Many Bible students are puzzled by the different placement of the cleansing of the temple in the Gospels. John places the temple cleansing here at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. But the synoptic Gospels-Matthew, Mark, and Luke-report that He purged the temple at the close of His public ministry about three years later (Matthew 21:12-19; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48). Did the cleansing of the temple happen once or twice?
Some scholars believe that Jesus threw merchants out of the temple only once. They surmise that John placed this event early in His ministry to show that He clashed with the Jewish religious leaders from the very beginning. They believe that Matthew, Mark, and Luke placed this event late in His ministry to show that the temple cleansing was the last straw in Jesus’ continuing conflict with their authority.
It’s impossible to know whether this event happened once or twice. The eminent New Testament scholar A.T. Robertson declared, “Certainty is not possible one way or the other.”