Yeshua in Context: The Life and Times of Yeshua the Messiah is here and available for order. Eventually it will be on amazon and other distributors. The eBook will be available soon for Kindle and iPad. An audiobook produced by First Fruits of Zion will be available before Hanukkah.
To order, go to http://MountOlivePress.com and click “Store.” The new release special is $13.00 postage paid in the U.S.
The excerpt below is from chapter 14, about Yeshua’s trial. If you’ve ever been put on trial (and I have), it is a solace to read the best man being tried by injustice. God truly experienced the human condition in its full sadness.
Seeking Evidence for Yeshua as Temple Destroyer
Already convinced that Yeshua is dangerous, and having decided long before the trial that he should be put to death, the Sanhedrin is looking for evidence. Most likely they want to gather evidence to present to Pilate to convince him to execute Yeshua.
From the perspective of the chief priests, the Temple is the most important institution in the life of Israel. Economically, the Temple was a major part of the wealth of the region. In religious terms, though sectarians like the Essenes avoided the corrupt Temple and though the Pharisees de-emphasized it with new rituals centered in the Jewish home, the Temple was the center of devotion, zeal, and the nearness of the Jewish people to God.
Two things in the career of Yeshua made him suspect as a Temple-opponent. He has been heard talking about it being destroyed and he initiated a protest action in the Temple.
In Mark’s telling of the story, talk about the destruction of the Temple has been only in a discourse with his inner circle of disciples: Peter, James, John, and Andrew (13:3). Yeshua said things like “not one stone will be left upon another” (13:2).
In the larger issue of the historical Yeshua and his sayings about the Temple, we know he said more than this. For one thing, even in Mark, it is apparent that Yeshua’s enemies hold against him a perceived threat to the Temple: “Aha! You who can destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days . . .” (15:29).
Perhaps the best historical evidence for this comes in the fourth gospel. It was not right at the end of his career, but nearer the beginning, that the fourth gospel places both a saying about the Temple being destroyed and also Yeshua’s protest action against the Temple (John 2:12-22).
The idea in the fourth gospel that Yeshua’s protest action, commonly known as cleansing the Temple, came at the beginning of his career is problematic. First, it is reported at the end of his career in the synoptic gospels (Mark 11:15-18; Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-48). Second, the synoptics indicate that his Temple protest was the immediate cause of his arrest (Mark 11:18). Third, it is hard to imagine the Jewish leaders not arresting Yeshua for such a threat to the greatest symbol of their power and the centerpiece of Israelite religion and economy.
Historically, the solution has been proposed by Raymond Brown (and we discussed it earlier in chapter 7). The fourth gospel is right that Yeshua’s saying about the Temple and his questioning by Temple authorities happened early. And the fourth gospel chose to report the Temple protest at that time, for its own literary reasons, even though the protest actually happened at the end of his career (Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII, 118). Yeshua, early in his career, got involved in some dispute with Temple authorities that led them to question him. He responded with a curious saying about the Temple being destroyed and rebuilt in three days. Then, late in his career, he drove out the sellers of animals and money-changers in a Temple protest action.
This is why, at his trial, the Sanhedrin cannot find a witness who heard Yeshua speaking of Temple destruction. Yeshua’s saying had come much earlier. It was known and was part of his reputation, but witnesses are now hard to find.
But more than the issue of early or late in his career, the issue Mark’s telling brings to the fore is that the council found false testimony against Yeshua. What was false about the testimony?
The answer is simple, whether we consider the account from Mark itself or bring in evidence from the fourth gospel. The witnesses, as well as the mockers when Yeshua is on the cross, say that Yeshua spoke himself of destroying the temple: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with hands’” (Mark 14:58). But this is false. Yeshua said the Temple would be destroyed, using the passive voice (Mark 13:2) and in John 2:19 he spoke of the Jewish leaders themselves destroying it. Yeshua never said he would destroy the Temple or that he was against the Temple. He simply foretold that it would be destroyed.
It is important to Mark that Yeshua was killed as an innocent sufferer and not a revolutionary. Yeshua did not confront the power of the chief priests with a military revolution, but with a revolution of ideas. His kingdom is not of this world, not in the sense that the Sanhedrin or Rome thought of worldly power.