John’s account of Jesus’ demonstration in the temple: violent or nonviolent?

John’s account of Jesus’ demonstration in the temple: violent or nonviolent?

Mark R. Bredin


In this article I attempt to deal only with John’s account of the temple incident in chapter 2. The initial concern of this article is to what extent John’s version of the temple incident harmonizes with the Jesus who teaches love for neighbors and enemies alike. I will argue that John’s telling of the incident is controlled by his reflections on certain First Testament traditions and traditions regarding Isaac and the temple. The distinctive aspects of the account can be accounted for by First Testament allusions and later Judean developments. In conclusion, it is possible to establish Jesus’ demonstration as motivated by his perception that the temple is the center of violence.

According to Rene Girard, Jesus uncovers the mechanism of violence that pervades human culture, one that is based on scapegoating whereby groups in crisis re-establish peace and order by blaming and sacrificing someone outside their group (2001: 121-38). On the whole, it is generally accepted that Jesus lived and taught nonviolence, and Wink among others has argued that Jesus was a political nonviolent revolutionary (1991: 5-28). Yet there are texts that lead us to be more cautious. A Hindu writing in the tradition of Gandhi writes of Jesus’ actions in the temple as “not altogether an exemplary piece of behavior” (quoted in Raisanen: 279). The Johannine version of the temple incident accentuates even more the aggressive nature of Jesus’ actions. I want to consider this account and ask how John understood Jesus’ actions. More precisely, does the Johannine Jesus in the temple exemplify the nonviolent revolutionary of peace ?

Most reconstructions of Jesus’ actions in the temple rest upon examinations of the Synoptic traditions. I believe this does not do justice to John’s telling of the incident, for there are a number of differences between John’s account and the Synoptic version of Jesus’ actions in the temple. Like Brown, I believe the material in John 2:13-22 is not taken from the Synoptic Gospels, but represents an independent tradition running parallel to the Synoptic tradition (118-21). John provides an account that is carefully composed in the light of Jesus’ teaching, death, and resurrection, and the plunder and destruction of the temple. John’s narration is heavily redacted, and I will argue that distinctive aspects of John’s account are connected with John’s use of the First Testament. The success or failure of my argument depends therefore on the extent to which the First Testament allusions explain John’s redaction. In so doing I hope to discern John’s redaction and reach a conclusion regarding whether or not Jesus’ action fits that of a nonviolent revolutionary of peace.


Jesus enters the temple close to the Passover (v 13). There is some question whether Jesus uses a whip made from rope on the cattle and sheep or on those who sell the cattle and sheep or both. He tells those who sell doves not to make the house of his father a house of trade (v 16). Unlike the account in Matthew and Mark there are no buyers (v 14). John tells us that Jesus’ actions reminded the disciples of the scripture: “zeal for your house consumed me” (v 17). The Judeans ask him for a sign for what he does (v 18). Jesus tells them that he will destroy the temple and build it in three days (v 19). John tells us that Jesus meant his body that would perish and be raised (v 22).

The Temple in Context

At the center of Israel’s story is the temple in Jerusalem–something David dreamed about and Solomon built. David provided Solomon’s wealth through plunder, and Solomon built the temple from such plundered goods (1 Sam 30:20; 2 Sam 8:7, 11; 1 Kgs 7:51; 1 Chron 22:5, 14). The First Testament tells us that the destruction of a people involved the plunder of the items from which their places were built. Israel despoiled the Egyptians (Exod 12:35-36). Schoff notes the temple of Jerusalem was built from those items that were plundered from Egypt (Exod 25-28) (111). 2 Kings tells of the king of Babylon’s destruction of the Jerusalem temple. The bronze, silver and gold vessels of the temple were carried away (25.7ff). 2 Chronicles describes how they were deposited in the royal temple of Babylon (36.7; cf. Jer 52:12ff). Habakkuk preaches against those who grew wealthy from the temple (Hab 2:9-11). Malachi tells the priest that instead of instructing his people and being a messenger of God, he has turned aside from the way, causing many to stumble by his instruction (2:8-9). They have wearied YHWH with their words (2:18). Malachi envisages a time when there will be a change. YHWH will send his envoy to the temple (3:1). He will bear witness against the oppressor (3:5). Ezekiel attacks sellers and merchants in chapter 7. Sellers take pride in their wealth (7:20) and because of this, their holy places will be profaned (v 25). Instruction will perish from the priest because of their selling (v 26). In their city there is crime and violence (v 23).

