Was Jesus A Pacifist?

Was Jesus A Pacifist? June 1, 2016

Jesus Writing on the sand with his finger

I hear the claim, “Jesus wasn’t a pacifist!” a lot. But is it true? Was Jesus a pacifist, or not?

What we know about Jesus comes to us from the four New Testament Gospel accounts, so that is where we must look for our answer—especially to those of us who would affirm the inspiration and authority of the Christian Scriptures.

However, first the word pacifism: it’s a deceptive word, for sure. On the surface, many assume the word refers to being passive, which understandably raises an eyebrow when associating it with Jesus. Surely we can all agree, Jesus was anything but passive in the face of evil and oppression.

The way Christian pacifists use the word however, is not to argue for passivity in the face of evil, but is a commitment to fighting evil and oppression exclusively using nonviolent means. (Which is why today’s Christian pacifists are nonviolent, but very confrontational.)

Which leads us to the question: Did Jesus share this commitment to fighting evil exclusively using nonviolent means?

That answer, of course, is yes—he did. What we know for certain from the Gospel accounts is that Jesus lived and taught an ethic of addressing injustice and evil through nonviolent means—and exclusively nonviolent means. In fact, this nonviolent ethic of Jesus was quite central to his ministry and comes up more frequently and consistently than many other New Testament subjects.

Jesus lived in a violent culture and under the occupation of a foreign army, so the issue of violence as a means to address evil wasn’t an out-of-sight-out-of-mind concept, but a daily reality. And yet, each time an issue of violence is brought before Jesus, he sides with nonviolence.

An eye for an eye? Jesus says in response, “Do not resist an evildoer.”

Slapped in the face? Jesus said to turn the other cheek.

Someone steals your personal property? Instead of shooting them, Jesus said to give them more than they took from you.

Execute lawbreakers? Jesus claimed there wasn’t anyone with the moral standing to serve as an executioner.

Resist the Roman army with violence? No, Jesus said to carry their bags for them instead.

Resist corrupt authorities with violence? No, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword because violence only gives birth to more violence.

In fact, the ethic of Jesus went even deeper than a traditional pacifistic commitment to nonviolence, as he argued that even feeling hatred in your heart was on equal moral footing to murder.

Instead, Jesus argued that his followers must love and actively serve their enemies with acts of kindness and generosity. He said we are to do this (a) in order to mimic God, who Jesus claimed is “kind to the ungrateful and the wicked” (Luke 6:27-36) and (b) that we are to love our enemies in order to become God’s children (Matthew 5:43-48).

So, back to our question: Was Jesus a pacifist?

Well, it depends on how you’re using the word.

If one is using the word to indicate passivity in the face of evil, then of course not—Jesus was anything but passive.

But if one is using the word in the traditional sense of indicating an individual is completely opposed to the use of violence, then yes—Jesus most certainly was a pacifist.

In fact, Jesus’s commitment to an ethic of nonviolence is one of the things we know the most clearly and consistently about him. In addition, according to the prophet Isaiah, Jesus’s commitment to nonviolence serves as evidence he was the true Messiah sent by God (Isaiah 53:9).

So, what about his followers? Well, Jesus taught that we are to follow him—and later New Testament writers actually claim that the ultimate proof we are Christians is that we live like Jesus did (1 John 2:6) and that we would let the example of Jesus act as footsteps that we follow (1 Peter 2:21).

Certainly, if the word “Christian” is to remain a word that means “like Christ” this would include a central commitment to nonviolent enemy love as a non-negotiable qualification of the Christian identity.

unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • JenT

    why are SO many, nearly Half of America is RACIST? Can a person be a Racist AND a Christian?? don’t think so. When Voting for our next President, there is Not one Person on Planet Earth that we could Vote for if we are to Vote like Jesus would because , as we all know way too well, we are ALL Sinners, sure some more than others, I KNOW Jesus & Holy Spirit is telling me: to Vote for the LEAST EVIL!!??

  • Tony Iannitelli

    ‘cept for that whole “turning the tables over in the temple” bit of the gospels, eh?

  • JD
  • liberalinlove

    Yep, that incident of his overturning injustice with money changers using circumstances to make more money and taking advantage of the poor, pretty much negates everything Jesus said about how we treat people.

  • liberalinlove
  • Tim Crist

    I very much appreciate Ben’s commentary on this subject. But it’s really hard to miss this fact in Jesus’s teaching. So many Christians struggle to resolve how Jesus’s behavior projects into our violent contemporary society. I suppose this says a lot about the power and persuasion of church culture over following Christ’s example.

    Also, the “turning of the tables” was not a violent act in that no one was hurt. Consider the lesson in John 11:18 “Put your sword away!” If there ever was a moment in human history that required a sword to be drawn, that was it! Yet Jesus reaffirmed, in the most dire of circumstances, that violence was never to be the proper response. We are all children of God. God has a heart of peace. It is artificial for us to behave in any way but in a manner of love, respect, and peaceful resolution.

  • Thank you! That’s a wonderful resource; too many of us (myself included) don’t take nearly enough time to consider the original languages and how they must shape our reading of the text.

  • Andrew

    Non-violence is – at a very basic level – about not acting against the physical body of another to achieve some supposedly higher goal. It removes causing harm or death as a viable option.

    Those passages never indicate that Jesus actually hurt any human (in fact, if he had, he could’ve been arrested even sooner). The whips were there to control the animals being sold for sacrifice.

    Using the whip in the open and making a bunch of noise by knocking over tables is a great way to cause a minor stampede – thus disrupting the exploitative operations of the Temple. // Think – Bonhoeffer’s “throwing yourself in the spokes of the wheel” //

    The temple was a place for worshiping/meeting/revealing God (the same God who commanded them to observe the Jubilee – though they never really did) – and in that place, men schemed to squeeze every drop of money out of those who had traveled to Jerusalem to obey God.

    If you’d like a more modern – but very imperfect – comparison, think of the “dumping of the tea” in Boston harbor (aka “Tea Party”). It was essentially industrial sabotage by the Sons of Liberty (who felt exploited by the crown) against Parliament’s darling, the British East India Company. Who got killed? No one. Any record of people getting physically maimed? Nope.

    So yes. Jesus was “violent”…. to some tables. And yeah. He scared some animals and probably some people. But he was still essentially non-violent.

