The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Fighting For God's Nonviolence. (Richard Murray's approach.)


Richard your book looks very interesting and I will read it as soon as I have time :slight_smile: .
Steve -
Lotharson – gave the following quotations on a recent blog of his – which may be of interest here :slight_smile:

I chased up the quotations for him and came up with the following -

The quotation from Nyssa comes from Gregory of Nyssa’s ‘Life of Moses’ translated by Malherbe and Ferguson (pp. 75-76). Gregory concluded that the text about Pharaoh must be allegory which actually teaches us to destroy temptations. Origen concluded the same about the Canaanite genocides (see White ed. ‘Origen; Homilies on the book of Joshua’, pp. 92-30). Whatever we may think about the ancient allegorical method of interpretation (which is more of historical interest than of functional use today IMHO) it is clear from this that the Church Fathers thought that it is fairly easy to recognise when the Scriptures seem to teach something that is wrong (and in this they agree with Lewis’ Christian Platonism)
The C.S Lewis letter comes from John Beversluis’ book C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion (pp. 295-6) and a facsimile of the original letter from Lewis dated 3 Julty1963 is given at pp319-20 (Jack Lewis died in November 1963 so the letter is written shortly before his death). The letter is a reply to one from John Beversluis asking for clarification about Jack Lewis’s seeming conversion to the Ockhamist view – that whatever God wills is good even if it seems evil to us


BTW. I’ve also read Origen’s Homily on Genesis and what he makes of the Flood. His entire exegetical method for the OT is to see Christ in it. Therefore his exegesis of the Flood concentrates not on the destruction of sinners but on the Ark of salvation. I was reminded of this when I read Richard’s article. The Ark for Origen is a figure of the church and the animals of all types – both clean and unclean – Origen sees as the salvation of all within the broad Ark of the Church which has its place for both mature and immature Christians.


That’s excellent stuff, Dick! :smiley:

I’m interested to hear Richard and Mike’s thoughts on the early church and violence and perhaps universalism as that wasn’t emphasized in Mike’s book. I do think it’s a natural extension of his work and I may have missed some explicit thoughts on universalism in the book, but I can totally understand why it wasn’t front and center in* The Jesus Driven Life*. I think it would be too much all at once for the target audience, to tell the truth. If they accept Mike’s presentation of the ideas in his book, “universalism” naturally follows.


My view Bobby is that the texts of the Bible aren’t merely ancient. They are living texts and there is what ST has called a trajectory in the Bible that critiques the Bible. The danger of not having a critical attitude to the violent texts of the Bible is they come to live again. In Laying Down the Sword’ Philip Jenkins traces how Calvin’s commentary on the Book of Joshua – emphasising it’s literal validity - has lead to appalling and indiscriminate godly slaughter. That’s just one example.


Welcome Richard! I had a lot of ‘work’ work to do today so I haven’t gotten around to the mitigating followup yet, but it’s even better to have correspondence with the author anyway.

Also welcome to Michael Hardin! Kewl! :smiley:

I probably don’t count as an inerrantist (at any rate I can’t imagine an inerrantist thinking I’m an inerrantist, and I regard the concept as a category error when applied to the scriptures). But I’m familiar enough with the scholarly variety of inerrantist to think they’ll have similar problems as I do, and I’m familiar enough with the common garden-variety (in several senses of that phrase :wink: ) to think they’ll just go AAAH HE’S CALLING GOD SATAN and hex out from that alone. No game changing, as a general rule, either way.

Still, yay for seeing something better than a Janus-faced god, I guess. :slight_smile: Also, seeing the phrase “post-foundationalist critical realist” tickles me geekily. :ugeek:

Onward to Richard’s reply:

And perhaps a more nuanced approach than your rather extensive article allowed for? Because the approach in your article isn’t nuanced, and you certainly had opportunity to provide more nuance. If the article is supposed to be sufficiently indicative of your methodology, the same problems in principle seem likely to remain.

I hope everyone who gets this far in the thread does take advantage of the limited free access to the book download, though; thanks for making that available for further reference! (I’ve already added an admin note to the start of Hermano’s initial post, allowing new readers to click down directly to your post, so they can get it while it’s available.)

I should think the argument would be based on a whole lot more than that; certainly I didn’t make the argument, so the “particular point of criticism” you’re replying to along this line isn’t mine or anyone else’s in this thread for that matter.

But when your article stresses repeatedly that Jesus does not kill ever ever etc., then you’re setting yourself up for easy if otherwise trivial refutations. Whatever the killing of the fig tree means, and/or signifies about what’s going to happen later, Jesus killed it.

