Jesus vs Jehovah – The Problem of Violence in the OT in Light of a Nonviolent Jesus (Greg Boyd)

Here is a great introduction on how to approach the Old Testament passages on violence in light of the nonviolent peace teachings of the New Testament. Enjoy!

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  • Anonymous

    I enjoy Greg Boyd and these sound interesting. But I’m always feel let down to follow an intriguing link to a blog (or news site, etc.) and find a video instead of a written piece. We can read so much faster that the time it takes for a live presentation. For example, I could read a transcript of these messages in ten minutes, but the changes of taking nearly two hours to watch the videos is not likely. By the time I would be able to fit that into my schedule, I will likely have forgotten about them. Sigh.

    I wonder about the title here (but cannot comment, since I have not watched to the videos): Jesus “vs” Jehovah? Jesus IS Jehovah in the flesh, of course. So I know you’re not really setting up a “either or” in that sense.

  • I confess I haven’t watched the video yet, so I am responding to the title. The idea that Jesus is nonviolent is not consistent with Scripture. Although Jesus was nonviolent during His brief earthly ministry, He also told John, as recorded in Revelation, that He will come back and wage war, and heads will roll.

    • Jerri

      Maybe we’re misunderstanding Revelation.  It is after all a book full of metaphor!

      • Some of it surely is. But a metaphor still means something. Jesus is portrayed as anything but a pacifist in there. How is the world could that possibly mean that He is nonviolent? Are you aware of any parables, metaphors, or analogies in which the literal representation is symbolic of something exactly the opposite?

        • KingsofZion

          good point. His purpose in the world at that time necessitated His nonviolence, but I think it was more than that. I think He was showing us how He would like to interact with the world.  Now is their time to see how He prefers to rule and how things have to be done for there to be so many of us hanging out together for like everr.

          You know, man I’m just really stuck on the whole “hostile environment” thing.  It’s really gettin’ me down. God bless you.

      • KingsofZion

        How was any other apocalyptic literature interpreted? I don’t know for sure, but I think there was one precedent for the interpretation of apocalyptic stuff .  If there’s no precedent, i don’t really see how anyone can say with certainty what part is symbolic for something literal or which part is to be interpreted some other way. Doesn’t it actually just come right out and say what certain things are?

         I think it does, but it’s still not quite specific enough as to modern-day application. An example would be where it talks about Babylon the Great. It gives some info, but not enough to really know exactly who’s being referenced absolutely. And who really wants to guess at something like that. Not me.

  • Two rather long videos! I’ve bookmarked this post to come back to them later when I have time. Sounds like a great topic.

  • Joseph Perdue

    Isn’t Greg writting a blog on this subject?

  • Joseph Perdue

    Sorry book, not blog.

  • Mike Ward

    I gave up ten minutes in. After saying absolutely nothing for ten minutes, Boyd finally makes a point which is that when in doubt the New Testament trumps the Old. Or to put it in more accurate terms, his interpretation of the New Testament trumps the Old. After that, what is the point? Boyd has delt himself the high trump from the bottom of the deck. Now if he cannot reconcile the OT with his doctrine, he can simply play his trump.

    We used to use a variation that trick in the non-institutional Churches of Christ all the time. We would say, “You can never interpret an unclear passage in a way that contradicts a clear one.” Of course, the “clear” passage was always the one that was most easily reconciled with our doctrine, and the “unclear” one was the one that contradicted it.

    The only people we ever convinced where ourselves, but frankly that’s the only people we were trying to convince. Sermons like these (ours and Boyds) are preaching to the choir. They take an audience that already agrees, and simply re-enforce the agreeded upon message. They’re persuasive only to those who want to be persuaded, to those who already believe the doctrine–mostly–but have some doubts that they want to have taken away.

    Personally, I think pacifists Christians make their strongest cases to non-pacifists Christians when they focus on the unambigous statements of peace in the bible and attack the flaws of more aggresive doctrines such as Just War Theory. But when Pacifists become extremists, the easiest case to make against them is to simply show them twisting in the wind trying to defend the extremes to which they have taken their doctrine.

