John L. McKenzie
John Lawrence McKenzie (October 9, 1910 – March 2, 1991) was born on October 9, 1910, in Brazil, Indiana, the first of the six children of Myra (Daly) and Harry McKenzie. John McKenzie became the premier Catholic Biblical scholar of the mid-twentieth century; indeed, John Courtney Murray, SJ, wrote that John McKenzie was "the best Catholic theologian he knew of in the United States."
John McKenzie was interested in the Jesuits from an early age. At some significant sacrifice to his family, he was enrolled in a Jesuit boarding high school in St. Mary's, Kansas, where he came first in his class three out of his four years there. After graduating in 1928, he entered the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus and was ordained a priest in 1939. He was supposed to study theology in Rome, but the onset of World War II made that impossible. Consequently, he and others were required to study instead at the Weston School of Theology in Massachusetts (now the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry). He received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Weston.
John McKenzie taught for nineteen years at the Jesuit Theologate in West Baden, Indiana, before transferring to Loyola University Chicago. He left Loyola to become the first Catholic Faculty member at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Following this, he taught at the University of Notre Dame, at Seton Hall University, and at DePaul University.
He was self-taught in ten languages. His scholarly and popular writings were voluminous. He was much sought after as a lecturer as well. In the English-speaking world, his 900,000-word Dictionary of the Bible remains the most frequently used single-volume biblical dictionary available. At the time of its publication in 1956, a review in the periodical, The Thomist, called his book, The Two-Edged Sword, "the most significant Catholic interpretation of the Old Testament ever written in English." It remains in print to this day and continues to be considered, by scholars and non-scholars alike, a masterful reflection on the Old Testament. The New York Times obituary announcing his death said, “Rev. John L. McKenzie was a pioneering and outspoken Roman Catholic biblical scholar, (who) through scholarly and popular writings, helped bring about the general acceptance by Catholic scholars and Church authorities of the scientific techniques of investigating Scripture, which had been highly suspect in Catholic circles when he began his career.” In 1965 and 1966 alone, besides the above-noted Dictionary of the Bible, he published The Power and the Wisdom, an interpretation of the New Testament; Authority in the Church, a book arguing that service—diakonia—rather than secular models of government—domination—should define the Church's understanding and use of authority; a seminal essay on natural law in the New Testament, as well as eleven other articles and nineteen book reviews of scholarly works. He is the author of a number of articles in the Encyclopædia Britannica (14th edition): Adam and Eve, Hexateuch, Israel, Mizpah, Pentateuch, Zephania, and Zion.
From approximately 1954 to 1974 he was considered the dean of Catholic Biblical scholars. During this period, he was elected President of the Catholic Biblical Association and became the first Catholic ever elected President of the Society of Biblical Literature. It should also be noted that during this period he was also President of probably the largest Anti-Vietnam War organization, Clergy and Laity Concerned, whose founding members also included the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Rabbi Abraham Heschel, and Reverend William Sloane Coffin. This involvement was the direct result of his being an outspoken and supremely articulate Christian pacifist. In 1971, he transferred as a priest from the Society of Jesus to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
John L. McKenzie's correspondence was as extensive as his scholarly writings. Although it may be something of an exaggeration, it was said that he never left unanswered a letter written to him, whether complimentary or critical. The exaggeration is probably rooted in two facts: He did give yeoman's service in trying to respond to those who wrote to him, and he firmly believed that the academic owed a debt—-in justice and in love—-a debt that required the scholar to share the fruits of his or her work with the everyday person whose work afforded the scholar the leisure, as well as the food, electricity, books, etc. needed to pursue a cognitive discipline in depth. He once wrote:
I think my colleagues in theology and exegesis are open to the charge that they have become mandarins, who speak only to other mandarins about topics which are of interest only to mandarins in a style of discourse which is gibberish to any except mandarins, and one sometimes wonders about them too. Scholarship is and ought to be a form of public service and not an expensive enterprise dedicated to the production of a few more mandarins who can spend a leisurely life in the production of other mandarins.
The pointedness of this statement and the self-discipline with which John L. McKenzie responded to those who corresponded with him, as well as his commitment to write not only scholarly theological books and essays, but also to publish the results of his intellectual labors in popular, non-academic prose, all arose directly from an empathic mission that lay deep within him as a human being, a Christian, and a scholar. The mission: to spread the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ to help free people intellectually, morally, spiritually, and socially to search for truth and to adhere to it once found. For, as he saw it, the task of Christianity, of scholarship, of humanity in general, and of the individual human being is de-conditioning—freeing one's mind and oneself, and freeing others, from nurtured untruth in which a personal investment has been made. His was a life of compassion, sharing with others the bread of truth which he had purchased at great price; sharing, because he had taken to heart so deeply the idea that as human beings we are made with the desire to know, that the object of that desire is truth, and that the truth shall set us free to be what we should be.
Testimonials to the exceptional quality of Rev. John L. McKenzie's intellect and the superlative character of his scholarship abound. But one in particular deserves to be singled out perhaps, because of who gave it and the place she hold in the history of twentieth-century Catholicism, indeed, the place she holds in twentieth-century Christianity and humanity—Dorothy Day. On the morning of April 14, 1968, she writes in her diary: “Up at 5:00 and reading The Power and The Wisdom. I thank God for sending me men with such insight as Fr. McKenzie.”
John L. McKenzie concluded his human, priestly, and scholarly life on earth in Claremont, California, assisting as a priest at Our Lady of Assumption Parish, and serving as counselor and friend to scholars and non-scholars—from every point on the compass—who thought that he could be of help to them. He was born to Eternal Life on March 2, 1991.
Authority in the Church. 1966. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
The Civilization of Christianity. 1986. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew. 1981. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2015.
Dictionary of the Bible. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1965.
Did I Say That? A Theologian Confronts the Hard Questions. 1973. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
How Relevant Is the Bible? And Other Commentaries on Scripture. 1981. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
Light on the Epistles: A Reader's Guide. 1975. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
Light on the Gospels A Reader's Guide. 1976. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
Mastering the Meaning of the Bible. 1966. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
Myths and Realities: Studies in Biblical Theology. 1963. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
The New Testament Without Illusion. 1980. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
The Old Testament Without Illusions. 1979. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
The Power and the Wisdom: An Interpretation of the New Testament. 1965. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
Second Isaiah. Anchor Bible 20. 1968. Reprinted, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.
