Prior to its discovery, not much was known about the Palace other than what was documented in scripture and ancient histories, e.g. Josephus’ account “The Wars of the Jews.” It was said to be the second most important building in Jerusalem, next to the temple, but its location has always been hard to pin-point for archaeologists. Now its discovery is said to be certain, it holds important implications for the modern Christian and historian.
The Palace was built along the Western wall of the city and consisted of two main buildings positioned north and south of the main gardens. Each had its own banquet halls, baths, and rooms for hundreds of guests. It was surrounded with plantations of trees, canals, and ponds decorated with bronze fountains. At the north side of Herod’s palace he placed three, heavily fortified towers, both serving as images of the riches and wealth of Herod, but also as protection to his position.
Herod’s Palace is of interest because of its function during the life of Jesus, the influence it had on Christians and Jews in history, the historical accuracy of Scripture and for insight into the man who lived there himself. Its discovery is another piece in the puzzle of Jerusalem’s history, and it sheds new light on the broader history of Christianity and Judaism.
The Palace in scripture holds special significance. It is most likely where the Magi met Herod on their way to Bethlehem, the place where Herod issued the decree to kill all male baby Israelites, and most importantly, where Jesus was tried and sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate. Of course, the idea that this is the place of Jesus’s trial has been questioned. The mystery surrounding the trial and it’s setting makes its discovery even more exciting. Historians, scholars and archaeologists now believe the palace to be the true site of Jesus’ trial because of how it fits archaeologically with scripture. However, can we really be sure?
The Via Dolorosa (the path that pilgrims walk through Jerusalem to the site of Jesus’ crucifixion as it is believed to be the path that Jesus walked himself) has been walked for centuries. Its route has never gone via Herod’s Palace. Surely this tradition, if it is to be accurate, should go through the true place of Jesus’ trial. The route has never gone to Herod’s Palace; could this tradition prove the location to be wrong? It is the enigmatic nature of the Palace that makes it so interesting to modern scholars, historians and archaeologists.