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[HJMatMeth] Contradictory biblical characterizations of the God of Israel and Jesus

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  • Brian McCarthy
    Dom, In chap. 12 of BofC and in its Epilogue you do a fine job of presenting the witness of all parts of the Hebrew scriptures to the charge of the God of
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 13, 2000
      In chap. 12 of BofC and in its Epilogue you do a fine job of presenting the witness of all parts of the Hebrew scriptures to the charge of the God of Israel to the people to serve him by seeking to realize justice in their life, social as well as individual.
      You do note one problem, the God of apocalyptic, whether Jewish or Christian, who seems to be a god of vengeance and destruction and not of justice.
      But there is another, more far-reaching one. There is a whole series of texts where the God of israel is portrayed as someone who achievs his goals via indiscriminate mass killings that extend to children and infants. One particularly explicit example is I Sam 15, which concerns Saul, the Amelekites and disobedience. (Verse 3 "...kill both man and woman, child and infant...")
      Another concerns Israel's occupation of the Land. Deuteronomy 20:16 contains the divine command of genocide--v. 16 "...you must not let anything that breathes remain alive..."--and Joshua purports to recount Israel's zealous efforts to carry out this command via a whole series of total local genocides, all achieved because 'God is on their side' (Josh. 10:42)
      But the worst concerns the canonical account in Exodus of the paradigmatic divine intervention to deliver his people from slavery. The god of Israel might have inflicted pharaoh, who alone made the decisions. from 'head to toe', like Job (2:7), but authors, tradents and canonizers clearly find it much more satisfactory to portray him in the 10th 'plague' as himself indiscriminately killing all the first-born of the Egyptians, and emphasize that this includes the first born of powerless, oppressed Egyptians such as the slave-girl at the mill and the prisoner in the dungeon!
      And, if we had any doubt about what is going on, all we need to do is read of the strutting chauvinism of Moses in 11:7. The discrimination that interests this god is that between the Egyptians and the Israelites, not that between the innocent and the guilty!
      That can easily sound terribly anti-Jewish, but of course, as you suggest, it is in the Christian Bk of Revelation--the book which in the Christian Bible brings the whole great story begun in Genesis to its triumphant conclusion, the prism through which large numbers of Americans view i) the rest of the Bible ii) Jesus iii) the world around them--that this theme reaches its cosmic culmination.
      Do you see any move, methodological or other, by which we can escape this most radical biblical ambiguity?  And how can you possibly say that "God's law was not a matter simply of divine will or divine command but of divine nature and divine character" (p. 176)?
      Brian McCarthy, Madison WI
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