Glory leave the Temple on the other side of the Kidron Valley and ascend directly to the top of the Mount of Olives. This is just as Isaiah and Micah said it would happen at a future date. (Read Ezekiel 11:22-23, Isaiah 2:1-4 and 40:9, and Micah 4:1-2).
The early Jerusalem church clearly knew that the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy meant that Zion would be transferred to the top of the Mount of Olives -- to the place of “God’s footstool.” This was exactly where Yeshua the Messiah was crucified, and near where he was buried and resurrected. This, of course, was brought to pass when YEHOVAH’s Shekinah Glory left the Temple in the period of the Jewish/Roman War which saw the Temple Herod built destroyed and reduced to rubble (Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel, Book One, Chapter 4, Section 8, 9 [d]).
Church records reveal that the early church knew that the Mount of Olives was the site of Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection. Eusebius (264-340 A.D.) corroborated historical records, penned some 100 years before his time, that made this claim. And, in his commentary on Isaiah, Eusebius makes the statement that the new Zion -- which he called the Mount of Olives -- was the place where Yeshua the Messiah was crucified and resurrected -- see Holy City, Holy Places by P.W.L. Walker, pages 301-305.
In fact, the Mount of Olives was the only place the early Church considered to be holy. The summit of the mount (its highest point) became known as Inbomon. This word was clearly derived from the Greek en bommo -- meaning “high place” or “altar.” The crucifixion site is located very close to this place on the Mount of Olives.
The Early Christians saw great significance in the fact that the Messiah was crucified, buried and resurrected from the dead near the summit of the Mount of Olives. They also saw clear indications of these facts in the prophecies of Isaiah, Micah and Ezekiel, and gave clear and concise statements (showing YEHOVAH God’s signs) that the Mount of Olives was to become a new Mount Zion for the world.
Before the time of Emperor Constantine, Christian pilgrims from all over the known world congregated by a cave-crypt near the site of the crucifixion. They recognized this crypt as the tomb where the Messiah was buried and resurrected. Because of its significance to the early Christians, the Eleona Church was erected on top of this cave-crypt some 300 years after the Messiah’s death.
Then, following its destruction by the Neo-Persians (614 A.D.), a chapel was rebuilt during the Middle Ages. Also, according to tradition, this site marks the spot where the Messiah taught his disciples the so-called “Lord’s Prayer.” In commemoration, a church was built in 1868 and named Pater Noster -- Latin for “Our Father.”
All the evidence we have seen supports the Mount of Olives as the actual site of the Messiah’s crucifixion and resurrection. However, Catholic and Protestant traditions point to other sites -- the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Gordon’s Tomb respectively. Let us, then, undertake a comparative analysis of the Biblical, historical and archaeological evidence to assess the veracity of these competing claims for the true site of the Messiah’s death and resurrection.
For the purpose of this exercise, we should be aware that the sites of the crucifixion and burial are in close proximity to each other -- based upon the Biblical record (John 19:41).
1/. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
In 326 A.D., the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was “picked” by the Roman Emperor Constantine “the Great” as the place where Yeshua the Messiah was crucified. This selection was based on visions and dreams the emperor had experienced.
The location of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is west of the Temple area -- facing the BACK of the Temple building as it was in the Messiah’s time. Not only that, but a wall was located between this area and the Temple at the time of the Messiah’s death. If the crucifixion had taken place at this particular spot, it would have been IMPOSSIBLE for the centurion, and others, to have seen the veil at the Temple’s entrance tear -- as described in Matthew 27:51-54.
For the very same reason, the Messiah would not have been “in the presence” of YEHOVAH God as his sentence was carried out. In other words, he would not have been facing the entrance to the Temple, in line with the Holy of Holies where YEHOVAH’s Shekinah Glory resided.
