Topics in this part include:
Unless this is the first part of this you've come across, skip the introduction.
Is the God of the Bible an immoral egotistical arrogant tyrant in his prejudiced demands to be worshiped as the one true God and his condemnation of those who worship other gods? Is he an insanely angry bigot? Crueller than the cruellest earthly dictator in his bloodlust and hatred and barbaric desire for killing and violence? A ruthless baby and child killer? Bursting into enraged childish temper tantrums at the most minor provocation and inflicting deadly punishments on people for trivial offences? Is the Bible a malicious and intolerant book of hate literature which should be treated with contempt by anyone with an ounce of compassion because it incites irrational acts of barbarity? Did it directly incite the "burning times" when Christians in their supposed zeal for biblical commands tortured and killed anyone accused of being a witch? These are all charges commonly brought against the God of the Bible and the Bible itself by many sceptics, with similar vehemence as that just displayed. Are they true?
If you're feeling a bit depressed or anxious today, you may find some of the content on some of the pages here particularly upsetting. Section 1 of this website contains self-help articles that it might be best to visit first. Topics covered include depression, serious worry, panic attacks, phobias and OCD, marriage problems, raising difficult teenagers, self-harm, anorexia, grief, bullying and teasing, coping with a life-threatening illness, caring for someone with dementia, recovery from rape, and other things. You can find them here: Free Self-Help to Recover From or Cope With Some Problems.
Note: This series is entirely unsuitable for children. Part of it contains passages of violence and sickening descriptions of cruelty from the news that many might find offensive and distressing. In fact, I recommend that this is only read by the most insistent Bible critics and the Christians most disturbed by the allegations!
Part of the series contains quotations from several news stories. When reading about the harsh way the Bible says God punished the people in his anger, it's easy to get a very one-sided impression of an enraged God pouring vengeance on a people who were actually living fairly decent lives. Although it's true that it indicates that the punishments were to a large extent non-discriminatory and so innocent people would undoubtedly have suffered, the impression the Bible gives is that the societies the punishments were inflicted on were corrupt to the core - societies where violence, murder, ruthless oppression of the vulnerable, sexual abuse and several other varieties of sin were rampant! And according to the Bible, these were societies that refused to police themselves! The quotations from the news stories, though discussing incidents that took place in a different era, that were of course committed by others, and perhaps often in different ways, are meant to bring home to people the kind of impact such crimes would have had on the many victims suffering such things in those societies, and the depths to which societies can stoop. The idea is that they can help people imagine the kind of thing the Bible says was going on in the biblical societies threatened with God's punishment. Thus, the punishments the Bible says were inflicted on the societies in Old Testament times that behaved in such a manner will seem less unjust to the open-minded.
It may be that some of the stories describe things which vary considerably from what was going on then and may be much worse, but apart from anything else, they will be a corrective to the assumption that certain practices must have been harmless, such as the worship of other gods and occult practices, and also a corrective to any glib refusal to take any provocation into account when declaring the God of the Bible truly unjust.
In fact, it seems it's people who persistently commit just such violent and unscrupulous acts that the Old Testament was written for. A New Testament passage claims that certain Old Testament punishments were meant as examples/warnings for future generations not to do evil things. It may be that many who won't be convinced to stop catastrophically harming others by declarations of the love of Jesus and beautiful passages meant to inspire people to do good, as can be found in the New Testament, can be scared into stopping by the descriptions of punishments being meted out to wrongdoers that fill the Old Testament.
The links to the news stories are not provided, because of the high possibility that many will soon be broken. To read the articles in full, you can put the names of the titles or a distinctive phrase from the story you'd like to read more of in quotes in Google, and if it's still somewhere on the Internet, you'll probably find it.
I found it very distasteful to put the quotations from the stories together, but felt compelled to do so because of the virulence of the accusations with which the God of the Bible is condemned by some, and the potential for this to cause Christians to lose their joy in Christianity, and to doubt or lose their faith, - although perhaps some belong to a toxic brand of Christianity that would make losing their faith a good thing. I know of people who say they were once Christians, but who lost their faith in disgust when they learned about the cruelty allegedly inflicted by God in Old Testament times. Some will go on to frequently express strong feelings of contemptuous anti-Christian hostility. A greater knowledge of the provocation that the Bible indicates led to the harsh Old Testament punishments may lead people to a greater understanding of why they were considered necessary, though they seem severe whatever the provocation!
Some food for thought can be had if one considers that every single one of the atrocities reported in the news articles quoted on these pages would not have been committed by anyone who was genuinely dedicated to following biblical Christianity. And every one of the people committing them would stop doing such things if they discovered a new beginning in becoming committed to biblical Christianity. Any atrocities committed in its name have been committed despite what the Bible says, not because of it. To prove it, here are some links to Bible quotations informing Christians on the way they should behave, which not only prohibit such atrocities as the ones described in the news articles quoted here, but indicate that Christians should abide by much higher standards of behaviour. Promoting Christianity, seen as dangerous by some, could actually be at least a partial solution to the world's problems. Whole communities have in the past turned from warlike activity when they have become Christians and started following ideals for the Christian lifestyle like the ones found in the quotations here:
Some people may have been exposed to a brand of Christianity that makes it difficult for them to believe Christianity could be a power for good. But a reading of those quotes will prove that it is benign. Any group that promotes an unhealthy doctrine may well be distorting what the Bible actually says. Here's an example of how it can be done:
Therefore, those who make it their mission to try determinedly to pull the Bible apart by rooting out as many alleged petty contradictions as they can, defaming the God of the Bible as immoral, doing their determined best to convince people that Jesus never existed, and denigrating Christians as delusional and unthinking, etc. are in effect, though probably mostly unwittingly, aiming to destroy something beautiful, something that can be a powerful force for good in the right hands. Christianity can give people a brand new vision of life, offer them a brand new start, feeling that their record of wrongdoing has been wiped clean in God's eyes so they can learn to love themselves, see themselves as worthwhile, and thus can see a point in starting again with renewed dedication to living a good life.
