4 Responses to the Problem of Violence in the Bible

Does the Bible actually endorse violence on a dramatic scale?

Religion and violence is a difficult topic, especially at the moment with the rise of Islamic terrorism. But violent extremism isn’t solely a problem in Islam. Many thoughtful skeptics of Christianity ask, Doesn’t your Bible — especially the Old Testament book of Joshua — endorse violence on a dramatic scale? Some might say there’s no difference between what the Bible prescribes and other forms of violent religious fundamentalism.

In his bestselling book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins articulates well his horror at what he reads: “The ethnic cleansing begun in the time of Moses is brought to bloody fruition in the book of Joshua, a text remarkable for the bloodthirsty massacres it records and the xenophobic relish with which it does so.” Elsewhere he writes, “The god of the Old Testament has got to be the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”

Doubters Guide to the BibleI have a good deal of respect for Richard Dawkins. And he is right to say that there are some terribly violent bits in the book of Joshua. I want to suggest, however, that a careful reading of the book of Joshua shows that what is going on in these pages has nothing to do with ethnic cleansing. The stories recounted do contain violence — and that is difficult — but not xenophobic violence.

Here are four things I’d like to point out to those — Christians included — who have a real problem with instances of violence in the Bible:

1. Just because it’s in the Bible does not mean it’s endorsed.

Many of the stories cited by Dawkins as examples of violent horror are not endorsed in the Bible at all. The incidents throughout the book of Judges, such as Jephthah’s killing of his own daughter just to keep a promise or of the cutting up of a women into 12 bits (both ridiculed by Dawkins) are in the book of Judges precisely to show us how low Israel had sunk. They are not moral examples to us.

2. You can’t separate the story from its explanation.

If you come in half way through a conversation, you are likely to miss out on context and meaning. Likewise, we need to be patient with a story like Joshua in order to understand what’s going on. So, what is going on? Dawkins reads it as ethnic cleansing. I understand why. It does appear similar to some of what we see in the modern world. However, the book of Joshua itself bends over backwards to tell us that it is nothing of the sort.

The first story of Joshua is about the salvation of a Canaanite prostitute named Rahab and her family. Why is this the opening story? Clearly, the narrator wants to emphasize that this war has nothing to do with ethnicity. God’s longing is to save the Canaanites, not judge them. We are also meant to wonder — since it is the opening story — how many other Rahabs there were in the history of the conquest whom we’re not told about.

The next major story in the book has the same point: Joshua is met by an angel — “the commander of the Lord’s army” — and when he asks the angel which side he is on, the angel replies, “Neither!” This serves as a repudiation of the normal understanding of tribal conflict.

So, what is the rationale of the conquest of Canaan if it has nothing to do with race or God playing favorites? Deuteronomy 9 makes two things clear: One, God will give success to Israel’s conquest “not because of your righteousness.” And two, God was ousting the Canaanites “on account of the wickedness of these nations.” This is not ethnic cleansing or favoritism. It is God’s holy and just judgment. Israel is merely the tool — an obstinate tool — in God’s temporal judgment.

Of course, skeptical readers of the Bible won’t believe this. They will say this is just a sneaky justification for violence. However, it is inconsistent to accept the fact of the conquest in the Bible and not accept the Bible’s own explanation of what it’s about. Moreover, we need to remember that no one in the ancient world needed a moral justification for taking over someone else’s land. There is no reason the Bible, if it were a simple ancient near eastern text, should have in its pages recorded that Israel was sinful and was only given success because God was bringing his judgment on Canaan.

3. Israel fulfilled its calling — and then stopped conquering.

This one is quite strange. Israel was never urged to expand its borders. The conquest was a particular moment in history — a particular action for a particular time and place. And it is not repeated. Unlike most conquering nations in ancient times, there is no evidence Israel tried to expand into other places. They knew they had a role to play in bringing judgment on Canaan. After that, their calling for ‘holy war’ was complete.

4. You must read the narrative through the lens of the New Testament.

This is the most important response to the problem of Old Testament violence. Christians are forbidden to read Joshua as a justification for modern war, for Jesus said to love your enemies (Matthew 5:44) and turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). That doesn’t mean wars are never justified — they can be, on other grounds. My point here is that we cannot achieve God’s kingdom ends through violence.

This is not picking and choosing which bits of the Bible we like and don’t like. It is how Christians have always read the Bible as two testaments. Like a ‘prism’ that causes light to refract into the full spectrum, the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus transforms many things — including circumcision, food laws, and holy war. For Christians, the only holy war the Bible endorses is the spiritual one Paul mentions in Ephesians 6: the fight against error and sin.

This is quite different from the teaching of the Quran as there is no ‘new’ testament for Muslims. The judgment once brought upon Canaan by Israel is now suspended until the Day of Judgment. Never can a Christian claim, as Israel did, to be a tool of God’s judgment in the world, unless it is bringing justice into the world through welfare programs.

*   *   *

I know this doesn’t answer all the problems people have with the Bible — far from it. Over the years, I have been comfortable allowing that there are some real issues in the Bible that we can’t fully resolve. In all fields of inquiry, a robust theory may still hold together despite inconsistencies. I acknowledge that there are some things in the Old Testament that appear inconsistent with the revelation of Jesus Christ. But when you come across an inconsistency in a robust theory — whether historical or scientific — it does not bring the whole thing down. You keep studying, keep imagining scenarios and, hopefully, eventually find an explanation.

