There are two types of whips in the Gospels. One is used by Jesus. The other is used on Jesus. As an avid consumer of pop culture these whips should be Holy Relics. Like the Holy Grail, the Spear of Destiny, Shroud of Turin and bits of The True Cross. Why are there no Holy Whips?
While the Spear and the Grail are played out in comics, movies and apocryphal texts there are other items. The nails and pieces of the true Cross are supposed to be out there. The Shroud of Turin exists as do skeletal remains of some Apostles; why not the whips?
Cleansing the Temple Is Controversial
A possible reason is that the cleaning of the temple by chasing out the money changers is controversial. Is Jesus attacking the people and the animals, or just the animals? Another question is whether the ‘whip’ Jesus uses is an actual whip, or, something like a whip.
Violent Jesus or non-violent Jesus appears to be the issue. Violent Jesus whipping the money changers has been seen as sanctioning capital V violence. Just how much violence and who is it against can vary depending on how you see the whip Jesus uses and who Jesus uses the whip against.
Biblical scholars argue over whether Jesus is whipping the people or the animals. This article cannot go that deep as this argument is about proper grammar in classical greek. Our focus is on is it a whip or not? Because two holy whips is way cooler than one.
Something like a Whip
Early parchments hold an addition to John 2:15 which read as ‘something like a whip’ which is not in modern translations. It is merely the addition of two characters. Documents were copied by hand and there are words that are often missed. Could this be one of those moments?
I include this because a whip is a weapon. A real weapon tipped with bone, iron or something sharp. Weapons in the temple grounds are forbidden. The Mishnah clearly prohibits a staff, so it is doubtful a whip of the scourging kind would be permitted. Let alone that Jesus would be let back in after making one.
Add to this incident the temple guards who would have been alerted to a weapon in use. As would have the Romans. Jesus acting like an action hero with a whip kicking butt and taking names would have been a huge problem for the Romans. No need for Judas and a secret plan. Pilate would have rounded them all up there and then.
Those Easter Memes
Across the internet every Easter John 2:15 gets reposted so many times. It is used by many to lament the financial injustices that they see today. Jesus actions are seen to be a fight against the injustices of capitalism. However this can also be seen as antisemitic. Because stereotypes are easy.
Unfortunately in the history of Christianity somehow, somewhere, someone sees the Jews as evil. They forget the fact that Jesus is Jewish. That Jesus is speaking into the culture and people he was born into. That perhaps we should see this situation as a time to look at how our practices keep people away from God.
Going back to the early parchments ‘something like a whip’ leads us to consider a different whip. If so what Jesus does is closer to Macgyver than leather work. A whip made from rope, rushes, reeds or hessian. Whatever is close at hand in the temple where livestock are gathered to be sold for sacrifice. Lots of rope there.
It changes the way the Romans would see the whole incident. An out of town Rabbi is complaining about the price of sacrificial animals. No reason for the Romans to get involved. No real weapons brandished. It is a moment seen as a religious protest. The next day the money changers are at it again. Business as usual.
If Jesus is remonstrating with ‘something like a whip’ it is not an effective weapon. John 2:15 becomes confrontational hardly capital V violent. It is barely a whip, closer to a handful of reeds. Far from the violent scourging that occurs later. A violence that must have been hard to accept. Even after resurrection.
Cool Whips and Biblical Context
When I look with pop-culture eyes at the two whips I see connections to Indiana Jones and video games like Castlevania. Obviously a whip connected to Jesus could kill vampires. The narrative writes itself though it is a not the same narrative John is writing.
John’s Gospel is an apocalyptic narrative describing the coming of God as a human being. It is not the same heroes tale. Similar, but not the same. When I take the lens of pop-culture to the whips of John’s Gospel I play with a controversial text in such a way as to remove the context. Whereby I include a new context that, despite being cool has little to do with the original context at all.
Why No Holy Whips? Because I think the context of the whips in the Gospel of John is one of contrast. One is barely a weapon and is used by the Son of God to cleanse the temple. Jesus could wield a wet sponge in righteous indignation and intimidate the universe. The other is a device of cruelty, made explicitly to rend and tear flesh. Applied to the same Son of God.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John the Baptist foreshadows what is to come. Are not contrasting whips just another foreshadowing of the difference that awaits all who seek the Kingdom of God?
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.