American Spring: Jesus Occupies “Wall Street”

December 20, 2011 § 13 Comments

The most direct correspondence between Occupy Wall Street and the good news Jesus brought to the people of Judea is his occupation of the Judean national bank/treasury/currency exchange on ‘Palm Sunday,’ an episode usually called the ‘cleansing of the temple.’ I treated this astounding act of civil disobedience in my other blog, BibleMonster, in a series on The Politics of Passion Week. That series presents part of a chapter in a book I am writing tentatively titled Good News for the Poor: Planks in the Platform of the Commonwealth of God; the chapter is titled The Economics of Redemption in the Common-wealth of God. If you’re interested, here is the link.

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§ 13 Responses to American Spring: Jesus Occupies “Wall Street”

  • Emily says:

    Thanks so much, Steven, John, and Forrest, for a very stimulating discussion.

    I certainly don’t understand all of Jesus, and so I certainly am in good company with his family and followers.

    Jesus was tried and executed for blasphemy, not for the cleansing of the Temple.

  • Emily says:

    I am speaking here as someone who never understood the cleansing of the Temple, so forgive me if there’s much I miss.

    John,
    Jesus certainly scolded the wealthy. I can find no Biblical passages, however, in which Jesus scolded the priests.

    Most of the priests were poor in Jesus time, and many had to work two jobs to support their families. Some were middle class. Some (Simeon, Gamaliel, Joseph of Arimathaea, and Nicodemus) became followers of Jesus.

    A very few were wealthy, like Caiphas and his father-in-law Annas, both Sanhedrins, the major wealthy landowning family of Israel at the time (as were Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, who became his followers; remember Jesus had exhorted Joseph once for his wealth). I don’t know where most of them would have found the time to steal from the poor (from whom one doesn’t gain much money, anyway). That’s not to say that the families of the rich priests didn’t do wrong to the poor, but the priests probably had no choice but to associate with their families

    It was the Romans, not the Jews, who ruled Israel during the time of, who operated the civil service, who sat as judges, who determined the political fate of the poor. A majority of the Jewish priests were very suspicious of the Romans, although certainly the Sanhedrins and some other families were cozy with them. and may even have had a standing agreement with the Romans to arrest anyone who riled things up at the Temple–something bound to happen, as there were so many religious factions at the time. The “cleasing” Jesus performed may not have been all that uncommon!

    I would wager that Jesus acted mainly out of hatred for Herodians, had erected the Temple where the tables stood, and probably as much a temple to the roman empire as to Yahweh. Jesus had said, “beware the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15); after all, Herod I had purportedly tried to destroy Jesus as a baby; he had killed John the Baptist, and Herod II worked to destroy Jesus. I think when Jesus referred to the temple as a “den of thieves” it was they and their friends that Jesus was referring to–and not because they were directly stealing from the poor, but because they were destroying the purity of the temple. Jesus remarks elsewhere that it’s the heart that has to be pure (Luke 6:45: A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh),

    All the accounts of Jesus life and times and of Jerusalem which I have read have rejected the theory that the Jewish web of corruption. Not to say there wasn’t corruption, but there always will be in any system that large.

    Perhaps Jesus also wanted to mock the regular ritual purifications of the temple by the Priests–or again, they weren’t saying and doing enough–sins of omission.
    I don’t understand how anyone could have “recovered” any money from the cleansing. If people were so busy scrambling money they wouldn’t have listened to his preaching or watched his healing.

    Forrest, Jesus’ followers did write the history of Jesus long after the events under discussion, and they surely thought Jesus was creating a new kingdom as in Zechariah 14.

    Jesus himself may have felt he was creating the new kingdom as described in Zechariah. But Jesus’ family and several of his followers at the time of the “cleansing” thought he was acting rashly (Luke 12:53: “The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law”). Jesus never seemed politically active did think. Perhaps Jesus did think he was creating the new kingdom when he smashed the tables, and trusted that God to do the planning for him in the course of his action, and perhaps that’s why he said on the cross “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” or as translated elsewhere, “My God, is this what you planned for me?”

    I personally think God expects us to do the heavy lifting here; he didn’t create humankind just to follow his plans.

    • forrest curo says:

      A good book if you wish to understand Jesus better is _Prophet_ _and_ _Teacher_ by William Herzog.

      Also John Yoder’s (much older) _Politics_ _of_ _Jesus_.

      The problem with your observation re God’s plans is your underlying assumptions: 1) That ‘God’ and ‘humankind’ are separate entities, 2) That people who speak of “God’s plans” must mean something like a detailed choreography.

      Stephen Gaskin: “It’s not complicated or unusual or weird to know what God wants. God wants justice and freedom and health and happiness and equality for everyone. If you know that’s what God really wants, you’ll help out along those lines.”

      • emily says:

        Forrest,
        I never wrote that I didn’t understand Jesus,
        What I did write was that I never understood the cleansing of the Temple, which seems very out of character for Jesus. While I don’t think Jesus was a pacifist, he was a healer, a loving companion. In performing the Cleansing, he could have badly injured a lot of people or had many of his followers could have been arrested, imprisoned, or possibly tortured. In Goatwalking, which I’ve been recently reading, Friend Jim Corbett theorizes that to mount an effective protest you can’t mix the Gandhian style of satyagraha (do no harm, work for consensus with your enemy) with the “beat the hell out of them” style of Saul Alinsky. Jesus’ approach seemed consistently to have been the satyagraha approach, and I can’t figure out why he would have suddenly switched, why he didn’t talk more to the priests; since many of them (including Annas, Caiphas, and Joseph) were probably his teachers, it seems he could have reached out in some way.

        Thank you for suggesting the Yoder and Herzog books. I have read many Jesus biographies over the years, though I don’t remember the titles, and I recently reviewed several books and articles for descriptions of the Cleansing. I’ll look up the Yoder and Herzog also to see how they describe the Cleansing. I’ve found it valuable to read the differing insights.

        You wrote that the first flaw of my scenario was that I separated God and man. But you too separated them when you wrote (February 8) that “God had a message for Jesus to deliver, and this prophecy was an integral part of it.” In that you describe God, one entity, as having a message for Jesus, another entity. In any case, I don’t see how describing them as separate is a flaw. Man and God are not the same, and shouldn’t be described as the same, and if you make them the same entity you’re deifying man (which I believe John suggested is part of his irritation with the “Light” in each of humankind as a deification of man).

        You wrote that the second flaw in my scenario was my assumption “that people who speak of God’s plans must mean something like a detailed choreography.” Plans, however, are by definition detailed. The American Heritage Dictionary defines plan as “a scheme, program, or method worked out beforehand for the accomplishment of an objective;” Cambridge defines plan as “method for doing or achieving something, usually involving a series of actions or stages, or something you have arranged to do;” Merriam Webster defines plan as “a method for achieving an end.” So if you don’t want people to make the assumption that you mean God’s plans are detailed you might best employ another term. I personally can’t get any handle on what anyone might mean by “God’s plans” so I can’t suggest anything.

        I did not discuss what I thought “God’s plans” should be (although you had written: “Jesus’ plans for running a present (and developing) Kingdom of Justice and Mercy are: ‘Let God do it.'”) I simply suggested that when Jesus’ utterance of the words “My God, is this what you planned for me” indicated an expectation of some other outcome from the cleansing, that he had felt something else would come from God, which is what you wrote would happen.
        I wrote that I thought God expected us to work, because you had written “let God do it.”
        I don’t understand your issue with the timing of the writing of history. History written 20 years after the happenings described is going to be different from history written at the time of events–later writing tends to broaden one’s viewpoint while remembrance of specific facts narrows. Signs are always going to be read differently by different people in different contexts. Jesus certainly was well-educated on the prophecies, and he certainly had these in mind, but that doesn’t change the fact that decades later, when his followers were writing, they would have seen things differently.

        If you want to quarrel with the specific scholar over what he meant on gospel writing it’s John Dominic Crossan (Who killed Jesus? : exposing the roots of anti-semitism in the Gospel story of the death of Jesus, HarperSanFrancisco,1995); his main point was not that “it must have been after; we mustn’t believe he read the ‘signs of the times’ beforehand, now must we?”

      • I myself never did understand those prophets that went around naked and barefoot for three years (Isaiah 20:2 ff.), saying to their neighbor “Smite me, I pray thee” (1 Kings 20:35 ff.), burying a linen girdle by the river Euphrates (Jeremiah 13:1 ff.), or digging a hole in the wall of their own house, then blindfolding themselves and miming an exile into captivity (Ezekiel 12:3 ff.). Neither do I understand Jesus’ overturning the tables and driving the money-changers from the temple, but if we’re to believe His testimony about His own motivation (John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, etc.), He was not doing it in His own will, but in perfect obedience to His Heavenly Father’s. So perhaps the better question would be “why would God ask such a thing of Jesus?”

        I’ve witnessed strange events that later proved to have been signs of things to come. I believe that God sometimes shows us signs, or raises up prophets to act them out for us, in order to communicate with some principle within us that, illuminated by the Divine Omniscience, recognizes them for what they are. If our hearts are hardened, we may see and hear them but “seeing, see not, and hearing, hear not” (Matthew 13:13 and parallels), but if God wills, we may take warning or encouragement from them. So I can imagine myself witnessing Jesus’ “Cleansing of the Temple” and shuddering, sensing only after hearing of the destruction of Jerusalem in 66 C.E. that that’s what it (and perhaps also the Cursing of the Fig Tree, Matthew 21:19) had been “about.” (Disclaimer: I don’t _know_ that that’s what the Cleansing of the Temple was about, or indeed that it was “about” anything; all this is pure conjecture on my part!)

        Thank you, Emily! You read me correctly when you wrote, ‘Man and God are not the same, and shouldn’t be described as the same, and if you make them the same entity you’re deifying man (which I believe John suggested is part of his irritation with the “Light” in each of humankind as a deification of man.)’ It may be that in God’s sight we are all one with God in eternity, as Jesus prayed we might be (John 17:21 ff.), as the Advaita-Vedantins hold, and as _A Course in Miracles_ teaches, if I understand it correctly. But so long as we _experience_ ourselves as separate beings and are capable of self-will, pride, and all the other symptoms of our fallen condition, I think there’s hardly any mistake more dangerous than treating “that of God in every person” as part of our diseased selves. I recommend Ezekiel 28:6-10, and the writings of Lewis Benson, as corrective medicine.

        Emily, Forrest, Steven, blessings on you all!

      • forrest curo says:

        [To reply to Emily as directly as the site softward provides for…]

        A prophetic act is an act of communication; it isn’t a divine ‘I Told You So’ to be understood later; its symbolism makes sense within the culture of the witnesses.

        Jesus was crucified as a direct result of this one action; it wasn’t a whim. Neither was it a political “protest” (although Jews of his time occasionally did such things, ie when the Romans were desecrating or threatening to desecrate the Temple in some way.)

        We all understand much of what Jesus was saying… but if this particular action seems “out of character,” then there’s something about him you don’t understand as well as you think.

  • John and Forest, this is an interesting conversation. I’d like to start with the analysis of the Talmud on the fiscal controls in the Temple. I don’t think Jesus had in mind actual theft of the treasury by priests. I think he meant that the Temple state itself was corrupt. He was targeting what we would today call a systemic evil.

    And it was a form do “demonic” possession. This is the pint of the reference to the Son of Man as thief and the reference to the binding of the strong man.

    No mere sins of o,,ission would be enough, I think, to warrant leaving no stone of the Temple standing on another. The priests were not pilfering; they were religiously captive to a system that would take all a widow had and leave her with nothing.

    So the “cleansing” was really an exorcism–more than just a prophetic sign. And yet ultimately practical, since real money was recovered for the poor. As usual. There is a teaching, and a sign, and yet a feeding of the multitude with real food, in addition to everything that flows from the mouth of God.

  • Emily says:

    Thank you for raising a very important point. Christianity has too often forgotten the economic message of Jesus in favor of using him as sacrificial lamb for our passive saving for the next life. It’s saddening to think that we still have the same basic problems today as in the time of Jesus.

    Looking at the Cleansing of the Temple and the desired cleansing of Wall Street we should look at their differences.

