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Posted March 28, 2006

Book: Jesus is Shalom: A Vision of Peace from the Gospels
Author: Joseph A. Grassi
Paulist Press, NY, 2006, pp.158

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Jesus is Shalom studies the true meaning of peace found in the New Testament documents. This biblical peace differs greatly from definitions of peace commonly found in the dictionary or newspaper. The New Testament reveals that there was a struggle between true and deceptive meanings of peace around the time of Jesus and afterward.

The gospel presents a portrait of Jesus as a Messiah of peace and nonviolence – an image that involves serious decisions and challenges to both daily lifestyle and the violent, war-torn world we live in. Peace can only be realized and understood from the full image and meaning of shalom as found in the Hebrew Bible. This shalom has a deep religious meaning as flowing from God and is only acquired with the help of prayer and a commitment to God. In this book we find hope, encouragement, and practical examples needed to transform our own lives and – by contagious example — the violent atmosphere of so much of the world around us.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Meanings of Shalom – Examples from a Wide Range of Usage

The word peace is found 165 times in the Hebrew Bible, but indirect references to the word many times more. The verb root shalam follows the world image of wholeness, finishing, or completeness. For example, “All the work that King Solomon did on the house of the LORD was finished.” In fact there is likely a deliberate parallel in sounds between the common SLM consonants in the Hebrew words shalom, “finish,” and Solomon.

The cognate verb or noun shalem brings out the dimension of perfection or fullness. For example, King Solomon addressed the people with these words, “Let your heart be perfect before the LORD our God to walk in his statutes and to keep his commandments.” In giving this and other examples, sometimes the same meaning may be conveyed by a parallel word, for example, tom, Hebrew for “perfect.” The Qumran Community near the Jordan River called themselves a community of the “perfect” because they made an additional vow to share their possessions.

The prominent area of peace was that of “covenant,” found some 300 times in the Hebrew Bible. There were covenants with individuals, families, nations, and above all with God as the supreme covenant of peace. God declares through Isaiah: “For the mountains may depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you. The motives for this covenant are God’s “steadfast love,” a translation of chesed, a contractual love, and rachum, a womb-compassionate love. For individual relationships, a close friend was “a person of my peace.” David laments that even the “man of my shalom, in whom I trusted, has lifted his heel against me.” Jesus quotes this verse at the Last Supper to describe Judas, one of the Twelve and a close friend who was about to betray him.

However, unlike God, no human being is ever perfect in keeping covenants of peace. So they are needed to continually renew and refresh them. This was done with a sacrifice called a shelem, a peace offering. These are mentioned 85 times in the Bible, usually on some joyful occasion. Everyday there was a peace offering in the Temple, with increased numbers on feasts and private occasions. They were not only community offerings but were also used to cement relationships. In view of the world Internet type of relationships with one another and with God, the lifeblood of the animal was given to God, then part of the peace offering to a priest, and the rest was shared in a banquet with others. Meat was a delicacy, so the animal was especially raised for such festive occasions. There was on intention of slaughter for its own sake.

Table of Contents:

1. The biblical meaning of shalom: a brief primer of peace
2. The gospel of Mark: building a new world peace temple
3. The gospel of Matthew: peacemaking a divided community
4. The gospel of Luke: “Peace on Earth” — roots and practice of peace and nonviolence
5. The gospel of John: Pax Romana vs. Pax Christi