The rabbis’ teaching steps at the southern wall excavations (John 10)

Those who came to worship at the temple of Herod approached from the southern precinct of Jerusalem. Various routes converged into a large, stone-paved plaza under the shadow of an imposing southern retaining wall that was crowned with the rising spires of the royal portico (Luke 4:9, Josephus, Antiquities 15.11.5). The plaza contained a number of ritual baths and served both as a significant centre of public life and as a gathering place for the swelling crowds who made their way up to Jerusalem during the pilgrimage festivals. Massive stairways rose from the plaza toward two arched gates built into the southern wall.

The larger of these monumental staircases was uncovered in 1968 and has been restored to much of its original splendour. It measures 157 m wide and rises some 6,7 m via 30 steps of trimmed and smoothed stone paving blocks. The width and spacing of the steps has led some to conjecture that the stairways were built to correspond to the rhythmic patterns that characterize the Psalms of Ascent (i.e. Psalms 120-134). From these steps teachers could address those who had assembled in the plaza; it is probable that Jesus taught from this vantage point, even though the Gospels explicitly refer only to His teaching from the porticoes standing on the temple mount itself (John 10:23).

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