WHAT HAPPENED 7 YEARS BEFORE THE DESTRUCTION OF SOLOMON’S TEMPLE? - WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
By Howard Rollin (updated as of 2/3/11)
First of all, it is important to establish an understanding of the calendars that Jews use today. The year 586 BCE is the generally accepted Gentile Christian date of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple (The First Temple) and the carting off of much of the population of the Southern Kingdom of Israel (Judah) to Babylonia in the first diaspora. As a proselytizing religion, Christianity appears to have established (during its formative years) its version of ancient events (BC) for the sake of making the Hebrew Scripture prophecies concerning the Messiah appear to have been fulfilled in Jesus. Also, during Christianity’s formative years, there was a direct attempt by Christian leaders (writers, monks, clergy, etc.) to eliminate anything that appeared to be Jewish by the application of “replacement theology,” which still exists within most churches today. Certainly, the elimination of the Hebrew calendar dating system was no exception, and everything during the Christian era would be referred to as AD (Anno Domini), in the “year of our Lord.” Today, most scholars (both Gentile and Jewish) and available texts concerning the destruction of Solomon’s Temple still claim 586 BCE to be genuine.
According to Judaism, let’s examine what happened in the Hebrew/Jewish year 3338 (from Adam). Some Jewish sources (mainly Orthodox), believe that the destruction of Solomon’s Temple occurred in the Hebrew year 3338. We can simply figure out that 5771 (this year) minus 3338 = 2433 years that have passed since the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. 2433 years minus 2011 (years of the common era) equals 422 remaining years, which would have occurred before the Common Era began (422 BCE). Therefore, when comparing the two calendar systems, there is a 164 year discrepancy (586 vs. 422). By the way, the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in the Hebrew year of 3830, which translates correctly to 70 CE (5771 minus 3830 = 1941 years ago that the Second Temple was destroyed).
In order to help us discern which calendar is probably correct, we will need to examine some relatively recent archaeological discoveries which may have some impact upon our dating systems. In 1952, the Copper Scroll was found in a cave at Qumran. Of all the Dead Sea Scrolls found, the Copper Scroll was the only scroll written (etched) in copper. Therefore, this particular scroll must have some great, if not greater, importance than all of the other ancient Dead Sea Scrolls written on papyrus or sheepskin. In fact, the Copper Scroll was etched in bas relief, rolled up, and baked in clay (providing a copper and clay double written source). So, what did the Copper Scroll say and who wrote it?
According to this very unique scroll, the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle of Moses, along with many other important and very holy First Temple items, were moved under the authorization of King Josiah by Jeremiah the prophet, with the assistance of other prophets of his time and many Levite priests. This occurred 7 years before the destruction of the First Temple (429 BCE or 3331 in Hebrew calendar years) and almost exactly 5 centuries before the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE). Many secrets of the priesthood would have died with Jeremiah, other prophets of Israel (including Haggai, Zechariah, Ido, and Ezra the Scribe), and the many Levite priests, if not for the Copper Scroll. However, the Copper Scroll, which was discovered in 1952 but was not properly deciphered/decoded until much later, appears to have been designed as a legacy by the prophets and the ancient priesthood from the time just before the destruction of Solomon's Temple (the First Temple). Zahava Cohen, an Israeli Hebrew linguist, was extremely helpful during the early 1990’s in properly interpreting the ancient and unique text.
The Copper Scroll remained an enigma for many years after its discovery. This unique scroll has been the property of Jordan since it was found, and it still remains in a museum in Amman. However, intensive research over the past thirty years has finally begun to unlock many of the scroll’s secrets. To understand the scroll, one must first understand the geology and geography described within its text. Professor Vendyl Jones was able to discern that, which made it possible for him to locate the Cave of the Column (the cave with 2 openings) in Qumran. This cave’s discovery occurred just after the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel took possession of the West Bank. After funding was secured, Vendyl’s archaeological teams uncovered six relatively small chambers during his many digs at the cave that finally began in 1977 and lasted until 1992. Then, the Israeli Antiquities Authority improperly pulled his dig permit immediately after an incredible discovery of approximately 1200 pounds of Qetorit (incense prepared for future Temple/Tabernacle use). The Israeli Antiquities Authority (a very secular organization) was fearful that Vendyl’s team would discover more incredible biblical archaeological treasures. The seventh chamber, in all probability will be quite huge, and it will hopefully contain the hidden holy treasures of Solomon's Temple. The Israeli Antiquities Authority wants to avoid the secular problems that such a highly religious discovery would create.
