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The Triumphal Entry and the Cleansing of the Temple

According to the New Testament Christ visited Jerusalem’s Temple where he found the courtyard filled with livestock and the tables of money changers or traders. Having made a whip of cords, he then singlehandedly drove all the livestock and the moneychangers from the Temple and forbade anyone to carry anything through it. Scholars seem to accept this version of events seemingly at face value, without questioning how it would have been possible for a single person to confront and effectively overpower so many people, who no doubt would have been rather upset with him. Given that the Temple would most certainly have had guards to maintain order, the unruly Son of God would simply have been thrown out on his ear. The answer to this conundrum is simple – he did not act alone. However, before we discuss the true version of this event, it is necessary to step back to Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem shortly before the cleansing of the Temple, his so-called Triumphal Entry into the city.

The Triumphal Entry and the Donkey King of Israel

When Christ was about to enter Jerusalem, he insisted to ride on a colt that had never been ridden before, most likely in an attempt to fulfil yet another prophecy, that the Messiah would come to his people “lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). From a strange narrative in The Acts of Saint Thomas in India it would appear that the colt was not aware of just Who was on his back and unceremoniously threw him off.  In the narrative the apostle Thomas encounters a talkative colt, who informs him that he was a descendant of the colt on which the Lord had entered Jerusalem and subsequently offered him (Thomas) a ride into town. Though unwilling at first, Thomas eventually agreed to participate in this apparent re-enactment of the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. When they arrived at the city gates, he [Thomas] ‘threw himself off him [the colt]’ and commanded the colt to proceed on his own. The colt immediately fell down before him and died, and all those who saw it were terrified.

In Barbelo I argue that Christ had adopted the alias Paul of Tarsus sometime after his resurrection, and Paul is known to have fallen to the ground and having been blinded for three days when he supposedly met Christ. The Conversion of Saint Paul paints a vivid picture of the event,

“That is of Paul in whom the conversion was made.… that he was beaten to the earth, he was blind and fasted three days, and was smitten down to the ground for to be raised.…And Saint Austin saith that he was smitten down for to be blind, for to be changed”

Furthermore, according to Arab tradition Paul had a horse called Eagle which he hocked and then repented, suggesting that he had fallen from a lame animal. So, Christ had indeed been thrown off the colt.  The mention of the bystanders in Thomas’ encounter with the talkative colt being ‘terrified’ matches Paul’s companions being ‘speechless.’ One can hardly imagine the anxiety and embarrassment of Christ’s followers when, instead of hailing him as the king of the Jews as he entered Jerusalem, they found themselves staring at their master lying unconscious on the ground.

That Thomas ‘threw himself off the colt’ must have been the feeble excuse Christ’s followers used to explain why he had been thrown off the donkey, suffering severe concussion and temporary blindness, in response to the public ridicule Christ suffered afterwards. For instance, Christ is portrayed as a crucified donkey in the so-called Alexamenos Grafitto, which is inscribed with the words ‘Alexamenos worships god’. A caricature of Christ as a donkey had likewise appeared in the city of Carthage, inscribed with the words ‘The God of the Christians, born of an ass. He had the ears of an ass, was hoofed in one foot, carried a book, and wore a toga’.

The Raid on the Temple

There can be no doubt that when Christ finally awoke and realised that he had become the laughing stock of Israel, he would have been filled with a great, great anger, which resulted in the storming of the Temple:

  • The Toledot Yeshu relates that Christ had entered the temple with 310 of his followers, hardly the image of a lone Jesus kicking over tables as portrayed in the New Testament. These men would have included Simon Peter and his dagger-men (assassins), also known as Simon bar Gioras’ sicarii.
  • When Paul (Christ) was seized by the crowd at the temple decades later, he was accused of having brought Greeks into the temple area and having defiled ‘this holy place.’
  •  Epiphanius claims that James wore the breastplate of the high priest and the high priestly diadem on his head and had actually entered the Holy of Holies. Eusebius likewise records that John the Beloved had become a sacrificing priest who wore the mitre, which was the headdress of the high priest. This suggests that Christ and his disciples had robbed these holy items from the Temple.
  •   Demas, one of the two robbers who were crucified with Christ, stole the ‘secret deposit’ of Solomon from the Holy of Holies, an act which Judas blamed on Christ. Christ as Yeshu was indeed accused of robbing the shem hamphoras, the ‘secret name of god’ from the Holy of Holies.

Therefore, there can be little doubt that Christ had defiled the Temple by robbing it of its treasures and holy objects, including the sacred breastplate and diadem, and that he had ordered his followers to enter every chamber of the temple in search of booty. Perhaps the most telling piece of evidence of the raid on the Temple is its curtain, which was supposedly torn in two by divine action, from top to bottom, when Christ died on the cross. As related in The Infancy Gospel of James, the young Mary had been tasked with weaving the purple part of the Temple curtain and Christ would no doubt have ripped that part off the curtain during the raid.

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