Source: What the Bible Says About the Problems of Contemporary Life. 1984. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
A Theology of the Old Testament. 1976. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
The Two-Edged Sword: An Interpretation of the Old Testament. 1956. Reprinted, John L. McKenzie Reprint Series. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
The World of the Judges. Prentice-Hall Backgrounds to the Bible Series. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1966.
“If Jesus can be trusted to have said anything at all, he renounced violence: interpreters have preferred to think that his words are irrelevant to politics, which should be discussed without any reference to anything He said, did or was. I shall raise a question or two about this.” The Civilization of Christianity, page 136.
“The simple see at once that the “way” of Jesus is very hard to do, but easy to understand. It takes real cleverness and sophisticated intelligence to find ways to evade and distort the clear meaning of what Jesus said.” The Civilization of Christianity, page 205
“No higher model of Christian love can be found than Jesus Christ, whose love was not the affirmation of the goodness of men, but a desire to confer on them a goodness that they lacked.” The Two-Edged Sword, page, 284.
“The Christian obligation of loving one’s enemies—and by implication the sinner—does not require that we cease to recognize him a wicked. There is a world of difference between Christian love toward the sinner and a sentimental sympathy for him. Christian love will spare nothing in order that the one doing evil be redeemed from his condition. Sickly sympathy with the wicked, however, is not true compassion, even for the wicked.” The Two Edged Sword, pages 284, 285.
“Jesus taught that violence belongs to the Reign of Satan, and that men must expel violence if they wish to liberate themselves from the Reign of Satan.“ The New Testament Without Illusion, page 33.
“We have tried to produce a form of Christianity that will be tolerable to those who believe that the best way to deal with your enemies is to beat their heads in. And, we have done this. We have produced the Christian ethic of the just war. This is not the New Testament and every theologian knows it.” How Relevant is the Bible?, page 213.
“If Jesus did not reject any type of violence for any purpose, then we know nothing of him.” New Testament Without Illusion, page 252
“No reader of the New Testament, simple or sophisticated, can retain any doubt of Jesus’ position toward violence directed to persons, individual or collective, organized or free enterprise, he rejected it totally.” National Catholic Reporter, 2/22/80
“The sharp rejection of the use of arms [Mt 26: 52] is entirely in accord with the teaching and practice of Jesus; and no one else is said to intervene in a scene that certainly would have led to massive violence had someone not stopped it. The rejection of the use of arms is general, not merely a remark adapted to the particular situation." Jerome Biblical Commentary, The Gospel According to Matthew, page 110
“On only one occasion in the life of Jesus did the question of armed defense arise. This was on the occasion of his arrest in Gethsemane. The defense which the disciples were ready to attempt against the arresting force was refused by Jesus and refused rather sharply. In the Gospel of Matthew the refusal is expanded by saying that those who take the sword shall perish by the sword. This saying is not found in the other Gospels. As far as Christian interest in the saying is concerned, it might just as well have not been found in Matthew. The arrest is not necessarily the original context of this saying. But the evangelist has achieved a certain dramatic contrast by placing the saying in a context where anyone would believe that legitimate self-defense was in place if ever was.” How Relevant is the Bible?, page138.
“Jesus presents in His words and life not only a good way of doing things, not only an ideal to be executed whenever it is convenient, but the only way of doing what He did.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 124.
“Jesus in no way accepts violence as a means of controlling violence.” How Relevant is the Bible?, Page 11.
“What is Christianity? Many Christians today might say, as many of their predecessors have said, that Christianity is that complex of beliefs for which they are willing to kill. I shall say now that readiness to kill for one’s beliefs, however orthodox they may be, is essentially unchristian.” The Civilization of Christianity, page 43.
“Any moral justification of violence must rest on other than biblical grounds.” National Catholic Reporter, 2/22/80
“The customary principal of self-defense is rejected by this saying of Jesus; and the customary principle is not replaced by another principle of self-defense. The saying is probably the most paradoxical of all the sayings of the passage and has certainly been the object of more rationalization than any other…’if anyone strikes you, ‘—“physical violence is not to be met with physical violence; it is to be suffered. Jerome Biblical Commentary." The Gospel According to the Evangelist Matthew, page72
“Jesus taught us much about how to die; he taught and showed us nothing about how to kill.” Source, page, 112
“To say that this power (of love) is impractical in any given circumstance is to say that there are circumstances in which Jesus could not have been himself.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 138
“In this same Gospel of Matthew, we find the fullest exposition of the Christian ethic of nonresistance. This is found in the Sermon on the Mount. As one reads the verses that deal with nonresistance, one must admit that they are nowhere qualified by the hypotheses of situations in which they would not be in place.” How Relevant is the Bible?, page 138.
“Much of Christian moral tradition has been concerned with finding and explaining exceptions to the ethic on nonresistance for the individual person and for the state.” How Relevant is the Bible?, page 139.
“The whole Christian thrust against evil in the Gospels is pretty much summed up under the main phrase—nonresistance. It never suggests that the Christian can resolve the problem of evil which we encounter by what we call resistance. I mean, of course, Jesus does not yield to it, but he does not apply violence to it. He suffers it.” Protest, Pacifism and Politics, page 54.
“The power of Jesus does not engage in fights; he himself is the supreme example of his own precept not to resist evil. He is also the supreme demonstration that evil is overcome by not resisting it; nothing he said or did implies that the application of power against evil has any effect.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 103.
“His own death illustrates better than anything else his principle of not resisting evil. (Mt 5:39) That evil is overcome by nonresistance has been comprehended by very few Christians. These few were convinced that Jesus presented in his words and life not only a good way of doing things, not only an ideal to be executed whenever it is convenient but the only way of doing what he did. They did this in pure faith, because there is no reasonable motive for acting in the way which he shows.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 107.
“Love of neighbor is extended to all people; by loving one’s enemies one ceases to have enemies.” Light on the Gospels. Page 39
“The saying of Jesus that one must love one’s enemies applies both to personal enemies (who may be one’s neighbors) as well as to members of hostile groups.” Old Testament Without Illusion, page 254
“Love within one’s group or fellowship is merely a natural and universal human trait.” Jerome Biblical Commentary, page 72
“The theory of the just war goes back to the efforts of the Christian community to reconcile itself to a practice, which it really knew (emphasis in the original) in its Christian heart of hearts that it couldn’t countenance.” Protest, Pacifism and Politics, page 53.
“The principles of life which we attribute to Jesus make the theology of the holy war quite impossible. The life, which Jesus proclaimed, cannot be fostered, advanced, or protected by any kind of war, holy or unholy. Jesus taught people how to die, not how to kill. The holy war has certainly been a major block in proclamation of authentic and integral Christianity.” Old Testament Without Illusion, page 86.
