Did God Command Genocide?

In Joshua 8:2, Yahweh seems to command the indiscriminate killing of the inhabitants of the city of Ai: “And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its livestock you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Lay an ambush against the city, behind it.” If this were said today, it would widely be regarded as a command to commit genocide.[1] The severity of the command seems validated by what Joshua records about the battle (vv. 24-25):

24 When Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the edge of the sword. 25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai.

This account—and others like it in the Old Testament[2]—are often viewed as problematic for contemporary Christians. How can a God of love command murder? How can the God who says “love your enemies” have ordered their destruction? These are, in my estimation, entirely legitimate questions worth wrestling with.

In what follows, I hope to breakdown some of the key aspects of thinking through the question of whether or not God commanded genocide and (some of) what that means for Christians today. Continue reading

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Book Review: The Old Testament Case for Nonviolence (Fleischer)

Did God command Israel to commit atrocities when conquering the Promised Land? Does He approve when people go to war in His name? Is the God of the Old Testament truly a homicidal maniac, as some have said?

In The Old Testament Case for Nonviolence, Matthew Curtis Fleischer tackles these questions—and much more—with a thorough and contextual reading of the Old and New Testaments. Fleischer marshals evidence that says no to these queries, at least in a nuanced sense. His chief argument in defense of God’s character is the concept of incremental revelation: that in order to best reveal Himself (in the person of Jesus for the work of the Church), God incrementally revealed His ethical expectations and character throughout the Old and New Testaments. Continue reading

The Resurrection

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Bibliography

This post is the final in the series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

Ancient Sources

Clement of Alexandria. Quis Dives Salvetur. Edited by P. Mordaunt Barnard. Texts and Studies 5, 2. Nendeln: Kraus Reprint, 1967.

English Standard Version Bible. New York: Crossway, 2010.

Epistle of Barnabas. Translated by Bart D. Ehrman. The Apostolic Fathers: Volume Two. Loeb Classical Library 25. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003. Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Conclusions

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

RevelationThis study has undertaken an investigation of the Christology of the Apocalypse of John, seeking to fill a lacunae that has only been rarely and partially addressed in contemporary scholarship. This project has not sought to exhaustively address any of the issues mentioned above, only to draw together piecemeal existing studies and offer a unified argument for Revelation’s portrayal of “Jesus as Lord.” Much work remains to be done on this topic, especially the expansion of this project into a more detailed and comprehensive examination of the names, images, and actions of Jesus in Revelation.[1] Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Implications for Modern Christianity (Part III)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Long BeachRevelation also highlights the importance of doxology in the contemporary world. Throughout the history of Christological development, interpretations of who Jesus is necessarily took place in the context of the place given him in Christian devotional practices.[1] While there are obviously limits to defining doctrine based on the sensus fidei, the fact remains that contemporary Christian doxology may fruitfully inform understandings of who Jesus is and how he is appropriately worshiped. Revelation also encourages active and vibrant doxological practice in today’s church communities, calling Christians everywhere to join in the worship of God and Jesus along with the saints across time and place. Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Implications for Modern Christianity (Part II)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

Sacred ScriptureThe Apocalypse holds a unique position within the Christian scriptures, being the only piece of explicitly Christian prophetic material to make the canonical cut. First and foremost, Christians must engage Revelation’s prophetic utterances within a context of Old Testament prophecy, much of which ultimately points towards the coming of Yahweh’s kingdom on earth. Second, interpreters should take seriously Bauckham’s dictum that, “Biblical prophecy always both addressed the prophet’s contemporaries about their own present and future immediately impending for them and raised hopes which proved able to transcend their immediate relevance to the prophet’s contemporaries and to continue to direct later readers to God’s purpose for their future.”[1] Third, a preterist approach to Revelation—arguing that most of the Apocalypse’s prophetic material has been fulfilled—should find value in Revelation as not only as a demonstration of the faithfulness of God and how he works in the world, but also as a source for purging and refurbishing the Christian imagination. Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Implications for Modern Christianity (Part I)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

Early Church FathersAs a professing Christian standing in the Great Tradition of the Church, I believe that the faith and practices of early followers of Jesus form an important authority for contemporary expressions of Christianity. Regarding devotional practice, worship of Jesus remains not only acceptable, but is in fact required for those professing orthodox Christian faith. The appropriateness of Jesus devotion remains not only a facet of Church tradition, but also of the earliest Christians faiths recorded in the New Testament, which testify to the fact that Jesus was and is Messiah, Redeemer, Coming Judge, and Lord, all within the context of monotheistic belief in one God. The identification of Jesus with Yahweh was not a later accretion. Rather, Jesus’ identification with God—Yahweh come to earth—was a hallmark of the earliest Christian communities. Those who diverge from this (minimally) “binitarian” understanding of God-Jesus stand outside the boundaries of orthodox Christianity. Therefore, contemporary followers of Jesus are called to affirm with the Great Church of history that “Jesus is Lord” and worthy of worship. Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Implications for Early Christianity (Part III)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

Chester Beatty Papyrus (Romans)While early Christian literature remains maddeningly obscure in its identification of source texts, theological influences, and employment of traditional materials—thereby rendering futile many attempts at identifying a single source as the genesis for any given idea or practice—Revelation’s general conception of the boundaries of Jesus devotion nonetheless seems to have coordinated with other now–New Testament writings in the formation of limits concerning what constituted acceptable Christian confession and practice. Continue reading