the well-known eminence, or rather ridge, on the east side of Jerusalem, separated from the city by the Jehoshaphat valley; it is intimately and characteristically connected with some of the gravest and most significant events of the history of the O.T., the N.T., and the intervening times, and one of the firmest links by which the two are united; the scene of the flight of David, and the triumphal progress of the Son of David, of the idolatry of Solomon, and the agony and betrayal of Christ. In the following account of it we collect and digest the information from all ancient and modern sources.
1. The name "Mount of Olives" (הִאּ הִזֵּיתַים; Sept. τὸ ὄρος τῶν ἐλαιῶν) occurs only once in the O.T. (Zec 14:4), but the hill is clearly alluded to in five other passages. In 2Sa 15:30 we read that David, in fleeing from Jerusalem during Absalom's rebellion, "went up by the ascent of the Olives" (במעלה הזיתים), unquestionably the western side of the mount, up which he had to go "toward the way of the wilderness" (ver. 23). In 1Ki 11:7 it is recorded that Solomon built "a high place for Chemosh in the hill that is before (בהר אשר עלִפני,) which is on the face of) Jerusalem." This is an accurate description of the position of Olivet — facing the Holy City, visible from every part of it. The same hill is called in 2Ki 23:13 "The Mount of Corruption" (הר המשחית), doubtless from the idolatrous rites established by Solomon, and practiced there. In Ne 8:15 Olivet is called emphatically "The Mount" (ההר), etc. Ezekiel mentions it as the mountain which is on the east side (מקדם) of the city.
In the N.T. its ordinary name is "The Mount of Olives" (τὸ ὄρος τῶν ἐλαιῶν), which may be regarded as a descriptive appellation-the mount on which the olives grew (Mt 21:1; Mt 24:3; Mt 26:30; Mr 11:1; Lu 19:37; Joh 8:1). But Luke in three passages gives it a distinct proper name" And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called Elaiozn"-( πρὸς τὸ ὄρος τὸ καλούμενον Ε᾿λαιών), not, as in the A. V., "the Mount of Olives." The word is Ε᾿λαιών, the nom. sing., and not ἐλαιῶν, the gen. pi. of ἐλαία (see Alford, Tischendorf, Lachmann, etc., ad loc.), in which case it would have the article (19:29; comp. ver. 37; 21:37; 22:39). In Ac 1:12 Luke again employs it in the gen. sing. — "Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet" (ἀπὸ ὄρους τοῦ καλουμένου Ε᾿λαιῶνος ["called Elaion"]). In Josephus also we read διὰ τοῦ Ε᾿λαιῶνος ὄρους (Ant. 7:9, 2; comp. 20:8, 6; War, v. 2, 3), showing that in his time Elalcion was the ordinary name given to the mount.
The rabbins called Olivet "The Mount of Anointing" (הר המשחה; Mishna, Para, 3:6; Reland, Palaest. p. 337); and Jarchi, in his note on 2Ki 23:13, says this was its usual name; but that the sacred writers changed it to "Mount of Corruption" (הר המשחית) by a play upon the word, and to denote its defilement by the idolatrous rites of Solomon. The name משחה is closely allied in sense to Olivet-the latter referring to the oil-producing tree, the former to the anointing with its oil (Lightfoot, Opera, 2:200). The names applied to the mount in the Targums are as follows: זֵיתִיָּא טוּר זֵיתָא (2Sa 15:30; 2Ki 23:13; Ezra 11:23; Zec 14:4), ט8 מַשׁחָא' (Song 8:3; and Ge 8:11, Pseudo-Jon. only).
At present the hill has two names, Jebel et-Tuir, which may be regarded as equivalent to the expression "the Mount" (ההר) in Ne 8:15. This is the name almost universally given to it by the Mohammedan residents in Jerusalem. The Christians and Jews seem to prefer the Arabic equivalent of the Scripture name, Jebel ez-Zeitn, "Mount of Olives."
2. Physical Features. — The Mount of Olives lies on the east side of Jerusalem, and intercepts all view of the wilderness of Judaea and the Jordan valley. It is separated from the city by the deep and narrow glen of the Kidron. Its appearance as first seen sadly disappoints the Bible student. Properly speaking it is not a hill. It is only one of a multitude of rounded crowns that form the summit of the broad mountain ridge which runs longitudinally through Central Palestine. Zion, Moriah, Scopus, Gibeah, Ramah and Mizpeh are others like Olivet. These bare rocky crowns encircle the Holy City, Olivet being the highest and most conspicuous in the immediate vicinity.
Approaching the city from the west, along the Joppa road, a low ridge is seen beyond it, barely overtopping the massive castle of David, and the higher buildings on Zion. It droops towards the right, revealing the pale blue mountains of Moab in the distant background; and it runs away to the left until it appears to join other ridges. It has no striking features. It is rounded and regular in form and almost entirely colorless. You descend from the Golden Gateway, or the Gate of St. Stephen, by a sudden and steep declivity, and no sooner is the bed of the valley reached than you again commence the ascent, for the foot of Olivet is in fact in the very hollow of the valley. So. great is the effect of this proximity that, partly from that, and partly from the extreme clearness of the air, a spectator from the western part of Jerusalem imagines Olivet to rise immediately from the side of the Haram area (Porter, Handb. p. 103a; also Stanley, S. and P. p. 186).
