Can you imagine Jesus EVER saying any of the following things?
I have inserted Jesus' name in brackets for effect:
- 1 Samuel 15:3
"Joshua destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD [Jesus] commanded."
- Joshua 10:40
"The LORD [Jesus] delivered them before us; and we destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones."
- Deuteronomy 2:33-34
"And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD [Jesus] commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.... Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him."
- Numbers 31:7, 17.
"The wind of the LORD [Jesus] shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and... Samaria shall become desolate... they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up."
- Hosea 13:15-16
"With thee will I [the LORD Jesus] break in pieces the young man and the maid."
- Jeremiah 51:22
I am convinced that people who demand a hyper-literal reading of the Old Testament have never actually read it (at least in its entirety). They just seem to blissfully (or conveniently) ignore the horrible implications of the above and below passages. The church fathers Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, John Cassian, and Augustine all thought it was akin to blasphemy to read these types of passages literally because of how horrendously they malign God's character.
To say that the following passages, in their LITERAL sense, accurately describe the words, attitudes, and actions of the God revealed by/in Jesus Christ is an abomination. Sadly, this abomination is what has created atheists, chilled children's hearts, and robbed Christianity of its coherence. Let's take a look at the unthinkable verses in the Old Testament.
1) "The LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nothing." Deuteronomy 28:63. (The Lord "rejoices" to "destroy" us? Jesus never displayed this attitude, but instead attributed all such acts of destruction to the devil in John 10:10, destructions which He came to cure, not inflict per 1 John 3:8).
2) "The LORD shall MAKE THE PESTILENCE CLEAVE UNTO THEE, until He have consumed thee." Deuteronomy 28:21. (The Lord "consumes" us with "pestilence?" Jesus never put sickness on anybody, but rather always healed the sick. See Acts 10:38).
3) "The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption , and with a fever , and with an inflammation , and with an extreme burning , and with the sword , and with blasting , and with mildew ; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish." Deuteronomy 28:22. (Jesus never "smote" anybody with "fevers," etc. Rather, He rebuked fevers AWAY from the afflicted, such as Peter's mother-in-law).
4) "The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust : from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be DESTROYED." Deuteronomy 28:24. (Jesus never sent "droughts" of lack. Rather, He cured them through miraculous provision).
5) "The LORD shall cause thee to be SMITTEN BEFORE THINE ENEMIES : thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air , and unto the beasts of the earth , and no man shall fray them away." Deuteronomy 28:25-26. (Jesus never sided with one army against the other, much less feed anybody's carcass to the birds).
6) "The LORD will SMITE thee with the botch of Egypt , and with the emerods, and with the scab , and with the itch , whereof thou canst not be healed." Deuteronomy 28:27.
7) "The LORD shall smite thee with MADNESS, BLINDNESS , and astonishment of heart : And thou shalt grope at noonday , as the blind gropeth in darkness , and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways : and thou shalt be ONLY OPPRESSED AND SPOILED EVERMORE." Deuteronomy 28:28-29. (Jesus went about healing ALL oppression, never inflicting it. Acts 10:38).
8} "The LORD shall smite thee in the knees , and in the legs , with a sore botch that cannot be healed , from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head." Deuteronomy 28:35.
9) "The LORD shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known ; and there shalt thou serve other gods , wood and stone." Deuteronomy 28:36.
10) "Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed ; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God , to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder , and upon thy seed for ever." Deuteronomy 28:45-46. (Jesus "curses" us and our children forever? No, Jesus only blessed and welcomed children).
11) "Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness , and with gladness of heart , for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger , and in thirst , and in nakedness , and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck , until he have destroyed thee." Deuteronomy 28:47-48. (Jesus CONTROLS our enemies and makes us their slaves? This is foreign to anything Jesus ever did or said).
12) "The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far , from the end of the earth , as swift as the eagle flieth ; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand ; A nation of fierce countenance , which shall not regard the person of the old , nor shew favour to the young : And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle , and the fruit of thy land , until thou be destroyed : which also shall not leave thee either corn , wine , or oil , or the increase of thy kine , or flocks of thy sheep , until he have destroyed thee.... And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body , the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters , which the LORD thy God hath given thee, in the siege , and in the straitness , wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee." Deuteronomy 28:49-51, 53. (Jesus SENDS an enemy who causes me to literally eat my own children? Jesus NEVER promoted cannibalism of children).
13) "The LORD will make thy plagues wonderful , and the plagues of thy seed , even great plagues , and of long continuance , and sore sicknesses , and of long continuance . Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt , which thou wast afraid of ; and they shall cleave unto thee." Deuteronomy 28:59. (Jesus oppresses us with "WONDERFUL PLAGUES" of "long continuance?" Jesus never called any plague wonderful, much less inflicting anybody with one).
14) "Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt , which thou wast afraid of ; and they shall cleave unto thee. Also every sickness , and every plague , which is not written in the book of this law , them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed." Deuteronomy 28:60-61.
