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The subject of pacifism and whether it is Biblically supported has been a recent topic of discussion here on kingdomready and it is something that many of us have differing opinions about. I have been giving it a great deal of thought recently since many of my compatriots here on the site see pacifism in the positive and I have always viewed it in the negative (being the true view of Scripture that is). But since I respect their opinions and only wish to know and rightly follow the real truth (whether that be how it see it or how my colleagues do makes no difference – truth is truth), I have been researching the subject with an intense focus over the last couple of weeks.

I have been examining the issue from many different perspectives. And one of those perspectives is the 1st century Hebrew one. This is something I feel is crucially important to proper scriptural exegesis. We must carefully try to understand Scripture in its proper cultural setting.

Many of us at kindgomready understand this and seek to do this as we examine the big issues like the errors of the trinity and the immortal soul belief. It helps to see how 1st century Hebrews such as Jesus, Paul, and the other New Testament writers viewed the world, their people, their politics, and their religion. Doing this gives us the opportunity to mentally step back into their theological shoes and take a different view than we might have missed from the traditions that have been handed down to us over time since then.

The following paper by a scholar in Hebrew culture and linguistics is something I feel is right along those lines and may offer up somewhat of a different perspective for those willing to consider such a view.

Jesus’ View of Pacifism

By David Bivin

The idea that Jesus taught pacifism arose primarily due to the misunderstanding of a number of his sayings. When viewed from a Jewish perspective, the gospel passages on which pacifism is based point to a quite different conclusion.

Many people over the years have seen Jesus as a pacifist — and for good reason. Here was a man who apparently was willing to die rather than defend himself, a man who taught his disciples not to kill, not to resist evil, to love their enemies, not to fear those who kill the body, and that only those who are willing to lose their lives will be able to save them.F1 Jesus’ teachings seem very much like those of such popular pacifists as Tolstoy and Gandhi, and indeed, Tolstoy based his views on gospel passages.F2

But did Jesus teach that it is wrong to defend oneself against attack? Did he really mean that we should not resist evil? Such a view seems to contradict what we read elsewhere in the Bible. In Romans 12:9, for example, Paul says that one should “hate what is evil”, and in James 4:7 we read that we are to “resist the devil”. It is clear from passages in Luke 22 that Jesus’ disciples were armed,F3 and Jesus himself advised them to purchase swords.F4

These apparent contradictions may be reconciled by recognizing the Hebraic nuances of the gospel texts, and by developing a deeper understanding of the Jewish background to Jesus’ words.

One verse that is commonly cited in support of Jesus’ pacifism is Matthew 5:21, which most English versions of the Bible render, “You shall not kill”. The Greek word translated “kill” in this passage is a form of the verb phoneuo. This verb was always used as the equivalent of the Hebrew verb rFcAx râtsach (Strong’s #7523) in the Septuagint Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. rFcAx râtsach is the word used in the sixth commandment in both Exodus 20:13 and its parallel, Deuteronomy 5:17. It seems quite certain that in Matthew 5:21 Jesus was quoting the sixth commandment.

The words foneuw phoneuô (Strong’s #5407); and rFcAx râtsach are both ambiguous and can mean either “kill” or “murder”, depending upon the context. However, God himself commanded capital punishment for such crimes as deliberate murder (Exod. 21:12–15), rape (Deut. 22:25–26), kidnapping (Exod. 21:16), adultery (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22), sorcery (Exod. 22:18), and many other crimes. The sixth commandment, therefore, must be a prohibition against murder, not killing as such.

In spite of this, the King James Version of 1611, and the revisions of 1885 (Revised Version) and 1952 (Revised Standard Version), used “kill” rather than “murder” in translating Jesus’ quotation of this commandment.F5 Although most recent translations of the Bible have corrected this mistake,F6 the “kill” of the King James Version and its successors has strongly influenced many English-speaking Christians’ views of self-defense.

Another saying of Jesus on which his supposed pacifism is based is found in Matthew 5:39a. It is usually translated, “Do not resist evil”, or “Do not resist one who is evil”. However, when Jesus’ saying is translated back into Hebrew, it is seen to be a quotation of a well-known Hebrew proverb that appears with slight variations in Psalms 37:1,8 and Proverbs 24:19.F7

This Hebrew maxim is usually translated, “Do not fret because of evildoers” or “Do not be vexed by evildoers”. Bible translators apparently have supposed from the contexts of this maxim in Psalm 37 and Proverbs 24, which emphasize that evildoers will be destroyed, that the righteous should not be concerned about evildoers or pay them any attention. This supposition is strengthened by the second half of Psalms 37:1 that, as it is usually translated, advises that one should not be envious of such evildoers. It thus appears that the verb translated “fret” or “be vexed” is correctly translated. However, elsewhere in the Bible this verb always seems to have some sense of the meaning “anger”.F8 Furthermore, the two parallels to this verb in Psalms 37:8, both synonyms for anger, suggest that the verb in Matthew 5 must also have that meaning.

The verb in question is from the root xFrAh chârah (Strong’s #2734), whose basic meaning is “burn.” From this root meaning is derived “anger”, a sense that all Hebrew words from this root have in common. (Note that in English also, many verbs expressing anger have something to do with fire or burning—be hot, burn, boil, flare up.) In some occurrences of this root, anger is a result of jealousy or rivalry. Saul’s jealousy of David caused him to fly into a rage (1 Sam. 20:7,30). This nuance of xFrAh chârah is also reflected in the use of “contend” in Isaiah 41:11 in Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures, the translation published by the Jewish Publication Society: “Shamed and chagrined shall be all who contend with you”.

The particular form of the verb used in our proverb is a form for intensive action and thus expresses a passionate anger. This furious anger leads to a response in kind. Such anger results in a rivalry to see who can get the better of the other, and in each round of the competition the level of anger and violence rises. This amounts to responding to evil on its own terms, to competing in doing wrong with those who wrong us.

The New English Bible’s translation of Psalms 37:1 and 37:8 is unique: “Do not strive to outdo the evildoers or emulate those who do wrong. For like grass they soon wither and fade like the green of spring”; “Be angry no more, have done with wrath; strive not to outdo in evildoing”. This seems to be the only version of the Bible that reflects the Hebrew “anger” verb’s nuance of rivalry or competition.

Likewise, the Good News Bible is apparently the only translation of the New Testament that uses “revenge”, or anything similar, to render Matthew 5:38–39: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who does you wrong. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too.” It is surprising there are not other versions that translate in the same way. Following “But I tell you”, the context demands “Do not take revenge”, since the first part of verse 39 speaks of “an eye for an eye”, in other words, punishment that is a response in kind.

In idiomatic English, Matthew 5:39a might read simply, “Don’t try to get even with evildoers.” F9 Not “competing” with evildoers is very different from not resisting evildoers. Jesus was not teaching that one should submit to evil, but that one should not seek revenge. As Proverbs 24:29 says, “Do not say, ‘I will do to him as he has done to me. I will pay the man back for what he has done.’” Jesus’ statement has nothing to do with confronting a murderer or facing an enemy on the field of battle.

Mistranslation of Matthew 5:39a has created a theological contradiction, but when Jesus’ saying is correctly understood, it harmonizes beautifully with other New Testament passages: “See that none of you pays back evil with evil; instead, always try to do good to each other and to all people” (1 Thess. 5:15); “Do not repay evil with evil or curses with curses, but with blessings. Bless in return — that is what you have been called to do — so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:9); “Bless those who persecute you. Bless them, do not curse them. Do not pay anyone back with evil for evil… If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with everyone. Beloved, do not take revenge, but leave that to the wrath of God” (Rom. 12:14, 17–19); or, as Jesus commanded, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44).

Our response to evil does have to be resistance — it is morally wrong to tolerate evil. However, we also must continue to show love for the evildoer.

It should be noted that loving and praying for one’s enemies in no way precludes defending oneself when one’s life is in danger. One is morally obligated to preserve life, including one’s own. Jesus never taught that it is wrong to defend oneself against life-threatening attack. However, he consistently taught his disciples to forgive and not to seek revenge against those who had attacked them. As Proverbs 20:22 counsels, “Do not say, ‘I will repay the evil deed in kind.’ Trust in the LORD. He will take care of it.”

Our responsibility is not to respond in kind to belligerence directed against us. That only prolongs and perpetuates the evil. We are not to “be overcome by evil,” but to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).

Not only does a pacifistic interpretation of Jesus’ sayings contradict many biblical passages, but pacifism was never a part of Jewish belief. According to Scripture, for example, a person who kills a housebreaker at night is not guilty of murder: “If a thief is seized while tunneling [to break into a house], and he is beaten to death, the person who killed him is not guilty of bloodshed” (Exod. 22:2). The rationale is that the thief is ready to murder anyone who surprises him, thus one may preempt the thief.

