Original Research - Special Collection: A.G.van Aarde Festschrift

‘Suffering Violence’ and the kingdom of heaven (Mt 11:12): A Matthean manual for life in a time of war

Dorothy Jean Weaver
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 67, No 1 | a1011 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v67i1.1011 | © 2011 Dorothy Jean Weaver | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 December 2010 | Published: 14 April 2011

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Dorothy Jean Weaver, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, United States Department of New Testament Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa, United States

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Matthew’s Gospel has much to say about ‘suffering violence’. As Jesus comments (11:12, NRSV), ‘From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force’. Through his narrative rhetoric Matthew offers multi-layered perspectives on life lived vis-à-vis ongoing violence. These perspectives reflect (1) the experiences of the righteous as they encounter violence, (2) the words of Jesus depicting or predicting the sufferings of himself and others, (3) the words of Jesus calling people to faithful responses to violence, and (4) Matthew’s own narrative rhetoric offering theological reflection on the suffering of the righteous. This study examines the Matthean theme of ‘suffering violence’; the first section focuses on the nature and cause of the violence faced by the righteous; the second section focuses both on Jesus’ call to faithful responses to violence and on actual lived responses to violence; the final section focuses on the rhetorical strategy of Matthew’s narrative in relation to the question of violence and assesses Matthew’s theological reflections on the suffering of the righteous. The study concludes with brief reflections on the present-day implications of Matthew’s text for life ‘in a time of war’.


Violence; power; righteous; suffering; persecution; vocation; lex talionis; love of enemies; paradox or paradoxical; vindicate


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