EMPIRE, MESSIAH AND VIOLENCE: A CONTEMPORARY VIEW
AbstractSet 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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