Sunday, March 1, 2015

Liberating the Temple

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments regarding John 2:13-22, the Revised Common Lectionary gospel reading for the third Sunday of Lent.  There are a number of interesting words that are repeated throughout this text that seem worth noting. Your feedback is welcomed.

13 Καὶ ἐγγὺς ἦν τὸ πάσχα τῶν Ἰουδαίων, καὶ ἀνέβη εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ὁ Ἰησοῦς.
And the Pascha of the Judeans was near, and Jesus went up into Jerusalem.
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἀνέβη: AAI 3s, ἀναβαίνω, 1) ascend  1a) to go up  up, spring up
1.    Richard Horsley (Hearing the Whole Story) argues that when Mark uses the word Ἰουδαίοὶ, we should translate it “Judeans,” and not “Jews.” Most translations have “Jews.” Horsley’s point is that Mark makes a strong distinction between Galilean and Judean ways of being faithful. I don’t know if John has that same kind of distinction in mind, but I am now in the habit of following Horsley’s suggestion. Frankly, I believe it reflects the inner struggle for the soul of Jewish piety better than the anti-Semitic assumptions that often shape Christian interpretations.
2.    I’m transliterating “Pascha,” in order to show the roots (via Hebrew, then Greek) of the adjective “paschal supper” or “paschal lamb.” It refers to the holy time of the Passover and literally means something like “sparing” or “immunity.”

14 καὶ εὗρεν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ τοὺς πωλοῦντας βόας καὶ πρόβατα καὶ περιστερὰς καὶ τοὺς κερματιστὰς καθημένους,
And in the temple he came upon those who were bartering cattle and sheep doves and the money changers who were sitting,
εὗρεν: AAI 3s, εὑρίσκω, 1) to come upon, hit upon, to meet with  1a) after searching, to find a thing sought  1b) without previous search, to find (by chance),
πωλοῦντας: PAPart, apm, πωλέω, 1) to barter, to sell  2) sellers 
καθημένους: PMPart, apm, κάθημαι, 1) to sit down, seat one’s self  2) to sit, be seated, of a place occupied  2a) to have a fixed abode, to dwell 
1.    Note the word “temple” (ἱερῷ) that John uses here. It is different from the word I translate as “sanctuary” (ναὸν) in vv. 19, 20, and 21. More about that below.
2.    The verb εὗρεν is curious, since it can mean to come upon something without looking for it as well as to come upon something that one is seeking. It leaves open the question of whether Jesus came to the temple with the purpose of challenging the commerce or if he came upon the commerce while attending the temple for other reasons.

15 καὶ ποιήσας φραγέλλιον ἐκ σχοινίων πάντας ἐξέβαλεν ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ, τά τε πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας, καὶ τῶν κολλυβιστῶν ἐξέχεεν τὸ κέρμα [τα κέρματα] καὶ τὰς τραπέζας ἀνέτρεψεν,
and making a whip out of cords he cast out all out of the temple, including the sheep and the cattle, and he poured out the money [the monies] of the money changers and overturned the tables.  
ποιήσας: AAPart nsm, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct,  form, fashion, etc.
ἐξέβαλεν: AAI 3s, ἐκβάλλω, 1) to cast out, drive out, to send out  1a) with notion of violence  1a1) to drive out (cast out)  1a2) to cast out  1a2a) of the world, i.e. be deprived of the power and  influence he exercises in the world 
ἐξέχεεν: AAI 3s, ἐκχέω, 1) to pour out, shed forth 2) metaph. to bestow or distribute largely 
ἀνέτρεψεν: AAI 3s, ἀνατρέπω, 1) to overthrow, overturn, destroy 2) to subvert
1.    Some Greek manuscripts have ‘money’ as singular, some as plural.
2.    The word “make” or “do” (ποιέω) is fairly common, and not always particularly noteworthy. But, notice how John uses it in this text, in vv. 15, 16, and 18. Jesus “makes” a whip because they had “made” God’s house into an emporium and they wonder what the sign is that warrants Jesus to “do” these things.

