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Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2013 DOI: 10.

Novum Testamentum 55 (2013) 22-30 brill.com/nt

No More Zealots in the House of the Lord
A Note on the History of Interpretation
of Zechariah 14:21
Joel Marcus
Durham, NC
The word in Zech 14:21b (there will no longer be a in the house of the Lord of
hosts), has usually been interpreted either in an ethnic (Canaanite) or in a mercantile
sense (trader, merchant), and it is possible that in its original context it was a double
entendre. In later exegesis, the mercantile interpretation comes to predominate, but the
ethnic sense is never completely eclipsed. The New Testament allusions to the Zecharian
text reflect both interpretations. On the one hand, the Markan and Johannine Jesus utilizes
the mercantile interpretation when he forbids the commerce in the Temple to continue
(Mark 11:15-17; John 2:14-17). On the other hand, Mark also seems to reflect the ethnic inter-
pretation, at least indirectly, since he seems to be responding to revolutionaries who used it
to justify their ethnic cleansing and military occupation of the Temple. But Mark, for his
own part, may have employed the sort of punning exegesis common in ancient Judaism to
interpret Zech 14:21b as a prophecy of the eschatological expulsion of these revolutionaries
from their Temple headquarters: on that day, there will no longer be (Zealots) in the
house of the Lord of Hosts.
Zechariah 14; Canaanites; Mark; Zealots; Temple; eschaton
The book of Zechariah concludes with a famous chapter of eschatological
prophecies (Zech 14:1-21). The nations will gather to make war on Jerusa-
lem, but God will intervene decisively on her behalf, routing her enemies
and establishing his kingship on earth. The Mount of Olives will split, and
the holy ones (angels) will fight on Israels side. A miraculous transforma-
tion of nature will follow: perpetual light will shine out, and living waters
will flow forth from the holy city. Israels enemies will be consumed by a
No More Zealots in the House of the Lord 23
plague that will instantly rot their flesh. All the surviving nations will jour-
ney up to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel at the Feast of Tabernacles
(those that refuse will be stricken with drought and pestilence). The city of
pilgrimmage, and indeed the whole country, will attain an unheard-of
degree of purity: not only priestly vessels, but every pot in Judah and Jeru-
salem will become fit to receive sacrificial offerings. And, finally, as part of
this general, escahtological sanctification, there will no longer be a in
the house of the Lord of hosts (Zech 14:21b).
But what is the meaning of ? Who exactly will be excluded from the
eschatological temple? Most modern English versions render either
with Canaanite or a term such as trader or merchant. There are good
reasons for both translations. On the one hand, Canaanite is the usual
meaning of this term in the Hebrew Bible, and it fits the context in Zecha-
riah 14, which speaks of an eschatological reversal whereby Israels massed
enemies will be defeated and either converted to worship of Yahweh or
annihilated. It is logical that, in this context, God should also eradicate the
ever-present threat of subversion by an alien culture. This threat is often
epitomized in Israelite and Jewish literature by the term Canaanites,
which can function as a synecdoche for all non-Israelites living in Pales-
tine.1 An ethnic nuance of Canaanites, therefore, makes sense in the
Zecharian context. On the other hand, in the Hebrew Bible the word
Canaanite frequently stands in for merchant or trader because of the
Canaanites association with mercantile cities such as Tyre and Sidon and
their involvement in trade and seafaring.2 It is probable that this usage of
Canaanite as a code for merchant is reflected earlier in Zechariah itself
(11:7), where the MTs awkward expression (therefore the
afflicted ones of the flock) should probably be emended to ,
which because of the context should be translated as to the merchants of
the flock.3 It is possible that in 14:21b was originally meant as a dou-
ble entendre, containing both ethnic and economic nuances.
In later translations and interpretations of Zech 14:21, merchant
becomes the dominant nuance of , but the ethnic meaning Canaan-
ite refuses to die. Indeed, the earliest extant translation, that of the
1)Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Zechariah 9-14: A New Translation with Introduction
and Commentary (AB 25C; New York: Doubleday, 1993) 489-492.