The Jewish position on this issue is summed up in the rabbinic dictum, “If someone comes to murder you, anticipate him and kill him first.”F10 The sages taught that if one is in danger of being murdered, he should defend himself, even if there is a measure of doubt about the intention of the attacker. Furthermore, if another person’s life is threatened, one is obligated to prevent that murder, if necessary by killing the attacker. The sages ruled that a person who is pursuing someone else with intent to murder may be killed. F11 In light of this, it is very unlikely that Jesus, a Jew of the first century, would have espoused pacifism.

When we examine Jesus’ words from a Hebraic-Jewish perspective, we can see what has been obscured by mistranslation and lack of familiarity with Judaism. The passages construed to support pacifism actually condemn revenge rather than self-defense. It is not surprising that this interpretation is consistent with Jesus’ other teachings and the rest of biblical instruction.

FOOTNOTES:
F1: Mt. 5:21; 5:39a; 5:44; 10:28; 16:25.
F2: See Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is within You, trans. Constance Garnett (New York, 1894; repr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984). In 1894 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, at that time a barrister in South Africa, read The Kingdom of God Is within You, which had been loaned to him by a Quaker. The book “overwhelmed” him, he wrote in his autobiography.
In 1906 Gandhi, struggling against racial prejudice in South Africa, launched a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience. In 1910 he founded Tolstoy Farm for the families of men who were jailed in the struggle. Later, in India, Gandhi founded other such communities based on Tolstoy’s ideology. In 1920 he proclaimed his program of nonviolent noncooperation with the British rulers of India that led to freedom from British rule.
F3: Lk. 22:38, 49.
F4: Lk. 22:36.
F5: In addition to the King James Version and its revisions, such versions as the New Jerusalem Bible, The Living Bible and The Amplified Bible render Mt. 5:21 as “kill.” However, The Living Bible and The Amplified Bible show inconsistency by translating the sixth commandment using “murder” (Exod. 20:13; Deut. 5:17).
F6: Rendering Mt. 5:21 by “murder” or “commit murder” are the New English Bible, New International Version, New American Standard Bible, New American Bible, Good News Bible, New Berkeley Version and the New Testament translations of Goodspeed, Moffatt, Phillips, Stern (Jewish New Testament) and Weymouth.
F7: I am indebted to Robert L. Lindsey for drawing my attention to the connection between Mt. 5:39a and these three passages:
Ps. 37:1 and Prov. 24:19 read (l-Ttxr BMr)ye al tit·HAR ba·me·re·IM (Do not be furiously angry with evildoers).
Ps. 37:8 reads (l-Ttxr (k-lhr) al tit·HAR ak le·ha·RE·a (Do not be furiously angry; it can only do harm).
F8: See the entry xFrAh chârah in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 5:171–176.
F9: “Wrongdoers” might be preferable to “evildoers.” As the context, which mentions insults and lawsuits, shows, Jesus probably was not speaking primarily of confrontations with criminals or enemies on the field of battle, but of confrontations with ordinary acquaintances who have committed an offense.
F10: Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 72a.
F11: Mishnah, Sanhedrin 8:7.

48 Responses to “Jesus’ View of Pacifism – a Hebraic viewpoint”

  1. on 23 Nov 2008 at 11:57 amMark C.

    Two major flaws in this reasoning:

    1. The idea was not in the Hebrew mindset; that’s why Jesus taught it as a new and revolutionary thing. “Ye have heard it said… But I say to you…” Rather than scrutinizing the meaning of words to see what we can get away with, we are told that love fulfills the Law. If you love someone you don’t inflict violence on them or kill them. What part of that is difficult to understand?

    2. Again we have the straw man argument, claiming that pacifists believe we are not to confront evil or attacks in any way at all. It has been repeatedly pointed out in these threads that that is NOT what we are saying. We do our best to stand against evil, we protect and defend ourselves as best we can, we confront evil FIRST AND FOREMOST with the Word, and we pray for God’s protection. But we do NOT respond to violence with violence. The fact that so many in this debate don’t even recognize that there are other ways of responding to it is proof of how much our society is permeated with violence. This is what is going to change in the Age to Come.

  2. on 23 Nov 2008 at 5:25 pmJohnO

    I have to whole heartedly point out Mark’s finding of Strawmen in your post. I, for one, do not find the pacifism teaching of Jesus in the technical phrases you outlined above. Yet, also like Mark, I immediately seized upon this:
    but pacifism was never a part of Jewish belief.
    I agree. It was not. In truth, the post does not do much in the way of Hebrew mindset at all, only word technicalities.

    I owe much of my thinking here to NT Wright, Scott McKnight, Ben Witherington, and other writers on the Historical Jesus and Second Temple Judaism. The short story goes something like this: Each of the competing groups (Pharisees, priests/Saduccees, Essenses, and those who would become the Zealots) all have a specific idea, somewhat exclusive of the rest of the groups, about how to be Israel. The nation finds itself back in Palestine, out of Babylon, but the situation isn’t any better. They used to be under Babylonian rule, now Roman rule. They still don’t have autonomy, and they are still fighting off the influences of paganism and Hellenism. They are paying taxes (see Wright’s stunning analysis of this in NTPG/Victory) to Rome, and now and again being killed by Roman soldiers. The situation is grim. Throughout Jesus’ life he has seen many violent revolutions fail and result in widespread death (there was one such revolt in Sepphoris, miles from Nazareth, right before Jesus’ birth) that were still in the mind of the people. Every other Messiah claimant within 100 years of Jesus attempted a violent revolution, rushing Jerusalem for power. Every one failed. Their attempts were either thwarted, resulting in the claimants death, or the diffusement of the group before they could start the military campaign, resulting in the claimants running away, never to be heard from again. Jesus presents the starkest contrast. Surely, we all agree he claimed to be a Jewish Messiah claimant. If we but look at his message (in plain words and parables), and actions, as a whole we are hard-pressed not to see him as a pacifist. Moreover, the widespread early Christian witness is pacifism! This is an easy conclusion to draw, and is the most powerful argument for the Christian practice of pacifism.

  3. on 23 Nov 2008 at 7:12 pmJohnE

    Ron, I appreciate your search for the truth in this matter. This is exactly what we should do, understand Scripture in its proper cultural setting, to see how 1st century Hebrews such as Jesus, Paul, and the other New Testament writers viewed the world, their people, their politics, and their religion.

    I did this, and came to conclusions quite opposite than yours. I noticed that whenever anti-pacifists are quoted, they rarely, if ever, even touch upon the verses quoted by pacifists. David Bivin is no exception. No attempts are made by him do discuss such verses as Ephesians 6:11-17, Luke 21:20-21, the entire Acts.

    Many people over the years have seen Jesus as a pacifist — and for good reason. Here was a man who apparently was willing to die rather than defend himself

    I have to really disagree here. I can’t understand how David can make such statements like this. Jesus was not apparently willing to die rather than defend himself, he actually was willing and did die rather than to harm others in the process of defending himself.

    But did Jesus teach that it is wrong to defend oneself against attack?

    Like Mark C. said earlier, this is knocking off straw man arguments, as far as I am concerned. If one would try to punch me in the eye, I’m going to try to shield my head with my hands, but I’m not going to punch him in the head preemptively, or knock him cold after he punched me so that he cannot do it again. In fact, if I know this person will try to inflict harm, I’m going to avoid encounters with him, just like the 1st century disciples (see Acts). That is defence.

    Did he really mean that we should not resist evil? Such a view seems to contradict what we read elsewhere in the Bible. In Romans 12:9, for example, Paul says that one should “hate what is evil”, and in James 4:7 we read that we are to “resist the devil”

    Yes, the keyword is “seems”. It really does not contradict anything, certainly not Romans 12:9 and James 4:7. What David does here is stretching these verses (and others) beyond breaking point.

    Romans 12:9 says “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”. According to David, “abhor evil” would mean somehow “kill or maim in self-defence”? So when you as a pacifist avoid harming the attacker, you do not “abhor evil”??? Then we could easily conclude that pacifist really “love evil” because by not attacking/maiming/killing the attacker in self-defence, they DO NOT “abhor evil”. Which is ridiculous.

    The reference James 4:7 has the same standing. It says to resist the devil and not the humans who are inflicting harm. This has nothing to do with the violent self-defence advocated by anti-pacifism, you cannot do that in the case of the devil. As I said, stretching verses beyond breaking point.

    It is clear from passages in Luke 22 that Jesus’ disciples were armed, and Jesus himself advised them to purchase swords.

