Biblical scholars have for centuries struggled with comparing–what seemed to be a harsh and judgmental God of the Old Testament with the loving, forgiving and redemptive God of the New Testament. “Is the God of the Old Testament the same God as the God of the New Testament?
While hesitating in reflective thought, today, most sensitive Christians would finally reply: well, yes he is! – Yes but ……
- The God described in the Torah (particularly), had very primitive, undisciplined and pagan people to deal with. The God of the Old Testament had to interact with people who had no codes of conduct or laws. He had to accept the Mosaic Law, as flawed as it was, but much better than anything that had ever been established in any Mid Eastern Culture.
- The conquest of the “promised land” was clearly commanded by God to Moses and finally to Joshua. God was determined to destroy the heinous, pagan and barbaric religious practices of the indigenous people living in Canaan. God had no desire to harm or destroy the non-combatant people. When Canaanite pagan armies opposed the Israelites, they were defeated militarily as God directed. They were not harmed if they converted to the worship of Yahweh.
- Many scriptures reflect the “hyperbole” style of the Mid Eastern culture – such statements as – “everybody and every thing was destroyed or wiped out!” These types of statements were exaggerations of what really happened. It’s like a young teenage baseball player, after winning a game, coming home and telling his parents “we really wiped them out – or we destroyed the other team!”
- Recent Archeological evidence gathered from multiple excavated sites in the near East (Palestine), substantiates the belief of many biblical scholars, that the popular description of the Israelites conquest was exaggerated. The evidence supports a more gradual infiltration, and merging of small groups of Hebrews into the indigenous populations – than an open war of invasion and destruction. Mid Eastern cultures were famous for their bragging exaggerations of their military accomplishments.The broad history of the Old Testament peoples, with all its inhuman and even barbaric acts, shows a slow but gradual evolution of the ethical and moral values of people from Abraham through 2000 years culminating in the Babylonian exile and the life of Jesus.
- Everything written in the Old Testament does not reflect what God wanted – it reflects all he could expect from a flawed and sinful people at every slow step of the way toward the events of the New Testament.
- God compromised , tolerated and allowed imperfect laws, cultures and morals to exist in the scriptures, temporarily , as he slowly moved his people over thousands of years, toward the cross of Jesus Christ.
- Therefore, there are human laws, acts and beliefs experienced in the Old Testament that describe where God’s people were, rather than where God was. God patiently lived with, disciplined and loved his people as they slowly evolved into becoming the fully human, loving and compassionate people of the New Testament.
- This summary on the understanding of the Old Testament points out the fallacy of making the broad statement that:
“The Bible is God’s Word” – when it seems more correct to say: “The Bible contains God’s Word” and to recognize that many statements accredited to God were reported in the Bible to describe events and actions by God’s people that God may not have agreed with or approved. This understanding of a very patient and loving God helps me to have more respect and love for the God of the Old Testament.
“The God I Don’t Understand” – reflections on Tough Questions of Faith, by Christopher J. H. Wright
“The Joshua Delusion”- Rethinking Genocide in the Bible, by Douglas S. Earl
“God Misbehaving Badly”, by David T. Lamb
“Is God A Moral Monster?” – Making Sense of the Old Testament God, by Paul Copan