Abstract of Hamilton, N. Q. “Temple Cleansing and Temple Bank.”

Hamilton, N. Q.  “Temple Cleansing and Temple Bank.”  Journal of Biblical Literature 83, no. 4 (1964): 365-72. [Israel/Herod/Cleansing]

Abstract:  This article is written as an answer to the controversy over the reasons for the death of Jesus.  The author rejects the claim that Jesus was executed for blasphemy because he claimed to be the Messiah; asserting that such a claim was not considered blasphemy.  Rather, he sees it in context that in the Hellenistic period both pagan temples and the temple of Herod were used as banking institutions for individuals, corporations, and the government, because the temple treasury was supposed to be protected by God.  He elucidates briefly the history of temples being used as banks in this period and shows that as far as Herod’s temple was concerned, the Sanhedrin (puppets of Rome), and the procurator who followed the precedent of the king, all had proprietary interests in the temple as a bank, but the king had the greatest interest in and authority over it.  Therefore, when Jesus interrupted the banking functions at the temple it was looked upon as a royal act and so interpreted by both Jewish leaders and Roman overlords.  Why would Jesus do this in the temple?  Hamilton argues that Jesus saw himself as fulfilling Zech. 14:21.  Therefore, he concluded that Jesus was not executed for Messianic claims, but through the efforts to fulfill a prophecy–which Hamilton apparently does not recognize as a Messianic act.  Though one may disagree with Hamilton’s conclusions and some of his statements, such as that the authors of the Gospels didn’t understand either the economic and political situation or the meaning of the episode as Hamilton describes it (pp. 371-72), or that Jesus was understood by the Gospel writers to be anti-temple and that the early church was anti-temple (p. 372), nevertheless, the background about temples as banks in this period is very helpful, adding a significant measure of understanding to the cleansing of the temple episode.

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