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The Violence of Scripture: Overcoming the Old Testament's Troubling Legacy Paperback – August 1, 2012
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Eric A. Seibert faces these challenges head-on, offering perspectives on the roles human and divine violence play in different parts of the Old Testament, evaluating the biblical presentation of "virtuous violence," and proposing strategies for reading the Bible out of a commitment to nonviolence. At last he offers "soundings" in biblical texts where we encounter alternative voices, often neglected, that seek and announce ways of peace.
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Top Customer Reviews
We begin with the image of love. Christians follow Jesus in extending a degree of love and forgiveness for the enemy that confounds worldly wisdom. Think, for example, of the bereaved father extending forgiveness to serial killer Gary Ridgway at a victim impact hearing because "God told me to forgive". As inexplicable, even offensive, as such acts may appear, they are ultimately borne out of the words of Jesus who taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, who redefined "neighbor" to include our worst enemy, and who embodied this teaching in his very life as he prayed for forgiveness for those who crucified him.
This same book that provides such an exalted image of love and mercy also includes haunting images of violence like God commanding the sacrificial massacre of entire civilian populations (Deuteronomy 20), the slaughter of infants for the sins of their ancestors committed centuries before (1 Samuel 15), and the acquistion of sexual slaves for the Israelite army (Numbers 31).
How can we reconcile the images of love and violence? How can it be that God simultaneously command love, forgiveness and reconcilation even as he ordered genocide, sacrifice and sexual enslavement?
Most Christians are aware of this problem, at least in the general sense that they know it exists. Unfortunately, the norm is to keep the problem at a distance, often by insulating oneself with various rationalizing mechanisms like "God's ways are higher than our ways" and "Humans are sinful so it is a wonder that God saves anyone.Read more ›
The various reading strategies that Seibert proposes in the book go a long way toward helping Christians view others through the lens of Jesus Christ, so that rather than view them as enemies to be killed, we see them as people for whom Jesus died.
However, not everyone will be happy with the way Seibert reads and understands the violent portions of Scripture. His basic approach seems to be that the Bible is only inspired and inerrant in that it contains an inspired and inerrant account of what people "thought" about God, but not an inspired an inerrant account of who God truly is.
He says, "I am convinced it is best to regard the Old Testament's description of God's involvement in war as reflective of how people thought about God in a particular historical context -- rather than as descriptive of what God actually said and did" (p. 118).
Personally, I think this way of reading the text is way better than most of the alternatives, and is way better than the most common way of reading the Bible, which depicts God has a blood-thirsty, murderous tyrant intent on killing babies and committing genocide. This traditional view does not fit with Jesus Christ at all.
But I am not sure that most will be ready to adopt Seibert's view. I don't. I think there is a way of reading the Old Testament in light of Jesus Christ on the cross which allows God to get involved in the violence without making Him the direct cause of it. But this review is not about my view...
Seibert presents a good alternative view which must be considered by all who struggle with the violent portrayals of God in Scripture.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This writing helped in a lot of ways to see and understand scripture in a more realistic and non-violent way.Published 4 months ago by wimsyjoy
This book made me re-read certain passages of the Old Testament and reflect on the violence therein. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Michelle Gonzalez
Although in courses which I have taught I have dealt with people's reaction to some of the violent narratives found in the Old Testament, I was not aware of how caustic some of... Read morePublished on March 3, 2014 by Susan
Seibert offers an alternative method of reading scripture. The funny thing is that most Christians, including me, already read the Bible the way Eric suggests. Read morePublished on November 6, 2013 by Christopher Williamson