Abstract of Roth, Cecil. “The Cleansing of the Temple and Zechariah XIV.21.”

Roth, Cecil.  “The Cleansing of the Temple and Zechariah XIV.21.”  Novum Testamentum 4 (1960): 174-81. [Israel/Herod/Christian]

A strong persistent influence of the prophecies of Zechariah 9-14 is found in the New Testament, especially in Luke.  This article focuses on Zechariah 14:21 which says, “In that day there shall be no more trafficker (lit. ‘Canaanite’) in the House of the Lord of Hosts.”  In order to fulfill this prophecy it became necessary for Jesus to cleanse the temple of traffickers.  At the time of Jesus there were two interpretations of the original word translated “traffickers” but which meant “Canaanite.”  One held to by hardliners, including the Qumran sect, wanted to eliminate all aliens, foreigners, Gentiles from the temple precincts entirely.  The other focused on traffickers in the temple.  The author argues that Jesus chose the latter interpretation as he sought to fulfill the prophecy, thus reinterpreting the national sentiment in a spiritual and non-political way.  Roth thus sees this as not only a Messianic gesture, but the first public one by Jesus.  He was so doing to create the conditions of purification in which Redemption would be possible.  Jesus’ explanation that the temple was to be a house of prayer is seemingly irrelevant.

The rebuke of making the Temple a den of robbers was apparently addressed to those who had followed Jesus (society at large?) and not to the traffickers.  Later the Jewish leadership learned of it.  (Mk. 11:18).  Jesus links Jeremiah 7:11 (“den of robbers”) with the Zechariah passage.  The term “robbers” in Hebrew, as interpreted by the Rabbis means “unruly ones,” or “bold ones,” outlaws.  Mark’s account included11:10 about not letting any man carry a vessel through the temple.  According to Roth, the prohibition was unnecessary because the Jews themselves were more severe on this point.  But this is according to Rabbinic sources, which may not accurately reflect the times of Christ.  Roth also adds an interesting interpretation on this passage, that common household vessels were going to become holy, and in fact Mark thinks this has already happened, hence it was not allowed to be taken out of the temple again.  The conservative, stern attitude about not permitting gentiles on the Temple mount was held by the Qumran community and was quite political and nationalistic.

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