We can admit that parts of the Old Testament trouble us, but there are enough indications on other grounds — historical, philosophical, existential — for us to keep believing that the God of the Old Testament and the God revealed in Jesus are one. He is real, just, and loving

Lead images courtesy of Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing.

John Dickson
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  • Sam

    I like how you acknowledge early that “[o]f course, skeptical readers of the Bible won’t believe this.” I agree. Both real life and the web have proven that regardless of what you say there will always be those who disagree.

    The contextualization of the Israelite actions as an act not against an ethnicity but rather as a limited action is an important distinction to be made. Unfortunately how this is to protect the innocent in general is lost with verses similar to 1 Samuel 15:13 and Deut. 20.16-18. These verses clearly call for genocide.

    With these concepts in mind I think it is also interesting that you make an attempt to distance these actions from the Quran. Especially when it calls for no amount of genocide approximating that which the Bible calls for.

    • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

      “… no amount of genocide approximating that which the Bible calls for,” or called for in the Old Testament, as in “past tense”?
      For Christians, the old covenant has been superseded by the newer one, but the sword verses of the Quran are still practiced by Muslims today.

      • Sam

        We have already treaded this ground and I thought we came to the understanding that no matter what I said, quotes from the Quran or hadiths, data from surveys and stats, it wouldn’t matter to you and it would in no way alter your opinions. Along those lines I thought we had clarified that regardless of your statements or the evidence you find convincing that I don’t draw the same conclusions of you. As such I parted with wishes for peace.

        Why not leave it there?

        • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

          Why do you keep insisting on depicting the entire Bible as if there wasn’t a New Testament?

          And I can’t ever recall the modern state of Israel putting its Arab neighbors to a Biblical OT “ban,” yet Muslims still strike at the neck as laid out in their Quran.

          • Sam

            I don’t recall “…insisting on depicting the entire Bible as if there wasn’t a New Testament”. My original comment that you replied to even states the need for contextualization is relevant to any discussion. To be honest I find that you have disregarded the Old Testament at will in order to justify your perspective of the New Testament and Jesus, robbing the entire Bible of its context.

            This contextualization is also important to understand, the behaviors and policies of Likud and similar parties in their treatment of the Palestinians and Muslims in general. Of course, this biblical context (OT for obvious reasons) is balanced with realpolitik. Once again, a contextual point.

            And, just so we are clear, I am no longer going to engage with you on the Quran. I find a lack of good faith to be taking place in any conversation that we have on this issue so I am afraid I don’t see the point. Thank you for your understanding and respect on this issue.

            With the understanding that you disagree with me and that you are not going to convince me that “yet Muslims still strike at the neck as laid out in their Quran” and I am not going to convince you that isn’t accurate, why do you insist on attempting to engage me on such a point?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Christians don’t disregard the Old Testament; we simply don’t live in it.
            In fact, even the article’s author said that one “must read the [OT]narrative through the lens of the New Testament”.

          • Sam

            Jesus said to follow it though such as in Matthew 5:17-18, Luke 16:17, or Mark 7:10.
            Also the New Testament seems to have a number of rules not followed by Christians as well (see: 1 Corinthians 11:6, Matthew 5:43-44, 1 Corinthians 6:1-6) so it makes it hard to appreciate that anything is actually followed at all. This is especially true of directions such as Mark 12:31. I don’t think that how you talk to people online is very loving. Perhaps you disagree with the latter though. I have no doubt that you disagree with the former though, but as I stated earlier there is not going to be any convincing you or me, so that gets me to my real question of why do you engage?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Well, why do you post comparisons between your Quran and my Bible? Or do you expect myself and others to remain silent?

            Regarding your first set of biblical verses, for us, Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT law, but your second set of verses are very diverse and seem to share no common theme for me to address. However, if Christians could perform everything required of us in the Bible, then Christ would have died for us in vain.

            And He didn’t.

          • Sam

            You can choose to say anything you wish. Islam supports such freedom of speech, as do I. And I can post anything I wish just as you do.

            And to be clear, I would never expect you to remain silent. You don’t. :)

            The first set of verses clearly shows Jesus commanded his followers to follow the law, not abandon it.
            The second set show how in abandoning the Old Testament the majority of Christians abandon the laws in the New Testament too.

            And he didn’t die on the cross for anyone. :)

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Again, if we could fulfill all the requirements of God’s law, Jesus would have died in vain.
            And as for His death, Jesus himself said that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45).

          • Sam

            Misrepresentation of Jesus’s words, as I understand it. :)
            And just because an individual can’t fulfill the law doesn’t mean they should throw in the towel. At least try. It’s WWJD. :)

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            To admit one need’s help to achieve the impossible isn’t giving up, it’s an admission of fact, as I understand it.

          • Sam

            It’s giving up if you don’t even try.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Good luck trying to save yourself from this world.
            Let me know how it turns out.

          • Sam

            Interesting, and inaccurate, interpretation of what I was saying.

            I would be interested to see what we agree on. I think it would add to our dialogues an important component of mutual respect and understanding. :)

          • zappafan1A

            Yep. And although the concept has fallen by the wayside of history, the New testament was supposed to be the end of individual Christian groups. You follow the books teachings…. no Catholics, Protestants, Baptists… just follow The Word.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            There were divisions based on personalities from the beginning if that testament, e.g., “… each one of you [either] says, I belong to Paul, or I belong to Apollos, or I belong to Cephas (Peter), or I belong to Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12) as if Christ himself was divided (v. 13).

