October 25, 2020

Scot McKnight on Zealotry

Simon the Zealot

Simon the Zealot

Our friend Scot McKnight gave permission for us to piggy-back on his discussion from yesterday on the subject of zealotry.

In the following excerpt from his post on Jesus Creed, Scot describes what Christian zealotry is and what it does, and he contrasts this approach with those who walk in genuine freedom in Christ. He gives some Biblical examples and then invites us to contribute examples from our own experiences.

Thanks, Scot.

* * *

Zealotry is the choice to protect holiness by living beyond what the Bible says, and it finds in that zeal a source of immunity from being wrong. I contend that zealotry reflects an absence of trust in God’s Word. Its motivation is the fear of freedom. Its environment is inevitable: judgmentalism and boundary-marking that together destroy, in separable ways, the unity in Christ. God’s people were not meant to be penguins, waddling all alike, but instead freed, separable, unique individuals who live in community.|inline

I’ve never seen zealots who weren’t also judgmental; I’ve never seen those freed in the Spirit who were judgmental. The freed know the tranquility of where they belong in God’s society; zealots don’t know where they belong and therefore do not know where others belong.

The freed do love others and, in so loving others, care for their moral development; zealots seek to control others, and therefore do not love others properly and do not lead others into moral development but into conformity.

Zealots judge and sometimes condemn others who do not live by their rules, who explore things they are uncomfortable with — not because they’ve thought through it but because they don’t trust others to make good decisions. The freed, however, can live with the ambiguity that freedom in the Spirit creates: they can trust God to work with others, they can trust others to be responsible, and they can trust another group to discern its way in this world. The freed can render judgment as discernment, the zealots only judgment as condemnation. The freed can say “that’s not good, that’s not wise,” the zealot will say “you are bad.”

(By the way, and off the record, in this post — when we combine fences and judgmentalism — we’ve wandered into legalism. But that’s a different post.)

How far would Jesus have gotten if he had lived by the fences of zealotry? How much table fellowship with sinners would have ever taken place? None. Ever. He suffered the judgment of zealotry, but he pressed on anyway. Why? Because he knew that God made people to live in freedom in order to love God and to love others and that was the essence of what it meant to be a spiritual person. It was what the Torah was pointing to then and it was the Torah is pointing to now. This is what my Jesus Creed is all about.

Zealots who judge and build walls lose touch with the essence of the Torah, because they break trust with God and break down trust with others.

Jesus’ harshest demands were reserved for Pharisees who had learned to construct fences around the Torah and who rendered judgment on others by those fences. They thought their fences were protecting people from breaking Torah; Jesus thought their fences were (1) boundary marking and (2) preventing people from living in the freedom of God and (3) a failure to trust the sufficiency of Torah/Bible and (4) they were leading others astray. Matt 23.

So, the fence makers inevitably end up judging others who don’t live by their fences, who jump their fences and who mess around with the Torah by living on the edge and by experimenting in God’s grace with how to live in a new day and a new way.

James blasts away at those who judge others; try reading James 2.

Paul accuses the Galatians of tearing the body of Christ apart by constructing boundaries and by not living in the freedom of the Spirit.

John was willing to reduce God’s will to love God and to love one another. Read 1 John.

Zealots, however, would rather construct fences, build walls, and create boundaries. They fracture the Body of Christ and they deprive the community of followers from the freedom God has given us.

Zealotry is to construct rules beyond the Bible and, in so doing, to consider oneself immune from criticism because of radical commitment. What we have learned is that such a radical commitment is actually a fearful commitment rather than a life of freedom.

What are some examples?

We could give plenty.

Let me hear from you some examples where (1) people add to the Bible and (2) create a sense of holy zealotry that leads to immunity and (3) leads people not to be or do what God wants us to be or do. Got some examples?


  1. Most every organization practices “zealotry” in one manner or another. The local body that I am a member of requires that all bible teachers, board members, etc. refrain from drinking alcohol. Not even an occasional beer or glass of wine, not even in the privacy of one’s home, because it may give the impression to “weaker brethren” that drinking to excess is OK. No bible is really quoted, It is just the pastors belief.