15) "The LORD shall give thee thee a trembling heart , and failing of eyes , and sorrow of mind : And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night , and shalt have none assurance of thy life : In the morning thou shalt say , Would God it were even ! and at even thou shalt say , Would God it were morning ! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear , and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see." Deuteronomy 28:65-67.
16) Jesus killed a nation full of Egyptian firstborn infants and children during the well-known Exodus story.
17) Jesus killed a huge city full of children of all ages in Sodom and Gomorra (not to mention all the other children killed in the flood, or at God's express command in the various Biblical bloodbaths, including even rebellious Israelite children under God's "no exception" stoning law). God burns these two cities to death. In Genesis 19:24, God kills everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from the sky. Then God kills Lot’s wife for looking back at her burning home.
18) God has 42 children mauled by bears. In 2 Kings 2:23-24, some youths tease the prophet Elisha, and God sends bears to dismember them. (Newer cosmetic translations say the bears “maul” the children, but the original Hebrew, baqa, means “to tear apart.”)
19) God drowns the whole earth in Genesis 7:21-23, God drowns the entire population of the earth: men, women, children, and fetuses.
20) God kills half a million people 2 Chronicles 13:15-18, God helps the men of Judah kill 500,000 of their fellow Israelites.
21) God kills 14,000 people for complaining that God keeps killing them. In Numbers 16:41-49, the Israelites complain that God is killing too many of them. So, God sends a plague that kills 14,000 more of them.
22) Genocide after genocide after genocide. In Joshua 6:20-21, God helps the Israelites destroy Jericho, killing “men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” In Deuteronomy 2:32-35, God has the Israelites kill everyone in Heshbon, including children. In Deuteronomy 3:3-7, God has the Israelites do the same to the people of Bashan. In Numbers 31:7-18, the Israelites kill all the Midianites except for the virgins, whom they take as spoils of war. In 1 Samuel 15:1-9, God tells the Israelites to kill all the Amalekites – men, women, children, infants, and their cattle – for something the Amalekites’ ancestors had done 400 years earlier.
23) God kills 50,000 people for curiosity. In 1 Samuel 6:19, God kills 50,000 men for peeking into the ark of the covenant. (Newer cosmetic translations count only 70 deaths, but their text notes admit that the best and earliest manuscripts put the number at 50,070.)
24) God orders 3,000 Israelites killed for inventing a false god. In Exodus 32, Moses has climbed Mount Sinai to get the Ten Commandments. The Israelites are bored, so they invent a golden calf god. Moses comes back and God commands him: “Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.” Around 3,000 people are then brutally killed.
25) The Amorites are destroyed by sword and by God’s rocks. In Joshua 10:10-11, God helps the Israelites slaughter the Amorites by sword, then finishes them off with rocks from the sky.
Had enough yet? There are MANY, MANY, examples.
So, what is the reason for these misstatements about God's character?
All the violence, plagues, killings, oppressions, curses, afflictions, destructions and damning which the Old Testament says comes from GOD must NOW be re-evaluated with New Testament light. We must look at the particular Old Testament passage which is attributing "evil" to GOD and ask if it is referring to "the God of this world," i.e. Satan (regardless of whether we consider the devil a dark angel or a dark dynamic), OR is it referring to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. Yahweh?
The problem was that the Old Testament had an "undifferentiated" view of God. They lumped Satan into their image of Yahweh. They simply did not differentiate God from the Devil in any meaningful way. The result? A bipolar God who is up and down, good and evil, hateful and loving, cruel and gentle, vengeful and forgiving, murderous and peaceful.
The Old Testament certainly has many accurate and priceless versions of the wondrous acts of the true Yahweh, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Old Testament frequently reflects the riches of Jesus' love, virtue, blessing, mercy, miracles and generosity. But, not always. Too often, because they are largely clueless about Satan's identity, the Old Testament mars and deforms the image of God by attributing the works of Satan to God.
Jesus came to heal and reveal. He came to heal our image of a wrathful and hateful God by revealing His Father-God to be ALL love and ALL light. Jesus came to teach us how to differentiate the works of the true God from the works of Satan. Jesus IS that differentiation. Satan, as the FALLEN GOD of this FALLEN WORLD, operates in all forms of stealing, killing and destroying. God, on the other hand, as fully revealed by the RISEN CHRIST of the RISEN FATHER, operates only in forms of life --- the giving of it, the protection of it, the blessing of it! John 10:10.
So, how can we read these passages differently, in a way resonant with New Testament light and love. The church fathers, following the New Testament models of Jesus, Paul, Peter, used Christological allegory.
Here was their interpretive key to rightly understanding the Old Testament.
"The kingdom of God is WITHIN you." Luke 17:21.
Those who misread the Old Testament interpret it to mean that the kingdom of God is withOUT us. In other words, the Old Testament is wrongly used to justify EXTERNAL violence, EXTERNAL conquest, and EXTERNAL retaliation. And all the while, under this literalist approach, the internal part of man is never transformed into Christ's image, faith to faith and glory to glory.
