WASHINGTON -- The Foundation Stone of the Temple of Jerusalem, on which rested the ancient Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets of the 10 Commandments, still stands on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, an Israeli scholar said Saturday.
The discovery was reported by Dr. Asher Kaufman, a professor of physics at Hebrew University who for 15 years has studied the archeological problem of the temple site, one of the holiest places in ancient Judaism.
Kaufman outlines the evidence for his theory in the forthcoming March-April issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review.
If Kaufman is correct, it means that not only will scholars have to re-examine theories involving the ancient Jewish temple, but also that one of the most significant part of the temple still exists.
Scholars have generally maintained that no trace of the Jewish temple is to be found on Temple Mount in Jersualem's Old City not far from the Moslem mosque known as the Dome of the Rock.
It has generally been assumed that both the Temple of Solomon and the Second Temple, reconstructed by Herod, stood where the Dome of the Rock mosque now stands. Kaufman disputes that :laim.
The First Temple was built by Solomon in the 10th century B.C. and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel under the inspiration of the Old Testament prophets Haggai and Zechariah toward the end of the 6th century B.C.
This Second Temple, as it was known, was restored and rebuilt by Herod in the later half of the first century B.C. but then destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.
Kaufman, using ancient literary sources and measurements of hewn rock remains on Temple Mount, concluded that the Jewish Temple originally was located on the northern end of the Dome of the Rock platform, about 330 feet north of the Dome of the Rock.
At that spot on the Dome of the Rock platform is a small, modest and generally ignored cupola which stands on bedrock protruding from the flagstone-paved platform. It is known in Arabic as the Dome of the Spirits or the Dome of the Tablets.
Kaufman maintains that this flat rock is the Foundation Stone in the Holy of Holies on which the Ark of the Covenant rested.
Has this Arabic name preserved an ancient memory of the holiness of the site? he asks. 'In Sinai, where the glory of the Lord appeared before the whole community of Israel, Moses and Aaron addressed the Lord as 'God of the spirits of all mankind.' Dome of the Spirits is certainly an appropriate name to mark the dwelling place of the Lord's name, the center of his Divine Presence.'
Even more significant, he says, is the alternate name for the cupola, Dome of the Tablets.
'In the Holy of Holies of Solomon's Temple was kept the Ark of the Covenant, now lost, containing the two stone Tablets of the Law given to Moses on Mt. Sinai,' he said. 'Once more a name preserves the ancient memory of the location of the Holy of Holies.'
Kaufman also contends that the Golden Gate, the primary ancient entrance to the Temple Mount area, is not positioned in such a way as to lead directly to a temple placed on the site of the Dome of the Rock mosque.
But a line drawn from the center of the Golden Gate will run directly through the cupola known as the Dome of the Tablets, he says.
Kaufman buttresses his argument with descriptions of the temple from ancient literary sources as well as with previous archeological finds, both above and below ground, on the Temple Mount.