Cleansing of the Temple

The cleansing of the Temple narrative tells of Jesus expelling the merchants and the money changers from the Temple, and occurs in all four canonical gospels of the New Testament. The scene is a common motif in Christian art.
In this account, Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem for Passover, where Jesus expels the merchants and consumers from the Temple, accusing them of turning the Temple into "a den of thieves" through their commercial activities. Do not mistake Jesus's use of the term "thieves" as literal thieves, but rather robbers of the people's time with God. This sentiment is further supported by Jesus's curing of the "blind and the lame" referring to their inability to see God and the resulting weakness due to this fact.
The narrative occurs near the end of the Synoptic Gospels and near the start in the Gospel of John. Some scholars believe that these refer to two separate incidents, given that the Gospel of John also includes more than one Passover.


Jesus is stated to have visited the Temple in Jerusalem, where the courtyard is described as being filled with livestock, merchants, and the tables of the money changers, who changed the standard Greek and Roman money for Jewish and Tyrian shekels. Jerusalem was packed with Jews who had come for Passover, perhaps numbering 300,000 to 400,000 pilgrims.
, referred to in, as imagined in the Holyland Model of Jerusalem. It is currently situated adjacent to the Shrine of the Book exhibit at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
In and Jesus accused the Temple authorities of thieving and this time he names poor widows as their victims, going on to provide evidence of this in and. Dove sellers were selling doves that were sacrificed by the poor who could not afford grander sacrifices and specifically by women. According to, Jesus then put an embargo on people carrying any merchandise through the Temple, a sanction which would have disrupted all commerce. This occurred in the outermost court of the gentiles.
says the Temple leaders questioned Jesus if he was aware the children were shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David." Jesus responded by saying "from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise." This phrase incorporates a phrase from the, "from the lips of children and infants," believed by followers to be an admission of divinity by Jesus.


There are debates about when the cleansing of the Temple occurred and whether there were two separate events. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine agree that Jesus performed a similar act twice, with the less severe denunciations of the Johannine account occurring early in Jesus's public ministry and the more severe denunciations of the synoptic accounts occurring just before, and indeed expediting, the events of the crucifixion.
Claims about the Temple cleaning episode in the Gospel of John can be combined with non-biblical historical sources to obtain an estimate of when it occurred.
states that Jesus went to the Temple in Jerusalem around the start of his ministry and states that Jesus was told: "Forty and six years was this temple in building, and you want to raise it up in three days?"
In the Antiquities of the Jews, first-century historian Flavius Josephus wrote that the temple reconstruction was started by Herod the Great in the 18th year of his reign 22 BC, two years before Augustus arrived in Syria in 20 BC to return the son of Phraates IV and receive in return the spoils and standards of three Roman legions. Temple expansion and reconstruction was ongoing, and it was in constant reconstruction until it was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans. Given that it had taken 46 years of construction to that point, the Temple visit in the Gospel of John has been estimated at any time between 24–29 AD. It is possible that the complex was only a few years completed when the future Emperor Titus destroyed the Temple in 70 AD.


Professor David Landry of the University of St. Thomas suggests that "the importance of the episode is signaled by the fact that within a week of this incident, Jesus is dead. Matthew, Mark, and Luke agree that this is the event that functioned as the 'trigger' for Jesus' death."
Given the fact that the actions of Jesus prompted no intervention on the part of either the Temple guards, nor the legionaries in the Antonia, Pope Francis sees the Cleansing of the Temple not as a violent act but more of a prophetic demonstration. In addition to writing and speaking messages from God, Israelite or Jewish nevi'im often acted out prophetic parables in their life.
Butler University professor James F. McGrath explains that the animal sales were related to selling animals for use in the animal sacrifices in the Temple. He also explains that the moneychangers in the temple existed to convert the many currencies in use into the accepted currency for paying the Temple taxes. E. P. Sanders and Bart Ehrman say that Greek and Roman currency was converted to Jewish and Tyrian money.
A common interpretation is that Jesus was reacting to the practice of money changers routinely cheating the people, but Marvin L. Krier Mich observes that a good deal of money was stored at the temple, where it could be loaned by the wealthy to the poor who were in danger of losing their land to debt. The Temple establishment therefore co-operated with the aristocracy in the exploitation of the poor. One of the first acts of the First Jewish-Roman War was the burning of the debt records in the archives.

According to later sources

Toledot Yeshu

There are a number of later embellishments to the narrative of the incident that are generally regarded as legendary or polemical by scholars. The Toledot Yeshu, a parody gospel probably first written down about 1,000 years later but possibly dependent on second-century Jewish-Christian gospel if not oral traditions that might go back all the way to the formation of the canonical narratives themselves, claims that Yeshu had entered the Temple with 310 of his followers. That Christ's followers had indeed entered the Temple, and in fact the Holy of Holies, is also claimed by Epiphanius, who claims that James wore the breastplate of the high priest and the high priestly diadem on his head and actually entered the Holy of Holies, and that John the Beloved had become a sacrificing priest who wore the mitre, which was the headdress of the high priest.
Yeshu was likewise accused of robbing the shem hamphorash, the 'secret name of god' from the Holy of Holies, in the Toledot Yeshu.

Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea

According to the apocryphal Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea, Demas, one of the two robbers who were crucified with Christ, stole the 'secret deposit' of Solomon from the Holy of Holies, an act which Judas blamed on Christ:

In art

The cleansing of the Temple is a commonly depicted event in the Life of Christ, under various titles.
El Greco painted several versions: