Nazi Otto Ohlendorf and the Old Testament

Nazi Otto Ohlendorf and the Old Testament May 24, 2024

Nazi Otto Ohlendorf and the Old Testament

Nazi war criminal Otto Ohlendorf defended his actions by appealing to the Old Testament “texts of terror” in which God is said to have commanded the genocide of Canaanites. His point, during his Nuremberg trial, was that genocide cannot automatically be considered a crime against humanity because God, the God believed in by most of his prosecutors and judges, commanded it. If the Jewish and Christian God, the God of the Bible, commanded genocide, then genocide cannot believed by Christians to be self-evidently, automatically a crime against humanity. His argument did not prevent him from being hanged for murdering approximately ninety thousand innocent civilians, men, women and children, on the Eastern Front during World War 2.

I do not see any logical argument contradicting Ohlendorf even though I despise and condemn his actions as leader of Einsatzgruppe D, a military and police force tasked with shooting and gassing Jews, dissidents, gypsies, and other “undesirables” behind the German invasion lines in Russia and Ukraine.

That is, I do not see any logical argument contradicting Ohlendorf’s argument IF I believe that God really did command genocide.

I practice a Jesus-centered, Christocentric biblical hermeneutic. Jesus Christ was and is the perfect manifestation, revelation of God’s character. I cannot conceive of Jesus commanding anyone to slaughter especially children. If I cannot conceive of Jesus doing something, I cannot conceive of God doing it. Of course, that rule applies to ethical behavior, not to power. During Jesus’s earthly life, he did not exercise the unlimited (but self-limiting) power of God to uphold creation and rule the universe.

But, I believe it is illogical to believe in Jesus Christ as the perfect revelation of God’s character and then say that God commanded genocide.

So, what about those “texts of terror” in the Old Testament? I have read all kinds of attempts by Christian theologians to defend a literal interpretation, that God did actually command Israel to commit genocide. They don’t convince me.

Fortunately, for me, I do not believe in the strict “inerrancy” of the Bible. I believe in its infallibility which I define as “perfection with respect to purpose.” What is its purpose? To identify God for us. How does it do that? With Jesus Christ as the touchstone.

My point here is to give fellow evangelicals not already ideologically committed to “biblical inerrancy,” as it is commonly defined and qualified by conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, permission to reject a literal interpretation of the Old Testament texts of terror. You don’t need to do that in order to be a true evangelical.

*Note: If you choose to comment, make sure your comment is relatively brief (no more than 100 words), on topic, addressed to me, civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of pictures or links.*

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