Professor D.A. Carson suggests, in consideration of the socio-cultural context of the time, that the whips had the purpose of driving out the animals; they were not used against the money changers.
For the record, I should say that I agree with Athanasius, his professor, and Fr. Raphael on this examination of the text. This makes sense in reading the narrative. And since it doesn't say that Jesus whipped the money changers, it is best that we don't read that into the story.
I think M.C. Steenberg raises a fair question when he asks what I meant by "love and violence." Though this is not exhaustively categorized, it is important to make some distinctions in violence. There is violence in warfare, corporal and capital punishment, physical abuse, etc.
But one thing is extremely important to point out:
- Because God is justified in doing something does not mean humans are justified in doing the same thing.
-Because Jesus did it, it is not a license or call for us to do the same and claim we are justified. Actually, just the opposite is true in the case of judgment.
Though our primary moral direction is the "Imitation of God," the arena of justice is firmly distinguished. We are not to "Imitate God" in his administration of justice, punishment of the wicked, etc.
It is on the very issue of violence in which God makes this distinction: Vengeance/justice belongs to God alone.
Why is it that the first example of worldly sin and punishment in the entire Bible is that of Cain and Abel? The Bible immediately establishes the nature of sin, punishment, and its consequence in its first 4 chapters.
Cain and Abel:
-It is the first mention of sin in the Bible.
-The first sin is murder.
-God forbids the killing of Cain (4:14-15).
-God claims authority over the punishment for sin (4:15-16).
-Whoever executes judgment over Cain is subject to sevenfold judgment.
We are not to judge others because judgment is God's domain. We are not to execute vengeance, because that is God's domain. Instead, we are judged according to the manner in which we have judged others (Rom. 2:1-11). Jesus says this often (Matt. 6:12, 6:14-15, etc.)
Though we are deemed righteous and justified because we are in Christ, it does not mean that we are righteous and justified for authority in judgment. (This is part of Paul's point, I think, in Romans 2).
Is it correct for us to identify with Jesus in the cleansing of the temple, the righteous one who drives out the wicked? Or should we identify with the money-changers and the livestock, who do not belong there and have disgraced the holy place?
We should not identify with Jesus where he is executing judgment. And most importantly, it is not a license for our use of violence.