    And one aside, it is EXTREMELY tiring to hear modern Christian pacifists continually treat the rejection of absolute pacifism among Christians as a particularly American phenomenon.

    • JM

      “We used to use a variation that trick in the non-institutional Churches
      of Christ all the time. We would say, “You can never interpret an
      unclear passage in a way that contradicts a clear one.” Of course, the
      “clear” passage was always the one that was most easily reconciled with
      our doctrine, and the “unclear” one was the one that contradicted it.”

      “And one aside, it is EXTREMELY tiring to hear modern Christian pacifists
      continually treat the rejection of absolute pacifism among
      Christians as a particularly American phenomenon.”

      These two points were worth repeating. VERY well said.

      • Mike Ward


        Everyone imposes their own opinions onto the biblical text. I do it too.

        I used to do unconsciously. When I finally realized that I was doing it too, I also decided that the text was too ambiguous to interpret in the absense of any outside standard.

        So I try to be aware of what outside influences I’m bringing into my interpetation so I can let the text be my primary influence.

        This allows the Sermon on the Mount to have a huge influence on me. I know that I interpret it the way I do in part because I don’t believe a complete literal and absolute reading makes any sense.

        If I deluded myself into believing that my interpretation was based solely on the text, I’d eventually corrupt the text into saying exactly what I want it to say. (And I have done this in the past.)

        However, because I recognize that I’m synthesizing other ideas with the text, I keep coming back to the text to make sure that I’m not getting so far away from it that my interpretation now contradicts it.

        Therefore, I’m constantly being challenged by the Sermon to be more submissive, more humble, less selfish, more sacrificing. Traits that I don’t come by naturally and need encouraging in.

        Pretend you don’t have any bias, and I don’t think there’s any limit to how absurb your interpretations can become.

        • KingsofZion

          I think this is why we are supposed to come to Jesus first. 

          The chunking, making distinctions, studying the types of interpretations (literal/others), understanding the context as much as possible before attempting to interpret a difficult passage, all of the other ways a person seeks to learn biblical history and truth is secondary in my mind to just accepting Christ. 

  • KingsofZion

    this is something I struggle with.  I prefer the violence when confronting evil or God’s enemies.  Martial arts training has taught me how to avoid the battle without really losing the thing, but in the world of Jesus, as John the Baptist and others learned, it usually ends in an unpleasant situation. I pray I would have the faith and obedience not to kick some proverbial ass when the time comes. Can I get a witness?

  • KingsofZion

    sorry guys.  we don’t get to fight in this era.  one of those lovely “hard sayings” no one really wants to hear or do for that matter.

    I wonder how many people have been converted because a Christian was willing to suffer wrong or “take it like a man” or like Jesus so to speak.  no offense to women just all I could think of at the time.

    tomato tomahto…..let’s call the whole thing off.

  • Anonymous Atheist Coward

    Honestly, this doesn’t really explain things.  It tends to cherrypick scripture, while ignoring contradicting things from Jesus’ sermon on the mount.  For instance, he quotes Matthew 5:38&39, 44&45, but neglects 17-20 that actually says “unless you follow the old law, you won’t see heaven”.  This old law is rife with horrible, horrible things, like forcing a rape victim to marry her rapist, stoning a person to death for wearing clothes of mixed fibers, or stoning a woman to death if she’s not a virgin on her wedding night.  I don’t know of a christian church that upholds these old laws, so by Jesus’ very admission, noone in this day and age are getting to heaven.

    Also, he’s neglecting to address Luke 14:25-33, which says you must “hate everyone, including yourself” and “give up all possessions and follow me”, without following these, he elaborates that you will not “see the kingdom of heaven”.  While somewhat of an aside, this still seems to miss the point of NT peace in light of OT violence.

    Also, from the videos, I got the sense of “Jesus loves you so much that when you screw up, you get brutally killed” is the explanation he tries to push.  This is slight hyperbole, of course, however, if punishment is doled out, or even allowed to be doled out by god for your sins, this isn’t exactly loving kindness, much less mercy.