The best view of the mount is obtained from the city wall, near the St. Stephen's Gate (as in the preceding cut). There is a rocky platform, some fifty yards wide. runs along the wall, overhanging the dusky and venerable olive-groves which partly fill up the bottom of the Kidron, a hundred feet below. From the bottom of the glen rises the side of Olivet, in gray terraced slopes and white limestone crags, to a height of about six hundred feet. Farther south, opposite the Haram, the Kidron contracts so as barely to leave room for a torrent bed. Its general course is from north to south; but it winds considerably, so that the roots of the opposite hills-Moriah and Olivet-overlap. About three quarters of a mile south of the Haram area, the Kidron turns eastward, and there the ridge of Olivet terminates; but that part of the ridge to which the name properly belongs scarcely extends so far. The lower road to Bethany crosses it in the parallel of the village of Silwan, SEE SILOAM, where there is a considerable depression.The section of the ridge south of that road appears in some aspects as a distinct hill, having a low rounded top, and descendinglin lbrokeli cliffs into the Kidron. This is now called by travelers The Mount of Corruption." -
From the Church of the Ascension, which is the central point of Olivet, the ridge runs due north for about a mile, and then sweeps to the west around a bend of the Kidron. At the elbow it is crossed by the road from Anathoth; and the part west of this road is most probably the Scopus (q.v.) of Josephus (War, v. 2,3).
The eastern limits of Olivet are not so easily defined. It forms the brow of the mountain-chain; and from its top there is an uninterrupted though irregular descent to the Jordan valley — a descent of about 3500 feet in a distance of 14 miles. The eastern declivity of Olivet thus shades gradually off into the wilderness of Judaea. There is no dividing-line; and from the east "The Mount" appears as one of the crowns of the mountainrange. We may assume Bethany, however, as the historical, if not the strictly physical limit of Olivet in this direction; though the slope below the village is quite as great as that above it.
A few measurements and elevations will now most satisfactorily exhibit the position and features of Olivet. Its central but not highest point the Church of the Ascension is due east of the Great Mosque, the site of the Temple, and it is one fifth. of a mile (in an air-line) distant from it. From the mosque on the crown of Moriah to the Haram wall on its eastern brow is 625 feet; from the wall to the western base of Olivet, in the bottom of the Kidron, is 450 feet; from the bottom of the Kidron to the Church of the Ascension, 2000 feet: from the church to the assumed eastern base of "The Mount," in the line north of Bethany, 4000 feet. The relative elevations are as follows: Height of Olivet above: Bethany...433 feet. Bed of the Kidron...355 Moriah...224 N.W. angle of the city...69
About 530 feet north of the Church of the Ascension is the nearest eminence of the summit, called by monks and travelers Viri Galilaci; it is only-a few feet lower than the church. At a somewhat less distance northeastward is the culminating point of the Mount of Olives, now occupied as a Mohammedan cemetery. The Mount of Offence is about 3700 feet distant south-westerly from the Church of the Ascension, and is nearly 250 feet lower than Olivet.
The outline of Olivet is uniform. The curves are unbroken. Its western face has regular declivities of whitish soil, composed of disintegrated limestone, interrupted here and there by large rocky crowns, long ledges, and rude terrace walls. There is no grandeur, no picturesque ruggedness, no soft beauty; and the aspect, especially in summer and autumn, is singularly bleak. In early spring the painful bareness is in some measure relieved by the coloring-green corn, brilliant wild-flowers, the soft gray tint of the olive leaves, and the dark foliage of the fig. The whole hill-side is rudely cultivated in little terraced strips of wheat and barley, with here and there some straggling vines trailing along the ground or hanging over the ledges and terrace walls. Fig-trees are abundant, but olives are still, as they were in our Lord's days, the prevailing trees. The mount has as good a title now as perhaps it ever had to the name Olivet. Olive-trees dot it all over-in some places far apart, in others close together, though nowhere so close as to form groves. Most of them are old, gnarled, and stunted; a few are propped up and in the last stage of decay; but scarcely any young, vigorous trees are met with. The base of the hill along the Kidron is more rugged than any other part of the western side. At and near the village of Silwnn are precipices of rock from twenty to thirty feet high, which continue at intervals around the Mount of Corruption. These cliffs are stiaded with excavated tombs; and in Silwin, and northward, some of them are hewn into chaste facades and detached monuments. The hill-side is here covered also with the tombstones of the modern Jewish cemetery. It is the favorite burial-place of the children of Abraham, and the spot where they believe the final judgment will take place.
With the exception of Silwan at its,western base, Bethany at its eastern, and Kefr et-Teron its summit, Olivet is almost-deserted. There are three or four little towers one habitable; the others in ruins built originally as watch-towers for the vineyards and orchards. Nearly opposite St. Stephen's Gate, just across the bed of the, Kidron, is the garden of Gethsemane, and from it a shallow wady, or rather depression, runs. up the hill towards the Church of the Ascension, making a slight curve northward. A short distance south of Gethsemane, and a little farther up the hill, at the spot traditionally known rias that where, the Lord's Prayer was delivered, a French lady has taken up her residence, and built a chapel adjoining her dwelling, which contains the Lord's Prayer in almost all known languages. These structures are the only noticeable features on the western side of the hill. The eastern is much more rugged. The ledges are higher, the cliffs bolder, and there are several deep ravines.
Two ancient roads, or rather bridle-paths, cross the mount to Bethany. From St. Stephen's Gate — the only gate in the eastern side of Jerusalem — a road winds down to the Kidron, crosses it by a bridge, and then forks at Gethsemane. One branch keeps to the right, ascends the hill diagonally by an easy slope, winds around its southern shoulder, and descends to Bethany. This was the caravan and chariot road to Jericho in ancient days. The other branch keeps to the left of Gethsemane, right up the hill, following the course of the wady, passes Kefr et-Tir, and descends by steep zigzags to Bethany. Perhaps this path is even more ancient than the other. It is in places hewn in the rock; and here and there are rude steps up shelving ledges.
