on John 2 :20
Forty and six years was this temple in building - The temple of which the Jews spake was begun to be rebuilt by Herod the Great, in the 18th year of his reign: Josephus. Ant. b. xv. c. 11, s. 1; and xx. c. 9, s. 5, 7. But though he finished the main work in nine years and a half, yet some additional buildings or repairs were constantly carried on for many years afterwards. Herod began the work sixteen years before the birth of our Lord: the transactions which are here related took place in the thirtieth year of our Lord, which make the term exactly forty-six years. Rosenmuller. Josephus, Ant. b. xx. c. 8, s. 5, 7, has told us that the whole of the buildings belonging to the temple were not finished till Nero's reign, when Albinus, the governor of Judea, was succeeded by Gessius Florus, which was eighty years after the eighteenth year of Herod's reign. See Bp. Pearce.
on John 2 :20
Then said the Jews ... - The Jews, either from the ambiguity of his language, or more probably from a design to cavil, understood him as speaking of the temple at Jerusalem. What he said here is all the evidence that they could adduce on his trial Matthew 26:61; Mark 14:58, and they reproached him with it when on the cross, Matthew 27:40. The Jews frequently perverted our Saviour's meaning. The language which he used was often that of parables or metaphor; and as they Sought to misunderstand him and pervert his language, so he often left them to their own delusions, as he himself says, "that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand," Matthew 13:13. This was a case which they "might," if they had been disposed, have easily understood. They were in the temple; the conversation was about the temple; and though he probably pointed to his body, or designated it in some plain way, yet they chose to understand him as referring to the temple itself; and as it appeared so improbable that he could raise up that in three days, they sought to pervert his words and pour ridicule on his pretensions.
Forty and six years ... - The temple in which they then were was that which was commonly called "the second temple," built after the return of the Jews from Babylon. See the notes at Matthew 21:12. This temple Herod the Great commenced repairing, or began to rebuild, in the eighteenth year of his reign - that is, sixteen years before the birth of Christ (Jos. 'Ant.,' b. xv. Section 1). The main body of the temple he completed in "nine years and a half" (Jos. 'Ant.,' xv. 5, 6), yet the temple, with its outbuildings, was not entirely complete in the time of our Saviour. Herod continued to ornament it and to perfect it even until the time of Agrippa (Jos. 'Ant.,' b. xx. chapter viii. Section 11). As Herod began to rebuild the temple sixteen years before the birth of Jesus, and as what is here mentioned happened in the thirtieth year of the age of Jesus, so the time which had been occupied in it was "forty-six years." This circumstance is one of the many in the New Testament which show the accuracy of the evangelists, and which prove that they were well acquainted with what they recorded. It demonstrates that their narration is true. Impostors do not trouble themselves to be very accurate about names and dates, and there is nothing in which they are more liable to make mistakes.
Wilt thou ... - This is an expression of contempt. Herod, with all his wealth and power, had been engaged in this work almost half a century. Can you, an obscure and unknown Galilean, accomplish it in three days? The thing, in their judgment, was ridiculous, and showed, as "they" supposed, that he had no authority to do what he had done in the temple.
on John 2 :20
2:20 Forty and six years - Just so many years before the time of this conversation, Herod the Great had begun his most magnificent reparation of the temple, (one part after another,) which he continued all his life, and which was now going on, and was continued thirty - six years longer, till within six or seven years of the destruction of the state, city, and temple by the Romans.