    Yes indeed. But what David does is just mentioning in passing Luke 22, instead of addressing in detail what is actually being said there and considering the context. Although we already discussed this, let me repeat myself.

    The context is the betrayal of Jesus by Judas (21-23) and the events surrounding that betrayal (31-34). Next he says:

    Luke 22:35 “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.”

    Indeed, previously Jesus said to them: “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city” (Luke 9:3-4) Notice how they were still welcomed by their Jewish brothers in their houses. It was not necessary to take bag or bread or money because the Jews would welcome them in their houses and would see to their needs.

    Notice how no mention is made here about swords. Jesus doesn’t even say “take no swords” swords were no issue at all; physical security was not even an issue yet. So when Jesus says next

    Luke 22:36 “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.”

    only the taking of the money belt and bag is in reverse to his earlier command, not the taking of the sword. Then Jesus provides a reason for these instructions:

    Luke 22:37 “For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘and he was numbered with transgressors‘; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”

    This is the reason why they should take along a money belt, a bag, and a sword, because the following prophecy must be fulfilled: “he was numbered with transgressors”. When was this prophecy fulfilled? Was it not here?:

    Luke 23:32-33 Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.

    I think so. So what Jesus says is “take along a money belt, a bag, and a sword because I will be captured and put to death”, and your Jewish brothers will welcome you no more, on the contrary”. Now this can be understood in two ways.

    a) That Jesus’ reference to taking a money belt and a bag was meant for the long run, but his reference to the sword was meant for a short run, in order for him to be able to teach them with the help of a real dangerous situation – his betrayal and capture – that they should not use weapons when confronted with harm; that is “put back your sword Peter”.

    b) That Jesus tells the disciples to arm ourselves with weapons because he will be betrayed, captured and killed, and their Jewish brothers will be against them.

    Which one is the valid conclusion? Consider what the disciples did when the Jews started to persecute them. Did any of them fight back with swords? Any, one at least??? The overwhelming evidence says “No”. Please read my comments on Acts here: http://kingdomready.org/blog/2008/11/04/election-day-thoughts/#comment-37099

    The fact that his disciples did not understand Jesus’ words as anti-pacifists do, not arming themselves and defending themselves with weapons, is external evidence. Do we follow their example? Or do we prefer to practice our own flavor of Christianity, one that makes a turn of 180 degrees?

    The internal evidence points to the first conclusion as well, and not to the second one. When Jesus tells the disciples to take swords, they reply:

    Luke 22:38 They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

    It is “they” who said so, not one disciple. It was not that one disciples alone had two swords, it was they, the eleven men (plus Jesus = 12) who had two swords. So I’d like to seriously ask every anti-pacifist, why exactly were two swords enough? For what purpose exactly were two swords enough? For defending 12 people? Why exactly does Jesus say “It is enough”? This indicates that conclusion a) is the valid one.

    Jesus wanted to teach them a lesson in a live, real-world scenario. When he tells them to take swords, he points to his capture and his death sentence, being numbered among the transgressors on the cross. The context is clearly his following betrayal and the events surrounding it. Among which is Peter’s wielding of the sword, to defend Jesus.

    It has been argued by anti-pacifist that Christ merely says:

    John 18:11 “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”

    And since we are here, can anti-pacifists really say they obey Christ by keeping their swords into their sheaths? No, they say that it is only because Jesus had to die, that was the only reason why Jesus told him to put his sword back into the sheath. But isn’t it a fact that the disciples understood this as a general rule that was to be applied also in the situations where Jesus’ life is not in danger (see Acts)? Isn’t it a fact that one prominent disciple which Jesus himself chose, once said

    Ephesians 6:11-17 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but […] against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having Mb>girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

    He specifically says that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, and therefore our weapons are not literal swords/guns/atomic bombs, but the armor of God, spiritual weapons. Since our battle is not against humans, the carnal weapons are totally missing from this picture. He says elsewhere while speaking again in military terms that

    2 Corinthians 10:2-6 I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

    Now getting back to what Jesus said to Peter, isn’t it a fact that he added:

    Matthew 26:52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.

    So Jesus’ reason for stopping Peter was not only that he had to die for ransom, but that Peter should not die at the hands of the ones who came to capture Jesus. All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword, including Peter, and Jesus wants not only Peter not be killed by others because he took up the sword in defense, but he wants no disciple of his to die by the sword as a result of taking up the sword in defence! That is the will of Jesus and I think we should submit to it.

    So David Bivin has no leg to stand on yet when he advocates against pacifism. As a side note, he was a sergeant in the Israeli army, so I do not really expect his “searching for the truth” quest in this respect to be unbiased. He has, after all, to look out for his own conscience, in case he killed anybody during his service.

    David wrote:

    The words foneuw phoneuô (Strong’s #5407); and rFcAx râtsach are both ambiguous and can mean either “kill” or “murder”, depending upon the context. However, God himself commanded capital punishment for such crimes as deliberate murder (Exod. 21:12–15), rape (Deut. 22:25–26), kidnapping (Exod. 21:16), adultery (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22), sorcery (Exod. 22:18), and many other crimes. The sixth commandment, therefore, must be a prohibition against murder, not killing as such.

    In spite of this, the King James Version of 1611, and the revisions of 1885 (Revised Version) and 1952 (Revised Standard Version), used “kill” rather than “murder” in translating Jesus’ quotation of this commandment.F5 Although most recent translations of the Bible have corrected this mistake,

    That translation is not a mistake in itself. As David concedes, the word has a double meaning, to kill and to murder. For example, Numbers 35:27 speaks about the avenger of blood putting to death a murderer. To verb for putting him to death is exactly the one in question, “φονεύω”. Septuaginta says that “the avenger of blood should φονεύσῃ the slayer”. Is he really sure “φονεύω” should be translated as “to murder”? Was the avenger of blood murdering the slayer? So just because God says murderers and rapists and sorcerers should be put to death, it does not mean the translation should not say “you should not kill”, because under the old covenant people were required to kill these trespassers. Yes, a murder is a killing and not vice-versa, but it is perfectly legitimate to say “you should not kill”, because it is self-understood, “unless God requires you to”.

    By the way, why don’t Christians today kill sorcerers? Or adulterers? Or those who say “let’s go and inquire about other gods”, as God required then? In all seriousness I ask, shouldn’t we do this since God requires it?

    the “kill” of the King James Version and its successors has strongly influenced many English-speaking Christians’ views of self-defense.

    To be honest, it hasn’t influenced me a bit. I was influenced by Christ’s and his disciples’ example and teaching, not by the 6th commandment.

    Another saying of Jesus on which his supposed pacifism is based is found in Matthew 5:39a. It is usually translated, “Do not resist evil”, or “Do not resist one who is evil”. However, when Jesus’ saying is translated back into Hebrew, it is seen to be a quotation of a well-known Hebrew proverb that appears with slight variations in Psalms 37:1,8 and Proverbs 24:19.F7

    David is wrong here (again). He says “when Jesus’ saying is translated back into Hebrew”. Whose translation is this exactly? His I suppose. For one thing, yes we can translate it back into Hebrew, but we won’t be ending up with what Psalms 37:1,8 and Proverbs 24:19 say.

    In Psalms 37:1,8 and Proverbs 24:19, the Septuaginta does not, and I repeat, does not use the verb used in Matthew 5:39a, which is “ἀνθίστημι”. Mt. 5:39 is rightly translated “do not resist evil” since that is what ἀνθίστημι means (BDAG 650):

    1. be in opposition to, set oneself against, oppose

    Acts 13:8 (Elymas opposed them); Deut 9:2 (Who can oppose the sons of Anak); Gal 2:11 (I opposed him to his face); 2 Ti 3:8 (Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses)

    2. to be resistant to power, resist

    Eph 6:13 (resist in the evil day); Ro 9:9 (who can resist his will); Jas 4:7 (resist the devil); 1Pe 5:9 (resist him); Dan 11:15 (no strength to make a stand); Dan 11:16 (no one will be able to withstand him); Mal 3:15 (they have resisted God, and yet have been delivered – Brenton’s LXX translation) ; Hab 1:9 (resisting with their adverse front – idem);

    There’s nothing about this verb that would even hint anything close to “vex”, “fret” or “anger” as David continues on to say.

    How does the “Complete Jewish Bible” by David H. Stern (published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1998) translate Mt. 5:39?

    “I tell you not to stand up against someone who does you wrong.”

    Curiously enough, when the LXX uses the same Greek verb in Lev 26:37 as in Mt. 5:39 (ἀνθίστημι), the translation says “you will have no [strength] to stand up before your enemies”.