    A violent-minded approach would be to have his disciples slit the throats of the moneychangers as they slept in their beds. Or to stir up one group against another in the temple and create a massive brawl. Or better yet – something the disciples might have loved – Jesus uses some of that healing magic to do some straight up damage to the elites – roast them where they stand. // That’s the urge in us to reaffirm the logic of Cain and it would be Jesus falling for one of those three temptations of Satan (accuser) //

    The most basic premise about violence in the world of Cain is – “peace is ultimately established and maintained through violence and the ability and willingness to wield it. Call it necessity or call it fun, that’s how it is.”

    The most basic premise of violence in the Kingdom of God (as preached and exemplified by Jesus) might be put – “true peace (shalom) will ultimately be established and maintained through forgiveness of wrongs, love of neighbor (even of enemies), and the triumph of mercy – even to the point of death.”

    The vindication of love as the greatest commandment can never be found in our taking of life (or the violence that implies that end) – no matter how many times we try. Shalom is not accessible (nor perhaps even comprehensible) to those whose basic assumption about the world is the opposite of “life and life more abundantly.” Being like Cain may feel more practical in this world but being like Christ is what builds the Kingdom of God.

  • Matthew

    What about John 18:6? Just curious.

  • Tony Iannitelli

    seems silly to ignore what I actually said and refute something you made up. There’s a name for that, right?

  • Tony Iannitelli

    I agree with your broader reading, but I’m concerned you’re adding to the text to support your conclusion by asserting the whips were only or exclusively to control the animals. The text says he drove them all or chased all of them from the temple. In Matt. 21:12 the all is almost definitely referring to the people, not the animals.

  • He’s obviously inciting a “riot” of sorts. It’s not like he’d never been to the Temple before and never seen moneychangers there.

  • I vote for using less punctuation.

  • Exabalen – the same word Matthew uses for Jesus driving out demons. One might almost suspect a connection.

  • Tommy G

    A demonstration of His power perhaps but I don’t see it as being violent and as far as I know, no one was hurt.

  • Jan

    Well, let’s go with the ratio then – like 10 to 1. Not to mention allowing himself to be executed.

  • Realist1234

    ‘the ‘turning of the tables’ was not a violent act in that noone was hurt’. Given that Jesus himself made a whip to use in forcing both people and animals to get out of the Temple (according to John), Im not sure you can be so definitive that no one was hurt, even if as collateral damage. Also if you picture the scene, a man entering the temple precincts with whip in hand, shouting at people sitting at tables with their sheep, cattle and doves, then physically overturning those tables and chairs, whilst using his whip towards the animals (if not the humans directly), Im sure the people then viewed it as a ‘violent’ act. Imagine if someone arrived at your church during a jumble sale and did the same!

  • Matthew

    They did fall down though. Could have been injured. Scripture doesn’t tell us how the fall(s) ended.

  • Realist1234

    See my comment to Tim Crist. Perhaps but Jesus only did anything at the ‘right’ time. And is a ‘riot’ not usually by definition, violent in nature?

  • Realist1234

    I’d settle for correct punctuation. Is JenT asking a question at the end or making a statement? !”():;.’

  • A riot, a ruckus, a disruption, a protest – any of those terms could work, but none are necessarily violent. My point was that Jesus didn’t walk into the Temple, get angry, and start beating people up. It was a planned, deliberate action to create a disruption.

    If we look at the original account, Mark 11, we have Jesus coming to Jerusalem, looking at the Temple, and then left with his disciples for Bethany to spend the night.

    The next day, we have Jesus cursing the fig tree because it was not bearing fruit – also a deliberate action to make a point that had nothing to do with Jesus losing his temper. Mark even makes this explicit by pointing out that it wasn’t the season for figs.

    After this, he enters the Temple and began to “drive them out,” using the word for driving out demons. Jesus did not forcibly grab demons and push them around. He drove them out with authority and command. Maybe Jesus was yelling commands in a similar manner to casting out demons. The single recorded line of dialogue in v. 17 seems to suggest this. It is -highly unlikely- Jesus on his own could physically overpower a group of money changers and physically force them from the premises.

    He does knock over the furniture being used by these people. I guess that could qualify as violence of sorts, but I would still argue that’s not the same as Jesus using force against people.

    As Jesus leaves the Temple, the fig tree that he had cursed had withered.

    This isn’t an episode of holy anger fueling violence. This is a carefully planned episode to communicate prophetically the present condition and upcoming destruction of the Temple, much in the same vein as the OT prophets who laid siege to models of Jerusalem, married prostitutes, and laid on one side for years.

    In later accounts, the synoptics present the event virtually similarly.

    It is only in John’s gospel that Jesus makes a whip of cords, but it is also only in John’s gospel that he drives out the animals.

  • Paul Schlitz

    Best comment on Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence came from Ghandi: To paraphrase ” everybody understands Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence except the Christians

  • Paul Schlitz

    Zacharias expected Jesus to be about deliverance from their enemies ( see 1 Luke)

  • Tim Crist

    You can read into that story however you like. But there is no mention of harm to anyone or anything. Nor is there mention of Jesus harming anyone (outside the apocrypha) in his entire life. There is also no mention of him ever owning any sort of weapon. Violence? He was just not into it.

  • Lance Anderson

    Although Jesus modeled and advocated non-violent resistance in most instances, there may’ve been exceptions. If Jesus encouraged complete pacifism why did his disciples carry swords? In Luke 22:36 he tells them “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” My understanding is that travel between towns and cities at the tmie could be dangerous. There was plenty of banditry. Perhaps he did not take issue with protecting oneself from criminal elements. I don’t think he would take a pacifistic stance in the face of rampant lawlessness. I would like to think that Jesus and/or his disciples would intervene and use force if necessary to protect an innocent victim of a violent crime. In addition, would Jesus have advocated non-violent resistance against the kind of aggression and evil perpetrated by Nazi Germany and the other Axis powers in the second World War? I personally think force of arms was necessary.

  • Roman soldiers stepped back and fell over at Jesus’ declaration. I’m not sure John is trying to give the impression that Jesus attacked them with sonics.

  • Sorry for the double comment, but the whip is also only mentioned in John, who is also the only one to mention the animals.

  • I’ll need to warm up to creating an account to read that paper, but Snommelp said it was good, so it probably is. So, thanks for the link!