    Another example, and this is MY hobby horse, is teaching on tithing. There are those who believe that we are required to give 10%, or more, even if it means defaulting on bills and FOOD FOR THE FAMILY! Their logic is a misappropriation of that dreaded passage in Malachi. I have tried, as a Sunday School teacher, to tilt at this particular windmill, but to no effect. This is just superstition, or magical thinking and it is firmly entrenched.

    • Wow…what about charity beginning at home, and attending to one’s own household???

      Heard a Dave Ramsey call from a woman who was leaving a church where the pastor WENT SHOPPING with members and made them buy things for the church to use and food and products for the pastor’s own HOME?

      I would have a hard time hearing this around me, Oscar.

  2. Steve Newell says

    This view of the word “Zealot” has nothing to do with the original definition. Zealots were a movement that fought against the occupation of palatine by Roman.

    Jesus had a zealot and a Roman tax collector as two of his disciples.

    • They were called zealots for a reason. The word indicates a strong, even fanatical adherence to a cause, sometimes to the point of violence in defending or advocating for that cause.

      • Steve Newell says

        Is being a zealot a bad thing?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Usually not if you’re the zealot, at least in your own mind…

        • I agree with HUG’s comment. Being a zealot isn’t usually a bad thing, to the one who is a zealot. To everyone else, zealots tend to come across as arrogant and obnoxious. Humility, willingness to listen, seeking win-win…those are a few qualities that aren’t usually in a zealot’s toolbox.

          • The Pharisees certainly viewed Jesus as a zealot. Of the many ways of typifying Jesus’ objective as related in the narratives given to us by the New Testament, seeking a win-win situation has to be among the least adequate.

          • I disagree, Robert. I think Jesus sought win-win in almost every engagement. His death on the cross, which on the surface looked LOSE-win, was the ultimate win-win.

          • I agree with Rick Ro. Jesus was no zealot because His goal was reconciliation with the Father. A zealot would force people into a corner and then brow beat them into submission. Jesus’ way was MUCH more gentle.

          • I see your point, Rick Ro. But Jesus was often confrontational in his approach to religious and state authority. Perhaps we can make a distinction between being zealous and being a zealot?

        • I’m with you Steve. CM defined it as “strong, fanatical adherence to a cause.” When I read that, I thought to myself….hmmm…..sounds like Jesus’ true followers.

  3. I find that people become zealots over their praise and worship music. I have been shut down when I expressed dislike for such music and that I preferred hymns.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Three words: Young Earth Creationism.

    Three more words: Pre Trib Rapture.

    And on the secular side of the divide, you find them in politics and various fandoms (anime, gamer, furry) as the extreme fringe of Fanboys.

  5. I can think of many examples….but one area where I think zealots are born is over the issue of “doctrine”. Looking back I think there should be a lot of room for differing intrepretations due to human history and thinking differently. For exam[ple after 1200 years of debate or discussion on differing views how one could say “This is how it is…” and immediatly dismss experience, seminary training, practical knowledge, or very experience. Yet it happens….

    Looking back I think this is why I was attarcted to John Piper he establishes fences and he goes after those who have differing interpretations. And I assumed that one would have to be like that and live faith, so I lived in such a way. Here in Washington, D.C. one of my friends studied under Greg Boyd at Bethel College. Since John Piper hated Greg Boyd I believed I should also hate Boyd. And I did, I gave my friend such crap in 2006, 2007 over his liking of Boyd. After I hit bottom in 2009 I began to see how much hate there was in Christianity. In the churhces I was involved in I saw a lot of people who followed John MacArthur, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, etc… And they often immitated them. That was part of the reason why I fled Christiianity. (there were many reasons and I blogged about them also – how Christians view disatsers, accountability partner misforunte, seeing the prosperity gospel in fundementalism, intense doubt. etc… )

    However, I also leanred that zealotry knows no limits. When I attended the Reason Rally here in Washington, D.C. I heard speaker after speak in the New Atheist Movement. I listened to Herment Mehta (Friendly Atheist), Greta Christina, and Richard Dawkins. It slowly hit me and I had an “a-ha” moment that fundementalism exists outside Christianity as well. For all intents and purposes when I heard Richard Dawkins speak, I very well could have listened to John Piper. It was the same hate, the same rhetoric…just coming from a different direction.