More validation concerning the significance of the Copper Scroll was forthcoming, but it would not occur until the later 1990's. Rabbi Mendel Tropper and Rabbi Rachmael Steinburg came across a long forgotten text called the Emeq HaMelech (Valley of the King), which had been written by Rabbi Naftali Hertz Ben Ya'acov Elchanon in the year 1648 C.E. in Amsterdam, Holland. Rabbi Steinburg states that Rabbi Hertz was known as a very holy and very prominent rabbi in the seventeenth century, whose knowledge of both the written and Oral Torah was superb. He was in the line of transmission from Rabbi Ari Ben Luria who was the leader of the most illustrious group of Rabbis in the world, including the great Torah giant Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch.
Within the Emeq HaMelech is the complete text of a missing Mishnaic text called “Massachet Keilim” which consists of twelve chapters. Each chapter describes various holy vessels which were hidden away by Jeremiah the Prophet in the year 3331 from Adam (429 B.C.E.), seven years before the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 3338 (422 B.C.E.). The text mentions that five holy men were put in charge of this awesome task and it names them. They were Shimur HaLevi, Chizkiah, Tzidkiyahu, Haggai the Prophet, and Zechariah the Prophet. In Chapter Three, it also mentions that other prophets were with them along with Ezra the Scribe when the twelve chapters were originally written in Babylon.
The most significant of these twelve chapters are the first and second chapters. The first chapter clearly lists the vessels that were hidden, and the second chapter then states the following: “These are the Holy Vessels and the vessels of the Temple that was in Jerusalem; . . . Shimur the Levite and his friends wrote (the treasure lists) on a copper tablet.”
Rabbi Steinburg further states that the Talmud, in Huriot 12A, also describes that the Prophet Jeremiah foresaw that the Exile was imminent and that certain holy vessels had to be protected and hidden away for future generations. Jeremiah ordered King Josiah to hide the Ark of the Covenant, along with other items including the bottle of Anointing Oil, Aaron's Staff, and the Chest sent by the Felishtim (Philistines) as "a gift to the G-d of Israel." And indeed, as Jeremiah foresaw, Nebuchadnezzar sent an army into Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, sacked the city, destroyed the city walls, and carried the population to exile in Babylonia. Rabbi Tropper cites a passage in the Babylonian Talmud, (Tractate Yoma 72a) which states that although the Mishkan and its contents were hidden away, they will one day be found again. The Mishkan was the portable sanctuary (predecessor to the Temple) in which the Ark of the Covenant was housed during Moses' and Israel's forty years in the wilderness and was maintained up until King Solomon built the First Temple in Jerusalem approximately five centuries later.
An article by Rabbi Tropper cites the following: "This house of worship ("Mishkan") contained the altar for the daily and seasonal sacrifices, the elaborate Menorah of solid gold, the Kalal (a copper urn) containing the Ashes of the Red Heifer, and the numerous other holy vessels utilized for the detailed services of the Kohanim. The Ashes of the Red Heifer are the ashes from a completely red cow which was sacrificed under the jurisdiction of Moses (at Sinai). They are necessary for the ritual purification of the priesthood as well as all Jews who are spiritually unclean. This mysterious process mentioned in the Torah (Numbers 19) is a prerequisite for the re-establishment of the Temple, but maybe and more importantly, the Holy Tabernacle.
Within the Mishkan's inner chamber, the Holy of Holies, could be found the magnificent Ark of the Covenant containing among other sacred items, the Tablets of the Ten Commandments (the sapphire stones) brought down by Moses at Sinai. Because of these sacred contents and the level of holiness attained by the Prophet Moses, only the Mishkan reached a pure enough state to warrant that the Shechinah (Divine Presence of G-d) would come to rest within it for all eternity. When the First Temple was built in Jerusalem, the Ark of the Covenant and the holy vessels were taken out of the Mishkan and placed inside the Temple, while the Mishkan itself was buried beneath the Temple in a huge storage vault. Centuries later, these holy items were probably moved through Zedekiah’s Tunnel, which led under the Valley of Achor to the seventh chamber of the Cave of the Column near the Dead Sea.
It is important to emphasize that the chapters of Massachet Keilim (an addition or Tosefta to the Talmud cited by Rabbi Hertz as the source for his information about the Copper Scroll) cannot be found in modern copies of the Talmud.
