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>In defence of the death penalty

2009 March 21 14 comments

> There is disagreement within Christendom over whether the death penalty is compatible with Christian theology. I am not fully certain as to which camp is correct, though I favour the conclusions below.

Here I wish to give a defence in favour of capital punishment. I will restrict my discussion to the case of murder. I will not cover pragmatic opposition such as miscarriage of justice and the fear of innocents being put to death. While these are important issues, they are issues of administration. My concern is whether execution is fundamentally an appropriate punishment.

There is Scripture in support of the death penalty in certain situations. Therefore I do not think the question is whether or not capital punishment is intrinsically wrong, God ordained it several times. The question is whether not putting people to death is preferable for reasons based on Jesus’ deeper revelation of the intentions of God.

The first mention of the death penalty follows the Flood.

But you* shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your* lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,/
by man shall his blood be shed,

for God made man in his own image….” (Genesis 9)

As mentioned previously this verse is significant in its reasoning. Men have the implanted imago Dei. We must not remove this. Only God has the right to destroy life because it is his image that is being erased.

When God gives the Law to Moses we see similar commands. The 6th commandment is, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5). Others translate this as, “You shall not kill.” Neither “murder” nor “kill” is fully conveys the Hebrew ratsach (רָצַח). “Kill” is too generic. “Murder” implies immoral intention, though the word can be applied to sanctioned and accidental killing. The NET Bible notes state,

The verb רָצַח (ratsakh) refers to the premeditated or accidental taking of the life of another human being; it includes any unauthorized killing (it is used for the punishment of a murderer, but that would not be included in the prohibition).

Compare Deuteronomy 19:

This is the provision for the manslayer (ratsach), who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills (nakah) his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past—

This prohibition clearly does not apply to those carrying out capital punishment for murder. This is seen in the specific commands given to the state and those acting for the state. The above example from Genesis specifies that the offender is to be put to death; that is, there is a command to kill in the pursuit of justice. The Mosaic Law also makes similar provision:

Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. But if a man willfully attacks another to kill (harag) him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die. (Exodus 21)

But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies, and he flees into one of these cities, then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die. Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may be well with you. (Deuteronomy 19)

The command to put someone to death is specific. It holds even if there is a general command not to kill men. Deuteronomy expands this commenting that the murderer killed an innocent man. The prohibition of killing or murdering does not apply to the murderer as he is not innocent.

So we see clear commands both in the time of Noah and of Moses that men are prohibited from killing people and the punishment for such crime is to forfeit one’s life. The reason for such is:

  • that the victim is innocent;
  • that such behaviour offends God’s holiness (note the words: “take him from my altar”); and
  • that God’s image in man is destroyed without God’s permission.

I do not see statements from Jesus that would lead us to reconsider the above arguments. Jesus spoke to hatred. He informs us that hatred and murder come from same source within us. We cannot claim to obey the commandment not to murder if we hate. Despising men in our hearts is breaking this law. This does not necessarily imply that the degree to which we sin when hating our brother is the same as if we murdered him. Not all sins are equal. But it does state that before God non-murderers who hate have still offended God. They have still broken the essence of the 6th commandment. They are still in need of judgment by God for this.

Jesus also emphasised the need for us to forgive. Whether we are to forgive those who do not request or desire it is debated by Christians. There are examples of those who forgave unrepentant men including Jesus and Stephen. We are definitely commanded to forgive those who ask us (Matthew 18). I do not seek to resolve this question here. But even assuming the murderer is repentant and requests forgiveness, should this affect punishment?

While forgiveness is important to our own spiritual health, and forgiveness removes any right of redress when extended to a repentant man; I am not certain that this is relevant to government punishment. It would be difficult for them to let such murderer free immediately as although he has acknowledged his wrong, he may struggle to behave righteously. He may hate his anger but his struggle to control it may put the lives of others at risk in the future. So for the safety of the community he, at minimum, probably needs to be in prison.

Further, Jesus’ commands seem to be predominantly aimed at the individual. The problem with the world is us and it is us that need to change. Individuals repent and enter the kingdom of God, not governments. Granted, men in government can belong to the kingdom of God and thus govern righteously, but it is still individuals who are redeemed. We are eternal, cultural structures are not. But although the state may be temporary, it still the governing authority in the current dispensation. And I do not see how the teachings for individuals change God’s intention for the state.

Paul makes an interesting comment in the era of grace.