          • Andrew Bates

            ” Palestinians and Muslims in general” these are the people who blow up people in Israel so they should be treated with caution. ISIS are showing you what the Muslim belief is like on the ground, in real life.

          • Sam

            That isn’t accurate either.

            If you would like to know what the Quran actually says I recommend “The Message of the Quran” by Muhammad Asad, a translation that is banned in Saudi Arabia, and “Journey to the End of Islam” by Michael Muhammad Knight. The latter is extremely insightful to the history and development of Islam.

            The “Palestinians and Muslims in general” are people just attempting to live their lives, just like the vast majority of Israelis. There are a minority, such as Hamas and Likud, who believe only one side have the right to life and only one side can win. Neither Likud or Hamas represent the majority of Jews or Muslims. ISIS is no more representative to Islam than the KKK or StormFront is to Christianity.

          • gcam1229

            “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.”

            Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, Islam’s two most canonicalhadith collections:

          • Sam

            May I get the citations?

          • gcam1229

            Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim

          • Sam

            You know those big texts, right?
            I did a specific search for the quotes you shared and it doesn’t come up in either. Perhaps you have more specific data so that I can locate what you are claiming is there?

          • gcam1229

            Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 791:

            Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 176:

            Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 177:

            Sahih Muslim, Book 041, Number 6981:

            Sahih Muslim Book 041, Number 6985:

          • Sam

            Volume 4, Book 56, Number 791:
            Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar:
            I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, “The Jews will fight with you, and you will be given victory over them so that a stone will say, ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew behind me; kill him!’ ”

            Volume 4, Book 52, Number 176:
            Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar:
            Allah’s Apostle said, “You (i.e. Muslims) will fight wi the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, ‘O ‘Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.’ ”

            Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 177
            Narrated Abu Huraira:
            Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.”

            Sahih Muslim, Book 041, Number 6981:
            Ibn ‘Umar reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: Come here, Muslim, there is a Jew (hiding himself behind me) ; kill him.

            Sahih Muslim Book 041, Number 6985:
            Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.

            Those do seem to be pretty damning. Makes one wonder:
            1) what the rest of the hadiths say and
            2) why did you have to did so deep for them. I mean if they really represent Islam, why aren’t they front and center and why aren’t they in the Quran?

            Thanks for sharing. :)

          • gcam1229

            Though you said you couldn’t find them doing a specific search, there were easy enough to find. Even and infidel could do it. ; )

          • Sam

            LOL.

            No, I went to the source and the “quote” you provided didn’t provide any results. Bad quote I guess.

            :)

          • Sam

            I thought further about what you said and I thought I would clarify. :)

            I have never felt comfortable
            with the Hadith. The idea that they are divine revelation is held by only the
            fewest of the few to be true, but I think hadiths such as

            Sahih al-Bukhari 3320, Book 59, Hadith 126, Vol. 4, Book 54, Hadith 537:

            Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said “If a house fly falls in the drink
            of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the drink), for one of its wings has a
            disease and the other has the cure for the disease.”

            And then thunder is given a far from accurate description in Vol. 5, Book 44,
            Hadith 3117 or Book 47, Hadith 3406 of Jami` at-Tirmidhi:

            Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:

            “The Jews came to the
            Prophet (ﷺ) and
            said: ‘O Abul-Qasim! Inform us about the thunder, what is it?’ He said: ‘An
            angel among the angels, who is responsible for the clouds. He has a piece of
            fire wherever that he drives the clouds wherever Allah wills.’ They said: ‘Then
            what is this noise we hear?’ He said: ‘It is him, striking the clouds when he drives
            them on, until it goes where it is ordered.’ They said: ‘You have told the
            truth.’ They said: ‘Then inform us about what Isra’il made unlawful for
            himself.’ He said: ‘He suffered from sciatica, and he could not find anything
            agreeable due to it (to consume) except for camel meat and its milk. So for
            that reason he made it unlawful.’ They said: ‘You have told the truth.'”

            These are clearly and empirically
            inaccurate. This lead me to one of two conclusions either the Prophet was
            showing his own humanness as he attempted to share a solution to a problem or
            this text was added later by someone else. Either way it is evidence to
            question hadiths, even those considered most “sound” or “authentic,” especially
            since this is from Bukhari one of the two most “authentic” hadiths (at least to
            Sunni).

            This becomes even more of an issue when contradictions in hadith take place. For
            example regarding wudu:

            Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:

            The Prophet performed ablution by
            washing the body parts only once. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 4, Number
            159)

            Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Zaid:

            The Prophet performed ablution by
            washing the body parts twice. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 4, Number 160)

            This is the just the tip of the iceberg. Even the Hadiths contradict on whether
            there should even be hadith:

            Sahih Muslim Introduction 72

            ‘I wrote to Shu’bah asking him about Abū Shaybah , a judge of Wāsit, so he
            wrote to me: ‘Do not write anything from him [of Ḥadīth] and tear up my letter
            [to you about this]’.

            This is probably the reason that it took almost two centuries before the first
            hadith collections began to appear, which is, ironically, the same issue I have
            with the Biblical text. Not only does time erode accuracy and it also allows
            all kinds of misinterpretations, misrepresentation, and flat out lies to enter
            the record. This is found to be true of both the aforementioned statements
            regarding the Jews as well as many others.