“The Gospel is more than the life of a single person; it is a recital of the act of God.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 36.
“Salvation, we have said, consisted in becoming fully human—not fully a Jew, a Greek, a European or a white American. To choose to be these or any similar denomination is to choose to remain small.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 212.
“John said that the Christian cannot prove his love of God except by his love of man. Matthew makes it very clear that it is not really proved unless the person we love is an enemy. The Christian can be an object of enmity, but not its subject: one who is loved ceases to be an enemy.'Love of one's enemies' is a contradiction in terms; and Christians who think they are doing well when they love their enemies are often quite careful to make it clear that they remain enemies. The Christian loves his or her enemies as Christ loved man hostile to God. He is an agent of reconciliation and a persevering agent. God has revealed to the Christian a value in his fellow lumps of clay which they do not have by their nature. Reason demands moderation in love as in all things; faith destroys moderation here. Faith tolerates a moderate love of one's fellow human beings no more than it tolerates a moderate love between God and man.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 231.
“The state is not an object of redemption. The state is one of the consequences of sin, like disease, concupiscence and mortality.” The Civilization of Christianity, page 156.
“The state is a collection of persons. Strictly speaking 'the state' does nothing. 'The 'state" is men in action. We cannot blame 'the State' as if it were a responsible person. People do things in crowds which they will not do alone. The Christian must look at 'the State' as the pressure of other people. He cannot share their desires and yield to their pressures simply because they outnumber him. The capacity of 'the State' to do evil makes it quite clear that the Christian is not free to let 'the State' make his decisions for him. He knows that men hide behind a crowd and find there an outlet for desires which they usually mask or restrain...If 'the State' becomes the supreme judge of good and evil in public affairs, it can demand unquestioning obedience in its service. It is the demonic quality of 'the State' that it tends to become god.” The Power and the Wisdom, pages 248, 250.
“What really determines the state to be un-Christian is the basis of its ethics. The ethics of the state are the ethics of survival. States live in a moral jungle. Retaliation justifies anything. The supreme good of the state is that it continues to exist; no other good can be maintained if that good threatens survival When we look at the means by which the state achieves it ends, certain dissonances between public morality and Christian morality appear. The state does not love its enemies. It does distinguish very sharply between Jew, Greek, Scythian and other national and racial groups. Public morality is not Christian. My point is not only that the state is not Christian, but that it cannot be Christian. The ethical theory of the state is that the state is not a subject of moral obligation. Its members are subjects of moral obligations, but only as individual persons. When they assemble into a political society, they are not bound by Christian principles. They may decide upon actions which if done by individuals would be murder, arson, theft, and mendacity. One looks for this exception in vain in the New Testament.” The Power and the Wisdom, pages 245, 247.
“I believe that I have dwelt at length sufficient for my purposes on politics as the institutionalization of the will of some human beings imposed upon others. From pre-dynastic Egypt (which means earlier than 2800 B. C.) there is a work of art known as the palette of Narmer. It represents the victorious Narmer standing over a defeated enemy chieftain seated on the ground. In one hand he grasped the hair of the enemy; in the other hand he brandishes an enormous mace with which he is about to bash in the enemy's skull. Narmer meant it when he said, "You do it my way or I'll knock your block off." He is the first statesman in history to be portrayed doing his thing. I am surprised that a copy of the palette of Narmer is not hung in foreign offices all over the world; it ought to be, at least in the foreign offices of those nations that think they can play Narmer.” The Civilization of Christianity, pages 119, 124.
“The offer of power over the kingdoms of the world is placed third by Matthew and second by Luke. Jesus rejects the offer with a quotation from Deuteronomy (6:13) in which it is commanded that worship be given to Yahweh alone. Certainly the story means that secular power is not to be acquired at the price of worship of Satan. But do we grasp the full import of the story if we think that the only thing wrong with the offer of secular power is that it came from Satan? In the New Testament the “world” in the pejorative sense is the realm of the power and authority of Satan: the reign of God is opposed to this power and the struggle between the two reigns is constant and deadly. St. Ignatius Loyola made this the theme of the meditation on the Two Standards in his Spiritual Exercises. Like most Christian interpreters from early time, he did not question the implicit assertion in the temptation narrative that secular power is Satan's to give. The offer is not rejected because Satan is unable to deliver what he promises; it is rejected because secular power is altogether inept for the mission of Jesus, indeed because the use of secular power is hostile to the mission of Jesus.” Authority in the Church, pages 28-29.
“In the Baptismal formula a renunciation of Satan and all his works and all his pomps is pronounced just before Baptism. The Christian needs to look carefully at what the works and pomps of Satan may include. They do not mean only sin; the Church knows the word for sin, and if it wished to use it in this formula it could have done so. The works and pomps of Satan are all those things which are alleged to be just as good as the power of the Spirit of Christ, and far more realistic and practical.” The Power and the Wisdom, pages 148-149.
“Reason has its place in Christian morality in finding ways to fulfill the difficult and 'unrealistic' commandments of love, not how to evade them and substitute something else far more natural and practical and therefore just as good.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 232.
“Both the lust for power and the lust for wealth are in direct and violent opposition to the Gospel; Jesus renounced both lusts as a means of accomplishing His mission, and His Church is unfaithful to Him when she stoops to the use of either.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 290.
“I do care when my friends are disturbed because of me and even find me offensive. But, it is impossible for me to share their faith in the political process and to believe that anything will be accomplished through politics to change or even to improve temporarily the wretched human condition. I have no faith in politics simply because I have dabbled in history. I judge politics by its record, which is now 5000 years old. Politics has never produced the good life for any but a few in any generation, and that has been produced only by the infliction of misery upon many. It is no different in the contemporary generation. There is still blood on every commodity we use. I was reminded of it again this morning when I took my breakfast of orange juice, cereal, a banana and coffee. Every one of those damn items got to my table at the cost some human misery, not my own.” The Civilization of Christianity, page 130.
“The attitudes and the habits and the skills and the ethics which go into the prosecution of a successful war are the same attitudes, habits, skills and ethics which go into the prosecution of any successful political effort. They can be summed up and illustrated in the relief sculpture of that early politician Narmer, which says, "You do it my way or I'll knock your block off." I appreciate the faith in the political process exhibited by so many of my friends; I cannot share it because it is faith in morally justifiable rape.” The Civilization of Christianity, pages 130, 131.
