There is a closely held belief by all Christians that the God of the Bible is Good. That is what I used to believe as a boy. I have since changed my mind. Please understand that it is not my purpose to be railing against the Creator (if he exists); rather it is my assertion that the Biblical portrayal of him is far less than complimentary. I would appreciate it if those interested in the topic enter into debate on this thread. Our discussion should not have anything to do with the accuracy and inerrancy of scripture, but rather allow for expression of opinion as to whether the actions or commands of the Lord in scripture are suitable to a Deity. I trust that you will follow along in your own Bibles to ensure the accuracy of the text. Please do not respond with Bible quotes to the effect that God is good; we are quite aware of the positive attributes of God (for those who believe in him).
So, here we go and, again, the issue is, are the actions and commands of God as given in the scriptures acts of Goodness, or as I contend, Evil?
I contend that it is Evil to kill innocents; but the Bible says:
quote:Kill Men, Women, and Children
"Then I heard the LORD say to the other men, "Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all – old and young, girls and women and little children. But do not touch anyone with the mark. Begin your task right here at the Temple." So they began by killing the seventy leaders. "Defile the Temple!" the LORD commanded. "Fill its courtyards with the bodies of those you kill! Go!" So they went throughout the city and did as they were told." (Ezekiel 9:5-7 NLT)
God Kills all the First Born of Egypt
And at midnight the LORD killed all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn son of the captive in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed. Pharaoh and his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died. (Exodus 12:29-30 NLT)
Kill Old Men and Young Women
"You are my battle-ax and sword," says the LORD. "With you I will shatter nations and destroy many kingdoms. With you I will shatter armies, destroying the horse and rider, the chariot and charioteer. With you I will shatter men and women, old people and children, young men and maidens. With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks, farmers and oxen, captains and rulers. "As you watch, I will repay Babylon and the people of Babylonia for all the wrong they have done to my people in Jerusalem," says the LORD. "Look, O mighty mountain, destroyer of the earth! I am your enemy," says the LORD. "I will raise my fist against you, to roll you down from the heights. When I am finished, you will be nothing but a heap of rubble. You will be desolate forever. Even your stones will never again be used for building. You will be completely wiped out," says the LORD. (Jeremiah 51:20-26)
One way to understand what the Bible is saying is to read it as it was written. Whole stories, not verses.
Ezekiel 9:5-7 If you go back to Ezekiel 8 you will find that what you are reading in Ezekiel 9 is a vision, not reality. I don't see that any living innocents were murdered in the viewing of that vision.
Exodus 12:29-30 If you go back to Exodus 7 you will see that the Exodus story is just that, a story. If you want to take the event as actual, then remember that Egypt was the enemy. God is the god of the Israelites, not Egypt. What people expected from God in that timeframe is different than what we expect today. The rules were different back then. Do you feel that God does the same thing today?
Jeremiah 51:20-26 This is a prophecy against Babylon. From what I understand, it didn't come about as depicted. So no "evil" actually took place.
Good and evil are in the eyes of the beholder.
"Peshat is what I say and derash is what you say." --Nehama Leibowitz
Gotta get some of your story straight right from the beginning.
There is a closely held belief by all Christians that the God of the Bible is Good.
First, good and evil are a Human construct and a relative determination that we make. The Bible itself says that God creates both good and evil. God is complete.
Second, there are no full and complete descriptions of GOD to be found in the Bible. Instead, what we find are different individual views, characterizations, word pictures that try to describe the concept, GOD.
Third, the different stories in the Bible follow along the same pattern as all Epic Tales and Fables. The stories themselves are meant to convey a message. In some cases it was to found an identity, in others to set social norms and still others are meant to teach some moral.
In particular, we can find similar traits when we look at other similar types of tales from other areas, peoples and cultures. The Pied Piper is at its root, a horrific story. The peoples of the town welch on a promise to pay the Piper and so the Piper plays all of the children of the village away, never to be seen again.
The children were certainly innocent, they had not made the contract, and could not have fulfilled the conditions even if they chose, yet they suffer the full cost and penalty.
But the moral of the story, that one should honor ones word when given, is still a valid one even if the story is horrific and the Piper's actions evil.
Purpledawn, that's a very convienient way to read the bible. When you find something you like, it's true. When you find something you don't like, well, it's just a story, you see. And if it's not a story, well, it was written for that time only. We are BOG. Resistance is voltage over current.
Occasionally, owing to the deficiency of the English language, I have used he/him/his meaning he or she/him or her/his or her in order to avoid awkwardness of style.