    By all accounts I’ve read, the moneychangers and merchants were not doing anything untoward, no stealing or oppressing of the poor. They weren’t part of the “den of thieves” that Jesus referred to, which was the inside of the Temple. The tables Jesus upset were located outside the temple, in a place convenient for those who had travelled thousands of miles to visit the temple, in a place which was, in spite of Jesus’ words, a place which might be called “for all people.”
    When Jesus said that the temple was becoming a “den of thieves,” he was referring to the Priests inside the Temple. But even their operations seem to have been fairly clean. According to Robert Fonfeder, Marc P. Holtzman, and Eugene Maccarone, who studied the Hebrew Talmud’s accounts of internal controls in the Jerusalem Temple from the 9th century b.c.e. to 70 c.e. (“Internal controls in the Talumad: the Jerusalem temple,” Accounting historians journal, June 2003), the internal controls over all the temple practices were so rigorous and detailed as to disallow theft. “The Talmud describes numerous internal controls: donations were segregated according to their specific purposes and donation chests were shaped with small openings to prevent theft. When making withdrawals from the Temple treasury, the priest-treasurer was required to wear specific clothing to prevent misappropriation of assets. The Treasury chamber itself had seven seals, requiring the presence of seven different individuals, including the king, in order to open it. The process of selling libations and meal offerings required purchasing and then redeeming different tickets, which were specifically marked to prevent fraud. In explaining the reasoning for this tight system of internal controls, the Talmud reveals that an individual ‘shall be guiltless before G-D and before Israel’ [Numbers 32: 22]. A sound system of internal controls prevented both theft and any suspicion of theft, thus establishing the fiscal credibility of the Temple institution in the eyes of its congregants. Such an approach indicates that accounting did not represent a profane, secular vocation at odds with the Temple’s mission. To the contrary, a system of accountability formed integral steps in the Temple’s ritual processes.”
    Probably Jesus didn’t trust that the Priests were accomplishing all their tasks (the temple fundraising involved sacrificial offerings, three annual pilgrimages, a court system, maintenance of a priestly class, collections of donations, withdrawals from the Temple treasury, and the sale of libations) without some theft.

    But more than that, it seems to me that the sins of the priests were of omission, not of commission. Jesus several times refers to the priests eating within the Temple, which seems to point to the rich possessing privileges and status and sullying the Temple in a vulgar way. The Priests were not so much guilty of committing crimes as of omitting true acts of piety. They were not using the temple rituals to empower justice, they were lackadaisical, and using the Temple rituals to show off their own righteousness and superiority. They lacked the catholic attitude which Jesus and prophets like Isaiah before him felt was incumbent on the priestly class to possess.

    Jesus probably also didn’t trust the coziness of the Priests with the Romans, who seem to have been more interested in money-making than the Jews, although it was Roman soldiers who later carried Jesus’ gospel to other lands.
    He probably also didn’t like the the closeness of the money changers to the temple, which symbolized the encroachment of the commercial over the spiritual.
    It’s important to remember that Jesus’ words and deeds were reconstructed prophecy, written after the event, when Jesus’ followers were in great fear of Jewish ministers, and perhaps even greater fear of the Romans, who were then suppressing riots. The crucifixion was a Roman punishment. So most likely they were writing the cleansing as a sign of Jesus preparation for the future kingdom as written in Zechariah 14. Unfortunately Jesus himself didn’t seem to have any immediate plans for how such a future kingdom of greater justice might be run.
    What the Jewish and Roman and Wall Street elite share are what elites, with many exceptions, have always shared–interest in their own social status more than on the condition of society as a whole. Jesus and his followers and Occupy Wall Street have all wanted to shake things up. But I am not sure how far we should draw a connection between the Jerusalem temple, a single carefully regulated religious institution, with Wall Street, a web of hundreds of commercial institutions around the world with no effective regulation and no moral leadership.
    Thanks again for reminding us of this connection.

    • forrest curo says:

      We may only have the form of Jesus’ prophecy as it was written “after the fact”; but sometimes a prophecy just happens to be prophetic. (Especially when the most solid scholarly rationale for dating this prophecy to “after” is: “It must have been after; we mustn’t believe he read the ‘signs of the times’ beforehand, now must we?”)

      God had a message for Jesus to deliver, and this prophecy was an integral part of it:

      ~The way you men have organized your form of Judaism isn’t producing the full result I intend from it. No fruit on the tree?– I’m closing it down! And if it doesn’t change, doesn’t start delivering My kind of result, I’ll be tearing it down soon! Don’t ask ‘When?’– This will happen quite soon enough.~

      To block the exchange of foreign, defiled coins for clean sacrificial animals– whether or not there was anything “untoward” going on in the exchange (Although Jesus may well have argued that there was)– was to cut off the essential Temple workflow at the root!

