PMW 2022-062 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
I am completing a brief study on the Jewish temple’s failure through abuse, showing the necessity of its destruction under God’s wrath in AD 70. My previous article should be consulted for context.
Interestingly, on several occasions before Christ’s coming, the temple undergoes cleansings because of profanations by Ahaz (2Ch 29:12ff), Mannaseh (2Ch 34:3ff), Tobiah (New 13:4-19), and Antiochus (1Mac 4:36ff; 2Mac 10:1ff). The temple of Christ’s day is also corrupt, for Christ himself symbolically cleanses it when he opens his ministry (Jo 2:13-17) and as he closes it (Mt 21:12-13) — even though it is under the direct, daily, fully-functioning administration of the high priesthood.
As Richard Horsley (Jesus and the Spiral of Violence, 163) well notes: “Once in Jerusalem, [Jesus] moves directly into the symbolic and material center of the society, the power based of the ruling aristocracy” to challenge it. In fact, Horsley (300) argues, “Jesus attacks the activities in which the exploitation of God’s people by their priestly rulers was most visible.” Thus, “Jesus’s action is a clear condemnation of the priestly authorities, who have permitted these practices: the result is that ‘the chief priests’ join ‘the scribes’ in plotting his death (cf. 3:6)” (Morna Hooker, The Gospel according to Saint Mark, 268).
Christ calls the temple they are controlling a “robbers’ den” (Mt 21:13) only to later have the “chief priests and the elders” demand the release of the robber Barrabas over him (Mt 27:40; Jn 18:40).  In fact, they ask him on what authority he drives out the moneychangers and teaches in the temple, since they had not commissioned him to clean up the corruption (Mt 21:23). As Julie Galambush (The Reluctant Parting, 68) observes: “It is no coincidence that Matthew’s extravagant assertions of Jesus’ authority are placed in the context of confrontations with the Pharisees.”
Before Jerusalem Fell
(by Ken Gentry)
Doctoral dissertation defending a pre-AD 70 date for Revelation’s writing. Thoroughly covers internal evidence from Revelation, external evidence from history, and objections to the early date by scholars.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
James DeYoung (Jerusalem in the New Testament, 63) argues that Christ’s actions are not an effort at reform but a testimony against the present cultus. This is evident in that in the first cleansing he alludes to its destruction (Jn 2:19) and in the immediate context of the second he curses the fig tree as symbol of Israel’s corruption (cf. Hos 9:10, 16; Mic 7:1). Ferdinand Hahn (The Titles of Jesus in Christology, 155) agrees: “The procedure of Jesus in the temple precincts can only be understood as a symbolic action proclaiming judgment and punishment on the Jewish sanctuary if it is connected with the cursing of the fig tree, as it is in the present redactional context.”
N. T. Wright (Jesus and the Victory of God, 416) well summarizes the evidence that Christ was symbolically declaring its judgment: “Virtually all the traditions, inside and outside the canonical gospels, which speak of Jesus and the Temple speak of its destruction. Mark’s fig-tree incident; Luke’s picture of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem; John’s saying about destroying and rebuilding; the synoptic traditions of the false witnesses and their accusation, and of the mocking at the foot of the cross; Thomas’ cryptic saying (‘I will destroy this house, and no one will be able to rebuild it’); the charge in Acts that Jesus would destroy the Temple: all these speak clearly enough, not of cleansing or reform, but of destruction.”
The temple authorities, including especially the high priests, were irrevocably corrupt long before the Jewish War. Indeed, the high priest in Jesus’ day was Anna, of whom Raymond Brown (The Gospel according to John, 1:121) notes: “the corruption of the priestly house of Annas was notorious.” According to Josephus: “The principal high-priestly families, with their hired gangs of thugs, not only were feuding among themselves, but had become predatory, seizing by force from the threshing floors the tithes intended for the ordinary priests” (Ant. 20.180, 206-7).
The Babylonian Talmud laments: “Woe is me because of the house of Boethus; woe is me because of their staves! . . . Woe is me because of the house of Ishmael the son of Phabi; woe is me because of their fists! For they are High Priests . . . and their servants beat the people with staves” (Pesah. 57a). “Starting by about 58 or 59, the high priests began surrounding themselves with gangs of ruffians, who would abuse the common priests and general populace” (Horsley, “High Priests and the Politics of Roman Palestine,” 45). In fact, “the high priests and royalists actually contributed to the breakdown of social order through their own aggressive, even violent, predatory actions” (Horsley, 24).
