Q. A friend and I have been discussing whether Jesus cleansed the Temple once or twice. As you know Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention it in connection with Palm Sunday, but John’s account seems to place it at the beginning of the Lord’s ministry. Here’s my friend’s defense for two cleansings.
Josephus records that construction of the temple began in the eighteenth year of Herod’s reign. His reign began in 37 B.C. This puts the beginning of the construction around 19 B.C. If we add 46 years to that (how long the priests told Jesus it has been in building), we get to 27
A. The facts you cite are close. The latest Jesus could have been born was 4BC because Quirinius, the Syrian governor who ordered the census that required Joseph and Mary to be in Bethlehem only served from 6-4 BC in his 1st term. The 2nd one was 6-9AD, too late to mesh with the story, because Herod died in 4BC as well.
But the fact remains that the 2 cleansing idea cannot be supported by any Biblical or historical evidence. It’s all based on conjecture, and came about before people caught on to the fact that John’s Gospel is not chronological and makes no attempt at historical accuracy. We now see that John chose to write about only 21 days of the Lord’s ministry, and included only 7 of His miracles. He spent 10 chapters writing about the final week, and nearly 1/3 of the 879 verses in his gospel describe one day.
This cleansing issue is one of those “majoring on minors” things that don’t make any theological difference. There would have been no purpose for a double cleansing, but if your friend wants to believe there were two, that’s up to him. His response is an assortment of facts and opinion that sound good but really don’t prove anything because of the nature of John’s Gospel. Sorry.