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afra
id, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13)

The sword may be representative of the threat of punishment, however if the threat does not go headed then the punishment occurs. And sword here is a metonymy for execution. Paul affirms the appropriateness of state having the power of execution. If the state is allowed to execute at all then this will apply to the most appropriate crimes. Murder being the most appropriate, save, perhaps, treason.

The earliest teachings tell us that the death penalty is to be enacted. Ezekiel suggests that refusal to execute those deserving of death is unacceptable,

You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies. (Ezekiel 13)

Since Jesus we know that capital punishment for murderers is still at least permissible. However could a judge appropriately override this punishment? Say a righteous judge who was not open to corruption, a murderer who has repented, the victim’s next of kin forgiving and not desiring revenge. Perhaps the murderer has accepted Christ and the judge is Christian; both aware that Christ’s death had atoned for his heinous sin.

I guess a situation like this could allow for an exemption. And because Christ takes the curse there is no curse on the land from the bloodguilt.

This assumes a (Christian) theocracy, or a general tacit approval by the governed (in a democracy) or the king (in a monarchy) of the truth of Christianity. This may describe the current situation in Rwanda. I do have difficulty applying this to all governments. It also opens up the possibility that men will claim religion to escape punishment and thus, potentially, lead to the perversion of justice.

In conclusion there is strong evidence that the death penalty for murder is an appropriate punishment, it is probably the best punishment and it may even be commanded by God. Therefore governments who disallow it are answerable to God for this. There may be situations in which men may be exempt from this punishment however this should be applied with caution. In situations where exemption is permissible, if exemption is still not granted the state is probably not sinning in its refusal.

>God ordained cultural structures

2008 October 28 Leave a comment

>I currently don’t mind democracy, though I am not adverse to monarchy and possibly other governmental structures. Christians are called into a different kingdom and can live under any political or economic structure, although some are more pleasant than others. Nevertheless, it is good to understand the proper role of the state; and if one finds himself in a democracy then it is good to vote well (if one thinks he should vote).

How should we frame our ideas about the state? The state is a social structure where leaders oversee community. There are, however, several God ordained social structures in this world and we need to start with the central ones.

Prior to the Fall we have Adam relating to God which is the first and highest order relationship. I think that the individual relationship and the group relationship with God—Adam and Eve pre-Fall; God-worshippers, faithful Israel, righteous Gentiles, and the church post-Fall—are all part of what will become the Bride of Christ. This is the pre-eminent social/ spiritual relationship in the universe. All of this world is building toward that relationship.

Prior to the Fall we also have marriage and family:

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man….

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2)

I have included family, however children, while very important and a blessing, are not as fundamental as marriage. They are temporary; given to us to train them to love God so they can depart to form a new unit—the son leaves his parents and joins with his wife.

These 2 relationships: God and man, and man and wife, are central to social order. Note that they both pre-date the Fall. Note also that the latter is a copy of the former:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5)

And that marriage is temporary:

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. (Matthew 22)

The other social structures are the community and the state, the state being the power that oversees the community as mentioned above. We are first introduced to the embryo of the state some 1600 years after creation. Earlier judgments are made directly by God; note the examples of Cain and the Deluge. Men take things into their own hands such as Lamech and the mighty men of old, but there is no evidence this is sanctioned by God. I am not certain if we can infer anything from the existence of antediluvian cities. After the Flood God gives specific commands to Noah and his sons:

But you* shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your* lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,/
by man shall his blood be shed,

for God made man in his own image….” (Genesis 9)

God is the giver and owner of life, we are made in his image. Thus God gives commands concerning life: Men are to refrain from eating blood because of the life symbolism; and men are not to kill men.

The context suggests that it is murder that is forbidden here, as the murderer is to be subsequently put to death for his actions, capital punishment being commanded not condemned even though it removes life. These commands of God establish legality. Even if full government is not required, there needs be some community structure to deal with murderers; be that egalitarian, or community elders, or kingship, or some other structure.

So the state is enacted by God some centuries after the Fall and it is necessary because we are fallen creatures. If marriage is a temporary institution, how much more so then is the state! There is much the Bible teaches us about ideal government, what God intends leaders to do, what they should concern themselves with, how they should rule; but this is on the background of the above concepts. Our ideas about temporal government need to be tempered by thoughts on eternal relationship and our current fallen nature.

>Family responsibility

2008 July 28 1 comment

>My wife and I were discussing responsibility to family because she was having difficulty reconciling 2 passages of Scripture.

