Originally the name of the Jebusite fortress in Jerusalem, later applied to other sections of the city or to the whole city of jerusalem, and in the New Testament used of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Origin of the Term. The etymology of the word Zion (Heb. ṣîyôn ) is uncertain. If it comes from a Semitic root, this may be the root ṣyw (to be dry), and ṣîyôn would then mean bleak hill; or the root may be ṣyn (to protect) and the name would then mean stronghold. It has also been suggested that the name is derived from the Hurrian word ṣeya, meaning running water and thus connected originally with the strong Spring of Gibon at the foot of Mt. Zion.
Location. Originally Zion referred to the Jebusite fortress at Jerusalem that David captured and renamed the City of David (2 Sm 5.7–9). It is archeologically certain that this was the section of the southeastern hill of the later enlarged Jerusalem, the region known also as Ophel (hillock, or citadel: Is 32.14; Mi 4.8), south of the Temple area (Josephus, Bell. Jud. 5.4.2). Later, Zion, or Mt. Zion, was often used as a poetic synonym for the whole city of Jerusalem, especially in the Prophets and Psalms, both names being frequently used in poetic parallelism (Is 2.3; 4.3; 30.19; 37.32; Jl 3.5; etc.). The poetic expression "(virgin) daughter of Zion" (Is 1.8; 10.32; 37.32; etc.) means simply "(virgin) daughter Zion," i.e., Zion personified as a woman. Since Yahweh loved Mt. Zion [Ps 77 (78).68] and chose it as His dwelling place (Is 8.18; 18.7), Mt. Zion was used at times poetically for the Temple [Ps 19 (20).3;133 (134).2–3]. Hence, in Maccabean times Mt. Zion had become a topological term for the Temple area as distinct from the City of David (1 Mc7.32–33) on which the Syrians had built their citadel (1 Mc 1.35). According to Josephus the latter was not on the southeastern but on the southwestern hill of Jerusalem (Ant. 7.3.1–2).
Early Christian tradition, however, located Mt. Zion on Jerusalem's southwestern hill, not only because of the wrong identification witnessed to by Josephus, but also because the cenacle and the early events of the Church had made this hill especially sacred to Christians. Since the Church was regarded as the true Zion, its birthplace, the southwestern hill of Jerusalem, was known to the pilgrims of the 4th and later centuries as Christian Zion; and in the 4th century Bp. John of Jerusalem erected a basilica called Sancta Sion over the Cenacle. Consequently, Herod's palace on the northwest hill of Jerusalem (completely outside the preexilic city) became known as the Tower of David, and a spurious Tomb of David is still venerated near the Cenacle.
Figurative Usage. In the New Testament, Mt. Zion and Jerusalem are blended more and more into one concept dealing with the spiritual ideal and supernatural reality of New Testament times. Mt. Zion is represented as the place and Jerusalem as the capital city of the New Testament kingdom of God. In Gal 4.21–31 St. Paul makes reference to the Zion-Jerusalem concept. The contrast between the slavery of hagar and the freedom of Sarah illustrates the difference between the Old and New Covenants. The Old Covenant was established on Mt. Sinai, "which corresponds to the present Jerusalem" (Gal 4.25), the center of Judaism at Paul's time. But the New Covenant is not limited to the place of its birth, for it is "that Jerusalem which is above" that "is free" (Gal4.26). It is the fulfillment of the ideal Jerusalem of which Isaiah spoke (Is 2.3) and which enjoys a God-given freedom and richness. It is a renewed Jerusalem enjoying the favor of God after its years of suffering affliction and a foreign yoke.
Zion is named in Heb 12.22 as the mount on which the Covenant of Mt. Sinai gave way to the Covenant based on Christ's sacrificial death: "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." Here the heavenly mountain and the heavenly city are described as the haven of the company of many thousands of angels and the community of the firstborn who are enrolled in the heavens. Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, is already present, for it is the community. The mountain is the firm foundation on which the new way of life rests. St. John closes his Revelation with a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem. In figurative language he describes how paradise returns to earth in the heavenly Jerusalem. He sees the fantastic city coming down from heaven to earth, and those marked with the sign of God and the Holy City enjoy the rights of citizenship in the new order. According to the eschatological hope of Judaism the Jerusalem of the final days would have a Temple of the Lord. But not so the Jerusalem that John sees in the Revelation. This new Jerusalem has no Temple, for the Lord God and the Lamb are its Temple.
