Civil Responsibility

March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

The heading of John 2:13-22, “Jesus Clears the Temple,” suggests that the problem which evokes Jesus’ angry confrontation at the temple is the corruption of Jewish rituals and Jewish leaders.  However, this is more of a confrontation with the civil authorities of Jesus’ time.  Rome had all the power, even in matters of the temple.  Marilyn Salmon writes, “Under Roman rule the priests were not autonomous in their authority even over religious matters.  Roman officials appointed the chief priest and he served their interests.  Roman coffers benefited from the marketplace that supported sacrificial rites…  A reasonable speculation is that his anger was related to the complicity of Roman bureaucracy and temple authorities.”  This passage also invites us to consider the complex relationship between civil and religious life in our own culture.  When is God leading us to challenge civil authority?  When are we suppose to act against secular laws that seem to compromise Christian faith?


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