EMPIRE, MESSIAH AND VIOLENCE: A CONTEMPORARY VIEW

Jeremy Punt

Abstract


Set against the backdrop of theories on the link between monotheism, messianic
persons and human violence, the relationship between Jesus and violence, as
portrayed in the New Testament, is investigated with reference to a recent
Hollywood film, The Matrix (Warner Brothers, 1999). Traditionally the link between
Jesus and violence was perceived in the various forms of victimisation he and his
disciples suffered, and theological appropriations of Jesus as peacemaker are
numerous – but this is only one side of the coin. The Matrix provides an interesting
contemporary intertext for understanding the connection between Jesus and
violence. Not only are Jesus and his disciples involved as primary actors in New
Testament violence, but Jesus as messiah also allows, condones and even incites
violence. His actions can be understood within the context of first-century forms of
messianism, the era of the sword, and amidst the hegemonic presence of the Roman
Empire. A brief look at the sword as symbol of violence, also divine violence, finally
leads to a comparison between the sources and trends of violent behaviour in the
relationship between messiahs and their followers, in the New Testament and The
Matrix.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/80-0-760

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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