Since the beginning of the study of the religious and so-called sectarian texts discovered in the caves near wadi Qumran, scholars have compared them with the New Testament, mostly in order to elucidate the Jewish background of early Christianity, especially the eschatological terminologies or messianic ideas. There are certain similarities between the two movements in terms of the means of atonement and hopes for salvation, and that both tended to transfer sacrificial conceptions into behavioral forms (prayer, ways of righteousness) or set of Christological beliefs that were detached from the Temple cult.
However, did the two movements also share similar views concerning the nature of the existing Jewish society and religious institutions? The purpose of the present paper is to study the social place of these two movements, as portrayed in their own writings. In order to examine their approach towards the surrounding world of those who were non-Qumranic or non-Christian, I will discuss their attitude towards the system of Temple-priest-sacrifices on the one hand, and the rest of the people outside the group who were still non-believers or sinners, on the other hand. Both categories will eventually lead to a reevaluation of the Qumranic and early Christian moral code, emphasizing the difference in their social ethos.
Due to the vast number of relevant sources that can serve as a basis comparison, and the fact that most of them require some interpretation, I will focus only on seminal texts and refer to my pervious articles in which I discussed these problems in a more detailed, but rather isolated fashion. Another obstacle that should be noted in the outset is that the different early Christian communities (and to lesser degree, also the yahad and the Damascus Covenant) were not united in their perception regarding the Temple and the sinners. Consequently, it is impossible to make a precise characterization of each of the various conceptions. Instead, the following discussion has to be limited to a brief overview of the main conceptions that shaped the formation of the Qumranites and the Early Christians.
The Qumranic Withdrawal from The Temple and Its Cult
The Qumran community withdrew from the rest of Jewish society and did not partake in the Temple cult in Jerusalem. Scholars usually conclude that the rift concerning the Temple cult evolved due to halakhic controversies on calendar and sacrificial rites, such as the laws detailed in MMT, the polemic in CD, and the rewriting of the Scriptural cultic laws in the Temple Scroll. However, although it is reasonable to assume that the Qumranites were doomed to stay outside the Temple cult as long as they hold these halakhic restrictions, the Qumranites saw their withdrawal in a different manner. They assert that they condemn the Temple and its sacrifices since the Jewish leaders are morally corrupt and morally defiled.
The Qumran sectarians believed that the Temple itself was also polluted. In one of its compositions, pesher Habbakuk the authors condemn the Hasmonean high priest and leader, who was called "the Wicked Priest", since he was "arrogant, abandoned God, and betrayed the laws for the sake of wealth. He stole and amassed the wealth of men of violence who had rebelled against God, and he took the wealth of people to add himself guilty sin. And abominated ways he practiced with every sort of unclean impurity." The Wicked Priest was also accused of having "committed abominable deeds (îòùé úåòáåú) and defiled God's Sanctuary…. he stole the wealth of the poor ones".
Similar condemnations were also directed towards another group, "the sons of the pit" in the Damascus Document 6:11-17. Here the members of the community were called to "separate (themselves) from the sons of the pit and to refrain from the wicked wealth (which is) impure due to oath(s) and dedication(s) and to (being) the wealth of the sanctuary, (for) they (the sons of the pit) steal from the poor of his people, preying upon wid[ow]s and murdering orphans". Here the "wicked" stolen money was infected by impurity, and when it was donated to the sanctuary (that is, to the Temple's treasury), it caused the pollution of the cult.
Early Christian Perceptions of the Temple: Participation, Analogy, Criticism and Rejection
Many studies have been devoted to the approach of Jesus, Paul and different Christian texts or groups to the Temple and its cult. Some of them probably took for granted that the belief in Jesus as Christ, who already had atoned for all human sins was a substitute the need of animal sacrifices and priestly ritual, and thus argued that the early Christians did not feel committed to the Temple and the sacrificial system. Only few scholars, such as D.R. Schwartz and E.P. Sanders, followed the opposite direction and claimed that in the synoptic gospels (especially Luke) there is a positive appreciation of the Temple.
I think that if one examines all the first-century evidence which is relevant vis ? vis the relation to their immediate context and without prejudices, most of the treatments of the Temple and the sacrificial rites will seem quite sympathetic. In a forthcoming article I introduce a classification of the New Testament references to the Temple and sacrifices into four categories: participation, analogy, criticism and rejection. Only the latter really justifies the common view that the early Christians substituted new alternatives for the Temple.
