The inscription was a warning to pagan visitors to the temple not to proceed further. Both Greek and Latin inscriptions on the temple's balustrade served as warnings to pagan visitors not to proceed under penalty of death. Two authentic tablets have been found, one complete, and the other a partial fragment with missing sections, but with letters showing signs of the red paint that had originally highlighted the text. It was described by the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1872 as being "very nearly in the words of Josephus".
The inscription uses three terms referring to temple architecture:
To hieron ( ), "holy place", the sacred area, to which the forecourt led
Peribolou (), a wall encompassing the holy terrace within the outer court
Tryphaktou (), a stone barrier across the outer court
The tablet bears the following inscription in Koine Greek:
^ abLlewelyn, Stephen R., and Dionysia Van Beek. "Reading the Temple Warning as a Greek Visitor". Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period, vol. 42, no. 1, 2011, pp. 1-22.
^"Josephus: Of the War, Book V". penelope.uchicago.edu. Retrieved . Upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another; declaring the law of purity, some in Greek and some in Roman letters; that no foreigner should go within that sanctuary. For that second [court of the] temple was called the sanctuary: and was ascended to by fourteen steps from the first court.
^DE LATINISMEN IN HET GRIEKS VAN HET NIEUWE TESTAMENT, p.15: ?, ?, ? ? ? ? ? ? (BJ 5.2.2, §193-194) [transliterated: diá toútou proïónton epí tó défteron ierón drýfaktos perivévlito líthinos, trípichys mén ýpsos, pány dé chariéntos dieirgasménos: en aftó dé eistíkesan ex ísou diastímatos stílai tón tís agneías prosimaínousai nómon ai mén Ellinikoís ai dé Romaïkoís grámmasin midéna allófylon entós toú agíou pariénai]; Also at Perseus 
^Bickerman, 1947, pages 387-389: "To begin with, there are three terms referring to the architectural complex of the Temple. , 'holy place', is the designation of the consecrated area, to which the fore-court led. This area was called by the Jews 'sacred', mikdosh (). The word was common in this sense in Greek and applied to pagan cults. For this reason it was avoided by the Alexandrian translators of the Scripture who use the term in referring to the Temple of Jerusalem. But after the Maccabean victory, the Jews had less scruples about using a technical term from Greek heathenism. On the other hand, the word which had become fashionable for Oriental holy places, was no longer a distinctive term in Herod's time. Accordingly, Philo and Josephus use both words, and to designate the Temple of Herod. The was the wall which encompassed the holy terrace within the outer court. Josephus, Philo and the Septuagint use this Greek word, technical in this connotation, to describe the enclosure of the Temple. The , the Soreg in the Mishna, was a stone barrier which stretched across the outer court to protect the flights of stairs leading up to the inner court. As we said, the warning inscriptions were fixed on this rail."
^Note: The original text is written in scriptio continua; the "[-]" symbol in the transliteration represents the Greek words which are broken across two lines