Christianity and Violence
1 May 2010
NOTE: In this article, as in the other articles on this Web site, I am using the Hebrew form of Jesus, Yeshua, rather than the usual Greek form, Jesus. He IS Jewish after all, isn't He?!
As we discussed in my last article, the Muslim claim that the Old Testament of the Bible is the primary holy book of the Christians is not at all accurate. Yeshua and His early followers brought new and fresh revelations from God to the human race, which are recorded in the New Testament — THIS is the primary holy book of Christianity. The Old Testament is still God's word and therefore still a holy book for Christians. The Old Testament must be interpreted and applied through the lens of the New Testament. To take verses like the ones I quoted last time, which were specific instructions to the Jews for specific circumstances —
When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When Yahweh your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder Yahweh your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. However, in the cities of the nearby nations Yahweh your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them — the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites — as Yahweh your God has commanded you. (Deuteronomy 20:10-17)
— and then try to apply that to Christian doctrine and behavior goes TOTALLY against the teachings of the New Testament. To do so one must be woefully ignorant or willfully deceptive.
There are nearly 8,000 verses in the entire New Testament. Go ahead and read through the entire thing very carefully — can you find even ONE verse that commands or encourages Christians to act violently towards another human being? If so, please e-mail me and let me know — I would really like to see it.
In stark contrast, the Qur'an is FULL of verses commanding or encouraging violence against others. The various Hadith, which are almost as important as the Qur'an in understanding and practicing Islam, are just as violent as the Qur'an — maybe even more so. Here is a sampling of the many violent verses in the Quran:
  • Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the place from which they drove you. Idolatry [on their part] is more grievous than bloodshed [on your part]. But do not fight them within the precincts of the Holy Mosque unless they attack you there; if they attack you put them to the sword. Thus shall the unbelievers be rewarded ... fight against them until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme. (2:191-193)
  • Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. But you may hate a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. Allah knows, but you know not. To fight during the [sacred] month is a grave offense; but to debar others from the path of Allah, to deny him, and to expel his worshippers from the Holy Mosque, is far more grave in Allah's sight. Idolatry [on the part of others] is more grievous than bloodshed [on your part]. (2:216-217)
  • Fight for the cause of Allah and bear in mind that he hears all and knows all. (2:244)
  • Let those who would exchange the life of this world for the hereafter fight for the cause of Allah; whoever fights for the cause of Allah, whether he dies or triumphs, on him Allah shall bestow a rich recompense. The true believers fight for the cause of Allah, but the infidels fight for the devil. Fight then against the friends of Satan. Satan's cunning is weak indeed. (4:74,76)
  • The believers who stay at home — apart from those that suffer from a grave disability — are not the equals of those who fight for the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah has exalted the men who fight with their goods and their persons above those who stay home. Allah has promised all a good reward; but far richer is the recompense of those who fight for him. (4:95)
  • Seek out the enemy relentlessly. If you have suffered, they too have suffered; but you at least hope to receive from Allah what they cannot hope for. (4:104)
  • Those that have embraced the faith, and left their homes, and fought for Allah's cause with their wealth and with their persons, are held in higher regard by Allah. It is they who shall triumph. (9:20)
  • Fight against such of those to whom the Scriptures were given [i.e. Jews and Christians] as believe in neither Allah nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what Allah and his apostle [Muhammad] have forbidden, and do not embrace the true faith [Islam], until they pay tribute [tax] out of hand and are utterly subdued. (9:29)
  • Believers, why is it that when you are told: "March in the cause of Allah," you linger slothfully in the land? Are you content with this life in preference to the life to come? Few indeed are the blessings of this life, compared with those of the life to come. If you do not go to war, Allah will punish you sternly, and will replace you by other men. You will in no way harm him, for Allah has power over all things. (9:38-39)
  • Whether unarmed or well-equipped, march on and fight for the cause of Allah, with your wealth and with your persons. This will be best for you, if you but knew it. Those that believe in Allah and the Last Day will not beg to be exempt from fighting with their wealth and with their persons. Allah best knows the righteous. Only those seek exemption who disbelieve in God and the Last Day, and whose hearts are filled with doubt. Because they doubt, they waver. (9:41,44,45)
  • Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home, an evil fate. (9:73)
  • Those that stayed at home were glad that they were left behind by God's apostle, for they had no wish to fight for the cause of God with their wealth and with their persons. They said to each other: "Do not go to war, the heat is fierce." Say to them, "More fierce is the heat of Hell-fire!" Would that they understood! They shall laugh but little and shed many tears. Thus shall they be rewarded for their misdeeds. If Allah brings you back in safety and some of them ask leave to march with you, say: "You shall not march with me, nor shall you fight with me against an enemy. You chose to stay at home on the first occasion; therefore you shall now stay with those who will remain behind." You shall not pray for any of their dead, nor shall you attend their burial. For they denied Allah and his apostle [Muhammad] and remained sinners to the last. (9:81-84)