Bibliography: d. correa, De significatione montis Sion in Sacra Scriptura (Rome 1954). Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by l. hartman (New York 1963) 2241–46.
ZION (Mount Zion; also Sion, Mountain of Zion; (Heb. הַר צִיּוֹן ,צִיּוֹן), hill and fortress in Jerusalem. The origin of the name is uncertain. Suggestions have included a rock, stronghold (צָיוֹן), a dry place (צִיּוֹן), or running water (Hurrian: ṣeya). The name Zion was first used for the Jebusite fortress ("the stronghold of Zion"), on the southeast of Jerusalem, below the Ophel and the Temple Mount. On its capture by David it was renamed "City of David" (ii Sam. 5:7; i Kings 8:1), and the name later included also the Ophel (Micah 4:8; Isa. 32:14). In poetry Zion was used by way of synecdoche for the whole of Jerusalem (Isa. 2:3; 33:14; Joel 3:5), and "daughter (or virgin) of Zion" referred to the city and its inhabitants (Isa. 1:8; 30:16; Songs 1:5). Zion often referred by way of metonymy to Judea (Isa. 10:24; 51:11) or the people of Judea (ibid. 51:16; 59:20). Sometimes Zion referred simply to the Temple Mount (Joel 4:17, 21; Ps. 20:3) and it was this use that became the regular one by the Maccabean period, when the Temple Mount was called "Mountain of Zion" (ὄρος Σιων; i Macc. 7:32–33), as opposed to the lower city, the upper city, and Acra (on the southwestern hill of ancient Jerusalem). By Josephus' time "the stronghold" (of Zion; τὸ φρούριον) was identified with the upper city and the upper agora (Wars, 5:137; cf. Ant., 7:62), which included the sites identified at present with Mt. Zion, as well as David's Tower. By the first century c.e. the whole of that elevation, called Mt. Zion, was surrounded by a wall, part of which (in the southwest section) lay under the present city wall and part (its northern line) ran along the present King David Street, while the eastern wall ran through the present Jewish quarter. The fact that the Acra was situated at the northeast corner, and the royal palaces were there, probably encouraged the belief that Zion was to be identified with this area.
In the first century c.e. a small church was built on the southern end of the hill, and it was identified with the Coenaculum ("Room of the Last Supper"). In 1342 the Franciscans rebuilt it and this is substantially the building surviving to this day. The Franciscans were expelled by the Muslims in 1551 and were permitted to return and build a monastery near there only in 1936. This is the Church of the Dormition of Mary.
The Traveler from Bordeaux (333) cites that a single synagogue, one of the seven synagogues of ancient times, was left on Mr. Zion. This is confirmed by archaeological excavations performed at the northern wall of David's Tomb, where evidence for the existence of a late Roman synagogue was found, which seems to have been repaired during the reign of Julian the Apostate (361–3). The synagogue was associated with David as early as the fourth century, and by the tenth century his grave was located there, probably because of the biblical dictum that he was buried "in the city of David" (i Kings 2:10). It is believed by some that Saladin fortified the Coenaculum and David's Tomb by a wall in the 12th century, but the present city wall runs behind them. In 1524 the site was turned into a mosque of "the Prophet David." After 1948, when Mount Zion was the only section of east Jerusalem to remain in Jewish hands, David's Tomb was once again turned into a synagogue and became the most important pilgrimage center for Jews in Israel (see *Pilgrimage; *Holy Places). The archaeological remains of the Hellenistic Fullers' Quarter just south of the grave have been uncovered. Next to the tomb is "the Holocaust Chamber" dedicated to those who died under the Nazis. The name Zion also lent itself in modern times to organizations connected with Judaism or Jews, e.g., Zionism, Zion Mule Corps, etc.
Z. Vilnay, Jerusalem (1969), index; M. Benvenisti, The Crusaders in the Holy Land (1970), 51, 52, 54, 73; B. Mazar, in: Kadmoniot, 1–2 (1968), 8–10; M. Avi-Yonah, ibid., 19–20; H.Z. Hirschberg, ibid., 57–59.
Zi·on / ˈzīən/ (also Si·on) • n. the hill of Jerusalem on which the city of David was built. ∎ the citadel of ancient Jerusalem. ∎ Jerusalem. ∎ (in Christian thought) the heavenly city or kingdom of heaven. ∎ the Jewish people or religion.