Review of Coloe, Mary L. “Raising the Johannine Temple (John 19.19-37).”

Coloe, Mary L.  “Raising the Johannine Temple (John 19.19-37).”  Australian  Biblical Review 28 (2000): 47-58.  [Israel/Herod/New Temple]

Review:  In this article Johannine scholar Mary Coloe adopts and promotes the popular Christian temple “replacement theology.”  She argues that the passage found in John 2:19 at the conclusion of the temple cleansing “action” wherein Jesus says that they will destroy the temple and in three days he will rebuild it, is important to the “plot” of John’s gospel.  John goes to the trouble to tell his readers that Jesus was referring to the destruction of his own body.

She next shows how Jesus is viewed as the “temple’ throughout John’s gospel and highlights several episodes which she argues confirm this idea.  John 1:14 speaks of Jesus “tabernacling” among men–which she takes to mean that Jesus is now the “presence of God” among them–in other words he is the temple.  There may be an important allusion in the story of Jesus with the woman at the well in John 4, where Jesus sitting on the well suggests the temple above the symbolic waters of creation and the following discussion that Jesus is the source of water springing up to everlasting life.  This recalls, Coloe tells us, Ezekiel’s image of water coming from underneath the “eschatological” temple.  Most importantly, Jesus’ final discourse in John discusses the Father’s house, a phrase which Coloe tells us is used in the Old Testament not to refer to buildings, but to one’s household.  Consistent with this idea Chapter 14 of John refers to a series of intimate “indwelling” relationships between Jesus, the Father, and the people.

For Coloe three elements of John’s “passion story” show Jesus to be the royal eschatological temple builder.  The title on his cross she argues, is just that, a Messianic title referring to his role as temple builder.  Moreover, the commendation of Mary to the care of John at the foot of the cross creates a new household and relationship for both, which Coloe says is extended to people in general because of the specific way in which John is describing these relationships.  Finally, Jesus’ statement on the cross that he was giving up his spirit is not to be understood as a declaration of his death, but actually refers to his handing on or bequeathing the Spirit to the people.  In this sense the presence of Deity will remain among the people as they have the “Spirit-Paraclete” with them.  Thus, while the soldiers are destroying his body on the cross he has been establishing the church as the new temple.  Holy space has become “christified” and expanded.

Two important points, one, her casual  dismissal in a footnote of Jesus’ statement about rebuilding the temple in “three days” suggesting it “may simply be a means of referring to a short space of time…” and no discussion of the role of resurrection at the end of those three days, raises some questions about how well her theory accounts for all the evidence.  Moreover, she seems to too quickly accept Jacob Neusner’s idea that the “cleansing” in John 2 “represents an act of the rejection of the most important rite of the Israelite cult”–i.e., sacrifice, rather than considering that Jesus was “fulfilling” that portion of the law of Moses.  However I cannot hold her responsible for not totally understanding this the way a Latter-day Saint would based on teachings in modern revelation and from Joseph Smith.

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