Monday, March 12, 2007

Revolutionaries and Economics

In Mk. 11.15-17 and Jn. 2.13-25 we are given two pictures of Jesus' action in the temple. Was the motivation for the cleansing/symbolic-act the intermingling of economics with religion or even the corruption of the priesthood (John), or was it because of a zealous nationalism that prohibited Gentiles from worship in the temple and had turned the temple into a talisman of national resistance against Rome (Mark)?

I think it worth mentioning that there is a link between economic oppression and revolutionary fervour so that zealotry and economics are not mutually exclusive options. Consider the following examples from Josephus:

Link between banditry and insurrection: Josephus notes how bandits urged the inhabitants of Judea to revolt against the Romans: 'Now when these were quieted, it happened, as it does in a diseased body, that another part was subject to an inflammation; for a company of deceivers and bandits got together, and persuaded the Jews to revolt, and exhorted them to assert their liberty, inflicting death on those who continued in obedience to the Roman government, and saying, that such as willingly chose slavery, ought to be forced from their desired inclinations for they parted themselves into different bodies, and lay in wait up and down the country, and plundered the houses of the great men, and slew the men themselves, and set the villages on fire; and this till all Judea was filled with the effects of their madness. And thus the flame was every day more and more blown up, till it came to a direct war' (War 2.264-65).

Link between zealots and economics: Josephus reports that when the Zealots took control of the temple and the first thing they did was to burn the records of debt: 'after which they carried the fire to the place where the archives were deposited, and made haste to burn the contracts belonging to their creditors, and thereby to dissolve their obligations for paying their debts; and this was done in order to gain the multitude of those who had been debtors, and that they might persuade the poorer sort to join in their insurrection with safety against the more wealthy; so the keepers of the records fled away, and the rest set fire to them' (War 2.427).

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