Habilitationen in Arbeit

Márta Cserhati

Jesus' Temple Act

Ever since E. P. Sanders made Jesus' demonstration in the temple the cornerstone of his historical reconstruction, this episode has figured as one of the main elements in studies of the historical Jesus. This incident, however, has turned out to be more of a puzzle than a key, fraught with difficulties concerning the textual evidence, the historicity and the interpretation of the event, and even its correct placement in the course of Jesus' ministry.

In terms of the textual witness, a major question is the relationship between the Markan account (Mark 11,15-17) and the Johannine version (John 2, 13-22). Another notorious difficulty is the significance of Mark 11,16, a verse which is missing from the other Synoptics. Also, are the Scriptural quotations in Mark 11,17 original, a distillation of a longer sermon, or a Markan interpretive comment?

The historicity of the incident has been questioned mainly in view of its key role in the development of the Markan (anti)temple theme that unfolds during the passion narrative. And even if we accept the basic historicity of the episode, we are still confronted with the question whether Mark preserves or alters the original intention(s) behind Jesus' action.

Finally, the history of the interpretation of this story rreveals a bewildering array of positions. The two major strands seem to be the understanding of this action as a cleansing or purification, and a symbolic prophecy of destruction. These two options include several different possibilities, ranging from exclusively religious to exclusively political readings, with different combinations in between.

My thesis tries to make sense of at least some of these questions, placing this incident within the wider framework of first-century Palestinian social, religious and political issues as well as looking at the place and function (or disfunction) of temples in antiquity.