Indirect participation in the Temple cult, namely, visiting the Temple mount, is attributed to Jesus in Mark, Luke and John. In Luke, for example, Jesus visited the Temple Mount several times. In the age of twelve, when Jesus stayed in the Temple without notifying his parents, he explained that he had to be closed to "his father", thus acknowledging the spatial sacredness of the Temple. In Acts, the apostles in Jerusalem, including Paul, are depicted as taking part in certain activities (mostly prayer and teaching), without the slightest evidence of resisting the sacrificial cult. One may presume that the fact that these sources emphasized such participation does not correspond the scholarly view that Jesus and the belief in Jesus were substitutes for the cult. On the contrary, I think that in Luke-Acts at least, the aim of these descriptions is to demonstrate that the belief in Jesus does not contradict a commitment to the Temple cult. One may also take some of them as historical, attesting to the fact that Jesus or the apostles had a special interest in the Temple cult and the human interactions surrounding it.
Analogies between the Temple/Sacrifice and the community/believer (or between the priest in service and the apostle) are introduced in a positive light in the letters of Paul. I maintain that these "spiritualized" analogies are not meant to "transfer" the cult to new realms but are merely literal expressions of sanctity. There is no indication that the community or the believer substitutes the actual symbol. On the contrary, the analogies draw on the supposition that the Temple, sacrifices, and ministering priests are the archetypes of holiness and sanctity without any attempt to invalidate their image.
In order to illustrate this point I would like to examine Jesus' saying in the last supper "this is my body" when he cut the bread and gave it to his disciples, and "this is my blood, of the covenant which is poured out for many" when he took the cup and gave thanks and offered it to them (Mark 14:22-24; cf. Luke 22:10-12; John 6:51-58). Some commentators inferred that Jesus substituted the symbols of his own body for sacrifice, transferring himself to a sacrifice of atonement (as in 1 Cor 15:3). This indeed was the manner in which Paul and Mark regarded the Last Supper. However, as Jonathan Klawans recently asserted, the text itself contains only a metaphor of the bread and wine as sacrifice without claiming that Jesus' flesh and blood will substitute for sacrificial rites in the future. Using such a metaphor does not necessarily mean that the signified is fully identical with the signifier. As Klawans emphasizes, the use of such a metaphor or an analogy of a sacrifice as a model for the relationship between Jesus and his followers actually attests to the strength of the sacrificial metaphor within the earliest Christian circles. Furthermore, it seems to me quite remarkable to ascribe to Jesus such an initial rejection of the sacrifice while he is actually dining at the Passover sacrificial meal with his disciples…
I would suggest that this interpretive method may be used cautiously when reading the analogies of Temple and sacrifice in the letters of Paul. Paul portrayed the community of believers as a Temple or a shrine (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:14-7:1), or as a sacrifice (Rom 12:1; 2 Cor 2:14-15). He also portrayed himself as a priest of Jesus and God who is virtually offering the gentiles and taking care of their sanctification (Rom 15:16, following Isaiah 66:20), or portrayed himself as a libation poured on the sacrifice of the Philippians belief (Philippians 2:17). In 1 Cor 10:16-21 Paul describes the Eucharist as simulating sacrificial meal.
Now, why did Paul use so many analogies between the believers or the belief in Jesus and the Temple and its sacrifices, and why did he use them in a religiously loaded fashion? It seems that Temple, sacrifices and priest are characterized in these analogies in an extremely favorite light; otherwise it would be a disgrace to draw an analogy between the most sublime Christian idea of believing in Jesus and an irrelevant Jewish cultic practice.
Although Paul spoke against the authority of the Torah, he never invalidated the Temple and its cult. True, Paul did introduce an alternative mode of atonement, but he never explicitly asserted that the role and function of the Temple were exhausted. One should also bear in mind that scholars are still debating whether Paul's epistles to the gentiles are really indicative of his own religious behavior or Jewish identity. It is indeed puzzling that in Acts Paul is portrayed as an observant Jew who visited the Temple and brought sacrifices. I therefore suggest that since Paul used the Temple and sacrifices as an imaginary model for sacredness and closeness to God, he had some appreciation to the Jewish cult. Whether or not Paul was an observant worshipper of the Temple is another matter that requires a separate discussion.
