Original Research - Special Collection: Josephus and the New Testament - Kampen Symposium

Josephus, fifth evangelist, and Jesus on the Temple

Jan Willem van Henten
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 71, No 1 | a2944 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i1.2944 | © 2015 Jan Willem van Henten | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 March 2015 | Published: 02 July 2015

About the author(s)

Jan Willem van Henten, Graduate School of Humanities, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Department of Old and New Testament Studies, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


This contribution aims at deconstructing a Christian master narrative that interprets Josephus as crucial support for the New Testament message that the Temple had to become a ruin, in line with the will of God. It argues for an alternative interpretation, namely that both Jesus of Nazareth and Josephus considered the Temple to be still relevant, albeit in different ways. For Jesus the Temple was the self-evident cultic centre of Judaism and a special place to experience his relationship with God. None of Jesus’ statements about the Temple in their original context necessarily implies that Jesus assumed that the institution of the Temple would stop functioning in the near future or at the end of time. Josephus’s perspective on the Temple changes in his works. The elaborate description of Jerusalem and the Temple in War 5 reads as a written monument of the past, but several passages in Josephus’s Antiquities and Against Apion imply that the Temple was still important after 70 CE. Josephus may have reckoned with the possibility that the Temple was going to be rebuilt if the Romans allowed for it.

This contribution is dedicated to Pieter G.R. de Villiers, a modest but sophisticated scholar and a good friend.


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