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I stumbled on this verse again and would like some clarification:

John 2:20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?

  • Was the temple 46 years old at that time?
  • Was the temple built in 46 years?

If the second option, could it be true that the temple took so long to build? Why would it take so long? Short of labour, money, etc?

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The Jews replied, "It was taken forty-six years to build this temple; and u are going to raise it in three days?" (NIV) –  regis Jun 2 '13 at 12:20
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Liverpool Cathedral's foundation stone was laid in 1904, and it was only completed in 1978, with modern construction techniques. For a building the size of the Temple to take only 46 years using far more primitive techniques is extraordinary -- but it's remarkable that it took so short a time. –  Andrew Leach Jun 2 '13 at 12:26
    
Solomon's temple took less: committedtotruth.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/… - 7-8 years –  tunmise fashipe Jun 3 '13 at 19:53

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

It means it took that long to build. This is apparent from the fact that they were challenging Christ's claim that He would build it in three days, when it's taken 46 years of work thus far.

From Barnes' Notes on the Bible

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.

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Thank You! There is so much details the bible writers sometimes leave out and does not make the bible historian-friendly but it's enough to make those who have faith (without looking for rational facts) believe. Like I could not believe Jesus should be 13 when he was speaking here - with authority to elders. Was thinking he should be about 30. –  tunmise fashipe Jun 3 '13 at 19:44
    
My question was based on the dedication of people of those times, and I believed this should have made them to finish it earlier. Didn't know the government had hand in it. According to this link, Solomon's temple took lesser time: committedtotruth.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/… –  tunmise fashipe Jun 3 '13 at 19:50

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