    And that bothered me. Here I was I ran from one form of hate only to embrace another. I was such a fool. Such a fool….

    • Wow, Eagle, I hope everyone reads your post. I’m standing right there with you.

      • Now I’m curious. Nobody’s perfect I’m sure, but Greg Boyd seems like a hard guy to hate. What was that about? I’ll plug boyd’s book, Repenting of Religion…

        • The reformed crowd led by John Piper have hated Greg Boyd becuase of open theism. John Piper has tried to get Greg Boyd fired from Bethel college over the issue. And its not just Greg Boyd…Roger Olson has also been threatened with termination over his theology by John Piper. When it comes to Reformed Theology think of the Inquisition on Steroids. They are just short of public executions over interpretation of theology.

          Sometimes I think blogging here at I-Monk and Wartburg Watch has helped me get some of this stuff out of my system. Maybe my view of blogging will one day change..and this will all be viewed as penance. I’m not there…but I can’t believe where I am at as compared to last year.

          • This touches on John Piper trying to have Greg Boyd fired.


            And you can read what Roger Olson wrote here…
            Which is why it surprised me when Piper told me he would not try to get someone fired (from the college and seminary where I taught) “just for being Arminian.” What other “truly different worldview” would he tolerate? He was then attempting to get my colleague Greg Boyd fired for being an open theist. Naturally, I wanted to know if he would try to get me fired for being an Arminian. (This is natural as many of the arguments used against open theism would work just as well against classical Arminianism if they were valid arguments at all.) He said he would not. (However, he did tell me he would try to get me fired if I sided with Greg in the dispute over open theism. I said “I’m open to open theism” and made clear that I meant I do not consider it heresy and he said “I won’t let you do that.”) So, my question is–if Arminianism is such a different worldview from Christianity (which is surely what he means–what else could he mean?), then why not try to get Arminians fired, too? I’m not sure his words and actions are quite consistent.


            That comes from this Roger Olson post.


          • ” If we only love those who agree with us, we are in fact not loving others at all; we are only loving the (assumed) ‘rightness’ of our own ideas!” –greg boyd

          • Wow. Great quote. Thanks

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            When it comes to Reformed Theology think of the Inquisition on Steroids. They are just short of public executions over interpretation of theology.

            Isn’t the Truly Reformed also into Reconstructionist Dominionism, i.e. take over America and turn it into A Christian Nation by ANY Means Necessary?

            And once all the Infidels/Heathen have been dealt with, they start on the Heretics and Apostates. What do predators eat after they’ve killed off all the prey?

        • will f.
          I think what Eagle is saying here is what I experienced only we are going to change the name from Piper to John MacArthur. I will let Eagle tell his side of the story. This is mine. When I was on the evangelical wagon, I was indoctrinated (yes strong word) to believe that only our doctrine was the correct one, women were to be seen and not heard, all Catholics were going to hell & on & on. I came to Christ late in my late 20’s so not having any religious instruction I put my trust in the leaders of my church and how they interpreted the scriptures.

          8 years or so after being at this church I picked up this book by Brenning Manning called the Ragamuffin Gospel and was absolutely spell bound, no one talked like he did in my church circles, His book reminded me of my first love, before I got all busy being a good Christian woman, it gave me some peace of mind that it was OK to be a struggling sinner.
          Long story short I shared it with my pastor, and was told all kinds of religious reasons why I should not read any books by a Catholic, and how wrong his teachings were. OK, so not being a thinking woman back then, I took my pastors word over how that book woke up wonder & awe for Jesus, and I warned others not to read it because it was not approved by our church leadership. This is how it often goes in some of these circles. Eagles man John Piper hated Greg Boyd. My pastor who was personally mentored by John MacArthur hated Brennen Manning, and when you are drinking the cool aide you follow in your leaders footsteps. Sad really.

