The Temple Courts Inscription, also known as the Temple Warning Inscription,  is a block of limestone measuring 33.5 cm (13.19 inches) long, 22 cm (8.66 inches) high and 14.5 cm (5.7 inches) deep. It contains an inscription, seven complete lines of Greek writing, on
one face.

The inscription reads:

no outsider may enter

beyond the balustrade

around the holy place.

whoever is caught doing so will

only have himself

to blame for

his subsequent death

The inscription was discovered, quite by accident, in Jerusalem in 1871, by the French diplomat and explorer Charles Clermont-Ganneau (1846-1923).  It now is in the possession of the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. A fragment of a second copy of the inscription was found in near the Lions Gate in Jerusalem in 1938 and is now in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem.

Clermont Ganneau was a French diplomat who first served in Istanbul and was then, in 1867, at age 21, hired to be interpreter and guide for the French Consulate in Jerusalem. He was learned in Eastern languages and curious to learn as much history as he could. The story, which cannot be confirmed, tells that he was looking through a pile of ancient tombstone inscriptions when his eye caught the Greek word /thanaton/ as the last word on one of them. The word means “death” in Greek and the young scholar knew that the ancients never used that word on tombstones. Thus was the Temple inscription identified.

A  reproduction of a portion of the  Temple Inscription is available at Biblical Reproductions  is licensed  by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Walter Zanger