In all the Gospels Jesus enters into the temple in Jerusalem and becomes enraged by what he sees there.  He overturns tables and drives merchants out and shuts down the operation.  Could this actually have happened?  Or is it an exaggerated – or completely invented – account?


[[RECALL, in case you haven’t been reading each of the posts in this thread:  I’ve been trying to show how experts in the phenomenon of “memory” can help us reflect on the Gospel traditions about Jesus.  Memory is a much wider and more expansive phenomenon than most people imagine.  Memories involve what we’ve done, what we’ve experienced, what we’ve learned, what we’ve heard, and what we simply recall about the past whether we ourselves experienced it and whether our recollections are just personal or collectively shared by a broader swath of our community (e.g., our “memories” of the Clinton presidency or of the Civil War)  .

When seen in this broader sense, the Gospels contain some “historically true” memories of Jesus but also some distorted or fake memories.  In the current thread of posts I’ve been discussing key passages of the Passion narratives of the Gospels.  All these are taken from my book that discusses such things in large, Jesus Before the Gospels (HarperOne, 2016).]]


The Cleansing of the Temple

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke agree that when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem he went into the temple and made a disturbance there.  In our earliest account, Mark, we are told that he drove out those who were selling and buying in the temple, overturned the tables of those who were exchanging money and the chairs of those selling doves, and did not “allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.”  He then declared, from a passage of Scripture, that the temple was to be “a house of prayer for all the nations,” but that they had made it “a cave of thieves.”   This irritated the Jewish chief priests and scribes who began to look for a way to destroy him; but “the multitude” was astonished at his teaching (Mark 11:15-19).

To understand this passage it is necessary to know the context.  Who is selling animals?  Who is exchanging money?  And why?

People coming to Jerusalem from long distances would not be able to

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