>Dr. Eilat Mazar, an archaeologist with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has answered several questions about the excavation near the Temple Mount in recent years. The Jerusalem Post has published the answers to 20 of these questions. Here are three questions posed by readers:
Mary Ellen Marks Highland Lakes: Is it true that the Ark of the Covenant is buried under the mount?
Dr. Mazar: There is a very high probability that the most important ancient remains are inside the compound in the massive underground halls. This includes the Ark of the Covenant.
Margaret, Sydney, Australia: Why is the site important to the Christians?
Dr. Mazar: The Temple Mount is of extreme value to the Christians as well, as it was the very spot where the Temple stood, at which Jesus himself arrived and became infuriated when he saw that it was being desecrated by so many people. He said that this was the holy place that the people must respect, and then he overturned the tables in fury. I see many Christians near the Temple Mount, standing on the stairs leading into one of its gates and praying. I urge the Christian world to raise its voice in order to help us preserve this magnificent site, which is part of Christian heritage, as well.
Thomas Crispin, Phoenix, Arizona: What is the most exciting thing you’ve discovered in your career so far?
Dr. Mazar: My most exciting find was a personal seal impression one centimeter in diameter from the First Temple period that had the name of a minister who was part of the government of Zedekaya. I found it last year during my excavation in the City of David. His name is mentioned in the book of Jeremiah – he was the one who asked King Zedekaya to kill the prophet Jeremiah because he was telling the people of Jerusalem to surrender to the Babylonians. This is astonishing because it is a direct connection between an archeological find and a biblical document. It reinforces our understanding and appreciation of the bible as an historical source of great authenticity.
It is important to remember that there is no evidence that the Ark of the Covenant is buried in one of the caves in the Temple Mount. Dr. Mazar’s response reflects the views of many Jews that before the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, the Ark was hidden in order to protect it from the Babylonians.
I have already written here and here about Dr. Mazar’s excavation in the City of David and the discovery of David’s palace. I have also written here about Dr. Mazar’s discovery of the seal of a Judean official named Jehucal (or Jucal), the son of Shelemiah, the son of Shevi.
Her appeal to Christians is a cry for help. The excavation of the Temple Mount has produced much animosity between Israelis and Palestinians. There is a real desire among Israelis today for Christians to validate Israel’s right to excavate in the area of the Temple Mount. The animosity between Israelis and Palestinians will not go away in the near future. It is possible that the excavation will make the problem more difficult to solve.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary