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In this Gospel episode Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem for Passover, where he expels the money changers from the Temple, accusing them of turning the Temple into a den of thieves through their commercial activities. In the Gospel of John Jesus refers to the Temple as "my Father’s house" thus in some views making a claim to being the Son of God although it is common in the Abrahamic religions to refer to God as God the Father.
Some Christians think this is the only account of Jesus using physical force in any of the Gospels. Eastern Orthodox reject this idea. The narrative occurs near the end of the Synoptic Gospels (at Mark 11:15–19, , Matthew 21:12–17, and Luke 19:45–48, ) and near the start in the Gospel of John (at John 2:13–16). Some scholars believe that these refer to two separate incidents, given that the Gospel of John also includes more than one Passover.
Jesus is stated to have visited the Temple in Jerusalem, Herod's Temple, where the courtyard is described as being filled with livestock and the tables of the money changers, who changed the standard Greek and Roman money for Jewish and Tyrian money. Jerusalem was packed with Jews who had come for Passover, perhaps numbering 300,000 to 400,000 pilgrims.
And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade."
"And 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, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves."
In John, this is the first of the three times that Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, and John says that during the Passover Feast there were (unspecified) miraculous signs performed by Jesus, which caused people to believe "in his name", but that he would "not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men".
In Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47 Jesus accuses the Temple authorities of thieving and this time names poor widows as their victims, going on to provide evidence of this in Mark 12:42 and Luke 21:2. Dove sellers were selling doves that were sacrificed by the poor who could not afford grander sacrifices and specifically by women. According to Mark 11:16, Jesus then put an embargo on people carrying any merchandise through the temple—a sanction that would have disrupted all commerce.
Matthew 21:14–16 says the Temple leaders questioned Jesus if he was aware the children were shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David." Jesus responded by saying "from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise." This phrase incorporates a phrase from the Psalm 8:2, "from the lips of children and infants," believed by followers to be an admission of divinity by Jesus, thus confirming his divinity via prooftexting the Old Testament.
The Temple cleansing episode in the Gospel of John can be correlated with non-biblical historical data sources to obtain an estimate for the year to which the episode refers. John 2:13 states that Jesus went to the Temple in Jerusalem around the start of his ministry and John 2:20 states that Jesus was told:
In the Antiquities of the Jews, first-century historian Flavius Josephus wrote that (Ant 15.380) the temple reconstruction was started by Herod the Great in the 15th–18th year of his reign at about the time that Augustus arrived in Syria (Ant 15.354). Temple expansion and reconstruction was ongoing, and it was in constant reconstruction until it was destroyed in 70 AD/CE by the Romans. Given that it took 46 years of construction, the Temple visit in the Gospel of John has been estimated at around 27–29 AD/CE.
The cleansing of the Temple is a commonly depicted event in the Life of Christ, under various titles.
El Greco painted several versions:
An incident where provocation took place in the Temple can be found in the time of Nehemiah, when Nehemiah overturned the furniture of Tobiah the Ammonite who had, with the cooperation of Eliashib the High Priest, leased the storerooms of the temple, depriving the Levites of their rations from the offerings, and drove out Eliashib's grandson who had married the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite (Neh 13).
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Cleansing of the Temple
Wedding in Cana in John 2
or Triumphal Entry in the Synoptic Gospels
Jesus & Nicodemus in John 3
or Fig Tree Cursed in the Synoptic Gospels