This past week, the executive board of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, passed a resolution denying any Jewish association with the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, identifying it solely as a Muslim shrine. Does this have any significance to those of us who are followers of the Lord Jesus?
The UNESCO board’s decision to deny that the Jewish people have any association with the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is a political decision, driven by an anti-Israel agenda, not one based in reality. The resolution was advanced by the Palestinians alongside Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan as well as other Muslim countries. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the decision as “absurd theater,” adding: “To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China and that Egypt has no connection to the Pyramids.”
The UNESCO Board’s decision is a result of a Muslim campaign that I call, Temple Denial. It began about 25 years ago with the goal of promoting a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem. For example, the Palestinian Authority Mufti of Jerusalem Ikrima Sabri has declared of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, “There is not [even] the smallest indication of the existence of a Jewish temple on this place in the past. In the whole city, there is not even a single stone indicating Jewish History . . . . It is the art of the Jews to deceive the world. But they can’t do it to us. There is not a single stone in the Wailing Wall relating to Jewish History. The Jews cannot legitimately claim this wall, neither religiously nor historically.”
Here’s what followers of Jesus must remember: Temple denial is not just an attack on Israel and the Jewish people, it’s an attack on our faith as well. Here’s why:
First of all, Temple Denial is an attack on the authority of the Bible. The Scriptures couldn’t be more clear. It says that David purchased the threshing floor of Arunah to be the site of the Temple his son Solomon would build (2 Sam 24:16-25). Here are the words of 1 Chron 3:1, “Then Solomon began to build the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah where the LORD had appeard to his father David, at the site David had prepared on the threshing floor of Arunah.” Even after this Temple was destroyed, the Hebrew Bible, in Ezra 3 and the book of Haggai in particular, recounts how the second Temple was built in the very same place.
Secondly, Temple Denial is an attack on the idea of absolute truth. History is not merely about differing narratives but on objective truth. As has been famously said, “Everyone has a right to their own opinions but not to their own facts.” The idea that there are absolute facts of history is foundational to our faith. That’s Paul’s point in 1 Cor 15 about the resurrection of Jesus—it has to be a fact of history or we have believed a lie and we’re to be pitied. Objective truth is an essential to our faith and Temple Denial undermines objective fact. By the way, the Temple Mount sifting project has posted an article with overwhelming objective archaeological evidence of the Temple that has been found, my favorite being the bell from the High Priest’s attire. But there’s much more.
Beyond this, it is historical fact that the Babylonians destroyed the first Temple and the Romans destroyed the second. Just go to Rome, look at the Arch of Titus, and see the evidence of the Jerusalem Temple’s existence and destruction. And it would be a mistake to call the Roman General Titus a Jewish sympathizer or pro-Israel activist.
Finally, Temple Denial is an assault on the truthfulness of Jesus and the New Testament. Luke 21:37 says that “during the day, He [Jesus] was teaching in the Temple.” According to Matt 21:14, “The blind and the lame came to [Jesus] in the Temple complex, and he healed them.” When Jesus was arrested He said, “Every day I used to sit, teaching in the Temple complex.” (Matt 26:55) I can go on and on. The existence of the Temple is a fact found in the New Testament, especially in the words of Jesus the Messiah. Its mentioned 63 times in the gospels alone. We need to beware of those with a malicious political agenda, twisting the historical facts of the Scriptures.
By the way, there is another document that Temple denial contradicts. It’s a guide to the Temple Mount published in 1935. There it says of the Temple Mount, “The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest . . . times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” By the way, the publisher of this 1935 guide was the Supreme Muslim Council and the Waqf of Jerusalem, the Muslim caretakers of the Dome of the Rock.