Batavia’s Graveyard

I recently read book that has disturbed me more than any book I had recently read.  It is about Jeronimus Cornelisz who sailed on the ship Batavia which was in engaged in the spice trade in the 17th century.  The ship ran aground north of Australia and the crew and passengers where marooned on three small islands.  Jeronimus and several who aligned with him took charge of one island and began a reign of terror, killing 115 fellow shipmates with whom they had shared a voyage of several months.  What is shocking is that they killed others for no reason that we can comprehend—out of boredom, for sport, or just because they did not like someone [1]

What is even more shocking was that Jeronimus claimed to be a Christian.  He did subscribe to antinomian philosophy which holds “that moral law is not binding on an individual who exists in a state of perfection”.  Jeronimus considered himself existing in a state of grace so that each action was directly inspired by God which means that no action he took could be thought as evil. [2]  And evidently that included murder.  It is incredible the lengths to which we humans will go to in order to justify what we do.

I wonder if this event would have turned out differently if salvation was understood to be the change of our soul so it becomes like God.  Christians recoil at the idea that we can earn our salvation and that is the correct view.  But to assert that salvation does not require any action on our part is also in error.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?   If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  (James 2:14-17 ESV)

If Jeronimus understood his salvation depended upon him loving God and his neighbor as himself, would he have committed these atrocities?


[1]   Mike Dash, Batavia’s Graveyard, New York:  Crown Publishers, 2002, Kindle Edition, p. 222.

[2]   Ibid., pp. 46-47.

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