There are several other paths on Olivet, but they are of no historical importance, and require only to be mentioned as features in its topography. A path branches off from No. 2 at the side of Gethsemane, skirts the upper wall of the garden, ascends to the tombs of the prophets, and then turns to the left, up to the village. Another branches off a little higher up, and ascends the steep hill-side, almost direct to the village. Another, leading from St. Stephen's Gate, crosses the Kidron obliquely in a north-easterly direction, and passes over the northern shoulder of the mount to the little hamlet of Isawlyeh. Another path-ancient, though now little used to run from Kefr et-Tur northward along the summit of the ridge to Scopus, joining the road to Anathoth.
3. Historical Notices. — The first mention of Olivetish in connection with David's flight from Jerusalem on the rebellion of Absalom. His object was to place the Jordan between. himself and Absalom. Leaving the city, "he passed over the valley (נחל) of Kidron, toward the way of the wilderness" (2Sa 15:23) — the wilderness of Judah lying between Olivet and the Jordan. Having crossed the Kidron, "he ascended by the ascent of the Olives" (ver. 30), and came to the summit, "where he worshipped God" (ver. 32). It has been supposed from the latter statement that there was here, on the top, an ancient high place, where David had been accustomed to worship; and that this may have been the source and scene of all subsequent idolatrous rites and Christian traditions. The Hebrew phrase does not warrant any such conclusion. The scope of the passage suggests that on reaching the summit he turned to take a last look at the city, to which he had just sent back the ark, and on some of whose heights he probably still saw it. There, with his face towards the sanctuary, he worshipped God (see Theodoret and Jerome, ad loc.). This is the view of most Jewish commentators, though the Talmudists state that there was an idol shrine on the summit (Lightfoot, Opp 2:570). David's route is manifest. He ascended by the ancient path (No. 2) to the top; there he worshipped, with the city in full view. Turning away, he began to descend: and there, "a little past the top" (2 Samuel 16), he met Ziba. At Bahurim, while David and his men kept the road, Shimei scrambled along the slope of the overhanging hill above, even with him, and threw stones at him, and covered him with dust (ver. 13). After passing Bahurim, probably about where Bethany now stands, he continued the descent through the "dry and thirsty land" (Psalm 63), until he arrived "weary" at the bank of the river (Josephus, Ant. vii. 9, 2-6; 2Sa 16:14; 2Sa 17:21-22).
The next notice is in the time of Solomon, who built "a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem; and for Molech" (1Ki 11:7). The hill was Olivet: but the locality of the high place is not specified. Statements made at a later period show that it could not have been upon the summit. "The high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the Mount of Corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded . . . did the king (Manasseh) defile" (2Ki 23:13). The stand-point of observation and description here is the Holy City, which formerly extended much farther south than at present. "Solomon high place was in front of it, within view, and on the right hand of Olivet. This indicates the southern section of the ridge, the traditional "Mount of Corruption." There was probably some connection between the high place of Molech, on the right hand of Olivet and those idol shrines which stood in Tophet, at the entrance of the valley of Hinnom (comp. 2Ki 23:13-14; Jer 7:31 sq.; Jerome, Comm. ad loc.). The Mount of Corruption is directly opposite Tophet, and then hill- side is filled with ancient tombs, as Jeremiah predicted (Jer 19:6; Jer 11). The tradition which gives its name to the Mount of Corruption is first mentioned in the 13th century by Brocardus: "Ultra torrentem Cedron, in latere aquilonlari-montis Oliveti, est: mons alius altus, quatuor stadiis a Jerusalem distans, ubi Salomon idolo Moabitorum, nomine Chamos, templum construxit, et ubi tempore Machabaeorum eedificatum fuit castrunz, cujus indicia adhuc hodie ibi cernuntur" (cap. 9).
During the next four hundred years we have only the brief notice of Josiah's iconoclasms at this spot. Ahaz and Manasseh had no doubt maintained and enlarged the original erections of Solomon. These Josiah demolished. He "defiled" the high places, broke to pieces the uncouth and obscene symbols which deformed them, cut down the images, or possibly the actual groves, of Ashtaroth, and effectually disqualified them for worship by filling up the cavities with human bones (2Ki 23:13-14).
Ezekiel also mentions Olivet in the wondrous vision of the Lord's departure from Jerusalem. The glory of the Lord first left the sanctuary and stood on the threshold of the house (Eze 10:4); then it removed to a position over the east gate of the Lord's house (ver. 19); then it went up "and stood upon the mountain, which is upon the east side of the city" (Eze 11:23), that is, on Olivet. This is doubtless the source of the Rabbinical tradition, which represents the Shekinah as having remained three years and a half on Olivet, calling to the Jews, "Return to me, and I will return to you" (Reland, Palaest. p. 337).
The reference to Olivet in Ne 8:15 shows that the mount, and probably the valley at, its base, abounded in groves of various kinds of trees — "Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths." In the days of our Lord the trees were still very numerous (Mr 11:8). The palms, pines, and myrtles are now all gone; and, with the exception of olives and figs, no trees are found on Olivet. Caphnatha, Bethpage, Bethany — all names of places on the mount, and all derived from some fruit or vegetational are probably of late origin, certainly of late mention.
The only other mention of Olivet in the O.T. is in Zechariah's prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the preservation of God's people in it. He says of the Messiah, "His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem, on the east" (Zec 14:4).
But his mainly from its connection with N.-T. history that Olivet has so strong a claim upon the attention and affections of the Christian student. During the periods of our Lord's ministry in Jerusalem the mount appears to have been his home. As poor pilgrims were then, and still are, accustomed to bivouac or encamp in the open fields, so Jesus passed his nights amid the groves of Olivet. He did so partly, perhaps, that he might enjoy privacy; partly to escape the ceaseless and bitter persecution of the Jews; and partly through necessity. It looks as if we have here a practical:illustration of his own touching statement, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head" (Mt 8:20; Joh 8:1; Luke 28:27). The Mount of Olives was the scene of four events, among the most remarkable in the history Of our Lord.
