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Violence in the Bible?

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How do we respond to claims that the Bible encourages violence, especially in the OT? Some say God told Joshua to commit genocide and also point to passages like Nahum 3 and claim its talking about God metaphorically raping the city of Nineveh? Also an atheist told me Ezekiel has pornographic images in it using chapter 20 verse 23 as an example and saying for this reason the Bible ought to be censored and not taught to children... How do we respond?
 

LizaSymonenko

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The Old Testament IS violent... and often immoral. There is no getting around that.

The coal must be put through great extremes to be turned into a diamond... and so humanity, as a whole, needed to go through these things in order to eventually shine.

However, with Christ being the fulfillment of the OT, the prophesied Messiah, the one we were awaiting, and being prepared for His arrival.... now that we have "matured" given us the final teaching... of love, mercy, and forgiveness.

The diamond is now capable of cutting all other matter... but, is told to rejoice in its strength, yet not cut others, but, to shine and reflect the light of Christ.
 

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The Old Testament situation was different than this one also. In the Old Testament, God was having the Israelis set up a kingdom on earth. They fought with earthly tools. For the next world, we do not fight with earthly tools. Our enemy is also different.

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." -- Ephesians 6:12, New King James Version.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of that. One of the most difficult things about Christianity is to be struck by someone and not strike back.
 

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The bible shows us how we are fallen and all the messy consequences with that fall. It creates a hunger for Truth when reading the repeated patterns of fallen human nature like in Judges. It shows how futile man is in all the attempts to live without honoring the Creator. In reading the Old Testament It creates an expectation and hope for the Messiah, Our Saviour. The life of the Holy Prophets show us how in their weakness they searched for God and found favor. Even though they were grumblers, liars, sluts, adulterers, murderers, self pitying, every day Joes. The bible sums up society then and now. It provides hope and offers Truth and Holiness. The Bible shows us the path in the middle of a messed up world.
 

Bizzlebin

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How do we respond to claims that the Bible encourages violence, especially in the OT? Some say God told Joshua to commit genocide and also point to passages like Nahum 3 and claim its talking about God metaphorically raping the city of Nineveh? Also an atheist told me Ezekiel has pornographic images in it using chapter 20 verse 23 as an example and saying for this reason the Bible ought to be censored and not taught to children... How do we respond?
Depending on where the person is at spiritually, you could go deep and examine what is valued the most. Are we followers of Scripture because it accords with some "more important" views we have regarding violence, sexuality, and family? And do we accept God only inasmuch as He bows down to those idols? Or do we rather understand that all things are relative to Jesus Christ, and submit that whatever He tells us to do with regards to violence, sexuality, and family is, by definition, truth? The former leads us to a cold, objective view of truth that cannot save, while the latter leads us to a relationship with the Absolute Truth Himself.
 

Christos3

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Who are you discussing Scripture with? I would stay away from speaking with atheists. We are instructed to not answer people who come asking about Holy things with malicious intent. Also, people's hatred of God cannot understand the things of God.
 

Bizzlebin

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This series of lectures is very helpful:

Just finished the last of the 3 talks (no transcript for talk #3, so it took a lot longer to get through). Overall...I dunno. I suppose there are some points here and there that could be useful. And there were many points he made that were quite Orthodox, even if uncommon—very helpful for my purposes. But it was difficult to disentangle that from a lot of statements and assertions that I could not verify, and quite a few I know do not stand up.

To take one little point, I did a study on Jephthah's daughter many years ago for a DA (in the US) who was struggling with the story; it was one of the issues holding up his conversion to Orthodoxy. From my recollection of the various Fathers who commented, there was quite a diversity of interpretation about what actually happened, including Fathers who rejected an actual "human sacrifice" outright (they said he made her take a vow of virginity and live as a proto-nun). Whatever the case may have been in the story (or even history), this level of nuance was happily skipped over in the podcasts in order to make some larger, pre-conceived points. From what I know of the other topics, this was a very frequent occurrence. So while there are indeed points where the author is getting the history and patristics correct, even then I feel it is somewhat stilted and misrepresents the wider history and tradition. Not sure why the speaker is so intent on one particular, overarching narrative here. So like I recommend with a lot of current Orthodox material, take what you can and be *very* sure to fact-check the claims; it is harder here because of the unusual subject matter but due diligence will pay off. There is some good there, if you can isolate it and contextualize it.
 
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