SLAY THEM BEFORE ME
Commentary by Jim Walker
"But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me."
Some have argued whether Luke 19:27 constitutes part of the parable of the Ten Pounds (Luke 19:11-26) or that it comes after the end of the parable, as a kind of end statement that resolves the parable in the "real" world, (similar to the last verse of the Good Samaritan parable).
I submit that if we take Luke 19:27 as included in the parable, Jesus becomes more morally atrocious and his decency even more questionable in view of the parable lesson. Moreover, the credibility of his morals yields a far more staggering blow to Christendom's ethic than if taken literally.
The intent of a New Testament parable (as preachers love to claim), aims at teaching a moral lesson that the faithful should take seriously. If not, what should we make of the parable about the Good Samaritan where Jesus ends by saying, "Go, and do thou likewise" (Luke 10:37)? Or the parable about the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10)? Should we chalk up any of Jesus's parables to, "Oh, it's just a parable, we shouldn't take it seriously"? Of course not. The Parable of the Ten Pounds aims to teach a lesson about disobeying your "Nobleman" (no doubt the author of Luke meant to put Jesus as the nobleman). Believers can replace "servants" with themselves or someone else, but what could they possibly replace for the conclusion of the lesson: "slay them before me"?
Slay means to kill by violent means. You would have to replace slay with "kill," "slaughter," "exterminate," or any other synonym that comes close to "slay." Regardless of which word you choose, it must not lessen the intent of the parable. One could not use milder concepts like "punish" or "chasten" because they mean entirely different things than slay. It would also damage Jesus' credibility to suggest that he did not choose the proper metaphorical word to convey in his parable.
If, instead, we take Luke 19:27 as literal instead of parable, then the slaying would have to occur in front of Jesus during his limited physical life on earth. After he died on the cross, an apologist could claim the slaying ended at his death. But as parable, it transcends the physical. It becomes transcendent to Jesus who no longer lives in the physical realm. His presence resides in heaven and in the hearts and souls of all Christian believers. The Bible has a clear message as to where "before me" occurs. For followers to accept the lesson of their Jesus, they would have to slay their enemies before Him where He resides in their souls or in Heaven! This is precisely the kind of interpretation that Christians used to fuel the Crusades, Inquisitions and pogroms throughout the history of Christendom.
For example, in 1208, Arnald-Amalric remarked, "Kill them all. God will recognize his own," (when asked by the Crusaders what to do with the citizens of Beziers who where a mixture of Catholics and Cathars). This kind of atrocity plays right along with the parable in Luke.
If we take the entire Bible in context, Jesus' parable certainly agrees with the ordering of slaying by God in the Old Testament. If you believe in the concept of the Trinity, then you connect Jesus directly with all the slaying of men, women, and children by God-Jesus-Ghost. Furthermore, the New Testament, unmistakably, has Jesus admitting to willful slaying: "I will strike her children dead" (Jesus in Rev. 2:23 NRSV). Certainly Christians should not doubt the will of Jesus, should they?
If an apologist wishes to back out of this problem by saying that Jesus did not intend to put himself as the target of nobleman, then the parable becomes even more atrocious. We can then put any "Nobleman" in this context. Imagine dragging an unlawful citizen to the feet of the president of the United States and slaying him at his feet; or put yourself in place of the nobleman and ordering your followers to slay your enemies. No matter which way a believer tries to extricate himself from this difficulty, parable or not, it leads to problems.
The only way out, comes from asserting that Jesus did not say those words, and indeed, the Bible errs here, or... OR... (add a drum roll here) perhaps the Bible bases its stories on ill-thought-out conjectures that relies on faith instead of reason & evidence and that we shouldn't use the Bible for establishing morals and ethical behavior.