In the first century CE the Qumran community saw the temple in the light of First Testament traditions. The commentary on Nahum describes Jerusalem as the city of blood (4Q169.2). Ephraim seeks smooth things and walks in lies and falsehood. There will be no end to the number of the slain. There is looting and burning among them. Ephraim is one who leads many astray (4Q169.3). In the Qumran commentary on Habakkuk, the priests of Jerusalem amass money and wealth by plundering the people (1QPHab 9.5). Qumran’s interpretation of the one who gets evil for his house refers to the priest. His building is laid in oppression and the beam of its woodwork in robbery (1QPHab 10.1-5).

Tradition has it that the temple was built on the place where Abraham bound Isaac (see discussion below). Further tradition supports the belief that the sacrifice in the temple reminded God of Isaac’s faithfulness. In the first century CE Judeans believed that Isaac was the proto-faithful witness and one to imitate. He was also known as the “Lamb of God.” When Judeans offered sacrifices in the temple, God was reminded of Isaac’s obedience and forgave the people. After the temple was destroyed, acts of obedience were inspired by Isaac and prompted God to act for his people.

In sum, the temple of Jerusalem, whatever the historical situation, is revealed in the First Testament and early exegesis of these texts to be a place of oppression and murder. The priests were those who ruled the temple and used it to oppress people. But in particular the sellers and merchants were seen as the cause of this city’s violence.

Jesus–Suffering Servant–Lamb of God

Jesus Is the “Lamb of God” (1 :29, 36).

We are reminded of the suffering servant of Isaiah 52-53. I believe this title establishes Jesus as the true Isaac who really died because of his obedience to God. This is in contrast to Judeans who believed the true “Lamb of God” was Isaac. Jesus the new Isaac will be bound and sacrificed, and his actions will become the foundation for the new inner sanctuary. In this place there will be no offering of animal sacrifices, but lives sacrificed to God as they become faithful witnesses and suffer for their testimony.

Isaac in Later Judean Literature

The dating of the traditions about Isaac being a faithful witness are disputed, but the evidence supports a dating early enough for assuming it for the Second Testament. The following distinctive elements are of particular importance regarding Isaac’s being a faithful witness in the first century CE (Daley: 61; Swetman: 76-80). Isaac was informed of his role as a victim, and he asked to be bound (PSEUDO-PHILO 32.2-3; 4Q225; ANTIQUITIES 1.227-32; NEOFITI TARGUM 22.10). God would remember the binding of Isaac in favor of his descendants (FRAGMENT. TARGUM 22.14). The Aqedah was associated with the site of the Temple in Judean tradition (ANTIQUITIES 1.226 or 1.13.2; JUBILEES 17.15-18.19). It was a source of inspiration and instruction (PSEUDO-PHILO 40.2; 4 MACCABEES 13.12, 16.20). But also associated with vicarious expiation (PSEUDO-PHILO 32.3; 4 MACCABEES 17.22; 18.3). The sacrifice was believed to have been completed (PSEUDO-PHILO 32.4).

Isaac: the Prototype of the Suffering Servant

The starting point for understanding the development of Genesis 22 haggadah is to look closely at the importance of Isaiah 52.13-53.12, as Vermes did in 1961 (203). Vindication would come through suffering. Rosenberg calls Isaac the “prototype of the suffering servant” (385). This indeed seems an apt description on the basis of Pseudo-Philo, 4 Maccabees, 4Q225, Josephus, and the Targums, who all present Isaac as one who willingly suffered. Vermes presents the following points: Isaac freely offered his life and it was accepted by God in favor of his descendants; so too the suffering servant–the servant is compared to a lamb brought to the slaughter. Isaac was also a holocaust lamb (201-02).

