John 2:13-22

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

It is important to recognize that this story is not addressed to audiences that regard Jews as somebody other than themselves. The fact that the setting is described as the Passover of the Jews, and Jesus is speaking to the Jews and the Jews to him, is often heard by Christian audiences as meaning that John is describing "the Jews" as somebody other than his audience. But that is not the case. This is a normal way of address in Jewish storytelling. There are many instances in which there are stories about "the Jews" told by Jewish storytellers. In this instance, the probability that is indicated by an analysis of the whole gospel is that the audience is addressed, throughout the gospel, as Jews. So, for Christians to hear this story appropriately, it is important for them to identify themselves as Jews, being addressed by Jesus as Jews.

This is further indicated by the story and what happens. That is, the Jews do not respond to Jesus' cleansing of the Temple with shock or opposition; rather, what comes after this story is the report that many Jews believed in him because of his prophetic action. Jesus' action is the action of a prophet—of one who believes in God and is willing to express his opposition to the things that defile the things of God.

In this instance, the priests have allowed the Temple to become a primary marketplace where things were bought and sold. There were those in the first century who argued that this was necessary. The Temple was an international center. People came from all over the world and they couldn't bring cattle or doves or sheep across the travel routes of the ancient world. They had to buy them in Jerusalem. There were also many currencies, so the Temple was an international currency center. It was required, in order to make any economic sense, that the money be changed to the money that was used in the Temple. So there were moneychangers who did that business. What Jesus would have argued is that all of that can, but outside the Temple rather than inside.

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