New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 20: Matt 21:1-11, 23-46; 23; John 12:1-8

We’re getting into the last week of Jesus’ life. Since it was on sale, I picked up The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus Final Days in Jerusalem, which follows Jesus through his last week, with particular focus on Mark’s Gospel (the earliest of the four.) I’ll quote from it a bit in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Eric Huntsman has a chronology of the last week of Jesus’ life here.

When looking at Jesus’ last week in the Gospels, if you compare the relevant chapter numbers between the Gospels, you’ll see something interesting. We’re only in John 12 (out of 21 chapters in John), whereas we’re already in Matthew 21 (out of 28 chapters in Matthew). Put another way, John’s Gospel spends more of its pages on the end of Jesus’ life, relative to its length, and rearranges the order of some events to do so. (I don’t understand all the hypothesized reasons for these changes.)

For example, today’s lesson covers the “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, with Jesus riding on a donkey (Matt 21:1-12). We then skip Jesus cleansing the temple (12-17), and pick back up with a verbal showdown between Jesus and the chief priests and elders in the temple (the next day?) in verses 23ff. Why? Theoretically, we talked about Jesus cleansing the temple way back in Lesson 4. John has Jesus cleansing the temple very early on in his ministry, whereas Matthew, Mark, and Luke place it in the last week of his life. John is probably showing Jesus starting his ministry with a bang. Realistically, if someone had done that in the temple, they would not have lasted several years. Jesus only “gets away with it” because he’s so popular with the crowds. If you’re new on the scene, you have no such popular support.

This temple discussion reminds me of one more thing. “Temple” often translates two different words in the KJV; one refers to the temple building itself (gr. naos, or nah-ohss, e.g. Matthew 23:16), and the other refers to the entire temple compound (Gr. hieron, or heeair-own, e.g. Matthew 4:5). The latter with its large platform and Solomon’s Porches, dwarfed the former. In the picture below, the entire complex is the hieron, and the temple-building itself is the naos.

From Logos/Faithlife.

From Logos/Faithlife.


Matt 23, Scribes, Pharisees, Hypocrites (on which see the excellent paper here)

 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them Professor. (Mat 23:6-7 NRS)

Indeed, don’t we all? This is a problem of human nature. We all need some degree of recognition and appreciation, but some had gone too far with it. They were acting like they merited such things, when they didn’t, wearing the mask of righteousness without really trying to be so. With a famous typo that has never been corrected, he says that they swallow down camels (which were not kosher) but strain out gnats (also not kosher). In full-on minor prophet mode, Jesus says they pay tithing on their spices (gnats), but omit the “weightier matters of the Torah: justice, mercy, and faith” (the camels).  The King James Version has them straining at gnats, instead of straining out gnats. It also says “judgment” but “justice” is meant.

Why do I say “full-on minor prophet mode”? Because the so-called “minor prophets” like Micah, Amos, and Hosea constantly railed on the Israelites for this kind of thing.

Mic 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

Hos 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. (My lesson on Hosea here.)

Hos 4:1 Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.

Amos 5:21  I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Lowell Bennion, an LDS educator, wrote on The Weightier Matters. I used to have my students read these three short articles of his.


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