Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bordeaux Pilgrim's 333 AD Account

A Christian pilgrim who traveled to Jerusalem in the year 333 from Bordeaux, located in southwest France, gives us a few interesting details concerning Jerusalem and the Temple Mount during the reign of Emperor Constantine. Below is what the Bordeaux Pilgrim wrote in 333 concerning what he saw in Jerusalem at that time. Remember this is what he understood he saw and what these location were called in 333. His descriptions include his understanding of theology, history and scripture which were obviously influenced by what the local residence, the Byzantine “tour guides” and religious leaders in Jerusalem told him. Yet, it is what it is and it is what he saw – a very rare recording of a first hand eye-witness description of Jerusalem during the reign of Constantine at the beginning of the Byzantine Empire – it is priceless. (My comments are in parenthesis and are not italicized. The writing of the Bordeaux Pilgrim is bold italic. The map below attempts to follow his description through the city. Click on the map below for a larger image.)

There are in Jerusalem two large pools at the side of the Temple, that is, one upon the right hand, and one upon the left, which were made by Solomon (Outside the NE corner of Temple Mount would be the Pool of Israel. Outside the NW corner of Temple Mount would be cisterns or pools found in today’s Western Wall tunnels.); and further in the city are twin pools with five porticoes, which are called Bethsaida (Bethsesda, John 5:2-18). There persons who have been sick for many years are cured; the pools contain water which is red when it is disturbed. There is also here a crypt (cave, or underground chamber; this cave is under the Dome of the Rock today and is undoubtedly connected to the network of 45 other cisterns, chambers, tunnels and caves that exist under the Temple Mount. It may also provide access to the legendary Well of Souls), in which Solomon used to torture devils (At this time King Solomon, due to his wisdom and legends of the Jews, was known to be a great magician and fighter of demons. Displayed in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were jars believed to have been used by Solomon to hold demons.)

(Click map for a larger image.)

Here is also the corner of an exceeding high tower (SE corner of Temple Mount), where our Lord ascended and the tempter said to Him, 'If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence.' . And the Lord answered, 'Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God, but him only shall thou serve.' (Matthew 4:1-11). There is a great corner-stone, of which it was said, 'The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner.' (Matthew 21:42; Ps 118:22) Under the pinnacle of the tower are many rooms, and here was Solomon's palace (Herod had built Solomon's Colonnade on the south side of the Temple Mount.)

There also is the chamber in which he sat and wrote the (Book of) Wisdom (called Solomon’s Stables by Crusaders and yet today); this chamber is covered with a single stone. There are also large subterranean reservoirs for water and pools constructed with great labor. And in the building itself, where stood the temple which Solomon built, they say that the blood of Zacharias (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51) which was shed upon the stone pavement before the altar remains to this day. There are also to be seen the marks of the nails in the shoes of the soldiers who slew him, throughout the whole enclosure, so plain that you would think they were impressed upon wax. There are two statues of Hadrian (One of Hadrian and the other of Antoninus Pius. The inscription stone of Antoninus’ statue can still be seen today in the Southern Temple Mount Wall above the Double Gate), and not far from the statues there is a perforated stone (Which is the bedrock of Mt. Moriah where the Ark of the Covenant sat in the Most Holy Place in the Temple of Solomon. This perforation, or carved out and leveled depression, can be seen inside the Dome of the Rock and is the same size as the Ark of the Covenant) to which the Jews come every year and anoint it, bewail themselves with groans, rend their garments, and so depart. There also is the house of Hezekiah King of Judah. Also as you come out of Jerusalem to go up Mount Sion (after leaving the Temple Mount and heading south out of the city on the main road, the Cardo Maximus), on the left hand, below in the valley, beside the wall, is a pool which is called Siloe (Pool of Siloam, John 9:1-11) and has four porticoes (the Church of Siloam who’s pillar bases can still be seen today in the water when exiting Hezekiah’s Tunnel); and there is another large pool outside it. This spring runs for six days and nights, but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, it does not run at all, either by day or by night (This Pool called Siloe, or Siloam, was still being fed water from the Gihon Springs located on the eastside through Hezekaih’s Tunnel. The flow of water from the Gihon Springs has been known for gushing water intermittently. In fact, “gihon” means “to gush forth.”) , On this side one goes up Sion (walking outside the city walls around the Westside along the Hinnom Valley and up Mount Zion) and sees where the house of Caiaphas the priest was (just outside today’s walls and part of the extended Armenian Quarter, Matthew 26:57-68), and there still stands a column against which Christ was beaten with rods (Matthew 26:67-68 records spitting, striking and slapping at the High Priest’s Palace, but no rods). Within, however, inside the wall of Sion, is seen the place where was David's palace. (This is the Citadel which was the fortress of the Macabees, the palace of Herod and the camp of the Tenth Roman Legion. Today this Citadel and its remains sits just inside the city walls by the Joppa Gate). Of seven synagogues which once were there, one alone remains; the rest are ploughed over and sown upon, as said Isaiah the prophet ( Is 1:2.4-8; Micah 3:9-12).

From thence as you go out of the wall of Sion, as you walk towards the gate of Neapolis (This would be in the location of today’s Damascus Gate and was the grand new, or “nea”, entrance to the Cardo), towards the right, below in the valley (Kidron Valley), are walls, where was the house or praetorium of Pontius Pilate (Fort Antonia, Matthew 27:11-31). Here our Lord was tried before His passion (By Pontius Pilate.) On the left hand is the little hill of Golgotha where the Lord was crucified (As the Pilgrim walked up the Cardo towards the Neapolis Gate the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was on his left, and the remains of Fort Antonia further on his right, Matthew 27:33-37). About a stone's throw from thence is a vault wherein His body was laid, and rose again on the third day (The tomb and Calvary were in the same garden in the gospels and are located in the same Church of the Holy Sepulcher today and in 333 AD, Matthew 27:57-60; 28:1-10). There, at present, by the command of the Emperor Constantine, has been built a basilica, that is to say, a church of wondrous beauty, having at the side reservoirs (cisterns were cut into the abandoned quarry, the remains of cisterns are found in the lower parts of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) from which water is raised (holes in the arched ceiling used to lower buckets on ropes from homes above can still be seen in the ceilings of these cisterns today), and a bath behind in which infants are washed (or, baptized).

Also as one goes from Jerusalem to the gate which is to the eastward (Stephen's Gate, where the Lion's Gate is today), in order to ascend the Mount of Olives, is the valley called that of Josaphat (Kidron Valley). Towards the left, where are vineyards, is a stone at the place where Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ (Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, Matthew 26,36-50); on the right is a palm-tree, branches of which the children carried off and strewed in the way when Christ came (Matthew 31:8). Not far from thence, about a stone's-throw, are two notable tombs of wondrous beauty (The tombs in the Kidron known today as the tombs of Absolom and Zechariah, but yet they are not since they were built in a Greek style with Egyptian and Syrian influence probably around 100-20 BC); in the one, which is a true monolith, lies Isaiah the prophet, and in the other Hezekiah, King of the Jews (The tombs can still be seen today, but although the identification was believed to be true, it was not.).

From thence you ascend to the Mount of Olives, where before the Passion, the Lord taught His disciples (Matthew 24-25). There by the orders of Constantine a basilica of wondrous beauty has been built. Not far from thence is the little hill which the Lord ascended to pray, when he took Peter and John with Him, and Moses and Elias were beheld (This event occurred in Caesarea Philippi, the Ascension of Jesus occurred, Matthew 17:1-8).

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