            In Sahih Muslim 2373, Book 43,
            Hadith 211; Sahih al-Bukhari 2411, Book 44, Hadith 2; and Sahih al-Bukhari 6517,
            Book 81, Hadith 106 for example the
            Prophet clarifies he is no greater than Moses and in the process shows that
            Jews should be treated by Muslims with respect. He also stands for a funeral
            procession even though he is well aware that the deceased is a Jew (Sahih
            al-Bukhari 1311, Book 23, Hadith 70). He even discusses the need to be a good
            neighbor, even to Jews, in Jami` at-Tirmidhi 1943, Book 27, Hadith 49, Vol. 4,
            Book 1, Hadith 1943. According to Sahih al-Bukhari 7192, Book 93, Hadith 54 the
            Prophet stepped in and paid the blood money for the death of a Muslim when the
            Jews accused by the Muslim’s brother, another Muslim, to incite peace instead
            of violence and discord. Also in Sahih al-Bukhari 5663, Book 75, Hadith 24, the
            Prophet is said to have calmed down a group of not just Muslims, but Jews and
            polytheists as well.

            In Sunan Abi Dawud 3049, Book 20, Hadith 122 the Prophet states that there is
            to be no tithe levied on Christians and Jews (which kind flies in the face of
            jizya). He is stated to have said peace to a mixed group (Jami` at-Tirmidhi
            2702, Book 42, Hadith 15) and he is said that you should return an equal
            greeting or one better no matter from whom you receive it from (Al-Adab
            Al-Mufrad 1107, Book 44, Hadith 7, Book 44, Hadith 1107). But he is also said
            to have said “and unto you” when Jews said to him “Death upon you” (Sahih
            al-Bukhari 6928, Book 88, Hadith 10).

            He is also recorded to have attempted to fulfill Jewish law (likely before he
            became a Prophet, as the biographies say he always had tried to follow God’s
            law) as evidenced by his stoning fornicators to death, Sunan Abi Dawud 4450,
            Book 40, Hadith 100 and Sahih al-Bukhari 6819, Book 86, Hadith 48, Vol. 8, Book
            82, Hadith 809. Along these lines he is reported to have been even accepted by
            some Jews as telling the truth and being a Prophet but the fear that other Jews
            might kill them lead to them not following him (Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2733, Book
            42, Hadith 46, Vol. 5, Book 40, Hadith 2733). This is becomes ridiculous though
            in Sahih al-Bukhari 3827, Book 63, Hadith 53, Vol. 5, Book 58, Hadith 169 where
            both a rabbi and a priest direct a young seeker to Islam because that would
            please God most. Why the rabbi and priest wouldn’t then seek to be Muslim
            themselves boggles the imagination.

            This is a super short summation of why I find the hadiths to be untrustworthy.
            Perhaps if less time had passed between the events and their recording we say
            with more accuracy whether they are true, but until we have time machines I am
            going to take a pass.

            Obviously I can see why these documents are useful for both the detractors of
            Islam and the fanatics of Islam, such as al-Qaeda. The ability to find texts
            that support the call for mass slaughter serve both their causes and wouldn’t
            serve God’s at all.

            Proponents, both Muslim and Western, of the authenticity and authority of the
            hadith like to use ayah’s such as 4:59, 3:32, 3:132, and 4:59. But this is in
            contradiction to the Quran itself in 6:112-115, 39:27, 2:2, 15:1, 75:16-19, and
            especially 2:170.

            But the most damning evidence is when Hadith attempt to contradict the Quran.
            Bukhari 84:57 and 83:37 state the punishment of murder for apostasy, murder,
            and fornication. These are in direct violation of the Quran.

            There shall be no coercion in matters of faith (2:256).

            And say: The truth has now come
            from your Sustainer: let, then, him who wills, believe in it, and let him who
            wills, reject it (18:29).

            Behold, from on high have We
            bestowed upon thee this divine writ, setting forth the truth for the benefit of
            all mankind. And whoever chooses to be guided thereby, does so for his own
            good, and whoever chooses to go astray, goes but astray to his own hurt: and
            thou hast not the power to determine their fate (39:41).

            Unto every one of you have We appointed a different law and way of life. And if
            God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but
            He willed it otherwise in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed
            unto you. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works! Unto God you all
            must return and then He will make you truly understand all that on which you
            were wont to differ (5:48).

            For never would thy Sustainer
            destroy a community for wrong beliefs alone so long as its people behave
            righteously towards one another. And had thy Sustainer so willed, He could
            surely have made all mankind one single community: but He willed it otherwise,
            and so they continue to hold divergent views –
            all of them, save those upon whom thy Sustainer has bestowed His grace.
            (11:117-119).

            And on whatever you may differ, O believers,
            the verdict thereon rests with God (42:10).

            I was left with the conclusion
            that various reasons from willful political manipulation to plain misunderstanding
            the hadiths cannot be counted on as source material to know God. That is why I
            stick to the Quran.

        • zappafan1A

          An interesting aside here: Islam is less a religion than it is a patriarchal dictatorial “governmental” system couched in quasi-religious terms, that allows — and ENCOURAGES — pedophilia, female mutilation (as a way to control women), subjects women and children to a commodity, beating women, killing those that don’t convert to this ridiculous “religion”, and claims this is all allowed under an obscure pagan moon god. Islam has done NOTHING to advance our knowledge in science or mathematics, nor has any great artist or musician ever come from an Islamic nation. In fact, the ONLY thing that Islam is good at exporting, and that’s violence. over 1500 years of inbreeding hasn’t helped (they can and do marry their first cousins).

          Yes, I demean islam – and I do it on purpose. but now you must understand who Allah is. He is none other than Hal’al – the named fallen angel found in Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 14:12. In Bibles, the name of the adversary had been concealed and most will identify the fallen angel as “Satan.” Satan is a title – not a name – and means “Adversary.” Other Bibles will use “Lucifer” which is Latin and means “light bearer.”

