Bible Affirming Truth

The cleansing of the Temple

The cleansing of the Temple. Another look into why Jesus was so enraged as to clear the Temple traders as recorded in the four Gospels

The cleansing of the Temple Bible narrative tells of Jesus expelling the traders and money changers from the Temple, the incidence was recorded in all four Gospels of the New Testament. Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem for Passover, where inside the Temple compound Jesus expelled the merchants and money changers, accusing them of turning the Temple into "a den of thieves" through their commercial activities.

Mark 11: 15-17
“Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. And He began to teach and say to them, "Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it a “robber’s den.”

Two things were important for foreign worshipers: an animal to sacrifice and Temple coins which local merchants would accept. There was probably nothing wrong with selling animals or operating a legitimate money exchange, but, according to Jesus, these particular vendors were a “den of robbers” who undoubtedly charged exorbitant rates, thus taking advantage of those who seemingly had no other options, and they were doing this in “His house”. Jesus then put a ban on people carrying any merchandise through the Temple, most likely referring to the outermost “Court of the gentiles”, where over the years unauthorized markets were in place. Occupying this particular location was in essence excluding gentile worshippers from worshipping the one true God.

South side of the old Jerusalem western wall, now partly a closed archaeological area

Archaeological excavations at the Temple Mount — the very important landmark in the Old City of Jerusalem—have taken place in the last 150 years, albeit quite slowly because of political reasons. From around 1970 (after the Six Days War), many new finds have emerged, in particular historic remnants of the Second Temple period.

Situated at the Western Wall in the old City, was the Davidson Center, or the Jerusalem Archaeological Park. Many of the archaeological antiquities were from the First and Second Temple periods such as the ancient city wall, the Temple’s staircase, a preserved ancient street, ritual immersion baths, and stores.

Below the southwestern corner of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, near the archaeological feature known as Robinson’s Arch, lies a random assortment of massive stone building blocks.

Mark 13: 1-2
As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

The great piles of fallen stones provide dramatic evidence of the destruction wrought by the Roman legions in Jerusalem in year 70 BCE, and fulfilled the prophecy of Jesus in the Gospels.

The huge stone blocks help bring history to life. They were once part of a parapet wall along the perimeter of the Temple Mount. In 70 CE, Roman soldiers intent on destroying every vestige of the Jewish Temple pushed the huge stones over the edge. For nearly two thousand years, they have been lying where they had fallen. The stones seem to have fallen into an ancient street, whose authentic paving stones are still roughly in place. Due to the deterioration of the underlying drainage system, some of the pavement stones have collapsed.

From 1993 to 1997, new excavations were conducted, uncovering the who Herodian Street running along the Western Wall in its entire length. A row of small stores/shops which opened into the street was found, evidence of the commerce that once took place here.

Merchant stores built in stone blocks

Stores built out of large stone blocks stood out alongside the street. These stores, now known to be 2000 years old were standing outside the perimeter of the Old City Wall, where the Courts (for the Jews and Gentiles) and Temple were enclosed. It quickly comes to mind why Jesus was enraged to find traders, merchants, money changers and cheats gathered themselves not along these establishments but inside the city walls in the vicinity of the courts. Occupying these spaces was in essence excluding Gentile and Jews worshippers from worshipping God. They need to be driven out to where they belong. The proper stores outside the city walls were most likely not sufficient for the flourishing trade, so that greedy merchants would prey on the visitors in the courts.

These more recent archeological finds (much are still going on) have lent credible evidence to the actions of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels.