MOUNT OF OLIVES
The Mount of Olives is a ridge running north-south to the east of Jerusalem and the Kidron Valley. The southern hill, overlooking the City of David, is called the “Mount of Offense” since here Solomon built temples for his foreign wives.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
In the Old Testament the Mount of Olives is first mentioned when David fled from Absalom’s conspiracy according to 2 Samuel 15:30. Solomon chose this mountain for the construction of places of worship for foreign deities which was later destroyed by Josiah. Ezekiel (Ezekiel 11:23) records the vision of the glory of God departing from the temple and resting on the Mount of Olives. The most famous description appears in Zechariah’s apocalyptic vision (Zechariah 14:1-5): “On that day [the LORD’s] feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives will split apart, making a wide valley running from east to west, for half the mountain will move toward the north and half toward the south”.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the New Testament Jesus appears at the Mount of Olives during Passion week, the week before his crucifixion.
On his triumphant entry Jesus crossed the mountain from the east, and then descended into the Kidron Valley (Mark 11:1-10). On his descent he paused and wept over the city (Luke 19:41-44).
During his final week, Jesus taught on the Mount of Olives (Mark 13) and spent his evenings there (Luke 21:37). Following the Last Supper, Jesus came to this mountain for prayer (Mark 14:26). In a garden near an olive oil press (“Gethsemane”), he was arrested (Mark 14:32). The final event of Christ on earth, his ascension, was viewed from the mount by his followers (Acts 1:12).
Jesus and his disciples often stayed in this grotto at the Pater Noster Church
The Mount of Olives became a center of Christian devotion. In the Byzantine era the mountain had twenty-four churches with vast numbers of monks and nuns. Constantine’s church dominated the summit, celebrating Christ’s ascension. In the fourth century it had even become the customary burial site for Jerusalem’s bishops.
Jews and Muslims likewise revere the site because it will be the place of judgment. According to the Talmud, the righteous will be resurrected between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. This explains the vast Muslim and Jewish cemeteries, especially on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Christian, Jew, and Muslim alike view the Mount of Olives as the focal point for the final Day of the Lord.
See Mount of Olives - a Pilgrim’s Tour for more detail.