Naturally, other interventions can give people new hope and raise their self-esteem. But Christianity is one with widespread appeal that shouldn't be dismissed.
When people feel God has forgiven them, it doesn't mean, as some would slanderously claim, that they no longer have a responsibility to try to make amends as far as possible for what they did. On the contrary, the Christian faith can often inspire people to do just that, where they had no interest in doing so before.
It can inspire people to transform their behaviour, or stop their behaviour degenerating into behaviour that would hurt others in the first place, partly because they can feel responsible to God - a higher authority they respect enough to want to obey - for the way they live, and not just accountable to themselves. The Christian faith can give people hope for the future, and security and confidence that they are loved by someone greater than themselves, God. The increase in self-worth this can bring can give people the motivation to treat others better. People who believe they are valued can be more likely to be respectful of others and thus less likely to mistreat them.
Christianity can give people a sense of belonging and identity, as a wonderful alternative to the sense of belonging and identity they may have previously sought in gangs or warlike nationalism etc.
It can give them meaning and purpose in life, in that the Bible urges Christians to spend their lives doing good. A sense of meaning and purpose in life can bring a sense of satisfaction that can strengthen people's desire to carry on what they're doing, and if they're doing productive things instead of ones that make them angry and hateful, it can be especially so. Thus, meaning and purpose derived from doing good has its own rewards, and thus can strengthen the desire people may have to continue to do so, and can replace the meaning and purpose gained from belonging to destructive causes, as well as the opposite of meaning - the sense of disillusionment with life that can lead to living selfishly and callously.
Falling in love with the character of Jesus as portrayed by the gospels can bring a desire to please him; and a belief that he loves them so much he was even willing to die so their sin could be cleansed can bring a deep gratitude which will strengthen the desire to please him. Thus, it can bring a heartfelt commitment to obeying his commands. The commands in the New Testament, such as those to live peaceful lives of non-violence and to care for others, are said to be Christ's commands. Thus, falling in love with the character of Christ as portrayed in the gospels can transform a person's attitude and lead them to lives of goodness.
Reflection on the New Testament commands can also give people cause to stop and think, and a desire to inquire into the reasons for the commands; and their reflection on the reasons for them can lead to a deeper conviction of the wisdom of many commands, which can subsequently lead to a deeper commitment to following them.
The sense of being loved by God and the Bible's imploring of people to love one another in practical ways can soften a person's attitudes, making them contemplate the way they're living and changing their mind-set from one of hatred or cruel indifference to people around them and a consequent wish to harm or use them, to a desire to do things to benefit them.
Belief that one is accountable to God for the way one lives can be a check on people's natural desire to live for themselves when they want to put their own desires above the needs or welfare of others because their desires are strong.
Belief in God's punishment can sober a person and make their commitment to obey Christ's commands to live lives of non-violence and caring more serious, since they can bring realisation that Christianity is a serious commitment, not a fashion accessory, a tradition, or something merely to be played with while in reality behaving as one wishes.
Naturally, turning to Christianity won't always have such wholesome effects, by any means; but it's more likely to do so where there is a focus on the guidelines for Christian behaviour linked to above, and a focus on making positive improvements in life rather than getting bogged down in the idea of guilt for sin, or in some minor doctrine taken out of balance with the whole.
It's true that there are passages in the Bible where it says God orders incidents of what can appear barbaric merciless violence. Some are not so abhorrent as a superficial reading without knowledge of the cultural practices of the day might suggest, but some certainly are. Most, if not all, can be matched, however, by the cruelty of many of the people the violence was inflicted on. Thus, we have the reciprocity principle in action. The violence was mostly said to be punishment for such wrongdoing, deterrents to prevent such cruelty and crime in the future, and chastisement to spur people to change their ways. Therefore, harsh though the punishments were, and though it's easy and perhaps highly reasonable to argue that they were far worse than any society could possibly have deserved, it can be argued that they were by no means wholly unjustified, and they were far more than the simple actions of a vindictive petty God having brutal temper tantrums in an insane, violently angry rage, as is so often charged.
The other parts in this series:
If you would prefer a less squeamishness-making article, you could read: An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.
The Amalekites were a people living near Israel who the Bible suggests often raided their country. One Bible passage says:
1 Samuel chapter 30 (TEV)
1 Two days later David and his men arrived back at Ziklag. The Amalekites had raided southern Judah and attacked Ziklag. They had burned down the town 2 and captured all the women; they had not killed anyone, but had taken everyone with them when they left. 3 When David and his men arrived, they found that the town had been burned down and that their wives, sons, and daughters had been carried away. 4 David and his men started crying and did not stop until they were completely exhausted. 5 Even David's two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail, had been taken away. 6 David was now in great trouble, because his men were all very bitter about losing their children, and they were threatening to stone him; but the Lord his God gave him courage.
The Bible says in an earlier passage that God ordered Amalekites to be killed, and as well as the men, the command specifically included children and babies. This seems barbaric, but a different light can be thrown on it by the finding that the Amalekites were probably desert people who, because of the lack of life-sustaining resources in the desert, actually survived by raiding others, and had raided Israel several times in the previous years, according to the Bible. This would mean robbing many Israelites of their livelihoods. Raiders in general would often target villages after the harvest had been taken in. When raiders stole the harvest of a community, it would not only mean they went hungry, but that they had no seeds to plant for a harvest the following year. Starvation was a very real possibility. And the violence perpetrated on such raids would leave the community traumatised, and perhaps many too seriously injured to work again, and many breadwinners killed while trying to protect their families.