  • Well, keep in mind the larger context of Luke 22:36. Jesus is contrasting what is about to happen with the period of the disciples’ ministry. What is about to happen next is that Jesus is supposed to be numbered with the transgressors to fulfill Scripture, which he says in v. 37. That’s why he and his disciples need the swords. Now they’re armed revolutionaries, fully prosecutable by the Roman Empire.

  • I see an emoji! straight collar with a button on the left, big mouth, eyes, eyebrows with one eyebrow raised, mole over left eyebrow, cowlick over right eye! !():;.’

  • Al Cruise

    Jesus taught non-violence in regard to relationships with people of other faiths, theologies, social and economic status, gender, race etc. Something western Christianity has failed at. Western Christianity often used violence as it’s “first resort” if they didn’t get their way. Think about the treatment of slaves, indigenous peoples in the missionary fields, violence to bring people in line was first choice for Christians. Christian sermons led people to attack and kill each other ie. Protestants and Catholics in Europe. Looking back through history you could write volumes in which Christianity failed Jesus command to love others and took the path of evil to enforce it’s worldly view. His teaching about non-violence was not about personal threats to ones life if such a situation arose as he explained in Luke 22.36.

  • Realist1234

    Given that a crowd was already following Him, it is likely at least some of them continued behind Him into the Temple. From the point of view of the money-changers it probably looked like He was leading a mob, particularly if He had a whip in His hand (just because the whip was only mentioned in John’s record does not mean it does not exist). In Mark’s account, it also states He would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the Temple courts. How did He prevent this if not by force (by Him and some of His followers?). I would suggest that the animals were part of the merchandise which He drove out. And simply because similar words are used here as well as His dealing with the demonic, does not mean He simply stood and spoke authoritively to the money-changers etc (though the Gospel writers may indeed be linking what was being done in the Temple as demonically-inspired). Taking all the records into account, the picture painted is that of a violent confrontation with those who dared treat God’s house with such contempt.

  • Realist1234

    The reality is He used force to remove the money changers etc. I have not read anything into the account. I have described the picture that the Gospel writers have painted for us.

  • Realist1234

    emojis never work for me!

  • I think you will want to read the academic article that JD linked earlier. It addresses this story, particularly John’s account, and among other things explains why the original Greek doesn’t support the notion that Jesus used the whip on people. Also worth noting, he didn’t enter the temple precincts with a whip; even in English, it’s clear that he fashioned the whip with materials that he picked up on the temple grounds.

  • Tom Paine

    Spot on Ben. Thank you for another excellent essay.

  • But the main difference between my interpretation and your interpretation is that mine doesn’t rely on anything outside the written account.

    Maybe the money-changers thought he was leading a mob. Maybe he used the whip on people and not just animals (I did not claim the whip did not exist – I said the only account that mentions it is also the only account that mentions driving out the animals). Maybe he used physical force to prevent people from coming in besides a bunch of yelling and pronouncements of judgement in the name of God. Those are all valid hypotheses. However, the text says none of that. You are imagining a scenario and imposing it on no particular Gospel text, but all of them combined in your head.

    The fact is that the actual -text- says nothing about people fearing the mobs or Jesus whipping any of them. It records that he drove them away and wouldn’t let them back in. It does not say how. We know “driving out” does not necessitate physical force, so there’s no reason -from the text- to assume that’s what happened.

    You might believe the extra-textual details you’ve thought of make better sense of the text, and that’s totally fine , but I’d be very leery of constructing a biblical theology of violence on that.

    “Taking all the records into account, the picture painted is that of a violent confrontation with those who dared treat God’s house with such contempt.”

    But that’s just it, none of the accounts portray that. You are assuming the confrontation was more likely violent than not, but none of the accounts say that.

    EDIT: What’s more, this is an indictment against the Temple, not a pro-Temple event.

  • Mark

    It is said that for each of us God has a mission based on our talents. Jesus gathered a group of fishermen and instructed them on his teachings on spreading the ‘good news’. You would not teach a class of priests or pastors on the defense of the country against an attack of barbarians. You would not teach them how to be policemen to protect the innocent in your society from the unjust.
    Jesus lessons of ‘pacifism’ were more about not using violence that results in worse violence. “He that lives by the sword dies by the sword.” Jewish opposition to the Romans was an example of not resisting evil and being obedient to the law of Caesar because of the inevitable outcome. The destruction of Jerusalem and the massacre of Jews.

  • I think the best case is that the “whip” was made from the tzitzit on his garment which would have been perfect for getting cattle to move, but wouldn’t have done much to a human.

  • But if he did hurt a person in that exchange, he is not the promised Messiah, according to Isaiah, so that presents a conundrum.

  • But “force” does not equal physical harm. It sounds like you’re assuming pacifism requires no physical force, but that’s not true. Raising a teen with severe violence issues, I used force many times (called nonviolent restraint– nearly all social service professionals have to be trained in in). Yet, this force was never violence– it never once harmed her, but only protected her from harming herself or others.

  • Tim Crist

    There is no evidence of any intent to injure. Nor is there any record of anyone being injured. He drove people out. He turned over tables. That’s non-violent.

    It is also interesting to note that John is the only Gospel to mention the whip. It is even more fascinating that he made the whip there in the Temple. In other words, he carried with him no other weapon or item to force the merchants out.

    Appropriate passages are copied and pasted below:

    “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.” Matthew 21:12

    “On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” Mark 11:15

    “When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46“It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” Luke 19:45

    “In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” John 2:14

  • I happen to agree with you Mr. Corey, but I would like to hear how you answer people who bring up the incident in the temple because it always does come up. I know how I usually answer but I would like to hear you address it. To my mind, you should have addressed it in your post.

  • That isn’t at all what Luke 22.36 is saying. He did tell his followers to buy swords, but once they said they had two, he stopped them, saying that was enough (to be arrested for insurrection when the authorities came). When one of his followers cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest who came to arrest Jesus, Jesus immediately healed the servant and admonished his follower to “permit even this.”

    In the Matthew account, he even tells his follower “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”

    Jesus’ most radical act, and one his disciples did their best to emulate, was to forgive his killers as they killed him. He personally demonstrated to all who followed him that they have no need to fear death or hate those who would kill them.

  • Then why assume they ended in pain?