“The power which destroys all other powers is the power of love, the love of God revealed and active in Jesus Christ. God revealed in Jesus that He loves man and will deliver him through love and through nothing else.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 112.
“To power, in the vulgar sense, one renders submission, admiration, obedience and other such responses; the response to the love revealed in Jesus must come from the person, and it must come with freedom. The power of love has its own way of action and it is not the way of compulsion. One would think that this revelation would have expelled compulsion from the Christian community once and for all. The power of love is not the power to dominate but the power to communicate self; and the response is communication, tending toward complete identity.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 113.
“The saving act of Jesus is an act of love of the type which He recommends in the Gospels. He loves God by loving His fellow men. Theologians distinguish the "God-ward" and "man-ward" aspects of the saving act; but the New Testament does not use such distinctions. The saving act is all God-ward and all man-ward; it moves toward God by moving toward man, as Jesus tells His disciples they also must do. And He leaves no room for man to move toward God except through his fellow man. The saving act is unitive: it establishes man in a new community of which God Himself in Jesus Christ is a member. There is a subtle Christian logic in John 13:34: 'A new commandment I give you, that you should love one another as I have loved you.'" A more humanly reasonable logic would conclude: "...that you love me as I have loved you." And this we would conclude, were not the New Testament so insistent upon its own logic...The disasters of Israel in the Old Testament arise from Israel's refusal to submit itself to the will of God; and ultimately man is proved helpless in the face of the evil which he himself has wrought. He has no hope of recovery or of survival except in the saving act of God.” The Power and the Wisdom, pages 108, 115.
“Neither the state nor the social order is Christian just because most of the people engaged in them are Christian. We may be attempting to establish the Reign of God by means other than those which God has revealed to us...The beneficent power which Jesus wielded could not be used in self-defense. He would have been unfaithful to His own teaching and example if He had employed what is called legitimate self defense; and no one has yet to arise to say that Jesus was not better entitled to legitimate self defense than any person who has ever lived. The words of Jesus in the Gospel make it so clear so often that a person must leave his past behind that they need no expressed quotation. They mean that a person allows nothing in his past, his culture, his involvement with family, social, political or economic life to inhibit the act of love, the love of his fellow man in Jesus Christ. A list of the accepted inhibitions of love would be familiar and tedious; we can mention race, nation, property, job, ambition, the duty of supporting one's family—or perhaps in a word, the "duty of protecting the investment." It is not easy to see that the investment may be precisely and without doubt the old man of sin to which we must die.” The Power and the Wisdom, pages 106, 112, 117.
“Were the morality of law based on reason and nature the supreme morality of man, the Gospel need not have included a moral revolution. Christian morality must be primarily Christian. Christian moral thinking cannot be based on what is convenient to human nature. It must think of historic man, fallen and redeemed. Christian morality will consider what man can and cannot do; its conclusions will not be those of reason and nature. The moral ideal of the Christian is known by the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The means by which the Christian can attain this ideal is the gift of grace known through the revelation of God. When reason considers nature and abstracts from these things, reason is not considering reality. This should be obvious; yet solutions to moral problems are often alleged by Christians which are devised as if the incarnation had not occurred.” The Power and the Wisdom, pages 223-224.
“The Christian obligation of loving one’s enemies—and by implication the sinner—does not require that we cease to recognize him a wicked. There is a world of difference between Christian love toward the sinner and a sentimental sympathy for him. Christian love will spare nothing in order that the one doing evil be redeemed from his condition. Sickly sympathy with the wicked, however, is not true compassion, even for the wicked.” The Two Edge Sword, pages 285.
“It is a common misconception of Old Testament prophecy that it means prediction...Prophecy discloses the nature and character of God and the implications of the divine nature and character for human thought and action. It is insight into the moral will of God and the reality of sin…Prophecy places the integrity of the one God above any national or patriotic consideration.” Dictionary of the Bible, page 695-698
“Is there a prophecy which is not uttered by authority in the Church but uttered to authority? The nature of prophecy and the nature of the Church indicate that prophecy belongs to the whole Church, not to the Church officers alone, and that the officers can hear prophecy as well as speak it. The history of the Church attests to the need of prophecy within the Church. Prophecy within the Church is a remedy for corruption on all levels. There are times when the officers fail to speak as they ought. There are times when the hierarchy itself needs to be redeemed from corruption. Prophecy is the only agency of the Spirit through which any control is exercised over the officers themselves and through which those defects and evils can be corrected, which it cannot be assumed the officers themselves will correct. There can be no doubt that the usual hostility which we see existing in the Old Testament between prophecy and the officers of Israel is continued in the history of the Church. It is part of the demonic in man that prophecy must usually meet Church authority on the level of hostility. The officers of the Church, however, are by no means the only members of the Church who are hostile to prophecy.” Authority in the Church, pages 134-140.
“Jesus uses the phrase 'to deny oneself' to end one's former existence. Repentance is a departure from the morality of reason and nature that one may live on a higher moral plane...The morality of reason and nature is not the morality which continues the life of Christ; and therefore the Christian repents of this morality...Repentance means that the Christian leaves no obstacle to the power of the Spirit of Christ, that he renounces any personal security which reposes on his own endowments or achievements or on any achievement that is purely human and secular. He resolves that he will substitute nothing for the power and work of the Spirit of Christ, no matter how good, how attractive, how beneficent the substitute seems to be.” The Power and the Wisdom, pages 147, 148.
“The Christian knows that his love is the active presence of God in the world; if he lacks it, he takes away God's presence from the only place where he can put it. He has come between his neighbor and the saving love of Jesus Christ.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 232.
“If the Christian is true to his Christian love, it may kill him, impoverish him, or disgrace him. In any hypothesis he is sure to lose at least some of those goods of this world which Jesus took some trouble to point out are of no importance.” The Power and the Wisdom, Page 232.
“It is not without interest that in the New Testament the words that signify vocation are used only of vocation to faith, not to any particular state within the Church. A person is called to be a Christian, and this means he or she is called to be one in whom Christ lives. There is no Christian who cannot bear witness to the risen Christ. Every Christian is a witness all the time. This is the fundamental vocation of the Christian. He is the living Christ; and if he does not manifest Christ, no one else will do it in his state or condition. There was a logical means of evasion for most Christians who have been faced with the choice of martyrdom. Lesser crises do not make this so luminously evident; one can always find a reason for putting off the witness in any particular situation. Perhaps we shall evade less frequently if we remind ourselves that each man bears witness by his own independent and responsible choices.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 193.