    Also, when Dan 11:16 uses “ἀνθίστημι” (no one will be able to withstand him), the Hebrew word ἀνθίστημι translates is “עמד”, which in Dan 11:16 literally means “no one is standing [up] to his face” – see http://scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/OTpdf/dan11.pdf

    Then also, Esther 8:11 uses “עמד” as well, when saying “granted the Jews [… the right to ] defend their lives, to destroy, to kill “. The Hebrew text literally says this was the right to “stand [up for] their life”.

    Again, no trace of vex, fret or anger, if we go by what ancient Jews translated from Hebrew to Greek.

    In idiomatic English, Matthew 5:39a might read simply, “Don’t try to get even with evildoers.” F9 Not “competing” with evildoers is very different from not resisting evildoers.

    Not at all, and the context shows it is nothing about “competing with evildoers”. He says:

    “If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.”

    Not that do not compete with him, as in “do no sue him like he did”, but do not resist him, in fact, go beyond resisting, go in the opposite direction, give him your cloak as well!

    “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.”

    Not that do not compete with him, as in “do no press him into service for one mile like he did”, but do not resist him, in fact, go beyond resisting, go with him two miles instead of one.

    There’s no idea of competing here w/ the evildoer.

    Our response to evil does have to be resistance — it is morally wrong to tolerate evil. However, we also must continue to show love for the evildoer.

    Again a straw-man argument. Not harming others in the process of defending ourselves does not mean we tolerate! We abhor evil! But how do we “continue to show love for the evildoer” after we disabled him violently? Bringing him flowers in the hospital or at his funeral?

    One is morally obligated to preserve life, including one’s own.

    That is simply false. Jesus said in Matthew 16:25 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” The context shows this to be about one’s desire to avoid his own death – Jesus just said he will be killed, and Peter says “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”

    Jesus never taught that it is wrong to defend oneself against life-threatening attack.

    Again, this is a non-issue.

    Not only does a pacifistic interpretation of Jesus’ sayings contradict many biblical passages, but pacifism was never a part of Jewish belief.

    As never was the turning of the cheek, the giving of the cloak as well when one sues you for your tunic, the going for two miles instead one when forced, the “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you”, the “whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the Gehenna”, the “love your enemies”, and etc, etc.

    Jesus told his followers to flee from the Roman danger (Luke 21:20-21), not to violently defend their land with weapons. I have almost no doubt that sergeant David Bivin would have stayed and fought with carnal weapons the foreign attackers if he would have gone by the traditional Jewish thought, not hearing Jesus. Maybe even if would have heard him, who knows…

  4. on 24 Nov 2008 at 11:02 pmMark D.

    This might be somewhat of a novel thought on this subject in favor of pacifism.

    The idea is that at this late date in the time line of prophecy, is it wise to become involved in the military?

    One wouldn’t want to be ordered to the “Valley of Megiddo” (sp?) by a commanding officer to stand in opposition to the return of Christ.

    Just a line of thought I was told a few months ago.

    Mark D.

  5. on 12 Dec 2008 at 11:59 pmLawrence

    How often I have thrilled to be reminded that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers from on high”…thrilled, that is, except when this verse is used in an attempt to disqualify the believer from employing self-defense of a physical nature when that is clearly what is called for as a responsibility for himself and his family.

    Taking it as a given that our spiritual battle and need for prayer and walking in wisdom somehow precludes us from doing battle in defense of hearth, home and family is a one-sided and disingenuous conclusion. This is a convenient yet unsupportable conclusion in the same category as faith in global warming. The fact that we are to defeat the devil by the power of the spirit and God’s word does not obviate the need from time to time to take physical and if necessary violent actions to defend ourselves and our family. If you think the spiritual battle is all there is, I invite you (pacifists) to only eat spiritual food (the word of God) and donate all of their physical food…breakfasts, lunches and dinners henceforth to their local Food Cupboard. Then please make your blog entry after a month or so letting me know how well it’s going.

    How charming that the pacifists on this site write peacefully while under the military protection of a self-sacrificial army of American volunteers who give them that physical safety in a world where a significant percentage of armed Islamofascists would snort gleefully while slitting their throats and watching their life run out and in fact at this very moment are plotting and doing precisely that. These guys make the Romans look civilized. I’m sure Sir Anthony’s war hero father is rolling over in his grave contemplating the woolly headed pacifism of his offspring.

    Remind me not to rely on you pacifists when the time comes…I’ll be praying for your unprotected and deserted wives and children while defending my own. May God forgive you.

  6. on 13 Dec 2008 at 3:38 pmMark C.

    If the only Scripture I had to go on was “We wrestle not against flesh and blood” I would not hold to the pacifist viewpoint. But Jesus clearly said love your enemies and turn the other cheek when someone wants to do us harm. And there are others which have been quoted on this thread which we cannot ignore.

    But as I have said several times on this and other threads, we do not believe that this means to do nothing, or to leave wives and children “unprotected and deserted.” Pacifist does not equal passive. There are ways of defending and protecting without resorting to violence or causing harm to another. Not least of these is to be in prayer for God to keep us out of such situations in the first place, or to intervene if they do come up. There is nothing in the NT to support the idea that it’s OK “from time to time to take physical and if necessary violent actions to defend ourselves and our family.” (And BTW, you are right; you shouldn’t be relying on pacifists – or anyone else but God – when things get bad.)

    Once again I must point out that the very fact that so many people can’t even imagine an alternative to violence in dealing with problems demonstrates how permeated with violence our society and culture are. I am thankful for the protection of the military and of the police in many instances, since God has allowed and/or ordained such things to prevent the world from being in total chaos during this age. But the ways of the world are much different from God’s way which Jesus taught, and which will become the way of the new world when he returns to rule. But in the meantime, as citizens of, and ambassadors for, the Kingdom of God, we are not to personally be involved in the ways of the world including confronting violence with violence, and evil with evil.

  7. on 13 Dec 2008 at 5:52 pmLawrence

    What a convenient generality….not confronting violence with violence…yet does not one have to be prepared to defend if there becomes no choice but violence?

    No doubt the front line of life should be prayer to God to protect and intervene so that we are not confronted with such awful choices. However, if one who does not provide for his family is “worse than an infidel” presumably such provision might also include not standing by in prayerful contemplation while one’s wife and children are raped, butchered and mutilated…or is it just too uncomfortable to think about such things, my dear pacifist friend? Or perhaps you believe that such things don’t really happen in our civilized society? If you’re a Jew or a Christian you have a target on your head already…so wake up and smell the congealed blood of those who’ve died recently for the crime of being one or the other or perhaps just American.

    Nor do I believe loving your enemies includes giving them a free pass to kill you and your family. I believe that this is a one-sided and naive, and perhaps even cowardly interpretation of scripture. It doesn’t say love your enemies and then role over and play dead while they destroy you. The Lord Jesus Christ had a mission in laying down his life…his righteous blood had to be shed for remission of our sins. The world does not need us to duplicate that once-and-for-all sacrifice. Watch his “pacifism” in action when he returns (don’t take my word for it…check the Book of Revelation).

    I will love my enemies by praying for them and responding in love to the evil which they offer…up to a point. If they come against me to destroy those for whom I’m responsible, I’ll do my best to make them fall down dead. Nowhere is such forbidden in our Bible.

    Judah of the Maccabees had great faith and courage towards God. Yet he would have been one of history’s great failures had he not wielded the sword with not only faith and love for his God but with great skill.

    One of the earlier blogger’s apparent heroes, Mahatma Gandhi, supposedly inspired by Tolstoy who was inspired by Christ has a romantic image of what the idol-worshiping heathen Gandhi accomplished. I spent a lot of time with some high placed people in India who lived through that era in India. While gratified that Gandhi effectuated a break with colonizing England, they chuckled ruefully when admitting that had Gandhi been up against the Nazis instead of the relatively civilized English, he and all his followers would have had their flesh wedged in the tracks of Panzer tanks while the grinning Germans would have laughed at how easy that was. Well, my friend, the enemy we face now makes the Nazis seem balanced and humane. Try your passive resistance with them. The Islamists who would like to destroy you personally and your family consider it their mission to do so, whereas for the Nazis, unless you were a Jew, a gypsy or a homosexual, they would only kill you if you stood in the way of their imperial intent. If you were in one of these three privileged categories, murder was too good for you so you had to be tortured also. For the Islamists, their scriptures, so-called, instruct them to kill you as a sanctified act for them like you might receive communion.

    So split hairs about the “only two swords” of Jesus’ apostles, if you like (and I don’t believe they were there just for the lesson you ascribe to it)…but you would be better served by having a real sword at the ready.