    I know a lot of people who also assume that when Jesus turned over the tables and drove the money changers and their doves, cattle, and sheep out of the temple, that when he bound up cords into a whip he used it to attack the money changers, when it doesn’t say that. It makes much more sense that it was used to move out the cattle and sheep, but some people so want to imagine Jesus angrily beating people.

    Maybe you and they want Jesus to be violent because you want an excuse for your wanting to do violence, and so where you think it is open for someone to be hurt by Jesus, you imagine him hurting them.

  • here is a quote by Mark Charles from the May 31st red letter Christians blog quoting Pope Nicholas V regarding the ‘doctrine of discovery’

    The following quote from Pope Nicholas V in the Papal Bull Dum Diversas written in 1452 has deeply shaped our nation. This Papal Bull, along with others written between 1452 and 1493 are collectively known as the Doctrine of Discovery. This doctrine helped create a worldview that placed white, European Christian males at the center and reduced most everything else in the natural world to mere assets for their exploitation and profit.

     “…invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit”

  • Matthew

    Thanks Lucas (and Phil).

    I´m not advocating violence as a way to solve problems or advance the kingdom, nor am I saying that Jesus was violent, I´m merely attempting to understand the verse better in light of Benjamin´s argument.

    Thanks for the input. Food for thought. I still maintain, though, that they might have gotten hurt when they fell, however Jesus could have made sure they didn´t get hurt at all.

  • Matthew

    Jesus may have been non-violent, but was he all loving in the way most of us understand Jesus to be?

    I was just reading another blog and in the comment section a person talked about Jesus displaying racism and sexism (saying he only came for the Jews, choosing 12 Jewish male apostles, his treatment of the Syro-Phonecian woman). This person also talked about Jesus being callous toward family (ignoring his mother and brothers, telling followers to hate their families, telling a man not to bury his father).

    I would add that Jesus is sometimes very stern (even calling the Pharisees white washed sepulchres) and he mentions hell in the Gospels as well.

    Do these issues call into question the all loving God we find in the New Testament?

  • Bones

    Lol. I think Jesus used the force Ala Kylo Ren.

  • Bones

    You needed to see the end of the Force Awakens….

  • Bones

    You need to understand how John is trying to portray Jesus. He’s more a superhero or master of the force than a human being.

  • Matthew

    Is that how you understand Jesus … Bones? As a master of the force?

  • Matthew

    Is Yoda in it? He’s the best :-).

  • Realist1234

    But you are arguing for non-violence in the face of someone being violent – but it is Jesus who would be viewed as being violent here, not others. In your scenario, Jesus is the one who needs to be restrained!

  • Not quite– my commitment is to mimic Jesus in nonviolence and to never harm my enemies. But that does not preclude us from civil disobedience and causing disruptions, which is what Jesus is doing.

  • What we know about Jesus comes to us from the complete bible – OT and NT. For example, Jesus is speaking in John, chapter 5 when he mentions that Moses wrote of him. By looking only in the Gospels you cannot completely understand Jesus:

    45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

    The nonviolent ethic of Jesus was not quite central to his ministry. God sent jesus to this world for a specific purpose” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

  • Jesus as Jedi Master is a very popular conception of Jesus, even if they wouldn’t use that term.

  • Bones

    The force is strong with this one.

  • Bones

    You’ve just opened up a whole new demographic to outreach.

  • Due to reading Mennonite materials I became a pacifist in 1969–right in the middle of the Vietnam war. My pacifism was put to the test right away by the personal attacks I experienced over the next few years. And it was all because of how I now understood Jesus.

  • RonnyTX

    Amen Benjamin,amen! :-) And this I know for certain, I am to listen to and follow Jesus Christ. And not follow some people, some preachers, etc, as if they were Jesus Christ. Listen to such people yes; but not put them and their words, between myself and God/Jesus Christ, for they are surely not that. I am very strong on this, as I was brought up in a church, where I was taught that to listen to and believe my church pastor and all the teachings of my church, was one and the same thing, as my listening to, hearing and believing God/Jesus Christ. So, I was taught that bit of idol worship of some people, in the church I grew up in; but I am so glad, that in time, God showed me better and delivered me from such. :-) Then, I could see what Jesus Christ said and one of the main things he says, is simply, that I am to follow him. And when I do that, I am following in the way of love. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Matthew to Al:
    I would add that Jesus is sometimes very stern (even calling the Pharisees white washed sepulchres) and he mentions hell in the Gospels as well.

    Ronny to Matthew:
    Actually Matthew, Jesus never mentioned hell. And hell is not in the bible, as it was written in Hebrew and Greek. A good article below, about this.


  • Phil, you express the thoughts I have held for years on this passage:

    “This is a carefully planned episode to communicate prophetically the present condition and upcoming destruction of the Temple, much in the same vein as the OT prophets who laid siege to models of Jerusalem, married prostitutes, and laid on one side for years.”

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much Ronny. LONG article though :-). Can you “bottom line” it for me?

    Also … do you have any insights on my other concerns?

  • Matthew

    Honestly … I don’t think I ever completely understood what the force really is. Yoda was cool though.

  • Arbustin

    Tzitzit aren’t that long and they come down from your waist. It’s unlikely they could have gotten cattle to move.

  • That’s so cool to hear someone has been thinking that way for years. It’s still kind of new to me.

    If you haven’t already read it, Marcus Borg’s book Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary tries to rigorously pursue the idea of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet. I don’t always agree with the details, but the basic thrust was really helpful to me.

  • Andrew

    Tony, yes. The idea of any whip in the temple being solely for use with animals would be reading too much into it. Not to mention that John records Jesus as forming the whip himself and not just grabbing something that already existed.

    Your original comment, however, (if I’m reading the purpose behind you’re posting it right) was implying that the premise of Ben’s article was challenged by the temple scene and Jesus’ use of a whip (the idea that Jesus wasn’t non-violent). In other words, “If he whipped people, then he’s willing to use violence to coerce others, therefore the idea that he is 100% non-violent is shown false.”

    But doesn’t this also assume something? Doesn’t it assume that the whip actually made contact with humans and caused harm? Isn’t that also reading into the text in order to form the idea behind your post? I can see why we might jump to that conclusion because why would someone be “driven out” just because some crazy guy is thrashing ropes all over the place. But as much as that feels like common sense, it is also adding.

    This is why I started off by saying that non-violence (in the most basic sense that I’m reading it from this article) involves not using bodily harm as a means to an end.

