I'm concerned about John's interpretation in 2:21 of Jesus' statements about destroying the Temple. According to John, and only him, Jesus was not talking about God's temple in Jerusalem where people worshipped, but rather about his own body. What may have been John's source for believing this?

18 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. (John 2:18-22, NASB)

  • Are you asking about human bodies generally or the comment in this verse about Jesus' body specifically?
    – Schuh
    May 12, 2016 at 16:46
  • Jesus' body. Why would John assume Jesus viewed his body as a temple?
    – brewpixels
    May 12, 2016 at 17:13
  • 1
    The raising up after 3 days could allude to Hosea 6:2 and perhaps John sees temple destruction in Hosea 6:6 but I don't see any solid "body as temple" language in the OT. Perhaps in the apocrypha? Excellent question.
    – Ruminator
    Mar 26, 2018 at 0:19

6 Answers 6


What may have been John's source for believing this ?

...other than the obvious ?...

John 2:18-22 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

Christ's resurrection happened on the third day (Matthew 12:40, 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, 27:63-64; Mark 8:31, 9:31; Luke 9:22, 18:33, 24:7, 24:46; Acts 10:40; 1 Corinthians 15:4), hence the inference.

According to John, and only him, Jesus was not talking about God's temple in Jerusalem where people worshiped, but rather about his own body.

Perhaps you mean to say that John is being explicit, while the others merely imply it, by referencing it during His trial and crucifixion, which happened shortly before His resurrection on the third day (Matthew 26:61, 27:40; Mark 14:58, 15:29).

  • You're using the fact that "raise it up in three days" is a reference to Jesus' resurrection on the third day; everyone agrees. But aside from that connection, how would someone conclude that Jesus meant that His body is the temple? 1 Cor 3:16-17 says Christians are God's temple but how could one conclude, without 1 Cor, that Jesus' body is the temple of God? Sep 30, 2022 at 18:13
  • I was merely pointing out the parallels or similarities between the two notions: destruction, raising up, three days.
    – Lucian
    Oct 1, 2022 at 0:32

1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. -Leviticus 19:1-2 (NKJV)

God always wants His people to be holy--clean and undefiled. Leviticus 11 contains prohibitions against eating certain things (camels, rabits, pigs, etc.) that make a man unclean. And Leviticus 18 contains prohibitions against certain types of sexual relations that defile a man. When a man is unclean or defiled, he is no longer holy:

Do not defile yourselves [make yourselves unclean/unholy] with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled [unclean/unholy], which I am casting out before you. -Leviticus 18:24 (NKJV)

The tabernacle was made holy after anointing it with oil:

And you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it; and you shall hallow it and all its utensils, and it shall be holy. -Exodus 40:9 (NKJV)

The tabernacle later became the temple which was also holy:

O God, the nations have come into Your inheritance;
Your holy temple they have defiled [made unclean/unholy];
They have laid Jerusalem in heaps. -Psalm 79:1 (NKJV)

The temple was holy just as God is holy, and as God's people were to be holy. Even touching an unclean thing, such as a carcass of an unclean animal, caused you to become unclean [unholy] and required a trespass offering of a female lamb or goat; or if you were poor, two turtledoves or two young pigeons; or if you were really poor, one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour (Leviticus 5:2, 5-7, 11).

Touching a dead body also made you unclean for seven days and required you to purify yourself with water in Numbers 19. It is here where the body is directly referred to as the tabernacle (which would later become the temple) and sanctuary (holy place of the Lord):

Whoever touches the body of anyone who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord. That person shall be cut off from Israel.... -Numbers 19:13 (NKJV)


But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from among the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord.... -Numbers 19:20 (NKJV)

Isaiah 8:13-14 (NKJV) also makes a direct comparison of the Lord being as a sanctuary:

13 The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow;
Let Him be your fear,
And let Him be your dread.
14 He will be as a sanctuary,
But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense
To both the houses of Israel,
As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