    And you’re grateful for the military you say, but as citizens of the Kingdom, we’re not to “confront violence with violence” you say. Oh, I get it…but it’s ok to let others lay down their lives to do our dirty work, protecting us… is that it? But we’re too holy to pick up a weapon when we’re called to defend our beloveds? B—s–t! And please stop calling violence evil if it saves the life of your child! What would you not give to have saved the lives of those two young rabbis who were being butchered in Mumbai in front of their two year old son Moshe? Whose blood splattered his poor innocent face? Who would have been killed too if not for a courageous nanny? Would you let those monsters continue killing if you had a gun and could stop them? And once you stopped them with a bullet to the head, would you dare let anyone say that you committed evil in killing them? WAKE UP AND SEE ALL THE DEAD BODIES BECAUSE EVERYONE THOUGHT THAT SOMEONE ELSE WOULD PROTECT THEM!
    Have a nice, day, pacifist, as you step over the innocent bodies on your way to console that poor two year old boy! Even the photographer, probably a gun-control advocate until that day, wished oh how he wished that his stupid camera were only a gun!

    I know that our God can bare His mighty arm as He did for Hezekiah, as He did for David and as I believe He did for George Washington to give us a country worth protecting where we can worship in spirit and in truth. And with His grace, perhaps we will each none of us have to defend unto the death.

    But to be unprepared or worse, unwilling, to do so, is childishly irresponsible. Be prayerful…be vigilant…sleepers awake!

  8. on 13 Dec 2008 at 8:25 pmMark C.

    I will love my enemies by praying for them and responding in love to the evil which they offer…up to a point.

    So I hear you saying you will believe and obey Jesus “up to a point.” But if things don’t go the way you’d like, you will gladly take matters into your own hands, and “do [your] best to make them fall down dead.” Can you really call this trusting in Jesus? Do you have special revelation that such people will never in their lives repent and turn their lives over to God?

    Your arguments are full of emotion and worldly “logic” but devoid of Scripture. You claim:

    The Lord Jesus Christ had a mission in laying down his life…his righteous blood had to be shed for remission of our sins. The world does not need us to duplicate that once-and-for-all sacrifice. Watch his “pacifism” in action when he returns (don’t take my word for it…check the Book of Revelation).

    We don’t duplicate his once-for-all sacrifice, but we ARE to follow his non-violent example.
    I Peter 2:
    21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
    22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
    23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

    Consider that all the times he was threatened and in danger BEFORE his time to be crucified came, he didn’t fight back or resist, but was able to walk away, even through the midst of the crowd. God promises to guide us and deliver us in these situations, as we trust Him.

    And when the disciples were faced with the choice between death and denying the Lord, they chose death rather than fighting back. Did they lose? No, because no matter what happens God will raise us up on the last day. The Kingdom of God is what matters most.

    Judah of the Maccabees was BEFORE Jesus presented the New Covenant and the new teaching about loving even our enemies. And how Jesus deals with the enemies of God when he returns is specifically concerning the future when he returns to reign. We are told now to love our enemies and bless even those that persecute us. How do you reconcile that direct command with killing anyone?

    Again I have to point out that every one of your “alternatives” to violence is nothing but a straw man argument, as neither I nor other Christian pacifists advocate “standing by in prayerful contemplation while one’s wife and children are raped, butchered and mutilated,” “giving them a free pass to kill you and your family,” or “rol[ling] over and play[ing] dead while they destroy you.”

    And you’re grateful for the military you say, but as citizens of the Kingdom, we’re not to “confront violence with violence” you say. Oh, I get it…but it’s ok to let others lay down their lives to do our dirty work, protecting us… is that it? But we’re too holy to pick up a weapon when we’re called to defend our beloveds? B—s–t! And please stop calling violence evil if it saves the life of your child!

    It’s OK to let the world do what they do in their way, without participating in it. We are to be “in the world but not of it” remember? “Too holy” to kill? You could put it that way! And I’m not the one that calls violence evil. If it is against what Jesus commanded, then yes it’s evil. If you want to call that “B—s–t” that’s your choice. You are again assuming that the only way to save the life of your child is to kill. Your reasoning is so affected by the violent ways of the world you can’t even consider other alternatives. That’s not just a convenient generality. It’s a matter of really trusting God to the end, as opposed to just trusting Him “up to a point.”

  9. on 13 Dec 2008 at 11:37 pmLawrence

    So if you don’t advocate standing by while your family is attacked and you don’t plan on being in prayerful contemplation, then what are you going to do? You have conveniently avoided saying that you would be obliged to lift your hand to defend them. Well, you can’t have it both ways…FIGHT OR NOT TO FIGHT?

    You have turned my words around by inserting the word “trusting” in front of “up to a point”. The “up to a point” refers to how far I would allow myself or my family to be pushed or threatened before taking remedial defensive action. You have decided to equate doing nothing with “trusting God”, thus putting words in my mouth and twisting my argument. You have substituted your perspective for mine and then wonder why I’m not living up to it. You state that my resisting non-violently “up to a point” is equivalent to “obeying and believing Jesus” up to a point. This of course is our fundamental area of disagreement. Providing for and protecting my family by whatever means is necessary cannot be shown to contravene the Lord’s teaching, try though you might. And there may be a time when the only recourse is violence, even if one is trusting God. And it’s one thing to be willing to sacrifice your own life in the mistaken belief that self-defense is against the Lord Jesus’ teachings, but quite another to sacrifice those who depend on you for protection. To sacrifice them on the altar of your pacifism is unsupportable in scripture, not to mention common sense. Again “providing for them or being worse than an infidel” just might include not allowing them to be destroyed as well as feeding them, no?

    You inadvertently denigrate the Christian army soldiers who are protecting you by referring to them as “of the world”, when at this very moment you don’t know how many may have already saved you and our countrymen from the destruction plotted by our sworn enemies.

    As far as killing someone to prevent them from harming my family, are you serious when you ask me to be concerned about whether or not the murderer would someday repent and turn their lives to God? They have forfeited that opportunity when they try to destroy those whom God has given me to protect. And I’d rather stand before God having raised my hand to defend my family, then to stand before God having let them die in the hope that a satan possessed monster might repent after killing them. Frankly, you must be joking.
    What is b-s–t is benefiting from the protection of another Christian putting his life on the line but being unwilling to defend yourself and your family…not referring to obeying the Lord…again I’ll thank you not to put your words in my mouth.

  10. on 14 Dec 2008 at 12:29 amVictor

    Lawrence, you seem very angry – and the cursing, even though you block it out is not appropriate for this forum or Christians in general. Please refrain from doing that in any future comments. Also, the putting down of others who don’t share your view is not loving (from Anthony Buzzard by name, and other “pacifists”). I hope that this topic can be discussed with gentleness and kindness amongst a people who find unity and a family under the One God, the Father, and Jesus the Messiah.

    Perhaps you could take some time and provide some verses to support your position. Can you offer any Scriptural support to the idea of limitations on love towards one enemies? The concept that you have expressed itself seems to be rational and what most people would do – but can you provide any Biblical support for this position? We have many verses which are pretty clear on loving all (even one’s enemies) (Matthew 5, Luke 6, etc), when evil is done to us, we are to not return with evil (Luke 6, Romans 12), all those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12), suffering is part of following Jesus (I Peter 2:20-22), and more. Can you find any which support your view? You have written many passionate words, but not much Scripture – and I know you to be someone who really wants to follow what the Bible says, so perhaps you could take some time and share where in Scripture you have shaped your current view. (It would probably be best to find these words of the lips of Jesus and his followers, since under him, we are in a new covenant based on his words.) After all, as followers of Jesus, we want to sound and act like him. His desire for his people to be loving, kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, and the like seems to be pretty clear (even gentle as per Matthew 5:5), but where do you go to find the places where Jesus and the disciples echo the words you have written?

    I would appreciate if you did take the time to share this. I know it may not happen overnight, so I will patiently await your reply.
    Thanks
    -Victor

  11. on 14 Dec 2008 at 5:39 amMark C.

    So if you don’t advocate standing by while your family is attacked and you don’t plan on being in prayerful contemplation, then what are you going to do? You have conveniently avoided saying that you would be obliged to lift your hand to defend them. Well, you can’t have it both ways…FIGHT OR NOT TO FIGHT?

    You again demonstrate how the violent mentality that permeates our culture has blinded you to any alternative. Actually, I did not “conveniently avoid” saying I would would be obliged to lift my hand to defend them. I specifically said (and have said elsewhere) that there are other ways to defend and protect without resorting to violence or causing harm to another. I specifically stated “Pacifist does not equal passive.”

    The first thing is, as I stated, “to be in prayer for God to keep us out of such situations in the first place, or to intervene if they do come up.” You kind of skim over this concept and assume that such trusting of God may at some point not be enough, at which time it would be necessary to lean to your own power.

