While Jesus was Peaceful and Loving, was He a Pacifist? Pt 2

March 17, 2014 at 8:52 AM


Jesus, shown here defending the honor of His Father’s house, in which He used more than just words.

Last time, we introduced this subject, indicating that the western culture or mindset has interpreted Scripture too often through Gentile or non-Jewish eyes. Since the Bible was written from the perspective of Jewish people steeped in Hebrew culture. This is a problem for those of us in the west because we tend to have a Greek mindset, not a Hebrew one.

In the original article, I presented information from David Bivin and Roy Blizzard, Jr.’s book – “Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus” – that tends to support the notion that the Gospels of the New Testament were originally written in Hebrew, not Koine Greek. Yes, they were eventually translated to Greek, and of course, for us today, into English. If true, then this becomes problematic because something is lost when Hebrew idioms and phrases are translated into Greek and then into English.

Some of the most well-known passages spoken by Jesus take on new meaning, as the authors show, when we go back to the original Hebrew, bypassing the Greek. In this article, I want to take a bit of time to provide some examples of just exactly what they’re talking about.

Aside from your belief as to whether or not the Gospels or any other portion of the New Testament were written in Hebrew originally, it must be admitted that because of the Jewish culture and mindset, Jewish idioms and verbiage are part of the New Testament. It behooves us to understand those idioms and verbiage in its original context and meaning. Because of that, books like the one referred to in this and the first article are invaluable.

In chapter six of Bivin/Blizzard’s book, they discuss theological errors that are caused by a mistranslation of the text. This is due to the fact that a Hebrew word(s) can have several meaning while a similar word in Greek (or even English) does not. The authors use the example of “the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Generally, when we speak of the Kingdom of Heaven, we think in terms of something that is future, not here yet. This is because the Greek text gives us that impression – that it has not yet arrived. The authors assert that when the original passages are put back into “Hebrew, it is immediately obvious that the Kingdom has already arrived, is in fact here – almost the exact opposite of the Greek meaning.” [1]

When Jesus arrived to this planet in physical form, He announced the Kingdom of Heaven as being present. It was so because He was here. It wasn’t “near” as if still to arrive. It was here through Him. The Greek tends to miss that.

Another area where the authors spend even more time is in the area of pacifism. When we think of Jesus, most people think in terms of a Person who was a practicing pacifist and taught His followers to be the same way. However, the authors point out that this is due to a misunderstanding of various texts in the Gospels.

For instance, “turn the other cheek,” and “go the extra mile” are two areas in which it certainly seems as though Christians are to simply allow the world to use us as doormats. We are to allow them to brutalize us without responding in kind. But the authors point out that this mentality was not part of the thinking of Jewish rabbis. They then ask the question, “Can it be, then, that Jesus was the first and only Jew to teach pacifism? It is very unlikely.” [2]

The authors point out that “The idea that pacifism was a part of the teachings of Jesus was popularized in the writings of Tolstoy. Pacifism, however, is not today, nor was it ever, a part of Jewish belief. The tradition is summed up in the Talmudic dictum, ‘If someone comes to kill you, anticipate him and kill him first’ (Sanhedrin 72a). In other words, it is permissible to kill in order to defend oneself.” [3]

The authors also note that in Luke 22, we note that the disciples/apostles were armed with swords. Peter even used his sword in an attempt to keep Jesus from being arrested. When Jesus rebuked Peter, He did not rebuke him for having a sword. He rebuked Peter for using it in that instance because Jesus came to die. Also in Luke 22, Jesus tells His followers to go out and buy swords.

Pacifism is a misunderstanding of the theology that exists in Scripture. Pacifism does not allow a person to defend themselves with force. Jesus never taught that at all, but the world has gotten that impression and it is likely due to the mistranslations of parts of the New Testament, from the Hebrew, to the Greek, to English.

Bivin and Blizzard point out that this has occurred specifically because of the mistranslations of Matthew 5:21. They note that most English translations state, “You shall not kill,” (cf. Exodus 20:13).

“The Hebrew word is ‘murder’ (ratzach), and not kill (haraq). In Hebrew there is a clear distinction between these two words. The first (ratzach) means premeditated murder, while the second (haraq) encompasses everything from justifiable homicide, manslaughter and accidental killing, to taking the life of an enemy soldier in war. The commandment very precisely prohibits murder, but not the taking of a life in defense of oneself or others.” [4]

In essence, the commandment based on the Mosaic Law of Exodus 20 actually states and means, “Thou Shalt Not Murder.” But look at how convoluted and confused things have become today. More people are being arrested for defending their homes and the people who live there from intruders. Do a search of the Internet to read one story after another. What’s the message? In liberal states where they are trying to outlaw guns, don’t think that you can use a gun to defend yourself in your home when someone breaks in and has a gun of their own.

Murder also applies to abortions, yet the same left that is so appalled at gun violence continues to fight for the “right” to murder unborn babies. It is illogical. It makes no sense, yet this is how badly confused things have become today.

We will cover more mistranslations that affect our theology in our next installment.

[1] Bivin, Blizzard, Jr., Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus (1994), p. 68

[2] Ibid, p. 69

[3] Ibid, p. 69

[4] Ibid, p. 69

Entry filed under: Political Correctness, Politically Correct. Tags: , .

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