The Mishnah is a collection of rabbinic oral teachings written down in about 200 C.E.



Mishnah, Middot 2.1.


The size of the Roman foot, or pes, is known from the bronze and stone graduated foot rules that have survived from antiquity; see, for example, Jean-Pierre Adam, Roman Building: Material and Techniques (London: Batsford), pp. 40–41. The standard value of the Roman foot was between 0.294 and 0.296 meters, as compared with 0.3048 meters for the modern foot. However, the foot length employed in Roman buildings across the empire has been shown to vary from 0.24 meters to 0.33 meters. A foot of 0.309 meters for Herod’s Temple was deduced by Rafi Grafman (“Herod’s Foot and Robinson’s Arch,” Israel Exploration Journal [IEJ] 20 [1970], pp. 60–66) from measurements of Robinson’s Arch, and this value is consistent with the dimensions of other features at the Temple Mount, including step heights, as discussed in this article. It is also compatible with a cubit of 0.465 meters, with 3 Roman feet being equivalent to 2 cubits.


Mishnah, Middot 2.3 mentions 13 breaches that were made in the soreg by the Greek (i.e., Seleucid) kings and were then fenced up again, probably by Jonathan the Hasmonean (see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 13.181). While Josephus states that the stone balustrade was 3 cubits high (Jewish War 5.193), the Mishnah gives its height as only 10 handbreadths, or 1.67 cubits (or 2.5 Roman feet) (Middot 2.3).


Emil Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.–A.D. 135), rev. ed., ed. G. Vermes, F. Millar and M. Black, 3 vols. (Edinburgh, 1973–1979), vol. 2, pp. 284–285.


Compare Mishnah, Middot 2.1, with Josephus, Antiquities 15.400.


Louis Lortet, La Syrie d’aujourd’hui: Voyages dans la Phénicie, le Liban et la Judée, 1875–1880 (Paris, 1884), p. 275, illus. 160.


Dror Wahrman, Carney Gavin and Nitza Rosovsky, Capturing the Holy Land: M.J. Diness and the Beginnings of Photography in Jerusalem (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Semitic Museum, 1993), p. 64, pl. 12. These steps are described in detail in David Jacobson and Shimon Gibson, “A Monumental Stairway on the Temple Mount,” IEJ 45 (1995), pp. 162–170.


Conrad Schick, Beit el Makdas, oder der alte Tempelplatz zu Jerusalem: Wie er jetzt ist (Jerusalem, 1887), p. 48.


Mishnah, Middot 2.4.


Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 15.417.


Ronny Reich, “Two Possible Miqva’ot on the Temple Mount,” IEJ 39 (1989), pp. 63–65.


For the sequence of steps leading from the outer court to the Temple Sanctuary, see Josephus, Jewish War 5.193–207; Mishnah, Middot 2–3.


James T. Barclay, The City of the Great King: Or, Jerusalem As It Was, As It Is, and As It Is To Be (Philadelphia: Challen, 1858), p. 242.


Bordeaux Pilgrim, Travels (Itinerarium Burdigalense) 591.4; see John Wilkinson, Egeria’s Travels (London: SPCK, 1971), p. 157. The cave below al-Sakhra also begins to be mentioned in the early Christian period, being first recorded in the Breviarius 6 of the early sixth century C.E. See Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims Before the Crusades (Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1977), p. 61.


Dio Cassius, Roman History 69.12, 1–2. This explanation is consistent with Dio’s claim that the foundation of a temple to Jupiter on the site of the Jewish Temple was one of the main provocations that led to the Bar-Kokhba Revolt. Ancient documents have revealed that as late as the seventh century C.E., the Temple Mount was also known by the population of Jerusalem as the “Capitolium” (Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus); see Bernard Flusin, “L’esplanade du Temple à l’arrivée des arabes, d’après deux récits byzantins,” in Julian Raby and Jeremy Johns, eds., Bayt al-Maqdis: ‘Abd al-Malik’s Jerusalem, part 1 (Oxford: Oxford Univ., 1992), pp. 17–31.


Josephus, Jewish War 5.223.


18 Baraita in Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 51b; see also Baba Batra 4a.