And He did so in the context of judging what He finds in Jerusalem and what’s coming to Jerusalem by His authority consequentially. A deployment of authority He portrays as being very direct in parables related to that judgment.

You go off on your imaginary opponent for a while; or possibly an opponent off-site that you’d like to impress us with your replies to, instead of spending time addressing actual critiques here. Or perhaps you’re just copy-pasting from something else you wrote earlier (it isn’t the book yet so far as I can tell, but that’s certainly going to be copy-pasted later without regard to what anyone here actually argued).

So I’ll just zip past the first fig tree comments, since they apply to no one in this thread. :slight_smile:

I did however reference the cleansing of the Temple (I may have been the only one so far in the thread to mention it, but certainly I mentioned it), as a minor point about how your overly emphatic insistence on Jesus never ever doing violence runs into an obvious problem off the bat – and how you barely address this in your article, but my point was only that it’s an example of rhetoric taken too far.

Still you’re going to discuss it now in more detail – basically copy-pasting directly from your book here on out, without actually bothering to synch up with what I was talking about (which at best ends up implying I’m supposed to be like your hyperactive preacher, which I’m not).

But still, more detail. And I guess a typical sample of what’s available in the book compared to the article.

I agree, among other things.

However, the unrighteous bloodlust in the eyes of your wrathful pastor, and his hyperactive rhetoric for the crowd, would not change Jesus killing that tree (since you insisted on bringing it up via copy-paste) and enacting some degree of violence (apparently twice, though perhaps only once with a whip) on the moneychangers – and not only because they were swindling people (though that, too) but because they had set up in the Court of the Gentiles (a nice large area regarded as ritually unclean within the Temple boundaries, so convenient for their purpose) and so were highly interfering with the evangelical mission of having a court for Gentiles to worship in at all. Thus Jesus’ first citation from Isaiah 56:7. (Which happens to be in the middle of a lot of positive promises for penitent Israel and for penitent Gentiles.)

At any rate the abuse does not abolish the use, so your story of your former pastor is of no critical weight: if the passage reads violence your pastor still abused the reading. Correcting the false rhetoric of your wrathful pastor, on the other hand, doesn’t change the fact that Jesus went on to cite YHWH from Jeremiah 7:11 explaining, in wrath, that because rebel priests have made His house a cave of rebels He’s about to send armies to destroy Jerusalem and carry its survivors into exile. Which is what happened.

So are we supposed to think Jesus was citing Satan with approval there? Or that he (not He) only mistakenly thought he was citing YHWH but was actually citing Satan? You don’t address Jesus citing that verse in this incident (either in your book or here in your copy-paste) – or rather you mention the phrase a lot and not where Jesus was quoting from – but based on your article’s methodology either option seems likely. And problematic at least.

In regard to the whip: the fact that Mark and Matthew don’t mention it doesn’t mean it wasn’t used, and John reports it being used (at least once if that expulsion was earlier in the ministry). Even on the animals, violence would be done to them to make them move rather than the miraculous power of His word which you appeal to in the case of the men; if you answer (as you do) that He thus spared them from death a little longer, so would be the point of trying to get the unjust there to repent and so be in a position to escape Jerusalem later (completely aside from whether Jesus sends the Romans). On your interpretation you still have Jesus whipping the innocent animals rather than merely commanding them to move, but merely commanding the guilty men. This is a moral improvement how??

I suppose you might plausibly downgrade it to merely a threat of violence (flicking over the ear), but that could just as easily apply to the men to chase them out, and I’m not sure yet what your stance is on merely threatened violence from God. Unless He’s merely bluffing, or even if He is, the implication would be that direct violence is next.

I don’t blame you of course for following a significant number of Bible commentaries regarding the targets of the whip. On one hand the fronted “all” would normally refer back to all the types of people just mentioned. On the other hand the post-positive {te} conjunction when used with {kai} to link two nouns (the sheep and the oxen) could mean “both/and” or “not only/but also” or something like that rather than “besides-also/and” which is also a grammatic possibility. The both/and possibility could mean the animals are the topics of {pantas exebalen ek tou hierou} he-cast-out all from of-the-sanctuary.

(Digression: the possessive genitive “of the sanctuary” is clear, and I gather this refers to something belonging to the sanctuary, but that could be either the beasts or the merchants and moneychangers supplied by the Temple (who after all, despite their misbehavior, are providing a needed service for the people.) So though a little odd that’s no help for deciding either way.)

