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The Cleansing Of The Temple


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#1 Evangelion

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Posted 11 October 2004 - 08:25 PM

  • Matthew 21:12-13
    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.
  • Mark 11:15-17
    And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;
    And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
    And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.
  • Luke 19:45-6
    And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought;
    Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.
  • John 2:13-16
    And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
    And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
    And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
    And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.

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#2 Evangelion

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Posted 11 October 2004 - 08:32 PM

A popular argument against Scriptural consistency is the apparent contradiction between John's account of the temple cleansing, and the accounts of the Synoptic Gospels. While Matthew, Mark and Luke all place the cleansing as an event in the final weeks of Christ's life, John clearly states that this was an event which occurred in the first year of his ministry.

This presents us with the following possibilities:

  • There was only one temple cleansing, so the Gospels contradict each other.
  • There were two temple cleansings, and this can be proved by comparing the Gospel records.
  • There was only one temple cleansing, but the Gospel accounts can still be reconciled somehow.

Of these, I subscribe to the second; namely that the evidence of the four Gospels - when taken together - confirms that there were two separate temple cleansings at two separate times.
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#3 Evangelion

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Posted 11 October 2004 - 08:43 PM

We can see from the first post in this thread that there are obvious and irreconcilable differences between the Gospel accounts.

For example, the Synoptics are consistent in their use of the same phrase:

It is written [alternatively, "Is it not written?") My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
In John's account, Jesus says:

Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
John also differs by specifying an original statement: he mentions the scourge of cords, which is totally absent from the Synoptic records. Since there is no good reason for them to omit it, we already have a reason for assuming that a different temple cleansing is referred to here.

However, the scourge of cords is not our only piece of evidence for a second cleansing. There are three more significant clues.
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#4 Evangelion

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Posted 11 October 2004 - 08:44 PM

The first is a complete absence of any quoted Scripture in John’s account (compared to the Synoptics, which record Jesus citing Isaiah 56:7 followed by Jeremiah 7:11.

By contrast, John has Jesus castigate the traders for making the temple “a house of merchandise” and taking shortcuts through the temple grounds with their merchandise, and the disciples later recalling the words of Psalm 9:9.
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#5 Evangelion

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Posted 11 October 2004 - 08:46 PM

The second is John’s reference to the Passover. Since the Synoptics also say that the temple cleansing was performed at the time of Passover, we might be tempted to conclude that John is alluding to the Passover of Jesus’ passion (as the Synoptists definitely are.) But he is not; instead, he refers specifically to the Passover which was celebrated two years before Jesus’ passion.

We know this because (a) the earlier verses of John 2 confirm that these events took place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and (b) eleven chapters later John mentions another Passover…

John 13:1
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
…and specifies that this would be the occasion upon which Jesus lost his life. He clearly distinguishes it from a previous Passover, during which Jesus had cleansed the temple.

There is, of course, no need for him to mention the second cleansing on this occasion, for, writing many years after the Synoptists, he knows that they have done this already.
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#6 Evangelion

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Posted 11 October 2004 - 08:54 PM

Our third clue is the fact that John's Gospel records many incidents which are found nowhere in the Synoptics. This point stands on its own merit, as evidence that that John’s account of the temple cleansing was an entirely separate incident.

Textual evidence to support this conclusion is very strong indeed, as the following footnote from the New English Translation will show:This account in John is found in a large section of nonsynoptic material. Apart from the work of John the Baptist-and even this is markedly different from the references in the synoptics-nothing else in the first five chapters of John's Gospel is found in any of the synoptics.
Adam Clarke (who also argued that there were two temple cleansings) includes a summary by Bishop Newcombe in his own commentary on John 2 - and it is to him that the last word belongs:Let the reader, says Bp. Newcome, observe the order of events.

Jesus works his first miracle at Cana of Galilee, John 2:11; then he passes a few days at Capernaum, which bring him on his way to Jerusalem, John 2:12.

The Passover being near, he goes up to Jerusalem, John 2:13, and casts the traders out of the temple, John 2:15, John 2:16. At the Passover he works many miracles, John 2:23.

While he is in Jerusalem, which city he does not leave till, John 3:22, Nicodemus comes to him by night, John 3:1, John 3:2. John 3:2 contains a reference to John 2:23.

After these things, Jesus departs from Jerusalem, and dwells and baptizes in Judea, John 3:22. And all these incidents take place before John was cast into prison, John 3:24.

But the second cleansing of the temple happens most clearly during the last week of our Lord's life, after the death of the Baptist, and at a time when it would be absurd to say that afterwards Jesus dwelt and baptized in Judea.

The vindication of God's house from profanation was the first and the last care of our Lord; and it is probable he began and finished his public ministry by this significant act.

It certainly appears that John directly asserts an early cleansing of the temple, by the series of his history; as the other three evangelists assert a later cleansing of it. And though the act mentioned here seems to be nearly the same with that mentioned by the other evangelists, yet there are some differences. St. John alone mentions the scourge of rushes, and the casting out of the sheep and oxen.

Besides, there is a considerable difference in our Lord's manner of doing it: in the cleansing mentioned by the three evangelists, he assumes a vast deal of authority, and speaks more pointedly concerning himself, than he appears to do in this cleansing mentioned by St. John: the reason which has been given is, in the first cleansing he was just entering upon his public ministry, and therefore avoided (as much as was consistent with the accomplishment of his work) the giving any offense to the Jewish rulers; but, in the last cleansing, he was just concluding his ministry, being about to offer up his life for the salvation of the world, in consequence of which he speaks fully and without reserve.

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#7 Martyn

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Posted 14 October 2004 - 11:40 AM

I agree with Evangelion. May I add another reason?

The Law of Moses included strict guidelines about things clean and unclean: food, disease, bodily discharges, and so on. A lot of space is given over to leprosy in Leviticus 13; 14.

Part of these guidelines concerned leprosy in a house (we would probably call it mildew, or dry rot). If a house wasn't isolated and treated appropriately, it was good only to be torn down. Any builder will tell you this today.

In Israel, if a house was suspected of being 'leprous', Lev. 14 required the priest to examine it closely. If he found disease in the house, he was to purge the house of the mouldy stones, and replace these sections with new and clean bricks.

If the mould broke out again later, the priest was to examine the house a second time. If leprosy was confirmed, he then knew the house was unclean through and through. Every last stone was to be torn down and carried away outside the city.

And he shall break down the house, the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the morter of the house; and he shall carry [them] forth out of the city into an unclean place. (Lev. 14.45)


The house was good for nothing.

#8 Martyn

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Posted 14 October 2004 - 11:43 AM

These two inspections parallel Christ's two inspections of the temple.

He came once at the beginning of his ministry (John 2), and once at the end (Matt. 21, Mk. 11, Luke 19).

That we are supposed to see the leprosy inspections as a model, is proved by the discussion Jesus had with his disciples after the second cleansing.

And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Luke 21.5-6)


This was how the Lord saw Israel, the nation that killed the prophets and stoned those sent to them. They were a leprous nation, with a system of worship that had once been good, and right, and true, and still looked good on the outside, but internally had corrupted beyond all recognition. Consequently, in AD 70 the Romans would sweep down on Jerusalem and plough it like a field.

No wonder He said to them

Behold, your house is left unto you desolate (Luke 13.35)






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