          When Muhammad convinced people he was a prophet, the name of the adversary had already been concealed. Therefore, it was easier for him to convince people that the moon deity “Allah” was our creator.

          So when anyone speaks of Allah their are directly referencing Hal’al – Satan. Now we need to educate ourselves regarding this, and also Muslims. Everyone is born into a belief system and it is a serious challenge to break away from it. Muslims like the ones in this article have completely embraced evil and probably will not change, but there are the silent Muslims who can be approached and brought into the light of Yahushua ha Messiah.

          • Sam

            Well I disagree.

            If you want to know what Islam is actually about I recommend “The Message of the Quran” a translation by Muhammad Asad and “Journey to the End of Islam” by Michael Muhammad Knight. If you approach them honestly and openly I think it will be an eye opening experience. If not, that is your prerogative.

            Go in peace. :)

          • zappafan1A

            Why would I do that, when I’ve already read the Koran, The Sira and the Hadith? the Koran is only 14% of the total sacred texts. Actually, the Sira and the Hadith are 86% of the total textual doctrine.
            Islam is 14% Allah and 86% Mohammed. This is very good news. The Koran
            is obscure, but anyone can understand the life and sayings of Mohammed.

            You can disagree if you wish, that is your right, but I hold fast to what I posted above. The Greek letters used to denote the number 666 (Chi Xi Stigma), look
            very much like Arabic words and Islamic symbols. In fact, they look
            eerily similar to the Arabic phrase “In the name of Allah,” followed by
            the symbol of two crossed swords.
            The
            references to “the multitude of the beast” and “the multitude of a man” clearly refer to the legions of Muslims who worship the “beast” (Islam), as well as the religion that was founded not by God but by a “man” (Muhammed). The last line of the verse indicates that “his multitude is in the name of Allah,” further describing the vast numbers of Muslims that worship Allah as god.

            The above is referenced from a book on the subject of the meaning of the number 666. I cannot post a picture here, but the likeness of the Greek for 666 and the Arabic phrase is unmistakable.

          • Sam

            No, I’m afraid not.

            The Quran is it and freely available to all.
            The hadiths and the sunnah are supplementary.
            Whenever the two conflict the latter are to be thrown out.

            :)

          • zappafan1A

            I’ve given you the percentages of each, yet you refuse truth. As mentioned, I’ve read all three over the years. The book concerning research on 666 is by an ex-muslim, which took quite a few years to complete. The Greek and Arabic symbols and Arabic words are what they are, and are virtually identical. Even you could see the similarity.

          • Sam

            Interesting. I suppose an ex-Christian who proves such things about Christianity must be the end all on the matter, yes? :)

          • zappafan1A

            Not at all. Actually, the book was written by an ex-muslim. In any case, it is merely one facet of research I’ve carried on for over 30 years, looking at many sides of a given issue. The book is one thing, but the images, as described, leaves little to the imagination.

          • Sam

            Interesting.
            Well I hope your next 30 years of research lead to a more robust understanding. :)

          • zappafan1A

            I somehow expected more from you. Not once did you ask about links for the information I have been referring to. 9-11 was the realization that much of what I didn’t want to believe about islam was, in fact, true. Saying ‘death to islam’ is the same as saying ‘death to Satan’.

          • Sam

            “9-11 was the realization that much of what I didn’t want to believe about islam was, in fact, true”

            With this clearly stated then what could I say that would matter? You already Know the answers you want. It doesn’t matter what anyone says. So what do you want me to say?

          • Sam

            Sidebar:
            If your 30 years of research proves you know what you are saying, what of those with 45 or 60 years of research who have come to far different conclusions?

          • zappafan1A

            My above post is accurate, none the less.

          • Sam

            It’s not actually.

            But God put it best:

            Mankind was [of] one religion [before their deviation]; then Allah sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners and sent down with them the Scripture in truth to judge between the people concerning that in which they differed. And none differed over the Scripture except those who were given it – after the clear proofs came to them – out of jealous animosity among themselves. And Allah guided those who believed to the truth concerning that over which they had differed, by His permission. And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path.

            2:213

          • zappafan1A

            You quote a false god? It is obviously you who require years of research leading to a more robust understanding of right and wrong.

            The Greek letters used to denote the number 666 (Chi Xi Stigma), look
            very much like Arabic words and Islamic symbols. In fact, they look
            eerily similar to the Arabic phrase “In the name of Allah,” followed by
            the symbol of two crossed swords. You refuse to accept truth, as outlined below. Sad.

          • Sam

            :)

            God also said:

            And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace,.

            25:63

          • zappafan1A

            90% of the places on Earth where blood is flowing in the streets (and sand) you will find believers of Islam with the swords.

            “And Allah guided those who believed to the truth concerning that over which they had differed, by His permission. And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path.”

            Sounds like a true micro-manager, who does not give his people free will.

            Goodbye, Sam. I will pray for your soul.

          • Sam

            90% of the places that you find Christianity you find Catholic Priests. This is evidence that Jesus wants the Pope to be followed.

            Same argument.

            90% of the places where you find economic development and luxury are dominated by white people. White people are the key to economic development.

            John 14:6
            Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

            “Sounds like a true micro-manager, who does not give his people free will.”

            Goodbye, zappafan1A. I shall continue to pray for you as well.

