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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Olives, Mount of

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OLIVES, MOUNT OF . The range of hills east of Jerusalem, separated from the Temple mountain by the Kidron Valley. It is scarcely mentioned in the OT. David crossed it when fleeing from Absalom ( 2 Samuel 15:30 ). Here branches were cut to make booths for the Feast of Tabernacles ( Nehemiah 8:15 ). Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 11:23 ) and Zechariah ( Zechariah 14:4 ) make it the scene of ideal theophanies: the literal interpretation of the latter prophecy has given rise to many curious and unprofitable speculations.

The chief interest of the mountain, however, is its connexion with the closing years of our Lord’s life. Over this He rode on His triumphal entry to Jerusalem; and wept over the city as it came into view (Luke 19:41 ); and during the days when He lodged in Bethany and visited Jerusalem He must necessarily have passed over it daily ( Luke 21:37 ). The fig-tree which He cursed ( Matthew 21:19 ) was most probably on the mountain slopes; and in one of these daily pilgrimages He delivered to His disciples the great eschatological discourse ( Matthew 24:1-51 ; Matthew 25:1-46 ). On the side of the mountain was Gethsemane, where took place the first scene of the final tragedy.

The ridge is formed of hard cretaceous limestone, surmounted by softer deposits of the same material. It is divided, by gentle undulations and one comparatively deep cleft, into a series of summits. There is no reason to apply the name Olivet ( Acts 1:12 , 2 Samuel 15:30 [AV [Note: Authorized Version.] only]) exclusively to any one of these summits. The southernmost, which is separated from the rest by the cleft just mentioned, on the slope of which stands the village of Siloam ( Silwân ), is traditionally known (by the Franks) as the ‘Mount of Offence,’ and is considered to be the scene of Solomon’s idolatry. The peak north of this is commonly called Olivet proper; it is unfortunately spoilt by a hideous bell-tower and some other modern monastic buildings. The next peak, the Viri Galilœi , is the traditional site of the Ascension; and the next is popularly, but erroneously, called Scopus .

Ecclesiastical tradition has, as might he expected, been busy with the Mount of Olives, and the places pointed out have by no means remained unaltered through the Christian centuries, as becomes evident from a study of the writings of the pilgrims. To-day are shown the tomb of the Virgin; the grotto of the Agony; the Garden of Gethsemane (two sites); the chapel of the Ascension (a mosque, with a mark in the floor said to be the ‘footprint of Christ’); the tomb of Huldah; the site (an impossible one) of Christ’s weeping over the city; the place where He taught the Lord’s Prayer; the place where the Apostles’ Creed was composed, etc. etc. Far more interesting than these ecclesiastical inventions are the numerous ancient Jewish and early Christian tombs (especially the tomb of Nicanor the donor of the ‘Beautiful Gate’ of the Temple; the extraordinary labyrinth commonly known as the ‘Tombs of the Prophets’); and the fragments of mosaic found here from time to time which testify to the pious regard in which the mount was naturally held from early times.

R. A. S. Macalister.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Olives, Mount of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/o/olives-mount-of.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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