Verbum Incarnatum: An Academic Journal of Social Justice


From an interpretive standpoint, the nonviolence of Jesus of Nazareth is thought of by many as relatively unambiguous. Still, across the last two millennia a great many instances of “interpretive gymnastics” have distorted the nonviolent teachings of Jesus. These distortions have been invoked as justification for social oppression, geopolitical warfare, and interpersonal violence, among other things. This essay employs the hermeneutical methodology of Hans-Georg Gadamer and the Biblical criticism of Walter Wink in order to argue that such interpretations constitute erroneous violations of the New Testament texts containing Jesus’ words on nonviolence. The author suggests that any interpretive action with the words of Jesus that results in the admissibility of violence is not only flawed but is catalyzed by ulterior interpretive pre-commitments. Such pre-commitments, rather than the words of Jesus themselves, are what enable the “misinterpretation” of Jesus as a condoner of violence.