            Go in peace. :)

    • Andrew Bates

      The Quran calls for genocide against all who do not convert to Muslim in the whole world: slay all the unbelievers.
      Joshua was ordered to kill some tribes to they would not teach the Israelites to sacrifice their children to Molec and other detestable practices.

      • Sam

        The Quran doesn’t call for that. That’s a misreading that al-Qaeda wishes it said.

        And Joshua was an invader into a foreign land, not a victim of Canaanite oppression.

  • Guy Wonder

    “That doesn’t mean wars are never justified — they can be, on other grounds”

    So, what would, from a Christian perspective, justify war?

  • Martin Hughes

    There is no inconsistency at all in accepting much of what a (real or purported) historical record says actually happened and refusing to accept the explanation, either as to causation or as to morality, that the author offers. Perhaps Henry V did not declare war on France because he was insulted by a gift of tennis balls but did declare war on France. The morality of the British blockade of Germany during World War 1 may be debated without questioning that it took place – if Germany was the aggressor and blockade a necessary weapon was it justified? Etc.
    The suggestion that the sparing of one family indicates that the cleansing was not on ethnic grounds is hard to discuss patiently. If the Canaanites were wicked what form did their wickedness take? Why were they not given any chance to change their ways – as other Biblical stories, such as Jonah and parts of the NT, might suggest was appropriate?
    Israel did not stop at the Joshua borders, as you will see if you look at the story of Mesha that begins II Kings.
    Why ‘must’ we read Joshua with an eye to the NT, which has very little to say about such matters?
    Joshua is very questionable as actual history but it is still a major poetic reflection on faith – or more widely, ideological commitment – and violence.

    • C Moesta

      “If the Canaanites were wicked what form did their wickedness take? Why were they not given any chance to change their ways – as other Biblical stories, such as Jonah and parts of the NT, might suggest was appropriate?”

      This is why context is so important to biblical discussions.
      What wickedness did they participate in? Child sacrifice, sexual impurity including incest and bestiality, abuse of slaves, injustice towards widows and orphans, etc. It’s addressed quite graphically in Leviticus as the reason the land was “vomiting them out”.
      Were they not given any chance to change? Presumably they were, as seen in God’s address to Abraham in Genesis 15 and the book of Jonah. 400+ years passed before the Amorites “wickedness was complete”. If Jonah was sent to the Assyrians to warn them and they repented, is it possible he also sent prophets to the Canaanites?
      “the story of Mesha that begins II Kings” – Are you actually saying that God sanctioned this? Because 2 Kings is pretty clear that it was “evil in the sight of the Lord”.

      • Martin Hughes

        Well, I don’t want to strike a stridently anti-Israelite note. I’ve just been reading Marilynne Robinson’s ‘When I was a child’ collection of essays’ has some interesting things to say about the moral advances of ancient Israel. And I agree about the importance of context.
        Context may go beyond the Bible itself. James B. Pritchard’s standard anthology ‘The Ancient Near East’ lets us see (p.169) the parallels between Leviticus and the Code of Hammurabi. There is concern about incest etc. in the laws of non-Israelite as well as Israelite nations. We should perhaps bear this in mind when asking if the non-Israelites’ moral principles were so bad as to justify the treatment they receive according to Joshua. Perhaps there was widespread disobedience to Hammurabi-style sexual misconduct laws, but then we have every reason to think that the Israelites often disobeyed all manner of divine instructions.
        If there had been prophets among the Canaanites who were rejected that fact would have a major impact on the story and would have been mentioned, surely? The whole tenor of the story is that the Canaanites deserve to be massacred or driven out – a fate conceivably worse than death – regardless of anything that they might do: except perhaps enslave themselves as with the Gibeonites of Joshua 9. Questions of moral change or repentance don’t seem to arise here.
        I mentioned Mesha (you’ll know about the Mesha Stela) to show that the Israelites were not simply content with the Joshua-era borders, as seemed to be claimed by Mr. Dixon. I don’t think that the Israelite conquest is presented as ‘evil in the sight of the Lord’ – that is hardly the tenor of Elisha’s speech in IIK 3, though perhaps Jehoram is not a worthy conqueror . And indeed Joshua itself (ch. 13) speaks of wider boundaries in the future. Other passage, like Dt.1:7, envisage a boundary on the Euphrates.
        In any event it is hardly a serious moral proposition to say ‘Here we have the Canaanites willing to sacrifice children and abuse slaves. So we will, to put things right, kill or drive out every one of them, children and slaves included’. Not that the Bible advances that proposition in any part.

  • Sara

    I’m sure you know a lot more about this than I. But I’m sorry you have so much respect for Richard Dawkins. He mocks all forms of faith while holding a great one of his own, through which he distorts the faiths of all others. And while many of the examples of violence you refer to were surely not endorsed by the Scriptures, many other instances were. It’s still a major question. I’m a believer myself. And I don’t have a great answer to the question myself.

  • jaia60

    I read the OT recently, and the story of Joshua was one of the most troubling, especially after growing up with the happy Sunday School song – Joshua fought (fit) the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho …. The fact that God ordered Joshua to exterminate all men, women, children and animals after the walls come tumblin’ down, (except for Rahab and her kids – as a reward for spying) seems impossible to justify.