    Furthermore, there seems to be a “swing and a miss” effect, also quoted in the video.  I’m referring to god killing the firstborn of all of Egypt for the leader not releasing the Jewish people.  Punishing innocent children for the actions of a political leader, is, in my mind, akin to nuking civilian cities, let’s say, Hiroshima and Nagasake, for a minor military presence nearby.  This barbarism is mentioned elsewhere in the bible, usually along the lines of “your children will pay for your mistakes”, and still doesn’t show a loving, kind god.

    The second video was correct in saying you can’t ignore or change the words of jesus to fit the current definition of kind and loving.  The problem is, these videos don’t seem to answer things in any better light, and only seem to highlight the original issue in bright neon should anyone look up the context of the scriptures quoted.

    It’s for this reason, among others, that I’m a recent deconvert and new atheist.  Finally, I’m posting anonymously lest friends/family find out.  If this doesn’t speak volumes about Christianity working on fear tactics, I don’t know what does.

    • Surface Christian

      Having watched both videos all the way through, I’m rather discouraged to feel the same way. Being raised as a Christian, in a Christian home, always excited about church as a teenager, and sharing Jesus with others, I’ve started to realize that I’ve let everyone around me do the reading and the teaching and the digging, without really making much of the effort to dig deep into the bible myself, or  for that matter, without ever making the faith I claim my own.

      Sadly, I think these questions, and others like it (like, how is a perfect omniscient God capable and willing to create a world so very very imperfect? Seems a perfect God would create a perfect creation, free will or not…) are reasons why. Its easier to go to church, or read a happier devotional, or throw around a few ideaswith some other Christian friends, hide inside of warm fuzzy Christian culture, and feel good about helping someone else in Jesus name, than to sort through these tough issues. But I’m starting to realize a huge need for answers.  

      • KingsofZion


        I confessed Christ as a child, but I didn’t really understand too much of what was going on.  I felt lost most of the time, and I suppose I didn’t really have the influence of people to encourage me in the way of a relationship with Christ.  As an adult, I quickly realized I wanted to know what I needed to know about life. I knew that life was far too much of a “mind blower” to be happenstance or simply chance.  So, I just talked to “whoever made all this stuff.” A dusty bible was in a chest of drawers in the basement of the place I was living at the time.  I began reading it and started talking to Jesus and just hanging out and talking about things. 

        I’ll write more tomorrow.

        • KingsofZion

          the above is to anonymous atheist. sorry for the mix up and the confusion.

      • KingsofZion

        God tells us that for a “little while we are lower than the angels.” If we are to rule with Christ, we need more than a doctorate. I know that.  There are so many answers. It’s amazing how many. So much of what I see written here has answers.  Sometimes we do need a peace that passes understanding, but that doesn’t mean we never get the answers. It also doesn’t mean we get them all at once.  Hope purifies….give hope.  

        • KingsofZion

          The above reply is to you (surface christian).

      • Joseph O Polanco

        In the beginning, God did create a perfect world:

    • Mike Ward

      Anonymous Athiest,

      I don’t really know what to say, but felt compelled to say something. I probably don’t really understand you specific problems, but I think I understand where you coming from. I struggle with a lot of things myself. Probably, not exactly the same things as you, but maybe things with a similar flavor.

      Anyway, you sound frustrated, and I can’t help with that I’m affriad, but I just wanted to give you a friendly “hello”.

      • Anonymous Atheist Coward

        I have multiple problems with Christianity, and summing them up in a quick reply doesn’t really do the last year of research and objective, rational, and logical thought I’ve put into this any justice.

        Essentially, my issues are two-fold:  The fanclub, and the rulebook for the fanclub.  I love my parents, but they get really hateful in the name of a loving god.  In short, I’ve grown weary of watching people demonstrating such hatred in the name of love.  Proposition 8 in California, and watching the doomsayers in all churches go off about how horrible it is that ‘those awful, sinful gays’ can marry really set me off.  As a Texan, watching Rick Perry’s ‘strong’ ad made me cringe, and hide my Texas flags and my bibles.  Watching the documentary “Jesus Camp” reminded me of christian camps as a kid, which was horribly sad.