2)See Hos 12:7; Prov 31:24; Job 41:6; Zeph 1:11; Ezek 17:4.
3)Meyers and Meyers, Zechariah 9-14, 261-262.
24 J. Marcus / Novum Testamentum 55 (2013) 22-30
Septuagint, renders the term as (Canaanite). Aquila, on the
other hand, reads (huckster or retail dealer), which Jerome
translates with mercator (trader or merchant).4 The Targum, likewise,
renders with a term for merchant ( ).5 The Babylonian
Talmud (b. Pes. 50a) mentions both possibilities; the authoritative voice of
the editor supports the meaning merchant (), but the ethnic nuance
Canaanite is given a hearing as well. The Talmud also cites a third opinion,
which comes from a fourth-century Babylonian amora, Jeremiah bar Abba,
who punningly interprets as (here is a poor person)i.e., in
the eschaton there will no longer be a needy person in the temple courts.
This is a fanciful, homiletic exegesis, but the Canaanite option seems
to be taken seriously. In fact, as late as the twelfth century, the Spanish
exegete Abraham ibn Ezra complains about scholars who still advocate it.6
It is no surprise, then, that the New Testament displays an awareness of
both the mercantile interpretation of Zech 14:21 and the Canaanite one.
The former is strongly suggested by the account of Jesus demonstration in
the temple, especially in Mark and John (Mark 11:15-17; John 2:14-17). This
gospel story fits well into the scenario suggested by Zechariah 14, since both
concern an eschatological purification of the temple. In addition, the
Markan Jesus forbids that any , perhaps meaning pot, be carried
through the sacred precinctsa point perhaps echoing Zech 14:20-21a,
which concerns the purity of the pots in the temple precincts.7 But the
closest parallel comes in Mark 11:15 (cf. Matt 21:12), where Jesus evicts the
buyers of sacrificial animals along with their sellers. His concern, then, is
not exploitative commerce (if it were, he would evict only the sellers), but
commerce tout court, a point the Johannine Jesus makes explicit: Stop
4)See Henk Jan de Jonge, The Cleansing of the Temple in Mark 11:15 and Zechariah 14:21,
in The Book of Zechariah and Its Influence (ed. Christopher Tuckett; Aldershot UK/Burlington
VT: Ashgate, 2003), 90; Adela Yarbro Collins, Mark: A Commentary (Hermeneia; Minneapolis:
Augusburg Fortress, 2007) 529-530.
5)See Cecil Roth, The Cleansing of the Temple and Zechariah XIV 21, NovT 4 (1960)
179-180. I have corrected his Aramaic on the basis of A. Sperber, The Bible in Aramaic (Leiden:
Brill, 1959-73) 3.499.
6)Roth, Cleansing, 178-180.
7)The exact connection, however, is not entirely clear. Roth, Cleansing, 177-178 points out
that Zech 14:20-21a says that all pots in Judah and Jerusalem will be holy enough to use in the
temple sacrifices. The import of Mark 11:16, Roth concludes, is that regular Judahite bowls
may be moved into the temple but not out again, since they will then have been consecrated
to holy service. But this goes far beyond what either the Zecharian or the Markan text says.
No More Zealots in the House of the Lord 25
making my fathers house a house of commerce! (John 2:16). This ban on
commerce in the temple can easily be seen as a fulfillment of the mercan-
tile interpretation of Zech 14:21b.
But the Canaanite interpretation of Zech 14:21 has also left a mark,
albeit an indirect one, on the tradition about Jesus temple action. As I have
argued in previous publications,8 the background to Marks gospel in gen-
eral and his account of the temple action in particular lies in the Jewish
revolt against the Romans in 66-73 C.E. That revolt began when the revolu-
tionaries suspended sacrifice for the Emperor, the reception of gifts or
sacrifices from him and other Gentiles,9 and any other form of Gentile
access to or presence in the temple. Furthermore, they enforced these
interdicts by occupying the sanctuary themselves (see Josephus, Bell. 2.409,
414; 5.562-564).10 They probably justified these radical steps by scriptural
8)Joel Marcus, The Jewish War and the Sitz Im Leben of Mark, JBL 111 (1992) 448-451; Joel
Marcus, Mark: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AYB 27/27A; New
Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2000-2009) 2.782-784. In these works, I draw on Roth,
Cleansing and Mark C. Black, The Rejected and Slain Messiah Who is Coming with the
Angels: The Messianic Exegesis of Zechariah 9-14 in the Passion Narratives (Ph.D. diss., Emory
University, 1990) 153-156.