    As for what I would do if such a situation arose, I obviously can’t say specifically, since we are talking hypothetically, but there are a number of things that could happen. I could call the police (which is what they would rather I do than taking the law into my own hands, BTW!) Assuming that there was not time or opportunity for that, there are other things I could do to either scare the assailant away or possibly disarm them.

    For example, I remember a believer a few years back telling of how his son (a believer) avoided getting beat up at school. As the larger guys were coming at him to beat him up, the thought came to his mind to “act crazy” and so he started jumping up and down and yelling. The guys who were going to beat him up just left him alone. Granted this is dealing with school bullies, not adult attackers, but the principle is the same.

    As for adult attackers, I have heard stories of believers doing various things when facing their attackers, including speaking the Word to them, with the result that the attackers gave themselves up. There have even been cases when the believer was able to physically disarm the attacker, but without harming or attacking them in response. If I’m not mistaken there are some moves in martial arts that are designed for that very purpose. As for exactly what one should do in such situations, there is no “pat answer” since every situation is different, but we should trust in God to direct us through His Spirit.

    Here is a first hand account from a letter I received from a minister:

    [Another minister] thinks that resist not evil includes not defending yourself or others. I believe reacting to anyone at any time with the intent to harm them is wrong. However, I also believe defending yourself and protecting those being attacked, such as women and children, is proper. We can defend without anger, hate, bitterness, malice, or intention to harm. While carrying out my ministry I have been attacked by someone with a gun and someone with a knife. Had I not defended myself, I would not be writing this letter. I did so with love and not hate. I have also defended myself against someone who intended to beat me, and the guy ended up crying in my arms. To be legalistic on this point is not wise.

    You went on to say:

    You have turned my words around by inserting the word “trusting” in front of “up to a point”. The “up to a point” refers to how far I would allow myself or my family to be pushed or threatened before taking remedial defensive action.

    This again is going on the assumption that the situation would go that far unless you do something, with no allowing for what God might do, either in you or in the situation. That is why I inserted the word “trusting.”

    You have decided to equate doing nothing with “trusting God”, thus putting words in my mouth and twisting my argument.

    Again, no I haven’t. I have equated trusting God with believing and obeying the words of His Son. This does not mean doing nothing, as I have repeatedly stated.

    You have substituted your perspective for mine and then wonder why I’m not living up to it. You state that my resisting non-violently “up to a point” is equivalent to “obeying and believing Jesus” up to a point. This of course is our fundamental area of disagreement.

    Jesus specifically said love your enemies, and gave us an example to follow, according to I Peter 2:21-23. You have yet to respond to my question of how you can reconcile that direct command with killing your enemy. And since loving your enemies logically includes not killing them or inflicting violence on them, then “obeying and believing Jesus” equals “resisting non-violently,” so, as the saying goes, “do the math.”

    Providing for and protecting my family by whatever means is necessary cannot be shown to contravene the Lord’s teaching, try though you might.

    It can if it involves violence and/or killing. In fact it has, several times, and you have yet to deal with the Scriptures that have been presented. I understand that it goes against the world’s idea of “common sense” but so do many of the teachings of Jesus.

    As far as killing someone to prevent them from harming my family, are you serious when you ask me to be concerned about whether or not the murderer would someday repent and turn their lives to God? They have forfeited that opportunity when they try to destroy those whom God has given me to protect.

    Did the centurion forfeit his right to repent and believe that Jesus was the Son of God when he participated in the crucifixion? Oh that’s right, that didn’t count because Jesus had to be crucified. How about Paul? Did he forfeit his right to repent and be saved when he had all those Christians killed? What about all the former sinners, including those who have attacked and murdered in the past but have indeed repented? Seriously, at what point does any man become qualified to judge whether another man deserves to live or die? If you’re going to make such a bold claim, you need to be able to back it up with Scripture, as Victor has suggested. Bottom line is we all deserve death, so you should be glad God reserves judgment.

    …And I’d rather stand before God having raised my hand to defend my family, then to stand before God having let them die in the hope that a satan possessed monster might repent after killing them.

    Once again you are presenting a choice between two alternatives, as if they were the only possibilities. It is NOT a choice between using violence and doing nothing, nor is it a choice between using violence and having my loved ones killed. Can you see how you’re repeating the same false dichotomy?

    I strongly urge you to consider seriously the words of our Lord, as Victor has exhorted, without resorting to worldly logic. Look to the Scriptures and let them speak.

  12. on 14 Dec 2008 at 5:13 pmLawrence

    Okay,
    Gentlemen,
    with respect I will consider and get back to you.

  13. on 15 Dec 2008 at 12:04 amSean

    We must be the people of faith–the ones who trust in God. Walking by the spirit is not only for times of ease and comfort but also for times when there seems to be no way out. Jesus was often caught in situations where there seemed to be only two options and both of them would be negative. But, by looking at our Lord we can see that he often depended on God and somehow discovered a “third option” in a situation where there seemed to be only two. For example, when he was asked if taxes should be paid to Caesar, only two options seemed to be available: (1) say yes (2) or say no. However, if he said yes he would have lost his credibility with the people and came out as a supporter of Roman opression, something a faithful Jew could never do. If he said no, he would have been immediately reported to the authorities. So what does Jesus do? He listens to the voice of God in the moment of trial and brilliantly neutralizes the situation by saying “render under Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” This is but one example of several we could point to in order to demonstrate how Jesus navigated through intense difficult situations by depending on God for wisdom and choosing the third option.

    When it comes to the hardest question posed to Christians who believe in loving their enemies, we are often posed the scenario of the intruder intent on doing harm to our children. This is obviously a very difficult situation no matter what your commitments are. However, two assumptions lie obscured just beneath the surface in this hypothetical. Assumption #1 is that there is no God. Assumption #2 is that there are only two options: (1) use violence or (2) do nothing. Obviously, Assumption #1 is bogus, there is a God, and if we glance through the pages of Scripture we see that God not only exists but delights in delivering his people from impossible situations when they resolve to trust in him not matter what the consequences. Assumption #2–that there are only two options is related to Assumption #1, but when we look at Jesus’ life and consider a few of the “impossible” circumstances he lived through we can see that he regularly walked by the Spirit to follow the third option–God’s wisdom in the situation.

    We need to break our faith commitment to violence on the one side and cowardliness on the other. Once we resolve to neither take revenge ourselves nor run away we are at once free. We suddenly find ourselves open to hear God in the time of need. Perhaps God will lead us to say a word, sing a song, engage the person physically, call the police, restrain the intruder while our family escapes, or a million other possibilities…but we will never know so long as we limit ourselves and short-circuit God by keeping a gun under the pillow.

    Should it look different when an intruder attacks a pagan’s house than when he attacks the house of a follower of Jesus?

  14. on 15 Dec 2008 at 2:31 amJoseph

    but we will never know so long as we limit ourselves and short-circuit God by keeping a gun under the pillow.

    Sean,

    Haven’t you ever heard the saying…

    “You can get more with a kind word and a gun, then just with a kind word”

    lol, jk

  15. on 15 Dec 2008 at 2:45 amJoseph

    Assumption #1 is that there is no God. Assumption #2 is that there are only two options: (1) use violence or (2) do nothing. Obviously, Assumption #1 is bogus, there is a God, and if we glance through the pages of Scripture we see that God not only exists but delights in delivering his people from impossible situations when they resolve to trust in him not matter what the consequences. Assumption #2–that there are only two options is related to Assumption #1, but when we look at Jesus’ life and consider a few of the “impossible” circumstances he lived through we can see that he regularly walked by the Spirit to follow the third option–God’s wisdom in the situation.

    Isn’t this what I have stated in our prior arguments?

    The problem I see here is the Pacifist side is accusing others that if they aren’t under their certain interpretation then somehow they cross the line into the “violent” category. But I have never denied that prayer first and faith in God are the best options. But what is faith in God? How do you determine that defending oneself is not faith in God?

    Even Christ allowed two swords to be taken. Why would Christ tempt them falsely by allowing this to happen? Although Christ made clear that he did not need their protection, but I still believe that the swords were for the protection of his Disciples. Otherwise it would be pointless for Christ to say to take the weapons with them, he could have simply told them. After all, they are grown men. The swords were there for their immediate protection. I don’t think that Christ knew every detail that was going to happen with the encounter and wanted to be prepared. When you simply show up to a fight with a weapon a lot can be prevented. Not many people like to be stabbed or shot, especially cowards like Judas and those Rabbis with him during the encounter.