Subsequent research (also in the 1990's) uncovered the work done by Solomon Schechter (regarded by many as the founder of Conservative Judaism) at Cambridge in 1896. It turned out that Schechter had acquired 100,000 pages in 1896 from the Genizah of the very old Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, Egypt. (A "Genizah" is a repository for damaged or aged sacred Jewish texts). A copy of the missing Tosefta, under the section of Keilim ("Vessels") was found among those scrolls and is the same text cited by Rabbi Hertz as his source. However, the ancient copy from the Cairo Genizah was believed to be 800 years old, much older than the publication by Rabbi Hertz in 1648.
And if the above facts are not sufficient, it turned out (although again correlated much later) that in 1952, the same year that the Copper Scroll was found in Qumran, two immense Marble Tablets were found in the basement of a museum in Beirut, Lebanon with much ancient Hebrew writing inscribed on them. The Marble Tablets (age unknown) begin by saying, "These are the words of Shimur HaLevi, the servant of HaShem, in the year 3331 of Adam." Remarkably, the rest of the writing on the Marble Tablets proved to be the entire missing text of Massachet Keilim with its reference to the Copper Scroll.
Although the Copper Scroll has been denigrated as a hoax by some "so-called" scholars, it was a "Key to the Kingdom" for future righteous people, like Vendyl Jones (the real “Indiana Jones”), just before the occurrence of the Messianic Age. Unfortunately, Vendyl recently passed away on December 27, 2010 and never realized in his lifetime the final fruits of his labor. Isn't it odd that the non-Jewish students/followers of Vendyl Jones (the prophesized "righteous Gentile" and the modern day leader of B'nai Noach) will probably uncover the treasures of the Holy Tabernacle and First Temple? In the early 1990's, Vendyl Jones was presented a plaque about the Red Heifer and its ashes from an Orthodox group of rabbis. The plaque’s origin dates from the 15th century. The text on the plaque is attributed to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the 2nd century rabbi who wrote the "Zohar" (great mystical writings - part of Kabbalah). On the plaque it is written: "One gentile will purify himself, and they will sanctify the Name of mine. They will stand together side by side, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, heart in heart under much duress and opposition and will not stop until they have swept every corner and found her." Over the years, Vendyl Jones received the support of several very prominent rabbis, including Rabbis Shlomo Goren, Menachem Mendel Shneerson, Mordechai Eliyahu, and Adin Steinsaltz.
So, what did Vendyl Jones find in Qumran, and what is the importance of the Ashes of the Red Heifer?
In 1988, Vendyl’s archaeological team found a small ancient flask wrapped in palm leaves containing a very thick syrupy fluid. After scientific testing in Israel at Hebrew University, it was determined that the fluid is Shemen Afarshimon (Holy Anointing Oil), which was used in the Tabernacle and the Temples. In 1992, Vendyl’s team then discovered approximately 1200 pounds of a reddish-brown looking dirt stored in a rock silo inside the Cave of the Column. This reddish-brown dirt turned out to be organic, and after significant scientific testing by Dr. and Rabbi Marvin Antelman of the Weizmann Institute, it was determined to be Qetorit (incense) in a very refined state that was also used in the Tabernacle and the Temples. The obvious question about such discoveries would be “wouldn’t such holy objects be found in Jerusalem near the Temple Mount only?” Why were they located in Qumran, and what additional holy items might be hidden there? These two holy items mentioned above are the first two items (in the order of discovery) of an extensive list of many holy items in the Copper Scroll. According to Vendyl Jones, he believed that the next item to be uncovered will be the Parah Adumah, the Ashes of the Red Heifer. The importance of such a discovery would allow all Jews to be spiritually cleansed, thus attaining a holy state which Jews have not had for almost 2,000 years. In order to discover all of the holy vessels of Solomon’s Temple, the “Ashes” must be found next. Otherwise, nobody (especially the Levites) could be spiritually cleansed in order to handle the holy vessels (and thus avoid Divine punishment).
Since there are already important holy items found in Qumran (plus more coming), wouldn’t it be prudent to identify who were the people of Qumran who hid the holy vessels?
Traditionally, we have been led to believe Flavius Josephus’ (Jewish Roman historian) description of the Essenes (who supposedly lived in Qumran) as one of the most authentic available. However, Dr. Robert Eisenman, co-author of The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, identifies the people of Qumran as the followers of the “Zadokites" (descendants of Zadok, the High Priest of Kings David and Solomon) and does not associate them with the name Essenes (which Dr. Eisenman refers to as Ishiyim in Hebrew). In his opinion, the Qumran community were Ebionites (Evyonim), who are described in the ADDENDUM (further below). Also, the name “Zadokites” is a better reference than "Sadducees," which possibly represented the phony, politically-appointed priesthood in Jerusalem during the last two hundred plus years of the Second Temple. It was during those last centuries of the Second Temple (from the Hasmonean period and forward) that the descendants of Zadok were prohibited (upon the threat of death) by the phony politically-driven priesthood from taking their rightful positions in the Second Temple and even to live in Jerusalem. Scholarship has shown that the Zadokite leadership had little respect for the Second Temple and its priesthood.
