Subverting Scriptures: Critical Reflections on the Use of the Bible

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We captured all his cities and laid whole towns under ban, men, women and children; we spared nothing but the livestock which we took as our spoil". Deut Likewise in the Transjordanian kingdom of Og , king of Bashan : "We captured all his towns at that time Sixty towns We laid them under ban Sometimes, the ban could vary; for in a later chapter of the same book, we read that "if a town refuses peace and offers resistance, Yahweh your God shall deliver it unto your power and you are to put all its menfolk to the sword.

But the women, the children, the livestock and all that the town contains, all its spoil, you may take for yourselves as booty". In the Book of Joshua , we read about the most famous case of all - the fall of Jericho : "Then Yahweh said to Joshua , 'Now I am delivering Jericho and its king into your hands". So, when "the walls of Jericho came tumbling down", the Jewish warriors "enforced the ban on everything in the town: men and women, young and old, even the oxen and sheep and donkeys, massacring them all". Joshua The same for the people of Ai ; for "Yahweh said to Joshua All to a man had fallen by the edge of the sword".

The same in southern Canaan , which "Yahweh gave into the power of Israel; and Israel struck every living creature there with the edge of the sword, and left none alive". Joshua The same at Lachish where "no one was left alive". The Old Testament contains passages in which God commands the Israelites to exterminate seven Canaanite nations, and describes several wars of extermination that annihilated entire cities or groups of peoples.

Gedaliahu G. Stroumsa asserts that it is well known that both 'irenic' and 'eristic' i. Boustan cites the passage where Jesus foretells a time when "children will rise up against their parents and have them put to death Template:Bibleref , Template:Bibleref " Boustan also cites the "apocalyptic vision of Revelation which imagines one third of the world's population being killed.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is quoted as saying, "'do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also". Template:Bibleref and "Put your sword back in its place.. Other sayings and acts of Jesus that have been cited as examples of tacit acceptance of violence include: the absence of any censure of the soldier who asks Jesus to heal his servant, his overturning the tables and chasing the moneychangers from the temple with a rope in his hand , and through his Apostles , baptising a Roman Centurion who is never asked to first give up arms.

Addis cites the case of the soldiers instructed by in their duties by St. John the Baptist, and that of the military men whom Christ and His Apostles loved and familiarly conversed with Template:Bibleref , Template:Bibleref , Template:Bibleref , without a word to imply that their calling was unlawful, sufficiently prove the point.

According to Steve Friesen, the apocalyptic Book of Revelation has been employed in a wide array of settings, many of which have been lethal.

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Among these, Friesen lists Christian hostility, Christian imperialism and Christian sectarian violence. Sign In Don't have an account?

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Explain how the idea of God as a violent punishing war monger is all part of the historical and cultural conditioning of the author and that we can ignore it in good faith, especially in the light of the New Testament. Contents [ show ]. Main article: Lex talionis. The New Testament commonly avoids such a charge; but it, too, is filled with violent words and deeds, and Jesus and the God of the New Testament are complicit in this violence.

Retrieved Violence in the New Testament. Continuum International Publishing Group. The Rise and Decline of the Christian Empire. Medici School Publications,Australia. Online at [1]. Moore Ed. Dirk Moses Eds , p It was also carried by European Jews who,..


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He points to sections in Deuteronomy in which the Israelite God, Yahweh, commanded that the Israelites utterly destroy idolaters whose land they sought to reserve for the worship of their deity Deut , 16, and It was this view that also led to the destruction of European Jewry. Accordingly, it is important to look at this particular segment of the Old Testament: it not only describes a situation where a group undertakes to totally destroy other groups, but it also had a major influence on shaping thought and belief systems that permitted, and even inspired, genocide.

He would necessarily have dealt with the two Testaments of the Catholic Church if the Church had already possessed a New Testament.

His polemic would necessarily have been much less simple if he had been opposed to a Church which, by possessing a New Testament side by side with the Old Testament, had ipso facto placed the latter under the shelter of the former. Chalice Press. Disturbing divine behavior: troubling Old Testament images of God. If you own the copyright to this book and it is wrongfully on our website, we offer a simple DMCA procedure to remove your content from our site. Start by pressing the button below! Critical Condition. Read more. Tortoise Interruptus. Reflections on the Psalms.

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Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. Evan Fales, Professor of Philosophy, calls the doctrine of substitutionary atonement that some Christians use to understand the crucifixion of Jesus, "psychologically pernicious" and "morally indefensible".


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  • Philosopher and Professor Alvin Plantinga says this rests upon seeing God as a kind of specially talented human being. Historian Philip Jenkins quoting Phyllis Trible says the Bible is filled with "texts of terror" but he also asserts these texts are not to be taken literally. Jenkins says eighth century BCE historians added them to embellish their ancestral history and get readers' attention. Old Testament scholar Ellen Davis is concerned by what she calls a "shallow reading" of Scripture, particularly of 'Old Testament' texts concerning violence, which she defines as a "reading of what we think we already know instead of an attempt to dig deeper for new insights and revelations.

    Discussions of bible and violence often lead to discussions of the theodicy - the question of how evil can persist in the world if God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and good. Philosopher Eleonore Stump says the larger context of God permitting suffering for good purposes in a world where evil is real allows for such events as the killing of those intending evil and God to still be seen as good. Jon Levenson resolves the problem of evil by describing God's power not as static, but as unfolding in time: "the operative dichotomy, thus, is not that between limitation and omnipotence, but that which lies between omnipotence as a static attribute and omnipotence as a dramatic enactment: the absolute power of God realizing itself achievement and relationship.