Criticism of the Temple is quite rare. It may is found in Jesus' "cleansing" of the Temple and in Mark 13 (where Jesus proclaims the destruction of the Temple ). Criticism, however, is not denial. When witnesses ascribe to Jesus the saying that he will destroy the Temple, they also claim that he said the he will built another one "not made with hands" within three days (Mark 15:58). Thus, at least according to this version of the saying, Jesus saw a special importance in the Temple and aspired to a better one. The same approach should be followed regarding the scene of Jesus' "cleansing" of the Temple (Mark 11:15-17 and par.). Although there are many interpretations for what Jesus meant by this remarkable act, most of them regard it as a "prophetic" message of rebuking the behavior of the Jews in the outskirts of the Temple. Rarely was it interpreted as a total rejection of the Temple cult. According to my own interpretation, Jesus did not criticize the priests or the Temple institutions, but rather rebuked the unrighteous people who contaminate the Temple with their corrupted money (see appendix).
Rejection is found only in three texts: John, Hebrews and Revelation. In these texts substitute cultic systems are introduced, imitating major components of the traditional sacrificial rituals. In John. 4:21-24 Jesus implicitly speaks against the Temple worship, and in 2:13-21 his resurrections is portrayed as a new Temple. In Hebrews the traditional cult is explicitly invalidated whereas Jesus is proclaimed as the new high priest as well as the ultimate sacrifice that sanctifies both flesh and spirit. Jesus is serving in the heavenly Temple. In Revelation there is no Temple in the New Jerusalem, since "its Temple is the Lord God, the, and the Lamb" (21:22). Instead of an earthly Temple, there is a heavenly and ideal one, where the (lost) holy ark is placed (11:9). The believers themselves are the priests (1:6; cf. 5:10; 20:6).
I think that it is unwarranted to postulate that positions similar to those of John Hebrews and Revelation were held by Jesus, Peter, Mark, Luke and even Paul. I have tried to show that there are numerous non-polemical references to the Temple and the sacrificial system, those of which I have classified as participation and analogy, and there is also an absence of explicit (or any) rejections and total substitutes for the Temple cult outside John, Hebrew and Revelation. Thus, I conclude that most of the early Christians favorably viewed the Temple and its cult, and that the Temple had a significant role in their belief system. Some of them, presumably Jesus and the apostles, probably felt committed to it in a practical way.
Since the authors of Hebrew and Revelation rejected the sacrificial system and introduced alternative holiness systems, it appears that they actually acknowledged the importance of its symbolism in order to cope with the strong impact that the Temple had upon their fellow Christians. Their purpose was to virtually tear the traditional Jewish Temple from the heart of the believers in Christ. However, the fact is that in order to do so they had to introduce a very detailed and imaginary sacrificial system that would fulfill the same functions of the sacrifice and worship in the pre-70 CE Jerusalem Temple.
The Moral Code of the Qumran sect as a Sectarian World-View
As seen in the Qumranic attitude towards the Wicked Priest and the Temple, the Qumran sectarians defined the reality in dualistic terms of righteousness versus wickedness. Only those who were assured as just and pious could enter the yahad. The people outside the sect were considered wicked and bearing moral impurity. One of the main pre-suppositions of the Community Rule is that the members of the community "shall separate from the congregation of the men of injustice (àðùé äòåì)." Namely, the members of the community must withdraw from those who might have morally defiled their holy spirit, not their bodies (cf. also CD 5:7-11, 7:3-4). The Community Rule continues the strong association of sin with impurity and thus aims to prevent any contact with the wicked in order to avoid their defilement. Thus, immorality, wickedness and their defiling consequences seem to pervade the entire world outside the realm of the Qumran sect.
As for the members of the Qumran community, According to the Community Rule they aspired to be purified from all sins, and practiced rituals and ablutions in order to be sustained in a state of moral purity. Consequently, novices were accepted after a long, gradual procedure in order to make sure they were entitled to join the sect and would not contaminate the communal meal and "liquids" with their wickedness. Transgressing members who lied about financial issues, gossiped about other members, bore a grudge, answered other members stubbornly or addressed them impatiently were punished by exclusion from the community's pure "liquids" and meals. In cases of grave sins such as transgressing the Sabbath laws, they were expelled from the sect. In Qumran, wickedness and sin had a defiling, coercive and dynamic force that was overcome by prayer, study of scripture and moral behavior. The total overcoming of evil and moral impurity would happen only on the eschatological Day of Judgment.
