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In this episode—without any adult supervision whatsoever—Pete gives his own take on divine violence, specificially: the Flood story, the curses in Deuteronomy 28, and, of course, the one every one wants to talk about, God’s command to the Israelites to wipe the Canaanites off the face of the earth and take their land. And a good time was had by all.

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Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.

11 Comments

  • Eric L says:

    Pete, you are definitely becoming more of a pastor each day. Definitely needed.

    I liked how you laid out the theories of divine violence. I have always found the God commands it theory to make out God to be a 5 year old playing with little green army men (wow, Futurama episode, anyone?). I’m really happy you addressed the divine accommodation theory as I believe you’re right that it doesn’t address anything. It makes out God to be super slow, or our interpretation deistic.

    One of your comments you made that have now slipped my mind makes me think of the wisdom of Qohelet stating that sun/rain shines on the good and the wicked alike. Jesus of course heightens it with clearly if you want to be God’s sons, recognize he cares for both enemy and friend.

    The more I listen and read, the more it seems the Bible is a theological drama with God trying to be grasped. I’m not sure if I’m right, and maybe you can correct me on this, but the last chapters of Ezra with the Jews basically getting rid of their foreign wives and children conflicts with Isaiah 54-56. Were they not written during the same period? If they are, I think it shows the theological diversity between the people of God.

    I just know as a husband and parent, I was pissed at Ezra.

  • legomorph says:

    Excellent podcast. Regarding the justification of violence via the sovereignty argument, that runs into the euthyphro dilemma. Regarding Genesis 6’s “sons of God”, what do you think they were? Angels?

  • Dennis says:

    Pete: I thought this podcast was very informative and thought-provoking. I’m in agreement with you on several things, e.g. understanding the Bible in ANE context and the exaggerated language of Canaanite conquest. However, you say that the Bible is the record of the acts of God from the point of view of those experiencing them, and they don’t always get it right. For example, you believe that God didn’t really want to wipe out humans and animals from the earth with the Flood as Gen. 6:7 said he did. I’m sympathetic to why you want to say that, but how would you answer the critic who says that this puts in jeopardy every verse in the Bible who has God saying or desiring something. Thus what is the criteria for determining if God said it or didn’t say it? Also, why believe that the NT authors correctly recorded the sayings of Jesus? Maybe they were just recording how they experienced God through Jesus but, in reality, they got it wrong, i.e. Jesus was not really God and didn’t claim to be.

    • Pete E. says:

      That is a possibility, Dennis, but . . . the fact that it is a possibility in the NT doesn’t mean it therefore can’t be the case in the OT.

      • Dennis says:

        Pete: I think you end up engaging in some kind of apologetics to say that the OT authors got it wrong sometimes in ascribing certain thoughts, sayings, and actions to God. For example, you would have to say that God could not have really desired to wipe out humans and animals from the earth with the Flood as Gen. 6:7 said he did because an all-good God would not do that. How do you know that? Because killing innocent people is objectively wrong based on the all-good nature of God per the moral argument for the existence of God. Then you would have to defend the moral argument. When it comes to the NT and the non-violent portrayal of Jesus, I still think you have to engage in some kind of apologetics to try to show that the NT accurately depicted Jesus and did not invent his deity. Otherwise, you are open to the criticism I mentioned in my first post that maybe the NT authors were just recording how they experienced God through Jesus but, in reality, they got it wrong, i.e. Jesus was not really God and didn’t claim to be.

  • Randy says:

    Dr Enns, Thank you for this. It reinforces the online course on “Science and Faith” I’m currently winding up with Denis Lamoureux, who has been on your podcast as well. I appreciate your pastoral input, as noted below, as well. Question regarding theodicy: I agree that killing everyone in the Noahic epic, or all but the virgin girls (and enlaving them) in Numbers 31 doesn’t fit with God’s just (let alone loving) nature. However, I’m curious as to your take on how we get a just God out of the “horrid reality” of “nature red in tooth and claw” that apparently brought about evolution? For example, the fine tuned universe seems to indicate intelligent design that started with a Big Bang but didn’t interfere in major ways despite millennia of torturous carnivory, let alone the development of parasitic wasps that Darwin recoiled from. However, if He intended slaughter and death, how is this God any better than the other? I think it’s more scientifically accurate, but as CS Lewis said, he always worried that we were in nothing more than a major vivisectionist experiment. There may not be an answer–we just have to work with what we know. Thank you.

  • legomorph says:

    Pete, can you recommend any writings by religious Jews who share your skepticism about violent OT passages?

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