Thoughts on the use of Scripture and Osama bin Laden’s Death

A lot of my colleagues and fellow Bibliobloggers are writing on the temperament of Christian reactions of the death of Osama bin Laden.  In particular, it seems the focus is on urging the reading the Matt 5.44, Luke 6.28, or Matt 5.39.  These are verses which prescribe tolerance and acceptance.  In a way, yes, I certainly agree, but all of this ‘turn the other cheek’ language is seems misplaced when we read Luke 19:27:

“‘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.’”

And I raise this point merely to support Jim West’s post, which quotes Pro 24:17-18.  We can continue to accept that Jesus would want peace, that he would never stand for the death of another individual, that killing is murder, regardless of how you dress it up and therefore Jesus would disapprove.  But when we exegete verses, wherein we pick and choose which words of Jesus to follow while ignoring others, like Luke 19:27, we are only supporting a narrowed view of scripture.  Which is why we need to remember that, when we attempt to bring verses from the Bible out to support a modern situation by giving them a modern interpretation, we only hurt the value of the text.

Jesus might have been portrayed as someone who encouraged his followers to turn the other cheek, to accept their fate, but he was also portrayed as someone who did not shy away from conflict and, more often than not, sought it out from those he saw as enemies of the kingdom.  Remember, he did not come to bring peace (Matt 10.24, cf. Lk 12.51, Rev 6.4).

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

So tolerate, and if you are a Christian, do so with the remembrance that your Christianity is not the same as Luke’s, Matthew’s, or Mark’s, not even John’s.  And what you practice today is a product of society.  When you use verses of the Bible and exegete them for the purpose of reinventing them for a modern world, you must also be sure to use a disclaimer.  Otherwise you risk becoming no different than the fundamentalists who distort the Bible for their own purposes.

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7 Responses

  1. [...] Thoughts on the use of Scripture and Osama bin Laden’s Death [...]

  2. Wasn’t a twisted perversion of the Quran one of the things that led into this whole trouble in the first place?

  3. Yes; people need to stop attempting to bring ancient literature into the present like this. Especially lay people who can’t seem to grasp simple concepts like synchronism vs. diachronism with language, voice, and text. If the reader doesn’t know what those are, then they should probably leave the text to those of us who know what we’re doing. I promise scholars won’t start wars. There are too many academic papers to submit over textual nuance.

  4. No scholars don’t start wars, they tend to just inspire the people who do…

  5. That just might be one of the stupidest things anyone has ever said on this blog. Are you really going to argue that scholarship inspires wars? Really?

  6. [...] Thoughts on the use of Scripture and Osama bin Laden’s Death [...]

  7. [...] Thoughts on the use of Scripture and Osama bin Laden’s Death [...]

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