  16. on 15 Dec 2008 at 11:05 amJohnO

    Arguing from Jesus’ “intention” with the swords is useless. It is an argument from silence – since Jesus does not give us his intention. Therefore, to either argue he wanted them for protection of his disciples, or, he wanted them to show an example why they are useless, is useless in this context – since neither has any evidence to cling to… only silence.

  17. on 15 Dec 2008 at 5:38 pmMark C.

    Besides, if he were talking about using swords to fight back and defend themselves against the mob that would take Jesus, would he really think only “two” were “enough” against so many people? That can’t be what he was talking about.

    The problem I see here is the Pacifist side is accusing others that if they aren’t under their certain interpretation then somehow they cross the line into the “violent” category. But I have never denied that prayer first and faith in God are the best options. But what is faith in God? How do you determine that defending oneself is not faith in God?

    I would say faith in God is obeying His Word, particularly the specific commands of His Son, who told us to love our enemies (and all the other verses we have mentioned). Again, the term “defending oneself” is too ambiguous for this debate. As we have pointed out, you can defend yourself against an attacker without inflicting violence on, or killing, the attacker. We are not saying defending yourself in that sense is not faith in God. But if you determine that you are going to do “whatever it takes” including violence and/or killing, without allowing for God getting you through the situation in such a way that you don’t have to disobey His direct command, then that is certainly not having faith in God.

  18. on 15 Dec 2008 at 7:54 pmJohnE

    JohnO,

    Arguing from Jesus’ “intention” with the swords is useless. It is an argument from silence – since Jesus does not give us his intention.

    I beg to differ. Jesus does give his intention, explicitly, in the text. You really can’t see it?

    Apart from that, saying that “arguing from Jesus’ “intention” with the swords is useless” is a very bold statement, not to say “mind-boggling” – when it comes to my mind at least. Undoubtedly, every statement Jesus made, he made it because he had the intention to teach, to transmit something. So according to you, his talk about swords is… hmmm… what? useless? If it’s not useless, what use does it have for us?

    In the same vein, we know that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2Ti 3:16). Accordingly, I understand that the anti-pacifists (for lack of a better designation) are taught from the swords passage and from what happened at Jesus’ betrayal that carrying weapons is a divine command, and that in a situation where your unarmed friend is attacked, you can butcher his attacker unless that unarmed friend is Jesus himself.

    But what did you, JohnO, learned from the two swords passage, how does that affect you personally, what exactly does that Scripture teach/reproof/correct/train you? After all, “whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction” isn’t it? (Rom 15:4)

    since neither has any evidence to cling to… only silence.

    Not only is Jesus not silent about his intention, but as in any other person’s case, his actions speak louder than words. Where’s the silence?

  19. on 21 Jan 2009 at 3:28 amBrian Keating

    Hi All,

    A few months ago, I discovered a web page which discussed the issue of whether the use of force is ever justified for Christians. That page was written by a biblical unitarian named Juan Baixeras. So, I just thought I’d share that page with you. Here is the URL:

    http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Olympus/5257/iswar.htm

    Juan does use many scriptures to back up his positions; so I would recommend it to anyone interested in this subject.

    One item that I find rather ironic (and quite sad) is the fact that the topic of pacifism can engender anger – even among biblical unitarians.

    God bless,
    Brian

  20. on 21 Jan 2009 at 11:06 amRon S.

    Hey Brian, thanks for the comment & link. Strangely enough I posted the same link in another thread on the subject (the “war” thread – look under my articles).

    I don’t know about anger as I hope people here don’t get worked up to the level of real “anger” on this topic. But where passionate people who differ in their views of Scripture disagree, it can happen.

    As for myself I continue to research the topic with an open mind and to see if my viewpoint (much like Juan’s) is wrong and my pacifist-believing brothers here (many who’s opinion I value) are right. Hopefully all of us can truly open ourselves to the truth no matter where it might take us.

    Thanks,

    Ron S.

  21. on 22 Jan 2009 at 3:01 pmMark C.

    Brian,

    Thanks for posting the link to the article by Juan Baixeras. I was kind of surprised, because I had read many of his writings before, and for some reason I thought I had read that he favored the pacifist view.

    In any case, he used pretty much the same arguments that have been used before on this thread and others, such as God-ordained wars in the Old Testament (without dealing with the differences under the New Covenant), and the well-worn “God doesn’t expect us to just stand by and watch our wives get raped and our children beaten,” etc., etc.

    He mentions one record which I don’t remember if we handled before, and that is when Jesus drove out the money changers from the Temple. He quoted John 2:15 – “He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area…and overturned their tables” – and then stated, “There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Jesus used force to accomplish his goal. A whip is not a pacifist’s tool.”

    Odd that he left out part of the verse. The full verse reads, “And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables…” To say Jesus used “force” is not necessarily the same as saying he used “violence.” He did no harm to the people when he overturned the tables. And it just says he made a scourge and drove them all out – including the animals. It doesn’t say he used the scourge on the people. It was made from “small cords,” such as you would have with the animals. Do you think Jesus whipped the people he was chasing out of the Temple? That would constitute an unprovoked assault, since the moneychangers were in no way threatening him physically. It makes a point of saying he was driving out the animals as well. And a whip or scourge is not an uncommon tool when driving out animals – it has nothing to do with violence. Just wanted to point this out.

  22. on 22 Jan 2009 at 3:17 pmSean

    Another note is that common mistake that pacifism is related to passiveness. Of course, Jesus is very confrontational and so should we be. Jesus’ demonstration in the temple finds a closer parallel to non-violent civil disobedience and it is absurd to use it to justify modern warfare.

  23. on 22 Jan 2009 at 4:20 pmJoseph

    Pacifism is a state of being, an idea, which can change with ones surroundings. In other words, in order to be a Pacifist, one must be in a neutral state. An outside force can change this state. For example: if a Pacifist has to use violent force to protect his surroundings, he is no longer considered a Pacifist. It only works within ones mind, not in reality.

    This is why Pacifism was able to be defined in the first place. Here in the US, one has the luxury to be able to sit back and do nothing, acting with only ideas. In the Time of Christ there was peace and no peace, one had to act on both ideas and actions. Obviously Christ taught the commandment to love our neighbors, but Christ did not make this idea up. The Jews already had this commandment, Christ just reiterated what the Bible said.

  24. on 22 Jan 2009 at 4:29 pmJoseph

    On another note. If Pacifism has no duel with physical evil, this therefore, makes Pacifism a part of evil. This further supports the idea that Pacifism is a state of the now. We can live by the spirit, but we must also eat manna and help protect what is God’s.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (Pacifists) to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

  25. on 13 Dec 2010 at 4:26 pmXavier

    ”Jesus Christ is the most perfect example of non-violence in history. And the only people who don’t realize this are Christians.” Ghandi

    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/if-jesus-had-a-gun-who-would-he-shoot-20100130-n4fx.html

  26. on 13 Dec 2010 at 6:34 pmMark C.

    Xavier,

    Thanks for the link. I especially like this paragraph:

    Non-violence itself is often mistaken for passivity. This is a misnomer – one must be actively engaged in the struggle against violence and oppression to be non-violent. Non-violent people not only refuse to threaten, hurt or kill those who oppose them, but they actively engage the other’s humanity, seeking their opponent’s transformation as well as their own and those they defend. This is what the church was intended to be – a non-violent army transforming the world not with a gun, but with active love.

  27. on 13 Dec 2010 at 7:12 pmJoseph

    Did Christ use aggressive force? Yes he did. So why project the concept of pacifism, and mistake it with forgiveness? Two different things.

  28. on 13 Dec 2010 at 7:21 pmMark C.

    Joseph,

    I suppose that would depend on how you define “aggressive force.” Perhaps I should have quoted the next paragraph too:

    However, non-violent action sometimes raise tensions or causes disruption to the status quo, as Jesus frequently demonstrates. While he overturns the tables in the temple and drives out the sheep and cattle (saving them from being sacrificed), he never hurts anyone. But he is absolutely not passive.

    You never read of Jesus using violence against a person with intent to harm, and that’s what we’re talking about here.

  29. on 13 Dec 2010 at 8:59 pmXavier

    Joseph

    I guess your anti-pacifism? Your way over your head in this forum if that is the case. 🙂

  30. on 13 Dec 2010 at 9:10 pmDoubting Thomas

    Everyone,
    Robert asked me to tell everyone, “I really enjoyed the discussions and I will be still supporting them in the background. And if they want to ever ask me a question they are free to email me.”

    His email address is – rkl1963@gmail.com

  31. on 13 Dec 2010 at 9:20 pmJoseph

    Jesus’ purpose was above using physical force to harm others before their judgement, but it doesn’t mean let someone kill your family or yourself and not try to defend oneself.