In an article about Viking raids by David Stokes, author of a website about Chobham Village, England, it gives an idea of the impact of raids on their victims:
Saxon society flourished until England became one of the wealthiest countries in Europe. Then during the late 8th century a new threat grew. Scandinavian pirates from Norway, 'Vikings', sailed over the North Sea in their long-ships and raided many coastal settlements around the British Isle. The choice for the settlements was simple; either pay protection money or experience murder, burning houses, stealing and the taking of slaves. ...
Fleets of nearly 100 ships were becoming common on the Thames and one year over-wintered at Staines. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us that fleets sailed up the Thames, even as far as Oxford, laying waste on each bank as they went. ...
With about 100 ships and perhaps some 5000 Danes over-wintering at Staines, frequent raids on the surrounding countryside would be necessary to obtain food. Nearby Egham and Thorpe would have been first to feel the effects and once they had been stripped of stores then our area could easily have been next. It was the Scandinavian habit to kill all the men of military age and to take the younger women as slaves. Perhaps at the end of a day of hard pillaging, they were not keen to spend time cooking a meal, washing up and keeping the camp clean. So they took many female slaves to do this work and, possibly to provide sex. At the end of the season the female slaves may have been released or shipped back to Scandinavia; perhaps to sell in the Baltic slave trade.
Once slaves outlived their usefulness their masters often abandoned them. In theory they were no longer slaves but free; in practise they were often starving and destitute.
For the elderly and children who survived the attacks locally the outlook was not much better. Imagine, in the depths of Winter to be robbed of your stored harvest intended to see you through to the next year; to lose your seed-corn and to see your over-wintered cattle slaughtered. Starvation was almost certain; and if you somehow survived the Winter then where were the fit adults who could farm the land in the Spring? The suffering amongst the peasants must have been immense. A graphic description of the devastation comes from the Bishop of Winchester who stated in a lease for an estate at Beddington in Surrey c 908, that 'when my lord (the king) first let it to me it was completely without stock, and had been stripped bare by the heathen men'. Unfortunately, the Bishop neglects to tell us of the plight of the peasants.
Starvation and death may have been the plight of many Israelites who suffered the Amalekite raids. Now, is it conceivable that the Amalekite women and children had no knowledge of the suffering that was being inflicted on these people by their menfolk?? Highly doubtful! They probably not only knew about it but were complicit in it, maybe cheering their menfolk as they brought the booty home, excited to know how much they'd brought. What must it take to know of the suffering being inflicted on a people by your husbands and fathers and yet to be happy for it to continue? Surely if they were innocent bystanders who objected to their menfolk raiding the Israelites, they'd have pushed for Amalekite migration and attempted settlement somewhere with more fertile soil, or urged them to seek work in more prosperous areas and bring home an honest living to their families?
Also, the male children may have been trained for war from a young age, as happens in some primitive cultures.
Another reason for the killing of the Amalekite women and children as well as the men is that with the men responsible for the Amalekite raiding killed by the Israelites, survival for the rest would have been very difficult, because they'd have little to live on and it would have taken a while for them to move through the desert to somewhere else, and a slow death from starvation, thirst and exposure may well have ensued, or, with no one left to fight to protect them, capture by rival marauding slave traders. As it says in the Book of Lamentations that describes the aftermath of the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem:
Lamentations chapter 4 (TEV)
9 Those who died in the war were better off than those who died later, who starved slowly to death, with no food to keep them alive.
In an article called Shouldn't the Butchering of the Amalekite Children be Considered War Crimes? by Glenn Miller, it says:
"... What this means is that the ancients disagree with moderns over what is “morally acceptable euthanasia”. The ancients--from the evidence of suicides--clearly believed that a sudden death was preferable to an anticipated life of future suffering (e.g., slavery), an anticipated death by starvation/thirst/exposure, or of torture (e.g., capture by rival rulers). Accordingly, this means that our modern intuitions about the morality of various types and ranges of euthanasia may need further analysis, and that although most forms of ancient euthanasia/suicide would have been painful/violent (generally involving swords, not Socratic type poison!), they would not have been considered morally wrong. ...
I remember vividly the first time I was confronted with this concept. It was back in high-school, pre-Christian period, as I glanced at a scene on TV. I wasn't watching the show at all, but was struck by the image of two heads sticking up out of level ground. As I tuned in to the situation, I saw something that deeply disturbed my thinking. The movie was an old black-and-white Western, and the hero cowboy had ridden up with his friend, on horseback, to this spot of level ground. What showed sticking up out of the ground were the backs of two human heads, one an Indian squaw, and the other a "paleface" man. They had been buried up to their necks in the dirt (rendering them immovable), next to a fire-ant mound. The hero read the Indian sign nearby and explained to his fellow that these two had been caught in some sexual impropriety some days back, and they were sentenced to die slowly and painfully by fire-ant. The heads were still recognizable, but not moving or speaking, and fortunately the camera did not show their faces (back then, but they might nowadays!). The hero took out his gun and shot the two people, ending an agony that I still cannot think of without squirming. I remember thinking -- 'was that really murder?'. It was deliberate, it was unprovoked, it was violent--but it was merciful. ..."
In an earlier generation, when a much larger Israelite army had been sent to war with the Midianites, after the adult Midianites had been killed, their virgin girls had been assimilated among the Israelites rather than also killed.