The importance and intent of this document is to expose you to a different thought process concerning the Tabernacle and First Temple. Most Jews today only relate to the more recent Second Temple, which is the time period when Pharisaism (the basis for Rabbinic Judaism) was established. Please note that the Second Temple was but a shadow of the First Temple, since it lacked the holiness of Solomon’s Temple. The Second Temple did not have the Ark of the Covenant present in the Holy of Holies throughout its existence. The Shechinah (the presence of G-d) was only witnessed by the nation of Israel in the Tabernacle and in Solomon’s Temple. The Second Temple, only during the time of King Herod and later, may have been the more magnificent of either Temple structure. However, it lacked the true holiness that was only present in Solomon’s Temple. By focusing on the more recent Second Temple, we (as Jews) may have lost sight of the importance of our need for G-d’s presence.
Many scholars will scoff at what is written above, since they will only consider cold, hard scientific facts. I’m not trying to influence you to believe in a “hocus-pocus” belief system. Instead, I’m trying to provide you with the opportunity to explore the “roots” of our ancient Israelite faith and tradition, including some mystical aspects that were lost and/or forgotten after the destruction of Solomon’s Temple.
During the years immediately following Jesus' death but before the Roman/Jewish War of 66 C.E., James, the brother of Jesus, was the leader of the Ebionites (Evyonim), and he was also the Nasi (president) of the Lower Sanhedrin. The Ebionites, who were righteous Jews, were supporters of the new messianic movement, but they did not believe in the deification of Jesus as the Gentiles did under Paul’s influence (New Testament writer). James was in direct opposition to the positions of Paul, who led the Nazarene or Gentile movement. According to Dr. Eisenman, the Ebionites made up the "rank and file" Jews of the Qumran community. Also, according to Dr. James Tabor (professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte and the president of United Israel World Union), the name Ebionite meant much more than the simple translation of "poor ones," which has been the traditional historical belief originally established by Josephus. Ebionite possibly comes from the Hebrew "Anavim" or "Avyonim" which has a better reference to those who were purified by water (mikveh or baptism). If that was so, then the Ebionites, and not the Nazarenes, were the true followers of John (who eventually became known as the Christian Baptizer). John was probably not only an Ebionite from Qumran, but he was a high priest (Kohane/Zadokite) and leader. The garments that John wore (from Elisha) identified him as a holy priest.
The Ebionites adhered to Mosaic Law while the Nazarenes were trying to abolish it. It was the Gentile Nazarenes who eventually were to be called Christians. The Ebionites may have been Messianic Jewish Zealots, many of whom died at Masada (which is located directly south of Qumran along the western shore of the Dead Sea). Possibly, the mass suicide at Masada was an attempt to prevent the Romans from torturing any knowledgeable survivors and obtaining the secrets of the Qumran community and what had been previously hidden there.
BAUER, MIKHAEL: The Jubilee Calendar (internet document), 2006. http://www.exodus2006.com/sutton/JUBILEE-CALENDAR-Bauer.htm
EISENMAN, ROBERT H. & WISE, MICHAEL: The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered. Rockport, Mass., Element, Inc., 1993.
JONES, VENDYL M.: A Door of Hope - My Search for the Treasures of the Copper Scroll. Springdale, Arkansas, Lightcatcher Books, 2005. http://www.vendyljones.org.il (link may not be working)
ROBINS, GERARD: Vendyl Jones and the Ark of the Covenant. http://www.rense.com/general2/ark.htm (internet document), 2000. A special acknowledgement is owed to Gerard Robins of Houston, Texas. Much of his writings include accurate and concise information about the archaeological successes and implications of Vendyl Jones’ work. Those writings are substantially utilized within this document with only minor modifications and additions.
ROLLIN, HOWARD: Bridging the Judeo-Christian Gap (internet document), 1992-2010 (Tenth Edition). http://www.howardrollin.com/judeochristiangap
SHULMAN, ELIEZER: The Sequence of Events in The Old Testament. Israel, Investment Co. of Bank Hapoalim and Ministry of Defense - Publishing House, 1987.