Fireballs in Jerusalem
Posted by foryourfaith on May 19, 2010
The attempt by the Roman Emperor Julian to rebuild the great Temple of Jerusalem in AD 363 was aborted in mysterious circumstances. And Julian himself was killed in the same year while fighting the Persians.
The original Temple was destroyed when Vespasian and Titus besieged Jerusalem in AD 70. In the interval, the Roman Empire became Christianized under Constantine, but Julian converted to paganism. He wanted to rebuild the Temple to favor the Jews and falsify Jesus’ prophecy that not one of its stones would be left standing on another.
Julian appointed his friend Alypius to superintend the work. The historian Ammianus Marcellinus says that ‘though this Alypius pushed the work on with vigor . . . terrifying balls of flame kept bursting forth near the foundations of the Temple, and made the place inaccessible to the workmen . . . and since in this way the element persistently resisted them, Julian gave up the attempt.
Although the account sounds as if it was penned by a Christian, invoking the wrath of God against paganism, Ammianus was an admirer of Julian. The only surviving Christian account of the attempt to rebuild the Temple, by Gregory of Nazianzus, speaks of ‘a flame [that] issued forth from the sacred place and stopped them . . . some it burnt up and consumed . . . others it maimed in the principal parts of the body.’ While the scene sounds like something out of a Steven Spielberg movie, an earthquake is the most likely explanation. These are relatively common in the area, and one was recorded in May of 363. Some historians have suggested that the miracle may have been engineered by those who did not want to see the Temple rise again.