The grammar for “all” however runs into a pretty severe problem for your interpretation if “cast-out” is only meant verbally. (And it can easily mean to physically throw out, as for example the vineyard tenders throwing out the heir in a parable soon afterward. Same term.) The interpretation would end up being this: making a whip, Jesus verbally casts them all out of the sanctuary both the sheep and the oxen. But then what was the whip for?

So the verb must mean a physical usage of the whip. Making a whip, Jesus physically casts them all out of the sanctuary both the sheep and the oxen, and overturns the moneychanger tables and tells the dove sellers to take up their things and get out. But why is He only telling the dove sellers to get out instead of doing the equivalent of throwing over the money tables and driving out the stock? That money was set free pretty obviously! – they aren’t likely to get it back, so setting free the doves would have been just as appropriate. (And a nice bit of a miracle if necessary for the details: with a word He opens the cages.) Meanwhile if Jesus is physically whipping the walking stock, where are their sellers? Sitting around waiting for Jesus to finish before trying to stop Him? Sent out beforehand or afterward by a miraculous word unreported in the incident (unlike Jesus telling the dove sellers to leave)? In among the stock trying to keep as much as possible? That would be the most reasonable, but then they’re going to be part of the general physical push out the door, and then grammatically they’re part of the whip group target.

Everything is smoothed out grammatically by the traditional interpretation: Jesus makes a whip and with it physically casts out all the prior groups of people besides the sheep and the oxen; and of the brokers He pours out the table money and overturns the tables; and He tells the dove sellers to lift up the doves with them as they go. (Which might be Him instructing them to set them free, since lifting up doves is the general movement for doing that. Merely telling them to set them free in the previous example wouldn’t fit His physical insurance that the stock and money are set free so to speak.)

Note that there is no special distinction being made in the traditional interpretation for the dove sellers being excluded from the whipping; the only distinction would be they’re also being told to do something. Which might in turn be only an example of what Jesus was saying to the others, too, since certainly not only the dove sellers were making His Father’s house a house of merchandise; but let the verbal distinction stand, it doesn’t exclude the whipping in principle so cannot be used as evidence against the “all” somehow not including the dove sellers.

It should be sufficiently obvious that there is no practical fourth option available grammatically for Jesus to be only casting out the men verbally and then using the whip on the animals – the sentence simply doesn’t read that way in Greek.

In short there are no conceptual problems at all from an interpretation of Jesus whipping the men – except for Jesus whipping the men! But conceptual problems crop up if Jesus is not whipping the men only the animals. And worse problems if Jesus is only verbally casting out the animals; or verbally casting out the men with no verb for the animals yet verbs for the tables and the money.

I apologize for the dullness of going into the details there, but Richard’s appeal to numerous respected interpreters deserved something more than a brief answer. There are much better if duller reasons than !!KILLER JESUS, BLEEP YEAH!! for reading the grammar as whipping the men not only the walking stock out of the courtyard.

I do however fully agree that an attitudinal bias for Killer Jesus is no good reason at all for interpreting it that way.

That being said, whether or not Jesus used the whip again the second time (if there was only one time a whip was certainly used), Jesus did reference a promise of deadly violence coming from YHWH to the people creating this cave of rebels, which would catch up the rest of the city, too. If there was only one incident John didn’t report that (but did report the whip usage); if there were two incidents, Jesus had grounds for upscaling His description since He had given them two years to make the proper changes.

(As an aside: the disciples in GosJohn relate this to a Psalm which also features the Psalmist praying for wrathful destruction on enemies from God, in quite strong terms – being blotted out of the book of life among other things and never having the enemies come to be righteous. I’m willing to grant that was David’s bad attitude of heart toward his enemies, though, and so not necessarily what God Himself intended, despite David speaking in prophetic place of the eventually slain Messiah. Certainly no Calvinist could consistently appeal to the Psalm instead, since on their theory the non-elect would never have been written into the book of life to begin with! David in other Psalms talks about God restoring even God’s worst enemies, not only restoring David the sinner; so obviously one kind of utterance has to be read in light of the other eventually, even by an Arminian who might otherwise think Psalm 69 is fine as it stands. A progressive revelation argument would work well here I think, with David not quite understanding what he was seeing with the coming wrath, or not seeing important details yet. Merely going back and forth between divine and satanic inspiration would be much clunkier: not least because Jesus demonstrably agrees with David about the divine wrath on the way!)

At the very least Jesus ruined the moneychanger’s tables and scattered their money, so I’m pretty sure if all they needed was a legal pretext they could have gone with that easily. The Levite guards in the Temple weren’t there for show, especially during Passover week when, as the chief priests knew, there was always a threat of general rebellion.

Which is exactly why the leaders also desperately wanted to avoid arresting someone making prophetic judgments whom the crowds regarded as a prophet, as GosMark (and other Gospels) all affirm.

