A Simple Case for Christian Nonviolence

[1] Jesus’ Direct Teaching

“Nonviolent resistance” might be a more accurate term for Jesus’ teachings: he commands a “third way” between doing nothing and responding to violence with violence, namely, returning evil with good; resisting with love.

  • Jesus clearly expects his followers to live nonviolently – rebuking them on many occasions where they stray from this expectation:
    Luke 9:51-56
    Luke 22:47-51

[2] Jesus’ Explicit Example

  • As the Incarnate God, Jesus’ nonviolent historical life is both: 

[3] Overall Narrative of the Bible – From Old Testament to the Kingdom of God

Despite the (divine and human) violence in the Old Testament, there is a promise of and clear trajectory towards a nonviolent community

  • Israel’s battles weren’t won with military prowess, but by simply obeying & trusting God
    Joshua 6:1-7
    Psalm 20:6-9
  • OT has clear promises of the Kingdom of God’s arrival calling God’s people to nonviolence
    Isaiah 2:1-5
    Micah 4:1-5

[4] The Early Church Thought It Was Obvious

  • The early church (from the time of Christ to the time of Constantine in the 4th century) was fully nonviolent. Here is a small sampling of quotes:

Justin Martyr (100-165 AD)
“We who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness, have each through the whole earth changed our warlike weapons—our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage—and we cultivate piety, righteousness, philanthropy, faith, and hope, which we have from the Father Himself through Him who was crucified.”

Tertullian (160-225 AD)
“Shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law?”
“If one attempt to provoke you by manual violence, the admonition of the Lord is at hand: To him,‟ He 
says, ‘who strikes you on the face, turn the other cheek also.’ Let outrageousness be wearied out by your patience.“
“Christ, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier…”
“And shall he apply the chain and the prison and the torture and the punishment, who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs?”
“Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? And shall he apply the chain, and the prison, and the torture, and the punishment, who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs?”

Hippolytus (170-236 AD)

“The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God.”

Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD)

“We have come in accordance with the counsel of Jesus to cut down our arrogant swords of argument into plowshares, and we convert into sickles the spears we formerly used in fighting. For we no longer take swords against a nation, nor do we learn anymore to make war, having become sons of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our Lord.”

Marcellus (298 AD)

“I threw down my arms for it was not seemly that a Christian man, who renders military service to the Lord Christ, should render it by earthly injuries.” “It is not lawful for a Christian to bear arms for any earthly consideration.”

Martin of Tours (316-397)

“I am a soldier of  Christ. To fight is not permissible for me.”

Biblical Studies Blog Carnival | September 2014

Welcome to the September 2014 Biblical Studies Blog Carnival!

September means one thing in Texas: football season is back! And of course, I’m speaking of American football – both college and NFL teams are now on the field once again. I know that many of our biblical studies bloggers are more inclined towards the internationally recognized form of “football” (what we down here in Texas call “soccer”), so please accept my apologies for picking such a culturally-biased theme. You might enjoy the video below of a confused “football” coach attempting to coach a “soccer” team.

College football divides each team into certain conferences – the SEC (Gig ‘Em Aggies!), Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, etc. Thus, I’ve divided this month’s excellent blogging into four conferences:

– The OTC (Old Testament Conference)
– The NTC (New Testament Conference)
– The CHTC (Church History, Theology, and Hermeneutics Conference)
– The BRC (Book Review Conference)

However, just because a post might not be in one of the above conferences it still might have merited a place in the Wild Card Race (Miscellaneous Posts).

There were a ton of great blog posts this month.
Thanks to all who contributed –  happy reading!


The OTC (Old Testament Conference)

The NTC (New Testament Conference)

The CHTHC (Church History, Theology, and Hermeneutics Conference)

BRC (Book Review Conference)

The Wild Card Race (Miscellaneous Posts)

* * *  New Blog Alert  * * *
Michael Forth, a doctoral student at Aberdeen, has started a new blog: PonderForth. Check out his first blog post, “Is Christian Fundamentalism a Manifestation of Liberal Theology?”


[1] Did I miss a great post from the month of September? Post a comment with the link so that we can all enjoy it!

[2] Next month’s Biblical Studies Blog Carnival (October 2014) will be hosted by Brian Renshaw on November 1. Be sure to stay tuned for another month of blogging greatness.

[3] Phil Long at Reading Acts is still looking for volunteers to host future Carnivals. This is my “emotional plea” for a few decent folks to step up and help continue this biblioblog tradition! If you’re interested and/or willing to be coerced, please contact Phil through his blog.

Frauen Friday: Adele Berlin

After a short hiatus I am very excited to dive back into the world of blogging and especially excited to pick up our Frauen Friday series! If you are new to the blog, Frauen Friday was started with the hopes of providing more exposure to the amazing female scholars, authors, academics, pastors, laypersons, and so on. Thus far I have featured Mercy Amba Oduyoye, Beverly Gaventa, and Elsa Tamez. I am hoping to pick up the pace a bit and have a Frauen Friday post every Friday this summer–I’ll try my best to do so!