16 καὶ τοῖς τὰς περιστερὰς πωλοῦσιν εἶπεν, Ἄρατε ταῦτα ἐντεῦθεν, μὴ ποιεῖτε τὸν οἶκον τοῦ πατρός μου οἶκον ἐμπορίου.
And to those who were selling the doves he said, “Remove these things from here, you will not make my father’s house an emporium house."
πωλοῦσιν: PAPart dpm, πωλέω, 1) to barter, to sell  2) sellers
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain  1b) to teach  1c) to exhort, advise, to command, direct 
Ἄρατε: AAImpv 2p, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up  …  3) to bear away what has been raised, carry off  3a) to move from its place  3b) to take off or away what is attached to anything  3c) to remove  3d) to carry off, carry away with one 
ποιεῖτε: PAImpv 2p, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct,  form, fashion, etc.
1. The word “say” (λέγω) is also very, very common and, therefore, not usually noteworthy. However, it appears repeatedly in this text (vv. 16, 19, 21, 22 with reference to Jesus). In the end, remembering and understanding rightly what Jesus says is the whole point of this text.
2. In addition to “temple” and “sanctuary,” vv. 16 and 17 refer to the temple as God’s “house.”

17  Ἐμνήσθησαν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι γεγραμμένον ἐστίν, Ὁ ζῆλος τοῦ οἴκου σου καταφάγεταί με.
His disciples remembered that it is written, "The zeal of your house will consume me."
Ἐμνήσθησαν: API 3p, μιμνήσκω 1. mindful of (be) to think much of a thing, and so to remember, to recall to one's mind, to begin to remember, remind. (see μνάομαι). 2. remember to think much of a thing, and so to remember,
ἐστίν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
γεγραμμένον: PPPart, nsm, γράφω, 1) to write, with reference to the form of the letters  1a) to delineate (or form) letters on a tablet, parchment,  paper, or other material  2) to write, with reference to the contents of the writing
καταφάγεταί: FMI 3s, κατεσθίω, 1) to consume by eating, to eat up, devour  1a) of birds  1b) of a dragon  1c) of a man eating up the little book  2) metaph.  2a) to devour i.e. squander, waste: substance  2b) to devour i.e. forcibly appropriate: widows' property.
1.    The root of “consume” (καταφάγεταί,) is φάγε, a common word for “eating.” Jesus is eaten up by zeal for God’s house.
2.    This is the first reference in this text of “remember” (μιμνήσκω), when the disciples remembered Psalm 69:9. An interpretive question is whether the disciples were remembering the Psalm ‘in the moment’ of this story, or whether they remembered the Psalm later, after Jesus was resurrected. In v.22, when the disciples remember Jesus’ words, it is after Jesus is raised.
3.    For those who are accustomed to Matthew’s way of explaining Jesus’ actions with the commentary, “As it is written,” for John to attribute this connection between Jesus’ action and the Psalm is to give the disciples a much stronger position as interpreters of Jesus’ acts than, say, Mark’s gospel, where the disciples continually do not understand.
4.    The word for “is written” (γεγραμμένον), is a participle, which has as its root the same word (γράφω) that is in v. 22, which many translations have as “the Scriptures.” I have it as “the Writings,” so that the connection between this verse and that one will be easier to see. (Related to the English words “grammar” and “graphite.”)