Moreover, there was in fact strong support for Jesus among the Sanhedrin and the Pharisee party up to a point, as GosJohn especially reveals. The Pharisees (as confirmed by extra-biblical sources) were NOT AT ALL happy about the Sadduccean party taking over the Court of Gentiles for this purpose, and would have been cheering Him on the first time at least – leading Caiaphas and the chief priests (stationed nearby where they had moved the Sanhedrin rooms, to be near the money) to ask for a demonstration of prophetic authority instead of simply arresting Him.

Yet again, we know from GosMark especially (with support from GosMatt, and weaker support from GosLuke) that some Pharisees still thought highly of Jesus up to this point (and vice versa) because Jesus has a friendly exchange with a Pharisee scribe a day or two later after Jesus foils the resurrection riddle of some Sadducees: a point the Pharisees naturally appreciated.

Beyond that, GosJohn indicates fairly late in the story (closer in time to the Synoptic cleaning not GosJohn’s own early account) that Caiaphas and his coterie could not even reliably expect their Levite soldiers to arrest Jesus after being given definite orders to do so! That situation hasn’t changed.

So actually no, even if a whip had been used twice, Jesus could expect to avoid being arrested thanks to lingering Pharisee support at worst. (Support still strong enough, though tacitly indicated, the night of Jesus’ arrest to prevent a mere railroading of Jesus on trumped up charges regarding the Temple destruction – a topical point far from incidental to the sign proposed by Jesus in GosJohn’s account of the cleansing, even if that had been three years earlier!) But if a whip had been used only the first time, that might fit the data better. Either way, Jesus could avoid problems using minor violence with a whip: He at least had the popular crowd support, which would have been true even for a first early cleaning with a whip (as in GosJohn), and may (per GosJohn) even have had Levite soldier support by the final week.

Minor violence is still violence, though, and so counts (even if only against cattle! – and a lot of fish, come to think of it) against emphatic declarations that Jesus never ever does violence.

Minor violence would NOT count against a more sober and nuanced claim regarding Jesus and violence: okay He used violence but He didn’t seriously hurt anyone. Except some fish. And a tree. But those weren’t people. I would totally accept that (as far as it goes); but a more sober and nuanced claim wasn’t what I was complaining about with this minor point.

Just to reiterate the previous point, there is no grammatic way the verb for “cast-out” there can feasibly apply in an only verbal fashion to the people, without also applying in an only verbal fashion to the cattle – and then there’s no reason for a whip at all.

I am however willing to grant that the verb could only be verbal in the Synoptic accounts, if that’s a second, later incident; nothing in the grammar there, so far as I know, points to physically casting the people out – though the term could still mean that, too, and a whip wouldn’t necessarily have to be mentioned. At the very least Jesus is physically inconveniencing the sellers in violence against their things (overturning tables and seats), so it isn’t like He is standing in one place simply ordering everyone to leave.

I should also add, since you brought it up for comparison, that any declaration miraculously strong enough to cause Roman and/or Levite soldiers to stumble backward to the ground when they’re prepared to deal with dangerous rebels in a military powderkeg at night (possibly with prepared ambushes awaiting them, so far as they can reasonably expect), amounts to punching them physically backwards. After which they’re more polite. Be that as it may.

Completely irrelevant to the question of whether Jesus used some minor violence to gain those people room for some justice. Possibly doubly irrelevant if the whipping only occurred once the first time, since the chief priests were “who and what immediately” took their place. Some strong physical activity, making a mess, happened either way, and people would have had to get past any emotional problems from that either way. (Money on the floor might possibly help the poor get over any qualms about whether this Jesus guy is going to throw them out, too. :slight_smile: )

Duh! But still irrelevant to the question of how Jesus cast them out. If a “wonderful healing and worship revival” could and did happen after Jesus wrecked tables and chairs, and ruined the livelihoods of some criminals, it could happen after Jesus whipped a few cheaters and oppressors out of the area while also wrecking their tables and ruining their livelihoods. There isn’t much difference in scale, unless you and/or your hyperactive preacher pretend there is for (albeit different) rhetorical purposes. Maybe effective for courtroom or preacher-podium dramatics; not so good for serious discussion of the issues.

No, but the point about the minor violence wasn’t to use the minor violence as a mandate for KILLER JESUS; the point was against your emphasized claim that Jesus never ever does violence period.

