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Why Does God Command Violence in the Old Testament?

If a young 21st-century Christian (me and my peers) were to ask you how they should see The Law, or Torah, what would you say? How do we know which parts to follow as is and which ones to reinterpret and restructure through Jesus?

See my book Scripture and the Authority of God! The WHOLE of the Hebrew scriptures has to be read through the lens of the messianic and God-unveiling events concerning Jesus. If we reduce it to ‘we take these bits and leave those bits,’ we are already distorting the scriptures into a kind of rule-book or doctrine-book, which we might find superficially easier but which is not what we actually have. Again, Mark 4, Luke 24, Galatians 3, etc. come to mind as vital passages for wrestling with all this. And don’t be surprised if you end up in Romans 7 as well.

One thing I’ve been incredibly blessed by you in is your commitment to seeing and teaching Scripture as a narrative and story. Why do you think we have such a hard time seeing the Bible as one epic narrative rather than an encyclopedia of sorts? And if you could summarize the story from Genesis to Revelation in a few sentences, how would you say it?

Paul does it in Ephesians 1:10: From the very beginning, the creator’s plan was and is to sum up all things in the Messiah, things in heaven and things on earth. God made humans to be the stewards of creation so that he himself, in the person of his son, might be the Steward par excellence. When humans rebelled, God called Israel to be the people of covenant rescue, so that he might himself, in the person of his son, be the Covenant Rescuer. Part of our problem is that this is a very Jewish story, and much of the church, over the years, has resisted that and tried to turn the whole thing into a Hellenistic ‘system.’

When reading the Old Testament, what are some good tips, rhythms or lenses you suggest that can help us see it properly? For example, if we are reading Leviticus, or Lamentations, how can we read those books so that they actually enrich our life instead of overwhelm or confuse us?

Some books need to be read at a run—Leviticus, especially with its rhythm of the sacrifices, might be one. Others need to be taken slowly; the Psalms, for instance. We should relish the large sweep of the great narratives as we would a great Russian novel with big and complex and dark characters—recognizing that God himself is in the story as the biggest and in some ways the darkest character of all! Some books, and Lamentations is a good example, are very subtle poetry (much of Lamentations is actually in acrostic form), and you need to ponder that for full effect. Different people need to read different bits at different rhythms at different stages of life and discipleship; the important thing is that we all need to be reading all of it all the time, however we go about it!


I love that last answer by Dr. Wright. All of scripture all of the time. What did you think? Any points he made or articulated that you particularly liked or got insight from? For more by Professor Wright, check out my three favorite books by him: Simply Jesus, How God Became King and Surprised By Hope (this one is a little denser).