Jesus the New Isaac

From John’s perspective, Jesus gave his life of his own accord (10.18). Jesus chooses the path that leads to death. Jesus is the Lamb, and through his death many will be blessed. Brown notes that Jesus, like Isaac, carried the wood for his own sacrifice (226). In Rabbinic tradition Isaac was compared to a man bearing his own cross (GENESIS RABBAH 6.3). A temple will be built on the basis of his obedient act.

Jesus in the Temple

What Jesus teaches

The Johannine Jesus teaches “love,” and his concern is to bring those who do not belong to him to salvation (10.16). There is nothing in John’s Gospel that shows Jesus as one who supports the temple cult or sacrifice. Jesus demonstrates his irritation with the sacrificial system in the temple. He shows no respect for the priestly classes. Unlike the Synoptic versions, the Johannine Jesus nowhere encourages fidelity to the priests or the temple cult (see Matt 8:4; Mk 1:44; Lk 5:14). Jesus is distinctly at odds with the high priests. The Judeans are those who are most opposed to Jesus and try to kill him (8:59). The most significant text is 11:48: the high priest wishes to have Jesus put to death. From the point of view of the leaders, according to John, Jesus’ death would maintain peace as Jesus is one who disturbs the peace of Rome and would bring Rome’s wrath upon them. This is exactly the role of the suffering servant, who, though innocent, was counted with sinners and wrongly murdered. Sanders, however, points out that if Jesus was against the priests he would have attacked their abuses but he doesn’t (66). Yet Jesus accuses those in charge of the temple of murder. Their sin is specifically described as murder, and their father was a murderer from the beginning (8:39-47). This hints at the accusation in the other Gospels against the Pharisees that their fathers had put to death the prophets God had sent (Matt 23:31-32, 34-37; Lk 11:50). Only in John is Jesus struck because he shows disrespect to the high priest. Jesus is the suffering servant before his oppressor (cf. Isa 50:6). Although the priests do not appear to be directly attacked by Jesus, unlike Judeans and Pharisees (chapter 8), they are clearly seen in the same light as those he attacks as murderers and sons of the devil.

Jesus: God’s Messenger against the Temple

Jesus is YHWH’s messenger who enters the temple. This alludes to Malachi 3:1 in which the Lord “whom you seek” will suddenly come to his temple. According to Joyce Baldwin, the promise suggests that there was a continuing disappointment with the Second Temple, and it was a healthy reaction to be looking to God to do something greater than they had yet seen (242). John in his reflections may well have considered this and seen Jesus as the foreseen figure in Malachi 3:1. The “Lamb of God” enters the temple and causes a disturbance with a whip, rebuking the oppressor.

The Whip

The NEB suggests that Jesus uses the whip on all of the men: “Jesus made a whip of cords and drove them out of the temple, sheep, cattle, and all.” The NRSV and NIV suggest that he uses the whip only on the cattle and sheep: “Making a whip of cords, he drove all (pantas exebalen) of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle.” Who/what does pantas (all) refer to? Pantas is a plural masculine. The masculine does not correspond to the probata (sheep), which is neuter, although it agrees with boas (oxen), which is masculine. Jesus makes the whip because he finds in the temple those who sell cattle, sheep, and doves–and the moneychangers seated at their tables. But did Jesus use his whip only on the sheep and cattle? The basis for the NIV and NRSV is the construction te … kai (cf. 4:32 and 6:18). Macgregor comments that te … kai subdivides a subject or object previously mentioned into its component parts. Pantas refers to the sheep and cattle and not men (17). However, it is difficult to take the sheep and oxen in apposition with pantas (all) because probata (sheep) is neuter. Still, the grammatical rule, Macgregor points out, is that the adjective, when qualifying two nouns of different genders, agrees with the masculine or feminine noun rather than with the neuter noun, irrespective of position (18). Macgregor and Wink make the further point that if Jesus had used the whip on people he would most certainly have been in trouble (18; 1992: 128). It seems best to conclude that John portrays Jesus using the whip on the animals.

