Jesus’ View of Pacifism

(By David Bivin. Chapter excerpt from New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus, with permission.)

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.

Non-ViolenceMany 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.1 Jesus’ teachings seem very much like those of such popular pacifists as Tolstoy and Gandhi, and indeed, Tolstoy based his views on gospel passages.2

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,3 and Jesus himself advised them to purchase swords.4

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.


Kill or Murder?

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 ratsah in the Septuagint Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Ratsah 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 phoneuo and ratsah 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 (Ex 21:12–15), rape (Deut 22:25–26), kidnapping (Ex 21:16), adultery (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22), sorcery (Ex 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.5 Although most recent translations of the Bible have corrected this mistake,6 the use of “kill” in the King James Version and its successors has strongly influenced many English-speaking Christians’ views of self-defense.

PaybackAnother 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 24:19.7

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.”8 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 h-r-h, 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 h-r-h is also reflected in the use of “contend” in Isaiah 41:11: “Shamed and chagrined shall be all who contend with you” (JPS).

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.


Do Not Try to Outdo Evildoers

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.

BullyingLikewise, 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.”9 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. Jesus’ statement has nothing to do with confronting a murderer or facing an enemy on the field of battle. 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.’”

English mis-translation 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 insulted or wronged 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 offenses 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).

Self Defense.

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” (Ex 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.”10 The rabbis 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.11 The rabbis ruled that a person who is pursuing someone else with intent to murder may be killed.12 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.


You may also be interested in:

ISIS, Ancient Violence, and the Torah’s Radical Response
Test Your “Jesus Theories” in the Book of Acts
The Meaning of Life, According to Jesus


NLD CoverFrom New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus, Copyright (c) 2007,  En-Gedi Resource Center. Used by permission of the En-Gedi Resource Center. More on David Bivin’s excellent book at this link.

 1 Mt 5:21; 5:39a; 5:44; 10:28; 16:25.

2 See Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is within You, trans. Constance Garnett (New York, 1894; repr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984).

3 Lk 22:38, 49.

4 Lk 22:36.

5 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 Matthew 5:21 as “kill.” However, The Living Bible and The Amplified Bible show inconsistency by translating the sixth commandment using “murder” (Ex 20:13; Deut 5:17).

6 Rendering Matthew 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.

7 I am indebted to Robert L. Lindsey for drawing my attention to the connection between Matthew 5:39a and these three passages. Psalm 37:1 and Proverbs 24:19 read al tithar bamere’im (Do not be furiously angry with evildoers). Psalm 37:8 reads al tithar ach lehare’a (Do not be furiously angry; it can only do harm).

8 See the entry harah in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 5:171–76.

9 “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.

10 B. Sanhedrin 72a.

11 This ruling was based on Leviticus 19:16: “You must not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is at stake” (New English Translation).

12 M. Sanhedrin 8:7.

(Photo credits: Non-Violence Sculpture, Domestic Abuse Month: Women’s Self-Defense, Payback, Bullying)


26 Responses to “Jesus’ View of Pacifism”

  1. 1
    Stephen Keating|November 19, 2015

    Your reading is too narrow. If you think a little more carefully about the “ten commandments” (LXX “decalogue”) you might see a broader set of meanings. The sixth logos in the LXX, (but not numbered in that order in the synoptics, for some reason) speaks to killing, but in an obviously ambiguous way, indicating an intent to describe the condition of those who may be killed, and not the relative guilt of the killer. Deuteronomy expands this to indicate that one may not personally kill a dependent, but that a trial of some sort must occur. Contemporaneously, many people in the surrounding cultures had no civil rights, and could be killed with impunity (slaves, subjects, misbehaving children, adulterous wives, etc). This “commandment” is apparently unusual in the context from which it arises, and disallows such things (otherwise it would not need to be stated at all). The right to life is the most basic civil right, on which all others are founded. The sixth “commandment” secures this.

    You are also justifying violence by an interpretation of scriptural quotations, and an intermixing of post-exilic Jewish writing and 1st century gospels. This is, I think, a bigger mistake, as you are neglecting the story, which is to work to negate the effects of violence. The bible is such a large body of work, in large part, because it bases wisdom in vivid stories, and does not depend on strict wording of maxims to illustrate its causes. You are glossing over the stories to find your case made out in maxims.

    However justified the American adventures in the ME and Afghanistan may be, the “justifiable” violence has resulted in a cascade of death and murder and sorrow, which is the state to be avoided, as the gospels indicate. Our own culture bears out the danger of violent responses, and the benefits to be found in avoiding them.

