Lectionary Year B
March 26, 2000
John 2:13-22

Step IV: Context


A. PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANITY

(JFC) The fourth Gospel seems to have been written originally in Greek to help early Christians in their attempts at understanding, refining and deepening the faith they had assumed in Jesus as the Christ. These earliest Christians were still in the youth of the movement based on Jesus' sayings and doings. Christianity is still admittedly a mystery to many in the first century. Questions arise when believers analyze what they believe, in whom they believe and what they are to do based on whose authority and example. When believers' faith is stimulated by new and different people and events and teachings, believers' faith provoked by other data, tend to argue the validity of the new forms of faith. Other, more popular religions surround the places where Christianity is developing. Though the people then and there were hardly as competitive as we here and now have become, still challenges of traditions would stimulate intense discussions. The Gospel of John reminds careful readers of Gnosticism, a variety of religious movements in the first century. Such readers of this Gospel can hardly deny the controversial tones in which people in that era spoke, regarding faith data.

(DR) Are there other New Testament descriptions of temple worship practices and/or the commerce attached to it?
In the Gospel of John Jesus said, "Stop making my Father's house a marketplace." Compare this with Mark's account of this same incident where Jesus quotes Isaiah 56 and says, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations."

(DR) In the above, compared to this passage:
What specifically was it then that Jesus was angry about? Was his wrath leveled against the dishonesty of those who charged excessive fees and cheated the people. Or, was his wrath leveled against the institution of sacrifices itself? Or was it both issues?

(DR) Regarding Jesus' anger: we usually think about anger as something that "breaks relationships." But does it also "restore relationships" in some instances? Another place in the New Testament where Jesus became indignant was when the children were coming to him and his disciples shooed them away. Jesus rebuked his disciples...Jesus became the "voice" for those who were considered on the "outside" or "fringes" of society.

(FS) Greek "naos" (temple) appears in 1 Cor. 3:16, 1 Cor. 6:19, 2 Cor. 6:16 (use: Christian's bodies as "temples" of the Holy Spirit.)

(BH) Hatch and Redpath will indicate where else in the LXX "naon" is used, and for what Hebrew word. Is there a pattern to explain why "naon" instead of "hieron" or other terms?

(FS) A book that I've begun to read is John D. Crossan's JESUS: A REVOLUTIONARY BIOGRAPHY. Crossan is the Jesus Seminar scholar, historical Jesus scholar, etc... What Crossan seems to do well, I think, especially for preachers, is to provide us some seemingly reliable research on Jesus' social and political environment, step 4 orientation. What the article in the journal, "Interpretation," does with social strata in Mark's community, Crossan does for his reader in a very readable form. He quotes his sources enough to make a critical reading possible. He may claim too much for his methodology and sometimes the startling part is in his conclusions, but taken with a grain of salt it may be possible to glean something of use from the wealth of material presented.

(FS) John 4:23 - time approaches of worship in spirit & in truth, as opposed to in any one site.

B. OLD TESTAMENT/JUDAISM

JFC) The fourth Gospel both admits a Judaistic background and challenges Jews to put their trust in Jesus as the Messiah. The end of the prophetic book Zechariah hopes for a day when "there shall no longer be traders (footnote in the NRSV says, "Or Canaanites") in the house of the Lord". Jesus might be quoting that saying in John 2:16c. We have already noted a quote of Psalm 69:9 in verse 17 of our pericope. I Kings 6:19 tells about "the inner sanctuary in the inner most part of the house" which housed "the ark of the covenant of the Lord". Does that Old Testament image prefigure the Temple in Jerusalem in the New Testament?

(FS) Jesus doubtless was angry at the exploitation of the people, the creation of a heavy financial burden out of worship. As to anger about sacrifices themselves, perhaps some of the OT prophets can shed some light? -- e.g., Hosea 6:6 ("I desire mercy, not sacrifice"); Micah 6:6-8 (sacrificial offerings vs. doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly with God); Isaiah 1: 10-17 ("The multitude of your sacrifices...what are they to me?")

(DR) Perhaps there is Old Testament corroboration - at least of abuse - but where is that specifically? Do the words of the Prophets speak to this same issue?

(FS) Malachi 3: 1-4 speaks of the sought-after Lord coming to the temple "like a refiner's fire or launderer's soap"..."and the offerings of Judah will acceptable..." Maybe this is a helpful pointer toward a restorative type of anger?

(BH) It could be that Jesus was protesting dishonest practices in general (cf. Amos), otherwise perhaps this is a specific reform of worship.

(CU) See Amos 5:18-27, esp. 21ff.

(FS) Alfred Edersheim in "the life & Times of Jesus the Messiah" (1971 edition) claimed that some rabbinic writings of the 1st century a.d. tied the 'temple bazaar' to the sons of Annas the High Priest.

(BH) It may be possible to track the NA26 outer margin references to the LXX to see if there is any OT comment regarding the practice of money changing or commerce in the temple grounds. The "oral Torah" could also be examined through Strack-Billerbeck for references from the Mishnah and/or the Talmud regarding such practices.


(FS) Leviticus 1, sacrifices detailed; Leviticus 5: 5-7, sliding scale (if worshiper too poor to offer a lamb or goat, doves or pigeons would do)
Malachi 3: 1-4, messiah expected to purify on visitation to temple, making offerings acceptable.
Psalm 69: 8-9, zeal for Lord's house makes psalmist an outcast.

C. HELLENISTIC WORLD

(JFC)The Gospel of John seems to present many "contrasts between what is above and what is below (iii 31), between spirit and flesh (iii 6, vi 63), between eternal life and natural existence (xi 25-26), between real bread and heaven (vi 32) and natural bread between the water of eternal life (iv 14) and natural water. These contrasts may be compared to a popular form of Platonism where there is a real world, invisible and eternal, contrasted with the world of appearances here below," according to Raymond E. Brown's Anchor Bible commentary. Goppelt, in his Theology of the New Testament, calls it, "dualistic antithesis: light and darkness (Jn. 1:14; 3:19; 8:12; 11:9f; 12:35, 46), truth and falsehood (jn. 8:44), life and death (Jn 5:24; 11:25), freedom and servitude (Jn. 8:33, 36)." Hellenists shared such interests in similar contrasts, to be sure. Some commentators have questioned whether this Gospel might have been written to convert some still Jewish Hellenists to Christianity. Were the Hellenists commercially motivated? Did they approve of marketing even in the Temple as was customary then and there? We might suppose the Hellenists were too passive if not peace loving to question Jesus' tactics of clearing the Temple as reported in John's Gospel. Did the Hellenistic world require or even request "signs"? Probably they could identify with this passage's declaration that Jesus spoke symbolically when talking of his body as the Temple. Philosophers can handle that kind of figurative attribute.

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