The fundamental place of moral behavior in their religious system can be illustrated in two passages in which acts of righteousness serve as means of atonement. According to 1QS 9:3-5, justice and righteous behavior (together with prayer) atone for sin and treachery as substitutes for the corrupt sacrifices in the Temple:
…these (men) become in Israel a foundation of the Holy spirit in eternal truth, they shall atone for iniquitous guilt and sinful unfaithfulness, so that (God's) favor for the land (is obtained) without flesh of burnt offerings and without the fat of sacrifices. The proper offerings the lips for judgement (is as) a righteous sweetness, and the perfect of the Way (are as) a pleasing freewill offering.
Thus, there is a contraposition between the immorality of the sect's opponents and the righteousness of the Qumran community. The latter's moral code is posted as an alternative to the traditional cultic system that has been contaminated in wickedness. Furthermore, an analogy between the communal punishment and the sacrifices of atonement and purgation of the sin from the altar (hattat and `asham) is attested to in 4QDe 7 i and 4QDa 11:
Any[one] who [ ] shall enter and make it known to the priest [in cha]rge over the many, and he shall receive his judgment with goodwill as he has said through Moses concerning the one who sins unintentionally that they shall bring his sin-offering and his guilt-offering.
This attitude towards sacrifices and atonement is revolutionary. Here moral behavior or accepting one's penalty willfully replace sacrifices. Ethics and discipline substitute Temple rituals.
It seems that since the Temple was infected with moral pollution in a way that made it impossible to atone for sins through Temple rites until the non-sectarian people collectively repented, it therefore follows that the only alternative left for the sectarians would be to adhere to the concept of strict moral behavior that is divorced from the Temple. Since the sectarians believed that the holiness or divine presence was eliminated from the sanctuary because of the sins and guilt of those outside the sect, it is perhaps reasonable that it could still dwell among the righteous, precisely because they do not take part in the traditional sacrificial cult.
Sin, Wealth, and the Acceptance of the Sinners in Early Christianity
Quite similarly to the Qumranites, the early Christian viewed sin as defiling. The most famous expression of this idea is found in Mark 7 1-23. Jesus' reacted to the criticism of the Pharisees concerning his disciples neglecting the handwashing ritual and replied to the Pharisees' rebuking: "There is nothing from outside of a person which, when it goes into a person, is able to defile (koinw'sai) him; but the things that come out of a person are the ones that defile a person" (Mark 7:15). The passage in Mark 7 then continues: "(20) And he said: it is what comes out of a person that defiles. (21) For it is from within, out of the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, (22) adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit (dojlo"), licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. (23) All these things come from within, and they defile." Although it is difficult to ascertain what part of the passage Mark found in his source and what part he himself created, this tradition is undoubtedly rooted in the Synoptic Tradition. Other attestations of this idea are ascribed to Jesus in Q (Luke 11:38-41//Matt. 23:25-26), the Gospel of Thomas 14, ("For what goes into your mouth will not defile you: rather, it is what comes out of your mouth that will defile you"), and Matt. 23:25-26.
The concept of moral impurity had also a special place in the theology of John the Baptist and Paul. John called for and pursued a combination of ritual baptism in the Jordan's water together with moral repentance. Flusser and Tylor followed Josephus' depiction (Jewish Antiquities 18:117) and argued that John demanded moral purity, namely, repentance for one's sins, as a prerequisite for the final ritual purification in the water. However, Klawans understated the role of ritual impurity and concluded that "John's baptism worked as a moral purification, effecting atonement by purifying individuals from moral defilement." In any event, the early Christians believed that Jesus' forerunner called for a certain connection between ritual (or rather, symbolic) purification by immersion, on the one hand, and redemption of sins, on the other hand. Indeed, it is striking that early Christian traditions portrayed both John and Jesus as struggling with the same problem, namely, the connection between sin and impurity.
