Daily Archives: December 8, 2010

Another jumping off place — the pinnacle of the temple

A couple of days ago we wrote about the pinnacle of the temple (Mark 11:11; Luke 4:9). We followed the common suggestion that the reference was to the southeast corner of the temple mount precinct.

We mentioned that the late Benjamin Mazar, The Mountain of the Lord (page 149), shows a photo of the southeast corner of the wall with the comment that this “is known as the ‘pinnacle of the Temple’ (Mark 11:11; Luke 4:9).”

Leen Ritmeyer left us a comment to say that “Mazar actually had a different idea,” and called attention to his own post at ritmeyer.com.

Dr. Ritmeyer, author of The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, provided some insight into the subject that is helpful and appreciated. He says,

Although this statement does appear in the book, I remember discussing this problem with him and he said that he actually saw the  southwest corner of the Temple Mount as a more likely candidate for the pinnacle of the Temple. One needs to determine what was the most important element in the temptation of Jesus to throw himself down from the pinnacle. Was it the height of the corner above what lay below or did the temptation lie in impressing as many people as possible with that jump?

As the southwest corner was a busy junction between the major north-south street running through Jerusalem and the Plaza in front of the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount, there would have been many more people to impress here than on the much quieter southeast corner.

It is in a setting such as this that we can visualise the dramatic scene that would have taken place had not Jesus challenged the temptation with the power of God’s Word.

The Temple Mount Southwest Corner. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
The Southwest Corner of the Temple Mount. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The western side of the Temple Mount enclosure ran along the Tyrophean Valley from north to south. A few years ago archaeologists found the first century street level at the southwest corner. The stones you see protruding from the wall are known as “Robinson’s Arch”, named for 19th century explorer Edward Robinson. When I first visited Jerusalem in 1967 it was commonly thought that the arch was the beginning of a bridge across the Tyrophean Valley, similar to Wilson’s Arch which is north of the Western Wall plaza. Now we know that the arch was the beginning of a winding staircase that allowed access to the Royal Stoa on the temple platform. (You will see a nice drawing of this staircase in Ritmeyer’s post.)

In my original post I said, “In a post to follow I will mention another view.” The other view I had in mind was the southwest corner.

Richard M. Mackowski, Jerusalem City of Jesus, says this corner “may be identified with the biblical Pinnacle of the Temple” (page 122). This is the comment I intended to use in today’s post. I am delighted that Dr. Ritmeyer calls attention to the discussion he had with Benjamin Mazar. We expect scholars to change their minds as they gain new information. It is also possible that an editor added the note in the book.

My bottom line is that we do not know for certain where the pinnacle of the temple is located. Either of these views suggest a good possibility.