This incident comes under fierce criticism from many sceptics, because they assume that the girls were taken as sex slaves. The Bible doesn't say that. And in fact, since according to Numbers chapter 25 in the Bible, so many Israelites had just been killed in divine judgment for being unfaithful to their wives and God by allowing themselves to be enticed into having sex with Midianites, it would seem unlikely that they'd want to do the same thing again! (Of course, they'd also just been allowing themselves to be enticed to follow the Midianites' idols, for whom the Midianites probably practiced child sacrifice and ritual prostitution, which the Israelites would no doubt start doing if they were allowed to be influenced by them).
Also, as it says in the article What About God’s Cruelty Against the Midianites? by Glenn Miller:
"... Secondly, the accusation that these girls were for “sex slave” purposes contradicts what we know about the culture and about the event.
1. Most girls were married soon/immediately after they began menstruating in the ANE (circa 12 years of age), and since infant and child mortality was so high, the average age of the girls spared would have been around 5 years of age or slightly lower (life expectancy wasn’t a straight line, with childhood risks so high). Of all the horrible things ascribed to Israel in the OT, pedophilia is the one conspicuous omission. That these little kids would have been even considered as ‘sex slaves’ seems quite incongruent with their ages.
And, at this tender age, they would not have been very useful as ‘slaves’ at all! Children raised in Israelite households were ‘put to work’ around this age, sometimes doing light chores to help the mother for up to four hours per day by the age of 7 or 8, but 5 is still a bit young. Instead, the Israelite families would have had to feed, clothe, train, care, protect, and shelter them for several years before they could make much contribution to the family’s existence and survival. [Also note that ‘slavery’ in the ANE/OT generally means something quite different from “New World” slavery, which we normally associate with the word ‘slavery’, and most of what is called that in popular literature should not be so termed. ...[As for the cause of the enmity that led to the Israelite attack on Midian:]
The Midianite princes agree to let Balaam appeal to the Midianite people (especially the women: “they are the ones who followed Balaam’s advice”) to enlist their aid in using sex as a weapon against Israel.
Then, one or more of the following absolutely incredible events had to have happened:
Either the women agreed with Balaam’s plan, and then talked their husbands into letting them commit wholesale, pre-meditated, and government-facilitated adultery (for the sake of [King] Balak’s paranoia [fear of Israelite attack, though Israel had not threatened the Midianites before that time], and Midianite anti-Israel sentiment) [the wording of the text suggests that THIS is the most probable historical reconstruction];
Or the men agreed with Balaam’s plan and then talked their wives into committing wholesale, pre-meditated, and government-facilitated adultery (for the sake of Balak’s paranoia, and Midianite anti-Israel sentiment);
Or the men agreed with Balaam’s plan and then forced their wives into committing wholesale, pre-meditated, and government-facilitated adultery (for the sake of Balak’s paranoia, and Midianite anti-Israel sentiment)
Or the chiefs/elite of Midian forced both men and women to agree on committing wholesale, pre-meditated, and government-facilitated adultery (for the sake of Balak’s paranoia, and Midianite anti-Israel sentiment);
Fathers and mothers may have talked their unmarried daughters into (or forced them into) committing wholesale, pre-meditated, and government-facilitated adultery (for the sake of Balak’s paranoia, and Midianite anti-Israel sentiment);
The Midianite power forced the Moabite women to ‘lead the charge’ (but they disappear in the narrative after the first mention-everything else is ‘Midianite only’).
The government plans, funds, and orchestrates the mass caravans of Moabite women, and Midianite migration to the area where Israel is camping.
Now, I can perhaps see this occurring on a individual small scale-I’m sure it happens today in even ‘modern cultures’ to ‘get ahead’, but to think that a culture/nation would deliberately do this marriage-destructive, family-destructive, and de-humanizing atrocity on the scale of 5,000-15,000 wives/families (perhaps constituting most/all of the tribal group or sub-culture involved!), is staggering. As destructive as regular ‘ritual prostitution’ would have been to “healthy family life” in Canaanite areas in Palestine, this action by Midian makes that look wonderfully innocent and harmless by comparison…
And then, not content with destroying their own families (and teaching/showing the kids that ‘questionable national goals’ are more important than loyalty/intimacy in marriage), they use this to destroy another nation’s families and marriages.
“What the fathers of Moab could not do, their daughters were able to accomplish, to bring Israel to its knees--sexually, morally, in false worship, and in great judgment. . [EBCOT, Num 25] ..."
To clarify, the Bible says that a renouned "prophet" of the time, Baalam, advised that any threat from Israel that might be thought to exist would be mitigated if the women led the Israelites into sexual immorality and into eating food offered to idols, signifying the worship of other gods, and it says that the women did it because they followed the instructions. (Numbers 25)
In those days, leaders of countries were apparently often very supersticious, thinking that if another country's god left them, it would be easier for them to defeat them in battle. This was apparently similar to the reason the Romans assimilated the gods of everyone they conquered into their religion. I've heard that they thought that in this way, the gods wouldn't side with the other country against them, because the gods belonged to them too.
The New Testament records the apostle Paul as writing:
1 Corinthians chapter 10 (NLT)
1 I don't want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, what happened to our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. God guided all of them by sending a cloud that moved along ahead of them, and he brought them all safely through the waters of the sea on dry ground. 2 As followers of Moses, they were all baptized in the cloud and the sea. 5 Yet after all this, God was not pleased with most of them, and he destroyed them in the wilderness.
6 These events happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did 7 or worship idols as some of them did. For the Scriptures say, "The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged themselves in pagan revelry." 8 And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day. ... 11 All these events happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us, who live at the time when this age is drawing to a close. 12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.