Another big problem with this particular site is the fact that it lies well within the 2,000-cubit distance from the Temple area. Remember, the crucifixion occurred OUTSIDE the 2,000-cubit perimeter at the place called “outside the camp” -- a SPECIFIC site just outside the city on the Mount of Olives. Also, we should realize that no new tombs or gardens were allowed inside the 2,000-cubit area, referred to as “within the camp” at the time of the Messiah.
2/. Gordon’s Tomb.
To be different, the Protestants have their particular site for the crucifixion -- called Gordon’s Tomb! This area was proposed in 1883 by the British General Gordon of Khartoum fame, and based upon the strange idea that by superimposing an imaginary skeleton on the city of Jerusalem, the place where the skull fell indicated the crucifixion site!! So, with this flawed reasoning, Gordon selected a hill in the area with eye-like openings, asserting that this fit the meaning of “place of the skull.” It is interesting to note that these eye-like features in the hill area are the result of erosion that has taken place since the death of the Messiah, and simply DID NOT exist 2,000 years go!
Just like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Gordon’s Tomb does not satisfy the basic scriptural requirement of providing a vantage point of the Temple so that observers could see the huge veil tear from top to bottom. This is because Gordon’s Tomb is located NORTH of the Temple -- away from the eastern entrance where the veil hung.
Be this as it may, the final blow to the authenticity of this site came in the pages of the Biblical Archaeology Review magazine. An article in this magazine points out the fact that Gordon’s Tomb is located among others that were hewn during the First Temple period -- some 800 to 900 years before the Messiah. Yet John’s Gospel clearly states that Yeshua’s body was placed in a “new tomb in which no one had yet been laid” -- see John 19:41.
First Temple tombs or burial chambers can easily be differentiated from Second Temple period burial chambers based upon the basic layout of the chambers and distinctive architectural features -- including the type of chisel marks. In addition to this, certain archaeological artifacts closely associated with the original tombs are clearly from the First Temple period. Furthermore, “not a single tomb from Second Temple times has been found in this area” (Barkay, The Garden Tomb: Was Jesus Buried Here?, p. 51). Finally, this area was located within the city limits during the time of the Second Temple, where, according to legal restrictions, no cemeteries were allowed.
The following table (taken from The Rod of an Almond Tree in God's Master Plan by Peter A. Michas) provides a comparative summary of the three sites -- clearly demonstrating that the Mount of Olives is the ONLY SITE which satisfies all Biblical, historical and archaeological criteria:
Comparison Chart of Three Sites
| BASIS &
|Basis of site selection
||Constantine's visions and dreams
||Gordon's imaginary skeleton
||Biblical, historical and archaeological data
|Fits "ha rosh"
||No, skull-like appearance due to much later erosion
||Yes, "skull" meaning Adam's skull that was buried
on the Mount of Olives by Shem
|Could veil be seen?
|In "the presence of YEHOVAH God"?
|Near the place called "outside the camp"?
|In a "garden" (tree orchard)?
||Gardens not allowed within city limits at the time
||Gardens not allowed within city limits at the time
|New tombs nearby?
||Yes (only location where new tombs were allowed at
|Possible to witness opening of tombs?
||Yes (tombs nearby and clearly visible)
|Satisfies all sacrificial requirements?
One of the major keys for understanding the geography of the city of Jerusalem is realizing just where Yeshua the Messiah was crucified, buried and resurrected from the dead. The place where that occurred was the spot where Abraham built his altar for Israel -- the Mount of Olives. Once this is clearly understood, a whole new way of looking at prophetic and doctrinal geography presents itself. Whole sections of the Bible that were previously difficult to understand (and which many so-called ministers of YEHOVAH God simply allegorized because of the obscurities of the language) now begin to make perfect sense. Prophetic statements that have been hidden from our understanding for so long, now become crystal clear in meaning. The glory that was given to Yeshua -- our Elder Brother -- takes on new meaning and a role that is infinitely more grand and important than what most people have formerly come to believe. Sections of the Bible that used to make little sense, now take on deeper meanings within a theme or framework of complete simplicity.
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