Thursday, November 03, 2005

"Jesus' Cleansing of the Temple" vs. "Jesus' ______ of the Temple"

In true Alan Bandy fashion, I've decided to try my hand at coining a new theological expression. After reading and pondering Michael Bird's helpful comments about the 'temple cleansing' (see my first post on the temple cleansing in John), I made the determination to find a more accurate description of what Jesus likely was trying to symbolize through his actions in the Jerusalem temple. I know this is not very politically correct, but I think the phrase "Jesus' denunciation of the Temple" may a more accurate ways of describing his overall intention. [I have not read everything on this subject, so if someone else has come up with this phrase, I apologize!] Jesus' description of the temple as "my Father's house" (2:16), however, might suggest that the word "denunciation" is too negative to effectively capture what Jesus is symbolizing.
I do appreciate Sanders' critique of the "Temple cleansing" theory, but I can't help but think it leaves something out. This seems especially likely since he envisions the restoration of the Jerusalem temple by another physical temple. This is certainly not what seems to be presented in the FG (cf. John 2:19). Alan B. has some helpful comments about "both/and" interpretations (see, but I think this is one case where it is appropriate. I would therefore allow for the possibility that Jesus' action was intended to symbolize more than the Temple's destruction.

Any thoughts...


Matthew McDill said...

Hey Mark, glad to see you make an appearance on the cyberscene. I was wondering what your capitalized ZERO signifies on your 'about me.'Are you rejoicing in or lamenting your lack thereof?

Mark Owens said...

Hey Matt,
It depends on the day in question and the child I'm able to spend time with:-) God bless.


Michael F. Bird said...

1. I think denunciation is perhaps better, although you risk being too broad in that denunciation can have a wide range of meaning.
2. Everyone agrees that Jesus' action in the temple was symbolic, but the question is, "of what?"
3. A bigger issue you can loose sleep over is why Jesus denounced the temple. The weakness of Sanders' position is that he does not think that Jesus found anything particularly wrong with the temple, but simply believed that a new temple was coming and this one would have to go.
4. Craig Keener (John comm.) and Craig Evans (Mark comm.) give the best overviews of reasons why Jesus criticized the temple.
5. Steven Bryan (Jesus and Israel's Traditions of Restoration and Judgment) is perhaps correct that Jesus attacked "the entire operation of the temple" but I would argue, to be specific, that the temple's role as a talisman for nationalistic theology, its exclusion of Gentiles, and economic exploitation were the main reasons that make sense of the Gospel materials.

Alan Bandy said...

Very well said Michael. I would add that the denunciation was also part and parcel of Jesus' fulfillment of the Law. Similar to the argument in Hebrews, that now that the real thing has come the shadow ceases to serve its former role. In other words, the denunciation was a symbolic act with the theological connotations to the effect of "I am the new temple."

Mark Owens said...

I love the lively discussion and greatly appreciate the comments. In light of John's "replacement theme," I tend to think that John is emphasizing Jesus' fulfillment of the Law. Even if there was only one cleansing, I would suggest that we should "let John be John," which probably means that Jewish exclusivism should play a lesser role when it comes to determining how Jesus' action in John 2:13ff should be understood.

Michael, I appreciate you pointing me to Bryan's book. I have found Keener's discussion helpful. Since Evans does seem to lump John's account in with the Synoptics, I wonder if he might not be quite as helpful (see above comments). [Keener in fact suggests that Gentile exclusion was not the primary motive behind Jesus' actions in John.]

Alan, your connection with Hebrews is certainly very appropriate. I often wonder how similar the historical situations addressed by John and Hebrews are. I think I may have found an idea for a new post, by the way:-)

Mark Owens said...

By the way, possibly the underlying problem with Sanders' approach to this issue is his assumption that the temple is primarily a place of sacrifice (Jesus and Judaism, 63). Yet does this really appreciate the emphasis on the divine presence in such OT texts as 2 Samuel 7. As much as Sanders chides protestants for reading the NT through "protestant lenses", one wonders if he here has not misread the OT through "second temple Judaism lenses."