You shall not kill.
About two years ago, a friend asked me, "When are you going to write your memoirs?" In lieu of my memoirs, this book is a summation of a lifetime, for which I am indebted to many persons. I grew up in a home and congregation that emphasized peace, including non-participation in Americas wars.1 I was first introduced to a rigorous teaching on biblical pacifism and nonresistance at Goshen College, under the tutelage of such persons as H. S. Bender and Guy F. Hershberger.
My first inductive study of the issue of peace and violence in the Old Testament against the background of Near Eastern culture resulted in my writing the book, Yahweh Is a Warrior: The Theology of Warfare in the Old Testament. This work was based on my doctoral dissertation written in a Presbyterian seminary under the guidance of David Noel Freedman, then later refined by many patient students and colleagues in my teaching at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.2 If one type of pacifism may be defined as the theopolitical establishment of a law community upon Yahwehs redemptive covenant or treaty pact rather than upon a violent military act of the human community, this volume sets forth an underlying pacifist tradition of the Old Testament that begins at Sinai and is matured in the Jesus-Messianic event of the first century A.D.
A second book relating to the subject of the Old Testament and a pacifism of trust and undergirding my present work is Ben Ollenburgers Zion, City of the Great King: A Theological Symbol of the Jerusalem Cult.3 In this exegetical study of three Zion Psalms (Psalms 46, 48, 76) and of Isaiahs prophetic directives to Judahs Davidic king when war threatened (Isa. 7-8), Ollenburger discovers that Yahweh as Creator promises to defend Zion-Jerusalem. This promise, like the promise to the people at the Sea which formed the basis for the Mosaic covenant, is equally central to the Zion-Davidic covenant (Exod. 14:13-14; Isaiah 7:4, 9b).
A third book important to my present work is that of Christopher D. Marshalls Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment.4 Ironically, due to my oversight the contents of this volume were unknown to me until after I had nearly completed this workthough the author includes my name in its preface! Marshalls treatise is superior to my own in the area of recent New Testament scholarship, his specialty, especially in Pauline studies, and in its orientation to the general theme of retribution and restorative justice. The two books are significantly different, however, in that they have different intentions and are aimed at a different readership. Hopefully they complement and reinforce each other. I footnoted Marshalls work, though too lightly, after the writing of my manuscript was basically finished.
For time to study Near Eastern law, I am indebted to the encouragement of Marlin Miller, former president of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, and to modest grants of money from Mennonite institutions. At the turn of the millennium, the College Mennonite Church invited me to lead a group in the study of the Sermon on the Mount. This formed the base for the New Testament segment of this book.
I am grateful to many authors, especially to Ulrich Luz, Matthew 17, A Continental Commentary; Hans Dieter Betz, The Sermon on the Mount (Hermeneia); and Robert Leicht in "2000 Jahre in Widerspruch," a series of eight articles in Die Zeit (March 31, to May 20, 1999). For the Introduction that follows this preface, in which I survey the churchs attitude toward capital punishment across the centuries, I rely considerably on George MeGiverns book, The Death Penalty: An Historical and Theological Survey (2001).
I owe special thanks to my editors, Willard M. Swartley and Ben C. Ollenburger, who accepted this book as a part of their Studies in Peace and Scripture Series and generously gave me of their time. I have warm feelings of gratitude to my publisher, Michael A. King, whose contract for publishing this book lay on my desk for more than a year before I could demonstrate to myself that I still had the energy to write one more book.
I thank also Mary H. Schertz, director of the Institute of Mennonite Studies, who arranged to have the first writing of this manuscript read and critiqued by the AMBS seminary faculty. I am indebted to my family, including Miriam Sieber Lind, who made innumerable suggestions for the manuscripts readability; Matthew who helped me understand my computer; Sarah who corrected my Akkadian; Timothy who saved the project from collapse by taking over as a private journalistic editor/agent; and the other members of my family who, both adoptive and birthedsons and daughters-in-law, grandchildren, and great-grandchildrenprovided an emotional context for this writing.
It is my hope that this book will contribute to an improvement of United States society and in some small way contribute to a precipitous demise of the death penalty in America.
Millard C. Lind
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