In an article called Does God Condone Slavery in the Bible? (Old Testament) by Glenn Miller, it argues that there were several kinds of slavery, some worse than others, and that some even protected some poor people who would otherwise be made destitute by harsh conditions. It says:
"The specific case of slavery is more complex than first appears...there is no monolithic 'institution' of slavery in the bible--e.g. the OT [Old Testament] has SEVERAL models of what might be called 'slavery' and much of what passed as slavery in the ANE [Ancient Near East] is no longer considered such in socio-economic understandings of the period and area. ...
... In the ANE (and OT), ... The dominant (statistically) motivation was economic relief of poverty (i.e., 'slavery' was initiated by the slave--NOT by the owner--and the primary uses were purely domestic (except in cases of State slavery, where individuals were used for building projects).
The definitive work on ANE law today is the 2 volume work (History of Ancient Near Eastern Law). This work (by 22 scholars) surveys every legal document from the ANE (by period) and includes sections on slavery. A smattering of quotes will indicate this for-the-poor instead of for-the-rich purpose for most of ANE slavery: ...
"Most of the recorded cases of entry of free persons into slavery [in Emar] are by reason of debt or famine or both…A common practice was for a financier to pay off the various creditors in return for the debtor becoming his slave." (1.664f)
"On the other hand, mention is made of free people who are sold into slavery as a result of the famine conditions and the critical economic situation of the populations [Canaan]. Sons and daughters are sold for provisions…" (1.741)
"The most frequently mentioned method of enslavement [Neo-Sumerian, UR III] was sale of children by their parents. Most are women, evidently widows, selling a daughter; in one instance a mother and grandmother sell a boy…There are also examples of self sale. All these cases clearly arose from poverty; it is not stated, however, whether debt was specifically at issue." (1.199) ..."
Similar conditions prevailed in Anglo-Saxon times, when slavery was often an act of oppression, but sometimes entered into voluntarily by destitute people who found it their only means of surviving hard times.
An article called Slaves by Octavia Randolph says:
In hard times, the poorer agricultural class found their only hope of sustenance in voluntarily submitting to slavery, and sold themselves and their families to survive. ...
Slaves were sometimes granted their freedom at special occasions, or by condition of the deceased owner's will. One Anglo-Saxon lady gave: freedom to Ecceard the smith and Alfstan and his wife and all their children born and unborn, and Arcil and Cole and Ecgferth and Ealdhun's daughter and all those people who had bowed their heads to her in return for food when times were bad.
These last, who had "bowed their heads to her", had sold themselves into slavery during famine. These were perhaps failed farmers, but at least one of her slaves, Ecceard the smith, was a skilled labourer.
In an article called Does God Condone Slavery in the Bible? (New Testament) by Glenn Miller, it says:
Remember, most people assume that the slavery of the Roman Empire at the time of Paul's writings was at least as bad as New World Slavery, with all its horrors, injustices, and atrocities. For us to be able to lodge the ethical objection of "the NT condones slavery" against the Christian worldview, we will have to demonstrate that what the NT calls "slavery" is equivalent to what we would understand by that term, and we will have to show that NT teaching 'condones' that practice. In the case of the OT/Tanaach, we saw that the two different systems of 'slavery' were not even close enough for meaningful comparison. We will need to compare and contrast Roman slavery and New World slavery here too, to insure that we are not committing crimes of equivocation. ...
* 1. So, our first topic concerns the question of identity--does the slavery of the NT-period Roman Empire resemble New World slavery enough for the objection to have its customary force?
* The data is quite strong that the two systems are substantially different, especially in the areas most troubling to modern minds--the abuse, the oppression, the future prospects of the slave. ...
• Slaves could litigate on their behalf (esp. in cases of assault/abuse):
"In the law of GR Egypt the slave could own property and could enter into legal transactions such as loans, leases or paramone (i.e., service) contracts...A slave could also act on behalf of a master in his business dealings, e.g. loans, sales, issuance of receipts etc....In terms of litigation the slave was also considered as more than n object in the law of GRE. For example, in matters of personal injury or damage of property the slave could litigate (i.e. sue) and act on his own behalf or represent another....In this instance not only does it appear that the slave had entered into a contract with a certain villager but also when assaulted and robbed by this same villager lodged a petition against him."
Here's the Bible passage that sceptics use to condemn God for this:
2 Kings chapter 2 (TEV)
23 Elisha left Jericho to go to Bethel, and on the way some boys came out of a town and made fun of him. "Get out of here, baldy!" they shouted. 24 Elisha turned around, glared at them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys to pieces.
It does sound uncharitable of Elisha to have cursed the boys! But the Bible doesn't actually say there was a cause-and-effect relationship between Elisha's curse and the bears killing the boys. But in any case:
In the Amplified Bible translation, there is a footnote with this passage that says:
"This incident has long been misunderstood because the Hebrew word "naar" was translated "little boys." That these characteristic juvenile delinquents were old enough to be fully accountable is obvious from the use of the word elsewhere. For example, it was used by David of his son Solomon and translated "young and inexperienced," when Solomon was a father (I Chron. 22:5; cf. I Kings 14:21 and II Chron. 9:30 ). It was used of Joseph when he was seventeen (Gen. 37:2). In fact, not less than seventy times in the King James Version this word "naar" is translated "young man" or "young men."
And from a book review on the Tektonics website:
First, was this sin really just a trivial case of making fun of someone's bald head? Probably not. Natural baldness was a rarity in the ANE, and when done deliberately was a sign of shame (cf. Is. 3:17) or mourning (cf. Job 1:20). If Elisha was actually bald here, he was perhaps mourning the loss of his master Elijah - and perhaps, then, the "go on up" is a reference to the idea of Elijah's ascension, a suggestion that the event is doubted and that it is a charge that Elisha actually murdered his master and that his mourning is a sham. …
... What were these kids up to in the first place? Callahan derisively notes Gleason Archer's explanation that this was a group akin to a modern street gang, saying, "Presumably the gangs of Elisha's day would have whipped by in hot chariots discharging arrows." [x] There is, he says, "nothing in the actual story to justify" Archer's explanation.
