Kenton Sparks, (Biblical Studies, Eastern University) has a good (if somewhat polemic) short post, part 2 of a series After Inerrancy: Evangelicals and the Bible in a Postmodern Age in which he sets up nicely the inner-biblical problem of genocide in texts like Deut 7:2. I hope that it is more than merely a stick to beat the fundies with.
I was glad he pointed out that concern over such issues is far from new, citing Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395CE) one of the most respected patristic authors. Gregory was disturbed by the murder of Egyptian children ascribed to God in the Exodus narrative:
The Egyptian [Pharaoh] is unjust, and instead of him, his punishment falls upon his newborn child, who on account of his infant age is unable to discern what is good and what is not good … If such a one now pays the penalty of his father’s evil, where is justice? Where is piety? Where is holiness? Where is Ezekiel, who cries … “The son should not suffer for the sin of the father?” How can history so contradict reason?
As Sparks points out, Gregory’s solution, which fails to take the text literally although there are no (or at least very few possible) signs that it was intended as picture language, will not work for us. But he is evidence for this issue not being only a modern one.
[The previous post was about a week earlier, so I’m hoping for some good reading next week.]