I suspect, however, you aren’t so much straw manning what I actually said intentionally, as copy-pasting from your book’s text with simply no regard at all to what I actually said. Great for saving you time and effort (I have your book open on the pages your quoting yourself from), but since I’m not your hyperactive preacher, and wasn’t saying or doing what he was doing, it leaves you misaimed for no good reason, and doesn’t do justice to my actual criticism.

Again, not my point – you’re merely quoting your own book again without regard to what I (or anyone else in the thread) actually said, which was that when you emphatically stress that Jesus never kills, it’s easy enough to refute that rhetorical puff with an obvious example. A dead tree for example, since you have insisted on bringing it up.

Really, copy-pasting large portions of your book to combat a minor point, or rather not to combat that but to refute a point I wasn’t even making, and leaving over the more significant criticisms, does not end up being a good example of your capabilities.

Still, as long as we’re here: killing a tree to repeat, reinforce and re-demonstrate a merely non-violent dynamic of healing and perfect praise that He revealed to them in the cleansing of the Temple, sounds like a mighty broken example to me. Especially since He earlier connected the death and destruction of an unfruitful tree, slated to be chopped down on orders from its owner, to warnings about what was coming to Jerusalem if the people didn’t get their acts together.

Um, no, He killed the fig tree. He didn’t purge “the unfruitful elements out of it” leaving behind the rest for fruitfulness to immediately rush in to fill the vacuum with healing and perfect praise. He isn’t purging a mere false identity out of the tree that wasn’t bearing fruit. There’s not even any mention about a fruitful fig tree growing in the same spot!

There is mention about faith being strong enough that a mountain could be uprooted and cast out into the sea (symbolically into punitive hades), but that obviously isn’t what you’re talking about; you’re simply making up connections which aren’t there.

But simply making up the connections is the only way you can get “the same exact message” from both incidents. And one of the few bare connections, with the courtyard cleansing being bracketed by what happens to the tree, doesn’t even show up in GosMatt! – he forwards the action and result to connect it with the coming challenges to His authority by the chief priests and elders. I’m willing to grant Mark’s timing is mostly likely more accurate, but thematically Matthew misses your point of connection altogether.

I guess I can say in its favor that this attempt is more nuanced than what I typically got from your previous article? :slight_smile: So there’s that.

Um… and then Jesus removed the false Temple like He removed the false fig tree. There weren’t signs of it bearing real figs later by bearing pre-figs now – or not enough to prevent the tree from being killed.

That meaning synchs up with the data on the page regarding the fig tree, instead of the imagined and even outright contraventive details you’re imagining about what happened regarding that tree. But now we’re getting into far more important details than some minor violence with a whip and deadly violence against a mere tree – either of which are enough, however, to rebut mere insistences that Jesus never does violence and never kills at all ever period. (Which was the only purpose I referenced the cleansing for.)


Sobornost, good quotes. Actually, just for the record, my view of Scripture is resonant with the fathers you quoted.

The Church Father Origen and the Alexandrian Church defined INERRANCY differently than we do. Origen used the term “inerrancy of Scripture” NOT to refer to the INERRANCY of the “ordinary or literal” sense of the text, which according to Origen, contains numerous “literal” errors, impossible “literal” statements, and even fictional “literal” elements on occasion.

BUT, Origen DID believe that all Scripture was “inerrant in it’s SPIRITUAL or ALLEGORICAL” sense. He rightly believed there was a subtextual/allegorical/symbolic meaning imbedded in every text which always went far beyond the “bare letter” of the text.

Sometimes, the Biblical human writer was largely aware of the subtextual/allegorical/symbolic meaning and thus knew he was writing figuratively.

Sometimes, the writer was only dimly aware. Still other times, the writer was totally unaware of the true and deeper meaning of what they were writing. The writers commonly wrote “far more than they knew.”

C.S. Lewis believed the exact same thing by the way. "The human qualities of the raw material show through. Naivety, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed. The total result is not ‘the Word of God’ in the sense that every passage in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God.”

So, contrary to some of the previous comments, I do NOT believe in literal inerrancy. Moreover, the “Bracket” technique I mentioned in the article is only a very small aspect of my overall hermeneutic. I describe my much more nuanced allegorical hermeneutic in the following two links. … f=bookmark … f=bookmark

My article originally cited initially by Hermano above was not intended to be a detailed primer on my chosen hermeneutic, but I fear that this is how it is being processed by some of the above commentators.

Rather, the article was written to expose one dynamic which significantly affected the theological context of the Old Testament, namely their undifferentiated view of God which saw Satan as God’s left hand, His angry voice, His official minister of wrath. This caused Old Testament saints to attribute BOTH good and evil to God, BOTH love and hate to God, BOTH mercy and wrath to God, and BOTH healing & affliction to God.