While travelling to Jerusalem, Jesus speaks to some of the crowd travelling with him.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9)

Leaving aside a full explanation of these sayings, Jesus is saying that belonging to the kingdom of God supersedes belonging to family. This is also seen in other passages such as:

“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18)

So if we are to leave family for the sake of the kingdom, how does that fit in with Paul’s statements about family responsibility?

Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God…. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5)

Looking at Jesus’ words it seems that leaving family members could theoretically be asked of us (not that it necessarily is). Note, however, that the comment about leaving houses etc. is in the context of the rich young ruler who does not want to give up wealth for the sake of the kingdom. So this is more a comment by Jesus on the importance of choosing the kingdom over anything else, even very important things such as houses and family. Jesus follows this with a promise that God will give us more than we give up. And this may be part of what Jesus is saying in the Luke 9 passage. Parents and family are having a hold on someone who Jesus wants to join the kingdom.

Compare with Paul’s comments which do not relate to a competing call for believers. Rather they are to discharge the call of the kingdom by caring for those to whom they have responsibility for.

My conclusion in our discussion was that we are to care for those whom God has given us responsibility for, but we do not necessarily need to respond to those who would put their own claim on our lives.

We are responsible to look after our children. God may also give us other children to be responsible for. God may call us to give our children to others to look after so that we may do a task for him—we are still caring for them appropriately as we are delegating our responsibility for that child to another at God’s request (one should be absolutely certain they are hearing correctly from God in such a situation!*).

But an adult does not need to acquiesce to a demand from family to live or act according to their agenda. A request to remain part of the family business, or not to leave until one’s parents have died may not be legitimate. If at some future time one’s parents become infirm, the child may now have the responsibility for them placed on him by God and he needs to discharge that responsibility appropriately.

*This comment needs its own post to explain more fully, I don’t mean to suggest that this is a common request from God.

>Massive promotion

2008 January 13 Leave a comment

>The story of Joseph makes for fascinating reading. One of the things of interest to myself is his change in status. Because of the false accusation by Potiphar’s wife he was imprisoned. He was not just in jail but a slave in jail. There are not many people who have a social status lower than that. Those lower on lower rungs than Joseph are dead.

He proved himself as he had done in the past and was put in charge of the prisoners

And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed. (Genesis 39)

When Pharaoh had his dreams and Joseph revealed God’s meaning, Joseph was elevated to second in command after Pharaoh. Egypt was possibly the world power at the time (2289 AM). So effectively, Joseph went from slave in jail to second in command to the emperor. Granted he was top prisoner at the time.

I do not think this promotion has been exceeded bar one. Jesus was crucified and dead 3 days prior to his resurrection. Then God subjected all things under him. From dead to ruler of the universe!

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

God has put all things in subjection under [Jesus’] feet. (1 Corinthians 15)

>Orthodoxy or orthopraxy?

2007 September 1 3 comments

>Flipside asks,

Do you think that in US/Western churches today we focus too much on knowing scripture in the intellectual sense, and not enough on living it? If we did not explicitly say that we are Christians to our friends and acquaintances, would they make the same observation of us as the people at Antioch did – Namely that we are like Jesus!

So, is right behaviour more important than right belief?

In drawing men to Christ a love of Christians for their brethren is attractive to those on the outside; they see our love for one another and that testifies to the love of God. As Jesus prayed,

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17)

There is also a place for telling the truth. Demolishing arguments and explaining the truth to unbelievers. In Athens Paul reasoned in the Areopagus and some believed (Acts 17).

So both our behaviour (love for each other) and our reasoning (explaining the truth) are important in attracting men to Christ.

But what in our own lives? How do we please God (though that may also influence others around us)? We are to please God first, even if unbelievers find this unattractive; we are the smell of Christ, fragrant to the elect and a stench to the rebellious.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2 Corinthians 2)

In our pleasing God it is right behaviour which is important. Jesus frequently states that those who love him will obey his commandments (John 14). We must obey him even when we struggle to understand him. In contrast it is possible to have right belief but not live it, or at least try to live it. Teaching people the truth but refusing to live it is hypocrisy; a practice Jesus frequently condemned. Orthopraxy triumphs orthodoxy.

An aside, doing the right thing when you think it is wrong is not recommended. For example eating food that has previously been offered to idols means nothing intrinsically as there is only one true God (1 Corinthians 8, 10). But if you have qualms about it you should avoid it. Eating food when you think the act offends God is an offence against him.