The Animals

Exebalen can mean “send away” (Macgregor: 18; Yoder: 51). In John’s account, however, Jesus’ driving out with a whip surely can suggest only that Jesus acts with some force. I suggest that the cattle and sheep are present to allow John to insert the whip. In so doing, John emphasizes the zeal and passion that Jesus felt about what he saw. For the Israelite, the uplifted hand was a way to show zeal for something or someone (Isa 26:11). John states that Jesus has zeal for this house (2:17). The quote is from the Septuagint Psalm 68:10. The poet suffers the same insults that God’s temple suffers. Mocking the temple means using it in a way that is opposite to its intentions. It was used for plunder and injustice. I agree with Barrett that it is this Psalm that John drew upon again when Jesus is mocked, being offered vinegar to drink (19:29; Ps 68:21, quoted in 1QH 4.11) (553). Similarly in Psalm 119:139, zeal consumes the servant because his foes forget the word of God. He, too, is despised; yet he still loves God’s word (v 141). Isaiah sees God expressing his zeal for this people with an uplifted hand (Isa 26:11a). John perhaps alludes to this image of the Lord with an uplifted hand when he depicts Jesus with the whip. This messenger of God, resonant in the imagery of Malachi 3:1, enters the temple with an uplifted hand holding the whip and challenges the sellers.

In conclusion, John emphasizes the passion of Jesus’ act with the use of the whip and with remembrance of the Psalm. The whip reminds his readers of this quote. This is also why John mentions the sheep and cattle. The whip emphasizes Jesus’ zeal, and the whip is used on the sheep and cattle. Jesus is ardent and utterly committed to put right that which offends him in the temple. He believes the temple has been insulted because it does not represent faithfulness.

The Timing of the Temple Incident

The temple represents everything Jesus attacks and for which he suffers. Jesus is the Lord who enters the temple with zeal. John makes it the beginning of Jesus’ ministry; Jesus has not yet been opposed or mocked, and there is no mention that his Father’s house has been mocked. Yet Jesus is outraged at the way the house of his Father is treated by the very system that will later offer him only vinegar when he is thirsty on the cross. The figure in the Septuagint Psalm 68 is someone who puts himself in a position to be mocked. He does not keep his head down. The Johannine Jesus is zealous, and this is expressed in the center of abuse: Jerusalem and the temple. He does not hide in Galilee but gets right to the heart of the matter at the very beginning of his ministry.

A Land of Priests and Not Salesmen! The First Testament Texts (Zechariah 12-14; Septuagint Psalm 68)

Zechariah 12-14

Jesus tells those who sell doves not to make the house of his Father a house of trade (v 16). Zechariah predicts a time (the eschaton) when “there shall no longer be traders in the house of the YHWH of hosts.” Baldwin comments, regarding the Hebrew word “Canaanite,” that it refers, not to a particular nationality, but to those who make extortionate profits out of worshippers (208). John’s Greek word emporion (trade) appears only here in John’s Gospel, but it appears also in Revelation 18:3, 11, 15, and 23. John disliked trade and commerce and the injustice that they brought. This quote explicitly suggests that Jesus saw the temple of God being mocked. In alluding to Zechariah, John is expressing Jesus’ general anger at the oppression that happens in society. Jesus and John were fully at home in the prophets and the psalms. They knew the stories of the empires that seduced Israel. They knew the pattern in the First Testament of the plunderer being plundered. The temple was desecrated and then rebuilt. Jesus remembered how Israelite leaders made alliances with other nations to defend their rights and positions of power and killed the faithful.

The Johannine Jesus felt the sellers were oppressors who made money from the poor whether or not the sellers actually did. It may be that the sellers were not making that much money, but Jesus saw them as people who did. Like the prophets, he saw trade as a form of plunder. Ezekiel writes: “By your great wisdom in trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth” (28:5). Nahum considers the number of merchants: “You increased your merchants more than the stars of the heavens” (3:16).

Nahum’s reference to trade in v 16 suggests that this should be also recognized in v 4, which would thus be making the point that Assyria improved trading by deceiving the nations. This resulted in some growing rich (especially merchants), and many becoming poor. Israel’s identity as God’s faithful people was under threat because of this. The Israelites were tempted to compromise for gain from Assyria’s wealth, and this led them to forget the covenant with YHWH. In other words, they did not care about justice. Jesus believed that the poor were being plundered by the temple system; so the temple represents plunder. Jesus distrusted leaders. He grew up with stories about Israelite leaders selling out on their own people. He believed that the temple was being abused, and this belief was bolstered by his reading of the First Testament.