Today’s Frauen Friday feature is biblical scholar Adele Berlin. If you are a student of Biblical Hebrew you are likely familiar with some of her work. Here is an abridged bio from her faculty page at University of Maryland:

“Adele Berlin, now professor emerita, was the Robert H. Smith Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Maryland. She taught at Maryland since 1979 in the Jewish Studies Program, the Hebrew Program, and the English Department. Her main interests are biblical narrative and poetry, and the interpretation of the Bible. While at Maryland, Professor Berlin served as Director of the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies (1988-91), held the position of Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs (1994-97), and was Chair of the University Senate for the 2005-2006 academic year.

Professor Berlin has received numerous awards and honors. She is a Fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research. In 2000 she served as President of the Society of Biblical Literature. She has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation,  the American Council of Learned Societies, the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Institute of Advanced Studies of the Hebrew University (Jerusalem).” (For the full bio go here)

I was first introduced to Berlin’s work during my undergraduate studies in Hebrew when we got to reading poetry. In The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism, Berlin seeks to “provide a linguistic framework for the study of parallelism,” (xvii). The majority of the book focuses on a number of different linguistic categories (the grammatical aspect, the lexical and semantic aspects, and so on) and concludes with a look at parallelism within the biblical texts. This book is incredibly helpful and if you are a reader of Biblical Hebrew you should definitely own this book.

I later picked up a copy of Berlin’s Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative when I began studying participant reference in Susanna. In the preface Berlin writes,

“It is ironic that, although telling is so important in the biblical tradition, there is no word for story. There are words for songs and oracles, hymns and parables… other than a term like תולדות (‘genealogy, history’) applied to a few narrative sections, there is nothing to designate narrative per se. Yet the Bible abounds with narrative–vibrant and vivid narrative that has an ongoing power to affect those who hear or read it. Its power comes not only from the authority of scripture, but from the inner dynamics of the stories themselves. This book will explore some of those inner dynamics, some of the inner workings of biblical narrative,” (11).

I found chapter two, “Character and Characterization,” particularly interesting and extremely helpful. In it she suggests classifying character types in the biblical narratives into three main categories: the full-fledged character or round character; the type or flat character; and the agent or functionary character (23). Berlin does note that these are not clear cut categories but rather points along a spectrum within which a character might fall and to varying degrees throughout the narrative (32). To demonstrate how these categories work, Berlin looks at the stories about David and the women in his life, namely, Michal, Bathsheba, Abishag, and Abigail. From her analysis Berlin concludes that

“the result in all of these cases is an indirect presentation of David, in which various aspects of his character emerge naturally, outside of the glare of direct scrutiny. These episodes are then combined, in the mind of the reader, with the episodes in which David is the main character,” (33).

Further along, Berlin delves into the importance of description in characterization. For instance, she notes that the Bible does not often provide physical descriptions of its characters. When a biblical author does intentionally include a physical descriptor (e.g., that Esau was hairy) the reader is alerted to important information for the narrative’s plot (34).  Additionally, Berling argues,

“the purpose of character description in the BIble is not to enable to the reader to visualize the character, but to enable him to situate the character in terms of his place in society, his own particular situation, and his outstanding traits–in other words, to tell what kind of a person he is,” (36).

Descriptive terms help the reader see a character the way the author intends him or her to be seen and understood. The book also covers other topics such as point of view as well as how poetic interpretation relates to historical-critical methods of interpretation. Again, I highly recommend this book as I have found it very helpful in my own reading of scripture.

Update: A Festschrift in honor of Adele Berlin was published last year and is available here: Built by Wisdom, Established by Understanding: Essays on Biblical and Near Eastern Literature in Honor of Adele Berlin (2013)

 

 

 

For further reading…

Books

Articles

 

QOTD: Richard Hays on Reconciling the Moral Visions of OT and NT Texts

From Richard B. Hays, Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (pp.336-337):

“…the New Testament’s witness is finally normative.  If irreconcilable tensions exist between the moral vision of the New Testament and that of particular Old Testament texts, the New Testament vision trumps the Old Testament.  Just as the New Testament texts render judgments superseding the Old Testament requirements of circumcision and dietary laws, just as the New Testament’s forbidding of divorce supersedes the Old Testament’s permission of it, so also Jesus’ explicit teaching and example of nonviolence reshapes our understanding of God and of the covenant community in such a way that killing enemies is no longer a justifiable option.  The sixth antithesis of the Sermon on the Mount marks the hermeneutical watershed.  As we have noted, the Old Testament distinguishes the obligation of loving the neighbor (that is, the fellow Israelite) from the response to enemies: ‘[B]ut I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.’  Once that word has been spoken to us and perfectly embodied in the story of Jesus’ life and death, we cannot appeal back to Samuel as a counterexample to Jesus.  Everything is changed by the cross and resurrection.  We now live in a situation in which we confess that ‘in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us’ (2 Cor. 5:19).  Those who have been entrusted with such a message will read the Old Testament in such a way that its portrayals of God’s mercy and eschatological restoration of the world will take precedence over its stories of justified violence.”

