Tag Archives: Bible study

The Cleansing of the Temple and Non-Violence

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple is the most commonly cited example of those who allege that he did not absolutize loving enemies or refraining from violence. I submit that this episode implies nothing of the sort.

First, it is important that we understand that this episode was not an expression of unpremeditated anger on Jesus’ part, as some allege. Most NT scholars concur that this was a calculated, strategic act on Jesus’ part, and it contained deep symbolic significance. More specifically, this episode appears to be a classic example of a prophetic symbolic action.

There is, however, some disagreement over what exactly Jesus was symbolizing. For example, many argue that Jesus was revealing himself to be the long-awaited messiah who was widely expected to cleanse and/or restore the Temple. Others argue that Jesus was symbolically revealing Yahweh’s displeasure with the corrupt religious establishment and issuing a prophetic warning that the Temple would soon be destroyed, a point that John makes explicit (Jn 2: 19-22). While interpretations differ, however, they all presuppose that the Temple cleansing was anything but a spontaneous tantrum on the part of Jesus.

Second, there is simply no indication in any of the Gospels that Jesus resorted to violence when he cleansed the Temple. Yes, the texts suggest that Jesus was angry, and yes, John tells us that Jesus made a whip (Jn 2:15). But there is no suggestion that he used it to strike any animal or person. To the contrary, throughout history cracking a whip has been a commonly used means of controlling the movement of animals, and John explicitly reports that this is what Jesus used it for.

He used the whip to create an animal stampede of “both sheep and cattle” out of the “temple courts” (Jn 2:15). Not only this, but had Jesus actually whipped any of the court officials, it is hard to imagine how he could have avoided being arrested on the spot. It is also hard to imagine how he could have avoided the charge of hypocrisy, for such behavior would have flown in the face of his previously mentioned public teachings about refraining from violence.

There is therefore nothing about Jesus’ cleansing of the temple that runs counter to my claim that the non-violent, enemy-embracing, self-sacrificial love that was supremely revealed on the cross is the thematic center of Jesus’ identity and mission. To the contrary, Jesus engaged in a kind of “street theater” out of love for his “Father’s house” as well as for the poor who were being oppressed by the corrupt leaders who ran the Temple’s “buying and selling” system.

And, as the Gospels make clear, he confronted these leaders in this aggressive manner as a way of forcing their hand, and thus as a steppingstone to his crucifixion. Far from illustrating Jesus acting in an unloving, let alone violent way, I submit that this entire episode reflects Jesus’ self-sacrificial love.

Moreover, John explicitly makes the cross the thematic center of this episode, for he records that Jesus brings this episode to a close by drawing a connection between the newly cleansed temple, which Jesus prophesied would soon be permanently destroyed, and his own body, which would rise again three days after being destroyed (Jn 2:19-22).

Read in context, NT scholar Richard Hays notes, John is declaring “that Jesus’ body is now the place where God dwells, the place where atonement for sin occurs, the place where the division between God and humanity is overcome.” Hence, far from counting against the thematic centrality of the cross, the Temple cleansing illustrates this centrality.

Greg Boyd is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist, and author. He has been featured in the New York Times, The Charlie Rose Show, CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, and numerous other television and radio venues.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

What Revival Looks Like: Sharing Possessions

by Craig Keener, originally posted on his blog as the second part of a series on Spirit empowering.

If the immediate expression of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was prophetic empowerment, the longer-range impact was a new community of believers who walked together in their lives and shared one another’s needs.

Much of Acts 2:41-47 follows the following structure:

A         2:41     Successful evangelism (3000 converts)

B         2:42     Sharing meals, praying together

C         2:44-45            Sharing possessions

B’        2:46-47a          Shared meals, worship

A’        2:47b   Successful evangelism

Whereas the conversions in 2:41 responded to Peter’s preaching, the conversions in 2:47 apparently responded to the life of the new community. Peter’s preaching explained divine signs at Pentecost; but the sacrificial love that Christians showed one another was no less divine, no less supernatural. Continue reading What Revival Looks Like: Sharing Possessions

From Babel to Pentecost: Letting Go of Fear, Embracing the Spirit

by Alex Mayfield, originally posted on Engaged Pentecostalism.

The rise of populist and nationalist movements around the world is a fact of our time. A quick survey finds the tide rising the world over: the recent Brazilian presidential victory ofdictatorship-loving Bolsonaro, the many far-right groups gaining ground in European elections, the rise of violent Hindutva in India, and the increasingly abrasive Chinese nationalism fostered under Xi Jinping illustrate that nationalists movements have turned ethnic, cultural, and national identity towards increasingly troubling ends.

Here in the United States, Trumpian politics have risen to power by questioning the legitimacy of a black leaders and stoking fears over Hispanic migrants, and ethnno-nationalist ideas have gained renewed traction among conservative voters. While support of Donald Trump cannot be equated with an embrace of racism, it is no accident that radical white nationalist groups have been growing and becoming increasingly vocal in their support of the president; these groups are ideologically wrong, but they are not stupid.