    I put “commandment” in quotes, as in the LXX it is a “logos”, which indicates for me that these are immutable principles on which all relationships are based, and which cannot be abridges without terrible social and spiritual consequences. This infers that they carry wider meanings than simple “rules to live by”

  2. 2
    Lois Tverberg|November 19, 2015

    Stephen, I’d say that your reading is way too wide. I agree about looking at the “hermeneutical arrow” of the scriptures, as William Webb described. It sounds like you’ve draw an arrow in your favorite theological direction, and now it seems “narrow” to look at whether it’s actually based on a correct reading of the text. Theology must always be girded by the biblical text, it does not override and negate it.

  3. 3
    Peter Cress|November 19, 2015

    I’m no pacifist myself; I think those with the weapons and will to defend innocents against the onslaught of ISIS ought to rise to the occasion. However, I cannot honestly read into the words of Jesus what you are finding. Really, I’d be tickled pink to find that verse in the Bible that says, “If a bunch of terrorists start chopping off heads, go thou unto them and smite them.” But it isn’t in there.

    Rabbinical instruction may indeed have said “Kill before you get killed,” but Jesus was not one to parrot the rabbinical teachings. Lois, as you point out in Sitting At The Feet of Rabbi Jesus, he was clever at using scripture to change established views. Rabbinical rulings had no jurisdiction over Jesus; he carefully observed Torah. So his disciples gathered grain on the Sabbath, if violation of rabbinical rules but not in violation of the fourth commandment. He put his hands on unclean people to heal them, because healing is more important than ritual cleanliness.

    I don’t think Jesus had anything on record about war. His admonition to “turn the other cheek” is about interpersonal relationships, not international conflicts. “Eye for an eye” never applied on the battlefield, so the reference is not intended to be applied to battle. Violence on the battlefield is not about flaring tempers and personal affronts. The person at the wrong end of a sniper rifle isn’t your noisy neighbor; he is an anonymous enemy, identified only by his uniform insignia. The best soldiers have no hatred for an enemy combatant; on the contrary, the most effective soldier is indifferent about his enemy. An enemy combatant is not even seen as human, but as a weapon to be disabled.

    The gospels quote Jesus just as much on the subject of war as on the subject of human cloning or Social Security. It just isn’t there.

    I believe that when Jesus told his followers to turn the other cheek, he meant that if a person brings some injury upon you, forgive them and show that you truly forgive them. This puts your adversary in your debt and may possibly cool the tempers before things get out of hand. This is not a good strategy for avoiding or ending military aggression.

  4. 4
    Stephen|November 23, 2015

    A good article – here is my 2 cents.

    When Yeshua sent out the disciples the 2nd time He told them to get a sword. With that said, I think this shows the difference between self defense and martyrdom for the faith. Scripture also tells us to love our family and part of that ‘love’ is to protect them from those who intend to kill me or them. We also have to acknowledge the cultural aspect of protecting slaves and guests from harm during that time as well.

    The fact that God allowed Israel to defend themselves is confirmation of that, only on a larger scale. Many believing pacifists say your just supposed to sit and watch someone kill your family but that is not love. At best if you try to save your family, you might have to “lay down your life for a friend” type of action. Then again scripture states we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves which indicates don’t be stupid and walk down dark alleys in the bad parts of town.

    All I know is that I am willing to defend myself and my family from those who intend us harm/death by responding with the appropriate force to stop that threat/s. I do have military and law enforcement experience, so perhaps I am biased? Lord willing, I won’t ever have to take a life to protect one.

  5. 5
    Laina|November 30, 2015

    I’m reading this article and I’m amazed at how scripture is being twisted here. I’m all for Hebraic thought and how we interpret the NC through the eyes of the OC?

    But, Here’s what Exodus 22:2 actually says with exodus 22:3. It puts a whole different spin on things .

    2 “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 3 but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.

    If it was light out, the person was guilty of murder and deserved the death penalty.

    There’s more I’d love to say, but I don’t have the time to do it justice at the moment. Hopefully someone else will comment on the other things that were said as some already have.

    I was looking forward to purchasing this book, but I think I’ll pass.

  6. 6
    Lois Tverberg|November 30, 2015

    Stephen and Peter, thanks for your thoughts. I agree, and think David Bivin would too. There is a big difference between seeking revenge and defending one’s self when attacked. Our family and neighbors need defending too. Our modern individualism makes us think that we are only responsible for our own lives, not for those around us.

    I hear Paul spelling it Bivin’s conclusion in Romans 12:17-19:

    “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “’Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”

    Twice Paul says, “Don’t repay evil,” not “Don’t resist evil.” But his reasoning is not that all violence is wrong, even in self-defense. It’s that he’s thinking of Christ’ soon return and judgment, when justice will be done, and evil will be punished. Ouch. As harsh as this passage is, it shows that the NT was not just preaching hugs and non-resistance.