9)On these measures, see Daniel R. Schwartz, On Sacrifice by Gentiles in the Temple
of Jerusalem, in Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity (WUNT 60; Tbingen:
J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1992) 102-116.
10)See Helmut Schwier, Tempel und Tempelzerstrung: Untersuchungen zu den theologischen
und ideologischen Faktoren im ersten jdisch-rmischen Krieg (66-74 n. Chr.) (NTOA 11;
Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989) 119-120, 124-125. A similar exclusionary attitude
is evident in some of the Qumran scrolls; see 4QFlor (4Q174) 1:3-4, which bans Ammonites,
Moabites, bastards, foreigners, and proselytes from Gods house, and cf. Adela Yarbro
Collins, Jesus Action in Herods Temple, in Antiquity and Humanity: Essays on Ancient
Religion and Philosophy Presented to Hans Dieter Betz on His 70th Birthday (ed. Adela Yarbro
Collins and Margaret M. Mitchell; Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001) 56-57 on the sanctuary
envisaged by the Temple Scroll, which has no place for a Court of the Gentiles. See also
Acts 21:28-29, where Pauls supposed act of bringing Greeks () into the temple is
seen as a defilement.
The Zealots ban on any sort of Gentile presence in the temple was an intensification of
the already stringent provision against Gentiles going beyond the Court of the Gentiles; cf.
Roth, Cleansing, 178, and Schwier, who refer to Josephus, Bell. 5.194; 6.124-26; Ant. 15.417, as
well as the archaeological inscriptions banning further Gentile passage, on which see
E. Stern, ed., The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (Jerusalem:
Israel Exploration Society & Carta, 1993) 2.744. On restriction of non-Jews to the Court of the
Gentiles, see further E.P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 BCE-66 CE (London/
Philadelphia: SCM/Trinity Press International, 1992) 61, 72-76 and Collins, Jesus Action,
53-55. Collins points out that the Court of the Gentiles was created by Herod the Greats
26 J. Marcus / Novum Testamentum 55 (2013) 22-30
prooftexting,11 and the most appropriate scripture would have been Zech
14:21b, which speaks of clearing the temple of Canaanitesa term that,
as we have seen, can function as a synecdoche for Gentile presence in
general.12 Indeed, language similar to that of Zech 14:21b is present when
Josephus says that, in the middle of the Zealot coup, the Jewish elite warned
about dire consequences if Jews henceforth were to be the only people to
allow no alien the right of sacrifice or worship [in their temple].13 And the
coins struck during the first and second years of the revolt may also contain
an allusion to Zech 14:20-21, since they feature the legend
(Jerusalem is holy) or (Jerusalem the holy) on the obverse
and a picture of a cultic vessel on the reverse.14 The combination of the
theme of the eschatological holiness of Jerusalem with the imagery of a
cultic vessel is reminiscent of Zech 14:20-21.
Mark shows himself to be aware of the exclusionary policy of the Zealots,
and perhaps of its background in exegesis of Zech 14:21b, when in 11:17
he has Jesus muster two other scriptural passages to justify his clearing of
the temple: Has it not been written, My house shall be called a house
of prayer for all nations [Isa 56:7]? But you have made it a den of brigands
[Jer 7:11]. Given that brigands is Josephus most frequent epithet for
the revolutionaries,15 and that the Markan scriptural citations contrast
expansion of the temple in the late first century B.C.E., although Sanders notes that in
biblical times there appears to have been no impediment to Gentiles bringing sacrifices in
the same way as Israelites did (see Num 15:14-16). By the late third or early second century
B.C.E., however, it was agreed that Gentiles, along with impure Israelites, could not enter
the temple enclosure (Sanders, 72, citing Josephus, Ant. 12.145-46).