    Another troubling episode was when the Israelites were able to return from exile to Jerusalem, but had to send back any wives or children from marriages with foreigners while in exile. (Add to that the Flood and Passover stories, where children and pregnant women and newborns were certainly among the ones killed, God killing Aaron’s sons for a seemingly minor offense, letting Satan (or whoever it was) kill Job’s wife and kids by letting a house fall on them – then pretending that Job was made whole by regaining twice the possessions along with new (and better looking) kids, and the whole idea of God giving one lineage of His creation a promised land with the orders to exterminate anyone (distant cousins?) who gets in the way).

    I’m no Biblical neophyte, but after attempting to read the OT objectively as an adult, the horrific and repeated violence, often by direct order of God, really stuck out. I don’t believe the Bible was meant to be taken literally, but even the fictional lessons are hard to reconcile with a loving God.

    And reading it “through the lens” of the NT just doesn’t cut it for me.

    • C Moesta

      Did you also read the “Holiness Code” in Leviticus or God’s words to Abraham in Genesis regarding the Canaanites?

    • bakabomb

      I have to agree with you. And one of the more fascinating details is how, in a number of subsequent massacres, the Bible uses a code phrase that neatly sluices away all the blood’n’guts, saying only “And they did to the inhabitants of [that city] what they had done to the inhabitants of Jericho.” — i.e., not to mince any words, they butchered the entire bunch of ‘em.

    • Iam Tom

      I agree when u read some of those story’s, it doesn’t seem odd, but then u see that in some places God told them to kill some and not others and u wonder why, what Is the reason. The answer is right there in front of us we just don’t seem to see it until God shows us. The answer is simply , the nephalim. Canaan was full of the defendants of the fallen angels that mated with woman before the flood , which in most cases were Giants, clearly talked about in genesis, before and after the flood.

      • jaia60

        Well, if “Nephalim” and fallen angels exist, God must have created them too.

        • Iam Tom

          Well yes he created the Angels, but they turned against God, remember 1/3 of the Angels went with lucifer when he rebelled. And No God did not create the nephalim , the fallen angels wanted to make offspring after their image, they just used what God created as their tool. I’m wondering if ur trying to put blame on God for their creation or not, if u are, would u blame the parents of a murderer for having a child because he turned out to be psyco? I can’t pretend I know why God created everything knowing what would happen, I’m gonna assume that he created us because he wanted offspring just like we want offspring. And knowing that there would be those who would actually love him with all their hearts, the fact that there would also be evil was worth it. What’s the point of life if ur not gonna take risks for something u want, ur life would be empty and meaningless

          • jaia60

            You are entitled to your interpretations, but whenever I hear “the answer is simply …” with regard to questions about the violence in the Old Testament, I have to be suspicious.

          • Iam Tom

            well ya I understand that. all I can say is study it and find out for urself. I had the same questions you did, didn’t make any sense. wondered why God would do such a thing, the thing that had me wondering is why he seemed to pick and choose who would be destroyed. why did in some cities all the people get killed, including animals, in others just the men of a certain age, in others everyone who was not a virgin, ect… that’s what got me thinking that there was obviously a reason for it, and go me searching for that reason. And yes if u don’t have all the information necessary to know, u will continue to question. So ya, all I can say is search, study, Just letting u know, the answer begins in Genesis 6.

          • jaia60

            The Canaanites also had to be descendants of Noah, one of God’s most chosen people.
            How could they not be capable of redemption?

          • Iam Tom

            well since the book of Enoch is endorced in the bible, it must have some truth to it. And it says in there that the spirits of the nephalim when they die shall be called evil spirits and shall cause trouble on the earth and shall live eternally hungry and thirsty without a body. So basically even in human form, they are demons. Demons can’t be redeemed because they have the Devils nature and it can’t change. And from what I’ve read it not even about not being able to change , their nature prevents them from even wanting to change. So let’s say the nephalim are a cancer on humanity, contaminating it, trying to prevent Jesus from coming, what do u usually do with cancer before it destroys everything?

          • jaia60

            What about Rahab and her kids? According to the nephalim theory she would have been part of the “cancer”, but she was redeemed.
            So there must be some non-cancerous exceptions. How do you know that none of the unborn children killed by Joshua might have been exceptions too if they had been allowed to live?

          • Iam Tom

            Well yes there were some people here and there that were not contaminated. like noah, The bible says noah was perfect in his generations, what does that mean, noah wasn’t perfect as in he didn’t sin, he was perfect in that he wasn’t genetically contaminated. Only 8 people in the entire world went on the ark, why? cause they were the only ones who were not contaminated by nephilim genes. Rahab id think would be the same exception maybe wasn’t from there originally. that or she was the only one who helped the spies. the only one who would have taken the warning. and that was proven by the fact that she listened and did what they told her to. maybe not everyone in the city was contaminated, but still posed a risk. all the little details we will never know, but the big picture, that’s a different story. Cant say for sure that that’s how it was, but it sure does fit together strangely well.

          • jaia60

            So “maybe” some innocent and potentially redeemable people were killed by order of God in the genocidal events.

            But what about Noah’s family? How did they get re-contaminated with nephalim genes after the flood?

          • Iam Tom

            2 theories here one, bible said Noah’s gererations were perfect, would include his sons, but not their wives, they could have had some form of contaminated genes. Second theory. Fallen angels again came and mated with woman after the flood. Like in Sodom where bible says they went after strange flesh. Not human or animal but strange. In other words , demonic. Which is why it was destroyed. God didn’t find even 10 righteous people there, only 4. U have to look at it like this, we see maybe less than 1% of the picture, God sees it all, so we can’t condem something we don’t know really anything about what was going on. God knows exactly what he is doing and one day when we know as well, it will all make sense, all we can do now is seek. And he will reveal it bit by bit to us.

