“Human justice-making should be patterned after divine justice-making. And since the justice of God disclosed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is a redeeming or restoring justice, so the pursuit in general society should also be qualified by a commitment to restorative methods and outcomes.” — from Compassionate Justice
Chris Marshall is a pioneering scholar regarding the integration of biblical studies and restorative justice. He is an emeritus professor at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, where he recently held the Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice, and prior to that taught in the Religious Studies Programme.
What follows is a presentation of four of his books, all of which reflect his interest in fostering two-way dialogue between criminal justice theorists and scholars of the Bible. At the same time, his writings are rooted in the practice of restorative justice and thus accessible to practitioners.
Compassionate Justice: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue with Two Gospel Parables on Law, Crime, and Restorative Justice (2012) Wipf & Stock Publishers
Two parables of Jesus, perhaps the top two in popularity, are enriched by restorative justice theory and, in turn, enrich our understanding of restorative justice. The Good Samaritan deals with the restoration of victims to wholeness; the Prodigal Son deals with the restoration of contrite offenders to good standing in society. These stories, however, also contain the cold-hearted or even hostile reactions to the very thought of helping victims and offenders to reintegrate back into the community. Ultimately, the conscientious cultivation of compassion is essential to achieving true justice.
“This is how political theology ought to be done. Marshall takes the fundamentally local problem of how communities restore relationships broken by criminal behavior and applies the insights of Jesus’ best-known parables. Marshall shuttles back and forth between the biblical narratives and the best of social science to enhance both . . . I felt like I was reading Jesus’ parables for the first time, and I also learned to think in new ways about criminal justice.” —William T. Cavanaugh, Senior Research Professor, DePaul University
All Things Reconciled: Essays on Restorative Justice, Religious Violence, and the Interpretation of Scripture (2018) Wipf & Stock Publishers
Synopsis: The modern restorative justice movement, perhaps one of the most important social movements of our time, was born in a Christian home to Christian parents, specifically to Christian peace workers striving to put their faith into action in the public arena. The first major book on the subject was written primarily for a church audience and drew deeply on biblical themes and values. But as restorative justice has moved into the mainstream of criminological thought and policy, the significance of its originating spiritual impulse has been minimized or denied, and subsequent theological scholarship has done little to probe the relevance of restorative perspectives for doctrine and discipleship.
In this collection of essays, Christopher D. Marshall, a biblical scholar and restorative practitioner who has devoted his career to exploring the relationship between the two fields, considers how peacemaking Christians can honor the witness and authority of Scripture, including its apparently violence-endorsing strands, as they strive to join in God’s great work in Christ of “reconciling to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col 1:20).
“Christopher Marshall’s expertise as a New Testament scholar, public theologian, and pioneering advocate of restorative justice, is abundantly evident in this wonderful collection of essays. Marshall guides us toward a more faithful reading of scripture and to a more courageous participation in the peace and justice of God. There is great wisdom here.” —Murray Rae, University of Otago
“A fabulous collection of writings by a long-term pioneer and prophet of restorative justice. Marshall’s work is full of fresh biblical insights and deep theological wisdom.” —David Tombs, University of Otago, New Zealand
“In Beyond Retribution… I offered an extended analysis of biblical teaching on crime and punishment from the perspective of restorative justice theory. My goal in that book was partly to allow restorative justice insights to cast new light on early Christian texts concerning justice and punishment, and partly to furnish a biblical and theological basis for Christian involvement in criminal justice reform in a restorative direction (a two-way traffic of ideas, in other words). The extent to which I read restorative justice conceptions into the biblical text from outside, or draw out of the text what is already there but frequently missed by modern interpreters, is hard to say. In biblical studies it is nearly always a mixture of both. But the book demonstrates how bringing a restorative justice lens to the task of New Testament interpretation can be enormously productive.” (from the Introduction to Compassionate Justice, p. 3)
From the book synopsis: Christopher Marshall first explores the problems involved in applying ethical teachings from the New Testament to mainstream society. He then surveys the extent to which the New Testament addresses criminal justice issues, looking in particular at the concept of the justice of God in the teachings of Paul and Jesus. He also examines the topic of punishment, reviewing the debate in social thinking over the ethics and purpose of punishment — including capital punishment — and he advocates a new concept of “restorative punishment.” The result of this engaging work is a biblically-based challenge to imitate the way of Christ in dealing with both victims and offenders.
“The movement from retributive justice to restorative justice has, until now, lacked a thorough theological grounding. No longer.” —Walter Wink (2001)
“Beyond Retribution offers a badly needed look at New Testament teaching on justice and punishment. Prior to this book, most of the biblical work in this area focused on the Old Testament. Highly readable, logically organized, thorough, and provocative, Beyond Retribution will interest criminal justice practitioners and theologians alike.” —Howard Zehr
Check out our BIBLICAL ROOTS to RJ webpage
The Little Book of Biblical Justice: A Fresh Approach to the Bible’s Teaching on Justice (in The Little Books of Justice and Peacebuilding Series) 2005 Skyhorse Publishing
Chris Marshall writes, “the Bible has had a profound impact on the development of Western culture. So exploring biblical perspectives on justice can help us appreciate some of the convictions and values that have helped shape Western political and judicial thought.”
Christians also regard the Bible as a uniquely important source of guidance on matters of belief and practice. What the Bible has to say about social and criminal justice ought to be of great significance for Christian thought and action today. Yet coming to grips with biblical teaching on justice is by no means easy since it includes references to both older forms of justice and newer forms. Chapters include:
- What is Justice
- Justice in the Biblical Worldview
- He Contours of Biblical Justice
- Jesus and Justice
Check out a complete listing of Little Books from the Justice and Peacebuilding Series from Skyhorse Publishing (formally with Good Books).
Read also some excerpts from Marshall’s RJ and Religion Chapter on how the biblical roots of the initial restorative justice ideal is precisely what made it so congruent with indigenous justice. (Religion Matters: The Contemporary Relevance of Religion, ed. Paul Babie and Rick Sarre, Singapore: Springer Nature, 2020.)