    So if the accounts do not tell us that he harmed anyone (or even any animals) and instead simply “drove them out” – but – it also doesn’t tell us that he expressly did NOT harm anyone or any animals, then neither of us has enough raw evidence to claim that he was acting violently or non-violently.

    I was just challenging your assertion about how pesky that temple scene is. It’s not pesky. It doesn’t give either of us enough information in itself to be a problem.

    However, when we place the temple scene into the context of the rest of his ministry, his teachings, his commands, and basically everything we have recorded about him, I would argue that it is, at the very least, unlikely that he was beating people with ropes.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible because I don’t know. But it would be very inconsistent with what we see him doing literally the rest of the time.

    And I would argue that it is also inconsistent with the way the disciples/apostles dealt with the Jewish powers prior to 70 AD. I say this because it may give us a little insight into what their take-away from Jesus’ ministry was in terms of violent resistance?

    Did they seem to think it was OK to engage in violence in order to stop the exploitation of others? Perhaps if they thought Jesus had given violence a pass in this case, they would’ve been more non-passive in their resistance to the Jewish elite, who were persecuting them.

    Again, I do not know. I’m just looking to learn from what surrounds these events.

    But I do not think the temple scene is trouble for a non-violence perspective on Jesus.

  • Thanks, Phil, for the book referral. I have not read it.

  • Tony Iannitelli

    Andrew, I appreciate the depth of your response. To further explain my starting point, the SCENE itself is ‘violent’. There is no statement in Ben’s article defining violence as carefully as you seem to do in your treatment of the word. If I were offering Ben advice, it would be to pre-emptively treat this passage so it does not appear to be ignored to make his point.

  • Andrew

    If I can offer another perspective…

    There was no NT when the Gospels were written/compiled. Paul was writing. But the collection had not been defined. Hebrews, whomever its author, also only had the OT as an authoritative source. And yet…

    In Hebrews 1:1-4 we are told that God once spoke to us in various ways (ancestors, prophets, etc.) but now he is speaking to us through his son. The author doesn’t hide what he’s doing. And to hammer this home it says that Jesus is the “exact representation” of the father. Exact compared to what? He already told us – “In the past, God spoke to our ancestors…”

    The emphasis is on Jesus being the crystal clear image of the father while the OT contains genuine but blurred (and perhaps at times even somewhat distorted) images of who God is and what he is doing.

    Jesus said, “when you have seen me, you have seen the father.” Not even David would’ve said that.

    Perhaps, this should make us think twice about trying to balance the imagery of Jesus in the OT (wherever we may think it is) with what we see in the Gospels.

    Indeed, Jesus actually presents himself – during his ministry years – as the sole person capable of truly interpreting and understanding what came before. When legal scholars looked to mitigate his teachings and actions (aka “balance” him) with the images they understood from the OT, he promptly shut them down and made it clear that his teachings, his interpretations, his actions, and his commands are the final word (even if – at times – they seem to contradict what came before).

    In my view, it is not a high view of scripture to force Jesus to blend with the OT imagery. It is far better to make the OT subject to Christ because he is the exact representation of the father and when we have seen him we have seen the father.

    In fact, I feel that when we attempt to mesh OT and NT imagery of Jesus into a seamless whole, we are left with bizarre contradictions that tend to deify the text rather than the person. We feel compelled to satisfy the perfection of the text instead of accepting the perfection of Christ and his commands. Perhaps these issues are only cleared up by making Christ the final word.

    The Sermon on the Mount does not appear to be given as part of some limited-scope three-year non-violent mission of Jesus’ to pay for the sins of the world (and then it’s back to business OT style). Nor does it seem to only point to some long distant future where the Kingdom is all in place and everything’s great. In my view, the Sermon on the Mount uses language with immediate and permanent relevance for his listeners and for all who come after.

    He wasn’t just forecasting a future kingdom. He was initiation an entirely new creation from that day forward. And for any who decide to trust him and follow his lead (his teachings, his life, his commands – including things like the Sermon), they become part of this mustard seed process of humanity being remade in the image of Christ (this is what the rest of Hebrews 1 hints at, perhaps?).

    So I don’t feel we get greater clarity about Jesus by balancing what we have of him in the NT with what we think we have of him in the OT. We DO get great clarity about him from the OT – but – it is by finding those glints of the Jesus we already know from the Gospels – showing up sometimes unexpectedly in the form of a faithful husband (Hosea) one who resurrects (Elijah), a voice against idolatry and injustice (Jeremiah), a devoted friend (Naomi and Ruth), and even a donkey (I personally think the donkey’s tone is beautifully congruent with Jesus’ sometimes curt way of speaking – but maybe that’s just me).

    However, I think going in the opposite direction (looking to import the blurrier images of God in the OT into the life of Jesus, so that we can have our retributive violent cake and eat it, too) is a damaging practice to get into. I feel it shifts the logic of all of scripture away from Christ and toward Cain. I admit I could be wrong and maybe Jesus will prove to be every bit as violent as the genocides presented in Joshua lead some to believe. That would be a crushing disappointment and a cause for despair in me because… we’ve had those kinds of kingdoms this whole time and I’m exhausted by them. Not an ounce of shalom to be had among them.

    Just my perspective. Nothing I said above is meant to imply that you think x or y. I was responding initially to the idea that the OT should be used as a Jesus-defining source (which I don’t think it should). Rather, I think the OT reveals that the Jesus from the Gospels has always been at work in the world regardless of the way humanity has contended with him, thought about him, and represented him. I believe we can find him in the OT if we know where to look (and if we comprehend why we’re looking).

  • Andrew

    I agree. I was expecting him to address it and was surprised when he didn’t.

  • Ron McPherson

    Ok, that was a great post!

  • MesKalamDug

    As late as two centuries after Jesus Tertullian was sure that a Christian could not
    work for the government – not even as a schoolteacher. This would preclude a Christian from serving in the military and not serving in the military is the usual sense of pacifist. That Jesus is reported as having some strong opinions is another
    matter – IMO at least.