    What the biblical theology of dramatic omnipotence shares with the theology of a limited God is a frank recognition of God's setbacks, in contrast to the classic theodicies with their exaggerated commitment to divine impassibility and their tendency to describe imperfection solely to human free will, the recalcitrance of matter, or the like. In Hermann Gunkel observed that most Ancient Near Eastern ANE creation stories contain a theogony depicting a god doing combat with other gods thus including violence in the founding of their cultures.

    Hence, it seems that the account of God creating without violence in Gen. Canaanite creation stories like the Enuma Elish use very physical terms such as "tore open," "slit," "threw down," "smashed," and "severed" whereas in the Hebrew Bible, Leviathan is not so much defeated as domesticated. Most modern scholars agree that "Gen. What is more, in Gen. God "calls the world into being" These stories in Genesis are not the only stories about creation in the Bible. In Proverbs 8, for example one reads of personified Wisdom being present and participant in creation.

    However, he also says the differences are more pronounced than the similarities. The intent of Genesis n concerning "creation from nothing" is disputed. Jon Levenson , writing Jewish biblical theology , asserts the creation stories in Genesis are not ex nihilo , but rather a generation of order out of chaos, similar to other ANE creation myths; the order allows life to flourish and holds back chaos which brings violence and destruction, which has never been obliterated and is always breaking back in.

    He finds that the writers of the Hebrew Bible referred to God's actions at creation as a statement of faith in a God who could protect and maintain them, or who could also step back and allow chaos to rush back in, as God did with the Flood. He finds that the writers of the Hebrew Bible also held up God's actions at creation as a challenge for God to act, and a challenge for themselves to work in covenant with God in the ongoing work of generating and maintaining order.

    This sense of honoring or empowering humankind is not in any of the Mesopotamian or Canaanite myths. Warfare represents a special category of biblical violence and is a topic the Bible addresses, directly and indirectly, in four ways: there are verses that support pacifism , and verses that support non-resistance ; 4th century theologian Augustine found the basis of just war in the Bible, and preventive war which is sometimes called crusade has also been supported using Bible texts.

    To understand attitudes toward war in the Hebrew Bible is thus to gain a handle on war in general In the Bible God commands the Israelites to conquer the Promised Land , placing city after city "under the ban" -which meant every man, woman and child was supposed to be slaughtered at the point of the sword. Hans Van Wees says the conquest campaigns are largely fictional. Crouch compares the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah to Assyria, saying their similarities in cosmology and ideology gave them similar ethical outlooks on war. Violence against women appears throughout the Old Testament.

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    Many have attributed this to a patriarchal society, while some scholars say the problem stems from the larger context of a male dominated culture. Women are treated in differing ways in the Bible. Scholar author Phyllis Trible looks at these instances from the perspective of the victim making their pathos palpable, underlying their human reality, and the tragedy of their stories.

    O'Connor says women in the Old Testament generally serve as points of reference for the larger story, yet Judges abounds with stories where women play the main role.


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    • O'Connor explains the significance of this, saying: "The period between the death of Joshua and the anointing of Saul Beginning with the larger context and tracing the decline of Israel by following the deteriorating status of women and the violence done to them, which progresses from the promise of life in the land to chaos and violence, the effects of the absence of authority such as a king Judges is reflected in the violence against women that occurs when government fails and social upheaval occurs.

      The concept of hell as a place of punishment in the afterlife arose in Second Temple Judaism and was further developed in the Christian tradition; Judaism subsequently moved away from this notion. For example, Isaiah which is part of proto-Isaiah chapters 1—39 , speaks of "the dead who live no more" as being "punished and destroyed". And Daniel —3, which is generally believed to date to the second century BCE, asserts "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.

      The word Sheol appears 65 times in the Hebrew Bible and the term "Tartaros" appears frequently in Jewish apocalyptic literature where it refers to a place where the wicked are punished.

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      All the references to gehenna except James are spoken by Jesus himself. A literal interpretation involves violence. According to a statement by the publisher of "Four Views on Hell", Zondervan , "probably the most disturbing concept in Christian tradition is the prospect that one day vast numbers of people will be consigned to Hell. Lewis argued that people choose Hell rather than repent and submit to God. Miroslav Wolf argues that the doctrine of final judgment provides a necessary restraint on human violence.

      Tim Keller says it is right to be angry when someone brings injustice or violence to those we love and therefore a loving God can be filled with wrath because of love, not in spite of it. Oliver O'Donovan argues that without the judgment of God we would never see the love in redemption. As the early Christian Church began to distinguish itself from Judaism , the "Old Testament" and a portrayal of God in it as violent and unforgiving were sometimes contrasted rhetorically with certain teachings of Jesus to portray an image of God as more loving and forgiving, which was framed as a new image.

      Marcion of Sinope , in the early second century, developed an early Christian dualist belief system that understood the god of the Old Testament and creator of the material universe, who he called the Demiurge , as an altogether different being than the God about whom Jesus spoke.

      Marcion considered Jesus' universal God of compassion and love, who looks upon humanity with benevolence and mercy, incompatible with Old Testament depictions of divinely ordained violence. Accordingly, he did not regard the Hebrew scriptures as part of his scriptural canon. Supersessionist Christians have continued to focus on violence in the Hebrew Bible while ignoring or giving little attention to violence in the New Testament. From this foundation arose notions of flourishing of the nation as a whole, as well as collective punishment of the ancient Israelites and their enemies.

      Scholar Nur Masalha writes that the "genocide" of the extermination commandments has been "kept before subsequent generations" and served as inspirational examples of divine support for slaughtering enemies.