Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Out of the Temple


And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables. And he said unto them . . . take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise . . .
---John 2


Mike L. said...

What do you make of this story?

The account of this story in John's gospel is troubling. I cringe every time I read it. There are two problems with the story as it gets manipulated by the author of John and morphed from the earlier stories (Read it in Mark:11).

1. In John, the story gets moved to the beginning of Jesus' public work (right after his first miracle). I suspect the reason for this was the author's intent to change or hide the fact that Jesus' was killed for political protests.

2. Notice the change of wording from the earlier written text in Mark 11. Mark references a quote from Jeremiah and calls the temple a "den of robbers". John calls it a "marketplace" or "house of merchandise". Mark wants us to know that Jesus was mad about the temple leaders (just like Jeremiah) so he has Jesus directly quote Jeremiah. If you read that chapter in Jeremiah, you realize that he was criticizing the temple for their mistreatment of the poor. Jesus wouldn't quote that passage without meaning to make the same points as Jeremiah.

I think there is a very intentional shift in what Jesus meant in AD 66-70 around the time Mark was written (during the Jewish revolt and destruction of the temple) and several decades later when John is written. The difference is that Mark's author sees Jesus opposing the temple leaders and their oppression of peasants by establishing a strict system of sacrifice and ritual observance and failing to help the poor. In Mark, this act of public disruption is a protest (like a sit in or strike in the 60s). It gets him arrested and immediately killed.

In John, the author has this event happen years earlier and it doesn't sound like a political event, but a theological statement. By the time John is written, the temple was long gone and John is creating a different view of Jesus as becoming the new temple. In John, it sounds almost like Jesus is doing the temple a favor by removing these people. In Mark, he directly accuses the Temple by bringing up a Prophet who confronted the Temple also.

Philip said...

Thanks Mike. I always enjoy your comments.

The value of this story and Carl Bloch's painting is, for me, mostly metaphorical. The 2nd Great Vow says:

"Evil passions (greed, anger and delusion) are inexhaustible, we vow to cut them off."

Like Christ cleansing the temple, Buddha and his follwers say that the mind ideally acts like a police officer, casting "aside the unreal and the false".

I am seeing from what you said that, on a historical basis, according to Mark, this event may have led directly to Jesus' cruxifiction. I want to learn more about the Bible. Thanks for your help.