“The power of love is seen in the death of Jesus; it is seen more fully in His resurrection. For love is a communication of self; and the Christian is not identified with God in Jesus unless he is identified with Jesus risen. Christ lives. The life of a Christian is not the imitation of a dead hero—and it is worth noticing that it can become just that. The Christian lives in Christ, and Christ lives in the Christian. Death is the end of a life and the end of a world; the resurrection is the beginning of a new life and a new world. It is the reenactment of the story of Genesis 2. God again breathes into man the spirit of life (Gn 2:7), but this is the spirit of eternal life. It is a new beginning. The potentialities of man are no longer inhibited by the dominion of Sin-Death. The new life conferred upon man is the life of Jesus. The resurrection is the beginning of a new life and a new world in which Jesus is living. The revolutionary point in the Christian event is the enduring presence of God's love in Jesus Christ, the enduring presence of the power which entered the world in the incarnation. Because of this power man is enabled in any condition to live the life of Jesus and to continue in his own person the love which is the saving act. The resurrection is the climax of the saving act.” The Power and the Wisdom, pages 119-121.
“Real wealth (opulence) is now what it has always been, an unlimited amount of people to do your work for you at wages which are high enough to keep them alive and working, and low enough to keep them too tired to be ambitious. I believe we still do not know how the Pyramids were built. We do know that they were the work of a vast pool of unskilled forced labor. I suspect modern entrepreneurs have little to learn from the Pharaohs about bringing large masses of cheap labor into submission...Remove the element of human exploitation from the history of western civilization and how much 'progress' would be left. Child labor is as old as children and as recent as the morning groceries in western civilization. The whole fabric of Western civilization is totally interwoven with the need for cheap unskilled labor. There is a certain amount of dirty work that must be done to sustain the fabric of civilized living that no one is going to do unless they are forced by some compulsion (maybe fear of starvation). Civilized living might be roughly defined as the skill of living without doing the dirty work and getting someone else to do it.” The Civilization of Christianity, pages 61, 65.
"As for you, you rich, your wealth has rotted, your fine ward-robe has grown moth eaten, your gold and silver have corroded and their corrosion is testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like fire. See what you have stored up for yourselves for the last days. Here, crying aloud, are the wages you withheld from the farmhands who harvested your fields. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of host. You have lived in wanton luxury on the earth; you have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. You condemned, and even killed the just man" (James 5:1-6)... In 2 Corinthians 8-9 Paul simply says that the superfluity of some should compensate for the privation of others. When anyone is in need anyone who is not has superfluous goods. Paul was ignorant of economics or social engineering; but if there were those in dire need who were not helped, he knew the reason why help was refused and it was not the complexity of the problem.” The Civilization of Christianity, pages 83, 91.
“The sayings of Jesus about the rich, as unsympathetic as they are, contain nothing like the ferocious invective of James 5: 1-6. James echoes some of the Old Testament prophets (Am 2:6-8, 6:3-7; Is 3:14-15, 10; 1-4; Mi 2:1-3). Jesus does not. Whatever we read in the Gospels should be read as the words of One who calls sinners to repentance and who excludes no one, even scribes and Pharisees, from His call...In His saying, however, about the rich man whom He invites to renounce his wealth and become His disciple—"How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God" (Mk 10:17-20; Mt 19:16-30; Lk 18:18-30)—Jesus goes beyond the rebuke of the rich uttered by James, the Old Testament prophets and other sources. Jesus is reported as clearly saying that the rich man, just because of his wealth, cannot enter the Reign of God. This may have been what Jesus meant when He said, "Woe to you rich, for you have your consolation now" (Lk 6:24). It may help at this point if we clear away some exegetical rubbish. If the "needle's eye" were a narrow Jerusalem gate through which a loaded camel could not be led, then one got the camel through the gate by unloading the camel...Being rich, like being a scribe or a Pharisee, is not an inescapable destiny of spiritual ruin.” The Civilization of Christianity, pages 84, 85, 94.
“A Roman administrator was about as religious as the late Winston Churchill. War has always been organized murder, arson and pillage. Modern war has achieved success in these enterprises which far exceeds the successes of earlier wars. Those of us, who are old enough, can remember that modern war can be conducted only by those who are ready to renounce all principles of Christian morality...Often there is no Christian way of doing this or that, e.g., engaging in war or the merchandising of heroin.” The New Testament Without Illusion, page 228, 232.
“Our [United States'] history of violence has placed us under God's judgment... H. Rap Brown said that violence is as American as cherry pie. The statement needs correction on two counts. First, he should have said apple pie. Secondly, he should have said white violence; we Caucasians have never admitted the right of the black man, the red man, the yellow man or the brown man to block the march of white civilization by the use of violence. I do not think Mr. Brown knows how violent the white man is and he ought to know better than I do. I can support the thesis that the United States of America is the most violent nation in recorded history, including such thugs as the Assyrians, the Romans, and the much-overrated Mongols and Tartars. No nation has ever killed so many people, citizens and aliens, in so short a time. We have inherited all the violent traditions of Christian Europe together with our own violent tradition of the frontier; and if one goes back beyond the United States proper to the colonies from which the nation arose, the tradition is there from the beginning. The American Indians had nothing like the European tradition of violence, but they were acquainted with primitive forms of violence which they used to express their resentment towards white men moving onto their land. The God-fearing Christians of Massachusetts exterminated the Pequot, man, woman and child, and set the style for the treatment of the Amerind, which was maintained until 1890. That white America has turned soft and civilized in these later days, I do not believe. It is customary—with apology to the Jews— to call this a Christian nation. This statement is so manifestly false that one does not know how to frame the denial. If anyone counts on the Christian beliefs and habits of white Americans to restrain their violence, forget it.” Did I Say That? pages 69,70, 72.
“Here in the United States we were doing it (genocide) to Native Americans before anyone ever heard of Hitler, and with such traditions it should not be too hard to resume it if we are pressed.” The Civilization of Christianity, page 254.
“Love—the love of God for human beings, of human beings for God, and of human beings for human beings—is both the dominant pathos and the central moral theme of the New Testament. There is no book of the New Testament in which love is not mentioned, and the kind of love which is specifically Christian was so much a novelty that to express its revolutionary significance, it was necessary to infuse new meaning into a Greek word rarely seen in profane literature: 'agape'." Mastering the Meaning of the Bible, page 29.