          • jaia60

            I’ve enjoyed this discussion, though I have to say that my theory is that the Old Testament is largely derived from ancient oral histories in stories that people living thousands of years ago could comprehend, to convey history, family, to explain creation in understandable stories, and to teach life lessons. Never intended to be taken literally.

          • Iam Tom

            Ya it was good talk. Obviously all of the Old Testament isn’t literal. Some is history, some is poetry, some is prophecy. U have to read it in context.

          • tanyam

            Does it matter whether they were nephalim or nebraskan? Seems like the more important question is, did they suffer? What did the children and the sheep (“all life”) do? And doesn’t there come a time for most of us when tortured explanations like this don’t work. We conclude that the book is not a straightforward answer book.

    • Iam Tom

      satans attempt to contaminate the blood line of the human being in an attempt to keep Jesus from being born, if u will notice, everywhere where Giants or nephalim are involved , or going after strange flesh, like sodom, strange flesh being mating with demonic beings, God showed no mercy, because those creatures that were produced were not fully human like he created. If u study the book on Enoch , which was originally part of the bible and is endorced be Peter and Jude in the bible, it expands on the genesis 6 account . U study that and all this killing, will suddenly make sense as to why God did it. And when u find out what happens to a nephalim when it is killed, things will make even more sense. They shall walk the earth without body and shall be called evil spirits. I always wondered where demons came from since God never calls them demons but always sons of God regardless weather they were fallen or not

  • Andrew Bates

    Genesis 15:13 Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved for four hundred years.
    Gen15:16. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.
    The Amorites, Cananites etc had 400 years to turn from their evil ways, sacrificing children etc but God couldn’t get them to repent so Joshua had to destroy them to cleanse the land of their evil practises, so they would not teach their ways to the Israelites.

  • bakabomb

    The first three arguments aren’t much more than veils designed to obfuscate the difficult texts, particularly in Joshua. The fourth is certainly relevant, but to our own modern lives — not to the violence limned so graphically in the OT.

    1. The incidents in Judges, cited by the author, are individual acts of violence, not violence committed by an entire people upon another. This argument is merely misdirection. Joshua’s the problematic book, since it represents the latter case
    .
    2. The distinction between “ethnic cleansing” and “God’s judgment” hardly resolves the underlying problem. God used the Israelites as the intermediaries of God’s vengeance? What, God can’t do God’s own dirty work — hit men he needs yet? Positing a craven God as the explanation for the bloodbaths of entire tribes is scarcely an improvement even if it were true. The tribes are just as extinct either way.

    3. The reason Israel stopped growing was because it became the biggest dog on its block. But the dogs on the adjacent blocks were bigger and meaner. In fact, the entire subsequent history of that plot of Gaia shows that it became the crossroads of conquering armies and was subjugated by occupiers from before the time of Christ until the mid-20th century.

    4. This is absolutely correct as far as it goes, but it doesn’t address the issue of OT violence directly at all. No matter how you zig and zag around the central issue, no matter the terminology tweaks on which you insist, these atrocities are related time and again in that section of the Bible. The question is not, how do Christians interpret these — but rather, what’s with the horrible violence in the Bible? This article seems more of a rationalization than an explanation.

  • Robert Knapp

  • Robert Knapp

  • Joel Hardman

    That awkward moment when you realize that you’re trying to justify genocide at god’s command…

  • tanyam

    “Destroyed with the sword every living thing in it, men and women, young and old, cattle sheep and donkeys.” Joshua 6:21 Yours is a noble effort, but are we to understand that children were being punished for the “wickedness” of their nation, as well as the sheep? This is God’s “holy judgment?” This does not make me feel better.

  • bakabomb

    I am no fan of Richard Dawkins. Since I don’t know him personally, I can’t speak to his character as a human being. But I find the style and tone of his attacks on Christianity nothing short of profoundly ignorant and despicable. Therefore it pains me greatly to find myself on his side with respect to this bottom-line issue — yet, when Dawkins’ comments are set against the arguments above (particularly the third), Dawkins clearly carries the day. The massacres described in the Old Testament indisputably represent ethnic cleansing — a term that’s really nothing more than a latter-day euphemism for a holocaust.

    Reading the multiple accounts of horrific slaughters in the historical books of the OT, one is struck by their viciousness. Entire populations are put to the sword — men, women, children. In some cases even the animals are butchered (in others, they’re spared as war booty; how noble!) It seems even the chroniclers may have been repelled by the gore; they begin to document that “they did to the inhabitants of that city what they had done to the inhabitants of Jericho” — that is, murdered them all in cold blood.

    Irrespective of the explanation for these actions (the author, above, attributes it to the sins of the peoples slaughtered by the Israelites), there can be no excusing them. They are egregious, execrable and vile. And a God who commands that they be performed can most assuredly not be “the same God” described by Jesus in the New Testament. I’d never worship such a God. No right-thinking Christian could.

    These bogus justifications, though they do represent the orthodox Christian viewpoint (to this day, evidently) have another pernicious effect. They serve as the foundation for today’s Christian Zionism, which justifies these ancient atrocities but, worse, excuses the modern atrocities perpetrated by the IDF through their use of asymmetrical warfare, disproportionate force and collective punishment — just as their ancestors did, and with similarly reprehensible results.

    So, while avoiding the ad hominem attacks so characteristic of Dawkins, I find myself firmly and irrevocably on his side in this matter. For shame, trying to excuse the inexcusable!