Famous Bible Paintings Jesus cleanses the Temple and ejects the Money-changers

Expulsion of the Money-changers 

Home         Hidden Meanings          Bible study: Attack on the traders         The Gospel text

Other paintings

Icon of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ

Modern images of Jesus and Mary: Mary in 'The Passion of the Christ'

Modern images
of Jesus and Mary

Mary and the angel Gabriel


Birth of Jesus

Finding the Saviour in the Temple, William Hunt, detail

Jesus' family

Photograph by Michael Belk

Jesus and children

Mary Magdalene sculpture

Mary Magdalene

Christ in the house of Martha and Mary, by Velázquez

Martha & Mary

Mary of Nazareth

Mary of Nazareth

Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, Flandrin

Entry to Jerusalem

Painting, Last Supper, Joos van Cleve

The Last Supper

Agony in the Garden, Heinrich, Gethsemane

Agony in the Garden

Spanish wood carving, The Kiss of Judas

Betrayal by Judas

Passion of Christ, Cranach

The Passion

Ecce Homo, by Quintin Massys

Jesus before Pilate

Crucifixion, Francis Bacon


Jesus taken down from the cross, painting detail

Descent from the cross

Burial of Jesus

Painting of the resurrected Christ


Fra Angelico, angel from painting of the Annunciation



Find out more

Herod as portrayed in the TV series 'Rome'

Herod the Great
builder of the Temple

Ancient coin showing the facade of the Temple in Jerusalem

at the time of Jesus

Location of Temple Mount

Maps of Jerusalem

Jesus and the money changers

Jesus and the money-changers: the story

Map of first step in the journey to Calvary

The start of the route to Calvary

Buildings Jesus knew





After his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus went to the great Temple of Jerusalem and attacked the stalls of the money-changers and merchants who did business in the Court of the Gentiles. His action frightened the Temple authorities, who feared he was about to lead a rebellion against Roman rule.


Expulsion of the Money-changers, Giotto di Bondone



Expulsion of the Money-Changers by Jesus, Valentin de Boulogne

Valentin de Boulogne, Expulsion of the Money-Changers from the Temple


The Merchants chased from the Temple, James Tissot


Christ Cleansing the Temple, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1875


Jesus Cleansing the Temple


Christ Driving Merchants from the Temple, Jacob Jordeans, 1650


Expulsion of the Money-changers from the Temple




Custom Search


Hidden meanings      in paintings of the Cleansing of the Temple

  • At the time of the Reformation, this story symbolized Luther's condemnation of the sale of papal indulgences. For this reason it was popular with painters from Protestant countries. 

  • Christ's outburst was not typical of him - perhaps this is why it caught people's imagination. 

  • Christ Cleansing the Temple, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1875, detailIn ancient times the whip was applied to criminals and animals: the sentence 'and Jesus made a whip of cords and drove them out of the Temple'  therefore had particular significance for people at that time.

  • Doves and pigeons were symbols of innocence and peace.

  • The scene, of Jesus driving animals before him and overturning tables and benches, is one of general confusion. It implied the supplanting of ancient Judaism by Christianity. The merchants are fending off the blows, making for the doors. 

  • The money-changers scramble to collect their money before it is scattered, or clutch their purses. All the traders looked shocked at this surprise attack. 

  • According to Matthew the episode took place in the Temple courtyard, but the scene is often shown inside a building. Only the gospel writer John mentions the whip. 

  • The beasts were sold as sacrificial animals, the sheep and oxen for the rich, the pigeons for the poor. Paintings of another incident in the life of Jesus, the Presentation in the Temple, often show Joseph offering pigeons, because his family was poor. 


The Bible text   Jesus expels the money-changers

Expulsion of the Money-changers, Valentin de Boulogne, detail of womenMark 11:15-19    15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; 16 and he would not allow any one to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he taught, and said to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and sought a way to destroy him; for they feared him, because all the multitude was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.  

Matthew 21:12-17    12 And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you make it a den of robbers." 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant; 16 and they said to him, "Do you hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise'?" 17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Luke 19:45-48  45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them,  "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers." 47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him  48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words.

John 2:13-16    John 2:13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; you shall not make my Father's house a house of trade."  


Return to top


Bible Art: Paintings and Artworks from the New Testament:  Jesus and the Cleansing of the Temple: Bible Study Resource

   Home                                     FAQs                                        About the Author

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Fletcher