Sunday, November 10, 2013

N. T. Wright on the brigands in the temple cleansing

N. T. Wright:

Jesus wasn't trying to take over the Temple by force, as some people have thought.  Nor was he making a protest about exploitation by the money-changers and dove sellers.  They may well have been making a profit; they, after all, had to make a living like everyone else...

It isn't the buying, selling, and money-changing he's objecting to in itself.  When he said, 'You've made it a brigand's lair, the word brigand  doesn't mean a thief.  'Brigands' were revolutionaries, people who believed so strongly  in God's coming kingdom of justice and triumph for Israel they were prepared to take the law into their own hands.  They were the violent ones Jesus had commented on earlier in the gospel (11.12).  The Temple itself, instead of being regarded as the place where Israel could come to God in prayer, had come to stand for the violent longings of the 'brigands'  for a great revolution in which the Kingdom of God would come by force. It was everything Jesus had opposed throughout his lifetime, not least in the Sermon on the Mount.  Now his warnings against 'the house' were to come true.

ow might he best demonstrate that, in a  powerful symbolic protest? By stopping the sacrificial system. If people couldn't change money or buy doves, even for a short while, they couldn't offer sacrifice.  The Temple's reason for existence was called into question. The healing of the blind and the lame said the same, in a softer mode. The ideology that had sustained Jerusalem, that of military might and conquest, would suffice no longer.  link, Matthew for Everyone, p, 72

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