Murder is defined in the Bible

Violence in the Bible - How Brutal Is the Bible Really?

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Violence abounds in the Bible. But it is mostly hushed up. Now researchers are deciphering the sensitive texts anew.

Gabriella Gelardini actually wanted to research identity in the New Testament. Then she stumbled upon something that she could not let go: secret messages in the Gospel of Mark.

You have examined thousands of words, says the professor of the New Testament and compared the biblical passages with other ancient texts.

The highlight: In the theological specialist dictionaries, many explosive meanings of the Greek words - the New Testament was written in Greek - were not even listed.

“For example, there is only the meaning of 'force' or 'power' for 'dynamism'”, says the professor. "Not a word that this can also mean an army."

Jesus as a general?

Their thesis is: The Gospel of Mark portrays Jesus as a candidate for military power. Written for the Christ believing Jews who were involved in a war with the Romans around 70 AD and were persecuted.

At that time the gospel came into being. As an encouragement to resist oppression. However, it is claused.

The Swiss professor, who is currently working at the University of Bude in Norway, published the book "Christus Militans" on this subject. From today's perspective, the texts of the Bible sound religious.

But politics, culture and religion were closely interwoven in antiquity, emphasizes Gelardini. We could only understand them properly in context.

Protect texts from misuse

This is very important to the New Testament scholar. To this day, biblical texts are repeatedly misused to justify wars and violence religiously.

"Texts can be dangerous if they are not read as literature," says Helge Bezold. He too does research on violence in the Bible. His doctorate at the University of Basel is part of the “Transforming Memories of Collective Violence” project, link opens in a new window, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Beautiful queen, secret power

In the Book of Esther, the courageous and beautiful queen averts the mass murder of the Judeans. Before they celebrate Purim out of gratitude, they slaughter 75,000 people in the story. This violence raises questions.

Such passages worth explaining are often swept under the table in Christian tradition. «How can a biblical book be so brutal? What was it written for? ”Asked Helge Bezold - and made this short story the subject of his research.

«Take violence seriously!»

Helge Bezold is of the opinion that the story represents a mental exploration of possibilities. As a small people that was constantly oppressed by great powers, the Judeans had no real chance of military victories. In literary terms, however, as is well known, anything is possible.

This is how he understands other texts in which the Israelites, with God's help, miraculously defeat their overpowering opponents. As a discussion of the subject. Written by people who have faced real violence and severe repression.

In addition to fantasies of revenge, many texts also express deep sadness and trauma, such as the Book of Lamentations. Which narrative structures were particularly effective in coping with collective suffering? The researchers in the interdisciplinary SNSF project are investigating such questions, among other things.

At the end of the day, according to the biblical scholar Helge Bezold, the Bible says on this subject: «Take violence seriously! Deal with her. " After all, violence is - unfortunately - part of being human.

Broadcast: Radio SRF 2 Kultur, Perspektiven, 25.10.2020, 8:30 a.m.

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  • Comment from Rudolf Marty (rumart)
    When it comes to religion and violence (in the present), one religion comes to mind, and it's not Hinduism, Christianity, Shintoism, ...
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
    1. answer from Astrid Meier (Swissmiss)
      You are underestimating the explosiveness of the Hindutva movement.
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. Show answers
  • Comment from Fabian Käser (Fabi)
    In addition, it has to be said that King Ahasuerus could not revoke Hamman's death sentence to the Jews, so they could destroy all armies that "oppressed" them in the name of the king .. so it has nothing to do with innocence.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
  • Comment from Theres Schmid (Theres Schmid)
    The Bible is not just a religious book, it is also a history book. And that has to be credited to the Bible that it does not gloss over and keep silent. Fiddling around with the Bible with clearly identifiable intentions is reprehensible. I am critical of all ideologies, ideologies, political and religious, but I would be careful not to abuse them for my own purposes.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment

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