      Jesus’ plans for running a present (and developing) Kingdom of Justice and Mercy are: “Let God do it.”

      “Let the thieves gather the whole world into their den”– which has been this world’s practice for some time now– is certainly a practice Jesus opposed in his day, and would oppose in ours. No doubt he would let God show him the way.

  • There’s more to be said about the connection between the Occupy movement and Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple. In your post “Jesus raids the temple treasury,” Steven, you speak of Jesus’ “dismantling the infrastructure of [the thieving oppressors’] oppression” and “stealing from the rich to give to the poor,” characterizing His overthrow of the money-changers’ tables as “an act of political-economic liberation.” Much as I want to cheer for Jesus our Liberator, and much as I hate the corruption of the First-century Temple and today’s capitalism, I think that this is a mischaracterization of what He was doing.

    If Jesus had meant to dismantle the infrastructure of oppression and effect political-economic liberation, couldn’t He have called down fire from heaven (Luke 9:54) or more than twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53) to drive the Roman armies out of Judea and oust their toadies from the Sanhedrin forever? He could have set Himself up as the longed-for Messiah-king that many hoped to find in Simon bar Kochba a century later, declared a jubilee, redistributed or abolished property, and opened up such wells of living water that His people would never thirst again (John 4:10 ff.) . And had He been stealing from the rich to give to the poor, the Sermon on the Mount would have had to include something like this:

    Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt not steal: but I say unto you, Steal from the rich, that ye may give unto the poor.

    But this would presuppose a different outcome to the Temptation in the Wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), in which Jesus would have agreed with the devil about the legitimacy of using force to get one’s way. Satan would have been delighted with Him, Constantine could have appeared centuries earlier with his “Christian” warriors, Christian pacifism would have had no martyrs, and the author of _Conversations with God_ would now have no trouble getting us to believe in a God who said “there never was a Ten Commandments.” The Apostles would never have had to warn against returning evil for evil (Romans 12:17, 1 Thess. 5:15, 1 Peter 3:9). How easy it would be to practice Christianity!

    No, let’s sit a little longer with this story of the Cleansing of the Temple, and perhaps also the incident of the Cursing of the Fig Tree with which it’s closely paired in the gospels of Matthew (21:19-21) and Mark (11:13, 20-21), to see what light the Holy Spirit can shed on its meaning for us.

    The Cleansing of the Temple was not about “effectiveness.” We can safely assume that the moneychangers were back at their tables the day after the Sabbath of the Crucifixion. And the poor people who’d gotten some of their coins – how miserably little time they had to enjoy their wealth before Jerusalem was razed, its place taken by the new gentiles-only Aelia Capitolina!

    What, then? I can only conclude that it was about faithful prophetic witness, as Jesus, who claimed to have no will of His own (John 4:34, 6:38, 14:10), delivered the words and actions that His Heavenly Father required of Him: overthrow the tables, protest the defilement of the temple, wither the tree. The unfruitful fig tree (as in Luke 13:6-7) seems to have been a symbol of the Temple priesthood. And what was His Heavenly Father trying to convey to those onlookers who were open to receiving His meanings? Or, later, to those readers of the Christian scriptures? Or to you and me?

  • John Edminster says:

    What is the mind of Christ about the political and economic system we live under? Experience tells us that He’s not willing its immediate destruction, at least not yet, but continuing to let it serve as a means, however imperfect, through which our prayer “give us this day our daily bread” gets answered. Nonetheless, those who mind the Lord’s call to “do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8) can’t fail to see how poorly our system accords with the requirements of justice, mercy and humility. Many of us support or participate in the Occupy movement. We might not be surprised if the Lord raised up prophets to declare our current system an abomination, citing the same abuses now being flagged by the movement.

    Nonetheless, I’m not comfortable with a likening of the Occupy movement to Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple. I can’t read the Biblical accounts of the Cleansing (Matt. 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13-17)without seeing Jesus’ act as a prophetic “sign,” like Isaiah’s going naked and barefoot (Is. 20), Ezekiel’s lying on his sides (Ezek. 4), or Hosea’s taking a “wife of whoredoms” (Hosea 1:2, 3:1), by which Israel’s God was demonstrating that His people had grown so estranged from their covenant with Him that the status quo in their temple could no longer be maintained. The estrangement showed itself in economic oppression and the fact of the Roman yoke, but was at heart a spiritual disease. Now if the Occupy movement could name the spiritual disease underlying all the structural evils and corrupt behaviors now defiling Wall Street, the United States and the world, then I could find the analogy between the Occupy movement and the Cleansing of the Temple tenable.

    Indeed, that would delight me. Though Marx has trained many of us to look on the mode and relations of production as the “core” of a civilization, around which its political, religious and other institutions shape themselves, Tolstoy has answered that the true core is that civilization’s religion: corrupt a people’s understanding of their duty to God, and all their other institutions will share the taint (v. “The Kingdom of God is Within You,” 1893, and “What is Religion?” 1902).
    And Indian tradition, I understand, has long held that the technological complications of an “iron age” or Kali-yuga are rooted in its having to make do with a mere fraction of the _dharma_ or “righteousness” animating a Golden Age.

    Is there a doctor in the house? I want to know what to call this horrible disease, and most of all, I need a competent physician to tell me what I can do to help us all heal from it.

    • forrest curo says:

      I would call our political/economic system ‘a means of keeping our daily bread scarce and problematical.’ If that bread were as abundantly shared as at Jesus’ table, there’d be more people (like our “rich”) forgetting that it comes from God, not even bothering to ask “Who’s this ‘God’ person anyway and should I care?” When your life gets precarious, there’s more chance of turning to the True Invisible Means of Support.

      Probably William Stringfellow would have diagnosed our civilization as still enthralled by that Principality he identified as “death.” That is, still obsessed with the illusion of mortality, seeking to “defend” our lives with violence, swindles, lies– to build ourselves ramshackle monuments via personal “accomplishments”, especially by the sheer number of distractions people are able to collect and play with… and still willing to “consign” many of our brother/sister humans to various forms of social “death”: contempt, disregard, neglect, punishments and endless inconvenience, ie miseducation, diseducation, misemployment, unemployment, lack of alternatives to work in black market & crime industries, disabilities both genuine and bogus, incarceration, medical treatments & mistreatments. And, oh yes, to reliance on “charities”.

      [Since institutional investors like pension funds and charitable endowments tend to be the natural prey of investment firms, handy dumping grounds for whatever they can bribe a rating agency to endorse– Organizations like AFSC (etc) have been having to cut back programs during times when they’re most needed. So what’s left? The actual charity of friends, relatives, neighbors– & strangers. Less resources to spare– but an increased willingness to share them, in view of how harsh a social environment this “prosperity” has become…]

      Cure? Some form of mass ‘turning to God’, I would hope. How this may be accomplished, God only knows. But then, it’s for God to know, and us to find out, yes?

  • forrest curo says:

    Generally a good interpretation. However.

    “Theft from the poor” is not “idolatry”. These are too separate afflictions– which happen to fit well into one vicious circle, as we find operating from Elijah to our contemporary Republicrats & Demublicans.

    I’m inclined to think the actual incident in the Temple went more like so:

    Jesus, followed by a large crowd, enters the Temple in his capacity as reputed prophet. The Temple rulers– High Priest et al– stay inside in the purer areas, having nothing to gain and much to lose by a face-to-face talk with a nobody, especially when that nobody is a potentially dangerous opponent. The guards back off for similar reasons. This one needs to be handled very delicately.

    Jesus proclaims his oracle, including his allusion to Jeremiah’s prediction of the destruction of the previous Temple, like the fall of Shiloh before that, all for similar corrupt use of priestly authority to steal from the poor. (Who else?) In this same capacity, he also orders the money changers to leave, and forbids people from carrying vessels through this House, which according to him has become Vacant, and even unclean.

    He may, or may not, literally take a whip to drive out the sacrificial animals for sale. He may well offer a Torah interpretation: that these animals, not personally “belonging” to the people buying them, are therefore unsuitable for sacrifice and should be removed.

    This being a prophetic action plus argument from Torah, argument (“teaching”) ensues, (this day, or the next) beginning with lower-ranked representatives of the Established Order. “What authority do you have to justify what you’re doing?”

    “Do you recognize the authority of John the Baptist? Who did that come from?…”

    —-
    Contemporary readers indeed miss a big, significant chunk of economic context to Jesus’ messages. A context which had much to do with his appeal to the public, and the opposition of the authorities.

    But his central injunction was, after all, to seek God and trust everything to God’s governance.

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