These trends should be concerning for anyone who is a student of history: rampant nationalism tends to breed war. While undermining the international order is one thing, the rise of Trumpian politics has had a more concrete casualty: the public witness of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians. Continue reading From Babel to Pentecost: Letting Go of Fear, Embracing the Spirit

Why Didn’t Jesus Denounce Military Service?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

A common objection to the claim that Jesus and the authors of the New Testament were opposed to all forms of violence is that neither Jesus nor anyone else speaks out against it. When soldiers asked John the Baptist what they should do in response to his message, for example, he told them not to “extort money,” not to “accuse people falsely,” and to be “content with [their] pay” (Lk 3: 14). He didn’t tell them to leave the military. In a similar fashion, when Jesus encountered a distraught Centurion, he healed his servant and praised his faith without saying a word about his leadership role in the violent and unjustly oppressive Roman-governed army (Mt 8:5-13Lk 7:1-10).

Along the same lines, without commenting on his military service, Mark reports that a Centurion confessed faith in Jesus when he witnessed how he died (Mk 15:39). And this same attitude gets carried over into the early church. Indeed, the first Gentile who came to Christ in the book of Acts was yet another Centurion. As Peter preached the Gospel to this man and his household, the Holy Spirit fell upon them and they were all baptized without a word being uttered about this man’s military service (Acts 10:44-8).

From Augustine to Aquinas to Luther up to the present time, these episodes have been frequently cited to justify Christians serving in the military. Continue reading Why Didn’t Jesus Denounce Military Service?

The Perils of Group Think

When David became king of Israel, certain groups gathered around him, each faction precisely gifted in ways that contributed to his ability to rule with wisdom and integrity. Far from being threatened, David welcomed them. He held the position of king for the sake of the nation and wanted all the help he could get to encourage the wellbeing of his people rather than undermine it, as rulers can so easily do. 

One key group to join him were members of the Tribe of Issachar, described in the Bible as ‘men who knew the times and understood what Israel ought to do’. (I Chronicles 12:32) It’s worth remembering that Issachar’s mandate was not contingent on David’s willingness to listen to them. Even if he’d rejected their insights they would still have followed through on their specific, God-given aptitude to recognize and understand the times they were living in, and look for ways to influence the culture of the nation.

After David died, the people of Issachar with their uncanny ability to see what was really happening underneath the hype, were no longer valued or utilised by succeeding kings. Continue reading The Perils of Group Think

Why Did Jesus Say He Came to Bring a Sword?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Jesus said: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34). 

Some, both modern scholars along with church leaders since the fourth century, have used this passage as evidence to argue that Jesus is not altogether non-violent.

When we place Matthew 10:34 in its broader context, it becomes clear that Jesus’ teaching not only does not condone violence on the part of his disciples, it actually rules out all violence. As Jesus is preparing his disciples to proclaim the Good News of the arrival of the kingdom of God throughout the region, he warns them that he is sending them out “like sheep among wolves” (Mt 10:16, cf. vv. 5-15).

Continue reading Why Did Jesus Say He Came to Bring a Sword?

Jesus and Nationalistic Violence

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Throughout the Old Testament, we find Israel spoken of as God’s “chosen nation.” The Israelites were to be a nation of priests whom God wanted to use to unite the world under him (Ex 19:6). Since nationalism and violence inevitably go hand in hand, as Jacque Ellul and others have noted, the covenant God made with Israel naturally included protection from their enemies in exchange for their compliance with his law (e.g. Deut. 27-28).

By the time Jesus came on the scene, however, Israel had fallen into exile. For most Jews, this could only be explained as an aspect of a covenantal curse. They were being punished because of their disobedience. Though they were in their land, they were yet in spiritual exile. (This is the argument made throughout the work of N.T. Wright. See his The New Testament and the People of God, pages 268-272.) Yet, based on a number of OT prophecies, most Jews continued to look for a future Messiah who would restore Israel’s loyalty to Yahweh, lead Israel in a military conquest over her Roman oppressors and make Israel once again a sovereign nation, thereby demonstrating to the world the supremacy of Yahweh and their own chosen status under him. In other words, many if not most Jews of Jesus’ time wanted and expected a militaristic and nationalistic Messiah.

Though Jesus’ miracles gave people reason to believe he was the Messiah, he refused to play this role. In fact, though it is deeply woven into the OT, Jesus repudiated Jewish nationalism and the violence that came with it. This much is clear in his inaugural sermon given in his hometown synagogue. Jesus read from Isaiah 61, a passage that declared that God’s anointed one would bring good news to the poor, set captives free and declare the year of the Lord’s favor. Amazingly, Jesus announced that this prophecy was in the process of being fulfilled in him (Lk 4:18-19). Continue reading Jesus and Nationalistic Violence