Cleansing the Temple

In today’s readings, Jesus “entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out
those who were selling things” (Luke 19:45). This is a scene that occurs in all four gospels. In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) the story appears towards the end of Jesus’ ministry. In the Gospel of John it appears at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

In Jesus’ day there was one thing that dominated the skyline of Jerusalem – the Temple – easily seen from across the way on the Mount of Olives, hovering over the Old City, and visible from every balcony in the upper city. It wasn’t the original Temple, that had been destroyed some 600 years before by the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. This the second temple. Construction started about 520 years before Jesus’ time but it was King Herod the Great who make the temple a “wonder of the world.”

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Business of the temple

jesus-cleanses-the-templeCommentary 13 Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there.

From Josepheus, a Jewish historian who wrote in the later part of the 1st century AD, we know that in this period the temple functions were under the control of the Sadducees and the high priest Annas. As high priest he also served as the Treasurer of the temple with his sons as assistant treasurers. Their avarice and greed for money lead this spectacle to be called the “bazaar of the sons of Annas”. They used the ritual of Temple religious life to implement a scam on the people of Israel: temple sacrifices brought from home were inspected for blemish, for a fee. Blemish was always found. But a pre-inspected, blemish-free sacrifice could be purchased in the temple compound, for an exorbitant price, but not with Roman coinage (the images violated the law). The money changers exchanges Roman coin into specially minted temple coins, at a profit. It is against this background that Jesus cleanses the temple. Continue reading