Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"Jesus of Nazareth: Pacifist or Revolutionary?" Interview in Portuguese magazine

I was recently interviewed by journalist Margarida Santos Lopes for the Portuguese magazine Além-Mar (Dec 2014). I was interviewed because I wrote a critical review of Aslan's Zealot and because of my book The Nonviolent Messiah, which paints a very different picture of Jesus. Here is a link to the full article (in Portuguese), "Jesus de Nazaré: Pacifíco ou revolucionário?" There's also a longer version of the original interview here, and a different layout of the article here.

Here are a few excerpts:

"The interpretation of Simon J. Joseph, Professor of Religion at California Lutheran University (USA) and author of the recently published The Nonviolent Messiah is totally opposed to Reza Aslan . .  . Phrases that Aslan privileges ("I did not come to bring peace but a sword") come from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the primary sources of the Jesus tradition, says Joseph, by email. "Although they may be attributed to the historical Jesus, there is no evidence that Jesus ever resorted to violence to hurt someone, much less to start a military campaign against Rome. The early Christian movement was known in its first three centuries to be pacifist. Christians refused to enlist in the Roman army because in this way, they tried to follow the teachings of Jesus . . ."

"The true meaning of the phrase is that loyalty to Jesus causes division - symbolized by the sword - within families. It has nothing to do with physical or revolutionary violence. Its literary context requires a symbolic interpretation of the word 'sword', and this is something that any responsible New Testament scholar would know. . ."

“Love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek” are, according to biblical scholar Joseph, well known and established authentic Jesus traditions. They belong to the earliest Jesus traditions in Q (material) – commonly referred to as the “Inaugural Sermon.” Loving enemies is an unprecedented commandment in Early Judaism and the scholarly consensus is that this instruction is authentic Jesus tradition . . . In short, nothing suggests that Jesus advocated or participated in any kind of zealot activity against Rome."