April 13, 2020

The Expulsion of the Money Changers From the Temple in Orthodox Christian Art

 Commentary on Matthew 21:12-13

By St. Theophylact of Ochrid

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, "It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves."

As Master of the house, which is the temple, He cast out the sellers, showing that the things of the Father are also His own. He did this out of concern for the good order of the temple, but also to show the transformation that would take place in the sacrifices. He cast out the cattle and the doves and thus foretold that there would no longer be any need of animal sacrifice and slaughter, but rather, of prayer. For "My house," He says, "is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves," in which there is slaughter and bloodletting. But He also called the temple a den of thieves because of the hawkers and the buyers and sellers, for the love of profit is a thieving passion. The "money changers" [in Greek, kollybistai] take their name from the kollybos, a coin of small denomination. Those who sell doves are also those who sell the ranks of ordination in the churches, for they are selling the gift of the Holy Spirit, which once appeared in the form of a dove (Mt. 3:16); as a result they are cast out not only from the temple below, but from the one above, for they are unworthy to serve at the altar. But you too, O reader, look and see whether perhaps you have made God’s temple, that is, your mind, a den of thieves, that is, the demons’ lair. It will be such a den if we have thoughts full of the desire for material things, of buying and selling, and of a love of money that would even compel us to collect these small coins, the kollyba. And if we buy and sell the doves, that is, if we should mix spiritual teaching with thoughts of material gain, we have made ourselves a den of thieves.