  • Bones

    Yoda was a Muppet. …

  • Iain Lovejoy

    As Ben said, Jesus certainly advocated non-violent resistance to evil, rather than violence. However, that doesn’t answer the question as to whether he was a pacifist in the modern sense. Both Jesus and the modern pacifist will resist evil non-violently rather than violently. The modern pacifist, however, will continue to refuse to use violence even if this means they will therefore be unable to offer effective resistance to evil at all. This dilemma never arises for Jesus in the Gospels – he permits himself to be crucified but by doing so successfully resists evil and indeed defeats it utterly by rising from the dead on the third day. This is not an option for us.
    Although there are all sorts of theological ways to finesse it, by making the swords fulfilment of prophesies, symbolic etc, if Jesus expected his followers to be pacifists in the modern sense they would be expected to die rather than use violence and they would have had no business being armed: instead he encouraged it. Jesus said to Peter “Put away your sword” not “Throw your sword away.”
    Christians primary duty is to resist evil, and the means we are instructed to use are, as Ben says, non-violent means, even if we die doing so. But Christians are not, I would say, called to be pacifists in the modern sense because, unlike with a true pacifist, we are not excused from effectively resisting evil if the only way of doing so is, ultimately, to take up arms.

  • Matthew


  • Matthew

    So is Elmo (I think). May the force be with him.

  • Martyrdom is definitely an option for us.

  • Whoa. I mean that in a good way.

  • Bones

    Well the whole point of the driving out of the Temple is Jesus is totally repudiating the Temple system.

    It wasn’t just the money changers….it was the whole inequitable system where the poor and unclean are exploited and obligated to make reparation, through sacrifices, for their inferior status – from which the marketers profited.

    Mark quotes Jeremiah which begins:

    Do not trust in these deceptive words:
    “This is the temple of the Lord . . .” [Jer 7:4] .

    and later in Mark

    11:21 : ” Rabbi, Look! The fig tree you cursed has withered! ”

    This represents the end of the Temple and destruction of the Temple which Jesus called for in Mark 13.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Yes, but subsequently raising from the dead on the third day isn’t.

  • Tim Crist

    Thanks Bones.

    Marketers profiting off the poor. – Sounds familiar.

  • Bones

    This has nothing to do with Jesus acting violently and everything to do with Jesus repudiating the temple system

    Eg Mark quotes Jeremiah which begins with

    4 Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, Jer 7:4

  • RonnyTX

    Matthew to RonnyTX:
    Thanks so much Ronny. LONG article though :-). Can you “bottom line” it for me?

    Ronny to Matthew:
    Sort of. :-) But think about it Matthew, if there really was a Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment, would not God of warned Adam and Eve about such? Yet hell is never mentioned to them or to anyone in all of Genesis. And in several translations of the bible, hell is not mentioned at all, in the Old Testament.

    Then we get to the New Testament and some translations of the bible have Jesus Christ using the word hell, about 11 times. But the Greek word they translate as hell, is the word Gehenna. And Gehenna was simply a valley, just outside of Jerusalem.

    Matthew to RonnyTX:
    Also … do you have any insights on my other concerns?

    Ronny to Matthew:
    Matthew, I’m going to try to get to some of those today. Maybe I can do that, as long as my Sis doesn’t get off work early, come home and need/want me to do some other things? :-) And I hope to get to some of that today, because Sis and I have to get over towards Dallas tomorrow, to babysit her youngest 18 month old grandson. :-) Just grinning, thinking about that sweet little hardheaded fellow. :-) And his parents aren’t supposed to get back to their home, till 2am Sunday morning or should I say night?! (ha) Not sure, what’s going on with that? And then Monday, Sis and I have to drive to a town about 70 miles away, where she’s set to have cataract surgery, on one of her eyes. So just not sure how much time I’ll have to post for awhile?

    And just wanted to tell you, there is a lot of good stuff on that Tentmaker.org webpage. :-) And they have links to at least two other websites of their. Real good ones too. :-) One called Love Wins and the other titled, What The Hell is Hell.

  • But rising from the dead is.

    I don’t think any of Jesus’ decisions were mediated by the knowledge that, if somebody killed him, he would just resurrect.

  • Sorry for the double comment, but now I’ve had more time to digest your thought.

    I think how I might say it is that the OT helps us understand Jesus in the sense that Jesus is stepping into a story that the OT has already established. By understanding things like creation, election, salvation, exile, covenant, etc. as the OT presents them, it helps us to understand the narrative that Jesus is stepping into.

    The reason I’d be slightly hesitant to say the OT helps us understand Jesus because we find glints of Jesus there is because, in less thoughtful hands, this can easily co-opt Israel’s story into later European thoughts of the “meaning” of Jesus.

    For instance, we might start with the concept that Jesus came to save souls from Hell. Since no one is saved from Hell in the OT, everything becomes a “picture” or a “foreshadowing” of Jesus. And when Jesus’ followers expect things like kindgoms and deliverance from oppression, we judge them (and by contrast Judaism for quite some time) for “misunderstanding” their own Scriptures.

    That is not at all what you are doing, but this is a phenomenon I see almost exclusively when people talk about the OT pointing us forward to Christ. What they really mean is that the OT is pointing us forward to penal substitutionary atonement. And now the whole OT is about people sinning, God wanting to kill them and burn them for eternity because of it, and Jesus solving that problem.

    Because of that, I’d say the OT helps us understand Jesus in terms of his role in the overall narrative. It does not help us understand Jesus in the sense that every OT portrayal of God is bound to appear in Jesus even if it the Gospels indicate otherwise. Obviously, Jesus himself isn’t afraid to say, “Moses said this, but now I say this.”

  • RonnyTX

    Matthew to Al:
    Jesus may have been non-violent, but was he all loving in the way most of us understand Jesus to be?

    Ronny to Matthew:
    Oh yeah, he was and still is. :-) God the Father and Jesus Christ are love. :-)

    Matthew to Al:
    I was just reading another blog and in the comment section a person talked about Jesus displaying racism and sexism (saying he only came for the Jews, choosing 12 Jewish male apostles, his treatment of the Syro-Phonecian woman). This person also talked about Jesus being callous toward family (ignoring his mother and brothers, telling followers to hate their families, telling a man not to bury his father).

    Ronny to Al:
    Al, I don’t understand some of that either; but reckon some of it, could be because of bad bible translating? And I remember the scripture, where Jesus told that man to follow him and let the dead bury the dead. The interesting thing to me there, is that Jesus Christ didn’t just refer to the dead man, as being dead; but also to those being dead, who were taking him to his burial. But then, that’s what we all are, until God raises us from the dead. :-)

    Al to Matthew:
    I would add that Jesus is sometimes very stern (even calling the Pharisees white washed sepulchres) and he mentions hell in the Gospels as well.