These literalists fail to realize that the Old Testament predominantly carries "figurative truth" which we are NOW to apply internally so that Christ's kingdom can be established within, within, within, and within. Old Testament stories, then, contain wisdom not about the EXTERNAL killing flesh and blood, but rather about the INTERNAL destruction of wicked impulses, mental strongholds, and any foul carnality that rises up inside us to obstruct our knowing of God's love and nature.
The church father Origen believed that this was so fundamentally obvious that it was, in fact, heretical to EVER use the Old Testament to justify external violence or oppression of any kind. It's one thing to be violent against an inner impulse, but it's quite another to be violent against an outer "other" made in the image of God. When Jesus blessed His external enemies, He was walking in complete inner conquest over all Adamic carnality. Externally, He was a loving lamb, but internally He was a lethal lion.
Put succinctly, "Every man, within himself has Moses and the Israelites, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the Patriarchs and the kingdom of heaven and hell. Thus, the events described in the Bible, and looked upon by the pious as being things of a past history, are actually descriptions of eternal processes taking place in the constitution of man himself". ~Jacob Boehme 1575-1624
Goliaths, under New Testament paradigm, now become internal terroristic thoughts that seek to destroy our inner David.
Philistines now become self-centered thoughts which seek to plunder our heart's inner promised land.
Amalekites now become carnal desires seeking to corrode our motives from within.
But, by battling and evicting these inner enemies, we fulfill Paul's following exhortation:
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled." 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.
Executing these internal enemies now becomes nothing else but sanctifying our devotional focus on God's rescuing, relentless, and limitless love.
"For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, whatclearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter." 2 Corinthians 7:11.
"Unless those carnal wars (of the Old Testament) were a symbol of spiritual wars, I do not think that the Jewish historical books would ever have been passed down by the apostles to be read by Christ's followers in their churches... Thus, the apostle, being aware that physical wars have become personal battles of the soul against spiritual adversaries, gives orders to the soldiers of Christ like a military commander when he says, 'Put on the armor of God so as to be able to hold your ground against the wiles of the devil'" ORIGEN (Eph. 6:11). (Hom 15.1 ).
"[A Christian] affirms that even now my Lord Jesus Christ wars against opposing powers and casts out of their cities, that is, out of our souls, those who used to occupy them. And he destroys the kings who were ruling in our souls ‘that sin may no longer reign in us,’ [citing Rom. 6:12] so that, after he abolishes the king of sin from the city of our soul, our soul may become the city of God and God may reign in it, and it may be proclaimed to us, ‘Behold, the kingdom of God is within you'" ORIGEN [citing Luke 17:21] (Hom 13.1 .
"This warfare must be conducted by the Christian not with physical weapons, but with prayers, meditation on the Word of God, good deeds and good thoughts. Only in this way is the Christian able to withstand the works of the Devil, all the while invoking the help of Jesus Christ" ORIGEN (Hom 16.5).
Origen repeatedly stresses that a Christian reads with circumcised heart and thus 'understands that all these things are mysteries of the kingdom of heaven' (Hom 13.1 .
Origen says that literal (dead letter) Bible readings, at least in these killing and warfare texts, is equivalent to heresy. Origen charges that reading Joshua’s warfare texts literally is "teaching cruelty" (Hom 11.6 ). Literalists "make malicious charges against our Lord and Savior, who commands the kingdom of heaven, which he had promised to those who believe in him, to be seized through violence" (Hom. 12.2 ). Without the "deeper understanding" of an allegorical reading, literalists, in Origen's view, produce "perverse doctrines beautified by the assertions of a splendid discourse. . . [that]. . . . introduce into the churches sects not fitting to us, and to pollute all the church of the Lord" (Hom 7.7 ).
So, Origen sees "the promised land enemies" not as hostile humans but as carnal and/or Satanic IMPULSES. These enemies represent NOT flesh and blood foes, but rather terroristic thoughts, malicious mentalities, lustful strongholds, deadly ideas, and sinful mindsets. This alone is where ANY level of violence is spiritually permitted-- on our own inner toxic impulses and lethal ideas, NEVER on humans made in the image of God.
This Christo-allegorical reading also helps us interpret passages like the 2 Corinthians 6:7 passage which says we "brandish weapons of righteousness in our right hand and in our left."
Here is how that works.
We flood our enemies with forgiveness. We resist them with non-retaliation. We capture them with the love of God. We arm ourselves with disarming.
We brandish weapons of righteousness in our right hand and in our left.
What exactly are those weapons?
We flood our enemies with forgiveness.
We throttle them with tenderness.
We overcome them with an opposite spirit.
We pulverize them with patience.
We maul them with meekness.
We crush them with caring.
We ambush them with the awe of the Lord.
We bombard them with blessings.
We fight with a faith which works only and always through love. Through this inner dynamic we both experience and allow others to experience genuine cathartic release which leads to our joyful embrace of the divine nature revealed by and through Jesus.