Completely frustrated at the high priests’ continuing collaboration with the Romans, “a group of sages/teachers called Sicarii or ‘Daggermen’ turned to assassinating key high-priestly figures (B.J. 2.254-57). . . . The population of Jerusalem was as dependent on the Temple-high-priesthood system as the high-priestly aristocracy was on their Roman sponsors” (Horsley, Galilee: History, Politics, People, 73-74). In fact, “when the Roman troops under Cestius finally came to retake control of Jerusalem . . . the priestly aristocracy attempted to open the gates to them . . . (November 66; B.J. 2.517-55)” (Horsley, Galilee 74).
Blessed Is He Who Reads: A Primer on the Book of Revelation
By Larry E. Ball
A basic survey of Revelation from the preterist perspective.
It sees John as focusing on the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.
For more Christian studies see: www.KennethGentry.com
Jesus preaches against the temple’s degenerate condition when he mentions the death of the son of Berechiah who was “murdered between the temple and the altar” (Mt 23:35). When we last hear Christ publicly referring to the temple he calls it “your house” rather than God’s house (Mt 23:38). Then he declares it “desolate” and ceremoniously departs from it (Mt 23:38-24:1). And it “is extremely significant that the declaration of abandonment (v. 38) is preceded by the seven woes upon the religious hierarchy of Jerusalem (vv. 13-36)” (DeYoung, Jerusalem in the New Testament, 91). The Qumran community existed largely because of their disdain for the corruption of the temple.
During the interchange regarding his temple actions, Jesus refers to John Baptist who calls Israel to repentance (Mt 21:24-25). John calls the people out of Jerusalem into the wilderness to repent, thereby effecting a reverse exodus (Mt 3:1-5) — as if Jerusalem is now Egypt and must be left (cp. Rev 11:8; 18:4). And he turns down the religious leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees, demanding that they bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance” instead of basking in their pride supposing “that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Mt 3:7-9). Christ even denounces Israel’s religious elite as “an evil and adulterous generation” (Mt 12:38-39).
Furthermore, Jesus intentionally supplants the temple cult ceremonies in his ministry (see Gaston, ch 3). He proclaims that he is “greater than the temple” (Mt 12:6). He teaches that loving God and neighbor “is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mk 12:22). He authoritatively declares the leper cleansed (Mk 1:40-45) instead of directing him to go to the priests in order to secure cleansing (Lev 14:2ff). He touches the unclean woman, but is not made unclean himself (Mk 5:25-34; cp. Lev 5:2-3). He declares that food does not make one unclean (Mk 7:15; cp. Lev 11:4ff). He does not even pay the temple tax except on the occasion when it might cause offense (Mt 17:24-27). And then he does not pay it out of his own purse and by means of a unique miracle. In this context “Jesus’ declaration that ‘the sons are free’ thus appears to have provided an unmistakable declaration of independence from the Temple and the attendant political-economic-religious establishment” (Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence, 282).
This study will continue in my next article.
1. Eventually the Jews would be overrun by robbers: “As for the affairs of the Jews, they grew worse and worse continually, for the country was again filled with robbers and impostors, who deluded the multitude” (Josephus, Ant. 20:8:5). We should remember that the Gospels are written awhile after Christ and record information to assist Christians in that later time. That Christ denounces the temple as a robber’s den should strike a sympathetic chord with Jewish Christians a few decades later. Josephus notes that the highpriests abuse the people and take away the tithes (Ant. 20:9:2), even making seditious attacks in Jerusalem (Ant. 20:9:4).
Commentary on Matthew 21–25 Notice
I am currently raising funds to engage research and writing on a commentary on Matthew 21–25, which contains the Olivet Discourse. This commentary will provide a Composition Critical approach to this textual unit in Matthew. In doing thus, it will show why Matthew presents Jesus’ Olivet Discourse as he does, in a way that differs in several respects from Mark and Luke. This commentary will demonstrate that the Olivet Discourse deals with both the AD 70 destruction of the temple and the Second Advent (which is anticipated by AD 70). This is important for presenting Christ as more than just a Jewish sage concerned for one nation.
If you would like to support this, please see my GoodBirth Ministries website, where you can give a tax deductible gift and receive a free occasional newsletter updating donors on my research. Thanks for your help! Click: GoodBirth Ministries.
Tagged: fig tree incident, temple cleansing, temple corruption
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