The Little Book of Biblical Justice by Chris Marshall
Reviewed by Norman Gottwald
It is amazing what this “little” book accomplishes in 67 pages! The author, a theological educator in New Zealand, sets forth the essential ingredients of justice as commonly understood (distribution, power, equity and rights), preparatory to a comprehensive account of justice as a central theme of the Bible.
Marshall points out that The Hebrew & Greek words translated “justice” – supplemented by synonyms for or aspects of justice (eg. righteousness, justification, peace and even mercy and salvation) – occur more than 1,000 time in the two testaments.
Since human justice is rooted in the justice of God, Marshall explains, it follows that all people joined to God in the harmony and wholeness of covenantal shalom are of necessity obligated agents of justice. The Bible throughout identifies concrete behaviors that are just and those that are unjust.
The concreteness of the justice enacted by Jesus is precisely set forth in his two-fold strategy of spiritual and political action: (1) a total rejection of social discrimination, (2) a sharp critique of economic injustice.
Thus, the heartbeat of justice is no less true of the New Testament than of the Hebrew Bible. It is a misconception that the New Testament is solely a book of love and forgiveness. God’s justice incarnated in Jesus is restorative, setting right the conditions for love and forgiveness to prevail. To love this God is to join in God’s campaign to restore justice to humanity.
“Biblical justice is a joyful justice, not a grim justice.” writes Marshall. “It is joyful because it restores, heals and makes things right.”