Two parables that have become firmly lodged in popular consciousness and affection are the parable of the Good Samaritan and the parable of the Prodigal Son. These simple but subversive tales have historically had a significant impact on shaping the spiritual, aesthetic, moral, and legal traditions of Western civilization, and their capacity to inform debate on a wide range of moral and social issues remains as potent as ever. Noting that both stories deal with episodes of serious interpersonal offending, and both recount restorative responses on the part of the leading characters, Compassionate Justice draws on the insights of restorative justice theory, legal philosophy, and social psychology to offer a fresh reading of these two great parables. It also provides a compelling analysis of how the priorities commended by the parables are pertinent to the criminal justice system today. The parables teach that the conscientious cultivation of compassion is essential to achieving true justice. Restorative justice strategies, this book argues, provide a promising and practical means of attaining this goal of reconciling justice with compassion.
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, professor of theology, DePaul University
In his important new book, Marshall presents penetrating readings of the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son and uses these to provide fascinating new insights into the nature of restorative justice. The book culminates with an outstanding analysis of the role compassion should play in criminal justice. This is essential reading for anybody interested in serious thinking about the meaning of crime and justice.
—Gerry Johnstone, professor of law, University of Hull
Few but Marshall could have written this book. In it he brings the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son into a lovingly detailed conversation with the main facets of restorative justice. The result is a deeply instructive journey . . . The Gospel announces peace, and Marshall maps out here, recalling the words of Jesus, the only path—a steep and narrow way, much overlooked—that leads to peace. Those who reject the tyranny of the urgent and attend to Marshall’s patient prose will experience an insightful, remarkable, and profoundly important book.
—Douglas A. Campbell, associate professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School
Compassionate Justice is an impressive addition to the burgeoning literature on restorative justice. However, it is much more than that. This is a theologically rich account of the foundations and contradictions of substantive justice viewed though the lens of the two most beloved biblical parables: the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. It is imaginative and compelling and powerfully demonstrates the author’s deep understanding of justice issues and his commitment to the ethical ideals of mercy and compassion.
—Warren Brookbanks, professor of criminal law, University of Auckland, New Zealand
This is a beautifully written and thoughtful reflection on two familiar parables and the normative implications of the central moment in each: when the protagonist is ‘moved by compassion.’ An especially important contribution to restorative justice literature.
—Daniel W. Van Ness, executive director, Center for Justice and Reconciliation, Prison Fellowship International
As with his earlier publications, such as Beyond Retribution, Marshall has given us a profound book in highly readable form. His blend of biblical scholarship and contemporary insights from the social sciences and humanities will be of interest not only to Christians but to others concerned about justice in today’s world.
—Howard Zehr, professor of restorative justice, Eastern Mennonite University
Marshall is one of our most creative thinkers in the fields of biblical studies and social justice, and a pioneering advocate of restorative justice. Shedding new light on two of Jesus’ best-known parables, this engaging and accessible study challenges us to profoundly rethink our attitudes to justice and compassion, and act accordingly.
—Andrew Bradstock, Howard Paterson Professor of Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
I love the way Compassionate Justice combines thick exegesis of Jesus with public ethics, dialoguing incisively with philosophy and public policy on criminal justice . . . showing how Jesus deepens and sharpens the discussion.
—Glen Stassen, professor of Christian ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary
No biblical scholar in the world has searched the Bible more faithfully for its support of the idea of restorative justice than has Christopher Marshall. Nor has any scholar sought more faithfully to promote that justice in the public life of his country. Here, in an intensive study of two of Jesus’ parables, he tells me as a fellow Christian that ‘justice’ in our minds ought to equal ‘healing,’ not ‘punishment.’ In the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, it is clear that for Jesus the remedy for human misbehavior is the mercy of healers, not the retribution of punishers.
—Donald W. Shriver, emeritus president, Union Theological Seminary, New York
Chris Marshall teaches in the Religious Studies Program at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His many publications include, Faith as a Theme in Mark’s Narrative, Kingdom Come: The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus, Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment, Crowned with Glory and Honor: Human Rights in the Biblical Tradition, and The Little Book of Biblical Justice.