Thursday, June 29, 2006


One of the more obvious things about Jesus is that he venerated the Temple. There are many positive statements about it in the Gospels. One of the strongest is at Matt 23:16-21 where Jesus says that the Temple makes the gold sacred and that anyone who swears by the Temple is swearing by God who dwells in the Temple. Just about everything else in the Gospels makes the same point.

There's nothing surprising about this. That was the culture of the time. All peoples back then had some form of animal sacrifice and various types of temples for this. In a way, it does not tell us anything very interesting about Jesus. He was a man of his time. Unless you consider that interesting, there is nothing very startling here.

What is so very interesting and what tells us a lot about many current scholars is how hard they resist the obvious in the Gospels and try to make out Jesus to be an opponent of the whole Temple system. It is rather incredible to what lengths they will go to distort the Gospel record and Jewish history.

They will attempt to argue that Jesus' prediction of the Temple's destruction is evidence of a negative attitude towards the Temple. How wrong they are. This is a complete misunderstanding of the nature of Jewish prophecy. Jewish prophets were not in the business of predicting catastrophes. They were in the business of preventing them. That is the whole point of a prophecy. Jesus is trying to prevent the destruction of a beloved institution by issuing a warning so that people will repent and reform their ways. Predicting its loss should inspire people to change their ways. That combination of love and inspiration is behind Jesus' prophecy.

I've been thinking about this because I just finished rewriting my chapter on Jesus and the Temple. Scholars are so busy inventing hostility between Jesus and things Jewish that they cannot see what is as plain as day. The fact that they have to work so hard against the weight of the evidence tells you what a bad case they have. A very few scholars seem to realize how wrong-headed so much scholarship has been about this, but they are in the minority and nobody seems to be raising their voice too loud. I wish there were more vociferous complaints about how anti-Jewish the predominant strain in scholarship is.

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