Biblical Studies Carnival XCIV: December 2013

‘Twas the night before the new year when all through the house,
not a creature was stirring… except me and my laptop’s mouse.
Smart phones and iPads were set by the nightstand with care,
with hopes that the Biblical Studies Carnival would soon be there.

The bibliobloggers were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of end-of-the-year top ten lists danced in their heads.
And professors, students, bloggers, and more,
had just settled their brains for a two-week to month-long snore…
except for grad students because everyone knows we never sleep.

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2014, the year we all finally keep our new year’s resolutions… here’s hoping! Before we take a look back at December and all the bloggy goodness it contained, I wanted to remind you of the most exciting thing happening in 2014:

Houston Baptist University is hosting a conference on “Paul and Judaism” on March 19-20, 2014. Our keynote speakers include N.T. Wright (St Andrews University)Beverly Gaventa (Baylor University), and Ross Wagner (Duke Divinity School).

In addition to the keynote speakers, we are inviting papers in the area of Paul and Judaism, representing a variety of approaches from scholars and graduate students. Participants will have 30 minutes to present papers (inclusive of Q&A). Please submit a 200-300 word abstract to Dr. Ben C. Blackwell at bblackwell[at]hbu.edu by January 15, 2014, and you should receive notification regarding acceptance by January 31. Registration by February 15 is required for those who will present at the conference.

For more info: www.hbu.edu/theologyconference

This conference is going to be AWESOME so be sure to get your paper submissions in by January 15th and/or register for the conference!  Hope to see y’all there.

Now, on to the feast of December blog posts!

Advent, Christmas, and the Incarnation
Since this month’s carnival covers December it seems natural to start off with a sampling of Christmas-themed posts.

“One item of folk religion is the belief among Christians that the incarnation was temporary—a mere interim and perhaps even a charade in the life of the Son of God, God’s Word, the Logos. For many evangelicals (and others, I suspect), the incarnation was simply the Son of God ‘putting on human skin’ for thirty-some years in order to teach us how to please God and then to die for our sins. Either at the moment of his death or at his resurrection or at his ascension he shed that human skin and returned to his glorious pre-incarnation existence as God’s purely spiritual Son in heaven who also, somehow, dwells in every Christian’s heart.

This is, of course, an informal form of the ancient heresy of Gnosticism. It is a docetic Christology. Most of the time I find that people who believe the incarnation was temporary don’t really believe in the incarnation at all! That is, they tend to think of Jesus’ humanity as an act, an outward performance, not a real human nature and existence like ours. To many Christians ‘Jesus’ was Clark Kent to the Son of God’s super-human glory.”

ANE, Hebrew Bible, OT Theology, and More

LXX, DSS, Apocrypha and More

New Testament, NT Theology, and More

Early Christianity and Patristics

Hermeneutics

Language, Linguistics, Textual Criticism, and Translation

“I say to my students, ‘Check your sources.’ I tell them,
‘Look up the works in the footnotes and read them.’ I warn them to get beyond the slogans and labels of ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ or ‘evangelical’ or whatever and to discover the substance of the argument. In this day of uncounted online ‘“news’ sources (not to mention on air news sources), many of which are propaganda for various positions and/or sensationalism, some of which being not just junk but worse than junk, this admonition is even more important than it has been in the past.

Archaeology

The “I wasn’t sure where to put it but you should definitely read it” Category

“One of the differences between ‘theology’ and ‘religious studies’ is that theology is carried out from within the perspective of the believer, while religious studies takes a strictly historical/sociological perspective. I am enrolled in a theological program: perhaps this is why my immediate response to learning of this theologian’s persistent sinful patterns of behavior was to question whether and how it reflected on the value of his theology. It seems a screamingly obvious question to me.”

Book Reviews
Good heavens, December was the month of book reviews!

The Biblical Studies Carnivals of 2013
Since it is the end of another year, I thought I’d include a link to all of the previous Biblical Studies Carnivals of 2013 compiled by The Biblioblog Top 50.

Peter Kirby has the Top 50 Biblioblogs Winter Report at his blog and Abram K-J has the Septuagint Studies Soirée #5.

And of course, Jim West is hosting his ‘Wright Free Zone’ carnivalat his blog… but is a carnival without Wright really a carnival at all?  We here at Cataclysmic love us some N.T. Wright… well, most of us (wink, wink)… so to start off the new year with lots of joy, here’s Tom-foolery: 12 Epic Facts About N.T. Wright from Out of Ur.

The next Biblical Studies Carnival (Jan 14, Due Feb 1) will be hosted by Brian Renshaw at NT Exegesis.  See y’all ’round the blogosphere!