The idea that immoral behavior produces a certain metaphorical defilement is frequent in the letters of Paul. For instance, According to 1 Cor 5:9-13, what is polluting is internal misbehavior, especially sexual matters. In 1 Cor. 6:9-11 Paul claimed that baptism purifies from moral impurity: adulterers, thieves, greedy people, etc. were washed (ajpolouvw) sanctified and justified in the Spirit of God. Thus, Paul introduces a special elimination rite that purifies the self from moral defilement.
Among all the explicit and implicit references to immoral behavior in the Jesus traditions in the synoptic gospels, perhaps the most frequent is the corrupting force of wealth. Throughout almost all the traditions about Jesus, and especially in the Sermon on the Mount, Q and the parables, two substantial problems are intertwined: immorality and money. In these traditions, Jesus preaches for moral behavior, emphasizing that immorality produces impurity. He also speaks of the destitute as potentially more righteous than the rich and treats wealth unfavorably. These two teachings lead to an obvious conclusion: Wealth and materialism lead astray from the true worship of God and from moral behavior; "No one can serve two masters... You cannot serve God and Mammon" (Matt. 6:24//Luke 16:13). The perception that wealth is corrupting was central to the development of the early Christian movements and led to a destitute ideology and resentment against the injustice of the rich.
The notion that sin defiles had social characteristics and implications previously unnoticed. It influenced the social interactions of the earliest Christians with the outside society. I would like to show that there is an interesting relationship between this notion and the acceptance of sinners in early Christianity. The close interaction with the sinners is one of the main characteristics of Jesus' activity in Q and Mark. Jesus aroused his critics (the Pharisees) when he associated with the sinners and told them that their sins were redeemed. Those sinners were people who did not concern religious piety (ritual purity, and possibly also studying Scripture or oral Torah) before they joined the Jesus movement. In many cases they were involved in immoral occupations such as monetary transgressions (viz. tax collectors and moneylenders) that consequently produces moral defilement. According to Sanders, Jesus' attitude was exceptional, perhaps even outrageous, since he was ready to consider the sinners as righteous before they completed the traditional redemption procedure that included restitution (when required) and an atoning sacrifice (with the accompanying confessional rite). Thus, from traditional Jewish point of view, the sinners who followed Jesus were not fully redeemed and were still, at least formally, sinners. However, the Jesus traditions imply that they recognized their sins, and that spiritual change was enough, at least in the first stage.
The pattern of accepting people that were excluded by other religious groups, or rather, to overlook socio-religious status and past immoral (even idolatrous) occupations of potential converts, is also typical of John the Baptist, the Jerusalem community and Paul. Although John himself was an ascetic hermit, he was willing to baptize anyone who was willing to repent, including, sinners, prostitutes and roman soldiers. According to Acts, Peter did not screen those who were baptized in the name of Jesus, and even converted Cornelius the God-fearing centurion. Also, Philip baptized the Samaritans and the Ethiopian eunuch. Paul applied to every potential believer, and when he confronted by Jews he and Barnabas turned to the Gentiles. In his letters, Paul advanced the view that even former idolater can be baptized in Christ and be a true believer, and one's sins are redeemed by his belief, the death of Jesus, and God. It is interesting that in his total acceptance of sinners and Gentiles, Paul did not call for repentance, in contrast to John the Baptist and Peter (cf. Acts 2:38).
In light of the multiple attestation of the perception that sin defiles, one would have expected that Christian communities would reject those who regarded (by some other Jews) as outcasts, or any other individuals that were regarded as dishonest or idolatrous. Indeed, in the Qumran community the notion of moral impurity led to sanctions against the morally impure persons or even exclusion as well as separation from the defiling force of sin. However, the evidence shows otherwise. John, Jesus and Paul tolerated the morally defiled sinners as long as they joined their movements. Luke portrays Peter and Philip as eager to convert formerly idolatrous individuals. In view of the Qumranic background, this attitude seems puzzling. If sin is defiling, how should this openness towards the impure be explained? Is it possible at all to resolve the sayings of moral impurity with the traditions about close relationship with the sinners?
My proposal is that the purpose of the mission to the sinners was to reduce their moral impurity. By congregating with the sinners, Jesus was supposed to lead them back to the path of righteousness. The acceptance was aimed at ameliorating their defiling deeds. By approaching the sinners instead of condemning them, Jesus was supposed to transform the sinners into potentially honest people who would avoid sin and moral impurity.
