Cleansing of the Temple

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The narrative of the "Cleansing of the Temple" tells of Jesus and the money changers, and occurs in all four canonical gospels of the New Testament.

In this Gospel episode Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem for Passover, where he expels the money changers from the Temple, accusing them of turning the Temple into a den of thieves through their commercial activities.[1][2] In the Gospel of John Jesus refers to the Temple as "my Father’s house", thus, in some views, making a claim to being the Son of God,[3] although it is common in the Abrahamic religions to refer to God as God the Father.

Some Christians think this is the only account of Jesus using physical force in any of the Gospels. Eastern Orthodoxy rejects this idea. The narrative occurs near the end of the Synoptic Gospels (at Mark 11:15–19, 11:27–33, Matthew 21:12–17, 21:23–27 and Luke 19:45–48, 20:1–8) and near the start in the Gospel of John (at John 2:13–16). Some scholars believe that these refer to two separate incidents, given that the Gospel of John also includes more than one Passover.[4]

Description[edit]

Jesus is stated to have visited the Temple in Jerusalem, Herod's Temple, where the courtyard is described as being filled with livestock and the tables of the money changers, who changed the standard Greek and Roman money for Jewish and Tyrian money.[1] Jerusalem was packed with Jews who had come for Passover, perhaps numbering 300,000 to 400,000 pilgrims.[5][6]

And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade."[Jn 2:13–16]

Israel Museum model of Herod's Temple, referred to in John 2:13.

"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves."

In John, this is the first of the three times that Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, and John says that during the Passover Feast there were (unspecified) miraculous signs performed by Jesus, which caused people to believe "in his name", but that he would "not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men".[4][7]

In Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47 Jesus accused the Temple authorities of thieving and this time names poor widows as their victims, going on to provide evidence of this in Mark 12:42 and Luke 21:2. Dove sellers were selling doves that were sacrificed by the poor who could not afford grander sacrifices and specifically by women. According to Mark 11:16, Jesus then put an embargo on people carrying any merchandise through the Temple—a sanction that would have disrupted all commerce.[4][7] This occurred in the outermost court of the gentiles. Gentile money could not be used at the Temple because of the graven images on it.

Matthew 21:14–16 says the Temple leaders questioned Jesus if he was aware the children were shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David." Jesus responded by saying "from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise." This phrase incorporates a phrase from the Psalm 8:2, "from the lips of children and infants," believed by followers to be an admission of divinity by Jesus, thus confirming his divinity via prooftexting the Old Testament.[4][7]

Chronology[edit]

Main article: Chronology of Jesus
Casting out the money changers by Giotto, 14th century.

The Temple cleansing episode in the Gospel of John can be correlated with non-biblical historical data sources to obtain an estimate for the year to which the episode refers. John 2:13 states that Jesus went to the Temple in Jerusalem around the start of his ministry and John 2:20 states that Jesus was told:[8][9]

"Forty and six years was this temple in building, and you want to raise it up in three days?".

In the Antiquities of the Jews, first-century historian Flavius Josephus wrote that (Ant 15.380) the temple reconstruction was started by Herod the Great in the 15th–18th year of his reign at about the time that Augustus arrived in Syria (Ant 15.354).[10][9][11][12] Temple expansion and reconstruction was ongoing, and it was in constant reconstruction until it was destroyed in 70 AD/CE by the Romans.[13] Given that it took 46 years of construction, the Temple visit in the Gospel of John has been estimated at around 27–29 AD/CE.[8][9][14][15][16]

In art[edit]

The cleansing of the Temple is a commonly depicted event in the Life of Christ, under various titles.

El Greco painted several versions:

Old Testament comparison[edit]

Events in the
Life of Jesus
according to the Gospels
Life of Jesus
Portals: P christianity.svg Christianity Bible.malmesbury.arp.jpg Bible

An incident where provocation took place in the Temple can be found in the time of Nehemiah, when Nehemiah overturned the furniture of Tobiah the Ammonite who had, with the cooperation of Eliashib the High Priest, leased the storerooms of the temple, depriving the Levites of their rations from the offerings, and drove out Eliashib's grandson, who had married the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite (Neh 13).[17][citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Sanders, E. P. The historical figure of Jesus. Penguin, 1993.
  2. ^ Ehrman, Bart D.. Jesus, Interrupted, HarperCollins, 2009. ISBN 0-06-117393-2
  3. ^ The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia by Geoffrey W. Bromiley 1988 ISBN 0-8028-3785-9 page 571–572
  4. ^ a b c d The Bible knowledge background commentary by Craig A. Evans 2005 ISBN 0-7814-4228-1 page 49
  5. ^ Sanders, E. P. The historical figure of Jesus. Penguin, 1993. p. 249
  6. ^ Funk, Robert W. and the Jesus Seminar. The acts of Jesus: the search for the authentic deeds of Jesus. HarperSanFrancisco. 1998.
  7. ^ a b c The Fourth Gospel And the Quest for Jesus by Paul N. Anderson 2006 ISBN 0-567-04394-0 page 158
  8. ^ a b Paul L. Maier "The Date of the Nativity and Chronology of Jesus" in Chronos, kairos, Christos: nativity and chronological studies by Jerry Vardaman, Edwin M. Yamauchi 1989 ISBN 0-931464-50-1 pages 113–129
  9. ^ a b c Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible 2000 Amsterdam University Press ISBN 90-5356-503-5 page 249
  10. ^ The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum 2009 ISBN 978-0-8054-4365-3 pages 140–141
  11. ^ Encyclopedia of the historical Jesus by Craig A. Evans 2008 ISBN 0-415-97569-7 page 115
  12. ^ As stated by Köstenberger & Kellum (page 114) there is some uncertainty about how Josephus referred to and computed dates, hence various scholars arrive at slightly different dates for the exact date of the start of the Temple construction, varying by a few years in their final estimation of the date of the Temple visit.
  13. ^ Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, page 246 states that Temple construction never completed, and that the Temple was in constant reconstruction until it was destroyed in 70 AD/CE by the Romans, and states that the 46 years should refers to the actual number of year from the start of the construction.
  14. ^ The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John by Paul N. Anderson 2011 ISBN 0-8006-0427-X page 200
  15. ^ Herod the Great by Jerry Knoblet 2005 ISBN 0-7618-3087-1 page 184
  16. ^ Jesus in Johannine tradition by Robert Tomson Fortna, Tom Thatcher 2001 ISBN 978-0-664-22219-2 page 77
  17. ^ The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament Walter L. Baker, Roy B. Zuck 1985 ISBN 0-88207-813-5 page... Needs page number...
Cleansing of the Temple
Preceded by
Wedding in Cana in John 2

or Triumphal Entry in the Synoptic Gospels

New Testament

Events

Succeeded by
Jesus & Nicodemus in John 3

or Fig Tree Cursed in the Synoptic Gospels