(1.) The Triumphal Entry. — Its scene was the road — doubtless the ancient caravan road-which winds around the southern shoulder of the hill from Bethany to Jerusalem. A short distance from Bethany the road meets a deep ravine, which comes down from the top of Olivet on the right, and winds away to the wilderness on the left. From this point the-tops of the buildings on Zion are seen, but all the rest of the city is hid. Just opposite this point, too, on the other side of the ravine, are the remains of an ancient village cisterns, hewn stones, and sharpened rocks. The road turns sharply to the right, descends obliquely to the bottom, then turns to the left, ascends and reaches the top of the opposite bank a short distance above the ruins. This then appears to be the spot, "at the Mount of Olives," where Jesus said to the two disciples, "Go into the village which is opposite you (τὴν ἀπέναντι ὑμῶν), and immediately ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her; having loosed, bring them to me" (Mt 21:2). These active footmen could cross the ravine direct in a minute or two, while the great procession would take some time to wind around the road. The people of the village saw the procession; they knew its cause, and they were thus prepared to give the ass to the disciples the moment they heard; "The Lord hath need of him." The disciples took the ass, led it up to the road, and met Jesus. The procession advanced up the easy eastern slope. It gained the crown of the ridge, where "the descent of the Mount of Olives" begins, and where Jerusalem, in its full extent and beauty, suddenly bursts upon the view; and then the multitude, excited by the noble prospect, and the fame of him whom they conducted, burst forth in joyous acclamation, "Hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh in the. name of the Lord: blessed be the kingdom of our father David" (Mr 11:10). The Pharisees were offended, and said, "Master, rebuke thy disciples. He answered, I tell you, that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out" (Lu 19:39-40). The hill-side is there covered with rugged crowns of rock. The procession advanced, descending obliquely. "And when he came near" to a point nearly opposite the Temple" he beheld the city, and wept over it," giving utterance to those words so well known and of such deep import The splendid buildings of the Temple were then in full view, a little below the level of the eye, and not more than 600 yards distant. Beyond them Zion appeared crowned with Herod's palace, and the lofty towers of the wall and citadel. Looking on so much splendor and beauty, and looking onward to future desolation, what wonder that divine compassion manifested itself in tears!
The traditionary spot of the lamentation over Jerusalem, however, now marked by a small tower, is on a mamelon or protuberance which projects from the slope of the breast of the hill, about 300 yards above Gethsemane. The sacred narrative requires a spot on the road from Bethany at which the city or Temple should suddenly come into view; but this is one which can only be reached by a walk of several hundred yards over the breast of the hill, with the Temple and city full in sight the whole time. It is also pretty evident that the path which now passes the spot is subsequent in date to the fixing of the spot. As. already remarked, the natural road lies up the valley between this hill and that to the north, and no one, unless with the special object of a visit to this spot, would take this very inconvenient path. The inappropriateness of this place is obvious (Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 190-193).
(2.) From a commanding point on the western side of Olivet Jesus predicted the Temple's final overthrow. He had paid his last visit to the Temple. When passing out, the disciples said, "Master, see what manner of stones, and what buildings are here!" (Mr 13:1). They had probably heard some word fall from his lips which excited their alarm, and they thus tried to awaken in him a deeper interest in their holy temple. He replied, "Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down" (ver. 2). He passed on over the Kidron, took the lower road to Bethany, which led him up to a spot "on the Mount of Olives over against the Temple" (ver. 3); and there, with the Temple, its stately courts, and the colossal magnitude of its outer battlements before him, he predicted its final ruin, summing up with the words, "This generation shall not pass till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." The whole discourse in Mark 13 was spoken on that spot (comp. Mt 24; Lu 21).
(3.) After the institution of the Supper, "when they had sung a hymn," our Lord led his disciples "over the brook Cedron," "out into the Mount of Olives," to a garden called Gethsemane (Joh 18:1; Mt 26:30,36). That was the scene of the agony and the betrayal. SEE GETHSEMANE.
(4.) The Ascension was the most wondrous of all the events of which Olivet was the scene. Luke records it at the close of his. Gospel history, and the beginning' of his apostolic history. In the first record Olivet is not mentioned. Jesus led his disciples out ἕως εἰς Βηθάνίαν, "as far as to Bethany." In the second record the reader is referred back to the former. The narrative opens abruptly at the spot to which he had led his disciples, as indicated in the Gospel. A fuller account of his last words is given; and after the ascension, the writer adds, "Then returned they unto Jerusalem, from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath-day's journey" (Lu 24:50-53; Ac 1:9-12).
Considerable difficulty has been felt in reconciling the topographical notices in these passages; and still more in attempting to bring them into harmony with the traditional scene of the ascension on the summit of Olivet. The difficulties are as follows:
(a) In Luke Christ is said to have led his disciples "as far as to Bethany," where he ascended.
(b) In Acts the return from the scene of the ascension is described as from Olivet, which is a Sabbath-day's journey from Jerusalem.
(c) A Sabbath-day's journey was, according to the Talmud, 2000 cubits, about 7.5 stadia (Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. in Luc. 24:50).
(d) Bethany was fifteen stadia distant from Jerusalem (Joh 11:18). Lightfoot in one place. explains these apparent discrepancies by stating that the ascension took place at Bethany; that the disciples returned over Olivet; and that the Sabbath-day's journey refers to the distance of that mount from the city (Comment. in Act. 1:12). But in a later work he gives a totally different explanation. He says that by Bethany is meant a district, and not the village; that district included a large section of Olivet; and its border, where the ascension took place, was a Sabbath-day's journey from Jerusalem (Hor. Heb. ut sup.). Lightfoot's opinion, therefore, is not of much critical value (see, however, Robinson, Bibl. Sacra, 1:178; Williams, Holy City, 2:440 and 611, 2d ed.).