        The rulebook justifies the actions of the above.  Jesus himself said that heaven and earth should pass away before the old laws are abolished.  Unless you’re a member of Westboro Baptist Church, or you uphold Muslim Sharia Law, I really don’t think you believe that, either.  From there, it was a logical step from “well, if Jesus endorsed all these hateful laws, and says I should drag gays, single moms and atheists into the street and stone them, then he must be wrong.” to “well, wonder what else is wrong, too?”  After digging into the bible, there were too many inconsistencies and contradictions to seriously follow any longer.

        My frustrations are really with the hatefulness that christianity as a whole endorses.  My decision to step away from any belief in any god was one of logic and reason.  Allow me to explain with an analogy:  In the US, the Netherlands, and a few EU nations, sign up rate for organ donorship at the DMV is VERY low, usually less than 20%.  In other similar nations between the EU and South American nations, it’s up around 100%.  The reason is this:  in the nations with low sign ups, it’s an opt-in.  In nations with high sign ups, it’s an opt-OUT.  Most people don’t want to make a decision, so they leave it as the default.  This is how your beliefs usually are.  You grew up in a christian household, therefore, you are christian too.  It takes effort to confront your beliefs and make an actual decision on things.  It takes a lot of courage to confront what you believe and try to understand it, whereas to just follow the flow of current, takes no energy or work at all.  However, following something because my parents do isn’t enough for me.

        As someone who values knowledge and science, I can’t just leave that section of my life unexplored.  I’ve read several holy books, and they’re not much better than the bible.  I’m already an atheist towards thousands of gods and beliefs, to become an atheist of one more wasn’t too much more of a step, really.  Regardless of all the above, a belief system that endorses ignorance repeatedly between OT and NT isn’t one I can endorse.  Christianity doesn’t have the best track record in that regard, especially, between the inquisition, the crusades, the dark ages, and others in more recent history.  I realize this is quite the novel of a response, however, I felt it needed a bit more explanation beyond my above comment.  🙂

        • Mike Ward

          Your post is longer than average, but not too long. You had something say, and I’m glad you took the time to say it.

          It’s difficult to respond though. I disagree with some of your comments, but I think hashing out those points of disagreement would sort of miss the point. I can say that some of your criticisms is in my opinion incorrect or that I thank you are looking at some situations wrong, but even if I convinced you there would still be some other similar issue that I’d probably agree with you on so your point is taken regardless.

          I don’t understand why God does the things he does. It bothers me, but I don’t really have a beef with God, but other Christians often frustrate me. Sometimes, I wonder if it is my fault or there’s, but whichever, it is really frustrating.

        • Mike Ward

          Anonymous Atheist,

          Another thought.

          You don’t have to take the bible literally to be a Christian.

          Have you considered that you might like worshipping at a church that takes the a liberal view of scripture and treats it similarly to any other ancient document.

          You might enjoy the community, the spiritual ritual, and the opportunity to discuss the bible (which I assume you still desire to some extent since you are here) in an environment where the bible is not seen as a rulebook at all and in some case not even seen as all that accurate.

          At a lot of liberal churches you might even feel comfortable expressing your doubt that God exist at all.

          You might try Disciples of Christ.

          • Anonymous Atheist Coward

            I have actually considered that, and I do, in fact, attend a church that’s a bit more liberal…at least as far as the area I live in is concerned.  I live in Utah, and there’s really not much for churches unless you’re LDS.

            This still misses the problem of being associated with a group of people who, under the same name, are rather hateful towards others in the name of some loving god.  It’s like sending money to a local chapter of the KKK, but it’s alright because they’re nonviolent.  Again, realize that this is extreme hyperbole, and merely meant to illustrate a point.