18 ἀπεκρίθησαν οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Τί σημεῖον δεικνύεις ἡμῖν, ὅτι ταῦτα ποιεῖς;
Therefore the Judeans responded and said to him, "What sign are you showing to us, that you do these things?"
ἀπεκρίθησαν: API 3p, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer  2) to begin to speak, but always where something has preceded  (either said or done) to which the remarks refer 
εἶπαν: AAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain  1b) to teach  1c) to exhort, advise, to command, direct  
δεικνύεις: PAI 2s, δεικνύω prop. to show i. e. expose to the eyes:
ποιεῖς: PAI 2s, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct,  form, fashion, etc.
1. The word “show” (δεικνύω) is used often in John’s gospel and a persistent theme is that Jesus performs “signs” in order that one may “see and believe.” That is why the story of Thomas is so pivotal as a post-resurrection story, because now – after repeated emphasis on seeing and signs as a means of believing, Jesus says “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Here are the uses of the word “show”:
Joh 2:18 ...him, What sign showest thou unto us, seeing...
Joh 5:20 ...the Son, and showeth him all things...
Joh 5:20 ...himself doeth: and he will show him greater works...
Joh 10:32           ...Many good works have I showed you from my...
Joh 14:8 ...The said unto him, Lord, show us the Father...
Joh 14:9 ...sayest thou then, Show us the Father...
Joh 20:20           ...had so said, he showed unto them his..
2. The word “sign” (σημεῖον) likewise plays a pivotal role in John, and is sometimes translated “miracle.” Here is a list of the uses of “sign” in John.
Joh 2:11 This beginning of signs did Jesus in...
Joh 2:18 ...unto him, What sign showest thou unto...
Joh 2:23 ...they saw the signs which he did...
Joh 3:2    ...can do these signs that thou doest...
Joh 4:48 ...Except ye see signs and wonders, ye...
Joh 4:54 This is again the second sign that Jesus did...
Joh 6:2    ...they saw his signs which he did...
Joh 6:14 ...they had seen the sign that Jesus did...
Joh 6:26 ...because ye saw the signs, but because ye...
Joh 6:30 ...unto him, What sign showest thou then...
Joh 7:31 ...he do more signs than these which...
Joh 9:16 ...sinner do such signs? And there was...
Joh 10:41           ...John did no sign: but all things...
Joh 11:47           ...man doeth many signs.
Joh 12:18           ...had done this signs.
Joh 12:37           ...done so many signs before them, yet...
Joh 20:30           And many other signs truly did Jesus...

19 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Λύσατε τὸν ναὸν τοῦτον καὶ ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις ἐγερῶ αὐτόν.
Jesus responded and said to them, "Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will raise it."
ἀπεκρίθη: API 3s, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer  2) to begin to speak, but always where something has preceded  (either said or done) to which the remarks refer 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain  1b) to teach  1c) to exhort, advise, to command, 
Λύσατε: AAImpv 2p, λύω 1) to loose any person (or thing) tied or fastened … 3d) to do away with, to deprive of authority, whether by precept  or act  3e) to declare unlawful  3f) to loose what is compacted or built together, to break up,  demolish, destroy 
ἐγερῶ: FAI 1s, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  …of buildings, to raise up, construct, erect 
1. The word “destroy” (λύω) has many meanings, the most common of which is “to loose.” It is a liberative word in many ways and I am wondering if that might not be an interesting way to pursue it here. If Jesus is saying, “Liberate this sanctuary and I’ll elevate it in three days!” his words will have been wholly misunderstood by the Judeans (and millions of preachers ever since).
2. The word “sanctuary” (ναός) refers to the inner part of the temple, as opposed to the word “temple” (ἱερῷ) in v.14, which was the whole area, including the outer buildings and courtyard.
3. I know this is my issue, but for Jesus to use the active voice here, “I will raise,” seems a little different than the more usual passive voice, that “was raised.”  

20 εἶπαν οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, Τεσσεράκοντα καὶ ἓξ ἔτεσιν οἰκοδομήθη ὁ ναὸς οὗτος, καὶ σὺ ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις ἐγερεῖς αὐτόν;
Therefore the Judeans said, "Forty and six years this sanctuary was built, and you in three days will raise it?" 
εἶπαν: AAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain  1b) to teach  1c) to exhort, advise, to command, 
οἰκοδομήθη: API 3s, οἰκοδομέω, 1) to build a house, erect a building  1a) to build (up from the foundation)  1b) to restore by building, to rebuild, repair 
ἐγερεῖς: FAI 2s, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  …of buildings, to raise up, construct, erect 
1.    See Chris Haslam’s comment below regarding the timing of the building of the temple, as well as his suggestion that 46 years may refer to Jesus’ age.

21 ἐκεῖνος δὲ ἔλεγεν περὶ τοῦ ναοῦ τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ.
Yet he was saying this concerning the sanctuary of his body.
ἔλεγεν: IAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain  1b) to teach  1c) to exhort, advise, to command, 
1.    This is the pivotal verse in this text to me. It signifies that what Jesus was saying was, and was not, what he meant. It was not that Jesus meant, “I can build a temple in three days!” It was that he meant, “I will rise in three days.” The communicative problem of the story is that the Judeans were taking Jesus literally, as if the ‘meaning’ of his ‘words’ had a direct one-to-one correlation as ‘sign’ to ‘referent.’
2.    My suggestion is that John may be offering an insight into hermeneutics - a way of reading texts (the Writings), reading signs, or hearing Jesus’ words. They are only understood properly when they are understood – i.e. remembered – through Jesus’ resurrection.
3.    Another possibility is that if this conversation occurred along these lines in real time, perhaps Jesus was inviting the Judeans to ‘liberate’ (v.19, n.1) the actual sanctuary and to begin a radical reform of their way of faith. But, since that is not how the reality unfolded, John is adding an interpretive layer that the sanctuary of Jesus’ body was destroyed and raised in three days.

