1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” –Matthew 24:1-2 (ESV)
Many upon hearing these words assume that the prophecy is with respect to the buildings of the temple itself. The charge then becomes what about the western wall, the guardhouse, and many other structures and walls left standing on the temple mount? Christians will often defend this by saying the walls or guardhouses don’t count. As ironic as this statement is, new evidence suggests it is a response to a strawman.
And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” –Mark 13:1-2 (ESV)
When we analyze Jesus’ prophecy we see that special reference is made to the stones of the building using special language; this language is found to be a scriptural reference. An educated Jew of the 1st century would understand these references immediately; “Look Jesus, Look at the grand majesty of the Sanhedrin as Government; Is this not the structure that God built?” however we in the modern day would not understand them upon hearing. Let us examine the scriptures to unravel the mystery of the Prophecy of the Destruction of the Temple, how Christians got it wrong, how Jesus’s prophecy failed, and what this means for Christians and Jews everywhere.
(Note on “God-built”:
- Deu 17: “9 And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. 10 Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the Lord will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you. 11 According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left. 12 The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again.“
- Zechariah 8: “16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; 17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”“
- Isaiah 9: “Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.“
- Haggai 2:11 ““Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law:”
- Psalm 122:5 “There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.
- Malachi 2:7 “For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.”
- Deu 21:5 “Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister to him and to bless in the name of the Lord, and by their word every dispute and every assault shall be settled.”
- Deu 16: “18 “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates (towns), which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.“
- Exo 18:22: “And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.”
- Exo 18:26: “And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves.”
First Century References
- As they were leaving the temple,
- His disciples marveled at the stones of the buildings,
- Jesus then said the stones and the buildings would be thrown down,
- Such that none would be left upon another.
As you can see, as they were leaving the temple they would have just left the area known as The Chamber of Hewn Stone. This chamber was located to the southeast of the Temple (near the pillars in the image) as can be seen on this model of Herod’s Temple Mount.
There were three places on the Temple Mount, mentioned in Mishnah Middot 5.4, where they used to meet over 1900 years ago. The most well-known location was the so-called Chamber of Hewn Stone. This chamber was located to the southeast of the Temple, as can be seen on this model of Herod’s Temple Mount (image included above) —“The New Sanhedrin and the Temple Mount”
Leen Ritmeyer (2007)
Therefore, Jesus was fortelling not just the destruction of the temple, but the fall (the end) of the authority of the Sanhedrin. Jesus himself phrases the fall of the Sanhedrin in the same special language that he uses to refer to the stones of the temple:
43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”<cite>Luke 19:41-46 (ESV)</cite></blockquote>
In the article over Jesus and the Moneychangers it was explained which verses Jesus was referring to, however there is a third verse I will show here, from Ezekiel:
20 His beautiful ornament they used for pride, and they made their abominable images and their detestable things of it. Therefore I make it an unclean thing to them. 21 And I will give it into the hands of foreigners for prey, and to the wicked of the earth for spoil, and they shall profane it. 22 I will turn my face from them, and they shall profane my treasured[g] place. Robbers shall enter and profane it. Ezekiel 7:20-22 (ESV)
Jesus is referring to the Sanhedrin as robbers, in that they have apparetly usurped the authority of God in residence of the temple. He is pointing out that this will not stand and that the Chamber of Hewn Stone, the mightiest stones of the temple, will be thrown down, and that the chain of semikhah will no longer stand upon itself. The double-ententre here of ‘stoning the wicked’ (stones being thrown down) is visible to the naked eye. Jesus’ meaning was clear, and in-line with the accusation of idolatry neighboring in the cleansing of the temple, which is the punchline to this story. In the Christian Gospels these stories are intertwined and take place in conjunction, as part of a singular event (read “…and…”), despite an attempt to separate them with verse headings.
This may have been done because the seated Sanhedrin was not abolished for hundreds of years after Jesus’ death, and many other factors (see ‘sunset clause’, below).
The Sunset Clause
The problem is that the word of God just doesn’t agree with what the Christians are claiming.
Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah shall be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she shall be called: the LORD is our righteousness.’ For thus says the LORD, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to prepare sacrifices continually. –Jeremiah 33:14-18 (NASB)
It is ironic that the very prophecy Christians use to claim Messiahship by default (no one else showed up after the destruction of the first temple, therefore…) is the passage that brings their entire religion crumblind down around them. Why?
The prophecy never came true in any sense of it’s reading. First, the western wall stands.
Second, the Pool of Siloam stands. See https://www.ritmeyer.com/2024/01/15/the-pool-of-siloam/ for many images.
Third, the flowing water chambers of the City of David stand, as do many other structures. There are a lot of resources over this now, it should be an easy search for more.
Saving the best for last, a new Sanhedrin has been established in the modern day. The third temple is being rebuilt!
The New Sanhedrin (2006)
On October 13th 2006, 71 Jewish religious leaders re-established the ancient Sanhedrin. This used to be the supreme religious court that resided on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, prior to its destruction by the Romans in 70A.D. Many cities had smaller sanhedrins, but the Supreme Court in Jerusalem was called the Great Sanhedrin. It is this Great Sanhedrin that has now been re-established. There were three places on the Temple Mount, mentioned in Mishnah Middot 5.4, where they used to meet over 1900 years ago. The most well-known location was the so-called Chamber of Hewn Stone. This chamber was located to the southeast of the Temple, as can be seen on this model of Herod’s Temple Mount (image A) –“The New Sanhedrin and the Temple Mount”, Leen Ritmeyer (ibid)
Why is this such a big deal?
21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. –Deuteronomy 18:21-22 (ESV)
Why was Jerusalem Destroyed?
Some say it was because of baseless hatred. Certainly this is true, but there could be other reasons too. Contributing factors.
12 “If you hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you to dwell there, 13 that certain worthless fellows have gone out among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, 14 then you shall inquire and make search and ask diligently. And behold, if it be true and certain that such an abomination has been done among you, 15 you shall surely put the inhabitants of that city to the sword, devoting it to destruction,[c] all who are in it and its cattle, with the edge of the sword. 16 You shall gather all its spoil into the midst of its open square and burn the city and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It shall be a heap forever. It shall not be built again. 17 None of the devoted things shall stick to your hand, that the Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger and show you mercy and have compassion on you and multiply you, as he swore to your fathers, 18 if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the Lord your God. –Deuteronomy 13:12-18 (ESV)
“I the LORD have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord GOD.” –Ezekiel 24:14
The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, –Isaiah 14:24