Really? Archer knows quite a bit more about the social context of this story than Callahan does, and is indeed on the mark, although he could have done with more explanation. Chariots and arrows? No - but let's try things like robbery and banditry (remember the Good Samaritan story?) and perhaps theft of animals from farmsteads -- no mere prank, the latter, in this day and age, but a very serious offense that could lead to the starvation of a family of innocents. The key here is the concept of corporate survival: In this day and age, every family member was required to make a contribution in order to help the family survive - for in this day, there were no social services, no welfare checks, no supermarkets to stock up from in case your pantry was raided. The question then becomes, why were these yaled banded together in such large numbers, and then, why were they not at home contributing to the corporate survival of their own families? To throw the analogy back in Callahan's teeth, is he suggesting that these were just a glee club of Beaver Cleavers walking casually back from school and having a little fun at Elisha's expense? Hardly so. That they were banded together in such large numbers suggests rather that they were indeed as Archer tells us - a gang of rovers who survived on their own, probably by robbing others of their lives and property (they certainly did not own their own farms or go hunting for game.
From an article called God the Vengeful, Wrathful, and Jealous?! by Glenn Miller:
"... 5. Too often our English language makes "jealous OF" the default meaning for "jealousy"--instead of the biblical "jealous FOR". The "jealous OF" meaning is tantamount to envy and is NEVER ascribed to God. The "jealous FOR" (which seems odd to us users of modern parlance) is essentially the same in meaning as "zealous for protecting/maintaining our enjoyable and fruitful relationship of intimacy". The "jealous FOR" (in the context of His love for His people) usage is the one used predominantly of God:
Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people. 19 The LORD will reply to them: ‘I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. (Joel 2.18, notice the link between jealousy and pity)
Then the angel who was speaking to me said, “Proclaim this word: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, 15 but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity.’ 16 “Therefore, this is what the LORD says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the LORD Almighty. 17 “Proclaim further: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.’” (Zech 1.14, note also the contrast between "very jealous" and "very angry" and that it is aimed at mercy and blessing for His people)
Again the word of the LORD Almighty came to me. 2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.” 3 This is what the LORD says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.” 4 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. 5 The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” (Zech 8.1, note that this jealousy produces closeness with God and benefits for His people)
Notice how different this meaning of 'jealousy' is from our modern, negative sense. This is a beautiful, passionate commitment to someone, not a petty, insecure, suspicious outrage.
[There is a distinct possibility that the translation "jealous" for the OT words should be dropped altogether, since the senses are semantically so far apart now: "More frequent are the passages that speak of God's zeal, when it means the intensity, the uncompromising involvement with which God deals with men. ..."
One Bible passage often objected to and used to claim that God is portrayed as spiteful is this:
Exodus chapter 20 (RSV)
5 you shall not bow down to [idols that you worship as other gods] or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
This principle can be seen in action in the accounts of how the Israelites abandoned the worship of their God, at the same time abandoning his commands to live moral lives, and were punished for their consequent mistreatment of each other by having their land invaded by the Babylonians who captured many of them and took them prisoner to Babylon. The Bible says they were there for 70 years before they were allowed to leave. Thus, because the forefathers sinned, the children did bare the consequences to the third or fourth generation.
However, notice that there is a caviat clause saying that those who will be punished will be generations of those who "hate" God. Those who hated God would be quite likely to be carrying on the same sins as their parents, having quite possibly been taught to do them from childhood.
Some of the Old Testament verses that describe this punishment explain that it was designed as a corrective punishment, to draw people back to God. For instance:
Zechariah chapter 1 (NLT)
1 In mid Autumn of the second year of King Darius's reign, the LORD gave this message to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah and grandson of Iddo.
2 "I, the LORD, was very angry with your ancestors. 3 Therefore, say to the people, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD Almighty.' 4 Do not be like your ancestors who would not listen when the earlier prophets said to them, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: Turn from your evil ways and stop all your evil practices.' 5 "Your ancestors and their prophets are now long dead. 6 But all the things I said through my servants the prophets happened to your ancestors, just as I said they would. As a result, they repented and said, 'We have received what we deserved from the LORD Almighty. He has done what he said he would do.'"
In Psalm 137 in the Book of Psalms, the Bible says:
Psalm 137 (CEV)
1 Beside the rivers of Babylon
we thought about Jerusalem,
and we sat down and cried.
2 We hung our small harps
on the willow trees.
3 Our enemies had brought us here
as their prisoners,
and now they wanted us to sing
and entertain them.
They insulted us and shouted,
"Sing about Zion!"
4 Here in a foreign land,
how can we sing
about the LORD?
5 Jerusalem, if I forget you,
let my right hand go limp.
6 Let my tongue stick
to the roof of my mouth,
if I don't think about you
above all else.
7 Our LORD, punish the Edomites!
Because the day Jerusalem fell,
"Completely destroy the city!
Tear down every building!"
8 Babylon, you are doomed!
I pray the Lord's blessings
on anyone who punishes you
for what you did to us.
9 May the Lord bless everyone
who beats Your children
against the rocks!
Sometimes, sceptics take the verse about infants being dashed against the rocks out of context, and become outraged that God would order such a thing! It's clear from the context that it's being wished on the Babylonians by someone expressing his opinion, not by someone announcing a decree of God. True, some passages in the Psalms are proclaimed in the New Testament to be prophesies of God's will, but not all of them. The Psalms were written in a variety of styles, some parts even critical of God. Besides, the sentiment is a traditional Eastern curse, of the type that is apparently common.
