18 Nov 2013 
#74 Did the gospels indicate Jesus cleared totally the temple courts? Was a battalion there to prevent any disturbance?

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During his talk at INR3 May - 2013 Kamloops BC , Richard Carrier displayed on the screen (at 19:44) the following:
"Gospel improbabilities
... Jesus clears the temple square ... even though it was over a dozen acres, filled with hundred of people, with an armed battalion on station."
 
Is it true? Let's first look at Mark's version of the "disturbance" in the temple:
11:15-16 YLT "And they come to Jerusalem, and Jesus having gone into the temple, began to cast forth those selling and buying in the temple, and the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those selling the doves, he overthrew,
and he did not suffer that any might bear a vessel through the temple,"
Notes:
a) Mark's gospel is the first one written and the least elaborated.
b) Only gJohn (generally thought the most dubious of all gospels) has Jesus clearing the temple area (with a whip that he made himself from cords on the spot!).
 
Where does it say Jesus cleared the temple square in gMark? Nowhere.
And all the four statements are general, that is without any indication of how many merchants, buyers, money-changers, seats of sellers of doves and bearers of vessels were affected by Jesus' actions. It can be only a few, some, many, or all. But because the temple court(s) of the Gentiles were so large, few might be the right answer and there is nothing in gMark to indicate otherwise.
General statement?
Just like me saying "I visited the cities in/of Italy". Nobody would think I visited all the cities in/of that country. And even if I did sightseeing in a few of those, I still would not be lying.
Another example:
"When I was in Boston, I argued with the taxi drivers".
Again that statement does not indicate I did that with all the cabbies of this city, or even all the ones I came in contact with. But if I argued with a few of them, but above what a person (including myself) would normally do, that would be sufficient for me saying so.
 
What about "an armed battalion on station"?
Where did Carrier get that?
 
The only place I can think of is from Josephus' Wars, II, XII, 1:

"... for when the multitude were come together to Jerusalem, to the feast of unleavened bread, and a Roman cohort stood over the cloisters of the temple, (for they always were armed, and kept guard at the festivals, to prevent any innovation which the multitude thus gathered together might make,) one of the soldiers pulled back his garment, and cowering down after an indecent manner, turned his breech to the Jews, and spoke such words as you might expect upon such a posture. At this the whole multitude had indignation, and made a clamor to Cumanus [48-52 CE], that he would punish the soldier; while the rasher part of the youth, and such as were naturally the most tumultuous, fell to fighting, and caught up stones, and threw them at the soldiers. Upon which Cumanus was afraid lest all the people should make an assault upon him, and sent to call for more armed men, who, when they came in great numbers into the cloisters, the Jews were in a very great consternation; and being beaten out of the temple, they ran into the city; ..."

- First, I notice that the mission of this cohort was to keep guard, most likely as a deterrent for troubles in the temple courts.
- Second, the cohort was on the roof of the cloister, not in the temple courts. The soldiers were not expected to jump (and most likely injure themselves or even die) from the roof to the ground.
- Third, that's certainly not what they did, despite the provocation.
- Fourth, the Romans used full force against the Jews and not chanced a lesser force against a mob.
 
Of course, Cumanus felt entitled to intervene inside the temple because the Jews there sent stones to his soldiers. In the case of Jesus, the disturbance was not directed against the Romans, and they had no reason to get involved, except, maybe, if requested by the chief priests.
But for a minor disturbance, these priests probably did not want the temple courts to become potentially a scene of carnage (and the Romans were likely to decline the request).
 
Instead, they would have waited for Jesus to leave the temple with his (relatively) few followers, and with a force of posses hastily gathered, arrest Jesus in the countryside. And that's exactly what is described in gMark (except it happened the same day than the disturbance, despite the dubious efforts of "Mark" to indicate otherwise).
 
In conclusion, Carrier is wrong by saying:
a) In the gospels (except gJohn), Jesus clears the temple square.
b) A battalion was on station, on the ready to stop anyone creating a disturbance in the temple.

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {Carrier} {disturbance in the temple} {historical Jesus} {Mark's gospel}
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