    Ronny to Matthew:
    Al the word sometimes translated hell, when Jesus Christ used it, was the word Gehenna and as I said in another post, that was simply a valley, just outside of Jerusalem. So that word, should of been left as Gehenna and never translated as hell.

    And yes, Jesus did call some Pharisees, white washed graves. And we see in the New Testament, the Pharisees were noted for their thinking, that they were better than most everyone else. And when a person thinks and acts that way, sooner or later, God/Jesus Christ is going to show them better. :-) And that’s a good thing for any of us, for it will be God, the goodness of God, bringing us to repentance. :-)

    Al to Matthew:
    Do these issues call into question the all loving God we find in the New Testament?

    Ronny to Al:
    Nope, not a bit. For God/Jesus Christ, can certainly be stern and certainly say somethings at times, that we don’t yet understand; but the bottom line truth is, God/Jesus Christ is pure love. :-)

  • Andrew

    Great thoughts! Thanks.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Jesus death and resurrection were the key point of his mission: “If Christ is not risen, our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14.)
    The point being that in Jesus’ case dying achieved victory over death and sin, but this is not necessarily the case in ours. We rise up on the last day when evil is finally defeated: our dying does not necessarily however bring this about.

  • Ok, I disagree that verse means what you think it means in the context of Paul’s argument, but leaving that aside, the death of martyrs absolutely brings the defeat of evil about. It runs all through Paul, especially 1 Thess., not to mention the concepts of completing Christ’s sufferings and being conformed to his image.

    But perhaps the most dramatic picture is Rev. 12:11. The dragon is defeated by not just the martyrdom of Christ, but by the faithful testimony of those who do not cling to their lives even unto death. This is how the kingdom of God fights the Dragon, being faithful unto death. It is a huge component of New Testament ethics, and the hope of a future resurrection of said martyrs is also a big theme, with Jesus’ martyrdom and resurrection being portrayed as the first fruits of a larger harvest.

    Jesus did not come to die and rise from the dead. He came to deliver God’s people from their oppressors. He does this, amongst other things, by being faithful even though it means his death, and God vindicates him by raising him from the dead. The faithful death of God’s people moves Him to deliver – a theme that stretches through the OT and intertestamental literature.

    So, if death and resurrection were drivers of Jesus’ nonviolence, they are equally drivers of our nonviolence. You made it sound like the only reason Jesus was nonviolent was because he had to die, and violent resistance would somehow have staved that off. If I’ve misunderstood you, please feel free to clarify.

  • Artistree

    No, Jesus, the Eternal Word of God, was not a pacifist.
    But He did call His followers in the ways of “non-resistance” and non violence ( which is distinct from pacifism) . He instructed us in Scripturue not to bear arms. God is the One who takes vengeance, not us. When we take justice into our own hands we mess it up badly.

    The Scriptures tell us that the pre-incarnate Christ, the Angel of God, slew the firstborn of Egypt. He called down fire from the God in heaven upon Sodom. He directed the armies of Rome to destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD. But that is His judgment, not ours. He is the One who is the Sword of God, not us.

  • Bones

    The problem with your last paragraph is He did none of those things…..

  • Matthew

    Thanks RonnyTX. No rush.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    My point is a less specific one – Jesus was ultimately able to successfully resist evil through non violence because God raised him from the dead, and not just (as with the rest of us) at the end of time. The fact that Jesus himself used only non violent resistance does not therefore tell us one way or the other whether only non violent resistance to evil is permissible even in circumstances where non violent resistance is ineffective. (I.e. if is it better to let evil succeed rather than use violence to resist it).
    I am absolutely not saying Jesus did advocate (or necessarily permit) the use of force, only that he in his case, non-violent resistance did not fail, so we can’t tell from the fact he used non-violent resistance what he would have us do in those circumstances.

  • Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    I’ll offer a few thoughts from a bigger perspective:

    The Word of God was the God being that interacted with man as explained in the OT. He is often referred to as the Lord God to differentiate him from God. There is nothing blurred or distorted about his presence. Because man sinned he was separated from the presence of God. Man’s history is told to us in much detail in the OT. All the stories are for our benefit and not for private interpretation. To believe that the OT is not accurate in places is simply done to further a private point of view; in this case pacifism and in other cases lawlessness.

    The most prophesied future event in the OT is the birth of Christ – the Word made flesh. This was not only necessary it was agreed to by the Word and God before the foundation of the earth when they decided to create man in their image and likeness. The Word is presented as the Son of God in the NT and his sacrifice was necessary to pay for the sins of mankind. This sacrifice paid the penalty for us and allows us to have direct access to the father – something no one in the OT had.

    When it says that the world was destroyed in the first age because the thoughts of man were only on evil continually – this is not a violent act of vengeful God. It was necessary stop the madness on earth. But God had planned for this contingency before the sin of Adam. All those people – over a billion – will have a chance for salvation. We are now in the second age of man and steadily progressing to the same point which was elegantly explained in Ecclesiastes.

  • Artistree

    The problem with your comment is that you don’t believe the Bible, but I do.

  • RonnyTX

    Jesus Christ had the power to kill all people, who were killing/murdering him; but then, what did he do, when they were doing just that?

    “33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. 35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” 36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” Luke 23:33,36

  • Ok, but maybe I still don’t understand you – the people of God follow in Jesus’ footsteps up to and including allowing ourselves to be killed by our oppressors because this is how the people of God defeat the powers of our age. Jesus leads the way for us by doing so, hoping not in the effectiveness of non-violent techniques, but hoping in the justice and compassion of God who will vindicate him.

    I believe this is pretty consistent with the thought pattern the rest of the NT lays out. This is why we can suffer like Jesus, give love and mercy back to a hostile world like Jesus, and hope in our future vindication and renewal like Jesus. I guess I don’t understand the difference you’re trying to point out. Both Jesus and I know that God will raise us from the dead. Both Jesus and I trust His promises and intentions to make good on that if we are faithful. And -because- of Jesus, I know what faithfulness looks like in the midst of oppression and have even more reason to trust God because Jesus went first. I don’t understand the differentiation you’re trying to make.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    A pacifist in the modern sense refuses to use force to resist evil regardless of the consequences: the commitment to non-violence trumps the requirement to resist evil. An example would be not shooting dead a terrorist to stop him detonating a bomb.
    Jesus used non violence successfully to resist evil, and because he was God knew exactly what he was doing, was able to do so and succeeded.
    Imperfect Christians in a fallen world will not always be able to find a non violent way to successfully resist evil: the question is what we do then. Saying Jesus used non violence does not answer the question because Jesus’ non violence did not fail.

