Violence in the Bible and the Struggle of Our Lives

“Some forms of evil are so profound that they have to be hacked to pieces,” Fr. Robert Barron says in a discussion of violence in the Bible. This video is more than worth 11 minutes of your time — to become more familiar with and better understand allegories of the spiritual struggle in the Old Testament and “the ways we should fight evil all the way down” as we strive to live holiness where we find ourselves.

Often we miss what we’re dealing with. And that’s when evil has an opening.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I have had trouble wth those passages as well and have had a hard time debating people who question them. I don’t have a good answer and I don’t find Fr. Baron’s answer completely satisfying. Can one pick and choose what’s metaphor and what’s historocity? From what I remember of those passages (I always recall the Book of Joshua when I think of this) the language is quite clear the slaughter was from God’s commandment, and it had nothing to do with a metaphorical conceit. Is Fr. Baron saying that the slaughter was justified given Israel’s creation? Then he’s saying that ends justify the means.

    • Dan

      I go with the introduction of the Book of Judges in the New American Bible:

      http://www.usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?bk=Joshua&ch=

      Essentially, the book is a metaphor for the Israelites to follow the law in order to continue living on the promised land.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        How do you get to choose what is metaphor and what is history, and here history carries the actual words from God? From Deuteronomy 20:17 God says: “You shall not leave alive anything that breathes.” That’s the harem command that Joshua carries out in the Book of Joshua. God is actually quoted there. I have master’s in English. I know metaphors. That’s not a metaphor. That’s a commandment.

        • BTP

          Well, in this case, the choice between metaphor and history would be pretty easy, since the book of Joshua isn’t history. Which is to say, it is not an accurate historical rendition of the events by which the Jews came to hold the land.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            It’s not? How do you know that? Certainly it’s fuzzy history by modern standards, but how does one decide what’s accurate and what’s not? It’s there listed as history and the Jews understood it as history. It doesn’t read anything radically different than Roman historians pertaining to their history. The Romans took their historians as history, and I think the Jews did as well. If they quoted God as saying, “You shall not leave alive anything that breathes” and it’s in scripture, one would have to assume that quote is Holy Spirit inspired. Or do we pick and choose which quotes from God are ligit and which aren’t?

          • BTP

            We’ll, we have a pretty good idea about those Roman stories: Which are legends, which happened kinda sorta the way the story goes and so on, right? We happen to know from the archaeology that Joshua isn’t an accurate historical account.

            I don’t think there is any doubt that the Jewish self-understanding at the time it was compiled viewed these as representing the will of God. Doesn’t make it true.

            On the othe hand, I agree it doesn’t make them false, either.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            Well, if you’re going to push (excluding your last sentence) in that direction, then there are plenty of people who claim Christ never happened in the way it’s presented, and especially His resurrection. I guess it goes back to what I originally said: can one pick and chose what is history and what is metaphor?

