Naim Ateek Opens Sabeel Conference in Jerusalem:
Jesus refused to use scripture to call for vengeance
“Many of our people are being killed and oppressed by the way the bible is used and interpreted,” Naim Ateek told the Ninth Sabeel International Conference. But Jesus did not use scripture to advocate revenge, he said. Ateek is the founder and director of Sabeel, the ecumenical liberation theology center based in Jerusalem.
More than 200 international and local participants gathered today in Jerusalem for the Ninth Sabeel International Conference. The theme for the conference at the Notre Dame Center is “The Bible and the Palestine-Israel Conflict.” Ateek preached for the event’s opening worship.
“The Bible has been used to justify slavery, war, apartheid, silencing of women, and now the oppression and killing of the Palestinians,” Ateek said. Jesus can guide us in the use of scripture, he said.
When Jesus spoke to his hometown congregation in Nazareth, he read from Isaiah: The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free… (Luke 4L18-19) Then, the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him as he said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Ateek said, “As Christians we recognize that Jesus Christ is the goal, center and climax of our biblical faith. In Him the Scriptures have been fulfilled.”
The words Jesus read expressed God’s concern for the poor, the sick, the disheartened, pronouncing God as their liberator. These were words of hope to people broken by oppression, he said.
But “Jesus adapted the text, he edited it,” Ateek said, making it “more relevant to his hearers… living under Roman occupation.” Jesus omitted Isaiah’s reference to vengeance, Ateek said. “He left out `the day of vengeance of our God,’” he said.
“Jesus refused to read that sentence. He left it out. He refused to call for God’s vengeance on their non-Jewish enemies. He refused to read what for him was theologically offensive and unacceptable,” Ateek said.
“We can only say scripture is fulfilled when we witness to God’s love for all people; and for us Christians, God’s love as seen and exemplified in the love of Jesus Christ,” Ateek said.
“To say scripture is fulfilled is to critique any misuse of scripture that justifies the theft of people’s land, the demolition of people’s homes, the uprooting of people’s olive and fruit trees, and the oppression of the people of the land,” Ateek said.