The presence of the crowd of churches and other edifices implied in the ecclesiastical descriptions must have rendered the Mount of Olives, during the early and middle ages of Christianity, entirely unlike what it was in the time of the Jewish kingdom or of our Lord. Except the high places on the summit, the only buildings then to be seen were probably the walls of the vineyards and gardens, and the towers and presses which were their invariable accompaniment. But though the churches are nearly all demolished, there must be a considerable difference between the aspect of the mountain now and in those days when it received its name from the abundance of its olive-groves. It does not now stand so pre-eminent in this respect among the hills in the neighborhood of Jerusalem. "It is only in the deeper and more secluded slope leading up to the northernmost summit that these venerable trees spread into anything like a forest." The cedars commemorated by the Talmud (Lightfoot, 2:305); and the date-palms implied in the name Bethany, have fared still worse: there is not one of either to be found within many miles. This change is no doubt due to natural causes, variations of climate, etc.; but the check was not improbably given by the ravages committed by the army of Titus, who are stated by Josephus to have stripped the country round Jerusalem for miles and miles of every stick or shrub for the banks constructed during the siege. No olive or cedar, however sacred to Jewor Christian, would at such a time escape the axes of the Roman sappers, and, remembering how under similar circumstances every root and fibre of the smallest shrubs was dug up for fuel by the camp-followers of the army at Sebastopol it would be wrong to deceive ourselves by the belief that any of the trees now existing are likely to be the same or immediate descendants of those which were standing before that time.
Except on such rare occasions as the passage of the caravan of pilgrims to the Jordan, there must also be. a great contrast between the silence and loneliness which now pervades the mount and the busy scene which it presented in later Jewish times. Bethpage and Bethany are constantly referred to in the Jewish authors as places of much resort for business and pleasure. The two large cedars already mentioned had below them shops for the sale of pigeons and other necessaries for worshippers in the Temple, and these appear to have driven an enormous trade (see the citations in Lightfoot, 2:39, 305). Two religious ceremonies performed there must also have done much to increase the numbers who resorted to the mount. The appearance of the new moon was probably watched for, certainly proclaimed, from the summit — the long torches waving to and for in the moonless night till answered from the peak of Kurn Surtabeh; and an occasion to which the Jews attached so much weight would be sure to attract a concourse. The second ceremony referred to was the burning of the Red Heifer. There seems to be some doubt whether this was an annual ceremony. Jerome (Fpitaph. Paulae, § 12) distinctly says so; but the rabbins assert that from Moses to the captivity it was performed but once; from the captivity to the destruction eight times (Lightfoot, 2:306). This solemn ceremonial was enacted on the central mount, and in a spot so carefully specified that it would seem not difficult to fix it. It was due east of the sanctuary, and at such an elevation on the mount that the officiating priest, as he slew the animal and sprinkled her blood, could see the fadade of the sanctuary through the east gate of the Temple. To this spot a viaduct was constructed across the valley on a double row of arches, so as to raise it far above all possible proximity to graves or other defilements (see citations in Lightfoot, 2:39). The depth of the valley is such at this place (about 350 feet from the line of the south wall of the present Haram area) that this viaduct must have been an important and conspicuous work. It was probably demolished by the Jews themselves on the approach of Titus, or even earlier, when Pompey led his army by Jericho and over the Mount of Olives. This would account satisfactorily for its not being alluded to by Josephus. During the siege the 10th legion had its fortified camp and batteries on the top of the mount, and the first, and some of the fiercest, encounters of the siege took place here.
"The lasting glory of the Mount of Olives," it has been well said, "belongs not to the old dispensation, but to thee new. Its very barren-ness of interest in earlier times sets forth the abundance of those associations which it derives from the closing scenes of the sacred history. Nothing, perhaps, brings before us more strikingly the contrast of Jewish and Christian feeling, the abrupt and inharmonious termination of the Jewish dispensation — if we exclude the culminating point of the Gospel history — than to contrast the blank which Olivet presents to the Jewish pilgrims of the Middle Ages, only dignified by the sacrifice of the 'red heifer,' and the vision. too great for words, which it offers to the Christian traveler of all times, as the most detailed and the most authentic abiding-place of Jesus Christ. By one of those strange coincidences, whether accidental or borrowed, which occasionally appear in the Rabbinical writings, it is said in the Midrash (rabbi Janna, in the Midriash Tehillim, quoted by Lightfoot, 2:39; perhaps a play upon the mysterious passage Eze 11:23), that the Shekinah, or Presence of God, after having finally retired from Jerusalem, 'dwelt' three years and a half on the Mount of Olives, to see whether the Jewish people would or would not repent, calling, 'Return to me, O my sons, and I will return to ou;' 'Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;' and then, when all was in vain, returned to its own place. Whether, or not this story has a direct allusion to the ministrations of Christ, it is a true expression of his relation respectively to Jerusalem and to Olivet. It is useless to seek for traces of his presence in the streets of the since ten times captured city. It is impossible not to find them in the free space of the Mount of Olives" (Stanley, Sin. and Pal. p. 189).
A careful consideration of the passage in Ac 1:12 shows that it cannot affect in one way or another the direct statement made in Luke regarding the scene of the ascension, because —
(1st.) Bethany was upon the Mount of Olives; therefore the expressions, "He led them out as far as to Bethany," and "they returned from the mount called Olivet," indicate the same spot.
(2dly.) It is not certain whether the "Sabbath-day's journey" is intended to describe the distance of the mount or of the exact scene of the ascension.
