If there was one thing drilled into me growing up in the church, it is that the Bible is “The Good Book”. And “good” meant, among other things, morally good. So throughout years of Sunday school I never thought twice about the mass drowning of men, women, children and animals in the Noahic flood. I never stopped to ask how God could order a father to sacrifice his son. Nor did I bother to ask what happened to the population of Jericho after the walls fell down.
By the time I entered my late teens the questions were starting to nag. A pivotal moment for me came in 1994 as the world watched in horror at the unfolding genocide in Rwanda. If the eradication of an entire civilian population was considered an egregious evil in 1994, why wasn’t it considered to be so in ancient Canaan? Wasn’t that appeal to exceptionalism precisely what every perpetrator of genocide appeals to in order to justify their unconscionable actions?
I found that the church doesn’t typically welcome such questions. This seems rather ironic given that the Bible is made up of people — Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Job, Jeremiah, the Psalmist — who freely questioned God and his ways. So why was it that Christians were not allowed to raise many of the very same questions as they read the stories of these same people?
I am glad to say that the times they are a changin’. In recent years a growing number of Christian scholars are turning to address the very questions that have long troubled Christians reading the Good Book. This time on The Tentative Apologist Podcast, I am delighted to share a conversation with one of those scholars. Eric Seibert is Professor of Old Testament at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. In the last few years he has published two important books wrestling with moral questions raised by the Bible, Disturbing Divine Behavior (Fortress Press, 2009) and The Violence of Scripture (Fortress Press, 2012). Eric doesn’t have all the answers, but like the characters that fill scripture itself, he is not afraid to wrestle with the questions with rigor and honesty. So join us in conversation as we consider biblical violence and the Canaanites.
For more from Eric Seibert you can see my 2013 interview “Violence and the Good Book.”