How people treat the violence in the Old Testament

old testament violence


Americans are slowly giving up biblical literalism.

A recent study by the Gallup association shows there is a striking decrease in Americans who accept the Bible as literally true and a significant increase in those who believe it is absent of divine influence.


There are two alternative stories of the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem

History writing is never objective, but always biased based on the perspective of the authors. When you read the history in the Bible you only read one side of the story, the Jewish side.

As an example, consider the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem.

a. The Biblical account depicts the Jews as winning the war, and even says an angel of the Lord destroyed the Assyrian army. (2 Kings 19:35)

b. The Assyrian account, recorded on Sennacherib’s Prism, says that the Assyrian King Sennacherib destroyed forty-six of Judah’s cities, redistributed these to other kings under Assyrian rule, took a quarter million Jews captive, and finally trapped King Hezekiah in Jerusalem “like a caged bird.” It states that the “terrifying splendor” of the Assyrian army caused the mercenaries reinforcing Jerusalem to flee and finally when Sennacherib received a large tribute from Judah he left the city.

See the full text here: 

Americans claim the Bible is Gods word, don’t read it

  • 4 in 5 Americans are Christians and believe that the Bible is Gods word. (1)
  • Yet only 1 in 5 Americans (including Christians AND and people of other faiths/atheists/agnostics) have read the whole Bible. (2)

What a tragic fact, in my opinion, regardless of your religious views, reading through the whole Bible should be a requirement for our society where the vast majority of people claim to have moral values that are founded on the Bible.

In related news, atheists and agnostics tend to know the bible as good as most Christian, and  even better than other groups of Christians. (3)

There are fire breathing dragons in the Bible

There be dragons in these texts! Yes, that’s right, there are scaly fire-breathing-dragons mentioned in the Bible. Isaiah (14:29, 30:6) mentions the “fiery flying serpent” but Job offers many more juicy details.


Wait. so are there really fire-breathing-dragons or was this mythical language? Well, I for one don’t think there are dragons, unicorns, or trolls, but that doesn’t stop plenty of creationist organizations (1, 2) from believing in bonafide fire-breathing-dragons.

Did Jesus ask to be saved from the cross? Inconsistency in the Gospels?

There are many thematic differences between the Synoptic gospels (Mark, Mat, Luke) vs John’s Gospel. Seeing as Johns Gospel was the last one to be written, scholars say about 30-50 years after Marks, these differences serve as examples of the type doctrinal development during this gap.

One of these examples is the depiction of Jesus, the Synoptics show his humanity in that he prays for God to save him from the cross, while in John’s Gospel the divinity and might of Jesus is emphasized, thus this prayer-of-weakness is completely missing, and instead there is an earlier declaration that he wont ask to be saved from the suffering.

Jesus prayed to avoid crucifixion

There are other differences that illustrate this same theme:

  • In the Synoptics Jesus is depicted as saying “your will, not mine” which shows two conflicting wills. In John, this conflict of will is wholly absent, Jesus never says his own will is to avoid the suffering.
  • In the Synoptics Jesus is visibly grieved and in anguish, to the point of sweating blood, in John he is carefully composed.
  • In the Synoptics Jesus is quietly arrested, in John his voice knocks down everyone around him.
  • In the Synoptics the disciples repeatedly fall asleep, in John their sleepiness is absent.

Regarding the original point, there are two options

  • 1. Both events happened. (a) Jesus said he would not pray to avoid his death, and (b) he then did pray this way, if only for a bit before submitting. The Synoptics write about B but avoid A. John does the opposite, avoids B and writes A. In this case, the Synoptics vs John *still* purposefully depict two very different portraits of Jesus, and this “theological intent” is fascinating. In addition this raises the theological question about Jesus’ divinity, could Jesus make mistakes? Could he confidently assert that he would not fail X and then fail X?

    2. Both did not happen. In this case, Johns gospel by virtue of its lateness would be the embellishment that shows a less human version of Jesus.

Bastards are not very well liked in the Hebrew Bible

If you are a child born outside of marriage, there are commands in the Bible forbid you to go to church. (Or perhaps to join the assembly of the people, or the leaders, depending on who is writing the commentary, and how much they are trying to soften this passage for the modern reader.)

“No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 23:2)

This sounds even nicer in the good ‘ol King James:

“A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 23:2)