          • Brennen changed my outlook and belief as well…..I can relate to a wounded and broken healer. I can reach out to help others in love, but still wallow in sins that are stuck to me like evil burrs.

    • Doctrine is just teaching. Every church has a teaching, as does every political group or ideological movement. Non-ideology and antinomianism are also doctrines that many are very zealous and legalistic about. One has to believe something.

      • Agree. The only problem is, it seems that the more firmly entrenched one is in a particular belief, the more one looses the ability to remain civil towards dissenters. This is a challenge everybody faces.

        • I dunno. I’m pretty firmly entrenched in my beliefs. I hold to the Lutheran confessions, and really do believe that they are the best summary of Christian faith and practice. At the same time, I also recognize that God is lord of all and has made each person in his own image and with a free will. I will continue to practice Christianity the way I see fit, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that others should do the same, or even that they are wrong. It isn’t a binary construct, and the point and purpose of Christianity is not to have all your paper doctrine right, but to have a relationship with God. I can’t find a single passage in Scripture that indicates that people will be judged on the basis of doctrine. So not only do I find an ethical imperative to remain civil toward others (love your neighbor, anyone?), I find it easy and preferable. God loves my Baptist and Muslim and Rastafarian neighbors too. So do I.

          • John, honest question here because I want to understand what you are saying. Are you saying that for you, the Lutheran confessions are your ticket to Heaven, but for your neighbor, his Muslim beliefs are his ticket to Heaven?

          • I can’t find a single passage in Scripture that indicates that people will be judged on the basis of doctrine.

            Well John, I just sat through a sermon that had just this as a point. ‘Protecting yourself against bad theology’ was something to be added to the list of good chrisitan things to do. I found it entertaining after being part of church function on saturday that I mentioned family that was Roman Catholic. I learned that I needed to ‘talk to them about their beliefs’ and question ‘did they have a personal relationship with Christ’ and ‘how I leared that RC was wrong’. And the wagons started to circle.

    • Indeed, there are atheists as zealous and “fundemental” in their beliefs as some Christians are in theirs. And Muslims. And Jews. And…

      • …and they come on the political left or the political right. That is probably what makes “centrist” positions so attractive.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Old Peanuts cartoon that might have a bearing on this:

        LUCY: What are you going to be when you grow up?

        LINUS: A Fanatic.

        (a couple strips later)

        CHARLIE BROWN: So, Linus, have you decided what you’re going to be fanatical about?

        LINUS: No… I think I’ll just be a Wishy-Washy Fanatic.

    • hmm. you r my kinda fool eagle!

      But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

    • Some of you say “I am Paul’s” and others “I follow Apollo”……..and Jesus shakes His head at the stupidity.

  6. David Cornwell says

    I have a friend who graduated from a certain high school in my area which is operated by a well known denomination. He told me about zealotry in prayer. The school had morning prayers over the school speaker system. Imprecatory petitions were offered against those who differed with them as to lifestyle, politics, and anything else they were pissed about.

    Now he is a successful doctor, becoming well known. He refuses to contribute to the school, and is cynical about Christianity in general. The fence was built. He was shut out.

    This wasn’t a Catholic school, by the way. I’ve never heard these kind of stories about Catholics schools.

    • Imprecatory petitions? Seriously? Wow. Reality is really stranger than fiction. So much for “love your enemies.” Now let’s see here…. a well known denomination… not the RCC… can I buy an “S”?

    • No, shout out for Catholic schools, but they don’t tend toward that kind of thing. Catholicism is supposed to give you a basis for understanding history, the arts, science, etc. etc. not an add on that makes you look crazy.

      But your description of the fence that shut your friend out reminds me of a favorite segment of a poem:

      “He drew a circle that shut me out-
      Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
      But love and I had the wit to win:
      We drew a circle and took him In !”

      Poem “Outwitted” by Edwin Markham.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The school had morning prayers over the school speaker system. Imprecatory petitions were offered against those who differed with them as to lifestyle, politics, and anything else they were pissed about.

