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?