11)For the Zealots as scriptural exegetes, see Martin Hengel, The Zealots: Investigations into
the Jewish Freedom Movement in the Period from Herod I until 70 A.D. (Edinburgh: T. & T.
Clark, 1989 [orig. 1961]) passim. One of their proof texts was almost certainly Ps 69:10, Zeal
for your house has consumed me (my trans.). Not coincidentally, the Johannine Jesus
musters this same verse to justify his temple action (John 2:17). John, like Mark, may be
grafting features of the Zealots temple occupation onto his tale of Jesus earlier temple
12)Cf. above, p. 23*. Cf. the way in which Matthew translates Marks phrase ,
(a Greek, a Syrophoenician by origin; Mark 7:26) with the single
word (Canaanite; Matt 15:22).
13) ; J.W. 2.414 (trans.
Thackeray, LCL alt.).
14)On these coins and their inscriptions, see Yaakov Meshorer, Ancient Jewish Coinage (Dix
Hills NY: Amphora Books, 1982) 2.96-113; Schwier, Tempel, 128.
15)See Marcus, Jewish War, 449-450.
No More Zealots in the House of the Lord 27
brigandine usurpation with Gods intention that the temple should be
a house of prayer for all nations, there is a clear connection between the
Markan citations and the exclusionary, anti-Gentile policy of the temple-
occupying Zealots. In Marks eyes, however, the Zealots, far from removing
pollution from the temple through the anti-Gentile policy inspired by Zech
14:21b, themselves defiled the sacred precincts by occupying and staining
them with blood, thereby creating the abomination of desolation proph-
esied by Daniel (cf. Mark 13:14). And the further detail that the Markan
Jesus, in his temple cleansing, does not allow anyone to carry a
through the temple, may have an anti-Zealot nuance as well, since
can mean not only pot or utensil but also weapon.16 The Markan Jesus,
then, attacks the mercantile desecration of the temple in the early thirties
of the first century, but also prophetically rebukes the Zealotic desecration
of it in the late sixties, close to Marks own time.
So far the rudiments of my argument have been presented in prior pub-
lications by myself and others. But now I would like to suggest an addi-
tional wrinkle: opponents of the Zealot occupation of the temple, such as
Mark and Josephus, may well have used Zech 14:21b as a proof text them-
selves. This is because, aside from the mercantile and Canaanite interpre-
tations of in that passage, a third alternative is possible, in which the
word is deliberately misread as the Hebrew / or, more likely, the
Palestinian Aramaic / , to which is particularly close in
sound.17 This reading, like that of R. Jeremiah in b. Pes. 50a, relies on a ver-
bal pun, of the sort that is frequently employed in Jewish exegesis, from the
Qumran pesharim to the method of the rabbis, in which the reader
is instructed, Dont read it that way (usually the Masoretic reading), but
this way.18 The proposed anti-revolutionary reading, similarly, asks the
16)See e.g. Gen 27:3; Deut 1:41; cf. Marcus, Jewish War, 783.
17)On the form , see Hans Peter Rger, Zum Problem der Sprache Jesu, ZNW 59
(1968) 118, who points out that in Matt 10:4//Mark 3:18 suggests derivation from
this form, which is found in Tg. Ps.-J. Exod 20:5; Deut 5:9; 6:15; and Frg. Tg. Deut 4:24; cf.
Gustaf Dalman, Die Worte Jesu: Mit Bercksichtigung des nachkanonischen jdischen
Scrifttums und der aramischen Sprache errtert (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1930) 40 and Hengel,
Zealots, 69-70.
18)On this rabbinic method, see Rimon Kasher, The Interpretation of Scripture in Rabbinic
Literature, in Mikra: Text, Translation, and Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible
in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (ed. Martin Jan Mulder; CRINT; Philadelphia:
Fortress, 1988) 572-573. For analogous methods at Qumran, see Michael Fishbane, Authority
and Interpretation of Mikra at Qumran, in Mikra: Text, Translation, and Reading and
28 J. Marcus / Novum Testamentum 55 (2013) 22-30
reader not to vocalize the crucial word in Zech 14:21b as but as or
, so that the verse now says that, on that day of eschatological
advent, There will no longer be a Zealot (or: Zealots) in the house of the
Lord of hosts.
