Changer, Changers of Money

CHANGER, CHANGERS OF MONEY (NT κερματιστής, G3048, money-changer, John 2:14. Kerma, a piece of copper, change. Also κολλυβιστής, G3142, money-changer, Matt 21:12; Mark 11:15). Money-changers were common in NT times, particularly in mercantile centers and at the Jewish Temple. Many different money systems converged upon Jerusalem from Jews of the Diaspora, and since only Jewish money such as the shekel could be used for the Temple tax, money exchange became a thriving business. Roman money also was used everywhere so that even residents of Pal. needed money exchanged. Money changers charged a commission which was called a kollybos. Generally, they changed large denominations into small coins. Although the business was considered a respectable trade, money changers often were placed in the same category as the tax collector, because of high rates of exchange, cheating, and corruption, esp. when they took advantage of the poor and profited from religion. Money changing was also the door to the often corrupt lending or banking business. On the other hand, money changers had to be on guard against false money (cf. 1 Thess 5:22).

Explicit references in the NT indicate that Jesus took great exception to the corruption which money changers and merchants brought into the Temple itself, esp. during the highly lucrative Passover season. No doubt priests were often in on profit, since they approved the exchange. Money changers evidently sat at tables or benches, stacked high with various types of coins used in the Mediterranean world at the time. In a burst of righteous anger, Jesus made a whip of cords and drove these “table men” from the Temple, poured out their coins and turned over their tables or “banks” (tas trapdzas ton kollybiston katetrepsen). “You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade,” He said. “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers” (Matt 21:12, 13; Mark 11:15-17; John 2:13-16).