            Even ignoring all the issues I have with the bible and belief in a god who would allow such horrid suffering as I see around me, I don’t know how much I can associate with a group of people who have, in the name of god, killed so many people, conducted witch hunts, persecuted, gassed, and tortured the Jews, brought about the Dark Ages, and the list goes on.  Did you know that there are witch burnings happening in Africa in the name of christianity?  They’re taking children, some as young as 6 or 7, and burning them alive.  Unfortunately, I stumbled across a youtube video of this and other atrocities.  That said, there’s a well known witch burner coming to Houston, Texas to speak to a group of christians.  This in and of itself shows an acknowledgement that this sort of action is perfectly ok with a somewhat liberal part of Texas.  At least, ok enough to fly someone who’s killed untold numbers of kids all the way from Africa to Texas to speak about gaining freedom from witch oppression.

            The fact is, while yes, Stalin was an atheist, it’s not a cohesive group as such.  Stalin’s enforcement of atheism on everyone was just as heinous as forcing christianity on everyone, or islam on everyone, or any other religion.  I really don’t think I want to associate with this group any more.  There’s simply too much hatred in the name of this loving god I always hear about.

            Just yesterday, I got called names for using logic in a debate on facebook.  I never once attacked anyone, and I never once used foul language.  My own father essentially condemned me to hell for my stance on the subject.  I’ll take logic and reason, thanks.

          • KingsofZion

            My reply to Surface Christian was actually written for you. May you be blessed in your journey.

    • Joseph O Polanco

      Deuteronomy 22:28,29 isn’t describing a rape because rapists were executed in ancient Israel. This is expressly manifested at Deuteronomy 22:25-27:

      ““If, however, it is in the field that the man found the girl who was engaged, and the man grabbed hold of her and lay down with her, the man who lay down with her must also die by himself, and to the girl *** you must do nothing . The girl has no sin deserving of death ***, because just as when a man rises up against his fellowman and indeed murders him, even a soul, so it is with this case. For it was in the field that he found her. The girl who was engaged screamed, but there was no one to rescue her.” – Deuteronomy 22:25-27 (Emphasis mine.)

      What we have described in Deuteronomy 22:28,29 is a case of consensual sex. This law obligated the man to pay a fine and, were he to marry the girl whose virginity he took, he would never be allowed to divorce her. (cf. Exodus 22:16,17)

      These laws obligated the man, not the virgin.

      In other words, what you have here is a good ‘ol fashioned shotgun wedding.

  • Mike Ward

     I tried watching the second one, but quit about three quarters in. I completely disagreed with the first guy, but when Boyd started preaching around the half was mark it went beyond a matter of disagreement to being downright offensive.

  • KingsofZion

    One interesting point I think is that God has always without exception used people or Himself (Christ) to institute any type of Covenant or game-changer throughout history. I think of the Davidic covenant,  Mosaic, New Covenant among them.

    Before He instituted a major game-changer, there was always a period of time when people just didn’t really know what He was talking about. The children of Israel with Moses trippin’ through the desert. Heck, they just wanted a nice place to stay, right? But, they were just getting started on the epic journey that was to be one of the first in a series (like the big screen n what not). 

    One would think with all of the OT writings about all of the whacked prophets and prophecies about Jesus, they couldn’t miss it when He hit town.  Or, that at least the apostles would have an better time of it.

    I wonder what the prelude to Christ’ return will look like. There are always signs and words before or around the next big thing. I suppose it’s a matter of understanding what we see.  Will people want to hear it or will we not “get it” till it’s over like so many before us. I think it will include elements of and reflect the change it announces.

    ……..a time for every purpose under heaven.

  • KingsofZion

    A big hallelujah to God’s unfolding grace. I bet the end will be better than the beginning….just like the end to some great movie…only it’s real..temporal..but real.

  • Anonymous

    yesss thankss

  • M85

    There’s some fantastic stuff here from Greg Boyd: i find it amazing that most of the people commenting here have zero appreciation for what he’s saying.
    I thank God for people like him.