There are two squares I know of in existence today, each with some connection to Ezekiel, that have sides differing by no more than one percent from the 500 cubit length the prophet gives for the sides of his visionary Temple. One of these is the so-called “Ritmeyer’s Square” in the foundation of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the other is New Haven Green in the center of New Haven, Connecticut.
(Both squares are discussed in detail in the last section of my Ezekiel’s Temple book—see The Book.)
Ritmeyer’s Square is described in the archaeological architect Leen Ritmeyer’s book, The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Jerusalem: Carta, 2006). His square is not large enough to contain all the structures King Herod added to the Second Temple in the generation before Jesus, but is of sufficient size to include the suspected locations of all the Temple’s consecrated courts and structures. It is defined by four corner points that Ritmeyer identified around 1980. Two of the points are subtle features that have been continuously exposed to view but not previously recognized as significant; the other two are hidden from sight (without forbidden excavations) but implied by the alignments of foundation walls or features that are visible.
Ritmeyer thinks his 500x500 cubit square is the “original” Temple Mount—the temenos, or “Mountain of the House”—going back a century before Ezekiel’s vision to the time of King Hezekiah. If he is correct, that size was probably a well known Temple fact among the priesthood at the time when young Ezekiel was carried off to Babylon. (Some commentators understand Ezekiel’s Temple to be a much larger 500 rods on a side rather than cubits, as is discussed in Part 1 of my “Christian midrash” articles on the Free Articles page.)
Ritmeyer’s discovery might initially seem to be encouraging to those who envision a Third Temple being constructed to Ezekiel’s plan, but adding Ezekiel to the Talmudic strictures for the placement of any future Temple could prove a challenge. I think the rabbinic authorities would insist that such a Temple’s altar be positioned at the precise spot of the Akedah (where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac), and they would want its Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant once sat, to remain where it was in the Second Temple. It’s far from proven, but Ritmeyer thinks he sees evidence of the Ark’s former seat in the surface of the great rock beneath the Muslim Dome of the Rock.
If those two spots could be identified with certainty, that might be enough information to rebuild the former layout of the Second Temple as it is described in the Mishnah, but matching up Ezekiel’s altar and Holy of Holies with those two spots would be another matter. And there are other difficulties in reconciling Ezekiel and the Mishnah, not just just that. (See the discussion in Parts 1 and 3 of my “Christian midrash” articles on the Free Articles page.) Maybe the authorities would welcome Ritmeyer’s opinion that the 500x500 size came before Ezekiel as a way to limit his influence in any decision making process. (For a defense of Ezekiel’s Temple being not a Third, but a Fourth one, see “Will the Next Jerusalem Temple Fulfill Ezekiel 40-48?” by my dispensationalist friend Daniel M. Wright in Prophecy Watchers, October 2017, pp. 22-23.)
Half a world away, New Haven Green forms a stately lawn and tree-filled place of repose between the central business district of New Haven and the Yale University campus (it is discussed in articles cited in the last section of my Ezekiel’s Temple book.) This near-perfect 500x500 cubit square—accurate in fact to within just one half of one percent to Ezekiel’s dimensions—seems to have been laid out under the direction of a founder of New Haven Colony, the non-conformist preacher John Davenport (1597-1679). While his city plan was partly inspired by the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation, there’s no doubt Ezekiel was also in his mind. In a letter back to England, he specifically mentioned Ezekiel’s chapter 43 commission to show the plan of his Temple to Israel, giving chapter and verse.
If Davenport’s idea was to establish a Christian theocracy in America, it didn’t last long. A ship carrying the settlement’s goods in hopes of establishing trade with England sank at sea, crippling the nascent colony’s economy. Soon New Haven was absorbed into the more latitudinarian Colony of Connecticut, which required Anglicans and other denominations be allowed to build their churches in New Haven, much to Davenport’s dismay, causing him to retire to a comfortable pulpit in Boston.
On a personal level, I’m thankful that my non-dispensational theology doesn’t require me to position a Temple on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. I don’t have to lie awake at night worried about what nicks in the surface of the rock of es-Sakhra inside the mosque may or may not say about where the Ark once stood, or what underground conduits beneath the Temple Mount platform may eventually reveal about the place of the altar, or how the Islamic Waqf that presides over it all can be persuaded to permit excavations that might settle these issues—or not. But I’m just as thankful that God isn’t asking me to start a theocracy, which is no more likely to succeed than New Haven Colony did. I’m very glad some Christians serve in government, but politics makes my stomach churn.
I believe Davenport was at least partly on the right track, however, in that his letter’s reference to Ezekiel 43 actually compared the Temple to the organization of the church (not a building, city plan, or civil government) with its “perfect pattern” of ministers teaching sound biblical doctrine. And that is no easy task to accomplish either, with its own sleepless nights and tares, false teachers, and deceivers ordained in her until Jesus returns. But unlike Temple building and founding theocracies, labor in the Temple of the kingdom of His faithful church—including the Temples of our Christian lives—is at least an activity for which the Bible gives abundant, reliable guidance, and abundant promises that Jesus will be with us in the struggle to the end of the age, with even the gates of hell not prevailing in the fight.