  • You’ll have to forgive me, here, because this made me even more confused about your point.

    What do you mean Jesus’ non-violence did not “fail?”

    Are you saying that Jesus did not run into situations like shooting the bomb-detonating terrorist, so we can’t know for sure what he would have done in that situation? Because I can appreciate that and I think there’s room for discussion on that issue. How do Christians respond to non-oppressive, non-martyrdom sorts of violence? Is it ok to use violence to prevent those things? Is it preferable to do so? Those are definitely debatable issues. I have my own take, but I can definitely appreciate the grey area.

    But I don’t see what that has to do directly with Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus wanted deliverance for his people. He did not resist their oppressors with violence like the kingdoms of this world, but rather lived a faithful testimony into death, committing himself into God’s hands and, in the process, showing the path of deliverance for all his people.

    The resurrection shows clearly whose side God is on. God vindicates Jesus and, in the process, announces a very bad scenario for the powers of the age who keep the engine going instead of pursuing God’s kingdom of justice, compassion, etc. They will not be resurrected or vindicated. The grave will take them, and we will never hear from them again.

    I would argue this is the exact situation the people of God face today as we fight the powers that be. We already know vindication and resurrection wait for a faithful testimony, and we know taking up the sword against those powers belies that testimony. Our situation and Jesus’ is precisely the same in that regard with the difference that he went first and demonstrated rather more complete faith in the process.

    And this is why I’m confused what point you’re trying to make. I don’t see how the resurrection of Jesus is supposed to differentiate between our responses. If anything, it superimposes them.

    Now, if you’re saying that we run into violence that doesn’t fit that scheme, like some dude shooting up a 7-Eleven, and we have no incidents about Jesus dealing with such random violence, therefore you’re not sure we can use Jesus’ nonviolence to dictate our behavior in THOSE circumstances, like I said, I’m sympathetic to the ambiguity. I’ve made my own decisions about that, but I can appreciate that you can’t just drop how we are obviously supposed to respond to oppression by worldly powers on top of every possible use of violence we might run across.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I fear either I am over thinking your points or you mine and I am not sure we actually disagree.
    In terms of response to repression by worldly powers Jesus’ non violent resistance has proved time and again infinitely more effective thsn armed revolt, if only because the oppressors tend to be far better armed.
    Where I disagreed with Ben’s blog was in his attempt to cast Jesus as a pacifist in the modern sense of someone who expressly eschews violence in all circumstances, including the non-oppressive, non-martyrdom kind, even if it means failing to stop e.g. criminals killing people, which cannot be determined from the gospels.
    The relevance of the resurrection is only that it demonstrates Jesus’ victory; I.e. that the gospels don’t show Jesus providing a moral example of deliberately going down to defeat and allowing evil to triumph rather than use force (which in extremis is what a pacifist would do) but rather an example of non violent resistance to evil actually successfully defeating it.

  • Ok, I think I understand you a little better; thanks for your patience.

    If you’re saying that we can’t say with certainty that Jesus would have never been violent in any situation – that’s true, we can’t. Personally, I think the nature of the new creation and the overall thrust of Jesus’ teaching would take us down that road, but I am extrapolating. Jesus is never in a situation where, say, a Roman soldier was about to cut down a child and Jesus happened to be wearing a sword and we are told what came of all that. It’s probably safe to say Jesus encountered people being treated violently on a regular basis, but once again, that’s speculation on my part.

    Unfortunately, extrapolation is all we have because we don’t get to see how Jesus reacted in a situation like that. I would say, I think it’s unwise to -assume- Jesus would have cut that soldier down, and equally unwise to say Jesus would be morally ambivalent about whether or not someone cut that soldier down. Our ethics are resurrection, new creation ethics, and we embody that creation even at our expense. And as Ben has pointed out, our options aren’t just violence versus a total lack of response. There are a lot of options in between.

    But I agree that we can’t with certainty nail down comprehensive nonviolence, even though I think that’s where the ethic takes us. Ben is probably more certain, but you also have to keen in mind that he’s trying to shake up the Christo-American complex that believes guns, wars, and the death penalty are things to be promoted as opposed to things to be extremely wary of and carefully thought through.

  • Widge Widge

    Yes according to the Bible

  • Widge Widge

    Your problem is you do not read the bible quite clearly

  • I don’t think you can tackle this discussion (especially to argue against who think Jesus wasn’t a pacifist) without addressing the scourging of the temple. A clearly angry Jesus flipped tables over and, according to one of the Gospel accounts, took a whip to some people. While probably not deadly force, I’d argue that is still “violent.” I’m happy to hear someone say that it’s not, but I stand by my assertion that this narrative must be addressed in any argument that attempts to say that Jesus was a pacifist.

  • Centexhorn

    The problem, I believe, is in your definition of the word “violent”. Violence carries with it the intent, traditionally, to physically harm an individual. Only 1 of the 4 Gospel accounts mentions the use of the whip and the word “drove” (in relation to the use of the whip) is the same Greek word used in Mark 1:12 when Jesus was “driven” into the desert by the Spirit. Physical violence cannot be associated or derived from this word as it is unfitting with the rest of its New Testament usage. Context doesn’t not allow for it.
    Also, it’s very important to note the mention of animals in the temple in these passages. The whip, most likely, was used to move them out of the temple as would have been used by any herder during that era – and violence was never the intent.
    Don’t confuse violence and strong emotion.

  • As I said, I’m happy to accept such an explanation. I stand by my assertion that this is a passage which must be addressed if one wants to make the case that Jesus was indeed a pacifist (or, if you prefer, non-violent). I have no objection to your analysis. I simply insist that it’s a necessary part of any debate on this issue.

  • JD

    Agree it should be addressed. Here it is addressed brilliantly, going into the original language: http://www.academia.edu/1563662/Violence_Nonviolence_and_the_Temple_Incident_in_John_2_13-15