Jesus and the money changers

Jesus and the money changers

The narrative of Jesus and the Money Changers occurs in both the Synoptic Gospels and in the Gospel of John, although it occurs close to the end of the Synoptic Gospels (at , ) but close to the start in John (at

The quote from Isaiah comes from a section which instructs that all who obey God's will, whether Jewish or not, are to be allowed into the Temple so that they can pray, and therefore converse with God. The loud market-like atmosphere of money changers and livestock often seems to modern readers to be at odds with the Temple being a place of quiet prayer. However, this interpretation may reflect anachronistic perceptions of ancient worship -- which often involved the sacrificial slaughter of animals -- and the manner in which understandings of pre-Christian ritualistic practices intersect with modern notions of contemplative worship. Further, from a Judaic cultural perspective, Jews would have certainly utilized money changers, yet the currency exchange would have been primarily accessed by non-Hebrew travelers changing foreign coins.

The area in question was almost certainly the Court of the Gentiles, a location in the massive Temple complex setup specifically for the purpose of purchasing sacrificial animals and—out of necessity—a place where Jewish pilgrims could exchange their foreign coinage for the appropriate local currency.

The reference to "den of thieves" may be a reference to inflated pricing or more sinister forms of using a religious cult to exploit the poor. Or, simply to exaggerate the lecherousness of the traders. In and , Jesus then put an embargo on people carrying any merchandise through the temple—a sanction that would have disrupted all commerce.

The synoptics then state that the crowd were in awe of Jesus, which concerned "the chief priests and the teachers of the law." Luke and Mark say these Temple leaders were so concerned that they began to plot against Jesus' life, to which Luke adds that the crowd were so in awe with Jesus that no-one could be found to assassinate him.

Matthew says the Temple leaders questioned Jesus if he was aware the children were shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David", and Jesus responded by accepting the worship of the children as valid by quoting "...from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise" from the Book of Psalms ( Jesus instructed his disciples that faith in God can move mountains.

The priests, teachers, elders, Pharisees and Herodians are described as coming up to Jesus, and questioning his authority to do the things that he is doing; John makes it clear that they are referring to his actions in scattering the livestock and overturning the tables of the moneychangers, but the synoptics imply that it is in reference to his teaching. The synoptics recount that Jesus called into question their own authority or allegiances.

First he asks his opponents to say whether John the Baptist's authority to baptise was divine or human. They do not believe John had divine authority, and so wanting to answer that he was just baptizing as a man—but this would run into conflict with the crowd, who believe in John's divine authority. Since the Temple authorities care so much about what the crowd thinks, this leaves them unable to answer truthfully, and so they are forced to claim that they "don't know", exposing their divided loyalties and making them look incompetent. Jesus responds that in consequence he won't tell them what his authority is.

A second time when asked about Roman taxes, Jesus doesn't produce a Roman coin but asks his opponents to. They are able to produce one with an image of Caesar. He responds that those who are (or that which is) Caesar's should be given to Caesar and those who are (or that which is) God's should be given to God.

The Gospel of John, which throughout presents John the Baptist as having no independent following, instead gives a quite different challenge and resolution of Jesus' authority. John recounts that Jesus was asked to perform a "miraculous sign", but Jesus replies "destroy this temple, and I shall raise it again in three days". The Gospel of John explains that Jesus had meant his body, and that this is what his disciples came to believe after his resurrection.

Some interpret this as an example of anti-semitism in John.

By the time most scholars think that John was written (c. 95–110 AD), defending the temple was a moot point because it was long gone, and so John can be understood to have been deliberately trying to portray Early Christianity itself as a replacement—a "new Temple", see also New Covenant (theology). The pre-Temple-destruction community of Essenes, associated with the Dead Sea scrolls, also speaks of the community itself as a temple, and the concept was evidently one that had been circulating (Brown et al. 954).


According to a Jewish Encyclopedia article, [ Jesus: In the Temple] :This would appear to have been on the first day of the week and on the 10th of Nisan, when, according to the Law, it was necessary that the paschal lamb should be purchased. It is therefore probable that the entry into Jerusalem was for this purpose. In making the purchase of the lamb a dispute appears to have arisen between Jesus' followers and the money-changers who arranged for such purchases; and the latter were, at any rate for that day, driven from the Temple precincts. It would appear from Talmudic references that this action had no lasting effect, if any, for Simon ben Gamaliel found much the same state of affairs much later (Ker. i. 7) and effected some reforms. [Derenbourg in "Histoire de la Palestine," p. 527] The act drew public attention to Jesus, who during the next few days was asked to define his position toward the conflicting parties in Jerusalem. It seemed especially to attack the emoluments of the priestly class, which accordingly asked him to declare by what authority he had interfered with the sacrosanct arrangements of the Temple. In a somewhat enigmatic reply he placed his own claims on a level with those of John the Baptist—in other words, he based them on popular support.

According to Ched Myers in "Binding the Strong Man", Jesus calls for an end to the entire cultic system—symbolised by his overturning of the stations used by lepers () and women (). They represented the concrete mechanisms of oppression within a political economy that doubly exploited the poor and unclean. Not only were they considered second class citizens, but the cult obliged them to make reparation, through sacrifices, for their inferior status—from which the marketers profited. Jesus utterly repudiates the temple state, which is to say the entire socio-symbolic order of Judaism. His objections have been consistently based upon one criterion: the system's exploitation of the poor. The "mountain" must be "moved," not restored.

ee also

*But to bring a sword
*Discourse on judgementalism
*Expounding of the Law#Anger
*Foreign exchange market
*Separation of church and state


*Brown, Raymond E. "An Introduction to the New Testament", Doubleday (1997) ISBN 0–385–24767–2
*Brown, Raymond E. "The New Jerome Biblical Commentary", Prentice Hall (1990) ISBN 0–13–614934–0
*Ched Myers. "Binding the Strong Man: A political reading of Mark's story of Jesus", Orbis (1988) ISBN 0–88344–620–0
*Miller, Robert J. "The Complete Gospels", Polebridge Press (1994), ISBN 0–06–065587–9

External links

* [ A Christian explanation of allegedly violent events in Jesus' life, including the clearing of the Temple]
* [ Jewish Encyclopedia: Jesus: In the Temple]
* [ Thieves In the Heart Temple Tonight]


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