So, at any rate, I would hope my true hermeneutic would be better understood after reading these links I just provided. Blessings to all.


Jacob, no hard feelings. As John Wesley said, “Think and let think.” I’ll stand on what I wrote. We just see it differently. Blessings.


Thanks for the gracious words Steve. Here is an article I wrote on the early church’s view of Hell. … f=bookmark


Thanks for the link in your last post - a really excellent essay!


I’d like to throw an idea out there for us to wrestle with:

Jason, I’m noticing a focus here on having solid biblical exegesis. This is understandable since as a universalist you face the accusation of playing “loosy-goosey” with the Bible. For those of us with scholarly training there is also a certain intellectual pressure to be able to present the “correct” biblical interpretation.

However, I’d like to propose that Jesus does not give a fig about proper exegesis. Take for example his response to the accusation that he was breaking the Sabbath (punishable by death according to the law). He answers “My Father is always working, and so am I.” Note he does not deny that he is “working,” and that his argument is not in any sense a reading you could propose in any class in biblical exegesis. It’s a really just a clever (and judging by their reaction rather provocative) play on words. It is typical for Jesus to respond like that, and to do so in the midst of breaking laws. At least that’s what the religious leaders understood him to be doing.

What’s going on here? I’d propose that the focus that Jesus has is not one of having the “correct” biblical interpretation, true to the authorial intent. Rather it is a focus on prioritizing love. So he breaks the Sabbath law in order to love. He prioritizes a reading of Scripture that focuses on showing grace and compassion towards those who were normally condemned and rejected by his religious peers, even though in doing so he needs to emphasize the minority narrative of the OT and ignore the majority narrative that looked for the messiah to come in violence and kill the Gentiles.

What if we made Jesus’ focus on love our priority too?

I’d dare say that if our priority was on asking how we can best love, then I don’t think we would be making arguments that Jesus hurt a tree and therefore he is a technically a killer. Again, the point I imagine is to demonstrate what you see as a weakness in Richard’s biblical exegesis. But I would like to propose that this is really not the right focus. It takes us in the wrong direction. I would personally much rather have a person who is focused on showing compassion, who gets to there via terrible exegesis (here I’m not thinking of Richard, but of just about every single person in a typical congregation), than I would a person who employs perfect biblical methodology and yet justifies harming others in God’s name (not meaning to accuse you of that Jason, but I do see this as a clear tendency among the neo-Reformed who place a similar priority on the Biblical correctness, and that is the danger on placing too much value on the Bible).

I think this is pretty much exactly the point Jesus is making in his parable of the good Samaratian: What really matters is how we love. I think that’s what Jesus meant when he said we should look at the fruit. Is the fruit of our biblical interpretation grace and compassion? Or is the fruit of our biblical interpretation justifying harm and death? If it is grace and compassion, and we get there with questionable exegesis, I say good. If it’s the other then I’d say that it does not matter how good our exegesis is, we are still wrong.

I say this all because I like you Jason. You seem like a genuinely good guy who is quite insightful, and socially sensitive and aware. I really appreciate that about you. So I truly hope you can take this challenge in the spirit of brotherly love and respect that it is intended.


Hey guys, long time :slight_smile: I saw this posted on Facebook so I thought I’d stop by and say hi.

In defense of Richard (not that a lawyer needs defense), you said yourself to the OP, that people only have so much time to give to these threads. Then to get on him about copy and pasting I think is a bit unfair. A lot of people who makes their way around the internet, AND have a ‘real’ job besides eventually copy and pastes. I am not that organized, but I wish I was, because you eventually keep saying the same thing over and over again.

In the same token, the fig tree issue is not irrelevant, just because nobody in here brought it up. Would that not be the direct context? And if Richard is right about the shared symbolism between the two events, then it is very pertinent to the discussion.

Finally the issue of killing a fig tree and whipping animals, is IMO not even in the same ballpark as doing violence to people. I treat my dog in a very different way than I treat my daughter when they act out. Cattle herders use prods to move their cattle, if I were to prod my daughter I should be in jail. Now if your argument stands that the all means the people too, then this is moot, but I just wanted to address that portion of reasoning.

