John 2

13And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, 14And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; 16And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. 17And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

Jesus was very angry. Did Jesus scourge the money changers and drove them out?

  • Scourges are usually employed by shepherds to direct the movements of animals.
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 16:32

5 Answers 5


The word 'scourge' does not occur in the Greek text. The word for a lash, or a whip is there, which is what Jesus fashioned out of a few lengths of cord. The text does not say that he actually used the whip to touch either men or beasts. It is not necessary to do that to cause a commotion in a crowded area full of people and animals. Just cracking a whip and whirling it around would stampede the animals right away, and once that happened, the people would be up and running around too.

The account says Jesus over-turned the tables of the money-changers, spilling the coins on the ground, but at no point does it actually say Jesus hit any person with that whip.

The JKV has chosen to use the word 'scourge' in the English translation, where others say 'whip', or 'lash', to describe the instrument, not the use of it. We know a whip, a lash, was used to scourge Jesus' back shortly before crucifixion, and the text clearly says there that his back was scourged (to a horrific degree, given the nature of the Roman whip used for such events). It is a different word for "scourged [him]" in John 19:1, compared with the word for "whip" used in John 2:15.

Given that difference, and the fact that the text simply does not say if Jesus scourged people with that whip, there is no evidence to say that he did.

In response to C. Stroud's answer, yes, absolutely it was “Premeditated or calculated action” on Jesus’ part. He determined to clear that part of the Temple area out and he was filled with righteous anger. But at no point was he out of control, nor (as the Son of God) would his indignation boil over into unlawful violence, and verse 17 shows us what and why Jesus did all of that.

  • I'm pretty sure that the Roman Empire had laws against vandalism. Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 7:00
  • 1
    . . . . . then what did he 'drive' them out with, if not the bundle of cords ? He had the right to forcibly remove offenders and/or livestock from the temple precincts because he was the son of David and because he was the true King of the Jews. It was perfectly lawful. The temple was private property and he had inherited it.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 7:52
  • 1
    @Nigel J Yes, he drove them out forcibly, but all I’m noting here is that the text does not actually say that he struck either man or beast with the whip, nor does it say that he did not. It is perfectly reasonable to suppose him using that whip in that way, but Matthew & Mark’s account don’t even mention any whip! Intriguing!
    – Anne
    Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 10:44
  • 2
    @Accumulation: The Romans were more concerned about the Vandals than acts of vandalism, but the Temple was not their domain. It belonged to the Jews who were in charge of it and applied Jewish laws to what went on there (which is why Jesus stepped in on that occasion, as those laws were being disrespected). The Romans only ever got involved if a riot broke out, threatening the peace of the city. The commotion here did not lead to a riot.
    – Anne
    Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 10:50
  • @Anne Fair enough . . . . . up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 12:21

Berean Literal Bible John 2:

15 And having made a whip of cords, He drove out all from the temple, both sheep and oxen;

τε (te)
Strong's 5037: And, both. A primary particle of connection or addition; both or also.

The "all" refers to both sheep and oxen, not people. Then the next sentence/clause:

and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overthrew the tables.

Now the verb is "poured".

Naturally, the whip was for the sheep and oxen. When it came to the money changers, he overthrew their tables. Jesus action was getting less violent,

16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

He used a whip to drive out the sheep and oxen. He overthrew the tables of the money changers. He rebuked the dove sellers. It worked. There was no need to get more violent.


A whip mad out of ropes isn't much different from popping a towel. It's meant more for making noise than inflicting pain and certainly doesn't break the skin.

This is the only time φραγέλλιον was used in the New Testament. The other New Testament passages use a verb for whip, but no verb for whip is used here.

A scourge of cords (φραγελλιον ἐκ σχοινιων [phragellion ek schoiniōn]). The Latin flagellum. In papyri, here only in N. T. and note Latin l becomes ρ [r] in Koiné. Σχοινιων [Schoiniōn] is a diminutive of σχοινος [schoinos] (a rush), old word for rope, in N. T. only here and Acts 27:32. Cast out (ἐξεβαλεν [exebalen]). Second aorist active indicative of ἐκβαλλω [ekballō]. It is not said that Jesus smote the sheep and oxen (note τε και [te kai], both and), for a flourish of the scourge would answer. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Jn 2:15). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

whip of cord: Not mentioned in the Syn accounts. If the number of animals and tenders was large, as it probably was, the whip must have served as a symbol of authority rather than as a physical goad. On the other hand, Jesus may have enlisted the assistance of his disciples in this gesture -- Brown, R. E., Fitzmyer, J. A., & Murphy, R. E. (1996). The Jerome Biblical commentary (Vol. 2, p. 429). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

2:15 The whip which the Lord made was probably a small lash made of cords. It is not recorded that He actually used it on anyone. Instead, it is probable that it was merely a symbol of authority which He held in His hand. Waving the whip before Him, He drove the merchants out of the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers. -- MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1475–1476). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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    It is absolutely possible to break the skin with a whip made out of rope. Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 7:02

Yes, he absolutely did. Whether the scourging meant physically striking them or not, I do not know. However, it is very unlikely he held back from the task.

If we look Exodus 28, when driving out the enemy, hornets and warriors were by no means merely a show of force or bluff.

Exodus 23:28,30 (KJV):

And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.

By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.

Then in v. 31, God says YOU drive them out (in battle).

...and thou shalt drive them out before thee.


This symbolism is so important to the Christian faith that Jesus did not feather his strikes. The message needed to be clearly communicated.

What does the temple symbolize? The human body.

1 Corinthians 6:19:

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

Luke 17:21:

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Romans 14:17

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

John 2:19,21:

Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

But he spake of the temple of his body.

Matthew 11:13:

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence [from demonic forces], and the violent take it by force [by casting them out].


Jesus is setting the example once-for-all how to deal with demonic forces: Zero-tolerance and violent expulsion/temple-reclamation. This is still holds true today.

So, if he had not truly given himself to the task of scourging the temple, he would have done an extreme disservice to the millions of people who would later live on earth, because they need this information.


To Anne's and Tony Chan's answers a small addition:

Jesus would have looked very aggressive with a scourge in his hand without necessarily using it. A person with a weapon looks more dangerous than one without a weapon. Having a weapon suggests preparation as in "when he had made a scourge".

Preparation makes his actions intentional and premeditated. Premeditated actions in many legal systems are more serious than emotional outbursts.

So having a scourge suggests two factors 1. Premeditated or calculated action. 2. Grave danger of violence whether it actually takes place or not.

Both 1. and 2. are serious whether he actually struck someone or not.

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