Again, Josephan passages come close to this posited misreading of Zech
14:21. In J.W. 4.262, the high priest denounces the occupation of the temple
by the brigands, which has led to a situation in which the spot where the
world prostrated itself in worship, and which was honored by aliens from
the ends of the earth who have heard of its fame, is trampled on by these
beasts engendered in this very place.19 The true defilement of the temple,
then, is not the Gentile presence in its outer courts but the revolutionary
presence in its inner ones.20 In J.W. 4.158-159, similarly, Josephus describes
the Jewish elites exhortation to the people to delay no longer to pun-
ish these wreckers of liberty and purge the sanctuary of its bloodstained
polluters.21 Wreckers of liberty is polemical against the Zealots under-
standing of themselveds as freedom fighters.22 I would suggest that purge
the sanctuary of its...polluters is polemical as well: the Zealots claimed,
on the basis of Zech 14:21b, to be cleansing the sanctuary by removing
the foreigners from its midst, but according to Josephus they were actu-
ally polluting it with shed blood; and hence the real purifier would be the
Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (ed. Martin Jan
Mulder; CRINT; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988) 374-375. For a New Testament passage that
may have originated with an type of exegesis of a biblical verse, see Joel Marcus,
Rivers of Living Water from Jesus Belly (John 7:38), JBL 117 (1998) 328-330.
. Cf. Ant. 11.87, in which Josephus
says that the Jewish elite granted pagans the right of in the temple. On these
passages, see Schwartz, Sacrifice by Gentiles, 108-109.
20)Cf. Otto Michel and Otto Bauernfeind, Flavius Josephus: De bello Judaico / Der jdische
Krieg. Griechisch und Deutsch (Mnchen: Ksel, 1962-69) 2.1.217 n. 68, who point out that, by
using the terminology about the Zealots trampling the sanctuary, Josephus is implicitly
likening them to the pagans who had defiled the temple since the time of Antiochus
22)Cf. Josephus himself, Ant. 18.23, on the almost unconquerable love of liberty (
) of the adherents of the Fourth Philosophy, as well as the coins from
the second and third years of the revolt, which carry the inscription or
(the liberation of Zion; see Meshorer, Coinage, 2.109, 113).
No More Zealots in the House of the Lord 29
one who evicted the Zealots from the temple.23 The Josephan paragraph
goes on say that the elite vehemently upbraided the people for their apa-
thy and incited them against the Zealots; for so these miscreants called
themselves, as though they were zealous in the cause of virtue and not
for vice in its basest and most extravagent forms. Thus, in the same para-
graph in which Josephus explains (or explains away) the Zealots name,
he also records their opponents ambition to purge them from the temple.
All this would fit in with a polemical, anti-Zealot understanding of Zech
14:21b, whereby the defilement to be removed is not the = Canaanite =
Gentile but the or , i.e., Zealot or Zealots.
One might object that Canaanite, which begins with a in Hebrew and
Aramaic, would be rendered with a in Greek, whereas Zealot, which
begins with a , would be rendered with a , so the pun would not work.24
My reply is twofold: 1) this form of punning exegesis does not rely on identi-
cal sounds, but on close ones, and 2) there is often a blurring of the bound-
ary between and when they are transliterated into Greek. Although
the general rule, as stated by the Blass/Debrunner/Funk grammar, is that
is rendered by and by , the grammar acknowledges exceptions;
, for example, renders (Capernaum; Mark 1:21 etc.),
and renders (you have forsaken me, Mark 15:34//Matt
27:46).25 In these cases, contrary to the BDF rule, is rendered by and
23)A similar reversal of Zealot polemic is present in J.W. 2.414, in which the revolutionaries
oppponents say that, by disallowing aliens to perform sacrifice or make obeisance, the
revolutionaries are introducing strange worship ( ) into the temple. This is
a translation of the standard Hebrew term for idolatry, , and almost certainly
rebuts the Zealots claim to be purging the sanctuary of the same; cf. Steve Mason, ed.,
Judean War 2 (Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary; Leiden/Boston: Brill,
2008) 317 n. 2607: The phrase ( ) is cleverly ironic, given the issue: since Judean
worship has always accepted the support of strangers, by not accepting these they are
innovating a strange, alien form of worship (though they do so under the guise of protecting
Judean tradition from what is alien).