In his allusion to Zechariah 14, John hints that Jesus looked foward to a time when the profane would be sacred (14:21). Hosea proclaims that Israel was rejected as a nation of priests (4:6). This is a reversal of the privileged status of priesthood promised by God (Exod 19.6; see Zech 14:20-21; Jer 23). Baldwin writes of the hope of Zechariah: “For him the essential is that God should be king, not only in the life of the individual, but of the whole human race. When the condition is fulfilled everyday life will be ‘holy to the Lord,’ and all human problems solved” (208). Ordinary cooking bowls would be as holy as the bowls in front of the altar. Indeed, every cooking bowl in Jerusalem and throughout Judah would be sacred to God. It will be a time when the nations will come to Jerusalem and keep the festival of Booths. A time is expected when all Israelites will be priests.

I suggest that John has the whole context of Zechariah 12-14 in mind when he alludes to 14:21. In Zechariah 12:10 we have a figure that the inhabitants of Jerusalem have pierced. Yet they will come to mourn this figure and their violent deeds. We know that John believes this figure is Jesus (John 19:37). Those who pierced him show shame at what they have done. In so doing, through his suffering, the people see their sin. This is what it means to be cleansed in the Gospel of John (and in 1 John as well), and this is how John understood Zechariah 13:1. On the basis of Zechariah 13, John believes that there will be many who will be struck down. Only a remnant will remain. In chapter 14, what has been plundered from the innocent will be given back (v 1). The idea of dying in your sin emerges in Zechariah 14:13-15. Sinner will rise against sinner. It is easy to see why the events in 70 CE caught John’s imagination. John draws upon Zechariah 14 because he sees there a suffering figure pierced by his own people. But this very suffering awakens the oppressors to what they have done. Jesus’ death shows the violence of the world. This is why John’s is the only Gospel to refer to Jesus as the “Lamb of God” (1:29, 36), thus alluding to the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, who bears the sins of the many. John does not have in mind especially the gentile nations. His concern is with Jerusalem and how it has fallen. John knows that Jesus had foreseen this in the same way that the First Testament prophets had done, but John also knows that it has actually happened and that the suffering servant has been handed over to Rome (cf. Ezek 7:21). Yet salvation to the world will come, he sees, with the New Jerusalem, which he foresees as no longer a place of trade.

The Sellers

John does not mention the “buyers.” Jesus is attacking those who sell and thus perpetuate a religious system that separates the lay people from the priestly classes. The buyers are victims of a complex institution that is responsible for plunder, violence, poverty and greed. The sellers are those who live off the people’s need to participate in something that had become meaningless. Nehemiah condemns merchants and sellers, proclaiming that they should not even stand near the walls of the holy city (13:20-21). Ezekiel provides a twenty-seven-verse attack on sellers in chapter 7. The wrath is upon all their multitude (v 12). None of them shall remain, not their abundance, nor their wealth (v 11). John surely considers Ezekiel 7 when he singles out the sellers and merchants for Jesus’ attack. These are people who Ezekiel tells us “profaned my treasured place” (v 21).

The Consequences of Jesus’ Actions

John thinks about this incident after some years of reflection in the light of both Jesus’ death and resurrection and the destruction of the temple. The respondents are those who mocked him, pierced him and proffered him only vinegar. They are the enemies that the Psalmist laments over, of whom Zechariah 12-14 prophesies, and who slay the “Lamb of God.” They do not see themselves in this light, but John does. They believe themselves to be the custodians of Judean practice, to be those who are responsible for its development and survival under Roman power. They must make the temple a place of grandeur. Their initial retort is to ask Jesus for a sign for what he does. Jesus says: “Destroy this inner sanctuary and in three days I will raise it” (v 19). This is the sign. A sign points to the identity of someone or the way to a place. It is a sign that is meaningless to the Judeans. They do not know what he is talking about, just as the disciples did not know until his death and resurrection. All they understand is that Jesus is criticizing the very fabric of their understanding of Judean religion, and they want to know the identity of the one who does this.