He, him, and his are not intended as exclusively masculine pronouns. They may refer to either sex or to both sexes!
What you say may well be true, that they "stories" are intended to be allegorical, not taken literally. Still this is not the kind of thing that I want to be teaching my children. If God is not good, then he is not God (if God exists).
Your response is benign, quite pleasant. I have no real quarrel with it generally. But let me ask you, jar, don't you find the passages of post one to be horrific, and if God were the Pied Piper would we not string him up?
But let me ask you, jar, don't you find the passages of post one to be horrific, and if God were the Pied Piper would we not string him up?
No, not at all. First, the passages must be taken in context. Epic tales are quite often horrific and great literary characters complex. The better the story the greater the complexity of the people depicted.
The Bible is a construction of humans, I believe inspired by GOD, but still written by just plain folk, with all the limitations and perspective of their culture and milieu. To read such tales through today's eyes is to misrepresent the authors intent.
I see what you are saying with regard to the Pied Piper, and its' benefit in teaching people to honor their commitments. But what moral do we derive from the murderous passages of post one? I do not see one, and I dare say that most readers would say that these verses are a portion of the literal history of the Jewish people.
Well the tales are part of the literal history of the Hebrews, in that they are part of the "mythos" of the peoples. That does not mean that they literally happened as described or even that they even happened at all.
The first of your quotes was from a dream sequence, a vision. Visions can be strange things.
The second is from the Exodus saga, definitely mythology and folk tale complete with cliff hangers to leave the audience waiting breathlessly for the next nights installment. The Exodus (and many other such stories like the Conquest of Canaan) are true Epic Sagas. They are replete with horrific and wondrous tales.
The third was a prophecy (that did not come to pass) from the view point of the oppressed about the comeupence of the oppressor.
The moral of the first is that the result of offending God will be suffering, very much as in the Pied Piper.
The second is, as I said, part of the Epic Saga of a peoples, of how they came into being. I'll return to it in a moment because it is actually a very important part of the bigger picture.
The third is the words of a prophet, speaking to a downtrodden people, assuring them that things will get better and that the oppressor will get what is coming to them.
For modern examples, simply look at WWII posters or listen to the news of jihad today, from both sides.
The Literal Part of history is that these are the stories that formed the basic identities of a people. The key point is not whether they happened in reality but rather what part they played in forming the culture and mores of the Hebrews themselves.
Back to the Exodus Saga.
If there is any actuality to the Exodus Saga, it is small and totally unrelated to the tale that grew up. But it is THE key story in the formation of the Jewish peoples. There are three mandatory pilgrimages mentioned in the Torah, and all three are based on the Exodus Saga.
The first and best known is Passover, celebrating a truly horrific event, the night when the Angel of the Lord passes through Egypt killing the first born of EVERY family whose lintel was not marked with blood of a ram.
Another is Sukkot (also spelled Sukkoth), my favorite while growing up. It commemorates the time spent wandering in the desert during the Exodus. It's great for kids since we got to build tents with a sheet over the table and sleep in them and eat on the floor and get dirty.
The third mandatory pilgrimage is Shavuot. It is celebrated at the same time Christians celebrate Pentecost. Like the other two, it is based on the Exodus Saga. It commemorates the return of Moshe with the Torah, when the peoples accepted the Word of God and actually became the People of God.
There is also though yet another level beneath even these celebrations that goes back to their agricultural origins. Passover traditionally was celebrated when the first harvest of Barley was brought to the Temple as an offering. Wheat ripes slightly later and Shavuot was the celebration of that harvest. Sukkot happens in the Fall, and again we can see the connection to the land, the world and the harvest.
During Sukkot it is traditional to "Shake the four species". To celebrate, you take the Date Palm Frond, some Myrtle and the Willow in the left hand, and hold the Citron in your right. As you bring the two hands together, they are blessed. You then shake them three times to each of the four corners, to North, East, South and West.
The ceremony is a prayer of thanks for the year’s bounty and that there be rain enough for all the coming years’ growth.
To try to pick pieces parts out of the Bible as you have done is, IMHO, as wrong as the Biblical Christians quotemining the same book for their purposes. Instead, what is needed is to teach the stories in toto, tell the whole tale including the basis and purpose of the creation of the tales.
The Bible is an anthology of anthologies, written, edited, redacted and revised by many people over many centuries, moving from oral tradition to written tradition to revised tradition to compiled tradition. It is a complex work of many people.
The answer, IMHO is not to condemn the tales or to create the "Evil Bible" but rather even more education so that people can see the stories within the broader context.