Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and will you raise it up in three days?
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Cornelius a Lapide
The Jews then said, &c. There were three buildings of the Temple of Jerusalem. The first was by Song of Solomon , and occupied seven years. The second was the rebuilding after its destruction by the Babylonians, by Zorobabel and his companions, under Cyrus, King of Persia. This rebuilding occupied fifteen years only, though many ancient and modern writers have erroneously supposed it to have occupied forty-six years, and to have been here referred to by the Jews. The third was the rebuilding of the Temple by Herod of Ascalon, who murdered the innocents of Bethlehem. He built the Temple afresh for the Jews, in order that he might secure the kingdom for himself and his posterity, and that he might be accounted by them as the true Messiah. And it is exceedingly probable that the Jews were here referring to this rebuilding from their use of the pronoun this. For "this" points out an existing Temple. And inasmuch as the two former Temples were destroyed, they could not be thus pointed out. ...
They mock at the sign, not understanding the depth of the Mystery, but seize on the disease of their own ignorance, as a reasonable excuse for not obeying Him, and considering the difficulty of the thing, they gave heed rather as to one speaking at random, than to one who was promising ought possible to be fulfilled, that that may be shewn to be true that was written of them, Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not, and ever bow Thou down their backs: in order that in a manner ever stooping downwards and inclining to the things alone of the earth, they may receive no sight of the lofty doctrines of piety towards Christ, not as though God Who is loving to man grudged them those things, but rather with even justice was punishing them that committed intolerable transgressions.
For see how foolishly they insult Him, not sparing their own souls. For our Lord Jesus Christ calls God His Father, saying, Make not My Father's House an House of merchandise. Therefore when they ought now ...
Six and forty years This many understand of the time the second temple was building, from the edict of Cyrus to the sixth year of Darius Hystaspes. Others, of the enlarging and beautifying the temple, which was begun by Herod the great, forty-six years before the Jews spoke this to our Saviour. (Witham)
Interpreters are much embarrassed by these words; as the building of the temple, which then existed, had been finished in much less than 46 years. Herod renewed the temple from the foundations, and spent in that work only nine years and a half. It was begun 46 years before the first Pasch at which our Saviour appeared. (Usher, ad an. Mundi 3987.)
But this prince, according to Josephus, continued to make new building and embellishments to the very time in which the Jews uttered these words: it is now 46 years
Forty and six years, they said, referring to the latter building, for the former was finished in twenty years' time. Ezra 6:15
3. Wherefore then did He not resolve the difficulty and say, I speak not of that Temple, but of My flesh? Why does the Evangelist, writing the Gospel at a later period, interpret the saying, and Jesus keep silence at the time? Why did He so keep silence? Because they would not have received His word; for if not even the disciples were able to understand the saying, much less were the multitudes. When, says the Evangelist, He was risen from the dead, then they remembered, and believed the Scripture and His word. There were two things that hindered them for the time, one the fact of the Resurrection, the other, the greater question whether He was God that dwelt within; of both which things He spoke darkly when He said, Destroy this Temple, and I will rear it up in three days. And this St. Paul declares to be no small proof of His Godhead, when he writes, Decla...