Upon seeing this title, my husband asked, “Was that the ancient Hebrew equivalent of Better Homes and Gardens?” Not quite, dear. Leviticus 14 establishes the procedure for cleansing a leprous house. (As to what that actually meant: probably mold. Maybe fungus.) The basic outline involved four steps:
(1) the priest empties the house (Lev 14:36)
(2) the priest examines the house (Lev 14:37)
(3) after a week-long waiting period, the priest examines the house again to see if the situation is better or incurable (Lev 14:44)
(4) if the corruption is too severe, the house must be destroyed, and it is done is a (somewhat peculiar, even for Leviticus) manner: “And he shall break down the house, the stones of it, and the timber thereof, and all the morter of the house; and he shall carry them forth out of the city into an unclean place” (Lev 14:45).
Why do we care about this? Because it appears that a section of Mark’s Gospel is patterned after the procedure for cleansing a leprous house, except that the leprous house is . . . the temple. Ouch! Here’s how it works:
(1) Jesus ‘empties the house’ when he empties the temple (Mark 11:15)
(2) Jesus examines the house through a series of discussions aimed at assessing the extent of the corruption of the current leadership (Mark 11:27-12:37)
(3) the extent of the corruption is established as it is realized that the law has been inverted: instead of the leadership taking care of widows, a widow is supporting a corrupt leadership (Mark 12:38-44)
(4) the destruction of the leprous house is accomplished prophetically (note the extremely similar wording to Lev 14:45):
And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Mark 13:2)
Sidenote: It is very difficult to understand Mark 13:2 in any context besides a comparison to a leprous house, since–while the temple was in fact destroyed–it was not literally left so that there was not one stone upon another. In fact, most arguments for dating the Gospel of Mark to 67 or 68 (which is the generally accepted date) rely on the fact that 13:2 would almost certainly have been cleaned up if it had been written later–no one want to make Jesus look like a false prophet!
Now, everything above I’ve, er, borrowed from an article called “No Stone upon Another: Leprosy and the Temple” by J. Duncan M. Derrett. But there’s another link between the temple and leprous house that Derrett missed–Mark 14:3:
And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. (Mark 14:3)
When Jesus is anointed (more on this story here), it (among other things) follows the pattern of the royal anointing of ancient Israel (i.e., the ceremony by which a king is made a king; cf. 1 Samuel 10:1f) and, by rights, the anointing should happen in the temple. But where does it happen in Mark? In a leprous house. The inversion is complete: the temple has been dismissed as incurably leprous and the leper’s house becomes the scene of a temple rite. The advent of Christ truly has made all things new; the first become last and the last first as the presence of Jesus sanctifies a leper’s home.