“Jesus answered them; Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews then said; It has taken forty-six years to build this
temple, and will you raise it up in three days? But he spoke of the temple of his body” (John ch2 vv19-21)
Some short thoughts on a short passage.
The Jews were sensitive to the idea that the temple could be destroyed, and were prone to misunderstand what Jesus meant. I suspect that Jesus made
this declaration several times in his visits to Jerusalem, which would have increased the impact.
In the synoptic gospels, Jesus predicts the future destruction of the temple, as a warning, and the Jews take it as a threat about his own intentions.
That’s how they apply these words on the night of his arrest; “We heard him say; I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three
days I will build another, not made with hands” (Mark ch14 v58). The contrast of “with/without hands” sounds genuine enough (it pre-empts the
objection made by the critics in John), but they have added the first “I will”.
Stephen repeats the warning, and they accuse him of repeating the threat; “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law;
for we have heard him say that Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place…” (Acts ch6 vv13-14).
Like many of the remarks in John’s gospel, the words quoted at the top of the page have a double meaning. The double meaning is well-known. But
perhaps not everybody recognises the triple meaning.
“Destroy this temple”.
We also have this idiom in English, namely that what looks like a command actually means “IF you destroy this temple, then… “ Or “IF this
temple is destroyed.”
“In three days I will raise it up.”
The obvious double meaning is that he refers to the death and resurrection of his physical human body, not a reconstruction of the physical
For the triple meaning, we need to get help from 1 Corinthians.
Firstly, the Christian community is called “the body of Christ”;
“Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians ch12 v27).
Secondly, the Christian community is called “the temple of God”;
“Do you not know that you [plural] are God’s temple, and that God’s spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians ch3 v16)
Putting these two references together, we may understand that “the temple of his body” is also a reference to the Christian community, which began
to exist on the day when Jesus was raised from the dead and which makes a physical building redundant.
edit on 27-8-2021 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)