I always assumed the foundation of a wall would be a long uniform trench, but that doesn't seem to be consistent with the description of the foundations of the New Jerusalem given in Revelation 21:

12It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. ESV

Structurally speaking, what are the foundations of the walls of Jerusalem - are they the base of 12 towers (3 or 4 on each side of the city) which form the anchor points of the wall, or something else? I'm also interested to know if there is archaeological evidence of walls with discrete foundation units.


It might help to start with the definition of a foundation.

A foundation is "the lowest load-bearing part of a building, typically below ground level."1 So, it wouldn't be the trench but the concrete in the trench that would be the foundation. I believe the correct name for the trench would be 'the footings.'

As to what the 12 foundations are (or represent) that will very much depend on ones hermeneutic in the book of Revelation and is actually very much dependent of what you take the city to be. For example if you take it symbolically to be a representation of the church that will lead to one interpretation of the foundations, and the number twelve will also take on a symbolic meaning. However someone who is perhaps looking for a literal city to descend from heaven will see the foundations in a very different light.

As I personally take a symbolic view of Revelation 2 I would conclude that the foundations are "The symbolic expression of the truth, that the celestial City of God is grounded upon the evangelic foundations of the twelve Apostles" [Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 386). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.]


2 For information on this view read Beale, the book of revelation, p37-48, 152-168, 181-220

  • 1
    Whether you read the text as literal or symbolic, the question is still about literal foundations - there needs to be something concrete to base a metaphor on. Based on Isaiah 28:16 I'm guessing foundations were usually large stones, either brought in and dropped in a hole, or just discovered by digging down, but I'd like to know if we have archeological or literary evidence to support a theory. – Jack Douglas Apr 21 '15 at 14:28
  • @JackDouglas if you are not asking what the foundations mean then I suggest your clarify your question as if I have read it this way others will too :D – Jonathan Chell Apr 21 '15 at 16:50
  • I've made an edit - have I made the question clearer that I am interested in the actual structure of the literal walls/foundations that the passage alludes to? – Jack Douglas Apr 21 '15 at 17:39

In the video below the megaliths that are alleged to be the foundation stones of Solomon's temple are filmed. Whether they are or are not they might still give you some sense of the construction in the ancient world. I've cued it up to the part relevant to your question:


Below is a picture of foundation from Baalbek in Lebanon. The massive stones are 100s of tons each, cut and fitted for a town built in honor of Yehovah's rival Baal:

Baalbek foundation stones (Lebanon)


To understand the nature of the foundation you need to go back to Ephesians 2:20 and related verses that talks of believers as a spiritual house. If you assume that the New Jerusalem is a physical city then explaining the foundation is difficult. However we need to interpret scripture in a spiritual way.For the things of God are discerned spiritually ( I Corinthians 2:10) and should be only interpreted with other scripture. Anyone can speculate about the nature of Biblical allegory. However, the truth in the Bible only always points to one direction ( The Church and the Body of Christ). God is doing nothing else in this universe. The God who created this universe cannot possibly have worked for eternity only to build a physical city no bigger than the United States of America. This implies that the New Jerusalem is something more built on the foundations of the Apostles. That is the city is the body of Christ built on the Apostles teaching as its foundation. The three gates corresponds to how one enters into the Body of Christ . That is being saved by being baptized in the name of the divine trinity( Father, Son and Spirit). There is no other entry into Christ. The gates are on all sides because the Church is open to all four corners of the earth. Finally, the fact that the names of twelve tribes are written on the gates corresponds to John 4:22 Where the Lord says "Salvation is of the Jews".


The wall was one long "fence" that surrounded the city. It wasn't what we think of today as just the wall of one side of a building. The wall went around all four sides of the city. Each side would have supporting foundations.

The word "foundation" in Rev. 21:14 is Strong's Greek 2310: "θεμέλιος, ον". The definition in English is "belonging to a foundation, or a foundation stone." If we compare it to a pier and beam foundation, it would be similar to the piers sunk deep into the ground upon which the beams are laid.

Each foundation stone of the New Jerusalem has the name of one of the apostles. The city is a spiritual city, also referred to as "a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev. 21:2), which is the same metaphor of the called out of Christ, or the bride of Christ (1 Pet. 2:9; Eph. 5:23; 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7-9)

Therefore, the foundation stones named for the apostles represent the underpinning of the called out of Christ.. the gospel message which the apostles were sent to teach. And, the wall of the city - being built for defense - symbolizes those that are within Christ as opposed to the children of wrath who are without - outside - of Christ, and outside the walls of the New Jerusalem.

Yes, archeologists have uncovered many of the actual foundation stones of ancient Jerusalem.

Excerpt from "The Everlasting Foundation of the Heavenly Temple" at Bible Study Monthly:

"When engineers in the 1800's excavated the Temple's foundations and located the Chief Foundation Cornerstone, at the SE angle, they ascertained this stone dimensions to be 14 feet in length, 3 feet 8 inches high and about 7 feet wide. It is enormous. But it is not the largest foundation stone. To be the Chief Foundation Stone it does not have to be the largest. At the SW angle (opposite the SE angle, at the other end) there is a foundation stone 31 feet long, 7 feet wide and 5 feet high. It weighs over 100 tons, but it is not the Foundation stone. Its position is nowhere near as crucial as the one at the SE angle. At this position, it is the lowest point in the structure. The geometry and inclination of the site make everything dependant upon this one Foundation Cornerstone. And this stone is also laid in the live bedrock of the mountain itself and is out of sight." Source: here

The entire post is very interesting.

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