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Mount Olivet

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Olivet, MOUNT (Lat. Mons olivertus) , occurring also in the English Bibles as the Mount of Olives (Mons Olivarum), is the name applied to “the hill that is over against Jerusalem” (III Kings, xi, 7), that is, “on the east side of the city” (Ezech., xi, 23), beyond the torrent Cedron (II Kings, xv, 23, 30), “a sabbath day’s journey” from the city (Acts, i, 12). The passages of the books of the Kings show the high antiquity of the name, undoubtedly suggested by the groves of olive trees which flourished there, traces of which still remain. In the Middle Ages it was called by Arabic writers: Tur ez-Zeitun, Tur Zeita, or Jebel Tur Zeitun, of which the modern name, Jebel et-Tur. appears to be an abbreviation. Mt. Olivet is not so much a hill as a range of hills separated by low depressions. The range includes, from N. to S., the Ras el-Musharif (Scopus; 2686 ft. above the sea-level), Ras el-Madbase (2690 ft.) and Ras et-Te la cah (2663 ft.); south of the latter, between the old and the new road from Jerusalem to Jericho, is the Jebel et-Tur, or Mt. Olivet proper, rising in three summits called by Christians, respectively: the Men of Galilee (Karem es-Sayyad, “the vineyard of the hunter”, 2732 ft.), the Ascension (on which the village Kafr et-Tur is built), and the Prophets, a spur of the preceding Owing its name to the old rock-tombs known as the Tombs of the Prophets; southwest of the new road to Jericho, the range terminates in the Jebel Batn el-Hawa, called by Christians the Mount of Offense, tradition locating there Solomon‘s idolatrous shrines (IV Kings, xxiii, 13).

Mt. Olivet has been the scene of many famous events of Biblical history. In David’s time there was there a holy place dedicated to Yahweh; its exact location is not known; but it was near the road to the Jordan, possibly on the summit of the Karem es-Sayyad (II Kings, xv, 32). The site of the village of Bahurim (II Kings, iii, 16) lay no doubt on the same road. We have already mentioned the tradition pointing to the Jebel Batn el-Hawa as the place where Solomon erected his idolatrous shrines destroyed by Josias (III Kings, xi, 7; IV Kings, xxiii, 13); this identification is supported by the Targum which suggests in IV Kings, xxiii, 13, the reading Hebrew: HR HMSCHH, “Mount of Oil”, a good synonym of Mt. Olivet, instead of the traditional Hebrew: HR HMSCHYT, “Mount of Offense”, found nowhere else. Accordingly the idolatrous sanctuaries were on the south side of Mt. Olivet proper. Finally we learn from the Jewish rabbis that the Mount of Oil was the traditional place for sacrificing the red heifer (Num., xix.; cf. Maimon., “Treat. of the red heifer”, iii, 1). But to Christians especially is Mt. Olivet a most hallowed place, because it was, during the last days of Our Lord’s public life, the preferred resort of the Savior. In connection therewith several spots are singled out in the Gospels: Bethania, the home of Lazarus and of Simon the Leper (Mark, xiv, 3; Matt., xxvi, 6); Bethphage, whence started the triumphal procession to Jerusalem (Matt., xxi, 1), identified with some probability by Federlin with the ruins called Habalat el-Anita or Kehf Abu Layan; the site of the Franciscan Chapel of Bethphage, about 1 mile west of El-Azariyeh, is not well chosen; the place where the fig-tree cursed by our Lord stood (Matt., xxi, 18-22; Mark, xi, 12-14; 20-21); the spot where Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke, xix, 41); the site where He prophesied the destruction of the Temple, the ruin of the city and the end of the world (Matt., xxiv, 1 sqq.); the Garden of Gethsemani; lastly the place where the Lord imparted His farewell blessing to the Apostles and ascended into heaven (Luke, xxiv, 50-51). All these spots the piety of Christian ages has, with more or less success, endeavored to locate and to consecrate by erecting sanctuaries thereon.


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