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SITE OF THE TEMPLE.
Temple stood on an elevated site; they speak invariably of going up to the house of the Lord. It is true that the southern end of the Temple area is now on the same level with the rest, but this is secured by the vast substructions which have been built up from the valley below; and it can hardly be pretended that the threshing-floor of Araunah occupied this artificial elevation; nor has any reason been suggested why, with the whole ridge of Moriah to choose from, a site should have been selected which either buried the Temple in a hollow, or required an amount of work below the surface greater than that above it to bring up the platform to the necessary level. The startling theory of Mr. Fergusson as to the site of the Holy Sepulchre demands brief notice here. He maintains that the Mosque of Omar is the basilica of Constantine, that the mysterious rock which it encloses is that of which the evangelist speaks, and that a cave about fifteen feet square in the side of the rock is the very cave in which our Lord was entombed. His argument, to which full justice cannot be done in a brief summary, may be thus stated. He pledges his professional reputation that the Kubbet es Sakhrah is a building of the date of Constantine, that it is not and never could have been intended for a mosque, that it does not possess a single characteristic of Saracenic architecture, but that in its main features it is identical with the sepulchral basilica of Diocletian, at Spalatro, a type which Constantine is likely to have followed. The Golden Gate he regards as the grand entrance from the eastern side to the area of the basilica, and maintains that it is of the same style and date with the Dome of the Rock. Assuming the accuracy of his theory that the Temple occupied the south-western angle of the present area, he shows that there was ample space for places of the crucifixion and entombment to have been here without entrenching upon the Temple precincts from which it was then separated by a deep fosse or valley, now filled up. He then seeks to show that the indications of the Gospel narrative, the statements of Eusebius, and the language of early pilgrims agree in fixing upon this as the true site of the burial and resurrection of our Lord. The absence of any tradition pointing to this spot and the fact that for nearly a thousand years the site of the sepulchre has been supposed to be where the church now stands, he explains by the statement that after the rock with its dome, had been appropriated by the Mohammedans, the Christians were banished for a long period from the city; even on their return they were not allowed to approach the Holy Place; a new church in another site was therefore built for the use of the pilgrims around which the legends sprang up in mediaeval fashion, so that what was at first a mere myth or pious fraud, came at last to be accepted as an historical fact. There is much that is attractive in this theory, and it is supported by a great weight of argument and learning. But it will hardly bear the test of examination. The basilica of Constantine was not built over the sepulchre but near it; the Kubbet es Sakhrah encloses and covers the rock. Constantine's
building was destroyed by Chosroes II., and the church that rose upon its
site suffered the same fate under El-Hakem. This, therefore, cannot be it. Constantine constructed a colonnade eastward from the church at the end of which was an agora, or - market-place. The Kubbet es Sakhrah is so near the easternwall over the valley of the Kedron that space cannot be found for this arrangement. Whilst, therefore, the site of the sepulchre must, in my judgment, be sought somewhere on this side of the city, I cannot accept Mr. Fergusson's identification as accurate or sustained by facts. It is with reluctance that we yield ourselves to the conclusion that accurate knowledge is, at least, for the present beyond our reach. Most eagerly and gratefully should we welcome any means of determining the spot so endeared by hallowed memories and associations. But our very ignorance may have been designed or permitted for wise purposes. A superstitious, an almost idolatrous, worship has been fostered by pilgrimages to the holy places. We shall do well to remember the conversation by Jacob's well: “The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. . . the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.” Light may ul
TUNNEL AND SHAFT OF THE PALESTINE EXPLORATION FUND OUTSIDE timately be thrown
THE WALL OF THE TEMPLE. upon these difficult and perplexed ques
tions by the labours of the Palestine Exploration Fund. Hitherto, how
ever, the obstacles thrown in their way by the Turkish government, have been almost insuperable. It is only by extraordinary energy and ingenuity that they have been able to accomplish anything in Jerusalem. The sketch on the preceding page will illustrate this. Not being allowed to excavate within a certain distance of the Temple area, a shaft was sunk through the mass of débris, to the depth of eighty feet, just outside the proscribed limit. A tunnel was then run from the bottom of the shaft to the wall of the Temple. The result was the discovery of courses of masonry of the original edifice, and upon some of the blocks of stone, mason's marks in ancient Phoenician characters were found. It now only remains for us to notice briefly some of the memorable spots in the immediate neighbourhood of Jerusalem. These, for the most part, lie along the valley of the Kedron. First in interest is the Garden of Gethsemane. Leaving the city by St. Stephen's Gate, a steep path leads us down into the valley and across the bed of the Kedron. Soon after beginning the ascent of Olivet, we come to an enclosure about eighty yards square. Knocking at a low door, we are admitted by an aged monk, the guardian of the place, and find ourselves in a trim garden. The flower-beds are neatly kept and fenced with sticks. A number of olive-trees stand among them, hollow, gnarled, and, apparently, extremely old. They yet bear a few berries, which are carefully gathered and given to pilgrims, for which, of course, backshish is expected in return. Old as the trees are it cannot be supposed that they have stood here for eighteen centuries, though it is quite credible that they may have sprung as suckers from the roots of yet older trees. The passion for localising all the incidents of the narrative is not absent here. We are shown the bank upon which the disciples slept, the grotto—all mediaeval legends select a grotto —where, as a Latin inscription informs us, “the sweat like blood ran down upon the ground,” and the place where Judas betrayed his Master with a kiss. The Custode however, with a courtesy and consideration very rare in his class, does not pester us with talk, but, retiring to a distance, leaves us to our meditation. On this spot then, or near it, happened the most solemn and pathetic event in the life, even of “the man of sorrows.” Under the shade of these grey olives, he endured his bitter and heart-breaking agony; along yonder path, lighted by the full passover moon, “with lanterns, and torches, and weapons,” came the betrayer, leading “a band of men and officers;” here, deserted and forsaken by all, He meekly surrendered Himself to his murderers, and was led away to be condemmed and crucified. Callous must that heart be which, on such a spot as this, does not breathe the prayer: “By Thine agony and bloody sweat; by Thy cross and passion; by Thy precious death and burial: Good Lord deliver us!”
The way in which ecclesiastical legends are invented is curiously illustrated by the fact that the Greeks and Armenians have recently constructed rival Gethsemanes of their own, this one being in possession of the Latins. * John xviii. 3.