Killer Saints?

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by Neil Godfrey

There’s a footnote in Brodie’s The Crucial Bridge I paid little attention to until I heard a radio discussion about Japanese warrior Samurai becoming Buddhist monks.

Then I thought again about Brodie’s footnote (p.12-13)

Killer Moses

Moses kills the Egyptian, then runs off to talk to God and become a saint. Brodie sees the murder being implicitly condemned in Ex.2:11-15:

On one occasion, after Moses had grown up, when he visited his kinsmen and witnessed their forced labor, he saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his own kinsmen. Looking about and seeing no one, he slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out again, and now two Hebrews were fighting! So he asked the culprit, “Why are you striking your fellow Hebrew?” But he replied, “Who has appointed you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses became afraid and thought, “The affair must certainly be known.” Pharaoh, too, heard of the affair and sought to put him to death. But Moses fled from him and stayed in the land of Midian.

Killer Elijah

Elijah kills the priests of Baal, then like Moses runs off to talk to God too. Brodie again sees the possibility that the text implicitly condemns Elijah’s murders by associating them with the blood lust of Jehu:

Compare 1 Kgs 18:40

Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Let none of them escape!” They were seized, and Elijah had them brought down to the brook Kishon and there he slit their throats.

with 2 Kgs 10:25

Then it came about, as soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the royal officers,” Go in, kill them; let none come out.” And they killed them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the royal officers threw them out, and went to the inner room of the house of Baal.

Brodie comments: “If Elijah’s initial killing of the Baalites is to be linked with the initial murder committed by Moses, then it becomes part of a series of biblical texts which show several leading characters as having had murder in their hearts . . .”

Killer David

See 2 Samuel 11 for the story of his plotting the death of Uriah

Killer Paul

Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest (Acts 9:1)

Would-be Killer Peter

Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus. (John 18:10)


Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. (John 18:2-3)

Sorry, forgot, he’s only a saint in the Gospel of Judas (and nearly one in Archer-Moloney’s Judas gospel — if only Jesus had included him in that transfiguration vision Judas would have been all right! That’s what comes of playing favourites. You get to die, save the world, but condemn one poor hapless bugger to eternal shame in the process.)

Child-killer Elisha

Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria. (2 Kgs 2:23-2)

Brodie comments: “Curiously the account of Elisha’s curse mentions Mount Carmel (2 Kgs 2:25), the place where Elijah first ordered the killing (2 Kgs 18:40). This adds plausibility to the idea of some link or continuity between Elijah’s command to kill and Elisha’s deathly curse.”

Vridar asks: Does one have to have blood on one’s hands to qualify as a top saint?

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Neil Godfrey

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