(3dly.) Suppose it did refer to the latter, still it would not necessarily militate against the statement in Luke that Bethany was the place, because the exact length of a Sabbath-day's journey is uncertain-some say 2000 cubits, or nearly one Roman mile; others, 2000 Roman paces, or two miles: and, moreover, the point from which the measurement commences is unknown — some say from the city wall; others from the outer limit of the suburb Bethphage, a mile beyond the wall (see Lightfoot, 1. c.; Wieseler; also Barclay, who gives important measurements, City of the Great Kinq, p. 59). On the other hand, the statement in Luke is explicit, ἕως εἰς Βηθανίαν. There is nothing here to limit it; and in all other places Bethany means the village (Meyer; Lechler, On Acts; Lange; Alford; Ebrard). The ascension appears to have been witnessed by the disciples alone. It was not in Bethany, nor was it on such a conspicuous place as the summit of Olivet. Dr. Porter, who has carefully examined the whole region, saw one spot, as far from Jerusalem as Bethany, near the village, but concealed by an intervening cliff; and this he thought, in all probability, was-the real scene.' The disciples, led by Jesus, would reach it by the path over the top of Olivet, and they would naturally return to the city by the same route (Hand-book, p. 102 sq.).
Since the days of Eusebius the summit of Olivet has been the traditional scene of the ascension. As this fact has been questioned (Stanley, S. and P. p. 447), it is well to quote his words: . . . ἔνθα τοῖς ἑαυτοῦ μαθηταῖς ἐπὶ τῆς ἀκρωρείας τοῦ των ἐλαιῶν ὄρους τὰ περὶ τῆς συντωλείας μυστήρια παραδεδωκότος, ἐντεῦθέν το τὸν εἰς οὐρανοὺς ἄνοδον πεποινμένου (Demonstr. Evang. 6:18; comp. Vit. Const. 3:41). In honor of the event the empress Helena built a church on the spot (Vit. Const. 3:43). Since that time the tradition has been almost universally received (Baronius, Annales, A.D. 34; Reland, Palaest. p. 337); but the statement of Luke is fatal to it-'" He led them out as far as to Bethany," and Bethany is nearly a mile beyond the summit of the mount. The tradition has still, nevertheless, a number of devoted adherents, whose arguments are worthy of careful consideration (Williams, Holy City, 2:440, 609; Ellicott, Life of our Lord. p. 413). The Bordeaux Pilgrim, however, who arrived shortly after the building of the church (A.D. 333), seems not to have known anything of the exact spot. He names the Mount of Olives as the place where our Lord used to teach his disciples; mentions that a basilica of Constantine stood there;... he carefully points out the Mount of Transfiguration in the neighborhood(!), but is silent on the ascension. From his time to that of Arculf (A.D. 700) we have no information, except the reference of Jerome (A.D. 390), cited above. In that long interval of 370 years the basilica of Constantine or Helena had given way to the round church of Modestus (Tobler, p. 92, note), and the tradition had, become fairly established. The church was open to the sky "because of the passage of the Lord's body," and on the ground in the center were the prints of his feet in the dust (pulvere). The cave or spot hallowed by his preaching to his disciples appears to have been moved off to the north of Bethany (Early Trav. p. 6).
The spot is just about 850 yards from the present city wall. The church has long since disappeared, and a mosque has taken its place. In the center of an open court beside it is a little domed building covering a rock, on which is the supposed impress of Christ's foot, where he last touched the earth. Formerly, tradition affirms there were two footmarks, but the Mohammedans stole one of them, and put it in the Mosque el-Aksa (Williams, Holy City, 2:445; Stanley, S. and P. p. 447; Maundrell, under April 7).
4. Holy Places. — With these, as above partially noted, Olivet, is thickly studded, where they have been located by the superstitious of former ages, and preserved by tradition. The majority of these sacred spots now command little or no attention. Only two or three of them have even a shadow of claim to be real, while most of them are absurd. Several of them have been fully considered above. They may most conveniently be described in connection with the three, or rather perhaps four, independent summits or eminences into which the entire ridge, especially when seen from below the, eastern wall of Jerusalem, divides itself. Proceeding from north to south these occur in the following order: Galilee, or Viri Galilaei; Mount of the Ascension; Prophets, subordinate to the last, and almost a part of it; Mount of Offence." In considering these, we shall have an opportunity to complete the above physical description.
(1.) Of these eminences, the central one, distinguished by the minaret and domes of the Church of the Ascension, is in every way the most important. 'The church, all in the tiny hamlet of wretched hovels which surround it. — the Kefr et-Tur are planted slightly on the Jordan side of the actual top, but not so far as to hinder their being seen from all parts of the western environs of the mountain, or, in their turn, commanding the view of the deepest recesses of the Kidron valley (Porter, Handbook, p. 103). The eminence above noted, a little to the north-east of that containing the mosque, and actually somewhat higher, now occupied by the Mohammedan cemetery, deserves no special notice in this survey, as it is of no traditional importance, and is hidden from observation in the city.
The central hill, which we are now considering, purports to contain the sites of some of the most sacred and impressive events of Christian history. During the Middle Ages most of these were protected by an edifice of some sort; and, to judge from the reports of the early travelers, the mount must at one time have been thickly covered with churches and convents. The following is a complete list of these traditional spots, as far as they can be compiled from Quaresmiuls, Doubdan, Mislin, and other worlks.
1. Commencing at the western foot, and going gradually up the hill (Plenary indulgence is accorded by the Church of Rome to those who recite the Lord's Prayer and the Ave Maria at the spots marked thus*.) *Tomb of the Virgin: containing also those of Joseph, Joachim, and Anna. Gethsemane: containing, Olive garden., *Cavern of Christ's prayer and agony. (A church here in the time of Jerome and Willibald.) ,Rock on which the three disciples slept. ,*Place of the capture of Christ. (A church in the time of Bernard the Wise.) Spot from which the Virgin witnessed the stoning of Stephen. Spot at which her girdle dropped during her assumption.
