Jesus stood in Jerusalem in April of 29 AD and said, "Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up." (He was talking about getting killed and coming back, which was still 96 months away.) Then some Jewish guys shouted back, "It took us forty-six years to build this temple! How are you gonna blah-de-blah blah?" (Or something like that.)
Now, for me to say that was in 29 AD I have to deal with those "46 years". Or, more accurately, those 46 years plus the prep-work that happened before that.
Here's what I've got so far...
Note: Tonight's post is full of things I've wanted to say for over two years. I've just recently decided to start airing it all on this blog, hoping for feedback. At least, that's the plan for now, or until I have time to start writing Year Books again!
Okay, then. "It took us 46 years to build..."
When you start digging, the first bit you might find is that "Herod began building his Temple in the year 20 BC." But 20 BC is NOT when Herod the Great began to BUILD his Temple in Jerusalem. The year 20 BC is merely when he ANNOUNCED that he wanted to, but the Jews said [basically] - what if you tear down and then are unable to rebuild? So, in 20 BC, HTG said [in about so many words] - fine, then I won't tear down any old stones until all the new stones & beams have all been hewn & cut & gathered AND until all the new construction workers have been fully trained. Only THEN will I begin tearing down. [That's my paraphrase, of course!]
And of course, all that prep-work was followed a period of time spent tearing down Zerubbabel's Temple... and only THEN did Herod's building project actually begin, um, BUILDING anything!
My point? Ask any contractor. Prep-work can be murder on your job schedule!
Now, why does this matter? Because those Jewish guys said "It took 46 years to BUILD..."
I repeat - they said, "to BUILD". That is NOT including prep work. (If you include prep-work in their statement, you go 46 years from 20 BC and put John 2:20 in 27 AD, which is too early. But that might help explain some early, incorrect scholarship.)
Now, I have four critical points to make about this.
WE DON'T KNOW HOW LONG HEROD'S PREP WORK TOOK!!!!!
Excuse me for shouting. I just get so worked up sometimes! :)
I was a small-time contractor for four years in Atlanta, Georgia. I worked with many residential contractors during those years. And I daresay any contractor who's ever been in business for any length of time will tell you they don't like to bid unusual jobs, extra-large jobs or jobs that fall outside their area of knowledge. By the same token, many rookie contractors go belly up because they UNDERESTIMATE the amount of time involved in doing just those kinds of jobs. Even veteran contractors with decades of experience who run large outfits will tell you they feel uncomfortable estimating jobs of that nature. Many of the most successful ones will tell you they bid high (that is, they grossly OVER-ESTIMATE) on purpose because they'd by far rather lose the job than go broke over one large, unusual job.
(Blog readers, you may at this point draw your own conclusions as to what my second point has to do with the prep-work that BEGAN in 20 BC. But see point one again.)
And now, for the record, I include myself in point three.
No scholar should feel comfortable estimating the length of time Herod's Prep-Work actually took. We cannot assess. We cannot surmise. We cannot add up. We cannot imagine. We cannot spatially visualize or account for the sheer vastness of scope involved in what Herod promised to do BEFORE even beginning to BUILD.
No scholar without contracting experience should feel casual, comfortable or confident to estimate how many months or years that prep-work might have taken. And no decent contractor with any experience at all would feel that way, either. Not even if he was standing on the site itself, back in the day.
And therefore, no scholarly estimate in print should go un-questioned UNLESS they've got 40 years of contracting experience AND they've examined the quarry Ehud Netzer just dug up AND the forests of Lebanon (in detail) AND felled a few trees there... AND probably much more.
So where does that leave us? The same place all scholars stood BEFORE they all came up with their ever-so-convenient estimates in the first place! That is...
All we can do is work backwards from the crucifixion, use the gospel texts to determine how many years Jesus' ministry covered, conclude the year John 2:20 got spoken, and THEN work backwards some more... to estimate how much time the prep-work (evidently) must have taken.
From Cheney's chronology, I've got Jesus first adult Passover visit to that Temple in 29 AD. Subtract "46 years" from 29 AD and you get something like 18 BC. That gives about two years of prep-work, give or take several months, depending.
TWO YEARS OF PREP-WORK? IS THAT FEASABLE?
Sure. As far as I know! Or as far as you know, either. Yeah, two years. Why not? Think about it... Huge job. Very unusual situation. No one there at that time had ever built anything remotely so large. It's very easy to think their own estimates streeeeeetched somewhat longer than what Herod hoped for at first. Heck, for all we know, if we actually could size it all up, two years might turn out to seem kind of amazing!
So two years of prep-work on a project like that sounds just right... for all I can guess! But don't take my word for it... go ask any experienced, major contractor.
(No, seriously. Go ask! Please! And then come back and tell me what they said!) :)
But remember - the end result of all this is that we have to go back to the gospels themselves to determine how long Jesus' ministry was, and what YEAR that event took place in.
Which means I need to defend Cheney's chronology...
Some other time!