Jesus the Temple

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"Perrin writes lucidly and advances a bold case for a high Christology wherein Jesus saw himself as both high priest and temple. . . . It deserves careful consideration and response. . . . An innovative and suggestive thesis."--Matthew Sleeman, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

The ancient Jewish temple was not just a religious center--it was a totalizing institution, simultaneously seen as a place, a people, and a person. Many scholars maintain that it was the early Christians who entertained the notion that the temple had been re-established in both the person of Jesus and in the church. Perrin, however, argues that the idea of Jesus as temple dates back to Christ himself and that he saw his following as the new temple movement, the social and confessional boundaries of which were marked off by allegiance to him. Perrin's extensive Introduction offers an overview of the gospel picture of who Jesus was: Paul's perspective in 1 Corinthians; the approaches of the New Quest of the historical Jesus and the Third Quest movement of the prophet; and the kingdom expectations of contemporary exegetes. And he sets forth the basis for the book's premise: that Jesus of Nazareth saw himself and his movement as those who both anticipated and embodied Yahweh's coming kingdom.

Chapter 1 discusses Jesus's call to be the new temple and its shared characteristics with his contemporaries--the Psalms of Solomon sect, the Qumran covenanters, and John the Baptist's following.

Chapter 2 moves ahead to the time of Paul and the early church, and looks at how primitive Christianity situated itself in relation to the temple.

Chapter 3 focuses on interpretations and implications of Jesus's "Cleansing of the Temple."

Chapter 4 explores the distinctive economic, social, and spiritual aspects of Jesus's temple movement in counterpoint to the failed temple ministry of his opponents.

Chapter 5 examines Jesus's eschatological discourses (Mark 12 and 13), and his last supper with the disciples where he affirms his unique status as high priest of the temple movement.

By viewing Jesus as temple, Perrin reveals an enriched understanding of his ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection, and effectively closes the historical gap between founder and movement, between "Jesus" and "Christ." Jesus the Temple takes scholars, students, teachers, and preachers on a dynamic journey of discovery, revealing an answer to the foundational question of faith: Who was Jesus?
Introduction: Turning the Tables
1. "Who Wanted You to Flee the Coming Wrath?" John the Baptizer and the Anatomy of Counter-Temple Movements
2. "Don't You Know That You Yourselves Are the Temple of God?" The Early Church as a Counter-Temple Movement
3. "Destroy This House!" Jesus's Action in the Temple
4. "Forgive Us Our Debts": Announcing the Kingdom among the Poor
5. "Thy Kingdom Come!" Implementing the Kingdom among the Impure
Conclusion: Issuing Some New Tables and Tabling Some New Issues


"Nicholas Perrin's latest book takes a fresh look at the concept of Jesus as temple. To do this, he reviews Jesus' relationship to the Jerusalem temple; the early Christian community's idea that Jesus is the new temple, of which his followers are a part; and how this idea may well be rooted in the teaching of Jesus himself. There is little in the book that is conventional, and readers will be surprised again and again by Perrin's creative insights and control of both primary and secondary literatures. This is a significant advance in an important area of study."--Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College

"New paradigms for understanding the historical Jesus are somewhat rare; proposals that are novel without being outlandish are rarer still. In this volume, Nicholas Perrin provides us with just such a marvel: a fresh understanding that is so carefully reasoned as to command the attention of a guild no longer accustomed to considering much that has not been proposed and debated many times before. Anyone interested in the historical investigation of Jesus and early Christianity will want to engage with Perrin's work and consider what the image of Jesus the temple could mean for both ancient and modern expressions of faith."--Mark Allan Powell, professor of New Testament, Trinity Lutheran Seminary

"Interpreters since the dawn of Christianity have noted the importance of the temple to Jesus' life, work, and movement. The last century, however--with its archaeological discoveries and renewed interest in early Judaism--has brought the matter even more to the forefront. To read Jesus the Temple is to see the gospel's drama in a new light, and as if for the first time. Notions such as worship, sacrifice, kingdom, and liturgy take on an entirely different cast when Jesus is seen in the shadow of the temple and in the light of the temple. This is a valuable contribution to New Testament scholarship."--Scott Hahn, professor of theology and Scripture, Franciscan University of Steubenville; Pope Benedict XVI Professor of Biblical Theology, St. Vincent Seminary

"Jesus the Temple is difficult to put down due to its bold claims and engaging style. Here Nick Perrin offers a cogent argument for understanding Jesus' mission in terms of a counter-temple movement. He advances his thesis with historical sensitivity and acumen, providing a significant contribution to historical Jesus studies. This is also one of the few scholarly books in my memory that can turn a phrase with literary allusions ranging from Albert Schweitzer to Bob Dylan. Delightful reading and worthy of careful appraisal."--Jeannine K. Brown, professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary

The Author

  1. Nicholas Perrin
    © 2014 Michael Hudson

    Nicholas Perrin

    Nicholas Perrin (PhD, Marquette University) is president of Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. He previously taught at Wheaton College Graduate School. He is the author of numerous books, including Jesus the Temple, Thomas: The...