Then John tells us that Jesus is referring to his own body that must perish and be raised after three days. This is the sign. The one who does this shows a new way in which God communicates and dwells with humanity. No longer is the temple in Jerusalem the dwelling place of God. John intends us to understand that the Judeans were aware of the significance of Jesus’ act because the question they ask is precise and particular to Jesus’ act and the words he spoke. The Judeans understood that Jesus was protesting, in particular, against the sacrificial system that operated in the temple and everything that was connected with it. He was saying that people no longer needed to offer sacrifices in the temple to be restored to relationship with God. Jesus, like the prophets, protested against certain things because that was his tradition. John’s Jesus wished to see the temple sacrifice come to an end. Like Zechariah, Jesus looked to a time when all things would be dedicated to God. Yet the temple was the place where Judeans would restore their relationship with God. They did what was pleasing to God and God would be reminded of all the faithful who had gone before. And then God would bless Israel.

In the response that Jesus gives, and in the knowledge that he is the “Lamb of God,” John has in mind the binding of Isaac when he considers the temple. There is strong evidence that Isaac was considered a faithful witness figure in the first century CE. Tradition has it that the temple was built on the place where Abraham bound Isaac. Further tradition supports the belief that the sacrifice in the temple reminded God of Isaac’s faithfulness. This is present here in John. The inner sanctuary that Jesus says he will destroy is the very place where Judeans believed they would be restored to a right relationship with God through offering sacrifices. Jesus reminded the Judeans that a true sacrifice is to love and give your life for another as Isaac was prepared to do and many other figures in the First Testament were ready to do (Isa 1:11; Hos 6:6). For John, things had to be put right in Jerusalem. Jesus’ action was to announce the end of the sacrificial system, and replace it with a sanctified life much like the that of the figure in Zechariah 12:10 or the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. This figure is also the new Isaac, the better Isaac. Tradition relates Isaac to the Passover lamb and the lamb in Isaiah 53. Jesus replaces this.

For John, Jesus’ physical body is the temple that would perish. But the new temple is his resurrected body. Jesus’ death is the consequence of his obedience and zeal for doing the will of God. His witness would be redeemed in the resurrection. The Judeans have Jesus crucified as a sacrificial lamb so that peace may be restored. But Jesus’ sacrifice does not redeem the people. In the resurrection Jesus is seen to be innocent, and the Judeans and the world are guilty of putting an innocent man to death. Jesus’ death exposes, as Girard calls it, the single victim mechanism (148-53). Jesus is the new Isaac. He did die. With the destruction of the temple and its sacrifice in the year 70, faithfulness to God and obedience until death are the new ways of being restored to God. Such actions remind God of Jesus’ actions. Faithful acts keep alive what Jesus did. His death was that of a nonviolent resister who did not look for an easy life. Instead he went to Jerusalem, believed in the promises of the prophets, was inspired by the suffering figures of the First Testament, and challenged what Judeans had come to think of as the centre of their faith: the sacrificial system from which countless priests benefited, but which took away from normal people the ability to commune with God as Abba.

In sum, Jesus’ actions are seen as an attack on the temple sacrifice. The temple is the home of the God of Israel, but lack of understanding and institutionalization had resulted in this place becoming a stumbling block to obedience to God. True sacrifice to God is a faithful life of obedience to God–one that is rooted in love and suffering for others. John depicts Jesus as the new Isaac, the new Lamb of God whose obedience until death will result in a restoration of the temple as a place where God dwells. That very place is the suffering servant. God is present in the suffering and through suffering the servant can become ever more the dwelling place of God.