“The personal transformation of the Christian is a mystery that cannot be pierced; but the effects of the transformation are set forth clearly—with such clarity, in fact, that Christians sometimes try to make them more obscure than they are. The pivot of the Christian moral revolution is love [agape]. This is the entirely new and unique feature of Christian moral teaching; it is not the center of a moral structure, it is the entire moral structure. No one questions the centrality of love in New Testament morality; it is questionable whether Christians have always grasped how different it is and how total it is. I venture to state its totality by saying that in the New Testament and act which is not an act of love has no moral value at all. There is no moral action in Christian life except the act of love.” The Power and the Wisdom, pages 229, 230.
“Love is the supreme motivation of the officers and members of the Church; with this motivation anything like a power structure is forever excluded from the Church. Love is the only power which the New Testament knows. The transformation of the Church into a power structure is not confirmation of authority, but a perversion of authority. Authoritarian power is foreign to every line in the New Testament in which authority is mentioned… Power, more than other things, recommends itself as a means for a noble end. Perhaps even as the sole means by which great good can be accomplished. It is not always easy to discern that when one puts one's faith in power, one effectively gives up one's faith in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Authority in the Church, pages 76, 85, 130.
“The New Testament speaks of love because it rises out of an uncreated love. The Christian event is not violent; and its effect are not felt through vulgar power. Jesus Himself spoke of its power in the parables of the leaven and the mustard seed. It arouses no hot passions and it does not divide except when rejected: Jesus, the Word of God, said He came to bring not peace but the sword. ["The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart" Heb 4:12.] Man's resistance to the inbreak of God creates a situation compared to which most revolutions are child's play. The Christian event, however, moves not to take anything away, but to give man something, love. Man resists it. Man is not ready for love. He never has been. Yet, it is the one enduring reality in the created world, and in it man achieves enduring reality and value.” The Power and the Wisdom, pages, 292, 293.
“I cannot, if I profess to be a Christian, support any war as a means to achieve any human objective, no matter how noble it may be.” Source, page 109.
“Reason demands moderation in love as in all things; faith destroys moderation here. Faith in Jesus Christ tolerates a moderate love of one's fellow man no more than it tolerates a moderate love between God and man.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 231.
“I know a woman who is an authentic pacifist. Of crime she says simply that she will not resist, that she would meet the criminal as one in dire need, that she would give him what he demanded because he is in dire need. Our ethics of crime and punishment are the same as our ethics of the just war. In both issues the existing ethical forms must be shattered; to coin a phrase, you cannot put new wine in old wine skins. My friend has shattered them. She believe that Jesus has made the only pertinent remark to the question; that we must forgive, that we must bear iniquity, that we must go the second mile, and give the cloak in addition to the shirt and turn the other cheek. I hope she is not found dying on the street some day; but if she should be, she would regard this as a redemptive work. The criminal, like the law-abiding citizen, will be saved only by Christ-like love. He has to be taught the meaning of that love by experiencing it.” Did I Say That?, pages 36, 37.
“The scholar is considered a threat to the faith of the unlearned because he or she proposes opinions and conclusions which cannot be reconciled with popular belief. Reasons are found why scholars should not disturb popular belief even when it is in error, for it is alleged that it is better to leave people in error, which they have so long cherished and from which they have reaped so much devotion, rather than shock and disturb them with the truth. This principle by logical dexterity is maintained together with another favorite principle, the principle that 'error has no right to exist'." When both principles are applied, it means that the scholar should propose nothing which might possibly be erroneous, while the faithful are free to retain errors as long as they are old errors and not new errors. The faith of many has been shaken when the teaching of the Church has been reduced to less that its full truth; the faith of just as many, or more, has been shaken when unenlightened teachers impose upon them as beliefs of the Church things which are not true.” Myths and Realities, pages 30, 31.
“Like all my contemporaries on seminary faculties, I had been reared on the ethics of the just war... We were all taught the traditional Catholic morality that while killing a person is morally neutral, bedding him or her is intrinsically evil. We may find reasons for doing away with a person, but we can never find a moral justification for bedding the person, except marriage. There is something fallacious about the thinking which finds illicit sexual relations intrinsically evil but killing people morally neutral: all you need is a sufficiently good reason. Why that does not work for sexual intercourse I do not know….(But) I never thought I would live long enough to see carnal intercourse become as morally neutral as killing. Modern science and philosophy have made of carnal intercourse a 'meaningful interpersonal relations.' To me the 'meaningful interpersonal relations' is just as phony a piece of morality as the just war theory. I call them both phony.” The Civilization of Christianity, page, 11, 13, 126.
"I know, and perhaps I should say, that the Catholic church has been for centuries a kept church, the chaplains and spiritual lackeys of the rich and the powerful. It has not done its duty to proclaim to the wealthy as well as to the poor that those who have more should bring equality to pass by sharing what they have with those who have less to the point where there is a sufficiency for all and superabundance for none." Source, p. 113
"The first question is this: does liberation theology invite me to engage in a war, and indeed, in a class war, the ugliest kind of strife known, where humanity most quickly and surely becomes inhuman? Perhaps that is not the meaning of the invitation; but unless I am totally bereft of my wits, my mail and certain publications contain invitations to watch over the garments of those who throw stones, to put it mildly. These are invitations to support political activities with purposes which cannot be realistically achieved without violence, and a violence which will be carried on without quarter until the extermination of the enemies. Possibly I ask no more than a moderation of rhetoric. Revolutions have always fed upon inflated rhetoric. If one reads the rhetoric of the rebellious colonies of North America in 1776, one would never suspect that the rebellion was a coalition of oligarchs, the slave traders and the rumrunners of Boston and the slave-owning planters of Virginia. These wealthy middle-class gentlemen were hardly those who claims were being forged on the plains of Boston. I am not suggesting an analogy, merely pointing out that one learns to be skeptical about revolutionary rhetoric. It all sounds very much alike; and if it can make George Washington and John Adams victims of an oppressive tyrant, it could sell refrigerators to Eskimos." Source, page 109
“I am not questioning the integrity of any liberation theologian’s struggle to free theology from its historic role of intellectual lackey to the ruling propertied class...But a reason for rejecting liberation theology is its ambiguity about the use of violence. As far as I can see they have bought the ethics of the just war or just revolution.” The Civilization of Christianity, page 192.
“It takes very little skill in speech or writing to say clearly that one rejects violence whether it is committed by the oppressor or the oppressed, and no theological education to see that Jesus with a machine gun does not come off as an authentic figure.” The Civilization of Christianity, page 195
“If the Roman Catholic Church were to decide to join the Mennonites in refusing violence, I doubt whether our harmonious relations with the government would endure the day after the decision.” The Civilization of Christianity, pages 159.
