Dome of the Rock PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
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Dome of the Rock

A Brief Chronology of the Temple Mount, the Muslim Noble Sanctuary

Time unknown. The near-sacrifice of Isaac occurs on the "Mountain of the Lord"
(Genesis 22:11-14).

4000 years ago: On a lower spur of this hill, to the south, is the city of Jerusalem.

About 3000 years ago, David conquers the city from the Jebusites. Later he goes "up" and buys the threshing floor of Arauna the Jebusite, erecting a sacrificial altar (2 Samuel 24:24). Chronicles 22:1 says the place was here.

Around 960 BC, Solomon builds the Temple.

In 586 BC, the Babylonians destroy it and exile the people of Judah.

In 538 BC, having conquered Babylon, Cyrus of Persia allows exiles to return home. Among them are some of the exiled Jews.

From 520 until 515 BC, the Jews build a second Temple, modest compared to its predecessor. 

In 167 BC, the Seleucids, a faction of the Greek empire, desecrate the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. Three years later the Maccabees retake Jerusalem and re-dedicate the Temple. Jews celebrate this event at Hanukah, Hebrew for "dedication."

Around 20 BC, Herod gets the consent of the priests to tear down the Temple and rebuild it on a grander scale. He finishes most of it within eight years, although work continues until 63 AD. This is still called the Second Temple.

In 70 AD, having put down the Jewish revolt, the Romans destroy the Temple.

In 135 AD, having put down the second major Jewish revolt in the land, the Emperor Hadrian bans Jews from the city and renames the latter "Aelia Capitolina." One ancient historian, Dio Cassius, implies that he erected a temple to Jupiter here, but the text could mean only that he built this temple somewhere in Jerusalem to replace the Jewish one as a religious focus.

Centuries of neglect. In 333 AD, the Bordeaux Pilgrim records seeing a rock where the altar had been. This rock has a hole in it, and here the Jews weep annually over the destruction of the Temple. Nearby he sees two statues of Hadrian.

In 638 AD, the Muslims conquer Jerusalem, clean up the mount, and erect a wooden mosque near the eastern wall.

From 688 to 691 AD, the Caliph Abd al-Malik builds the Dome of the Rock. He may already have the tradition that this mountain was the "distant" (Arabic: aqsa) sanctuary mentioned in the Koran, to which Muhammad journeyed by night from the Great Mosque in Mecca. The Koran also speaks of Muhammad's ascension into heaven to receive instruction from God. Muslims connect this account to the night journey: from here, they believe, he ascended.

Around 711 AD, al-Malik's son and successor, al-Walid, builds the al-Aqsa mosque on the southern end. The whole area is now known as Haram es-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). It is the third holiest site in Islam, a focus of pilgrimage.

In 1099 the Crusaders capture Jerusalem. They rename al-Aqsa "the Temple of Solomon" and the Dome of the Rock "the Temple of the Lord," turning them into churches.

In 1187 Saladin re-takes Jerusalem for Islam and rids the buildings of most Crusader additions.
Between the 13th and the 16th centuries, the Mamlukes make many beautiful, smaller additions to the area.

In 1967 Israel conquers East Jerusalem from Jordan, including the Old City and the Haram. Israel does not change the religious status quo. The Muslim Supreme Council (waqf) retains control of the Haram, except in security matters.