In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Jerusalem

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • The Iron Age Period (c. 1175 bce–586 bce)
  • The Destruction of Jerusalem and the Neo-Babylonian Period (c. 586 bce–539 bce)
  • Jerusalem in the Persian Period (c. 538 bce–330 bce)
  • Jerusalem in the Hellenistic Period (330 bce–63 bce)
  • Jerusalem in the Roman Period and its Destruction in the First Jewish-Roman War (63 bce–70 ce)
  • Archaeological Overviews
  • The Jerusalem Temple
  • Jerusalem as Religious and Theological Concept

Biblical Studies Jerusalem
Dan Pioske
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 February 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 February 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0262


Jerusalem is the most important location in the Bible and the most researched within the realm of biblical studies. Already a Canaanite city of some standing by the Middle Bronze Age period (c. 2000–1550 BCE), Jerusalem’s significance for the biblical writers begins in earnest with the portrayal of the city’s acquisition by David around 1000 BCE. Jerusalem functions in the Hebrew Bible as the royal center for the House of David and the divine sanctuary for Yahweh, the God of Israel, for the next four centuries until, in 586 BCE, the location is conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians. Around 515 BCE the Second Temple is constructed and Jerusalem becomes a modest temple-city within the Persian Empire (c. 550–330 BCE), during which time a number of biblical texts are written and revised. A century and a half after Alexander the Great’s conquest of the region, a Jewish group called the Maccabees revolted against the Greek rulers of the time (c. 167 BCE) and established an autonomous kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. The independent status of this kingdom ends, however, when the Roman general Pompey took control of Jerusalem in 63 BCE and incorporated it and the region of Judea into the Roman Empire. During the reign of Herod the Great (37–4 BCE), a client-king of the Romans, the temple in Jerusalem is extensively renovated and a number of other impressive building measures are carried out in the city’s precincts. This large, Roman city is the one referred to at various moments in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts, and it is the location where Jesus of Nazareth is said to have been crucified around 33 CE. Though Jerusalem is destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE after the First Jewish-Roman War, a new, heavenly Jerusalem is depicted in the later writings of the Book of Revelation.

General Overviews

Jerusalem has been an object of study for millennia. The bibliography on the city is therefore enormous, including a two-volume work in Purvis 1988 that offers an extended bibliography on modern studies of Jerusalem from the 19th century to the time of its publication. The monographs in Simons 1952 and Gray 1969 serve as important, early efforts to chart the history of Jerusalem by those in biblical studies before the results of modern excavations were widely available. The most detailed and current treatments of Jerusalem, however, are by a collection of German scholars. The first is a three-volume study of the history and archaeological excavations of Jerusalem in Bieberstein and Bloedhorn 1994, a much more condensed and updated version of which is now found in Bieberstein 2017. The second study is Keel 2007, which is, as the title indicates, a work devoted to both historical and religious themes.

  • Bieberstein, Klaus. A Brief History of Jerusalem: From the Earliest Settlement to the Destruction of the City in AD 70. Abhandlungen des Deutschen Palästinavereins 47. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2017.

    A short but scholarly overview of Jerusalem’s history and the archaeological research of the site that covers the biblical period, written by a scholar who has published on these topics extensively over the past three decades.

  • Bieberstein, Klaus, and Hanswulf Bloedhorn. Jerusalem: Grundzüge der Baugeschichte vom Chalkolithikum bis zur Frühzeit der osmanischen Herrschaft. 3 vols. Beihefte zum Tübinger Atlas vorderen Orients. Reihe B (Geisteswissenschaften) 100. Wiesbaden, Germany: Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 1994.

    An extensive overview of the history (Volume 1) and archaeological sites (Volumes 2–3) of Jerusalem, current through the year of its publication.

  • Cline, Eric H. Jerusalem Besieged: From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004.

    A popular history intended for a more general audience, it nevertheless provides important insights and a fine overview of Jerusalem from an adept archaeologist and historian.

  • Gray, John. A History of Jerusalem. New York: Praeger, 1969.

    A historical overview of Jerusalem written by a biblical scholar that, along with Simons 1952, provided an early treatment of Jerusalem’s history predominantly on the basis of ancient writings, including the Bible, before more recent archaeological evidence was available.

  • Keel, Othmar. Die Geschichte Jerusalems und die Entstehung des Monotheismus. 2 vols. Orte und Landschafte der Bibel 4, 1–2. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007.

    A masterful study of Jerusalem that is devoted to both the location’s history and its connection to the development of monotheism.

  • Otto, Eckart. Jerusalem, die Geschichte der Heiligen Stadt: von den Anfängen bis zur Kreuzfahrerzeit. Urban-Taschenbücher 308. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1980.

    A history of Jerusalem from an accomplished biblical scholar, this work is again a general overview of the site that appeared before the publication of more recent archaeological excavations in Jerusalem, and so compliments Gray 1969.

  • Purvis, James D. Jerusalem, the Holy City: A Bibliography. 2 vols. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1988.

    A two-volume work that provides a treasure trove of bibliographic details pertaining to publications on Jerusalem up to the time of when this work was produced.

  • Simons, Jan. Jerusalem in the Old Testament: Researches and Theories. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1952.

    An early, important study of historical and archaeological research on Jerusalem up to World War II. The definitive work on the topic from the first half of the 20th century.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.