I’m very interested to see the outcomes of the dialogue in this thread as I have been having similar questions from all the parties here in regards to non-violence, and the theologies of Richard and Michael, which for me represent two ends of the spectrum that I’ve been influenced by of late, in comparison to those here who’ve influenced me in the past, Jason you not being the least. :slight_smile:


Can I just say that as a sort of ‘peacenik’ here I consider Jason to be a dear and supportive friend :slight_smile:

Richard I’ve really enjoyed your articles on the allegorical method :smiley:


  • that’s a very charming Americanism I must remember it :laughing:


I wanted to try to present my thoughts, which sprung from the following:

I think that Derek and I would largely see eye to eye - even though I haven’t read his book (it’s on the list…the one that has over 600 books now :blush: :smiley: ). But what I want to be very careful about - very sensitive to - is the people who are like me. Or rather, former me. Having grown up with a certain view of the Bible that left no room for nuance, metaphor, or symbolism, I can understand the thought process that goes behind the “loosey-goosey” accusations - even though it frustrates me. I understand the fear that taking a metaphorical or symbolic approach to Biblical ideas will lead to leaving Christianity altogether. But one of the ideas that is so hard to present (and this is why I do these enormous writing projects even though it’s just a hobby) is that I take the Bible very seriously - so seriously that I’ve come to the conclusion that these Biblical ideas must be seen symbolically or metaphorically. And I am of the conviction that this does not lessen the reality, but rather broadens our perspective to a reality which is much bigger than we ever imagined! It’s so hard to express, but I believe that when a person becomes truly present in this reality, and fully embraces it, they become fully human in a way that makes the divine that much more present and real - and when that happens, we do not need to hold on to literal ideas of invisible realms such as “hell” any more. “Hell” is the realm of war, and fear of the other, and addiction, etc. And the demons of this realm are expressed through the voices of fear and shame. But the realm of “Heaven” is found in the love of our neighbor - even our enemy. And the voices of unconditional love and acceptance have a real, tangible power that is holy and…dare I say…divine?

I wanted to work this in somehow - in the book I am reading currently, God Is a Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism, Rabbi David Cooper writes about the Jewish method of exegesis:

I think that most Christians, sadly, stop after p’shat. And they often treat the other 3 methods as if they were transgressions. But one of the amazing things I’ve found - just from the very little reading of Jewish authors I’ve done so far - is that there is a remarkable variety of interpretations that various Rabbi’s have offered for an individual text! They have no problem with letting their imaginations explore a passage in order to try to draw out every possible meaning they could find! It’s really refreshing, and you find layers upon layers upon layers of meaning through the Scriptures that way. And to answer the second quote of Derek’s that I provided above, I think that what is important to Jesus is love. And love should be the lens through which the Scriptures are read - and when we do that, we will find a wealth of wisdom.


The Rabbinic levels are pretty much equivalent to Origen’s threefold (fourfold?) level of exegesis Geoff



Spiritual (which subdivides into the Allegorical and the Anagogical)



I think Derek’s “Jesus doesn’t give a fig…” was a slight exaggeration, but I agree wholeheartedly with his point. We need to look at the fruit of our exegetical work, how it is leading us to treat others - with love or with cruelty/indifference. Unconditional love has to be the way, even if it involves unauthorised work, breaking a few rules.


I think there is a careful exegesis of scripture that is centred on Jesus but works through the biblical data methodically. I’m thinking for example of Father Raymond Schwager’s ‘Jesus and the Drama of Salvation’ – a very careful work of exegesis.

I think Jason has raised an interesting point about ‘violence’ and Jesus –that’s made me think. Illegitimate/amoral violence for me is meant to degrade and humiliate people and to be done for a enjoyment and vengefulness . This is exactly the sort of Jesus violence that I find in so much of the stuff I’ve watched and read as research for threads here . The whip wielding Jesus to me is using force but it is not the force of illegitimate violence. But the whip wielding Jesus in the imagination of too many morphs into the Jesus envisaged in Left Behind series for example who resembles the horrible snotty little Gnostic time lord in the infancy Gospel of Thomas who strikes dead with his laser beams if offended and has children sliding down sum beams to break their little necks.

There are other ways of looking at the violent aspects in the parable, there are other ways of thinking about the prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem, there are other ways of looking at the book of Revelation than in terms of Jesus as the vengeful Time Lord. I hold to those ways – and I don’t think I’m too goosey loosey. But I wish this conversation had been a little less overwhelming. Little threads on smaller topics. Perhaps an invitation to a debate.

I know that one important strand of universalism has come up here. We’ve had Richard Beck advocating a lot of these ideas here for some time – but never had him in proper debate about them. Also I know that perhaps a third of the talking heads on Kevin Miller’s Hellbound belong to the nonviolent atonement tradition – but somehow debate needs to be more focussed for the purposes of this site. And when debate happens here I guess the orthodox Trinitarian sensibilities of the site need to be taken into account (for example I note that Kevin has said that for Girard the Holy Spirit is an impersonal thought. Girard emphasises the Holy Spirit speaking up as the Advocate in our hearts but he’s also a pretty orthodox Catholic in his beliefs – there is no creedal statement that requires us to believe in a personal devil; but I think Girard does actually believe in the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Trinity.

