Genocide in the Bible – again

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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.]

One comment on “Genocide in the Bible – again

  1. Bob MacDonald

    Tim – re signs the text is picture language – the last time I read Exodus, it read to me like a comic book. I don’t doubt that the life of the time was brutish – as it still can be. I have the same parochialism and genocidal issues in thinking about Esther. What can one do except take a metaphorical view and recognize the transformation of violence in the death that is still to come?