The strongest evidence he found was when he was watching a rabbi give a tour of the East Gate in the Old City. The rabbi explained that this was the famed Messianic gate but not actually the real gate because the real gate has to be in front of the Temple, and the temple is where the Dome of the Rock is and, therefore, it could not be the real gate.
Yet Widener revisited Ezekiel 44, where the prophet records looking out at the Eastern Gate, and the LORD says that it is to remain shut, that it must not be opened and no one may enter through it because the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it.
“You look at a landmark like that, and you think it’s either not a real landmark because the rabbis record a lot of things in the Mishnah about Temple practices that are not in the Bible but are their best faithful recollections of Temple practices and things like that. And they’re very explicit that all of the gates in the Temple out to the outer sanctuary were in line,” Widener said.
The Mishnah is the first major written collection of Jewish oral traditions, known as the Oral Torah. It is also the first major work of rabbinic literature.
In the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, a giant Temple model as it looked during the time of Herod and Jesus likewise shows the gates aligned together, he added.
“That’s where I kept peeling back the onion layers, and the more I looked, the more evidence I found that the Golden Gate was truly an original temple landmark and that’s then what started undoing the case” — the belief that the Temple site is where the Dome of the Rock now sits, he said.
The other major factor that led Widener to believe this was precisely where the Temple was located in the first place was because 2 Chronicles 3:1reveals that Solomon started building the Temple on Mount Moriah on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.
“A threshing floor has to be flat. It’s a place where you lay out the grain, put the threshing sledges over it to separate the wheat from the chaff and tear off the stalks. ... It’s a really common practice that you see all over Israel. And when we look at the rock in the Dome of the Rock, it’s not flat. It’s not even close to flat,” he elaborated.
As part of his investigation, he engaged Asher Kaufman’s The Temple Mount: Where is the Holy of Holies?
In other words, the landmarks are all there, “and the kicker,” he said, “is that they’re all in line.”
“It’s not some randomly located piece of flat bedrock out there. It’s directly in line, in front of the Golden Gate,” he said, adding that it's not as though people didn't know that these landmarks existed but that they did not recognize them as belonging to the Temple.
If Widener's thesis is correct, it's a profound paradigm shift, and it is conceivable that the Temple could be rebuilt and sit in its actual location.
The question then becomes how soon that might happen given the region's political dynamics, which is known for being a tinderbox of ethnic and religious conflict. This is especially the case since the Temple Mount is arguably the most bitterly contested piece of real estate on the planet.
Organizations like the Temple Institute, the Temple Mount, the Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement and other like-minded Jewish groups have already made considerable preparations to rebuild the temple should a window of opportunity arise, the author said.
“They absolutely have all that they need. They have plans drawn. They have materials cut and prepared, very much like David did in his time before Solomon,” he said.
He believes that recent geopolitical developments in the Middle East could bring about the circumstances in which the Temple might be reconstructed, particularly the Abraham Accords, the peace agreements brokered last year between Israel and the Gulf nations of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.