Jesus and Violence


Sicily mosaic Jesus and the money changers



Gospel of John #25

John 2:15 Making a 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.

John’s Gospel accentuates the violence of Jesus, in the Temple incident, as compared to the other gospels. Only John gives Jesus a whip for driving out the Temple personnel. Just as Jesus throws people out of the Temple, so later in the Gospel those who confess Jesus as his disciples are thrown out of the Jewish synagogue. The controversies between the Jesus movement and the Jewish establishment are fierce and polarized in John’s Gospel.

As to the whip, many critics claim that it is used only on animals, to drive out cattle (the sheep and the oxen), not on human beings. The grammar makes this point plain. Others maintain that the whip is symbolic of divine rage against the Temple’s corruption. Since the Greek word for whip indicates a scourge of small cords, some minimize the actual damage that such a diminutive implement could cause.

As Malachi 3:1 describes, with the advent of the expected Messiah (who is Jesus Christ according to this Gospel), the Lord will descend upon the Temple to make it a holy and worthy place for the divine to dwell.

The money changers had the job of converting the coins offered by pilgrims (from many lands) into a Jewish currency for use at the temple. They charged interest in the meantime.

If we detach ourselves from all theological rationale, which makes apologies for and defenses of Jesus, it is quite striking that the Gospels record an act of overt assault by Jesus, which would be fair grounds for suspicion by the religious authorities.

The one who preaches, “Blessed are the Peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) also advises “The one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one,” while proclaiming, “I have come not to bring peace, but a sword.” (Luke 22: 36, 38; Matthew 10: 34).

For those who are inspired by Jesus’s example, how shall we handle these contradictions? and the violence (or: harshness) that is sometimes espoused?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s