So why the huge emphasis on orthodoxy? Because belief and behaviour cannot easily be separated. Belief does actually lead to behaviour. Wrong belief frequently leads to wrong behaviour. So while one is to obey God, thinking you are doing God’s will when in fact you are not is not obedience. Sincerity, while of some value, does not excuse sin. This is why we must continually return to Scripture. We must renew our minds to be conformed to be like Christ as well as obey him as he asks of us.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

There is a further benefit of learning truth: it becomes our default thought pattern. So when we face difficulties that challenge our emotions the struggle doesn’t automatically cause a crisis of faith. Expecting suffering because we are told it will come may not make suffering any easier. It is, however, more likely to encourage us to ask God’s help in our pain and less likely to see us asking questions like, “Is God real?” or “Does God love me?”

>Reclaiming the Political Jesus

2007 April 15 1 comment

>I was asked to review A Prophet of God’s Justice: Reclaiming the Political Jesus by Chris Marshall

The article was published in Stimulus in 2006. I found it somewhat verbose. It is frustrating to have to read excessive words where the information content does not justify it.

I found him vague on specifics at times and when he did discuss specific passages I thought his exegesis was inadequate. He tried to give an overview of the gospels but he was somewhat selective and he tended to read his own left leaning politics into scripture. I also think his underlying belief that everything Jesus said spoke into the culture of the day is faulty. He is suggesting that one has misread the bible unless he understands the culture it was spoken into. This thinking is saying that the bible is a high context document (that there are certain assumptions by the readers according to their customs and language). While this is generally true, the context is not so high that readers of scripture don’t gain insight by what is written, and it is not so high that only historians understand what was meant. Further, what historians believe can be selective or coloured by their own theology.

Marshall also neglects large volumes of scripture. He favours words that are spoken by Jesus the man. Jesus as God is author of the entire bible. To use Jesus words to prove something, when he may or may not have been addressing the issue, to override other scripture that directly discusses the issue at hand is a poor interpretative technique. All scripture is given by God; Jesus words as a man should be given high (highest) priority, but if one’s interpretation of themes of Jesus contradicts direct comments elsewhere about an issue it is a good clue that the interpretation may not have been the correct one. I also wonder if he has read Revelation? He will have, but he doesn’t touch on Jesus words there, nor Jesus’ words to the disciples in Acts.

Below I will discuss 3 passages from his essay.

… Jesus’ saying “my kingdom is not of this world” cannot be taken as an affirmation that God’s kingdom is a
purely spiritual reality unrelated to worldly realities. After all it was out of love for this world that God sent Christ into the world in the first place, in order that “through him the world might be saved” (John 3:16-17). The term “kingdom” here, as always in biblical tradition, has the active force of “rule” or “kingship” or “power” more than place or territory or realm, so that what Jesus is really saying is that his style of exercising kingly authority is unlike that of other kings. His kingship conforms, not to brutal coercive rule of Herod or Caesar or Caiaphas, but to the compassionate, healing rule of God. It does not rest on violent coercion but on loving persuasion. That is why in the second part of the verse, which is hardly ever quoted by conservative apologists, Jesus explains that “if my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews”. The thing that most differentiates Jesus’ kingship from worldly forms of kingship is its non-violence. (p. 11)

I find this interpretation questionable, it alone may be enough for me to disregard the article. I do not think that “kingdom” means style of kingship. Now Jesus does have a style of kingship that is different, but the word “kingdom” does not mean this. Daniel discusses the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, and the rock that destroys the previous kingdoms is likely the kingdom of God. And while God’s subjects in this new kingdom live a different lifestyle and the kingdom is of a different nature (that is people called out of this world’s system to live for Christ), to say there is no violence is incorrect. What about the parable when the nobleman goes away to get his coronation and returns to destroy his enemies who did not wish to see him made king? (Luk 19). We do not coerce men into the kingdom of God but it is a stretch to go from here to pacifism. What about Jesus comments about destroying the wicked that he makes in the book of Revelation? (Rev 2).

Jesus is not saying his followers are non-violent (they are, but that is not the issue here), he is merely comparing what followers of a leader would normally do with his situation. That they are not doing so now is not because they are part of a pacifist movement, rather that Jesus’ kingdom is not an earthly kingdom in the same way that other kingdoms are.

