[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning — see top menu for John 1:1-2].
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a [kind of] whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.
13 Καὶ ἐγγὺς ἦν τὸ πάσχα τῶν Ἰουδαίων, καὶ ἀνέβη εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ὁ Ἰησοῦς. 14 καὶ εὗρεν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ τοὺς πωλοῦντας βόας καὶ πρόβατα καὶ περιστερὰς καὶ τοὺς κερματιστὰς καθημένους, 15 καὶ ποιήσας φραγέλλιον ἐκ σχοινίων πάντας ἐξέβαλεν ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ τά τε πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας, καὶ τῶν κολλυβιστῶν ἐξέχεεν τὰ κέρματα καὶ τὰς τραπέζας ἀνέστρεψεν, 16 καὶ τοῖς τὰς περιστερὰς πωλοῦσιν εἶπεν· Ἄρατε ταῦτα ἐντεῦθεν, μὴ ποιεῖτε τὸν οἶκον τοῦ πατρός μου οἶκον ἐμπορίου. 17 ἐμνήσθησαν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι γεγραμμένον ἐστίν· Ὁ ζῆλος τοῦ οἴκου σου καταφάγεταί με. 18 ἀπεκρίθησαν οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· Τί σημεῖον δεικνύεις ἡμῖν, ὅτι ταῦτα ποιεῖς; 19 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· Λύσατε τὸν ναὸν τοῦτον καὶ ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις ἐγερῶ αὐτόν. 20 εἶπαν οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι· Τεσσεράκοντα καὶ ἓξ ἔτεσιν οἰκοδομήθη ὁ ναὸς οὗτος, καὶ σὺ ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις ἐγερεῖς αὐτόν; 21 ἐκεῖνος δὲ ἔλεγεν περὶ τοῦ ναοῦ τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ. 22 ὅτε οὖν ἠγέρθη ἐκ νεκρῶν, ἐμνήσθησαν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι τοῦτο ἔλεγεν, καὶ ἐπίστευσαν τῇ γραφῇ καὶ τῷ λόγῳ ὃν εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς.
23 Ὡς δὲ ἦν ἐν τοῖς Ἱεροσολύμοις ἐν τῷ πάσχα ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ, πολλοὶ ἐπίστευσαν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, θεωροῦντες αὐτοῦ τὰ σημεῖα ἃ ἐποίει· 24 αὐτὸς δὲ Ἰησοῦς οὐκ ἐπίστευεν αὑτὸν αὐτοῖς διὰ τὸ αὐτὸν γινώσκειν πάντας 25 καὶ ὅτι οὐ χρείαν εἶχεν ἵνα τις μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, αὐτὸς γὰρ ἐγίνωσκεν τί ἦν ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ.
Jerusalem’s Housing Authority
We continue unpacking this remarkable scene in the Temple during the busy season of Passover when Jerusalem was filled with thousands of pilgrims from many nations.
There were people everywhere, especially in the Temple courts.
Jesus went into the Temple resembling an Old Testament prophet, cleansing the House of God. Unique to John’s Gospel, there are cattle and sheep in the Temple area and not just doves. Doves were the sacrifices of the poor; larger animals were for those who could afford them. Worshipers from the many nations were present to purchase the sacrificial animals for the Temple rites. In order to buy the animals from the Temple animal vendors, they had to change their foreign currencies into the Temple’s own currency. These pilgrims carried mostly Roman denarii or Greek drachmas, both of which had the heads of Caesar or pagan deities on them — not acceptable to purchase Temple animals. When they exchanged these coins for Temple currency, they were charged a hefty price! The Temple seemed to have a good business deal going on: they made money trading currencies that were then used to buy approved animals from which they also made a profit.
Only in John does Jesus then make a whip “of sorts.” I write “of sorts” because a very early papyrus (Bodmer) was found in Egypt with one of our earliest texts of John and it reads “a kind of whip of cords” or a “sort of” whip. Since weapons were not allowed in the Temple courts (they had their own TSA!), Jesus probably fashioned one “of sorts,” cording up straw from the beddings of the animals. And though some call this the most violent scene of Jesus’ life, and I suppose it is, the whip “of sorts” was probably not much of one, and some argue he didn’t use it on the people but to chase out the cattle and sheep. Overturning the money changers’ tables was likely his most forceful act.
Jesus then declares a kind of poetic charge. In Greek, “Stop
Stop turning (poieo) Pater Oikos, “House of Father” into Oikos Emporion, “House of Emporium (market).” A play on words about the House of the Father. Recall our earlier discussion of the importance in John of the verb “to lodge” (meno): when we follow Jesus we begin to lodge — make our House — in the House of the Lord.
Well now, you can say some bad things about someone, attack his religion, and ridicule his philosophy of life…but go after his livelihood, his cozy under-the-table deals that keep him living high?
Someone who would do that might get himself killed!