  • The apostle [Muhammad] and the men who shared his faith fought with their goods and with their persons. These shall be rewarded with good things. These shall surely prosper. Allah has prepared for them gardens watered by running streams, in which they shall abide for ever. That is the supreme triumph. (9:88,89)
  • Allah has purchased from the faithful their lives and worldly goods, and in return has promised them the Garden. They will fight for the cause of Allah; they will slay, and be slain.... Rejoice then in the bargain you have made. That is the supreme triumph. (9:111)
  • Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them. Know that Allah is with the righteous. (9:123)
  • Fight for the cause of Allah with the devotion due to him. (22:78)
  • When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads and, when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly.... As for those who are slain in the cause of Allah, he will not allow their works to perish.... He will admit them to the Paradise he has made known to them. (47:4,6)
  • Truly Allah loves those who fight in his cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure. (61:4)
In the Qur'an it states that Muhammad has a tremendous or exalted moral character (68:4), and that he is a beautiful pattern of conduct (33:21). The various Hadith are compilations of the words and deeds of Muhammad which are in addition to the Qur'an. In the Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith, which is considered the most important Islamic book after the Qur'an, we find this recounting of Muhammad's "beautiful pattern of conduct" and a typical example of his "exalted moral character", as recorded in Volume 1, Book 4, Number 234:
Narrated Abu Qilaba: Anas said, "Some people of 'Ukl or 'Uraina tribe came to Medina and its climate did not suit them. So the Prophet [Muhammad] ordered them to go to the herd of camels and to drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). So they went as directed and after they became healthy, they killed the shepherd of the Prophet and drove away all the camels. The news reached the Prophet early in the morning and he sent (men) in their pursuit and they were captured and brought at noon. He then ordered to cut their hands and feet (and it was done), and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron. They were put in Al-Harra and when they asked for water, no water was given to them." Abu Qilaba said, "Those people committed theft and murder, became infidels after embracing Islam and fought against Allah and his apostle."
This is just one such example of the many contained in the thousands of entries in the various Hadith. We could go on quoting violent Islamic writings for a long time, but what I have already quoted above is probably plenty.
OK — enough time spent on bad news, ugly patterns of conduct, and debased moral character. Let's move on to the Good News of Yeshua's unequalled holy character and example as recorded in the New Testament. First we will start with the words of Yeshua Himself:
"You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow. You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:38-48)
Some Islamic apologists take the words of a parable spoken by Yeshua as an example of Him encouraging violence in His followers. The last sentence of the parable says: "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and kill them in front of me" (Luke 19:27). There are a couple of problems with this Islamic interpretation:
  1. The text specifically says Yeshua was telling a parable (verse 11). The definition of a parable is "a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson." Parables are not to be taken literally, as though each sentence were an explicit instruction. The whole meaning of the parable is to be taken as instructive, not individual bits of it.
  2. It also says in the same verse 11 that the reason Yeshua told the parable in the first place was because the people thought that the Kingdom of God was going to appear at once, and He wanted to correct that misconception. So it's not a parable about killing your enemies, but about the long delay before God's Kingdom will be finally established on the earth in the Last Days, and how we are to make good use of the abilities and resources He gives us until His return.
You can make a case that the "man of noble birth [who] went to a distant country to have himself appointed king" could be Yeshua Himself. The only examples in the entire New Testament of Yeshua or His followers acting violently can be found in the book of Revelation, when Yeshua comes back to the earth as King to execute violent judgment upon the rebellious of the earth who refuse to follow Him. I have discussed that scenario in more depth in The New Testament and Violence.
Another saying of Yeshua that Islamic apologists uses to "prove" that the New Testament encourages violence is this passage, most of which is Yeshua quoting from Micah 7 in the Old Testament:
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'" (Matthew 10:34-36)
In these verses Yeshua is not encouraging His followers to murder their own non-believing family members! On the contrary, He is talking about non-believing family members killing Christians. Just a few verses previously, Yeshua warns His disciples about persecution:
"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. So do not be afraid of them.... Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:21,22,26a,28-31)
Yeshua tells His followers three times in this short passage to not be afraid. Afraid of what? "Afraid of those who kill the body" — even if they are the members of your own family! Contrary to what the Islamists argue, it's not the Christians doing the killing here, but it's the Christians who are being killed. What a coincidence! Isn't that what some of the verses from the Qur'an quoted above are talking about too?! What do Muslim family members do to those who leave Islam and become Christian? Many are disowned — many are killed.