    Let us not forget that Jesus comes the second time around to intact God’s judgment and a lot of people will die.

    The problem with Pacifist ideology is that it takes the one sided extreme of the sacrifice for ones self and rolls it all together with how every day actions on defense and offense should be handled.

  32. on 13 Dec 2010 at 9:25 pmJoseph

    Xavier, I’m not so much anti-pacifism, I just don’t take to the extreme position that I know many in this forum hold to. 🙂

  33. on 13 Dec 2010 at 9:29 pmDoubting Thomas

    Xavier,
    I really enjoyed the link in msg. #25 above. I had often thought that Ghandi was following the teachings of Yeshua in his non-violent protests…

  34. on 13 Dec 2010 at 9:37 pmXavier

    Joseph

    I just don’t take to the extreme position that I know many in this forum hold to.

    You mean don’t hate, kill, etc., no matter what? 🙂

  35. on 13 Dec 2010 at 9:54 pmJoseph

    Xavier,

    Don’t hate, yes. Don’t murder, yes.

    You say don’t kill, but what does mean? Don’t get killing mixed up with defending oneself or ones house.

  36. on 13 Dec 2010 at 11:39 pmMark C.

    Jesus’ purpose was above using physical force to harm others before their judgement, but it doesn’t mean let someone kill your family or yourself and not try to defend oneself.

    I agree. I think if you look back over the thread you’ll see that we are not saying let someone kill your family. I have encountered some extremists in this argument who do claim we are to do nothing, but they are in the minority, and they are not on this site.

    Let us not forget that Jesus comes the second time around to intact God’s judgment and a lot of people will die.

    True. But I’m not sure to what extent we will be involved with the killing, and more importantly, UNTIL THAT TIME we are commanded to love and not retaliate evil with evil.

    The problem with Pacifist ideology is that it takes the one sided extreme of the sacrifice for ones self and rolls it all together with how every day actions on defense and offense should be handled.

    That’s not the problem with Pacifist ideology, it’s the problem with the one sided extreme, which as I said is not what most of us hold to here.

    I’m not so much anti-pacifism, I just don’t take to the extreme position that I know many in this forum hold to.

    You say don’t kill, but what does mean? Don’t get killing mixed up with defending oneself or ones house.

    I have known of people on both extremes: Those who believe that killing would be perfectly justified if it were to protect a loved one; and those who believe that you should do nothing even if it means watching your loved ones be killed. I don’t agree with either of these extremes.

    I also wouldn’t say “many in this forum” hold to either extreme. Most of us, as far as I know, believe there are ways of defending your home and family without resorting to violence and intending harm on another person. Chief among them is praying and listening to God so that we don’t get into those situations to begin with, if possible. And second being listening to God when such situations do arise, and trusting He will guide us in the best way to handle it. Barring all else, there are ways of defending yourself that do not involve violence and intention to harm.

  37. on 13 Dec 2010 at 11:58 pmDoubting Thomas

    Mark C.
    You said, “I think if you look back over the thread you’ll see that we are not saying let someone kill your family.”

    I agree. I believe we should do our best to prevent and stop evil from happening.

    You also said, “more importantly, UNTIL THAT TIME we are commanded to love and not retaliate evil with evil.”

    I also agree that this is a very important thing for ‘ALL’ Christians to remember. There are some Christian leaders that encourage their followers to pray for curses, or even death, to come upon their perceived enemies, political or otherwise.

    Yeshua/Jesus said, in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” I’m sure He didn’t mean for us to pray for curses or death to come upon our perceived enemies…

  38. on 14 Dec 2010 at 6:40 amXavier

    Joseph

    You say don’t kill, but what does mean?

    Since there is no human who has power over life to retain it, neither have we power over the day of death…hence if anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image. [Eccl 8.8; Gen 9.6]

  39. on 14 Dec 2010 at 6:01 pmDoubting Thomas

    Xavier,
    It sounds like you are in favor of the death penalty. I personally am not.

    You quoted God speaking to Noah and his family in Gen 9:6, “(5) And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. (6) “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

    I believe that you must take into consideration that at the time of Noah there were no prison facilities, guards, police, courts of law, etc… This is not the case today. You should also take into consideration the story of Cain and Able. God had mercy on Cain and allowed him to continue to live, marry, and even have children. Certainly he was punished, but God didn’t require that anyone take his life.

    I also believe that people should be punished appropriately, but when it comes to the death penalty I personally believe that mercy should triumph over justice…

  40. on 14 Dec 2010 at 6:36 pmXavier

    DT

    It sounds like you are in favor of the death penalty. I personally am not.

    No, I do not believe in the taking of a human life under any circumstance. Gen 9.6 is a warning to those who do…get it?

  41. on 14 Dec 2010 at 9:05 pmDoubting Thomas

    Xavier,
    You said, “No, I do not believe in the taking of a human life under any circumstance.”

    Thank you for clarifying your position. I apologize for misunderstanding your point. Now that I’ve reread Gen 9:6 with this in mind I finally understand what it is you were saying…

  42. on 15 Dec 2010 at 12:40 amDoubting Thomas

    I just noticed a typo in msg. #39 above. I meant to say, “I personally believe that mercy should triumph over judgment.” (NOT justice)…

  43. on 17 Nov 2011 at 6:05 pmXavier

    Recently I had a rather “heated” debate regarding the topic of Pacifisim. The debate ended with the other person wishing that I would not be witness to the rape of my wife. Since for them being a pacifist means not reacting at all

    I am still surprised that many of us like-minded [biblical unitarian] people are divided on this issue.

    So I wanted to get suggestions on how to answer the oft-presented scenario of what to do in the face of a crime.

  44. on 17 Nov 2011 at 7:54 pmDoubting Thomas

    Hi Xavier,
    It’s nice to see someone new posting here. It’s been really quiet around here the last few weeks. I agree that we as Christians should intervene to prevent an injustice (or crime) from happening. There is an old saying, “All evil needs to thrive is for good people to just sit by and do nothing”. I consider myself to be a pacifist, in that I don’t believe that violence is a good way to solve anything. Of course we have to be able to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

    Y”shua says some interesting things that I think deserve discussion. Matthew 10:33-35;

    “… whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (34) Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (35) For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

    And the following story is told in Matthew 26:51;

    “And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.”

    So the followers of Y’shua were willing to use physical violence (a sword) to protect Y’shua. I think it is clear that we should be able to do the same to protect our loved ones from violence. However, I find the verse from 10:33-35 somewhat confusing. Especially where Y’shua says “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”. I would be most interested in hearing how other people might interpret what Y’shua is saying here…

  45. on 17 Nov 2011 at 8:13 pmXavier

    DT

    The context of Mat 10 is not talking about war or soldiers. It is obviously metaphorical. As for Peter cutting off the man’s ears, I suggest you go on to read what Jesus says in vv.52-54.

  46. on 17 Nov 2011 at 8:32 pmSarah

    Hi DT,

    The passage you refer to is actually Jesus quoting Micah 7:5-6, and in context it is speaking of the end of the age. My understanding of this passage is that the main purpose of Jesus ministry was division – his message would ultimately separate true “Sons of God” from the ones who only claimed to be, like wheat separated from chaff, or sheep from goats.

    His means for doing this was to speak the very words of God, which have been recorded in the Bible and have actively changed lives for millennia. How we respond to these words truly exposes the motives of our heart. This was true for the Sadducees and the disciples. They each responded very differently to Jesus, revealing which they truly were – wheat or chaff. This division continues even today via the written word of God. And eventually, Jesus’ words will result in the predicted judgments upon the all the “sons of this age” at the last day.

    Rev 19:15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.

    Jhn 12:48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

  47. on 17 Nov 2011 at 9:10 pmDoubting Thomas

    Xavier,
    You must have misquoted the verses. There is no Matthew 10:52-54. It ends at verse 42…

    Sarah,
    You said, “…his message would ultimately separate true ‘Sons of God’ from the ones who only claimed to be, like wheat separated from chaff, or sheep from goats.”

    That does seem to make sense to me. So I guess Xavier is right when he says the Y’shua is speaking metaphorically when he says, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”. That would seem to make sense. I see Y’shua as the “Prince of Peace” and a teacher of “LOVE”. That’s why I was having difficulty reconciling that particular verse…

  48. on 18 Nov 2011 at 10:54 amXavier

    DT & Sarah

    Yes your right I meant Mat 26.52-54.

    Also note that in the Lukan account of this passage Jesus reiterates the fact that scripture has to be fulfilled when it comes to the betrayal and eventual death of Messiah. So the reason SOME of the disciples had to be armed with swords is because, according to Luke 22.35-38, the Messiah was “numbered amongst transgressors”. i.e., rebels.

  

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