Greek European Culture

Philosophy

Is the God of the Old Testament Barbaric?


A visitor of these pages asks:

The Old Testament, though, often presents God as a warrior — someone rather tribal, “wild”, & judgmental, quick to kill or disown for transgressions, apparently sanctioning revenge, even ordering what looks to be exterminations during war… Mystery I know to accept, but I don’t know how to deal with apparent contradiction… I looked for a book addressing the subject, perhaps titled something like “How to Read & Understand the Old Testament”, but have not been able to find one. Thanks for any suggestions or guidance.

Dear Jack, I respect very much your own good will, but answering to you I will have in mind mainly some other people, that try to diminish the value of the Old Testament without reason. The question if the God ‘of the Old Testament’ is barbaric, is a wrong question, unless we cut and stitch the New Testament in measures that do not exist in herself. Why the God ‘of the Old Testament‘ is savage and brutal – but not the God ‘of the New Testament’, who sends one Plague after another, turns water into blood, and places the large number of all population to the eternal Hell?

The question is wrong, but not devoid of any basis, since in the New Testament there exists the person of Christ, who is Himself the New Testament. We would ask a little better, not opposing the two epochs of the Bible, the Old and the New Testament, but the persons of the Trinity: Is the Father ‘barbaric’ contrary to the Son and the Holy Spirit?

To the same shift of the question we come from other ways too. Why should we remain to comparisons of the New and the Old Testament, when even after Christ death, suffering, pain, injustice still exist in the world – all those that Christ himself suffered?

Yet, Christ is not only a God who does not punish, kill, etc., He is also a God who left Himself to suffer all of them, knowing also that his closest friends will suffer the same – and does not prevent them either for Himself or for his closest Disciples: He allows all this Evil, even if He is not its source. Why?

In fact the supposed opposition between Christ and the God ‘of the Old Testament’, is just a disguise of the problem of Theodicy: If God is good, why all this evil and injustice? Whether we describe the question as a contrast between Christ and His Father, or as an internal contradiction in the Deity, its essence remains unchanged.

I highlight these dimensions, because behind the inaccurate accusation of the ‘barbarity’ of the Old Testament, usually it is concealed a trend to deny the Old Testament, and even sometimes a racist, anti-jewish, motivation – when Christ Himself, Whom they admire, not only did not deny the Old Testament, but also approved it to the last letter and accent. Why was He not the first to abandon the ‘bloodthirsty’ God of the Old Testament?

2 Comments

  1. rick

    one thing that strikes me everytime i look into such issues is christians pick and choose what they wanna say from the bible. they will always nullify all the barbaric and ridiculuous things in the bible by quoting how jesus died for our sins etc (john 3:16). but essentially, the god of the old testament is the god of the new testament.

    the god of old testament is only 1000 to 3000 earlier than the god of the new testament. can an eternal god change his attitude in such a short time? no. according to the bibile, god said ‘i change not’.

    yet if you read Judges chapter 19 verse 24 to 29, you will see a man allow his wife/concubine (coincidentally labelled as an unfaithful one) to be gang raped throughout the night and left to die on the door step. When he found her, all he said as ‘get up, it is time to go’. after realising she is dead from her ordeal, he cut her up limb from limb into 12 pieces and send it to 12 tribes in israel to incite a war.

    i”m a guy and i think it is extremely barbaric. And I don’t ever think this chapter has ever been discussed on a cherry sunday morning service. i nearly vomitted when i first read that chapter.

    quite hyprocrites. christians will always try to come up with some answers to justify such things in the bible and wrap everything up with ‘ for god loves us so so much that he sends his only son jesus to earth and die for our despicable sins’.

  2. This event described in Judges 19 may have shocked you, but it does not support your case. First of all, it does not speak about a brutal action ordered by God, but by men. The woman that was raped and murdered is nowhere described as “unfaithful” as you inaccurately say, and the event itself (which regards divisions and fights between tribes of Israel) is punished in the next, 20th, chapter of the Judges.