“I believe that both here and elsewhere the Church can avoid persecution by surviving as it has so far, that is by being the lackey of the establishment of wealth and power, that is, by not being the Church.” The Civilization of Christianity, page 218.
“We have tried to produce a form of Christianity that will be tolerable to those who believe that the best way to deal with your enemies is to beat their heads in. And, we have done this. We have produced the Christian ethic of the just war. This is not the New Testament, and every theologian knows it.” How Relevant is the Bible?, page 213.
“The duty of the proclamation of the Gospel has often included the danger that someone would get killed. Jesus Himself said that this danger was nearest to the proclaimer. He said in the same context that the proclaimer must have trust in the Father, who can do things impossible to diplomacy. The radical reality of the Gospels is the reality of grace and there is just no calculating what grace can do.” Did I Say That?, page 142,
“May one withhold the proclamation of Gospel in order to save innocent lives? [Which innocent lives?] From the beginning of the Church we have observed that the proclamation of the Gospel has been risky. The risk is never an excuse for suppressing the Gospel. What assurance can we have that silence will save innocent lives? The pilgrim Church can learn much from the experience of the Second World War. One wonders if it has learned anything. The vacuum of public moral leadership which Pius XII thought he could not afford to fill is still there.” The Civilization of Christianity, page 88.
“I have said elsewhere that Jesus is the Messiah of Judaism and that He can only be understood as the Messiah of Judaism. I stand by this observation; but I do not believe it obliges me to find faith in Jesus Messiah in the Old Testament nor to base faith in Jesus Messiah in the Old Testament. Jesus transformed the idea of Messiah when He fulfilled it. The total reality of Jesus Messiah is found nowhere in the Old Testament, not even in its totality. Jesus, however, could have emerged from nothing except Israel and the Old Testament; but the study of the Old Testament does not demand that Jesus Messiah emerge from it...It is the history of Israel that sets Jesus apart from all culture-heroes, king-saviors, cosmic men, and mythological bearers of life; or, in modern terms political saviors, economic prophets, scientific sages, military heroes, and psychotherapists bearers of life. It is remarkable when one reflects that only as the Savior of Israel can Jesus be recognized as none of these other things. The role of Jesus can be protected from distortion only by holding fast its connection with Biblical antecedents: a non-Israelite, non-Biblical Jesus makes no sense.” A Theology of the Old Testament, pages 28, 322.
“I have been a convinced pacifist for twenty years [c.1953]. This conviction began with the teaching of the Old Testament prophets...I have, however, sat in judgment on Old Testament writers. The Christian faith makes demands which are incompatible even with the religion of which the prophets are one of its components. As Jesus cannot be understood without the Old Testament, so He is not found in His full reality in the Old Testament. Jesus arises from the categories of the Old Testament but He surpasses them.” A Theology of the Old Testament, pages 24, 323.
“The Old Testament contains many statements of doctrine which Christians cannot believe and of morality which Christians cannot practice. As far as I can tell, the bloodthirsty Israelites of David's time or the bloodthirsty Romans of Jesus' time were quite as ready for the Gospel as are my contemporaries. The principles of life which we attribute to Jesus make the theology of the holy war quite impossible. The life which Jesus proclaimed cannot be fostered, advanced, or protected by any kind of war, holy or unholy. Surely, one may say, there must be situations in which the conflict between good and evil can be perceived in elemental terms, where a Christian can indeed take sides without compromising with evil. I wish I could find such instances; and I wish to leave no doubt that it is not mere cynicism which leads me to say this. It seems a safe general statement to say that in the wars of which we have any information there has been no side which God could have taken without dishonoring Himself.” The Old Testament Without Illusion, page 86, 259, 263.
“The Savior God of Second Isaiah [and his Suffering Servant] would have been gibberish to David…The Biblical revelation—if I may use the word—is a revelation of human potentialities which are first seen as worthy of God, and then as demanded by the reality of God. These potentialities are then demanded by God of human beings, and ultimately made possible by God; this is one of the meanings of grace. I simply do not believe in the Great Warrior God who exterminated the Canaanites. Some who share my faith do. They also profess belief in Jesus Christ the Son of God who said that he who would save his life must lose it, and who implied that a good way to lose it quickly is to love those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you. How does one speak of a god who exhibits both these features [Great Warrior and love of enemies]? I am compelled to say simply that he does not exist, and that those who profess this monstrous faith worship an idol. That they are sincere touches me lightly: so I suppose were most of the worshippers of Baal and Anath, and most witch-burners.” Religion and the Humanizing of Man, Plenary Address, International Congress of Learned Societies in the Field of Religion, Trinity College (1972)
“The fourth Servant Song (Is 52:13-53:12) is the crux interpretum of the Old Testament. The idea of mission is clear. We need to know, however, who is the subject of the mission and to whom the mission is directed. It is the very ambiguity of these questions which permitted Christian interpreters, beginning in the New Testament, to affirm that the passage is a prediction of the redeeming death of Christ. In the opinion of many Jesus Himself interpreted His role in terms of the Suffering Servant. The author of the Targum of Isaiah did not think it applicable to Israel, or indeed to any situation he could think of, for he transformed the passage into a statement of the victory of the conquering King Messiah. The idea of mission as a proclamation of revealed doctrine could be understood and accepted. But mission as the acceptance of undeserved judgment was too much for this scribe as it has been too much for most readers of the Servant Songs and of the Gospels.” A Theology of the Old Testament, page 297.
“Both for Jews and Greeks the proclamation of the Suffering Servant was a negation of their highest values. The early Church attributed the proclamation of this theme to Jesus Himself and no convincing reason has been urged to show it should be attributed to another. It is as deeply imbedded in the Gospels as anything else; to repeat what I have said in other connections, if this theme is not the work of Jesus Himself then we know nothing about His words or His person. It is the peak of faith in the Old Testament, the supreme affirmation of the power of God and the weakness of man. When we meet the theme of the Suffering Servant as proclaimed in the New Testament, we are at the very center of the Christian revolution.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 98, 99.
“There has long been a tradition in Christianity which has cultivated a mystique of suffering for its own sake. Many Christian ascetics have sought fuller identification with Jesus as the Suffering Servant by the deliberate refusal of pleasure and the deliberate infliction of pain on themselves. A morbid form of this asceticism keeps pleasure from others and inflicts pain on others. The number of venerable names associated with this tradition is alarming. The Flagellates and the Penitentes have been rejected by the Church. Mere cultivation of pain does not assure identity with Jesus the Suffering Son of Man. Mere animal pain does not save. Identity with Jesus suffering is first of all identity with Jesus loving; to put it in a single word.” The Power and the Wisdom, page 103.
