Whether or Not Jesus Opposed Violence

Continued from Part 16

Jesus and his philosophy of violence

Jesus was not adverse to using violence and held no general principle against violent action.  If Jesus was truly non-violent he could not have uttered his call to family strife and divisiveness. 

He proudly avowed that his is a mission which will cause discord and disturb the universal peace and bring war to the world (Matthew 10:34-35, Luke 12:49-53).  Jesus called for his opponents to be brought before him for summary execution.  He declared:  “But these enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here, and slay them in my presence” (Luke 19:27).  The use of violence is not always an act of evil.  But, in exploring the teachings of Jesus, we are not just dealing with his physical violence, but also with a philosophy of violence.  When one is a teacher, especially when one is considered an authoritative teacher to his followers whose every word has power to transform into actions how one acts is as important as what one teaches.  And if you do violent actions—you are violent!

Words of forgiveness or hypocrisy

Could Jesus have preached violence or hated anyone when he spoke words of forgiveness and non-resistance to wickedness?  Did he not say:  “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27), “Do not resist him that is wicked; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39) and, alternately:  “To him that strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also” (Luke 6:29)?  These verses are taken as representative of the extraordinary forgiveness supposedly taught and exercised by Jesus himself.

However, “turn the other cheek” was not practiced by Jesus himself.  Jesus, it is said, preached turning the other cheek, loving one’s neighbor and praying for them, and forgiving those who wrong you.  But, when did Jesus manifest such behavior in his personal relationships, during his lifetime?  Was it his cursing of the Pharisees (Matthew 23), his threat of violent retribution on cities that rejected his message (Matthew 11:20-24, Luke 10:13-15), or his condemnation to death of Jews who would not accept him (Luke 19:27)?  Jesus himself never turned the other cheek.  He never forgave anyone who rejected his claims. He never forgave anyone who wronged or criticized him.  He responded to his opponents, not with passive resistance, but by answering criticism with criticism, and by reviling and threatening his adversaries.  John’s Jesus, when beaten by an officer, instead of offering quietly his other cheek argues with him (John 18:22-23).

Jesus displayed irrational hatred.   He condemns the Jewish people for things that happened even before the time of Abraham, their father, saying:  “[U]pon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you slew between the Temple and the altar” (Matthew 23:35).  The Gospels’ Jesus irrationally denounced the entire Jewish people for murders neither they nor their fathers committed.  He holds them liable for sins in which they could have no part because they were committed even before the birth of Abraham, the progenitor of the nation of Israel.

Instead of forgiving Judas for betraying him, he said:  “But woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed!  It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24).

Who did Jesus forgive?  Jesus only forgave those who wronged others.  Whenever an opportunity to personally forgive others presented itself he always declined.  Where is Jesus’ non-violence where is his love and forgiveness of enemies?

Jesus disqualified to be the servant

Perhaps those who believe Jesus was God or authorized by God have no problem with his teachings and actions.  However, he still cannot qualify to be the servant of Isaiah 53.  If this passage is a literal fulfillment by Jesus then there must be total fulfillment by him.

 53:9:  “neither was there any deceit in his mouth

A Parable on Deceit

Once upon a time, in a far off city a man entered the city’s largest church and announced:  “Destroy this church and in three days I will raise it up.”  Some shrugged there their shoulders and said to each other “he’s a madman” others just scoffed and said “why is he disrupting the service?”  But others said, “You know, we could use a new building and he seems like an honorable fellow.”  Before you could imagine the last group prevailed.  The congregation agreed to destroy the building in anticipation of a beautiful new building ready in three days.  When the appointed time for the new building arrived the entire congregation stood waiting but nothing happened, the site remained a ruin.  “Where is our new building”? They demanded.  “Oh, you misunderstood me,” he declared innocently, “I meant that if you executed me, I would be raised up in three days,” although he knew all along that they did not understand his true meaning. What would you call such an individual?  Would you call him a liar, a lunatic, or just simply deceitful?  Do you have any other description you would use to describe such a person?

After thinking about this parable read the following:  “[Jesus said to a crowd standing in the Jerusalem Temple:] ‘Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews therefore said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this Temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking of the temple of his body’” (John 2:19-21).  How fortunate that the Jews did not take him at his word.

The people were led to believe that he meant the Temple in Jerusalem when he actually spoke of “the temple of his body” (John 2:21).  John’s Jesus certainly knew they misunderstood his meaning.  Yet, he did not clarify what he meant.  Jesus own secret meaning was clearly hidden from those to whom he spoke.  His audience did not infer that Jesus meant anything other than the Jerusalem Temple.  What would you call an individual such as Jesus, a liar, a lunatic or just simply deceitful?

I know what you could not call him ̶ the Servant who had no “deceit in his mouth.”

© Gerald Sigal