John 2:13-14, How Long Did Jesus Preach?
And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
//Three years, right? Jesus’ ministry lasted for three years.
But do you know where we get this idea? It comes from the Gospel of John. Today’s verse tells how, at Passover time, Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple. John then narrates two more Passover celebrations, with the third one culminating in Jesus’ death. Three years, then, right?
The problem is that all three of the other Gospels contradict this. They all narrate only about one year for Jesus’ ministry, after which Jesus travels up to Jerusalem and dies during Passover.
The question, then, is this: Did John mean for his Gospel to be read chronologically? In an earlier post, I described how John uses the Jewish feasts as a backdrop for his stories of Jesus, and suggested that a chronological reading misses the point. Like the book of Revelation, another document in the Johannine corpus, the order of events may be thematic rather than chronological. The Temple cleansing in today’s verse, for example, surely occurred in Jesus’ final Passover; not two years before! It is, in fact, the trigger for the arrest of Jesus.
Could there have been two attacks on the Temple by Jesus, one two years before the other? Or should we recognize John’s literary creativity in reordering the events, and side with the other three Gospels for about a one-year ministry?
I vote for the latter.
(More about this topic can be found in my latest book, John’s Gospel: The Way It Happened)