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What is the Significance of Jesus’s Action Against the Money-Changers at the Temple?

It’s clear from all four gospels that Jesus went into the temple and caused some kind of disruption there towards the end of his ministry.  John’s gospel puts it at the beginning of the ministry but Mark puts it at the end and most people think that that’s probably more likely and that it was probably something to do with Jesus’s disruption of the temple that actually led to his death.  Now scholars are a bit uncertain as to what this meant, what was Jesus doing in the temple?  Some people think He was against corruption or some kind of practices within the temple. But, I think the majority of scholars, nowadays think that it was a prophetic sign; it was supposed to symbolize the fact that the temple was going to be destroyed.  So that puts Jesus in the line of people like Jeremiah, you know, prophets of old, people who prophesied the destruction of the temple.  And what happened to Jeremiah?  Well, people tried to get rid of him because they didn’t like him prophesying the destruction of the temple.  And that seems to me quite likely that if this happened towards the end of Jesus’s life, the chief priests would have been very worried by what Jesus was doing in the temple even if it was only quite a small thing, even if it was only a fairly small prophetic sign.  They had no idea what He was going to do next.  It was Passover week; the place was full of tourists from all over the place, festival goers, absolutely packed into the city.  People celebrating you know, God’s, God’s bringing them out of, bringing them out, delivering them from Egypt.  It was a time of great rejoicing and yet, also a time of great friction and tension and the Romans were there in high presence.  And so I think it’s very likely that if Jesus did something in the temple that the chief priests would have been worried by that and they would have wanted to get Him, to get rid of Him.  And so the gospel accounts in which they gather together and they decide to pass Him over to Pilate to…to persuade Pilate to get rid of Him; actually, to me rings fairly credible.  I think it’s quite likely that Pilate was probably already watching Him and wanted to get rid of Him himself anyway, but I think there probably is a direct link between what Jesus did in the temple and His death.

  • Helen K. Bond

    Helen K. Bond is Professor of Christian Origins and Head of the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She is interested in all aspects of the first-century Jewish world and the emergence of earliest Christianity. Her publications include Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation (Cambridge University Press, 1998), Caiaphas: Friend of Rome and Judge of Jesus? (Westminster John Knox, 2004), and The Historical Jesus: A Guide for the Perplexed (Bloomsbury, 2012). She has just finished a book on Mark as the first biographer of Jesus to be published by Eerdmans in 2020.