Spot of our Lord's lamentation over Jerusalem (Lu 19:41). (A church here formerly called Dominus fle vit;, Surius, in Mislin, 2:476.) Spot on which he first said the Lord's Prayer, or wrote it on the stone with his finger (Saewulf, Early Trav. p. 42). (A splendid church here formerly. Maundeville seems to give this as the spot where the beatitudes were pronounced, Early Trav. p. 177.) Spot at which the woman taken in adultery was brought to him (Bernard the Wise, Early Trav. p. 2S). *Tombs of the prophets (Mt 23:29): containing, according to the Jews, those of Haggai and Zechariah. Cave in which the apostles composed the Creed; called also Church of St. Mark, or of the Twelve Apostles. Spot at which Christ discoursed of the judgment to come. (Mt 24:3). Cave of St. Pelagia: according to the Jews, sepulcher of Huldah the prophetess. *Place of the ascension. (Church, with subsequently a large Augustine convent attached.) Spot at which the Virgin was warned of her death by an angel. In the valley between the ascension and the Viri Galiltei (Maundeville, p. 191, and so Doubdan: but Maundrell, Early Trav. p. 470, places it close to the cave of Pelagia). Viri Galilcei, or spot from which the apostles watched the ascension; or at which Christ first appeared to the three Marys after his resurrection (Tobler, p. 76, note). This locality we add here for the sake of convenience in the connection, although it constitutes a separate eminence, as noted below. 2. On the east side, descending from the Church of the Ascension to Bethany. The field in which stood the fruitless fig-tree. Bethphage. Bethany: House of Lazarus. (A church there in Jerome's time, Lib. de Situ, etc., "Bethania.") *Tomb of Lazarus. Stone on which Christ was sitting when Martha and Mary came to him.
The Tomb and Chapel of the Virgin, at the western base of Olivet, a few yards north of Gethsemane, is one of the most picturesque buildings around Jerusalem. Its fagade is deep down in a sunk court, and admits by a spacious door to a flight of sixty steps leading down to a dark, rock-hewn chapel. At its eastern end is a smaller chapel containing the reputed tomb of the Virgin; on the south are shown the tombs of Joachim and Anna her parents; and on the north that of Joseph her husband. The tradition attached to this grotto is comparatively recent. It is not mentioned during the first six centuries (Quaresmius, 2:244 sq.). John of Damascus is the first who speaks of it (Lib. c.); and it is also mentioned by Willibald (Early Trav. p. 19), and most travelers and pilgrims after the 8th century (Williams Holy City, 2:435).
(2.) Next to the central and principal portion of the mount, and separated from it on the southern side by a slight depression, or, rather, less precipitous declivity, up which the path mentioned above as the third takes its course, is a spur, which appears neither to possess, nor to have possessed, any independent name. It is remarkable only for the fact that it contains the "singular catacomb" known as the "Tombs of the Prophets," probably in allusion to the words of Christ (Mt 23:29). Of the origin, and even of the history of this cavern hardly anything is known. It is possible (Schultz, p. 72) that it is the "rock called Peristereon," named by Josephus (War, v. 12, 2) in describing the course of Titus's great wall of circunmvallation, though there is not much to be said for that view (see Robinson, 3:254, note). To the earlier pilgrims it does not appear to have been known; at least their descriptions hardly apply to its present size or condition. Stanley (S. and P. p. 453) is inclined to identify it with the cave mentioned by Eusebius as that in which our Lord taught his disciples, and also with that which is mentioned by Arculf and Bernard as containing "the four tables" of our Lord (Early Trav. p. 4 and 28). The first is not improbable, but the cave of Arculf and Bernard seems to have been down in the valley not far from the tomb of the Virgin, and on the spot of the betrayal (Early Trav. p. 28), therefore close to Gethsemane. This catacomb is fully described by Nugent (Lands, Classical and Sacred, 2:73), Tobler (Oelberg, p. 350), and Porter (Handbook, p. 147).
(3.) The most southern portion of the Mount of Olives-much more distinctly separated from the northern congeries of summits than they are from each other-is that usually known as the "Mount of Offence," Mons Offensionis, though by the Arabs called Baten el-Hawa' "the bag of the wind." It rises next to the gently sloping spur last mentioned; and in the hollow between the two — a tolerably well-defined although broad ravine — runs the road from Bethany, which was without doubt the road of Christ's entry to Jerusalem.
The title Mount of Offence, or of Scandal, was bestowed on the supposition that it is the "Mount of Corruption," on which Solomon erected the high places for the gods of his foreign wives (2Ki 23:1; 1Ki 11:7). This tradition appears to be of a recent date. It is not mentioned in the Jewish travelers Benjamin, hap-Parchi, or Petachia, and the first appearance of the name or the tradition as attached to that locality among Christian writers appears to be in John of Wirtzburg (Tobler. p. 80, note) and Brocardus (Descriptio Ter. S. cap. 9), both of the 13th century. At that time the northern summit was believed to have been the site of the altar of Chemosh (Brocardus), the southern one that of Molech only (Thietmar, Pernegr. 11:2). The title "Mount of Corruption"' (הִר הִמִּשׁחַית) seems to be connected etymologically in some way with the name by which the mount is occasionally rendered in the Targums- טוּר מַשׁחָא (Jonathan. Song 8:9; Pseudo-Jon. Ge 8; Ge 10). One is probably a play on the other. Stanley (S. and P. p. 188, note) argues that the Mount- of Corruption was the northern hill (Viri Galilaei), because the three sanctuaries were south of it, and therefore on the other three summits.