22 ὅτε οὖν ἠγέρθη ἐκ νεκρῶν, ἐμνήσθησαν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι τοῦτο ἔλεγεν, καὶ ἐπίστευσαν τῇ γραφῇ καὶ τῷ λόγῳ ὃν εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς.
Therefore when he was raised out of the dead, his disciples remembered that he said this, and they believed in the Writing and in the word which Jesus said.
ἠγέρθη: API 3s, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  …of buildings, to raise up, construct, erect 
ἐμνήσθησαν: API 3p, μιμνήσκω 1. mindful of (be) to think much of a thing, and so to remember, to recall to one's mind, to begin to remember, remind. (see μνάομαι). 2. remember to think much of a thing, and so to remember, to call to one's mind, begin to remember, remind. (a) Middle, to begin to call to mind, recollect, remember.
ἔλεγεν: IAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain  1b) to teach  1c) to exhort, advise, to command, 
ἐπίστευσαν: AAI 3p, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place  confidence in  1a) of the thing believed  1a1) to credit, have confidence
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain  1b) to teach  1c) to exhort, advise, to command, 
1. This verse brings together the “raising” (or “resurrection”), “remembering” correctly, and therefore “believing” the “word” that Jesus “said.”  Notice how these are the themes of the first ending of John’s Gospel, just at the conclusion of the resurrection story (John 20:30-31): “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”

Parallel Stories:
The other gospels tell of Jesus’ actions in the temple just prior to Jesus’ death – unlike the early placement of it here in John. See Matthew 21:12-27, Mark 11:15-17, and Luke 19:45-48.

Nehemiah 13:4-9
Here is an intriguing event ‘liberating’ of the house of God by throwing out furniture and cleansing the space:
Now before this, the priest Eliashib, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah, prepared for Tobiah a large room where they had previously put the grain-offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. While this was taking place I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes of Babylon I went to the king. After some time I asked leave of the king and returned to Jerusalem. I then discovered the wrong that Eliashib had done on behalf of Tobiah, preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the room. Then I gave orders and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back the vessels of the house of God, with the grain-offering and the frankincense.

Psalm 69
9It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
   the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
10When I humbled my soul with fasting,
   they insulted me for doing so.
11When I made sackcloth my clothing,
   I became a byword to them.
12I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,
   and the drunkards make songs about me.

And this wonderful commentary from Chris Haslam:
Josephus tells us in his Antiquities that Herod began rebuilding the Temple in the eighteenth year of his reign, i.e. about 20 BC. The events in our reading take place 46 years later, i.e. about 26 AD. However, the word translated as “temple” is naos and Josephus tells us that:
      The naos was completed in a year and five months and
      The whole complex of temple buildings was only completed in about 63 AD.
The only way of reconciling this data seems to be to assume that:
      Josephus means the sanctuary proper by naos while in John it refers to a larger group of buildings, and
      Reconstruction was suspended in 26 AD – when this larger group of buildings was almost complete.

But there is another possibility. Perhaps the “forty-six years” is Jesus’ age at the time. Three years later, at the time of the Crucifixion, he would be 49. 49 is the 7 times 7, the perfect number. The Resurrection can then be seen as inaugurating the great Jubilee. This fits well with 8:57, “You are not yet fifty years old ...” – unlike Jesus being in his thirties when he was crucified. It also fits with the tradition preserved by Irenaeus; he says that, on the authority of the elders of Asia who had known John, Jesus lived until he was nearly fifty. But there is nothing in v.20 to support this interpretation.

3 comments:

  1. Wow. Thanks for all this work. I appreciate it and have learned a thing or three.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for your help to all of us who did not have Greek or Hebrew, very interesting, easy to both read, understand and use in sermon prep.

    ReplyDelete

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