Thoughts on War in the Bible and Terrorism in the 21st Century, Essay 3 – Toward Shalom: Absorbing the Violence

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For an introduction to the series, see here.

]], a co-editor of this volume and a Professor Emeritus at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, brings us the second essay which attempts to answer, somewhat, ]]’s book which called for the end of Monotheism. In this essay, Martens attempts to answer the charges against the Cross as a symbol of a violent and uncaring God, but doesn’t exclude the fact that their is violence in Holy Writ, and that God does at times cause it. What is interesting is first his notion of shalom, which while we tend to think that it fits neatly as ‘peace’, really doesn’t, and second, his view of the absorption of violence by the believers, but most notably, by the Cross.

While I enjoyed his theme overall and found him honest in his treatment of Old Testament violence, I found his translation attempts compelling. Admittedly, I know nothing of Hebrew except to find someone who does. In examining his translation of Isaiah 2.2-4, I found that it is allowable. And if it is allowable, it is, well, preachable:

Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war. (Isa 2:2-4 NAU)

Essentially, Martens seeks to translates the eschatological bent out of the English versions and instead, read it prophetically. His demand is that the text is better served as translated, ‘Now, it will come about that whenever…the mountain of the House…many peoples will come….and they will hammer their swords into plowshares…’. Martens contends that this era of peace herein described is attainable now. He goes to write ‘God’s intent is peace’ (p38), and shows throughout his essay that God’s interaction and intervention with humanity is about peace, which culminates in the Incarnation which for all time absorbed the violence of sin.

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