“As a prayerbook the Book of Psalms has to be accepted with certain reservations; it may be a merely personal quirk, but Psalm 119 says nothing which I wish to say to God on those occasions when I am impelled speak to him. There are a few other Psalms which I have never been able to use as prayers with any sincerity. Others might say that Psalm 109 sticks in their throat; if you wonder why, I suggest that you read it. The same could be said for Psalm 137” Source, p. 186.
“We cannot leave our discussion of the Psalms without referring to that one feature of them which is perhaps the greatest stumbling block to the modern reader: Imprecations, such as those we read in Psalms 68 (69) and 108 (109), and the appalling simplicity of Psalm 136 (137): “Happy the man who shall seize your little ones and dash them against the rock.” However the Hebrews may have felt about their Babylonian conquerors, we are not edified by a prayer that another conqueror may dash out the brains of Babylonian infants. Many are the expressions of dissatisfaction with such utterances, and many the attempts to rationalize them...Now Christians, like unbelievers, rarely turn the other cheek; when evil threatens their lives, their country, their goods the defend themselves with violence, as they feel morally free to do; they believe that they may, within the limits of Christian charity, desire that others suffer evil and inflict evil themselves upon others. We Christian are not, perhaps, so spiritually advanced beyond the ancient Hebrews as we sometimes like to think.” The Two-Edged Sword, pages 283-284.
“Pope and Bishops must proclaim the entire reality of Jesus Christ. The must proclaim that Western men and women will escape the ultimate horror only by attending to the person and words of Jesus. Like Paul, that is all they have to say; so let us say it.” The Civilization of Christianity, page 242.
“We Christians believe that Jesus is God's last word. What he is represented as saying makes it totally impossible to incorporate the genocide of the holy war into a Christian life.” Source p. 167, 168.
“The teachings of Jesus, as reported in the Gospels, is simple and without subtlety; it is addressed to the mental age of 12 years (as I'm told most television programs are addressed). The moral instructions of Jesus, as I have said before, are not hard to understand; they are just hard to do. We have devoted our intellectual subtlety to evading the words of Jesus, or to convincing ourselves that doing something else is just as good and a lot more practical.” Source, p. 176.
“Think like Christ: What will that do to our world of values which we have built up by habit and conviction in our years from childhood, which we have learned from our parents and teachers, from our peers, from our friends and enemies—with whom we share many values—from our reading, from the stage and screen, and now from the omnipresent television? Think like Christ—and how much of what we adore would we have to burn?” Source, p. 179, 180.
“Both the Gospels and Epistles insist that thinking like Jesus is a personal responsibility which each must fulfill for himself or herself. Source p. 181.
"No one is so lacking in talent or education or so underprivileged that the mind of Christ is beyond their grasp.” Source, p. 184.
“If we know anything at all about the words of Jesus, we know that he was not indifferent to human pain. Fear of compromising his divinity has often kept Christians from seeing how deeply human pain entered into his soul. Jesus never said that suffering is not real, or that it does not hurt much, or that it passes quickly, or that it is good for you. He seems to have recommended something too simple, which does not touch the theoretical problem of suffering. His response to suffering was: stop hurting each other. That much anyone can do; if you cannot do that much, do not form a study group.” Source, p. 60.
“It has long seemed strange to me that Jesus should have been regarded as a mystic, an idealist, a dreamer, when these qualities could have been much more properly applied to many of his contemporaries; Jesus was a practical person in the sense that he proposed a program which anyone could follow.” Source, p. 110
“Too often in the modern world we take refuge behind such excuses as 'everybody does it.' Was it ever different in any society? My friend Gordon Zahn in recent years wrote about a German peasant named Franz Jagerstatter who refused the advice of his bishop, his priest, his neighbors and his family. He stubbornly resisted going along with National Socialism, although “everybody was doing it,” and he maintained this position in spite of no more than elementary education and apparently much less native intelligence than many who apparently served National Socialism with a good conscience, or at least a quiet conscience. Of course it cost him his life; he was beheaded. He died having saved something which those who survived had lost; they better than anyone else can tell what that is. I do not know whether Jagerstatter always thought like Christ; he succeeded in doing so at the most critical moment of his life—a little lonely man without power and prestige who showed that anyone can think like Christ.” Source, p, 182.
“I write as a citizen of a nation which has shown no repentance of the horrors it has done, from the genocide of the American Indians to the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the savaging of Vietnam. I wrote above of the “micro separation” of church and state. But at the moment this is not my concern; my concern is with putting on the mind of Christ so that I can make Christian moral decisions in my state of life, my profession, my complex of human relations which is uniquely mine.” Source, p. 182,183.
“I do know that Jesus has shown what one individual, no matter how small and insignificant he or she may be, can do to overcome evil where he or she meets it. I know that he has shown that complete human fulfillment is altogether independent of all the things which we associate with the good life.” Source p. 61, 62.
“Not every expression of liturgical piety is to everyone's taste, nor has it ever been; but the Christian who thinks he or she does not need the concrete existing church in order to pray, or that he or she does it better alone, has some things to learn about who Jesus Christ is, what the church is, and who he or she is. We have to bear one another and forgive one another even when we pray together.” Source, p. 190, 191
“Christians know what Jesus meant when he said that if you cherish a grudge, do not even attempt to pray until it is settled (Matthew 5:23 -24).” Source, p. 191.
“I believe that all that I know or think I know about God is derived from what Jesus was, said and did. I believe that the little we have left of what he said and did tells us more about how we can now in our world realize the possibilities of human existence than all the wisdom of the past and present—that is he tells us something about how to live that no one else has ever told us. I apply to him what the late Vince Lombardi said about winning: Jesus is not an important person, he is the only person. I believe that he is now truly alive, as no one who ever lived and died is truly alive.” The Civilization of Christianity, page 17.
- Murray, John Courtney SJ,(1975). No Famine in the Land: Studies in Honor of John L. McKenzie (1975), Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, page 4.
- Book Review (1967). The Thomist Review Vol. 20, p. 355
- Peter Steinfels (1991). "Rev. John L. McKenzie, 80, Dies; Leader in Catholic Bible Research," New York Times, March 6.
- The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, Image Books, 2008, p. 431.