24)This is essentially the argument of Hengel, Zealots, 69-70, who points to the Lukan name
for one of Jesus disciples, Simon the Zealot ( : Acts 1:13; Luke 6:15). The same
man is called in Mark 3:18//Matt 10:4. Hengel argues that is
derived from , st. abs. , the Zealot. So far, I agree. But Hengel goes too far when
he goes on to argue that [o]ther attempted interpretations, such as the man from Cana or
the Canaanite are unconvincing, because Canaanite would inevitably be rendered with
, as in the LXX and Matt 15:22.
25)BDF 39. Cf. Klaus Beyer, Die aramischen Texte vom Toten Meer: Samt den Inschriften
aus Palstina, dem Testament Levis aus der Kairoer Genisa, der Fastenrolle und den alten
30 J. Marcus / Novum Testamentum 55 (2013) 22-30
by . Moreover, one of the most famous Aramaic names in the New Testa-
ment, Peters epithet , is rendered in Greek as (e.g. Gal 2:11)
again an instance of for .26 Similarly, and are often confused, either
inadvertently or deliberately, and the interchange of the one for the other
is attested in and related methods of punning exegesis.27
I have not found a smoking gunan instance in which someone
deliberately confuses with or a related word, or uses this confu-
sion to turn Zech 14:21b against the Zealot party. If such a rhetorical move
occurred, it happened in the background to the polemics of Mark and Jose-
phus, not in their foreground. But it seems to me that this sort of polemic
would almost inevitably have arisen in the charged atmosphere of the six-
ties, given the Zealots apparent deployment of the Zecharian verse and
the strong opposition they provoked amongst the elite, who saw authorita-
tive biblical exegesis as one of their self-imposed tasks. The moment was
fleeting; a greater disaster than the Zealots occupation of the sanctuary
loomed, namely the temples destruction, and it was this catastrophe that
subsequently preoccupied Jewish theologians and exegetes to the exclu-
sion of almost all else from the war years. The Zealotic interpretation of
Zech 14:21b, and even more so the anti-Zealotic one, disappeared virtually
without a trace. This note claims to have rediscovered them.
talmudischen Zitaten: Aramaistische Einleitung, Text, bersetzung, Deutung, Grammatik/
Wrterbuch, Deutsch-aramische Wortliste, Register (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,
1984) 126, who notes that the Zenon Papyri, from the middle of the third century B.C.E.,
show as the transliteration for .
26)Cf. Marcus Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and
the Midrashic Literature (New York: Judaica, 1982 [orig. 1886-1903]) 657: the rendering of the
Greek letter kappa in Aramaic is (see e.g. Lam. Rab. to 1:1 [ ]).
27)On confusion between and in the ancient versions of the OT, see Emanuel Tov,
Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992) 251; see also b. Erub.
53b, in which a stupid Galilean is denounced for conflating his laryngeals, including and
. For a classic example of deliberate confusion of the two letters for homiletical purposes,
see Gen. Rab. 20:12, in which (garments of skin) from Gen 3:21 is misread as
(garments of light); for examples of interchange of the two letters in al tiqri
exegesis in rabbinic literature, see b. Ber. 32a and Gen. Rab. (Vilna) 2:3. See also
(to the house of his exile) in 1QpHab 11:5-6, which may be a double entendre for
(desiring to strip him; see F.F. Bruce, Biblical Exegesis in the Qumran Texts [Exegetica 3;
Den Haag: van Keulen, 1959] 14). Already in the Hebrew Bible, Hos 12:9 puns on the link
between Jacobs wealth () and his iniquity ( ; see Michael Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation
in Ancient Israel [Oxford: Clarendon, 1985] 378). In ancient Greek transliterations, neither
nor is usually expressed (see BDF 39[3]); , for example, becomes .