John 2

re: Jesus' Sense of Justice (Part 2)

All that being said, Wright's exegesis is insufficient to fully unearth the parallel passage in John. In John's gospel, there is no condemnation of the lestes in the temple. Instead, Jesus instructs them not to turn the temple into a house of merchandise. We could reinforce the common "den of thieves" interpretation of the synoptic account by emphasizing the condemnation of merchandise, but there are some potential inadequacies in that particular exegetical strain.

Jesus' disciples take something away from the incident, connecting Jesus' zeal to Psalm 69. This psalm rarely receives the attention it deserves in thorough study, and I've already gone over the way citations of psalm 69 bracket John's first reference to the crucifixion and his last, crucial detail of the crucifixion.

What I did not emphasize is the psalm's underlying prayer, which is the restoration of Judah, the saving of Israel from the oppression which it suffers. Neither did I mention the lengthy plea to cut the evildoers out of God's coming salvation, out of His redemption:

Charge them with crime upon crime;
do not let them share in your salvation.
May they be blotted out of the book of life
and not be listed with the righteous (Psalm 69.27-28)

This snippet captures the overall sentiment of the psalm, which contrasts the faithful sufferer--who is consumed with zeal, and given vinegar for his thirst--with his opponents. These oppressors refuse to take the psalmist seriously, ignoring his salvific longing; because he's so zealous for God's house, he is rejected and humiliated.

This figure, this psalmist, is with whom the disciples identify Jesus, given his actions in the temple. Again, there is no mention of financial corruption, only condemnation of the general blaise attitude of the unrighteous, their insensitivity; there is no rejection of mercantile business, but their business-as-usual attitude. In John, Jesus' actions in the temple signify a break from business as usual, a high respect for the actions of God as He undertakes Israel's redemption. Jesus is announcing the end of Israel's exiles, the forgiveness of the sins for which God's people were paying. As the Lamb of God, Jesus had come to act as the final, climactic, typological sacrifice--negating the need for more sacrifices to be made, and therefore negating for money-changers to facilitate the ritual sacrifices. After all, Jesus throws the money-changers out of the temple, and THEN he substitutes his own person for the House of God itself. Jesus declares the need for financial transaction to be over; as both temple and sacrifice, there was no need for God's people to continue with the proscribed Mosaic tithing; Jesus was the firstfruits, the lamb, the offering; Jesus was the temple, built up after being torn down.

We can see how this is both similar and different from the synoptic depiction. The synoptics stress two opposing salvific visions, one centered on Jesus and his teaching, the other centered on the Temple and ritual; the Pharisees retreat into their fortress of solitude, counting it to be salvation; Jesus, citing Jeremiah, reminds them that ritual, even rightly undertaken, cannot cover up true sin, and will not prevent judgment against wickedness. Similarly, John's gospel showcases two opposing salvific visions, one centered on Johannine Christology--Jesus as Sacrificial Lamb and Temple--and the other centered on a common or shared second-Temple Judaism.

Yet the synoptics differ in their firm retention of political undercurrents, whereas John--written long after the fall Jerusalem, thanks to the stubborn adherance of particular anti-Roman Judaic sects to an orthodox temple ideology--focuses more on the differences in teaching. In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus casts out the money changers, and after predicts the destruction of Jerusalem and those who hold to bad ideas. In John, however, Jesus casts out the money changers and predicts the substitution of the resurrected Christ for the Temple. The synoptics stress historical developments, emphasizing opposing political ideologies; John stresses theological developments, emphazising the change in covenant dispensation, the change in the focus of worship and ritual. The synoptic reference to a "den of brigands" recalls a faulty psuedo-theology; the Johannine condemnation of "merchandise" heralds a successful theological development as a consequence of Israel's unexpected transformation in Christ.