In Christ our Hen



Comments and a general question:

For what it’s worth, I’ve always found it a stretch to see the cleansing of the temple with “the whip” (strands of cord) as proof of a violent Christ. My thinking has, in part, been psychological. That is, I find it implausible that little children would immediately seek to be close to Jesus if they perceived Him to be violent. My sense is that children recoil from violence and withdraw. This could mean that the violence perceived in Christ by the money changers (or the potential for violence) was a matter of projection of their own sense of guilt and their own violent proclivities. That is, it was a matter which resulted in their inner conviction and they perhaps perceived that they “deserved” a violent response.

This all hardly matters however because by far the greater threat to Christ’s non violent reputation exists in the Old Testament. For I was raised in a denomination (SDA) which has held that all interactions between God and Israel were actually with Christ! Christ at Sinai, at the burning bush, commanding whole nations to be killed. Support for this idea that the God of the Old Testament was Jesus Christ Himself is said to be in places like John 5:39; Luke 24:44; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.

My question then is how common is this perception in the rest of the Christian world? At least in your view?? (ie that the God of the Old Testament was Jesus Christ Himself)

This aside then is mostly a point of curiosity for me.



I’m with Dick, here. :smiley:

As I brought up on another thread, not all “force” is “violence.” I’m thinking of the parent who sees one of their children beating on the other. Having the power (and responsibility) to stop it may require the use of force though the thought of retribution has nothing to do with it. I think there is room in Girard’s theory for that kind of force. I also have to applaud this quote:

Nice! As a Doctor Who fan, I have to love that one. :smiley:

But seriously, I do think that a more focused discussion would be immensely helpful on this site and just looking at the basics of Girard would be wonderful as so many members here are unfamiliar with his mimetic theory and the theology derived from that. I do think starting a new thread to discuss that could be very useful once this one has petered out…


A question for Richard Murray,

With your analogical approach, including the “bracketing” part of it, you speak of how in the view of the OT authors, God and Satan were mixed up and so things were attributed to God that were actually satanic (i.e evil actions were attributed to God, and God cannot be evil). So the implication is that (some parts) of the OT get God wrong, and through the NT we see a correction to this error.

Now let me state that I agree with this view. I’d add that what we see in the OT is not one single (wrong) view, but actually multiple conflicting views from opposite perspectives (some for example promoting showing mercy and inclusion, others promoting merciless vengeance and racism) and that the NT embraces one particular strand in the OT (the one focused on mercy and inclusion) while rejecting the others (focused on the opposite). So it’s not OT=bad, NT=good, but OT=messy multiple views, NT=the right view. We can only read the Bible right when we read backwards beginning with Jesus, which often involves correcting/reversing things in the OT.

My question for you is this: Saying that the OT is (in places) wrong, and indeed evil or satanic is a very bold statement. The typical protestant view, as I’m sure you know, is that the OT… no mater what it says… is right and good. It is beyond question. So when we find genocide and racism and sexism in the OT, it all must be good since it’s in the OT. “God said, that settles it.” So your view, since it denies this, is a major change in perspective from what we Protestants are used to. I wonder if you could comment on that?

One thing that is typical of the analogical approach is to reverse things, but act as if the reverse is not happening. This is then easier for people to take since it does not spell out for them that the whole thing has just been reversed. The dots are not connected and so many people don’t notice and are thus okay with it. But I think we do need to notice so that when others take the OT view advocating committing violence in God’s name, we can then say “no, that is wrong, this is not compatible with the way of Jesus.”

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.


I think that is absolutely correct. So much of the anguish and heart-wrenching questions come out of reading the OT without that understanding. When folks say that they are ‘just going to read through the Bible’ - well I applaud the effort, but really would suggest they read a good, unbiased survey of both testaments before they jump in and get all tied up in old old customs and attitudes.

Its language is singularly glowing, bold, and figurative, demanding more frequent departures from the literal sense, than that of our own age and country, and consequently demanding more continual exercise of judgment. – We find, too, that the different portions of this book, instead of being confined to general truths, **refer perpetually to the times when they were written, to states of society, to modes of thinking, to controversies in the church, to feelings and usages which have passed away, and without the knowledge of which we are constantly in danger of extending to all times, and places, what was of temporary and local application. **-- We find, too, that some of these books are strongly marked by the genius and character of their respective writers, that the Holy Spirit did not so guide the Apostles as to suspend the peculiarities of their minds.