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  • A Peaceable Hope: Contesting Violent Eschatology in New Testament Narratives by David J. Neville
  • Margaret Mollett
Neville, David, J. 2013. A Peaceable Hope: Contesting Violent Eschatology in New Testament Narratives. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. Paperback. ISBN 978-0801048517. Pp. 288. $28.

There is a discrepancy at the heart of the New Testament. Briefly stated the discrepancy is this: although the canonical Gospels present a fairly uniform picture of Jesus as an advocate of peace and practitioner of nonretaliation, certain texts within these same Gospels and in other parts of the New Testament apparently anticipate a future arrival, or parousia, of a violent avenger. The same Jesus who blesses peacemakers, teaches nonretaliation, and responds non-violently to violence directed against himself is nevertheless associated with end-time vengeance.


So writes David Neville, associate professor of theology at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia, after having fine-combed and painstakingly divided the narrative sections of the NT, the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation, into what he frequently refers to as “moral visions” and “violent eschatology.” While the latter appears to surpass the former, Neville at this early stage of the book notes that given Gen 1:1–2:3, the vision of the New Jerusalem at the end of Revelation “serves to enclose the entire biblical canon with visions of divinely intended shalom.” Consequently, “I advocate a shalom-orientated interpretation of Revelation in line with its Christological heart” (12).

Neville, as typical in scholarly endeavour, interacts with a host of scholars who previously pursued various aspects of the issue at stake—in the Introduction these would mainly be John Crossan, Christopher Rowland, Leander Keck, Michel Desjardins and Russell Pregeant. In arriving at his redefinition of definitions Neville concurs:

As much as I have learned from Crossan, Desjardins, and Pregeant on the moral implications of apocalyptic eschatology, I nevertheless see things somewhat differently. I accept apocalyptic eschatology as part of God or God’s agent(s), but I also consider that the interpretive creativity clearly evident in so many of the New Testament writings led some of those writers to relativize or [End Page 201] even eliminate divine vengeance from the standard apocalyptic scenario to which they were otherwise indebted for expressing their understanding of Jesus’ significance, theologically and ethically.


Having made this statement he affirms divine judgment as “biblically and theologically meaningful,” and further, “Eschatological judgment is more about reversal than retribution, however, more about righting than requiting wrongs” (9)—indeed an insight that merits reflection and some follow-up reading.

Neville continues to engage with several scholars and to envisage new possibilities; however, the text is dense in argument and articulation and heavy in citations and references, and cannot therefore be discussed adequately in a review of limited length. The titles of the three parts and subtitles of the seven chapters categorised therein indicate how Neville organises his material and gives flesh to his introductory statements:

  1. Part 1:. The Gospels according to Matthew and Mark

    1. 1. Nonretaliation or Vengeance? Protesting Matthew’s Violent Eschatology

    2. 2. Peaceful Power: Pleading Mark’s Ethical Eschatology

  1. Part 2:. The Lukan Literature

    1. 3. The Evangelist of Peace

      “As in the Days of Noah and Lot”: Retributive Eschatology in Luke’s Gospel

    2. 4. “In the Same Way”: Restoration Eschatology in Acts

  1. Part 3:. Johannine Trajectories

    1. 5. Nonviolent Apocalypse: The Peace Witness of the Fourth Gospel

    2. 6. Apocalypse of the Lamb: Reading Revelation in Peace Perspective

In Concluding Reflections, after making some further comments on the above chapters, Neville reiterates with slight rephrasing what he stated in the Introduction: “Together with the vision of creation in Genesis 1, the vision of the New Jerusalem serves to enclose the entire biblical canon with visions of divinely intended shalom.” As a result of those “closing [End Page 202] visions of how life should be experienced,” and God’s peace-proneness” he advocates that “a hermeneutic of shalom should complement the church’s longstanding interpretive rules of faith and love, especially (but not only) in relation to texts of teleological terror” (253).

However, Neville has more to reveal. In line with the shalom-oriented trajectory he has been stashing away what he calls treasure texts. In the light...


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pp. 201-204
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