  7. 7
    Lois Tverberg|November 30, 2015

    Laina, no, you have it backwards. The point is that if a person is trying to break into a house during the day, it’s because they assume the owners are away, otherwise they would surely be discovered. But if a person is trying to tunnel into a house at night, they assume that the owners are there, and are armed and ready to kill them. Here’s how scholar Nahum Sarna puts it:

    “The particular case of a thief who is surprised in the act of breaking and entering is parenthetically injected into the law dealing with theft. The contrast between the phrases, “If the sun has risen” and “while tunneling” shows the latter to presuppose a nighttime setting. This is confirmed by Job 24:16, as well as by the fact that the presence of bystanders outside would discourage such a laborious mode of entry by day. Because the burglar is likely to encounter the occupants and must anticipate that they will use force, his nocturnal timing creates a presumption of homicidal intent. The condition of imminent threat, necessary to satisfy lawful self-defense by the householder, is thus fulfilled.”

  8. 8
    Ashley|April 22, 2016

    This article really made me think about Jesus’ view of Pacifism differently. I always assumed that Jesus was completely against any kind of violence, but I never put much thought into it. It’s interesting how there really isn’t anything said about war in the Bible; when Jesus tells us to “turn the cheek,” he means that we need to do that in interpersonal relationships, and not conflicts that are international. Many people believe that just because Jesus said this, he is a pacifist. However, what Jesus is really saying is that if someone brings evil upon a person, they need to forgive them. I also thought it was interesting how the Bible says in Proverbs 20:22 “Do not say, ‘I will repay the evil deed in kind.’” So many people say things like “kill them with kindness” and think that is the right thing to do. However, what that really does is just prolong the evil, and we must be careful not to be overcome by evil. We must do what Romans 12:21 says and “overcome evil with good.”

  9. 9
    Tom|April 22, 2016

    This is an interesting article, especially about the part about the difference between the translation of “do not murder” and “do not kill” especially with the discussion of the death penalty being so prevalent today. It’s really interesting to see that pacifism was not a “godly” teaching. In fact, he promotes violence throughout the OT calling for the annihilation of entire people groups. It’s interesting to see how Jesus contradicts these teachings. While he might not have been preaching total pacifism, it’s interesting to see the difference in teaching between the two parts of the bible

  10. 10
    Makenna|April 22, 2016

    Thank you so much for writing this. It was a very interesting read and highlighted somethings that we as christians don’t tend to understand. The part about kill and murder is very interesting to me. I think that a lot gets lost in translation and that causes us to misinterpret the bible sometimes. Understanding the Hebrew words and the passage in context can help us understand more of what God was trying to say.

  11. 11
    Alex|April 22, 2016

    I’m just a high school student, so I’m not at all as educated as you are in the matter of the history of Jewish culture or even in Jesus’ life. I think that what you have to say is very interesting and well-thought out. The only objection I have to it is that Jesus claims that the greatest commandment of all is to “love your neighbor as yourself” or in other words, “love your neighbor because s/he is like yourself.” Speaking generally, people don’t tend to kill or murder themselves. Though a person’s intention may be to kill, I don’t think that justifies killing them before they kill you. That’s becoming LIKE your neighbor (sinful in nature), not LOVING them. That being said, this was a very good article that made me think about the idea of Jesus as a pacifist, which I had never really put much thought into before.

  12. 12
    Anna VanWolde|April 22, 2016

    Thank you for this insightful article Dr. Tverberg; I appreciated it. I have always believed Jesus to be a pacifist based on his teachings in the gospel that you mentioned. However, it makes sense when paired with the Hebrew words that Jesus isn’t a pacifist, but rather someone who fights for love. I like that you said Jesus is for the preservation of life (self-defense), but against revenge. I think it’s very important to remember those two distinctions, and your article reminded me of the love that Jesus wants in the world, as well as the justice.

  13. 13
    Adam|April 22, 2016

    This was a very interesting article to read. It was something I’d never really considered before; what Jesus would say about pacifism. I thought it was especially interesting that the rabbis of the day taught that if you were going to be murdered, it was okay to kill the one trying to kill you, in self-defense. Also, I guess in English the words “kill” and “murder” are synonymous, while they really aren’t. Really fun to think about.

  14. 14
    Veronica Vance|April 22, 2016

    Dr. Tverberg,
    Thank you very much for shedding light on this issue and showing us the original language, culture, and ties to other sections of the Bible. I had always been very confused by this because Jesus became angry with the buyers and sellers in the synagogue and knocked down their tables. Distinguishing between anger and rage, resistance and revenge, and kill and murder makes the Bible so much more coherent.
    Thanks again!
    – Veronica

  15. 15
    marcus|April 22, 2016

    I really enjoyed this article and really agreed with a lot of it. I think that though the interpretation of the Scripture especially Matthew 5:39 really shows what Jesus wants us to understand. That we have to love others but that does not mean we have to let others trample us.