      Whenever I hear the words “Imprecatory Prayer”, the first thing that comes to mind is a line from an otherwise Forgotten Fifties “Bible Epic” movie:


      Who are these guys “Imprecatorily Praying” to?

      • Imprecatory prayer is a mainstay of evangelical civil religion. Just look at these Falwellite stalwarts calling down biblical curses to harm Barak HUSSEIN Obama. But listen to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. say God damn America, and it’s a totally different animal for some reason. But as Frank(y) Schaeffer observes, its okay when white Christian Right denounces America, because white conservative Americans and top political leaders are ‘godly’ and ‘prophetic’. I’m with him; it makes my stomach church.

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Completely unrelated but that picture of Simon the Zealot at the top — with that nose & beard, he looks like he should be in Dwarven armor at the side of Thorin Oakenshield.

  8. Funny how the ‘zealots’ speak up and ‘tell on themselves’, or maybe we are all that way…

  9. Steve Newell says

    Would St. Paul be viewed as a “zealot” today? Would early Christians be considered “zealots”?

    • I consider Paul to be a zealot. He persecuted Christians until his conversion experience then turned his that very same ire on folks within his new religion that he didn’t agree with. I personally don’t consider him an attractive historical character.

      • And what of Jesus? Was he not a zealot? What beside a zealot would break up the furniture in the Temple? Did Paul ever do anything remotely as zealous as that?

        • It’s my understanding that he broke up the furniture in the anteroom of the temple, where the stalls were set up, not the temple proper. In the story, he didn’t make it impossible for other people to sacrifice. His objection wasn’t to sacrifice, it was to the cheating going on. Which was already against Torah. Most of the message of Jesus, I find to be exposition of Torah. So I don’t know that I would call him a zealot, more of a Rabbi (of course I don’t believe he rose from the dead either, and I don’t know that he existed as a unique individual (anymore than I know Sophocles did)).

          • He broke the law violently with a whip. Please. Is such a thing common in Rabbinic Judaism?

          • So you are skeptical about the idea that Jesus existed as an historical person?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            “When somebody asks you ‘What Would Jesus Do?’,
            remind them that flipping out and throwing around tables is a valid option.”
            — Christian Demotivational Poster I saw once on the Web

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            So you are skeptical about the idea that Jesus existed as an historical person?

            I spy
            With my little eye
            A Witchfinder sniffing around for Heretics…

          • Actually, HUG, when someone denies the historical existence of Jesus, or is even skeptical about it, it’s a signal to me that I probably don’t have much to discuss with them regarding religious matters; they don’t occupy the same universe of discourse as I do. That being the case, I tend to avoid them, which would make me a damn poor Inquisitor; an office which your church, btw, still maintains.

      • Wow…….just wow.

  10. I’m not comfortable with this article or the invitation at the end because it seems to me that both encourage us to go on something like a witch hunt for zealots (them). At an abstract level I think most of us would agree with the article. The problem is application. When have we gone beyond what the Bible says? When are we condemning rather than exercising discernment? If we use these abstract truths as a way of finding all of the zealots out there we risk ignoring that ever present log in our own eyes. If, on the other hand, we use them self critically we begin to be shaped by them.

    • David Cornwell says

      Maybe zealotry that ends up building fences is what this is all about. Maybe there’s another kind of zealotry that based on love, and that pulls people in, tearing down the fences.

      You caused me to stop and think about this. And you are correct, the problem is application. If we go on a witch hunt ourselves then nothing is gained.

      • Yes. This is an idea I was hoping to convey in an earlier post (intended to be humorous, with a point) about someone’s stated objection to the zealousness over current praise and worship music. If preference to hymns over current praise and worship music is stated “zealously”…is anything gained?

        The trick being, then, to be “Christlike” in our dealings with those we don’t agree with!

