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Religious intolerance in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament)

In Luke 19, ending the Parable of the Talents

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The setting:

In the Parable of the Talents in Luke 19:12-26 and Matthew 25:14-30, the Gospel authors describe a parable that they attribute to Jesus. It involves a nobleman entrusting money to his slaves before he left on a trip. Two slaves used their shares to invest wisely. They doubled the money by the time that their owner returned, and were rewarded. A third slave was afraid of losing his share. He buried it for safekeeping, and was punished.

The parable in Matthew leads into the well known passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus judges the people of all nations, separating them into the "sheep" and "goats" on the basis of their good works or lack of good works, such as: feeding the hungry, giving drinks to the thirsty, supporting the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned.

The mirrored parable in Luke ends with a verse in which Jesus calls for the murder of those who do not follow him:

Luke 19:27 says:

"But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me."

This is a curious verse. It and verse 14 ("But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.") seem to have been tacked onto the parable as an afterthought. Both verses seem unrelated to the contents of the parable itself. Deleting them makes the parable run more smoothly.

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Interpretation of Luke 19:27 in various handbooks and commentaries:

bulletMany commentaries and study Bibles such as the Hayford's Bible Handbook, the Geneva Study Bible, the Scofield Bible, and Wesley's Notes on the Bible describe the contents of the parable from verses 12 to 26 but simply ignore verse 27.
bulletMatthew Henry's Concise Commentary states:

"19:11-27 This parable is like that of the talents, Mt 25. Those that are called to Christ, he furnishes with gifts needful for their business; and from those to whom he gives power, he expects service. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal, 1Co 12:7. And as every one has received the gift, so let him minister the same, 1Pe 4:10. The account required, resembles that in the parable of the talents; and the punishment of the avowed enemies of Christ, as well as of false professors, is shown."

bulletMatthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible states:

"When his faithful subjects are preferred and rewarded, then he will take vengeance on his enemies, and particularly on the Jewish nation, the doom of which is here read. When Christ had set up his gospel kingdom, and thereby put reputation upon the gospel ministry, then he comes to reckon with the Jews; then it is remembered against them that they had particularly disclaimed and protested against his kingly office, when they said, We have no king but Caesar, nor would own him for their king. They appealed to Caesar, and to Caesar they shall go; Caesar shall be their ruin. Then the kingdom of God appeared when vengeance was taken on those irreconcilable enemies to Christ and his government; they were brought forth and slain before him. ... Utter ruin will certainly be the portion of all Christ's enemies; in the day of vengeance they shall all be brought forth, and slain before him. Bring them hither, to be made a spectacle to saints and angels. ... Bring them, and slay them before me, as Agag before Samuel. The Saviour whom they have slighted will stand by and see them slain, and not interpose on their behalf. Those that will not have Christ to reign over them shall be reputed and dealt with as his enemies. We are ready to think that none are Christ's enemies but persecutors of Christianity, or scoffers at least; but you see that those will be accounted so that dislike the terms of salvation, will not submit to Christ's yoke, but will be their own masters. Note, Whoever will not be ruled by the grace of Christ will inevitably be ruined by the wrath of Christ."

bulletThe Interpreter's one-volume Commentary on the Bible interprets this passage as referring to the attack on and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE by the Roman Army. The authors state that:

"Those who oppose the kingly power of Jesus will be destroyed. These are the Jerusalem leaders whose rejection of the Messiah seals the fate of their city."

This interpretation uses a common theme that runs through the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation: that of transferability of sin. The Commentary suggests that the sins of the leaders of Jerusalem would be transferred to all of the other occupants of the city, and that all would be punished with death.

bulletThe Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary states:

"27. bring hither, &c.-(Compare 1Sa 15:32, 33). Referring to the awful destruction of Jerusalem, but pointing to the final destruction of all that are found in open rebellion against Christ."

bulletThe New Commentary on the Whole Bible interprets the verse as:

"... referring to the awful destruction of Jerusalem, but pointing to the final destruction of all that are found in open rebellion against Christ. ... The last verse of the parable predicts a curse that is to come upon the enemies of Christ."

bulletThe New Jerome Biblical Commentary states:

"The imagery of destruction for those who refused to accept the king shows that accepting God's rule over oneself is a great moment of decision. Unfortunately, some decided against the life that King Jesus brings. The Christological import of this parable is profound: Jesus, the king, has a decisive role in human destiny, for responses to him determine life and death."

bulletThe People's New Testament states:

"This portrays the fate, not of church members, but of those who would not have the Lord reign over them. It embraces all the impenitent. Compare Mt 13:49 21:44 25:30:00 2Th 1:8-10." 1

There is no indication of religious freedom here. There is no possibility of forgiveness, mercy, or tolerance towards those with different beliefs. There is no repetition here of the "love thine enemies" found in Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:27. Instead, we have a "show them no mercy" type of policy as in Deuteronomy 7:1-2. (NIV).

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Comments from books and Internet web sites:

Interpretations differ. Some feel that the verse:

bulletRefers to the extermination or eternal torture in Hell of the unsaved when Jesus returns to Earth, or
bulletIs a lie on the part of the author of the Gospel of Luke when he attributed verse 27 to Jesus, or
bulletDoes not relate to God at all, or
bulletDescribes Jesus as an evil tyrant and monster, or
bulletDoes not say for Christians to kill the unsaved, or
bulletIs a call by Jesus to commit genocide against the unsaved.