New religious and social movements usually mark boundaries and separate themselves from the outside world. The Qumran community is a good example. However, John the Baptist, Jesus (according to the synoptic traditions), Paul, and probably also some early Christian communities acted differently. They determined the boundary of moral impurity, but in a certain sense, chose to cross it over and over again. Their aim was to reduce unrighteous social behavior, sin, and moral impurity within Jewish society. The very definition of moral defilement in early Christianity was quite similar to its parallels in biblical tradition and in Qumran. Coping with the problem of evil, however, was different. In Qumran the moral pollution was a dynamic power that led to total withdrawal from the Temple and the rest of Jewish society. In early Christianity, however, the actual implications of moral impurity were limited, since the notion of moral impurity did not lead to exclusion, separation, or sanctions against the morally defiled.
From the perspective of the sociology of religion, the paradoxical approach to impurity and sin, and especially the acceptance of the sinners, shaped the early Christian communities as a "conversionist group", to use Bryan Wilson's typology. Its aim was to influence the masses and change the social reality through integration. Such an exceptional approach to the problem of religious and social transgression probably led to the relative flourishing of early Christian communities. It combined social critique and missionary activity. People from the wide margins of Jewish society, and later on, Jewish sympathizers and eventually also Gentiles, were able to join the community and feel that they had a challenging alternative to the Jewish religious institutions: they were able to eliminate sin and moral impurity more easily.
In a sharp contrast to this early Christian trend, the Qumran yahad, and to a lesser degree, also the Damascus Covenant, were (again, using Wilson's typology) an introversionist sect. The problem of unrighteous behavior led them to separate themselves from the entire Jewish society and to condemn anybody who did not join them.
Interestingly, the fact that most of the early (Jewish-) Christians lived in a more "open" movement than the "close" sectarian movement of the Qumranites is reflected in their different attitudes towards the Temple. It may be surprising, but the Qumranic views of the Temple were much more radical than most of the early Christian views. In fact, I see a certain relationship between the perceptions of each of the two movements concerning the Temple and the problem of unrighteous behavior. The Qumranites, who set themselves apart from the morally corrupted society ignored the Temple of Jerusalem and hoped for the proper sacrificial cult at the "end of days". In contrast, many Jewish Christians (probably Jesus himself) were committed to the Temple cult and did not feel that an unrighteous behavior by a multitude of people among Israel blemished the sanctity or the efficacy of the Temple rite. It seems that they simply, did not regard the Temple as a point of debate, although most of them believed that there is a new additional mode of atonement.
In summary, I have tried to make a case for viewing the Qumran sectarians as more radical than the early Christians in terms of their ideas concerning the Temple; whereas the early Christians were more revolutionary in terms of their ideas of righteousness, namely, accepting sinners and immersing anybody who is ready to believe in Jesus. It is interesting to conclude this paper with the thought that this new early Christian paradigm of righteousness and elimination of sin, the openness to accept almost anybody, contributed to the development of a new religion out of the early Christian movement.
Jesus' "Cleansing" of the Temple and the Defiling Force of Money
According to the tradition in Mark, Jesus drove out from the Temple Mount's market those who were selling and buying, overturned the tables of the money-changers of the half-shekel tribute and the chairs of those who were selling doves for sacrifices, and also would not allow anyone to carry vessels through the Temple. His zealous act was directed towards the commercial aspect of the Temple cult that was placed not in the Temple court itself, but on the margins (both spatial and religious) of the Temple Mount. His protest was directed against the money that was involved in the public buying and selling of sacrifices.
This scene, the only case in which Jesus was driven to act violently, has always puzzled scholars. Two types of interpretations have been suggested. Some followed John 2.16 and saw a real religious or halakhic problem regarding the central role of money in the sacrificial cult, namely, contaminating its holiness. Other scholars understood it as a symbolic ("prophetic") act, that may have bore one of the following messages: foreseeing the destruction of the Temple or the coming of the Kingdom of God, proclaiming that the Temple cult should be open to non-Jews, protesting against the greedy priests, or protesting against the politicization of the Temple by the Herodian dynasty.