  11. Chaplain Mike,
    Do you not think that the thrust of this post includes some of the very things that you list as indicators of zealotry? You are essentially accusing those whom you label as zealots of idolatry; is such an accusation not judgement?
    I’m really lost on how such an exercise as the one you suggest at the end of the post can be seen as anything but an invitation to make judgements. Would you please explain how your suggested exercise does not participate in the very things you criticize in the post? Is it simply because you’re right and the others are wrong?

    • I’m just hosting a discussion, trying to get us to think together about an idea someone presented.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        CM, does Robert F sound anything like a Zealot to you?

        • I don’t necessarily see Robert F as a zealot; instead I see him as a Christian concerned with some of the things he’s reading from Christians here at this site. I don’t agree with a lot that he’s saying, but I’m trying to understand his perspective.

        • Hey, HUG, nice bit of triangulation you got going there.

        • Wow. Unbelievable comment. Complain about zealots, and then try to label someone here as just that, so that you can look down your nose and them and dismiss them. In other words, complain about zealots and then act just like one. Amazing irony.

          This is quite the thread Mike. What I’ve learned here is that anyone who claims to hold to any belief about God or the Bible more fervently than I do, is thus by default a zealot who can then be dismissed.

    • I think Robert F has a valid point. He who is not a zealot may throw the first stone.

  12. A friend is invited to attend the wedding of a gay co-worker. Should he go because he loves his co-worker unconditionally? Or should he not go because he can’t support their gay marriage arrangement? If he doesn’t go is this “zealotry”?

    • I imagine it would depend on how close the friendship is. If it isn’t a real close friend, then normally a RSVP with a nope will do (and perhaps a tasteful card and gift). If it is a close friend, then usually close friends of gay folk are comfortable with not putting their own scruples onto the gay person, and they typically want the gay person to be happy, so I doubt this scenario tends to come up a lot.

      I would say just not going (especially if one simply RSVPs no) would not be zealotry. Giving a long tortured explanation regarding how the couple is going to be sinning, ruining marriage and otherwise going on about it would tend toward zealotry.

      • Scruples? Really?

        C.S. Lewis had some interesting things to say about our right to happiness in his essay “We Have No ‘Right to Happiness’.”

        • Yes scruples. Paul was clear that Christian regulations (or scruples) apply to Christians, not non-Christians. As a Christian, I would think your duty would be to ensure that you, yourself, are leading a sinless life and that the family for which you are directly responsible is doing the same. I would say it is not your responsibility as a Christian to make sure that other people are leading sinless lives.

          • I’d say it’s my responsibility as a Christian to encourage all my sisters and brothers in the family of God to die to sin even as they help me to do the same (along with my personal family). And this very blog routinely assumes the responsibility of calling to account Christians who exhibit what it considers to be hypocrisy, (which is a sin, btw) presumably in the name of brotherly (and sisterly) correction. In fact, that seems to be one of the primary reasons for its existence.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            And how do you do that without going into Puritan morbid introspection, Excessive Scrupulosity/Sin-Sniffing, and/or general control-freak behavior towards “all your sisters and brothers in the family of God”? “Encouraging to die to sin” all too easily turns into sin-sniffing, witch-hunting, and one-upmanship.

          • Robert F, I think this site exists to help Christians who have been DAMAGED by Christians who THINK they are “encouraging” their brothers and sisters to die to sin, when in actuality their “encouragement” is nothing but rule-setting and guilt-tripping. And as much as I might want to “encourage” my brothers and sisters in Christ to die to their sin, it’s’ really God’s work, Christ’s work and the Holy Spirit’s work. “Encouragement” involves giving hope, hope, hope, hope. We humans tend to forget that as we see people “failing.”

          • Rick Ro.
            Then maybe it would be best if I just stay away, because the reflexive demonizing of your former evangelical world is extremely off-putting. It’s as if a bunch of alcoholics sat around an AA meeting castigating all their old friends, who are still back in the barrooms drinking up a storm, rather than getting on with the 12 steps. Resentment and commiseration.

          • Robert F, don’t you dare stay away. Your contributions are valued.

          • Chaplain Mike,
            That was an idle threat. I won’t even be able to give up coffee for all of Lent, my willpower is so weak; do you honestly think I can stay away from a good argument about subjects that I have an obsessive interest in? Besides, there are certain contributors and characters here at iMonk that I would really miss, especially that irascible HUG.