It seems to be a favorite verse that both saved individuals and skeptics use to attack each other.

A sampling of opinions:

bulletThe Jesus Walkģ Bible Study Series states:

"This seems pretty strong. The word translated "kill" is Greek katasphazo, 'slaughter, strike down.' ...The listeners in Jericho recalled how King Archelaus slaughtered his enemies, and recognized how the parable was true to life.

"... you are God's enemy when you set your will against his and refuse to use productively what he has given you. That is a dangerous place in which to stand, as an enemy of God." 

"Ultimately, this parable is not about the present. It is eschatological and applies to the time of Christ's Return. If you sense in yourself laziness or rebelliousness against God, there's still time to repent and change your heart -- but you can only count on 'today' in which to do that." 2

bulletThe Jesus Seminar accepted most of the parable as "Pink: Jesus probably said something like this." But its members rate verse 27 as "Black: "Jesus did not say this; it represents the perspective or content of a later or different tradition." That is, it is not a teaching of Jesus. It probably represents the theology of the group to which the author of the Gospel of Luke belonged, or to which a later copyist belonged. 3
bullet"Tomsims" responded to a question on AnswerBag.com about the interpretation of verse 27. He wrote:

"Jesus was employing the use of fiction, specifically a parable to show how harshly earthly rulers deal with servants who do not show a return on what is entrusted in them - for the purpose of teaching that God expects nothing less from our stewardship as a much more gracious sovereign. ... He was showing that with a great gift, such as the knowledge of truth, there comes a great responsibility to invest ourselves and our knowledge into others. That is my understanding. The treatment of the 'enemies' is part of the backdrop of the story but is not employed to describe God's ways." 4

bulletSkeptic Gary DeVanye writes:

"What moral lesson did Jesus teach in Luke 19:27? Jesus' moral parable explains to you that if you don't allow Jesus Christ to be your King, authority, ruler, over you, you are to be slain. Jesus' parallel lesson in Luke 19:27 is: If you don't accept Jesus Christ as your savior, you will suffer eternal torment. What moral lessons! What an evil tyrant! What a monster!" ...

"What was Jesusí specific moral point of the parable? It was to teach you that if you do not follow, serve and obey Jesus / God, you would suffer eternal-damnation. Thatís even more disgusting and cruel than just slaying you." ...

"If you donít convert to Christianity and, in essence, make Jesus Christ king over you, you will go to Hell. The parable fits Jesus being the unnamed nobleman / King. What other known king could it be? Every C&V points to Jesus Christ and no one else." ...

"I view that Jesus Christ stated this parable about Himself. It dramatically displays the cruelty that He, as God, projects for those God sends to Hell-Fire / Eternal-Damnation or expiration. That is the parallel agenda that makes it a documented parable." 5
bullet"Mortgagegirl101" responded to a question in Yahoo! Answers whether Jesus calls for a Christian holy war in verse 27. She replied:

"That particular passage was in fact part of a parable of a rich man who was speaking of his servants. He had given them gold to keep until his return from a distant land and was talking about his return and how 2 of the servants had invested the gold and increased it and the 3rd had not. This is not Jesus talking of how to treat people who believe not in him.

In fact he said to simply shake the dust from your feet of the places where people will not listen to the teachings. Never did he say to kill them." 6

bullet"Anatheist" writes:

"When I first quoted these words of Jesus, I was taken to task by several noteleavers. They thought that I'd taken these words completely out of context. They charged that Jesus was actually quoting somebody else and that we simply mustn't think that he would ever urge us to do anything as impolite as slay his enemies - oh, no no no!"

Never mind that it's not clear that he was, in fact, quoting anybody else. Never mind that - if he was quoting someone else - he certainly seems to have been quoting them approvingly. If he actually meant to say, "Hey! DON'T be slaying my enemies now!" he chose a pretty odd way of expressing it." 7

Anatheist quotes a book by Jaroslav Pelikan 8 that describes Thomas Muentzer, a famous 16th century Christian minister and Reformation leader. Muentzer cited Luke 19:27 in a sermon calling for a Christian revolution and holy war.

He also quotes a book by Richard and Joan Ostling's 9 that describes a sermon by Joseph Smith on Matthew's version of the Parable of the Talents. Smith indicated that the passage relates to polygyny (plural marriage). A man with multiple wives will be blessed by God; a man with only one wife will have his existing blessings removed.

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  1. Bible Commenter at: ttp://wes.biblecommenter.com/
  2. Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, "#84. Parable of the Pounds (Luke 19:11-27)," Jesus Walkģ Bible Study Series, at: http://www.jesuswalk.com/
  3. Robert W. Funk, et al.: "The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus; What did Jesus really say?" Pages 36 & 374
  4. "Books of the Christian Bible," Answer Bag,  2007-AUG-04, at: http://www.answerbag.com/
  5. Gary DeVaney, "The Controversial Luke 19:27," at: http://www.thegodmurders.com/
  6. "Does jesus call for a christian jihad..." Yahoo! Answers, at: http://answers.yahoo.com/
  7. Anatheist, "Lesson Twenty Two: Luke 19:27, at: http://www.geocities.com/
  8. Jaroslav Pelikan, "Jesus Through the Centuries," Pages 174-175.
  9. Richard and Joan Ostling, "Mormon America," Pages 66-67.

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Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-MAR-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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