Bible nasties…

The Christian tradition that I grew up into stood firmly in the way of the Book.

Our understanding of faith was often reduced to an understanding of the Bible. We prided ourselves on taking it in whole- unaltered, un doubted, seamless, without contraction or error.

Except of course, the longer I have walked this path, the more I have struggled with this blinkered and partisan view of the Bible. It has been a regular theme on thisfragiletent– as I have returned again and again to chew on the words and the Word.

The position I start from these days is one of wonder and respect for the ancient writings, shadowed with other things- I do not doubt the inspiration or the revelation they contain, but what I thought I knew about the Book, I often find myself now not knowing. I find myself full of questions, to which there are often only more questions, rather than answers. For a while this seemed like a crisis of my very faith, but then became the very life of my faith- the adventure with God could begin anew.

One of the things I had to confront was the realisation that all those lovely life affirming and loving passages of the Bible that I know and love are not all that the Book contains. Rather there is much that greatly troubles me. To ignore (or at best to minimise) these passages is simply not honest. To claim that they are part of God’s plan- that all this death and suffering fits together in an organised whole- it lacks integrity with the way of Jesus- or so it seems to me.

To illustrate, here are twenty examples-

  1. God drowns the whole earth.
    In Genesis 7:21–23, God drowns the entire population of the earth: men, women, children,. Only a single family survives. In Matthew 24:37–42, Jesus appears to approve of this genocide and even to say it will be repeated when he returns.
  2. God kills half a million people.
    In 2 Chronicles 13:15–18, God helps the men of Judah kill 500,000 of their fellow Israelites.
  3. God slaughters all Egyptian firstborn.
    In Exodus 12:29, God kills all Egyptian firstborn children and cattle because their king was stubborn.
  4. 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.
  5. 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, and plunder the country. 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 ago.
  6. 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.
  7. 3,000 Israelites killed for inventing a god.
    In Exodus 32, Moses has climbed Mount Sinai to get the Ten Commandments. The Israelites are left with too much time to wonder, 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.” About 3,000 people died.
  8. Amorites destroyed by sword and 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.
  9. God burns 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.
  10. God has 42 children mauled by bears.
    In 2 Kings 2:23–24, some kids tease the prophet Elisha, and God sends bears to maul them.
  11. A tribe slaughtered and their virgins raped for not showing up at roll call.
    In Judges 21:1–23, a tribe of Israelites misses roll call, so the other Israelites kill them all except for the virgins, which they take for themselves. Still not happy, they hide in vineyards and pounce on dancing women from Shiloh to take them for themselves.
  12. 3,000 crushed to death.
    In Judges 16:27–30, God gives Samson strength to bring down a building to crush 3,000 members of a rival tribe.
  13. A concubine raped and dismembered.
    In Judges 19:22–29, a mob demands to rape a godly master’s guest. The master offers his daughter and a concubine to them instead. They take the concubine and gang-rape her all night. The master finds her on his doorstep in the morning, cuts her into 12 pieces, and send the pieces around the country.
  14. Child sacrifice.
    In Judges 11:30–39, Jephthah burns his daughter alive as a sacrificial offering for God’s favor in killing the Ammonites. We remember the mercy God showed to Abraham and Isaac, but forget this one.
  15. God helps Samson kill 30 men because he lost a bet.
    In Judges 14:11–19, Samson loses a bet for 30 sets of clothes. The spirit of God comes upon him and he kills 30 men to steal their clothes and pay off the debt.
  16. God demands you kill your wife and children for worshipping other gods.
    In Deuteronomy 13:6–10, God commands that you must kill your wife, children, brother, and friend if they worship other gods.
  17. God incinerates 51 men to make a point.
    In 2 Kings 1:9–10, Elijah gets God to burn 51 men with fire from heaven to prove he is God.
  18. God kills a man for not impregnating his brother’s wife.
    In Genesis 38:9–10, God kills a man for refusing to impregnate his brother’s wife.
  19. God threatens forced cannibalism.
    In Leviticus 26:27–29 and Jeremiah 19:9, God threatens to punish the Israelites by making them eat their own children.
  20. The coming slaughter.
    According to Revelation 9:7–19, God’s got more evil coming. God will make horse-like locusts with human heads and scorpion tails, who torture people for 5 months. Then some angels will kill a third of the earth’s population. If he came today, that would be 2billion people.
Over the next few weeks, I will spend some time thinking about this a little more- considering again what we might make of these passages.
Reclaiming the Bible for what it is, not for what it never was.
Or at least trying to- I stand in a long tradition of others who have done the same.

11 thoughts on “Bible nasties…

  1. yes, these really bother me too, and the usual answers never seem to satisfy, so will be interested in your further thoughts. Can you tell me what churches mean when they say that they believe in the infallibilty of the bible?

    • Hi Vicky- thanks for the comment- expect no great conclusions, just some open meanderings!

      As for what people might mean by ‘infallibility’ applied to the Bible- I suppose the other term we hear used is ‘Inerrancy’- the idea that the Bible is ‘without error or contradiction’.

      This might be subdivided further into people who would argue for this in an unlimited way- and fiercely defend any suggestion to the contrary (doing some rather tortuous head over heels theology in the process!) and those who argue for limited inerrancy- by which they might say that the message of Scripture is without error, but that this absence of error does not necessarily apply to the incidental, scientific, geographical, or historical statements in Scripture.



  2. If I lived in your area, I would join your church group. You are an unusual person and I have come to admire and respect your stances and beliefs because they tend to mirror mine. I enjoy all your blog posts and that you share with us who read them your doubts and your thinking. I am not a religious person, but have a strong faith. I am very glad to have stumbled across your blog. Thank you.

  3. Like this, Chris. Its well past time for ignoring all this stuff and hoping it will go away, or trying to explain it with trite explanations that don’t answer anything. Good luck dealing with this stuff-will watch with interest. x

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