          • But then again, we know what you think of Paul, so who cares what he had to say, right?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          C.S. Lewis had some interesting things to say about our right to happiness in his essay “We Have No ‘Right to Happiness’.”

          Any idea how “No Right To” comes across to someone coming out of an abusive situation? If you don’t know the situation, preaching along those lines can just compound the abuse damage. I check and comment on a lot of Spiritual Abuse blogs, and I’ve seen the damage caused by the Zealotry that was the original subject of this thread.

          About Lewis and Happiness, the only thing I remember is Lewis’s claim that happiness is never something you can achieve by directly aiming for it; it comes as a side effect or corollary of aiming for and achieving something else.

      • Thanks for the input. This is a tough one. I think the “nope” RSVP with a card and gift is a good idea.

        Hypothetically I replaced the co-worker in this situation with a son or daughter to try to see if the response would be different.

  13. The word to describe Jesus in John 2:17, alluding to Psalm 69:9, is literally “zelos” in the Greek (Strongs 2205 for those playing the home version) or qinat (Strongs 7068) in the Hebrew.

    The Greek word “zelos” is derived from the sound of water as it boils, or eagerness, zeal, rivalry.
    The Hebrew word, “qinat” means ardor, zeal, jealousy.

    That alone doesn’t say much, but to me the full context of Psalm 69, considered a prophecy by the Apostle John regarding Jesus, puts zeal in proper context. It is the image of a man alone and estranged with no where to turn but to God. In that context, zeal can be an amazing image of grace – our dependence on God’s mercy, barring anything from coming between us and that grace.

    A legalist is zealous of his or her self-righteousness, because that is all he or she has. This is very different from a zeal for God, which is sad. Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective. :-/

    • Zeal and idolatry need to be considered together. Nationalists tend to be quite zealous, because their security (or in Luther’s words “love, trust, and fear above all things” is in the pride, might and prestige of ones country, which is idolatry.

    • A martyr is “zealous” for gladly choosing death if the alternative is forsaking the source of ones hope. A “martyr” for a cause or principle may have the same motivation, if that cause or principle is ones idol. A martyr can give his or her life in defense of the helpless (a Randian anathema, I know), because to not would make one something other than a creature made in the image of God, which is its own form of estrangement.

    • I don’t know if this will add to the discussion, but in Spanish the words “jealous” and “zealous” are the same: celoso, from the Greek zelos.

      In Exodus 20, in the 2nd Commandment (no worshiping of graven images) you’ll read, “for I the LORD your God am a [jealous? zealous?] God.”

      • That’s very interesting. The more I looked at it last night, it actually crossed my mind what is the difference between the two. It could be subjective/objective, i.e. God is jealous (protecting us from rivals and predators), and we are in turn zealous to cling to that relationship with God (shunning suitors who would dare step between us and God). Either way, turning religion into a weapon in the name of “zeal” doesn’t fit.

      • It actually looks like English really misuses both words, i.e. using jealousy to refer to avarice or covetousness. No wonder it seems odd to think of God as “jealous”.

        The following is blog article discusses the differences:


        The author derives from the Hebrew meaning of zeal as “the intense feeling of love towards someone.” This fits with what I was finding while studying Psalm 69:9.

        • Thanks, Dumb Ox. That article pretty much says what I was thinking. We need to get beyond the idea of “jealous” as merely a petty covetousness if the bible uses that word in reference to God. In English the meaning has become distinct from “zealous” but we need to step back and look at a wider range of meaning.

          If Oprah had done that, maybe she wouldn’t have lost her faith, but I’m guessing if that’s all it took to lose it she wasn’t trying very hard to keep it.

  14. The most zealous teaching would be the Catholic Church with its insistence on contraception, Transubstantiation, Holy Orders, priestly celibacy and masturbation as a disordered desire. What are the most fundamentalist Protestant beliefs; inerrancy and Penal substation atonement? True Catholicism is very rigorous.