  • 1
    That a temple might be holy and a body unclean is not disputed, nor that YHWH might metaphorically be a sanctuary. But how does this connect to Jesus' comment? How do these verses address the question? Thanks!
    – Schuh
    May 12, 2016 at 16:36
  • @Schuh - The question was: What may have been his source for believing that the human body is a temple? I attempted to provide Numbers 19:13, 20 and Isaiah 8:14 for where the concept of a body being a temple or the Lord Himself being a temple might have come from. Hope this helps.
    – user6503
    May 12, 2016 at 17:02
  • The LXX passage in Isaiah seems to describe a different structure from that of the Gospel - καὶ ἐὰν ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ πεποιθὼς ᾖς ἔσται σοι εἰς ἁγίασμα καὶ οὐχ ὡς λίθου προσκόμματι συναντήσεσθε αὐτῷ οὐδὲ ὡς πέτρας πτώματι ὁ δὲ οἶκος Ιακωβ ἐν παγίδι καὶ ἐν κοιλάσματι ἐγκαθήμενοι ἐν Ιερουσαλημ. Not the ναοῦ of John 2:19,20,21 Aug 22, 2017 at 4:39
  • @RevelationLad - I'm a little confused by your comment. ἁγίασμα means "sanctuary; holy object; holiness". The 'sanctuary' is being compared to the 'tabernacle' as essentially the same in Numbers 9:13, 20, as shown in my answer. John 2:21 is using "ναός" ["temple"] in the same kind of comparison: "used of the temple at Jerusalem, but only of the sacred edifice (or sanctuary) itself...."
    – user6503
    Aug 25, 2017 at 16:27
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    @RevelationLad - Why do I need to do that? This question did not ask about the LXX. Where is the rule that says John must use the same word in his gospel that the LXX did in Isaiah 8 centuries before he lived? One word means 'sanctuary' and the other means 'temple,' with both of them essentially referring to the same thing when they are used a certain way. It's similar to 'car' vs 'automobile,' 'wagon' vs 'cart,' or 'tram' vs 'trolley.' Technically there can be differences between them, but they are often used interchangeably to refer to the same thing.
    – user6503
    Aug 25, 2017 at 23:47

1 Corinthians 6:19 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Ephesians 2:19-22 1 Peter 2:5 These verses may help pull the pieces together.

  • Paul's epistles were written even before Mark's Gospel, the first New Testament gospel to be written, and exegesis has shown the influence that Paul had on the gospel accounts. John is the gospel that most explicitly takes up the idea of the body as a temple but there are hints of this in Mark when Jesus was accused of saying he would destroy the'temple' and rebuild it in 3 days. Good work! May 11, 2016 at 21:15
  • Who is this "exegesis" fellow, and how does he know that? Mar 22, 2021 at 15:07

The Hebraic Backround

In Pre-NT times God himself inhabits the Temple.

LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwell between the cherubim, you are the God, even you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: you have made heaven and earth.

Isaiah 37:16

The Incarnation of God the Son

John speaks of Jesus' body as the Temple since in Him dwells the whole fullness of God's nature dwells bodily.

But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

John 2:21 (ESV)

For Christ is not only God-like, He is God in human flesh.

Colossians 2:9 (NLV)


Therefore, the Temple , being the body of Jesus, points to the Incarnation.


In a Intertestamental Jewish literature, God's wisdom (σοφία) is shown to be strikingly similar to John's records of incarnational themes in his prologue (John 1:1, 14).

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 (ESV)

2 Wisdom went out, in order to dwell among the sons of men, but did not find a dwelling; wisdom returned to her place, and took her seat in the midst of the Angels.

3 And iniquity came out from her chambers; those whom she did not seek she found, and dwelt among them, like rain in the desert, and like dew on the parched ground.

Book of Enoch 42:2-3

This Jewish writing shows us that the idea of the Incarnation is open and not alien to the Jewish thinking.





Notwithstanding the quite obvious reference to the only other three days of a rebuilding of something destroyed, His body, comparing this with Mark's account of the trial of Jesus, we get a subtle corroboration of John's parenthetical comment: that it was not the Jerusalem Temple, but, as I argue very briefly below, His body:

Mark 14:57 (DRB) And some rising up, bore false witness against him, saying: 58 We heard him say, I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another not made with hands.

If we believe Mark's account of what the Jews said, and John's account of what Jesus said, we are left to conclude that the Jews in their eagerness to find fault with Jesus (Jn 11:53) interpolated into His actual words (recorded by John) the idea that the temple destroyed was the Temple: the Temple 'built with hands.' This means of course that Jesus is speaking of a Temple, to use their words, 'not made with hands,' in both instances of 'destroy' and '[restore]' (Jn 2:19). As it is not the Temple they know, and not something or somewhere else made by hands, it can either really only His be body or some 'spiritual' temple (whatever that looks like, and however that isn't a contradiction in terms). (cf. 1 Cor 6:19; 3:17).

(Matthew 26:61 seems like a sense-for-sense paraphrase of Mark 14:57 rather than the other way around, in my view.)


The temple is the place where God dwells and where man comes to seek and connect with the Lord. This was a prominent feature of Israel’s worship to God, first with the tabernacle and then the temples built by Solomon and Zerubbabel. Christ, in becoming our mediator with God, has now become our temple, making the previous ones obsolete.

In the same way Jesus became our high priest as recorded in Hebrews 9:11-12 ESV [11] “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) [12] he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” The “greater and more perfect tent” spoken of here is Christ body (the temple) in which he, Jesus, as our high priest made the ultimate and final blood sacrifice.

This, the ultimate, once-for-all-time sacrifice took place in this “temple” when others “destroyed” it, but Jesus, just as he said he would, rose from the dead in three days. This makes Jesus our connection to God, just as the temple was for the Jews, thus making Jesus both our “temple” and “high priest”!

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