          • nannon31

            And we have Christ telling us that the doom of 70 AD was real and would include preborns and was due to Jerusalem not knowing the hour of her visitation and her sins being filled up…the death toll later reported by Josephus and Tacitus. Manny, you are up against the fact that even Pope Benedict and John Paul II could not rationally process Biblical violence. Just as apologists waste time trying to make the Inquisition more cuddly, likewise Benedict in Verbum Domini, section 42 announced that the prophets opposed every form of violence. Mind boggling. Elijah killed 552 men; Eliseus cursed boys who dissed his office ( Aquinas) and bears killed 42 of them; the prophet Samuel “hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal”; Jehu was a prophet king whom God mandated for the killing of the house of Ahab. The later prophets protest one form of violence…that of the Jewish rich against the Jewish poor. Benedict must have joined those several passages to Isaiah’s swords into pruning hooks ( the resurrected life after the end of time) and Benedict thought all the prophets opposed all violence. None of them opposed all violence because prior to Christ, God had to motivate men who had no sanctifying grace and thus were very weak toward sin. Violence as in the death penalties for adultery etc. took the role of motivator wherein sanctifying grace was absent. The dooms were a simultaneous two purposed reality: the Canaanites sins were filled up ( Gen.15:16) and they learned nothing from 400 years of lighter punishments; and they were a temptation to the non graced Jews.
            Benedict was mistaken in section 42. Here is Jeremiah telling the Chaldeans that they must kill the Moabites thoroughly because that task is directly from God to them:
            Jer.48:10 ” Cursed are they who do the Lord’s work carelessly; cursed are they who hold back their sword from shedding blood.”
            If Popes can’t rightly process violence in the Bible, then
            biblical theologians will do worse. It’s the time we’re in and the tiredness of many people with the new and more frightening weapons of our time and our exposure through tv to wars’ tragedies.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            Good comment nannon. It could very well be that it is not explainable. For me the best explanation that would satisfy me is that those prophets who justified violence got it wrong (given what we know of Christ’s revelation and life) and were not inspired by the Holy Spirit. They rationalized what were their sins by claiming some sort of divine inspiration. That line of argumet too can be problematic, since one is still somewhat rejecting what’s in scripture, but Fr. Baron’s approach is essentially rejecting the history anyway. But to claim it’s some sort of metaphor is ridiculous.

  • nannon31

    I’m going to take issue with the very idea that the dooms of certain groups were simply in the Old Testament. The worst (and last) doom quantitatively was in 70 AD and was announced by Christ who said it would include preborns within the women of Jerusalem (Luke 19:44) and He said it would happen because Jerusalem did not know the time of its visitation (ibid). Josephus gives a figure of 1.1 million killed in that Jerusalem doom and Tacitus gives 600,000. There is no God guided doom after that in the “certainly willed” sense that we can know of since Revelation closed. The Romans did the slaughter of Jerusalem but God willed it and Christ gave its real reason in the mentioned Lucan verse. Exodus 20:5 says that God punishes down to the third and fourth generation physically not as to guilt of sin…hence the preborns.
    Fr. Barron in his video and Pope Benedict in section 42 of Verbum Domini both shrink from mentioning the 70 AD doom announced by Christ; and neither seems to know Wisdom chapter 12 ( only canonical with Catholics) which tells you that God first punished the Canaanites slowly and lightly to give them space for repentance ( Wis.12:10) for four hundred years until their sin was complete or filled up in God’s eyes ( Gen.15:16) before He resorted to the dooms. Jerusalem is also not doomed until its sins are fiiled up or complete ( Matthew 23:32). The dooms by God were God’s last resort with people…not His first measure.
    The answer is that God is taking humans into the next world everyday of the week…including women and children (c.150,000 per day). Read your newspaper. Fifty one people in a bus in Peru went over the edge of a cliff just days ago and were all killed hundreds of feet below. That can only happen if God permits it and He permits such things weekly. Christ said that a bird does not fall to the ground without your Father’s permission. Did God bring the Peru incident about by actively choosing it rather than permitting it? We have no idea because Scripture no longer tells us when God wills such things actively as He did the dooms. In scripture both God and the devil bring deaths to humans. God killed Herod in Acts 12 and the devil used a storm to kill Job’s relatives (Job1:19) and used men to slay Job’s servants ( Job1:15).
    So both God and the devil can be the active source of a death but only God permits both deaths…and we cannot know outside scripture usually whether God or the devil actively willed a death.
    The Biblical dooms had several purposes: punishment of the Canaanites but only after four hundred years of lighter punishments; protection of the Jews from the corruptive Canaanite culture of child sacrifice and cannibalism ( Wisdom 12:5)…which the Jews repeatedly followed anyway later. The Jews did not have sanctifying grace though they had sporadic actual grace. Hence they were weak. Christ brings sanctifying grace in John 1:17 and He reduces the power of satan in Luke 10:18. But Jews were spiritually weaker than we imagine prior to Christ…except for a few like Job and John the Baptist etc.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X