    Continue reading about Nicholas Perrin


"[An] excellent study of the Jesus of the New Testament. . . . [Perrin] offers a truly fresh approach to situating the historical Jesus in the context of first-century Palestinian Judaism and linking that context to the christology of the New Testament writers."--Donald Senior, CP, The Bible Today

"Perrin writes lucidly and advances a bold case for a high Christology wherein Jesus saw himself as both high priest and temple, replacing the old even while confronting and critiquing it. He positions his case well as arising out of Second Temple Judaism, and it deserves careful consideration and response. . . . Here is an innovative and suggestive thesis for future development and nuancing by Perrin and others."--Matthew Sleeman, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"Perrin's work is stimulating to read. As a former research assistant to N. T. Wright, he reflects instinctively many of Wright's qualities in terms of method . . ., assumptions . . ., engaging style, broad breadth of vision, control of a wide range of primary and secondary literature, and accessibility to non-specialists. . . . What Perrin has done . . . is present a highly suggestive and potentially fruitful line of interpretation that will warrant further reflection as well as considerable fleshing out in subsequent work."--James P. Sweeney, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"By taking on the theme of the temple, undoubtedly an important area for sustained investigation, Perrin has produced a significant study to inspire further debate and discussion."--Karen Wenell, Theology

"Perrin clearly shares much with his mentor [N. T. Wright]: a critical-realistic approach to historical Jesus studies, excellent facility with ancient sources, thematic convictions about continuing exile and messianism, and an engaging, accessible style. . . . Perrin's provocative thesis has wide-ranging implications and explanatory power. The theme of Jesus as temple highlights the similarities between him and John the Baptist before him and Paul after him in a time in which their differences are emphasized. It also holds potential for relating the ethical and the eschatological in the study of Jesus. Another important contribution of Perrin's work is to highlight the priestly aspect of the Jewish messianic expectation. . . . Jesus the Temple is tightly argued and concise, and Perrin's style makes his sophisticated arguments and adroit use of ancient sources much easier to read. . . . [It] is a fascinating and original look at Jesus' ministry, and it deserves careful attention from pastors and scholars both for Perrin's stimulating and convincing individual exegeses and for its sweepingly provocative thematic argument."--Paul Cable, Credo

"Perrin's book attends to a significant theme, namely, the fulfillment of the temple in Jesus and the church. . . . He prompts some interesting questions. . . . Perrin's work is readable and accessible. It will be the most pleasing to those who have an interest in historical Jesus studies. They will appreciate Perrin's attempts to connect Jewish literature, Jesus's teaching, and the rest of the NT along a common trajectory, one that shows that Jesus ushers in the eschatological temple."--Paul M. Hoskins, Themelios

"[Perrin] contributes a fresh and compelling picture to historical Jesus studies. . . . There is much to commend in Jesus the Temple. Perrin's writing is both creative and surprisingly humble for his grasp of the sources. Not only does he pay attention to Jesus' historic context, but he is able to relate this to later Christian origins with his single yet sophisticated thesis. Jesus the Temple ranks now as a valuable contribution to the third quest for the historical Jesus."--M. Blaise Brankatelli, Trinity Journal

"The greatest strength of Perrin's work is his fusion of two major strands of historical Jesus research. The socio-political realities of first century Galilee are given the same weight as the theological concerns of Second Temple Judaism, resulting in a holistic picture of Jesus that demonstrates the coherence and interdependence of his social and theological agendas. . . . Perrin's monograph is persuasive and quite accessible. Perrin sets out to situate the historical Jesus's temple-action within the theological and political climate of Second Temple Judaism. His Jesus is a social and economic revolutionary, one whose views seem particularly pertinent in the post-Occupy America."--Roshan Abraham, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Perrin argues convincingly that Jesus is a link in the trajectory between the counter-temple movements before and after him. . . . Throughout, Perrin helpfully connects Jesus' daily ministry to a counter-temple attitude and the expectation of the eschatological temple, lending new insights along the way. Calling our attention to the pervasive importance of the temple in the daily life of Second Temple Judaism is an important contribution. . . . The book offers an intriguing angle from which to consider Jesus and his ministry."--Marty Stevens, Interpretation