How very different is the prevailing political landscape of global capitalist society today, which makes an idol of market forces, promotes consumerism as a means of political survival, and, while mouthing platitudes to the contrary, exacerbates the plight of the poor and dispossessed in pursuit of an ever-greater concentration of wealth and power. (p. 16)

It is interesting that he says this. I have become more capitalistic (and even more libertarian) as I have got older. Now there can be problems within capitalism, but one needs to ask whether this is as a result of the philosophy. Or is it that one sees these things in a society that is capitalist (or viewed as capitalist) and condemns them as fruits of capitalism society. Capitalism allows private property ownership, the rule of law, freedom of trade: it allows persons to provide goods or services in free exchange for whatever price the parties agree on. The early capitalists believed in thrift and hard work, both of which are very admirable. Money was reinvested hence “capital” rather than wasted on profligate living. Capitalist thinking came out of a Christian mindset; specifically: ownership, just courts, freedom and liberty. A capitalist system in a Christian society is materially beneficial for all. In a non-Christian society, it may have its downfalls, though I am uncertain if the downfalls are worse than other systems.

Does a capitalist society promote consumerism? Perhaps it does, and he is right that Christians should oppose that. However there are laws one could put in place that don’t refute capitalism but limit the damage caused by the greedy. Examples would be restricting an individual’s ability to indebt himself, limiting interest, limiting the power and exploitation from loan sharks, making bankruptcy more difficult.

“Exacerbates the plight of the poor.” Well this is patently false. Compare the poor in capitalist societies versus any non-capitalist society. The poor are hugely better off materially. Their rights are upheld more, they are better able to escape being part of the poor, they have more liberty. I am not certain what current system Marshall thinks does better. Capitalism is definitely better than the nobility/ serfdom system it replaced. Certainly capitalist states could do better, but they are doing hugely better than oppressive regimes elsewhere. Why do we hear about the problems in the West? Because our freedom of expression allows us to dissent without fear of government oppression. Worse problems happen elsewhere but voices are silenced. And why are people immigrating to the West in numbers that far exceed the other way around?

“An ever greater concentration of wealth and power.” That may be true on a national level, but that is because of the general wealth of the nation. In terms of within a country, the poor are not being sidelined in general. The problem with Marshall’s approach is it suggests that everyone should have the same, regardless of how little that is. But that is just a problem with envy. I am happy to live in a country that allows everyone to own a house and fed their children, even if that means there are some in the country who are filthy rich.

Some of the large corporations that exist do so within capitalist societies, but are not consistent with it. They seek to obtain governm
ent favours and this should be opposed, but this is the antithesis of capitalism which seeks a level playing field and to remove special favours.

I do think there are very real problems with chasing wealth, and the bible warns that riches can remove our devotion to Christ. This is very important. And it is far better to be poor and fear God than to have plenty and ignore him. But a lot is related to the love of money, and that vice is not necessarily limited to the rich.

Anyway, the studies suggest that conservatives that he has so much trouble with are actually more generous! Is he suggesting that the government should be handing out money to the poor? I am not so certain of the wisdom of this.

And I am much more concerned with the power concentrated in the monster of the United Nations, and that can hardly be laid at the feet of the capitalists.

It is here that Jesus’ exorcisms carried an important political message. It was common in Jesus’ day for people to ascribe the abject suffering of God’s people under Roman rule to the activity of superhuman demonic forces standing behind their pagan oppressors and their indigenous quislings. One manifestation of this spiritual tyranny was the susceptibility of vulnerable individuals to demonic possession. When Jesus cast out demons, therefore, he was not only healing the victims of societal dysfunction; he was symbolically challenging and defeating the spiritual authorities standing behind foreign repression. (p. 19)

So does he believe there are demonic powers behind nation-states or not? Where does he get that demonic forces in individuals is related to being subject to a foreign power? Is he saying that the Israelites in Egypt had more demoniacs when they were worshipping Yahweh, than the time in Israel under Jeroboam II when they were free of foreign rulership but were worshipping foreign idols? I do not accept his proposition of increased demon possession under foreign domination without proof. And even if it were true, how is that at all related to Jesus casting out demons? This shows his power over the spirit world; a testimony to his divinity. This says nothing about whether or not he was opposed to Rome.

In conclusion, Jesus may have had thoughts about Rome, but I see his message more in alignment with Jesus saying something like:

The problem is yourself, it is sin. Join my kingdom and I will deliver you from sin’s power.