Questions From Readers
Who were the Jewish temple police? What were their duties?
One of the many duties cared for by nonpriestly members of the tribe of Levi was that of forming what may be likened to a police force. This was under the direction of the captain of the temple. Jewish writer Philo describes the duties of these officers: “Some of these [Levites] are stationed at the doors as gatekeepers at the very entrances, some within [the temple area] in front of the sanctuary to prevent any unlawful person from setting foot thereon, either intentionally or unintentionally. Some patrol around it turn by turn in relays by appointment night and day, keeping watch.”
This police force was at the disposal of the Sanhedrin. It was the only Jewish armed corps that the Romans permitted.
According to scholar Joachim Jeremias, “Jesus’ words of reproach uttered at his arrest, that day after day he was in the Temple teaching and was not taken (Matt. 26.55), become most clearly understood if it was the Temple police who came to arrest him.” The same writer believed that those sent to arrest Jesus on a previous occasion were also temple policemen. (John 7:32, 45, 46) Officers with their captain were later dispatched to bring Jesus’ disciples before the Sanhedrin and were likely involved when the apostle Paul was dragged out of the temple.—Acts 4:1-3; 5:17-27; 21:27-30.