By Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 2000
Jerusalem theory has three hills in one: “If one starts with the Mount of Olives just to the east of the main City of Jerusalem (but still reckoned to be located within the environs of Jerusalem), there are three summits to that Mount of Olives.”
It was common custom in the centuries before Christ for people in the Roman world to refer to the City of Rome itself as the “City of Seven Hills.” The references are numerous and consistent. And indeed, when Romulus and Remus wanted to build a city in the area of the Tibur River (just inland from the coast to afford a greater protection for the city from sea pirates or from the naval warfare of hostile powers), it was divinely selected, in Roman parlance, that the city had to be on “seven hills.” The number “seven” was a universal symbol that signified “completion” or “perfection,” and the ancients who founded Rome wanted people to know that this particular city was destined to have a world influence and fame, and that it was no ordinary city that was being constructed in the eighth century B.C. The very fact, that Rome was designated “The Seven Hilled City” was significant enough to render it as a sacred and holy city that was designed to have world power and authority. This is one of the reasons the ancient people of the world always respected the City of Rome, whether they were its arch defenders and supporters or its enemies and were alien to its political and religious concepts. Even when the city in the time of the Empire finally grew beyond the strict limits of the “Seven Hills” (and reached out to embrace other hills in the vicinity and even hills on the other side of the Tibur River, such as Vatican Hill), the people for nostalgic reasons still retained the name of the city by its original designation: “the City of Seven Hills.”
But strange as it may seem, the City of Jerusalem as it existed in the time of Christ Jesus was also reckoned to be the “City of Seven Hills.” This fact was well recognized in Jewish circles. In the Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, an eighth century midrashic narrative (section 10), the writer mentioned without commentary (showing that the understanding was well known and required no defense) that “Jerusalem is situated on seven hills” (recorded in The Book of Legends, edited by Bialik and Ravnitzky, p. 371, paragraph 111). And, so it was. Those “seven hills” are easy to identify. If one starts with the Mount of Olives just to the east of the main City of Jerusalem (but still reckoned to be located within the environs of Jerusalem), there are three summits to that Mount of Olives. The northern summit (hill) is called Scopus [Hill One], the middle summit (hill) was called Nob [Hill Two], the highest point of Olivet itself, and the southern summit (hill) was called in the Holy Scriptures the “Mount of Corruption” or “Mount of Offence” [Hill Three] (II Kings 23:13). On the middle ridge between the Kedron and the Tyropoeon Valleys there was (formerly) in the south “Mount Zion” [Hill Four] (the original “Mount Zion” and not the later southwest hill that was later called by that name), then the “Ophel Mount” [Hill Five] and then to the north of that the “Rock” around which “Fort Antonia” was built [Hill Six]. And finally, there was the southwest hill itself [Hill Seven] that finally became known in the time of Simon the Hasmonean as the new “Mount Zion.” This makes “Seven Hills” in all.
This does not end the significance of “Seven Hills” for the urban areas that the ancients looked on as being the centers of divine sovereignty on this earth. We are all familiar with Babylon on the Euphrates (which became the capital of the world in the time of Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century B.C.) as being the “Seven Hilled City.” And, it may be surprising for some to learn this, but when Constantine the emperor wanted to build a “new Rome” in the eastern part of the Roman Empire (because most of the economic life of the Roman Empire in the fourth century was centered in the eastern half of the Empire and he felt he needed a capital city much nearer the economic center of the Empire), he finally selected a spot on the Bosporus called Byzantium. The reason he selected this spot to be the “New Rome” was because it was a small village also located on “Seven Hills.” This made “New Rome” as a City of Seven Hills.
What we observe is the fact that the ancients symbolically looked on the various capitals of the world as having “Seven Hills.” The significance of this fact even had a meaning for the apostle John who, under the influence of Christ Jesus himself, wrote the Book of Revelation. We find that the last world capital would be “Mystery Babylon” and that it would have “seven mountains” (Revelation 17:9) associated with it. The fact that history has “Seven Hills” (or “Mountains”) associated with FOUR world kingdoms: Babylon, Rome, Byzantium, and Jerusalem, there has been some confusion about which of these (or, perhaps, another “New City”) was the intention of the apostle John who was writing for Christ Jesus in the Book of Revelation. The truth is, however, when one looks at the subject of the Book of Revelation carefully, there is only one of those “Cities of Seven Hills” that could possibly be the subject of the End-Time revelation. That is the City of Jerusalem. The “Mystery Babylon” of the Book of Revelation is none other than Jerusalem!