From an article called Ancient Mores and Modern Moral Imposition on the Tektonics.org website:
... Then we have verses like this one:
Ps. 137:9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
"How barbaric!" the skeptic gasps. As noted above, this is partly answered by noting the frankness and openness of the ancient mind. Actually we do think such things often today (lest the bigoted skeptic snort, "Well, we're more advanced than those barbarians!"), if only fleetingly, and seldom repeat them in polite company. At any rate, such are simply typical expressions of Oriental imprecation. Rihbany (The Syrian Christ, 92ff) gives more modern examples:
"May God burn the bones of your fathers"; "May your children be orphaned and your wife widowed", and so on. Such wishes were expressed in clan fights and quarrels in Rihbany's native Syria; and yet: "...the Syrians are not so cruel and heartless as such imprecations, especially when cast in cold type, would lead one to believe." Such petitions actually serve a purpose as a "safety-valve" through which the Oriental vents his wrath. "As a rule the Orientals quarrel much, but fight little. By the time the two antagonists have cursed and reviled each other so profusely they cool off, and thus graver consequences are averted." ...
The Book of Numbers tells what on the surface may seem like a story of cruel legalistic barbarity, about a man who was stoned to death for gathering firewood on the Sabbath, after Moses had said that God had commanded that no one was to work that day, and no one was to make any servant or any of their children work that day. Immediately before the story, (Numbers 15) there are commands relating to how if anyone sinned unintentionally, an animal sacrifice should be made on his behalf, and he would be forgiven. But it says that anyone who brazenly, defiantly, contemptuously broke one of the laws of God was to be cut off from the community. Immediately after we have that command, we have this story, as if this was an example of someone brazenly defying the command, not someone collecting firewood because he didn't know about the law.
The deterrant value is an important one stressed in the Law of Moses. The reason for harsh punishments was sometimes said to be, as in the case of the law that said a person who made a false accusation should receive the punishment the accused would have received: "Then everyone else will hear what happened; they will be afraid, and no one will ever again do such an evil thing." (Deuteronomy 19)
Conversely, a person who'd got away with breaking the Sabbath law unpunished would have encouraged those who heard about it to do the same, not just working themselves, but quite possibly making servants and children work. And some terrible abuses have been committed against people who have been made to work seven days a week:
From a news article called Seven Children Freed from Slavery in India from ICFTU Online, 26 March 1999:
"Tuesday, 16 March 1999 marked the end of a long nightmare for seven children from the state of Bihar in India. The NGO "South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude/Bachpan Bachao Andolan" (SACCS/BBA), based in New Delhi, succeeded in freeing the children from the textile workshop where they had been locked up for several months. They worked between 12 and 14 hours a day, seven days a week, weaving carpets or saris (Indian dresses), their only payment being two meager meals a day. The youngest child was just seven years old. The liberated children are now in a center run by the NGO near Delhi. They will soon rejoin their respective families, whom some of the children have not seen for three years.
Their personal hell began in a similar way to that experienced by several million Indian children. One day a man arrived in their village. He said he was looking for workers for his workshop and made an offer to the parents to employ their children, whom he promised to pay a decent wage and give them training that would turn them into qualified workers. ..."
From a news article called Campaigning against Bonded labour from the IFWEA Journal, December 2000:
"... Although this is the most widespread form of slavery today, it is also the least known. Most people become bonded when their labour is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan, or for money given in advance. Usually they are forced by necessity or are tricked into taking a loan in order to pay for such basic needs as food, medicine and for social obligations -- the costs of a wedding or a funeral. A loan for as little as 30 Pounds in some countries can take a lifetime to repay. Bonded labourers are typically forced to work long hours regardless of their age or health, sometimes for seven days a week, 365 days a year. They receive food and shelter as “payment”, but might never be able to pay off the loan. ..."
From a news article entitled Disney Discards Women Workers from NEWS & LETTERS, November 2002:
"... Chicago--The Bangladeshi women workers spoke as well in Chicago:
Mahamuda: In Bangladesh, where I work at MNC producing garments for Wal-Mart, there is no sick leave, holidays, or benefits. We work seven days a week and never get a day off. Maybe we will get one day off a month.
They keep two sets of time cards, one that is real and one that they show to the buyers. The phony one shows less hours and shows days off.
We sometimes have to work all night. I make around 17 cents an hour. I live in a small room with three other women who are my co-workers. I have to buy food and pay rent from my small salary. I can't get a fan or a television, or a sleeping platform. I can't send money to my family. I can't ever have any fun. ..."
From an article called Mandatory Overtime from Consumer Health Interactive:
... "Nurses have been particularly hard hit by mandatory overtime policies in hospitals and other health care settings. After cutbacks and restructuring in response to managed care, nurses are routinely asked to work 12 to 16 hours a day, often with no advance warning, says Patricia Franklin, head of the workplace advocacy program for the American Nurses Association. ...
Injuries and accidents are more likely to occur if nurses are stressed, overworked, and fatigued, she says. ...
And a 1998 German study found that workers experienced a significant rise in accidents and traumatic incidents after nine to 10 hours on a shift.
Here in the United States, one such accident recently struck a Maine lineman who worked back-to-back shifts all weekend with only a few hours sleep. Exhausted, the veteran worker was killed when he forgot to put on his insulating gloves before reaching for a 7,200-volt cable.
"We need to treat much more seriously mandatory overtime and the underlying stress it causes in people's family and work lives," says Lonnie Golden, associate professor of economics at Pennsylvania State University, Delaware County campus. "It is undercutting the benefits we could be deriving from this economic prosperity and could come back to haunt us." ...
