Matthew 21:12 "he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons". ESV This is repeated in Mark 11:15.

John 2:16 "And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away..".

A. I think in John 2:16 Jesus treats the pigeon sellers relatively gently. NIV "Get these out of here" [in an orderly way? Before they fly around wildly? Perhaps].

However, does the overturning of the seats in Matthew suggest something more violent and emphatic? Instead of taking the birds out of the building in an fairly orderly way they would have been scrabbling around trying to rescue their belongings.

This would suggest a first cleansing towards the beginning of His ministry in John, and a second more aggressive cleansing in Matthew towards the end of His ministry.

B. Jesus making a comment on temple sacrifice, and in particular those selling the cheapest animals which might be the only ones the poor could afford, are issues mentioned in other questions on this site, or various commentaries. Here I want to focus on how those who sold pigeons are treated.

In A. is there enough evidence to prove there were two cleansings as the second one was more violent and emphatic?

My NIV Study Bible footnotes say that there is uncertainty as to whether or not there were one or two cleansings.

3 Answers 3


Whether there were one or two temple cleansings, both descriptions are pretty violent.

John 2:

13When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

Matthew 21:

12Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

Is there enough evidence to prove there were two cleansings as the second one was more violent and emphatic?

I don't think so. From the 2 passages, the overall violent levels were comparable. However, your pointing out the different treatments for the dove sellers is a piece of evidence to support two cleansings. One needs more evidence if he wishes to prove 100% that there were two.


It is consistent with John's style to avoid repeating what was in the Synoptic Gospels unless he had a reason to expand upon it. See *Two* miraculous catches of fish in John 21 and significance? and Why is it only Matthew who records Peter walking on water in Matthew 14:26-31?

Thus, there is a high probability that Jesus cleared the temple at the beginning Passover of his ministry (John 2) and after the Triumphant Entry in the Synoptics. The response of the Jewish leaders isn't the same in John and the Synoptics.

There doesn't seem to be much difference in the level of violence in either occasion. If anything John's account seemed more violent with the whip, so he did not need to overturn the seats of those selling doves. Apparently, Jesus didn't release the doves, but told the merchants to remove them because they would be difficult to recover. Jesus may have used a whip in the first instance because he wasn't yet well know for his miracles. At the end of his ministry, his miracles were well know, and he would be feared by the merchants.

However, the irony of driving out the cattle, if the merchants did as some claim, that they exchanged one person's sacrifice as unfit but sold it to the next person, then the natural response of the sheep and oxen would be to return to their original owners (My sheep hear my voice: A key question to ask of the "Good Shepherd" discourse of John 10)

To answer you question again, Jesus probably only turned over the seats of those selling doves because he was driving them out of the temple, not trying to get them to lose their animals. When Jesus had a whip, he didn't need to overturn the seats.

Here's why translations use seats instead of chairs: https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/65679/from-1200-b-c-until-100-a-d-did-people-in-the-middle-east-sit-on-mats-or-mainl

  • It's a bit of work to catch a bovine that has been released from the market place, but a pigeon whose cage has been broken open is likely gone for good.
    – EvilSnack
    Nov 3, 2021 at 14:02

For some discussion about whether there was one temple cleansing or two, see

In both cases, the actions of Jesus were both violent and passionate - He was very angry. Note the following:

  • Jesus used a whip! (John 2:15)
  • Jesus emptied money containers of coins on the ground (John 2:15)
  • In both cases the verb used, ἐκβάλλω, means to throw out and expel, to drive out. This does not suggest a gentle action but a casting out.
  • Jesus not only cast the people out, it appears that he up-ended their seats, perhaps making some fall over in the process (Matt 21:12)
  • Jesus also threw over the benches on which this illegal trade was conducted (Matt 21:12)

This is not "Mr. nice guy" - it is a focused, passionate and very angry man incensed and scandalized by the desecration of the sacred courts. Indeed, Ellicott observes in his comments about Matt 21:12 -

If the evils against which He thus protested, after being suppressed for a time, reappeared in all their enormity, what more probable than that He should renew the protest at this stage of His work, backed as He now was by the equal enthusiasm of the people? What more natural, again, than that the second cleansing should revive the memory of the first, and call up with it the words which are recorded by St. John, and not by the Three, and which served as the basis of the charge that He had threatened to destroy the Temple (John 2:20-21; Matthew 26:61; Mark 14:58).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.