Posted by: sean | April 24, 2007

Jesus Only Prohibited “Vengeful Resistance”

by Adin Ballou (1803-1890)

[The arguer] insists that Christ was only inculcating the importance of executing legal penalties, and of using lawful inflictions of injury against assailants, in a right spirit. “He does not prohibit the act, but only a vindictive, revengeful spirit in performing it. Life ought to be taken for life, and various evils inflicted on evil-doers, as a just punishment; and self-defense ought to be maintained, even to the infliction of death in extreme cases; but all should be done without revenge, without unnecessary cruelty, and in pure love to the offender, as well as with a sacred reverence for the law.” In this way Jesus is smoothly construed to have really said nothing at all – practically nothing that Moses and the ancients had not said. Did they authorize personal hate, malice, revenge and wanton cruelty in executing the penalties of the law? Did they not positively prohibit all such feelings and conduct?

In righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor … Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people. [Lev. 19:15, 17-18]

If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judge may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee. [Deut. 25:1-3. See also Deut. 16:18,20; 17:2-12; 19: 15; Ex. 23:1-8]

From these and other passages in the writings of Moses, it will be seen that, notwithstanding the severity of his code, he did not authorize individual hatred, revenge and wanton cruelty in punishing the wicked. To make Christ prohibit only a personal, spiteful, malicious, cruel spirit in executing the authorized punishments of the law, is to make him the mere echo of Moses and his expounders; whereas he goes absolutely against the deed – the act of inflicting evil on the persons of offending. And by killing the body of the thing, he banishes the spirit of it. Seeming love, only renders the infliction of death or torture on offenders the more abhorrent to Christian sensibility. It is too much like a mother kissing, while at the same time she presses her child to death; or a beautiful damsel, with all her charming airs, embracing, and at the same time slowly thrusting a fine stiletto into the bosom of her admirers. Death is death, torture is torture, injury is injury, howsoever gently and politely inflicted. And there is a kind of fitness in having stern-hearted, severe-natured persons to execute such sentences.

original site here



  1. I found the last half of the last paragraph very confusing. It almost like the author turns right there and starts supporting the non violent argument.


    How does you works not show your faith or heart. Violence is something that is done without love or forgivness. The author is right about these matters of the heart being addressed from the time of moses, however they still had to obey Gods law and im sure they took no delight in punishing evil doers. But the words of Jesus are clear, no long eye for eye and tooth for tooth.

  2. Why does everything Jesus says need to contradict or “change” the Law of Moses? He wasn’t just another prophet, but the Messiah, at least according to Christians.

    And as to his teachings, when he says “You have heard it said…..but I tell you…..” … I’ve never read that as him suddenly changing the rules of the Universe, but rather clarifying them. Maybe elsewhere he indicated that pacifism was called for among his followers, and that being a new thing.

  3. I wouldn’t say that everything that Jesus said had to contradict or change the law of Moses outright…but I would point out that he is the prophet after Moses and working under the new, Messianic covenant.

    “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”

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