Violence versus Enthusiasm

D L Henderson
5 min readNov 22, 2023

November 22, 2023

Matthew 11:12 never made any sense to me no matter how hard I tried. From upside down, forward and backward, standing on my head, any way I examined it, it still did not click.

The other day was different. I had responded to a person who wrote that God is a violent, sadistic, and cruel god. After responding to his skewed viewpoint, the word “violent” remained stuck in my head, for what reason, I do not know. Maybe this…

I looked at the dozens of various translations of Matthew 11:12 on biblehub.com. Perhaps one would shed some light. The Passion Translation had this: “From the moment John stepped onto the scene until now, the realm of heaven’s kingdom is bursting forth, and passionate people have taken hold of its power.” . That might be true, but it seemed out of place. It might be accurate in some other text, but not appropriate to the apostle’s particular writing. The New Living Translation sort of made sense, too, but I still wasn’t satisfied: “…from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it…” Yes, that might also be true in part — that last part about people attacking God, Jesus, and the Bible is certainly true today (like the fellow I had responded to). Still, that version didn’t really fit together tightly into a reliable understanding for me, because it did not fit into the context of the events. What the verse is about was continuing stubbornly to be an enigma for me because of that.

Well, I don’t really know what moved me to set them all aside, but I continued my pursuit. No matter. Both just seemed out of place. I’ll admit, this wasn’t the first time a verse tap danced through my mind without leaving any marks…

Nevertheless, I do keep in mind the passages of Scripture that warn about and rebuke false teachers, spreading false doctrines, and so on, I felt I was in a precarious position. I don’t want to be counted with the likes of such deviants. Further, in my experience, Bible translators have done a successful job in producing various versions of the Bible which are 99.99% accurate, very direct, and completely understandable. However, this particular verse still had me stumped. Perhaps it was the divergence of the translations, being so unlike each other, rather than confirming each other.

Yes. I had come to a mental roadblock on this one. You see, other translations have wordings that are very much similar to each other, such as, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.” Nevertheless, the picture that that kind of wording develops in my mind was very cloudy and unsettling. So, it has never given me any sense of clarity or certainty… For instance, I certainly don’t believe any person or any thing can successfully raid Heaven and carry away its goods, as that wording suggests.

What? God was sleeping at the time or something?

Silly.

Again, context regarding the events it was talking about.

So, I continued my research and found this little tidbit about the Greek word’s variant connotation of that word “violence.” It made for quite a different portrait: the word was describing people “eagerly pursuing” the Kingdom of Heaven.

I then inserted that understanding into the Bible text and came up with my own opinion of a proper paraphrasing:

“Ever since John the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven has been eagerly pursued, and those who are enthusiastic, eagerly pursue it.

Take it or leave it, but it sure makes a whole lot more sense to me, and it fits into the Bible context, to listeners it was directed towards, and the events at the time.

Luke 6:19 gives illustrative support to my paraphrase and the idea it conveys, but I do note that these verses use a completely different Greek word, but no matter, put together they all support the same exact idea: “The entire crowd eagerly tried to come near Jesus, to touch him to receive healing, because a tangible, supernatural power emanated from him and healed all who came close to him.” — bible.com/bible/1849/LUK.6.19 (The Passion Translation).

Here are some other verses referencing the context I am talking about, and they use the similar idea more direct to the the Bible context which I am also talking about, cited from https://guideposts.org :

  • Be “eager to serve” (1 Peter 5:2)
  • Be “eager for the gifts of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:12)
  • Have an “eager willingness” to finish the work of faith we’ve begun (2 Corinthians 8:11)
  • Wait in “eager expectation” for God (Romans 8:9)
  • Be “eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14)

Then there is this excerpt from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers that reinforces the idea of the text I am trying to explain:

“… The words describe the eager rush of the crowds of Galilee and Judaea, first to the preaching of the Baptist, and then to that of Jesus. It was, as it were, a city attacked on all sides by those who were eager to take possession of it.

“The violent take it by force.” — The Greek noun is without the article {it}, “men who are violent or use force.” The meaning is determined by the preceding clause. The “violent” are men of eager, impetuous zeal, who grasp the kingdom of heaven — i.e., its peace, and pardon, and blessedness — with as much eagerness as men would snatch and carry off as their own the spoil of a conquered city. Their new life is, in the prophet’s language… …There is no thought of hostile purpose in the words.?”

For my own understanding, I have decided eagerness triumphs over violence in the text in my study of the Bible. It makes for an uncloudy day.

But what might this mean to everybody else? Correcting the critics who complain about Chrisitans behaving in acts of pure emotionalism, it should be obvious: tThere are good reasons for them to express their “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” For the uninitiated, it should be an encouragement to pursue the Gospel message, Jesus, God, and the Bible.

Read the Bible for yourself. Get a full picture of God, Jesus, and the Bible, seeking the presence of God in your life.

Prayer is not just talking, but listening.

Faith is not just believing, but doing.

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D L Henderson

Born 1950; HS 1968; Born again 1972; Cornell ILR; Steward, Local President/Business Agent; Husband, father, grandfather; winner/loser/everything in between