  16. 16
    Margaret|April 22, 2016

    This is a super interesting article; it is fascinating to look at the idea of self-defense/preemptive strikes because it is a very real life, tricky, and tangible situation. I have thought about this in the past and I always wonder, by preemptively taking a life do we take away someone’s last chance to change their mind about whatever we believe they intend to do, or even more importantly do we rob them of the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and accept the grace of God? Very interesting article, gives me a lot to think about.

  17. 17
    Steven VanAst|April 22, 2016

    This actually clears a lot of stuff up for me. however, I do wonder what kind of impact should this have on our foreign aid policy of blowing every person up, because it that self defense. I know that’s not a terribly biblical question but would these passages apply to that scenario?

  18. 18
    Student|April 22, 2016

    This article was very interesting to me, personally. I’m no pacifist, and I agree with some of the points that you are making, but at the same time, I think you are taking a lot of the verses you are using out of context. I also struggled with the idea of Jesus being a pacifist. Like why shouldn’t we get back at those that wrong us? But then I realized that this is what Jesus is all about. Showing that you are above the common temptations and evils of the world…

  19. 19
    Jordyn|April 24, 2016

    I liked the idea that Jesus was more practical, and it wasn’t that he opposed pacifism or promoted it, he was quoting earlier parts of the Bible and a lot of meaning got lost in translation. I also found it an interesting point that the disciples were armed, as indicated in Luke 22. In all honesty I had never really thought about Jesus being a pacifist or not.

  20. 20
    Jess|April 25, 2016

    What a great article! I love this topic. It is a common wondering for Christians as we continue to feed off of the Bible and it’s teachings. Obviously in today’s society, it is illegal to kill or, better, “murder”, but Jesus made some great points and used some sneaky references from his previous 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) Instead of hurting the people that hurt us, we are called to do good to those who hurt us. Loved this article.

  21. 21
    Ryan Van Appledorn|April 25, 2016

    This has been a confusing topic to me for a long time. I love your arguments and I they do make sense to me. The challenging part about pacifism for me has been reading Matthew 26 where Jesus says, “All who draw the sword will die by the sword,” and the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder.” Perhaps I have over looked what the Bible is saying. Jesus may not be saying that violence solves nothing. He could be simply warning about the danger of it. If I were to hurt someone they may seek revenge and now I’m in trouble. I find the difference between “kill” and “murder” interesting. Also when I read Jesus’ interpretation of the sixth commandment he makes it seem like it is talking about avoiding anger against others when he says, “I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” Physical violence is not at all mentioned so now I feel more comfortable about physical protecting myself or others against an attack by countering with violence.

  22. 22
    Megan|April 26, 2016

    I loved this article and found it incredibly insightful! I think it’s really interesting how “killed” and “murder” were used in different Bible translations, and it makes me wonder what other words with similar meanings have been used throughout scripture. I also found the article encouraging because it clearly spelled out that Jesus wasn’t a pacifist. I’ve often wrestled with Jesus’ teachings because if often sounded like He was asking me to be a doormat, when, in reality, that’s not what he was doing at all and that is purely a misinterpretation.

  23. 23
    Alan Jones|April 27, 2017

    You take a few classes in Hebrew and then confidently inform us illiterate boobs of the “mistake” you’ve found in the King James Bible that, thankfully, has been “corrected” in the new translations.

    Since the Greek words are ambiguous and can mean either ‘kill’ or ‘murder,’ depending on context, why is it a KJB “mistake” when ‘kill’ can also mean ‘murder,’ depending on context?

    Is Exodus 20:13 telling us not to kill in self defense, or not to kill animals for food? Since the 13th century the context has been more than easy to understand. You don’t need to explain to us that ‘kill’ means murder in Exodus 20:13 nor do you need to “correct” the 60+ scholars directly involved in the translation of the King James Bible.

  24. 24
    Lois Tverberg|June 6, 2017

    Alan — David Bivin, the author, has written numerous scholarly commentaries on the Gospels as well as courses on the Hebrew language. Steven Martens’ law review is based on the KJV, so it should be just the thing for you to read next.

  25. 25
    steven martens|June 5, 2017

    There is a 26 page article. “The Torah and Self-Defense”
    published in Penn State Law Review in 2004, by David Kopel. It surveys the relevant scriptures. Has over 100 footnotes. The conclusions are identical with the above article.

  26. 26
    Lois Tverberg|June 6, 2017

    Thank you! Very thorough.

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