Mark 11: 17 – Jesus Teaching in the Temple

In Mark 11, 17., the evangelist presents Jesus’ teaching about the Temple. A careful study of the introductory statement: “And he taught, and said to them” shows that Mark implies a prolonged teaching activity of Jesus in the course of which more was said than is cited here in Mark 11, 15-19.

What Mark sites is the teaching that is related to the Temple. It consists of a direct quotation from Isaiah 56, 7., and a statement with an allusion to Jeremiah 7, 11. The text of Isaiah 56, 7., is a prophetic announcement describing God’s purpose for the Temple as “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations,” including the Gentiles. It occurs in a context which announces God’s salvation and his decision to admit foreigners and others to the Temple (Isa 56, 1. 3-8). The prophetic words of Isaiah were concerned with the future destiny and function of the Temple in God’s plan. However, in the situation of the Temple as Jesus saw it, the Gentiles had no rightful place in God’s Temple. The only place they were allowed in had become a market place and the walls of separation and discrimination had effectively excluded them from the Temple worship. It was this exclusion of the Gentiles, among other things, that aroused Jesus’ prophetic indignation against the Temple. The exclusive attitude of the Jews is judged by Jesus as against God’s original purpose for the Temple: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?” (Mk 11, 17).

The second part of the saying in Mark 11, 17., contains a clear allusion to Jeremiah 7, 11., and it sharply contrasts the present state of the Temple with God’s original purpose for it: “But you have made it a den of robbers.” These words imply Jesus’ strong accusation and implicit condemnation of those who have thwarted God’s original intention for the Temple. The expression “den of robbers” was used by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 7, 11) in his discourse against the Temple (Jer 7, 1-15). The discourse ends with the prophecy of the destruction of the Temple (Jer 7, 14-15). Jesus’ words which contain an allusion to Jeremiah 7, 11., imply his judgment on the Temple and a severe criticism of Jewish religion and its leaders for preventing the realization of the purpose of the Temple intended by God.

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