There is much "hype" of Jesus cleansing the temple.
The unknown New Testament (NT) authors portrayed this as an important event in
Jesus' life. This tale has even been included in books and movies. All four gospels
write an astonishing tale about Jesus while in Jerusalem going to the temple and angrily
cleaning out the moneychangers and merchants from the Temple. According to Matthew (KJV),
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.”
By saying, “went into the temple of God”
this means the event happened in the temple
proper. Mark and Luke just wrote, “Jesus
went into the temple” which could mean the temple area.
However, according to the NIV Study Bible and the New
American Bible (Catholic), they have Matthew saying Jesus "entered the TempleAREA” (Matthew ).
The temple area was large, over 30 square acres, with activities happening in the courtyard, away from the
worshiping area that was inside the Temple
building. The King James Version (KJV) of
the NT cleverly skipped over the exact details of this event by simply saying
all this happened "inside the Temple of God.” To those not understanding,
the diagram of the temple area consisted of several acres within four walls on
top of a high mount and within these four walls were the areas used for
marketing. The temple building itself, for worshiping, also stood within these
four walls. Now, how the real story would be told based on the Christians
book of authority, the Hebrew bible.
The Christians NIV Study Bible had the courage to fully
TempleArea: the buying and selling took place
in the large outer court of the Gentiles, which covered several
acres." Several courts surrounded the main temple buildings, including the
court of the women, the court of the men and the court of the Gentiles. The
Court of the Gentiles was used by Gentiles to worship (King Solomon also opened
the Temple to
non-Jews). The Gentiles saw that the
Jewish pilgrims coming to the Passover needed animals that met the Jewish
ritual requirements for sacrifice. Gentile
vendors set up their animal pens and money tables in the court of the
The Christian Abingdon Bible Commentary (pg. 986)
explains the reason why Jesus protested was because;
“the traders were in the habit of defrauding
the pilgrims who came to the city from all land. A den of robbers aptly
describes the methods of these men. Just as the pilgrims at Mecca today are outrageously fleeced, so they
were in Jerusalem
in the days of Jesus”.
The commentary wrote, “of these men.” It did not say Jewish
men. This is because the merchant’s area was divided into two parts, one for
Jewish merchants and one for Gentile merchants. But, most Pastors quote from
the King James Version and always imply that the “Den of Thieves” were the
Jewish merchants. Couldn’t the Den of Thieves been among the Gentile merchants
as well or a combination thereof? The commentary says; “Just as the pilgrims at Mecca
today are outrageously fleeced,” clearing stating just like the Arabs in Mecca today. Arabs are
non-Jews. Gentiles are non-Jews. Yet the church implies blame belongs on the
Jews as being the “thieves.”
The historical facts (not the biblical supposition) of the
event show the money-changers and dove-sellers were not doing anything wrong as
they were performing a necessary service and were acting in accordance with
Jewish laws found in the Torah. Just as tourists today in a foreign country
must exchange their money for local currency, so in the time frame of the Jesus
story, visitors from other areas outside of Judah needed a place to exchange
their coins for local coins. Jerusalem,
being the capital and location of the temple was the center of great
activity.The courtyard outside of the temple sanctuary was a
natural and appropriate place to set up exchange booths. This too, is confirmed
in the Christian NIV Study Bible.
Thousands of Jews from all over the known world would come
three times each year to observe the important Jewish holidays. During
Passover, they came to make offerings in the temple of animals, doves, grains
and fruits. Instead of traveling to Jerusalem
with these offerings, many found it easier to buy the offerings in the temple
courtyard thus enabling the foreign pilgrims to trade the shekels of Judea for the drachmas of the Roman
Empire to purchase such items as pigeons, doves or anything else
they could afford. Torah authorizes
exchanges of produce and livestock for silver. That way coins impressed with
foreign images considered idolatrous by Jews were replaced with coins
acceptable as donations toward the temple's expense funds i.e. the half shekel
head tax (see Deuteronomy 14:24-26).
Outside the temple was also the place for Rome to collect taxes. For Jews to worship,
every Jew had to pay-to-pray ―
a "temple tax" ― which went into the temple coffer (treasury) that paid the temple expenses and Roman
found this was another way to increase their coffer. This tradition of paying
the "temple tax" is stated
in the gospels when the tax collector went to Jesus for the "temple
tax" (Matthew -27).The New Testament and thusly most pastors, fail to mention that Roman
soldiers were stationed right outside the temple courtyard to watch over the
"tax money." Not only were the Roman soldiers stationed outside the temple
area, they were all over Jerusalem.
During Jesus' time, the Jews were stirring up thoughts of rebellion against
Roman rule. Roman soldiers were constantly checking any disorder, which could
spill over into an uprising against Rome.
According to Jewish scriptures, the Jews had a major concern of keeping the
pagan Roman soldiers out of the temple area. Not only would their presence in
the holy building be a desecration, but also the Sadducees did not want them to
find any opportunity to loot the temple treasury. Therefore, it would not be
logical to have any disturbance of any kind in the temple area that would have
brought in the Roman soldiers.
Besides, if Jesus had
done what the unknown gospel writers claim, the Jewish temple guards would have
put a quick end to his behavior because the Jewish pilgrims would not have
tolerated any acts of aggression that would have endangered the temple.These worshippers, having traveled so far
would not hesitate to suppress any person who, for no logical reason at all,
invited disaster. They would not have appreciated being prevented from
fulfilling the religious duties for which they made their pilgrimages. This act
of Jesus "cleansing the temple" just doesn't make any sense once you
understand Jewish law and what was happening in the courtyard during Jesus'
time. The gospel writings made you think that the money-changers and merchants
were inside the temple praying area.
PEOPLE, think! Is this NT story even feasible ― Jesus just walks in and
causes all sorts of commotion and simply leaves, and no one does anything?
Strangely noted are the various inquires at Jesus’ trial ―
at which Jesus was repeatedly questioned ― where there was no mention ever
made by his enemies (the Jewish high priests, according to the NT) of a violent
attack against the commercial activity in the temple. If this “cleansing of the
occurred, it would have been used against Jesus at one time or another. It
makes no difference, it is all fiction, just
another mythological tale.
"I've often thought the bible should have a disclaimer in the
front saying this is fiction." -Ian McKellen (1939-), Interview on the
Today Show, May 2006