June 2, 2011

Jesus and the Money-Changers

From The Uncommon Criminal by Kyle De Wolf (author's profile)


Sunday, May 22, 2011

By Kyle De Wolf

Sometimes people claim that Jesus resorted to violence when he drove the money-changers out of the temple with a whip. The story is found in John 2:13-22, Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, and Luke 19:45-46. Firstly, I think we should emphasize that Jesus did not kill or injure anybody. So anybody who attempts to use this incident to condone wars, executions, assassinations, bombings, or any other form of state violence is desperately reaching. Jesus merely overturned the money-changers' tables and drove them out. His actions were more consonant with the aggressive civil disobedience of angry protestors today. Secondly, there is no proof that Jesus struck anybody with the whip. The Bible says that people were also selling animals for sacrifice in the temple precincts. Jesus may only have used the whip to goad the animals as he drove them out of the temple area. To suggest that Jesus hit people with the whip is a gratuitous assumption. An angry man brandishing a whip and denouncing them in loud tones should have been enough to clear out the riff-raff without assaulting them. In any case this would only have amounted to the use of non-lethal force. The problem here is that many people define any display of righteous anger, any aggressive behaviour, any use of non-lethal force - even against animals or inanimate objects - as violence. Since pacifists usually talk about peace and non-violence, incidents like this are thought to hurt the case for pacifism. We must be clear that pacifism is a refusal to murder or do bodily harm to others on behalf of the state. It is not a belief in passivity or sedation. We need to act more like Jesus in our confrontation with the state. Get angry, overturn the money-changers' tables, save the animals, and throw the bums out!


Replies (2) Replies feed

lru Posted 8 years, 5 months ago. ✓ Mailed 8 years, 4 months ago   Favorite
I like your commentary on "Jesus and the Money Changers." You found some good points there, with regard to pacifism, etc. Thanks.

One other thing that I find interesting when I ponder those stories, is that the reports seem to be mentioned as isolated incidents. It doesn't sound like this was a habitual weekly thing, where every week, or every month, or however long it took for the "bums" to return, Jesus would have to pick up the ol' whip and drive them out again.

Later on in one of the gospels, when being arrested, Jesus says that He was regularly in the synagogues and everything he did was public, so it's not like Jesus was on vacation on the other weeks.

Maybe just once or twice was enough (some of the gospels mention this incident close to the crucifixion, others near the beginning of the ministry, so this could have happened twice). If so, then the moneychangers were more respectful of Jesus's authority than many of us these days.

The other idea that comes to mind was... maybe there was a rotating schedule for synagogue rabbi's to be "in charge" of the temple. This was the case for the high priest (note the story of the foretelling of John the Baptist), so maybe it was the case for other areas of the temple too. And if so, maybe Jesus had a turn, and when it was His turn, He drove out the money changers.

That's a lot of speculation, and it needs some research to see if there is any substance to it, but I bring it up because of one main point.

Jesus elsewhere told his disciples that they had to obey the teachers of the law because of the positions of authority that those teachers held. But he warned them not to be like them. There seems to be a delicate mix of authority and truth and rebuking and in the above case, semi-violent table tossing, when it comes to Jesus's teaching.

So when you recommend at the end of your post, "Get angry, overturn the money-changer's tables, save the animals, and throw the bums out!", maybe timing and authority have a place in when we do these things, at least when it comes to the property and persons of others.

lru Posted 8 years, 5 months ago. ✓ Mailed 8 years, 4 months ago   Favorite
I finally found the reference to the part where Jesus tells His disciples to obey the religious authorities: Matt. 23:1-3 and onward.

He refers specifically to "Moses' seat" so I'm not sure if this only applies to the Jewish religious governmental system, or if it applies to us today. Surely similar authorities we have over us now that they had then, such as parents, and general governments, must be obeyed. But I'm not sure about the churches.

For in the following verses, Jesus tells us not to be called master or rabbi, and not to call anyone father. So while the old testament seems to have "Moses' seat" in which the people sitting must be obeyed, for Christians that related seat of authority is filled by Jesus, and we are all brethren, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21), where the greatest among you is the servant of all.

Other posts by this author


Get notifications when new letters or replies are posted!

Posts by Kyle De Wolf: RSS email me
Comments on “Jesus and the Money-Changers”: RSS email me
Featured posts: RSS email me
All Between the Bars posts: RSS