Teaching the Gospels — The Temple, ctd.

But on what day DID Jesus show up?

The gospel writers leave us in an interesting quandary when trying to answer this question. Matthew, Mark, and Luke place the Temple-cleansing during Passion week, near the end of their narratives. John alone places it at the beginning. So when did it happen? We have several options.

1) The Early Cleansing — In favor of an early cleansing are several factors. Parties come from Jerusalem to Galilee to investigate this young rabbi — Jesus must have done something during this initial Passover to draw attention to himself. Also, the synoptic gospels portray Jesus as avoiding Jerusalem until the climax of his ministry, while in John he goes back and forth with some regularity. Since ancient writings are not shackled to chronological order like modern biographers, it makes sense that they would place an event like this at the end — it is the only time in their stories that Jesus the adult is in Jerusalem. Also, the fact that John places it at the beginning is hard to explain if it didn’t happen that way — it doesn’t carry the narrative force in John 2 that it does in Matthew 21, Mark 11, and Luke 19.

2) The Late Cleansing — in favor of a late cleansing is, primarily, the fact that all three synoptics place it during Passion week. Their agreement is a pretty strong argument.

3) DOUBLE Cleansing? — What if Jesus really cleansed the Temple twice? What if John shows us what happened at the First Passover Jesus attended during his ministry, and the synoptics show us what happened during the climactic week of his ministry? There are significant differences between John’s account and the synoptic accounts — especially with regard to the Scriptures used to interpret Jesus’ actions. Also, John alone mentions the whip and the prediction of destroying the temple. Most telling, though, is the nature of the exploitative personality. One little episode of a man throwing a tantrum in the Temple will not be enough to convince a man like Annas to shut down his operation. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Jesus would do this twice, would say different Scriptures to explain himself, and that Annas would not repent.

In the late cleansing, Mark alone tells us that Jesus actually stopped traffic in the Temple. Regardless of when this happened, this is the preeminent point. For a moment, maybe 15 minutes, maybe as long as an hour, Temple worship STOPS! Zeal for his Father’s house is truly about to eat him up, but not before Jesus deeply undermines the centrality of the Temple in YHWH-worship. Jesus stops worship in this house made with hands, because HE Himself, the tent not built with hands, is the true Temple. In HIM, and only in Him, true worship occurs (Jn 4:24).

Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, and just like at the wedding in Cana, he sees a disaster befalling Abraham’s children. He says to himself, “What will this place look like when God is running things?” Then he does it.

in HIS love,


About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 24 March, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’ve always thought it was a double cleansing, but I also recognize what you say about the gospel writers not being strictly chronological in their arrangement of material.

    Thanks for the info.

  2. Hey Nick, Sorry I haven’t been able to check in much lately, but I am increasingly overwhelmed and have less time for reading good blogs like yours.

    You say, “What if all four gospels are correct?” Don’t we assume that they are even as we acknowledge some of the problems with interpretation that you mention?

    God bless, Gardner

  3. LOL Good catch, Gardner! I’m going to fix that right now. Bad choice of language.

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