Both alternatives, however, raise difficulties. The first type of interpretation is problematic since there is no clue in Jewish sources as to the impropriety of money in buying sacrifices. One cannot imagine a Temple without money rolling around. If, according to the tradition incorporated in Mark, something caused Jesus' fury, it was not the general combination of trade and worship, but a particular problem that was related to it. Moreover, there is no attestation in the New Testament to the opposition to commerce on the Temple mount.
The symbolic interpretations included in the second type lack direct support from the early Jesus traditions. Most of the general cultic or political ideologies that were read into this short description in Mark might have been characteristic of certain radical Jewish (viz. the zealots) or later Christian circles. However, there is scarcely an indication in other early Christian traditions (such as Q) that Jesus held such views. Furthermore, in this symbolic interpretation the relationship between Jesus' act towards money, on the one hand, and its religious or political meaning, on the other hand, is rather indirect: the money symbolizes the cult that symbolizes the acceptance of the Roman/Herodian rule or the exclusion of gentiles, etc. Such interpretations do not explain why did Jesus focused on the money issue.
I think, however, that the fact that Jesus' act was directed against the financial aspect of the Temple cult is merely a coincidence. Such an awareness of the connection between wealth, piety and the Temple money is attested to elsewhere in the saying about the donation of the poor widow (Mark 12:41-44//Luke 21:1-4). Surprisingly, most of the explanations mentioned above were not grounded in actual traditions about Jesus' teachings. Is it possible that the peak of Jesus career was so remote from the detailed descriptions of his own preaching?
I would like to suggest a new interpretation that aims to avoid all these difficulties. The Markan tradition actually reflects an act that was directed not just against the trading outside the Temple, but specifically against money that was related to injustice and corruption. The corrupted wealth was morally impure, in a metaphorical sense, and had a blemishing effect on the sacrificial rite. It therefore violated the sanctity of sacrifices and rituals that were financed by this money. The problem was the money itself, before it was used for financing the sacrifices and offerings, before it was delivered to priestly officials. Jesus actions were directed towards the lay people who were selling and buying, the money-changers and the doves sellers, without any hint for anti-priestly polemic.
Thus, this tradition actually presents Jesus as protesting not against the Temple itself or the priests, but against the more abstract unrighteousness that was transformed into the related corrupted money. Indeed this seems to be the same abstract immorality against which Jesus preached over and over again without pointing to specific group or class. The reason for his protest in the Temple court was that when this money was used for buying sacrifices, it threatened the moral (not ritual!) impurity of the Temple cult. As Mark 11:15 testifies, Jesus action pertained to both the sellers/money changers and the buyers. I suppose that the reason that he attacked the sellers was that it was easier to overturn their tables and chairs than to disperse the coins of the individual buyers, and also because he was more concerned with the moral pollution of the Temple than with the unrighteousness of the buyers.
This interpretation is supported by the early traditions concerning Jesus' teachings of the corruption of wealth and moral impurity (see above). It also gains additional support from the Qumranic notion that corrupted wealth polluted the Jerusalem Temple in CD already discussed above.
I propose that in the "cleansing" of the Temple, the concept of corrupting wealth was interwoven with the other idea of the defiling force of sin. Although there is no direct attestation to the combination of the two, namely, that the money of the wicked is metaphorically defiled with their moral impurity, I maintain that such a perception is quite apparent. If wickedness is defiling, then its subject or "product", namely, the money, may be contaminated.
The idea that wealth is not only corrupting, but can also be defiled by wicked deeds, is supported by several texts from Qumran (although in Qumran money bares substantive pollution - not just metaphorical - and is ritually defiling). In these texts, wealth (hon) is contaminated by the evil deeds of its possessor, as emphasized in the Community Rule (1QS), in two passages in the Hahbbkuk pesher (1QpHab), and in the Thanksgiving Hymns Scroll (1QHa). However, the most detailed text is the Damascus Document 6:13-17 cited above, which concerns the Temple impurity. Here the explicit cause of the Temple's impurity is the fact that the money that was donated to the Temple was "money of wickedness". It seems that the more one considers certain acts or people as corrupt, the more one tends to declare their money taboo.
This new suggestion may be significant for those who are interested in the Historical Jesus. However, my aim is only to indicate that at least in one tradition the problem of moral impurity was confronted actively, in a way that affected the attitude towards the Temple. In any event, this was not the typical early Christian means of coping with sin and its defiling force.