Answering The Atheist
October 24, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 43
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Did Jesus say, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up?" John 2:19-21 reveals that He did, but Mark 14:57-58 attributes this saying to those who were false witnesses against the Christ. Is there a contradiction?
Yes, Jesus did say, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." John 2:19 clearly indicates such. There is a variation in the words spoken by the Lord and that which is spoken by the false witnesses. Notice, Mark 14:58 records, "I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands." The two statements are not the same.
In John's gospel, where we have the report of what Jesus actually said, the temple (his body) was being destroyed (put to death) by the leaders of the Jews, and He would then raise it up (the resurrection). In Mark's account, the report given by the false witnesses indicates that Jesus would destroy the temple (ie. the physical temple), and thereafter replace it with another.
Certainly, after Jesus had made the statement, the people thought of the physical temple in Jerusalem, however, it is evident that by the time of Jesus' trial, if not well before then, the religious leaders knew the meaning of his statement. Notice, they went to Pilate, saying, "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.'" (Mt 27:63). They knew the meaning of His words, but sought to charge Him at His trial with their misrepresentation.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible