Faves Jesus Christ Non-Violence - Courtesy

Was Jesus Violent When He Harassed the Temple Money-Changers?

When considering “was Jesus violent?” one incident often comes up – the time when he overturned money-changers’ tables in the temple compound in Jerusalem.

Was Jesus Violent?To discuss “was Jesus violent” at this event I am assuming that the reports are fairly accurate. Let me point out a few things – to help us avoid the idea that Jesus here promoted the kinds of violence we tend to indulge in.

What Went On Back Then? WAS Jesus Violent? (12 items)

[Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15-17, John 2:13-17]
  1. So far as we know he did not physically hurt any person or animal.
  2. He did not torture or kill anyone.
  3. He did not encourage anyone to imitate this particular behavior, either on a specific occasion or as a general principle.
  4. Nor did he offer any teaching about the event. If he wanted to emphasize it’s significance as a “ministry” or reform technique he would have made that clear.
  5. This action was directed against financial exploiters of people trying to worship God, and of those worshipers’ vulnerability in that particular setting.
  6. It was not directed against those who had to use the “services” of those exploiters.
  7. He was not trying to physically enforce his program or views, or he would have repeated the activity frequently. He would have stayed around to forcibly ensure these legal crooks did not re-establish themselves.
  8. It was very non-violent in the sense that no blood was spilt, no arrests made, no beating or torture practiced.
  9. He was making a very powerful visualization of crucial moral priorities through this very low level of “violence”, and partly because of the rarity of this kind of action.
  10. It was not a pattern.  It was not Jesus’ standard procedure or on-going policy, nor a procedure recommended to us or anyone, but a very tiny proportion of his public activity over those three years.
  11. Thus it was not at all the focus of his work or the substance of his plan for his disciples or for the transformation of the world.
  12. But it did happen, it was apparently quite intentional, and it loudly made a point.  (“Your house is left to you desolate!” probably referring to their much revered Temple.)
    … to help us avoid the idea that Jesus here promoted the kinds of violence we tend to indulge in.

Was Jesus violent?  If so, shouldn’t we also be violent?  No, and No.

So for today – It Was, and It Wasn’t

I. This moment of “violence” in Jesus’ life WAS

a bloodless illustration of God’s anger at:

  • 1. the worship of money-making and extortion while there is pretended focus on God,
    • (After all, according to Paul, “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.”)
  • 2. financially ripping off the vulnerable by those with clout, in the name of the worship of God.

II. Jesus’ behavior on this occasion – or on any other – WASN’T, and in no way justifies:

Violence in our world – as in Jesus’ day – has a very different flavor than this expression of anger at hypocrisy and greed.
  • men (or women) being physically abusive to their spouses, children, or others;
  • invading and occupying small weak nations for no reasons or for reasons only of ego and greed (as the Romans were doing in Judea and Galilee, and we Americans are doing in Iraq and elsewhere);
  • shooting, bombing, and torturing tens or hundreds of thousands of people to death or disability as on-going national policy;
  • deploying and supporting local “death squads” and other enforcers of our agenda in other countries;
  • lying about and misrepresenting some or all aspects of a situation in order to justify any of the above violent behaviors.

(Added in late 2016:)

  • threatening with guns anyone whose behavior or attitudes we don’t approve of
  • verbally insulting or threatening with physical violence people because their race or religion differes from what we think is ok
  • US government agencies physically assaulting non-violent activitists protesting illegal and / or destructive activities within our own country


Using this incident in Jesus’ life to justify our massive violence

in Iraq (or any other misuse of force in our world) IGNORES what Jesus was really doing here.  It’s a fraudulent argument.  Let’s just say, if this incident endorses violence by Jesus’ followers today, it also hints loudly that they should limit their violence to the same very mild level – eh?  No bombs.  No guns.  No torture.

He was physically expressing very appropriate outrage.

He was not arresting, injuring, torturing, or killing anyone, neither the guilty parties nor innocent bystanders.[click_to_tweet tweet=”Do not use or allow others to use this as an argument in defense of the use of violence. Violence in our world – as in Jesus’ day – has a very different flavor than this expression of anger at hypocrisy and greed.” quote=”Do not use or allow others to use this as an argument in defense of the use of violence. Violence in our world – as in Jesus’ day – has a very different flavor than this expression of anger at hypocrisy and greed.”]

Was Jesus violent?  I’d say no, not in any ways the word is actually used.

But he sure was expressing outrage at the misuse of religion by the money-changers, in the service of greed,

and at the abuse of the common people for that purpose.

I have no doubt that God is outraged today with some American Christians for similar reasons.

Please. If you agree with what I have written above, do not use or allow others to use uncontested this event in Jesus’ life as an argument in defense of violence. Violence in our world – as in Jesus’ day – has a very different flavor than this expression of anger at religiously justified hypocrisy and greed.

See also on this site “Turn the Other Cheek” and “Pope Francis’ Experience with Right-Wing Violence.”

Views: 852

Leave a Comment


  • Look, you can try to justify what Jesus did in the tmple not once, but most probably twice, however let’s examine what actually happened.
    First,don’t forget money changing was going on in the temple for years. Long before Jesus was born.
    It was not something any Jew of the day would have given any thought. In fact, it was a needed service to temple goers given the customs of the time.
    Now enter Jesus. Imagine him taking off his corded belt and whipping it around while he went from table to table heaving them over.. It was pretty hard work as the tables were heavy given the lack of paper money. All the while he was berating the money changers for their wicked ways.
    Did it ever occur to you these money changers had no idea who Jesus was and had never considered what they did to be sinful? I’m confident all the people in the temple that day must have been wondering who is this guy? What’s his problem. Lucky for him, there was no temple security.
    Violent, you bet it was. And probably completely shocking to the witnesses.
    Additionally, why would the disciples carry swords if they didn’t intend to use them? Does anyone actually believe Peter would have survived more than a few seconds after he cut off a Roman soldiers ear? I rather highly doubt it. It either didn’t happen or its an obsurd fabrication.

    • Just because a tradition(tv evangelists bilking old retired people out of their savings)is in place does not excuse the perpetrators. These people knew in their hearts they were taking advantage of the religious system that was in place at the time, as well as Jesus. You do not sit in the temple of God without SOME conviction! You need to read John 18:5-6. Your view of Jesus/God is much too small! He was and IS a man of power in charge of the Hosts of Heaven, both then and now. In vs. 5 when Jesus stated in response to their question, “are you Jesus of Nazareth?” Jesus said, “I am He” and this entire mob was thrown backwards to the ground. They knew in this moment they were in the presence of someone that it would be best not to attempt to do any more to than He, Himself would ALLOW them to do. He healed the man’s ear and went willingly with them to fulfill His purpose. I don’t think there was a soldier in the crowd that would have DARED approach Peter after Jesus’ display of power.

    • Nobody cut off a Roman soldier’s ear. Look at the accounts in all four Gospels: it was a servant to the high priest (named Malchus, according to John.) The disciples had swords because they did not yet understand the nature of the Kingdom that Christ had come to establish.

  • You all miss a vital point. The temple incident was the only time we saw Jesus use physical force. He was not violent! You must differentiate between the use of physical force in a legitimate way and violent intent to hurt or even kill.

    The reason why Jesus acted the way he did was simply because they had turned God’s house of prayer into a den of thieves and in so doing committed the worst sin – idolatry.

    Mammon is the god of this world and often another name for the devil so in fact Jesus by his untypical reaction showed the gravity of the actitivty, an activity that was askin to blasphemy.

    No one should read into that incident anything more than that or justify the use of force for any other purpose. We must distinguish between phycial force eg as used by a policeman in carrying out his duty to remove and arrest a drunken person or violent man and the striking of another as a violent act per se.

    • That is still a violence. He was angry when he saw the Temple fill with sinners that sinned God badly. Because he is angry, so he has hatred. Hate is a ‘sin’. How are you going to explain this? He might not have sin due to violence, BUT sin due to hatred.

  • Was it the money changers or animal sacrifice that Jesus opposed? No doubt the Temple priest had a keen interest in “maintaining business as usual” as they had to give a cut or the proceeds to Rome. I was only after repeated tax increases by the Roman Governors that followed Pilate did the Jews revolt. Jesus was a danger to the status quo and the new world order under Rome.

  • In the Gospel of John chapter 2 verse 15, I have found that reading this passage very slowly brings light to the situation that Jesus found himself in. He did not fly off the handle losing self control because self control is one of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. He found them selling in the temple and then proceeded to do something which took alot of time. He first went shopping and found some materials to fashion himself a whip made of cords. Then after making the whip and measuring his response to their behavior, he drove them out and threw over their tables. But make no mistake, HE WAS ANGRY!!!! He was the LION not just the LAMB that day. He is not a wimpy Jesus.

  • Hi!

    I think Jesus was arrested and killed for having threatened economical interests of Romans and great priests of the Temple. It’s quite logical and probable…

    Perhaps some people were killed during the event… who knows ?
    Don’t forget that some disciples of Jesus had swords !
    One of them cut a soldier’s ear when Jesus was arrested.

    Jesus couldn’t be killed for religious reasons but political one. Roman empire was quite tolerant with other religions except if they was a threat against Caesar.

    What’s your opinion about this explaination ?