Jesus And The “Cave Of Robbers”: Toward A Jewish Context For The Temple Action -- By: Craig A. Evans

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 03:1 (NA 1993)
Article: Jesus And The “Cave Of Robbers”: Toward A Jewish Context For The Temple Action
Author: Craig A. Evans

Jesus And The “Cave Of Robbers”: Toward A Jewish Context For The Temple Action

Craig A. Evans

Trinity Western University
Langley, Bc, Canada

The topic for the 1992 annual Institute for Biblical Research (IBR) meeting in San Francisco focused on the Jewish matrix of early Christianity. My assignment was to speak on Jesus. Don Hagner’s was to speak on Paul.1 He approached his subject broadly, addressing the larger question of Paul’s understanding of God’s covenant with Israel and the Gentiles. I approached my subject much more narrowly, focusing on the meaning of Jesus’ action in the temple precincts. I chose this narrower topic for three reasons. First, prior to 70 CE the religious center of the Jewish people was the temple. Various groups and individuals may have been critical of the temple’s caretakers, but they were loyal to the institution itself and to what it stood for. The large sums of money that poured into its coffers, both from Palestine and from the diaspora, testify to this deeply felt loyalty. Accordingly, investigation of Jesus’ action in the temple has the potential of taking us to the heart of the larger question of Jesus’ relationship to Judaism. Second, Jesus’ action in the temple has drawn considerable scholarly attention in recent life of Jesus research. This is because interpreters have rightly sensed that this action, if understood correctly, potentially clarifies Jesus’ mission with respect to Israel and makes intelligible his execution at the hands of the Romans, Israel’s overlords. Third, study of Jesus’ action in the temple precincts brings into focus the larger question of what Judaism was and with what features of this faith and practice Jesus either agreed, disagreed, or thought was in need of revision. Therefore, although the

focus of this paper is narrow, in that it is limited to a specific gospel passage, it does hope to make a contribution to the larger topic of Jesus within the first-century Jewish matrix.

In his recent study, A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins, Burton Mack concludes that Mark’s account of Jesus’ action in the temple is a “Markan fabrication.”2 He believes that the incident cannot be historical because of the “lack of evidence for an anti- temple attitude in Jesus” and because it advances themes that are essential to Mark’s agenda.3 The latter point is not without merit, but the first point begs the question in assuming that in the context of the historical Jesus the action was “anti-temple.” Evidentl...

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