Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No Clean Hands – Apples with Apples

I'm having trouble getting this series organized in my head.  That's the reason it's been four...or more...days since my last post. It still hasn't "congealed" so I guess I'll just jump in and start typing...and see where I end up. In the post a few days ago I said:

Those who have never even leafed through the Quran, proclaim the holy book of Islam a book of hate that promotes…demands…violence against those of other faiths.  They’ve taken to heart short, snappy little excerpts repeated over and over like, “Kill the Infidel” without acknowledging that their own holy book…the Bible…also seems to promote violence, war, sacrifice, genocide and a whole host of other unsavory behaviors.

An example?

Deuteronomy 20:16-17 declares

But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:

Phillip Jenkins is a fairly well known author, Biblical scholar, and a Professor of Humanities at Penn State University....with other honors and titles (Distinguished Senior Fellow...Distinguished Professor...etc.)  Jenkins is a contributing editor for The American Conservative and writes a monthly column for The Christian Century. He has also written articles for Christianity Today, First Things, and The Atlantic so he probably can't be pigeonholed in that "he's a left wing liberal" column.  When he says his studies have led him to the conclusion that

"the Islamic scriptures in the Qur'an were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible"

perhaps folks who think of the Quran as nothing more than a book of hate should pay attention. He goes on to say:

“By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane,” he says. “Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide.”

The Hebrew word that describes this kind of warfare is "herem" and the children of Israel attempted to carry it out against the original inhabitants of the Promised Land....the "ites" listed above.  Talk about jihad...a "holy" war. 

Now, I know this has been explained away with concepts such as old covenant/new covenant....and dispensationalism....and progressive revelation....and types and shadows....and how most of the Old Testament points to Christ. And countless essays and books and Biblical commentaries have been written to try to minimize or justify the absolute wickedness of slaughtering whole groups of people...but they fall short.  Genocide is genocide. 

I don't read the Old Testament literally....as history.  I don't have it all figured out by any means... but I think perhaps some of the stories are parables....or analogies...or word pictures...or fables.  Or perhaps some....maybe even most....of the events actually happened but I think the retelling is from the perspective of the authors.  I don’t believe that God actually whispered in Joshua's ear about mass slaughter.  Joshua may have believed he heard God clearly but his interpretation was colored by his prejudices, his carnality and his lust to possess the Promised Land.  Damn inconvenient that it was already inhabited....

But that is the subject of a whole other series of posts.  My point is that if we compare apples with apples....a literal reading of the Bible compared with a literal reading of the Quran…choosing the most violent, bloody holy book is, at best, a draw.

More to follow….

3 comments:

Kansas Bob said...

"retelling is from the perspective of the authors"

I like that Cindi. Good perspective.

I think that the issue with Islam is that some Muslims are doing today what Jews did in Moses day. Maybe one day Muslims will embrace a more civilized (if that is the word?) understanding of the Quran?

Cindi said...

I read somewhere recently that scripture is a mirror. We see what we want to see in the "mirror." We want an excuse to "kill the infidel" or "possess the land" well...we will find justification for it there. I don't disagree at all that some Muslims ARE barbaric. But as you pointed out..so were the Jews in Moses day and Christians are also guilty of atrocities. It is the carnal man that screws things all up. Not the words in our holy book of choice. And there is carnality to be found far and wide...in all religions.

Kansas Bob said...

Possibly the influence of western culture has given sanity to some religions?