This southern summit is considerably lower than the center one. and, as already remarked, it is so distinct as almost to constitute a separate hill or eminence in the general range. It is also sterner and more repulsive in its form. On the south it is bounded by the Wady en-Nar, the continuation of. the Kidron, curving around eastward on its dreary course to Mar Saba and the Dead Sea. From this barren ravine the Mount of Offence rears its rugged sides by acclivities barer and steeper than any in the northern portion of the mount, and its top presents a bald and desolate surface, contrasting greatly with the cultivation of the other summits, and this not improbably, as in the case of Mount Ebai, suggested the name which it now bears. On the steep ledges of its western face clings the ill-favored village of Silwan, a few dilapidated towers rather than houses, their gray bleared walls hardly to be distinguished from the rock to which they adhere, and inhabited by a tribe as mean and repulsive as their habitations.
Crossing to the back or eastern side of this mountain, on a half isolated promontory or spur which overlooks the road of our Lord's progress from Bethany, are found tanks and foundations and other remains, which are maintained by Dr. Barclay (City, etc., p. 66) to be those of Bethphage (see also Stewart, Tent and Khan, p. 322).
(4.) The only one of the summits remaining to be considered is that on the north of the "Mount of Ascension" — the Karem es-Seyad, or Vineyard of the Sportsman; or, as it is called by the modern Latin and Greek Christians, the Viri Galilei. This is a hill of exactly the same character as the Mount of the Ascension, and so nearly its equal in height that few travelers agree as to which is the more lofty. The summits of the two are about 400 yards apart. It stands directly opposite the north-east corner of Jerusalem, and is approached by the path between it and the Mount of Ascension, which strikes at the top into a cross-path leading to el-Isawiyeh and Anata. The Arabic name well reflects the fruitful character of the hill, on which there are several vineyards, besides much cultivation of other kinds. The Christian name is due to the singular tradition that here the two angels addressed the apostles after our Lord's ascension — "Ye men of Galilee!" This idea, which is so incompatible, on account of the distance, even with the traditional spot of the ascension, is of late existence and inexplicable origin. The first name by which we encounter this hill is simply "Galilee," ἡ Γαλιλαία (Perdiccas, A.D. cir. 1250, in Reland, Palest. cap. 52). Brocardus (A.D. 1280) describes the mountain as the site of Solomon's altar to Chemosh (Descr. cap. 9), but evidently knows of no name for it, and connects it with no Christian event. This name may, as is conjectured (Quaresmius, 2:319, and Reland, p. 341), have originated in its being the custom of the apostles, or of the Galilaeans generally, when they came up to Jerusalem, to take up their quarters there; or it may be the echo or distortion of an ancient name of the spot, possibly the Geliloth of Jos 18:17 one of the landmarks of the south boundary of Benjamin, which has often puzzled the topographer. But, whatever its origin, it came at last to be considered as the actual Galilee of Northern Palestine, the place at which our Lord appointed to meet his disciples after his resurrection (Mt 28:10), the scene of the miracle of Cana (Reland, p. 338). This transference, at once so extraordinary and so instructive, arose from the. same desire, combined with the same astounding want of the critical faculty, which enabled the pilgrims of the Middle Ages to see without perplexity the scene of the transfiguration.
(Bourdeaux Pilgr.), of the beatitudes (Maundeville, Early Trav. p. 177), and of the ascension all crowded together on the single summit of the central hill of Olivet. It testified to the same feeling which has brought together the scene of Jacob's vision at Bethel, of the sacrifice of Isaac on Moriah, and of David's offering in the threshing-floor of Araunah, on one hill; and which to this day has crowded within the walls of one church of moderate size all the events connected with the death and resurrection of- Christ.
In the 8th centlury the place of the angels was represented by two columns in the Church of the Ascension itself (Willibald, Early Trav. p. 19). So it remained, with some trifling difference, at the time of Saewulfs visit (A.D. 1102), but there was then also a chapel in existence-apparently on the northern summit — purporting to stand where Christ made his first appearance after the resurrection, and called "Galilee." So it continued at Maundeville's visit (1322). In 1580 the two pillars were still shown in the Church of the Ascension (Radzivil, Peregrin. p. 75, cited by Williams, Holy City, 2:127, note), but in the 16th century (Tobler, p. 75) the tradition had relinquished its ancient and more appropriate seat, and thenceforth became attached to the northern summit. where Maundrell (A.D. 1697) encountered it (Early Tray. p. 471), and where it even now retains some hold, the name Kalilea being occasionally applied to it by the Arabs (see Pococke and Scholz, in Tobler, p. 72). An ancient tower connected with the tradition was in course of demolition during Maundrell's visit, "a Turk having bought the field in which it stood." The summit is now crowned by a confused heap of ruins, encompassed by a vineyard.
5. Literature. — A monograph on the Mount of Olives, exhausting every source of information, and giving the fullest references, will be found in Tobler's Siloahquelle und der Oelberg (St. Gallen, 1852). Earlier monographs have been written in Latin by Bibelhausen (Lips. 1704); Ortlob (Viteb. 1606); Sylling (Hafn. 1697). See also Hamilton, Mount of Olives (Lond. 1863). The ecclesiastical traditions are in Quaresmius, Elucidatio Terrce Sanctae, 2:277-340; Geramb, Pilgrimage, 1:210 sq.; Williams, Holy City, vol. ii; and others. Doubdan's account (Le Voyage dans la Terre Sainte, Paris, 1657) is excellent, and his plates very correct. The Rabbinical traditions are contained in Lightfoot (Opp. 2:201), Reland (Palcest. p. 337), and others. Modern descriptions are given by Bartlett (Walks, etc., p. 94 sq.; Jerusalen Revisited, p. 114 sq.), Robinson (Researches, 2:405 sq.), Olin (Travels, 2:127), Barclay (City of the Great King, p. 59 sq.), Stanley (Sin. and Pal. p. 183 sq.), and others. The best topographical delineation is that contained in the last English Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem (Lond. 1865, 3 vols. fol.). SEE JERUSALEM.