Then there is the passage about swords the night Yeshua was betrayed and arrested. We will look first at the account recorded by Luke, and then at Matthew's account:
Yeshua said to them, "If you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in Me. Yes, what is written about Me is reaching its fulfillment." The disciples said, "See, Master, here are two swords." Yeshua replied, "That is enough." [Later] a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. When Yeshua's followers saw what was going to happen, they said, "Master, should we strike with our swords?" And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Yeshua answered, "No more of this!" And He touched the man's ear and healed him. (Luke 22:36-38,47,49-51)
Men stepped forward, seized Yeshua and arrested him. With that, one of Yeshua's disciples reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. "Put your sword back in its place," Yeshua said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions [about 60,000!] of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" (Matthew 26:50b-54)
It is very evident from these verses that Yeshua did NOT want his followers to have swords so that they could "fight for the cause of God". First of all, look closely at the beginning of the passage from Luke. Why does Yeshua tell them to take a sword, or if they didn't have one, to go sell a cloak and buy one? So they can fight well for Yeshua? NO! Yeshua Himself says why very clearly — so the the prophecy would be fulfilled: "And he was numbered with the transgressors." The disciples taking swords with them as they went out was part of what it meant for Yeshua to be with a group of transgressors [sinners, lawbreakers].
Secondly, when one of Yeshua's followers actually did use his sword violently against another person, Yeshua rebuked him in no uncertain terms. He tells that disciple, "No more of this! Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." Then to prove He is serious, and to back His words with action, Yeshua actually heals the man who was wounded with the sword!
Go and read the entire Qur'an. Go and read all of the thousand of Hadith. NOWHERE will you find Muhammad rebuking his followers for using violence against someone who was coming to do Muhammad harm, nor will you EVER find Muhammad healing someone who was injured while trying to do him harm. The only rebuking Muhammad did of his followers regarding swords was when they DID NOT take up their swords to fight "the enemies of Allah and his messenger." And Muhammad NEVER supernaturally healed anyone, even one of his own followers.
Then, after Yeshua has been arrested, beaten almost to death, and then murdered on a cross — before He dies, He looks at those who are killing Him and prays: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
I can guarantee you, one hundred percent, that neither Muhammad nor any other Muslim EVER prayed a prayer like that to Allah! Why? Because it's one hundred percent opposite of what the Qur'an teaches.
THIS, my dear readers, is what sets Christianity apart from Islam, as far as the east is from the west, as far as white is from black. Once you have the real facts, there IS no comparison!
Now let's take a look at what the followers of Yeshua taught about violence in the rest of the New Testament. First we'll look at what Paul wrote to the church in Philippi:
Though Yeshua was God and had equal status with the Father, He did not think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status. On the contrary, He emptied himself by setting aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave by becoming human. And having become human, He stayed human. Then He humbled Himself still more by becoming obedient to death — and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion (Philippians 2:6-8, various translations).
Humility — that's one thing that the Qur'an does NOT attribute to Muhammad or Allah. When you look at the list of the 99 names of Allah, you can see that he is called many things: the mighty, the compeller, the subduer, the abaser, the humiliator, the authoritative, the causer of death, the avenger, the afflicter, and many other attributes. But one thing you will definitely NOT find on this list is that Allah is humble.
Once again we see the immense difference between Christianity and Islam. In Yeshua we have the humble servant God. In Allah we have the proud, imperial god. Which one of those draws your heart to himself? Which one would you rather worship and adore? Which one would you rather bow down to in loving submission? I think the answer is pretty obvious!
Paul also wrote to the Christians in Rome:
Bless those who persecute you. Don't curse them; pray that God will bless them. Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, "I will take revenge; I will pay them back, says Yahweh." Instead, "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads." Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. (Romans 12:14,17-21)
One of Yeshua's early followers wrote:
If you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Messiah suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed. (1 Peter 2:20-24)
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)
Another one of Yeshua's closest disciples wrote:
For this is the original message we heard: We should love each other. We must not be like Cain, who joined the Evil One and then killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because he was deep in the practice of evil, while the acts of his brother were righteous. So don't be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time. (1 John 3:11-13)
All throughout the New Testament period — indeed, for the first 300 years of the Church — Christians were mercilessly persecuted and put to death. That is why Paul wrote:
Can anything ever separate us from Messiah's love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? As the Scriptures say, "For Your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep." No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Messiah, who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)
It wasn't until Constantine in the early fourth century, when Christianity became institutionalized and sanctioned by the state, that Christianity became perverted on a large scale and "Christians" began indulging in violence. But before that, in the chronicles of 300 years of early Church history, you NEVER read of Christians taking up arms or acting violently towards those who were persecuting and killing them. On the contrary, in books like Foxe's Book of Martyrs you can read story after story of humble Christians who submitted to death, just as Yeshua did, for the glory of God. And the killing of Christians like slaughtered sheep continues to this very day — mostly at the hands of followers of Islam, commonly known by the politically correct as "the religion of peace."
Well, the New Testament has a lot more to say on this subject, and this article is already getting long, so I think we will stop here, and continue the rest of our discussion in Yeshua and Violence.