Nonviolent Reading

My focus in this paper has been Jesus’ demonstration against the temple sacrificial system. The temple stood for plunder and violence. The sacrificial system enacted the scapegoating process in which people blame others for the violence that is present in their society. Jesus is the “Lamb of God” because he has become a single victim to calm the situation with Rome and restore the status quo in Judea and Galilee (John 11:50). The process of scapegoating is carried out and Jesus is murdered. But his death reveals the sin of the murderers. Schwager points out that Jesus and the prophets were persecuted and hated for no reason (15:25) (161). Jesus’ actions challenged his opponents. His actions brought the truth and brought his opponents to know the truth (15:24), so that they knew their sin of murder. Faced by Jesus’ testimony, they can choose to accept it or reject it and thus condemn themselves. Rene Girard has constructed a system wherein he advocates that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection reveal at the centre of human culture a victim-mechanism whereby society survives by converging upon a victim to establish an endangered peace. Girard suggests that Jesus’ concern with the violence in society and where it will end, justifies the vehemence and brutality with which he sometimes acted (1996: 181).

The new temple is the faithful nonviolent witness who testifies to the world how violence pervades every aspect of life. God dwells among such witnesses. God remembers the innocent, and when the faithful bear witness, God remembers those faithful witnesses who have gone before.


I have examined John’s account and suggested that John has interpreted Jesus’ actions. I have argued that John’s account is profoundly influenced by his reflections on Jesus in the light, not only of historical events following Jesus death, but also of his consideration of First Testament texts that so formed his identity and culture.

I have placed particular emphasis on the temple being a place that has failed to be God’s dwelling. This failure is because the temple represents the powerful and successful. It has become a place that perpetuates and nourishes the precincts of power and violence. My understanding of violence is enacted in the temple cult in which we kill to reestablish peace in society and with God. Jesus is the innocent lamb that is put to death to maintain peace. In the resurrection, the lamb reveals the deception that is the temple. Jesus becomes the new temple and so do those who acknowledge that their violence seeks to find scapegoat sacrifices so that peace can be restored. In view of this, Jesus’ action in the temple is exemplary and courageous. He enters the precincts of power and draws attention to himself in the same way that the prophets did which leads ultimately to his martyrdom. Jesus is the nonviolent revolutionary of peace par excellence.

Works Cited

Baldwin, J.G. 1972. HAGGAI, ZECHARIAH, MALACHI. Leicester, UK: IVP.

Barrett, C.K. 1978. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. JOHN. 2nd Edition. London, UK: SPCK.

Brown, R.E. 1966. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN I-XII, Anchor Bible. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Daly, R.J. 1977. The Soteriological Significance of the Sacrifice of Isaac. CATHOLIC BIBLICAL QUARTERLY 39:45-75

Girard, R. 2001. I SEE SATAN FALL LIKE LIGHTNING. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. 1996. THE GIRARD READER, edited by J.G. Williams. New York: Crossroad.

Macgregor, G.H.C. 1936. THE NEW TESTAMENT BASIS OF PACIFISM. London, UK: James Clarke.


Rosenberg, R.A. 1965. Jesus, Isaac, and the “Suffering Servant.” JOURNAL OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE 84: 381-88.

Sanders, E.P. 1985. JESUS AND JUDAISM. London: SCM.


Schwager, R. 2000. MUST THERE BE SCAPEGOATS? VIOLENCE AND REDEMPTION IN THE BIBLE. Translated by M.L. Assad. New York, NY: Crossroad/Leominster, UK: Gracewing.

Swetnam, J. 1981. Jesus and Isaac. A Study of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the Light of the Aqedah. ANALECTA BIBLICA 94. Rome, Italy: Biblical Institute Press.

Vermes, G. 1961. SCRIPTURE AND TRADITION IN JUDAISM. Haggadic Studies. StPB 4, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

Wink, W. 1992. ENGAGING THE POWERS: DISCERNMENT AND RESISTANCE IN A WORLD OF DOMINATION. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. 1991. Neither Passivity nor Violence: Jesus’ Third Way. FORUM 7: 5-28.

Yoder, J.H. 1972. THE POLITICS OF JESUS. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Mark R. Bedin M.Theol, PhD, teaches biblical languages at St Andrews University, Scotland. His e-mail address is Involved in distance learning, he has published studies in Matthew, Revelation, and Jesus. His book, JESUS. REVOLUTIONARY OF PEACE: A NONVIOLENT CHRISTOLOGY IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION, is due to be published in June by Paternoster Press.

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