From an article titled Backlash by Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, Diane Rezendes Khirallah, and Michelle Lodge:
"... A few years ago, while employed at a financial-services firm, Miller was working on a software project to streamline the company's accounting practices. "We were working six and seven days a week, 12 hours a day," he recalls. The overload not only taxed his waking hours, causing a mind-numbing fatigue, it led to a syndrome Miller dubbed "sleep programming." "You wake up tired because you were so busy all night working on those programming problems in your sleep," he says. ...
What's different today is the acceleration and volume of IT work, driven largely by the Internet economy. The race by dot-coms and brick-and-mortar companies to compete on the Web has hastened the demand for IT-dependent projects. Also, the IT-project floodgates have opened at many companies that had projects and budgets on hold while year 2000 work was completed.
Exacerbating the situation is a Silicon Valley culture spinning out of control, with stress-induced psychological problems reaching an all-time high (see sidebar story, Silicon Valley And The Culture Of 'More'). Also, the influx of foreign workers hired by U.S. companies desperate for IT talent adds its own pressure: Many foreign IT workers, accustomed to long hours in poor conditions, are willing to bear 60 or more hours a week, raising the bar even higher for American IT workers ..."
This was a decree of the Old Testament law that was given to Israel:
The Law decreed:
Deuteronomy chapter 21 (TEV)
18 "Suppose someone has a son who is stubborn and rebellious, a son who will not obey his parents, even though they punish him. 19 His parents are to take him before the leaders of the town where he lives and make him stand trial. 20 They are to say to them, "Our son is stubborn and rebellious and refuses to obey us; he wastes money and is a drunkard.' 21 Then the men of the city are to stone him to death, and so you will get rid of this evil. Everyone in Israel will hear what has happened and be afraid.
On a web page entitled Dan Barker Bible Quiz Answered on the Tektonics.org website, it says:
"... Does the text say we should stone *children*? You assume it does. This is a natural assumption for you to make, since you live in a culture where sons and daughters are required to obey the parents *only when they are children.* When the children become adults, they can pack up, leave, and do "whatever they want" - even if it's against the will of the parents - with no repercussions from society. But the culture in which Deuteronomy was written is different. Sons still had the command to "honor their mother and father," be respectful to them and listen to their words. So how old is the "son" in this passage? The Hebrew term for "son" (ben) employed here is indefinite. It is sometimes used of children of both sexes, but most often of the male. The word "son" here does not give any indication of age. It can refer to a child or to an adult son. Age must be determined from the context. In this case, the son in view is not a child, for the sins brought forth in testimony are gluttony and drunkenness (v. 20). Furthermore, the actions of this son are severe. This is not the case of a child who has failed to do his chores, spoke back to his parents, or even committed a serious act of disobedience, but of a son of dissolute character who is in full rebellion to authority. The text says that the son is "stubborn" and "rebellious." Both of these descriptive terms are active participles, thus indicating habitual action. The son does not display a stubborn streak now and then, or act rebelliously from time to time, but is continuously stubborn and rebellious. The word "stubborn" refers to one who is obstinate in his resistance to authority. This son is living a life without restraint, and is a serious danger to his family and to his community. One must ignore much to believe this verse condones murdering little Johnny for not cleaning his room."
Various Bible passages have been used to condemn homosexuality, or homosexuals themselves. But is this fair? Some argue that a little background knowledge and thought can lead to a greater understanding of the circumstances in which the passages were written, which will lead to different interpretations of them.
The Bible story of how God destroyed Sodom is apparently often used to condemn homosexuality, for it is assumed that it was destroyed because its people were involved in it. A Bible passage in Romans is sometimes used to argue that homosexual practice is an indication that society is corrupt. Homosexuality is said to be condemned in Leviticus where the people of Israel, to whom the law was given, were told that if a man had sex with a man as one would with a woman, both of them were to be put to death.
From an article called References on Homosexuality and the Bible Taken from Is the Homosexual my Neighbor by Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott:
"... Every last one of the city's males is said to have taken part in this attempted gang rape! ...
Rape is not so much a sexual act as it is an act of violence. In.. rape... the emphasis is on displaying force and demonstrating power over someone who is perceived as weak and vulnerable... Among some ancient peoples, it was not unusual to flaunt one's triumph over enemies by treating them with the greatest possible contempt. Such contempt was demonstrated by forcing captive men to 'take the part of a woman' and be passive recipients in anal intercourse...
If the modern prison's version of a gang rape was in the minds of the men of Sodom, it is understandable that they did not accept Lot's offer of his daughters. Women already had a low place in the society of Sodom... Humiliating actual women would not have provided the sense of conquest they had anticipated in degrading the male strangers and 'dragging them down' to the level of women... In the ancient Middle East, writes John McKenzie, 'that the woman should be sacrificed for the man was simply taken for granted.' No wonder that a man would dread the disgrace and punishment of being treated 'like a woman,' which is what male gang rape signified.
... Rather than concentrating on homosexuality, the Sodom story seems to be focusing on two specific evils: (1) violent gang rape and (2) inhospitality to the stranger. Surely, none of us would be prepared to say that if the men of Sodom had accepted the offer of Lot's daughters... then God would have withheld judgement... Violence... is the real part of this story. To put it another way: even if the angels had taken on the form of women in their earthly visitation, the desire of the men of Sodom to rape them would have been every bit as evil in the sight of God..."
From an article about the passage in Romans that mentions homosexual behaviour called Unnatural Relations which begins by quoting the Bible verses in question:
"Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator....Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."
In this passage, the Apostle Paul describes the regression of a rebellious humanity against God. Instead of worshiping their Creator, these pagans turned to worshiping the creature, both man and animal. Because this rebellion so displeased God, He allowed them to go all the way and wallow in their depravity: since they wanted nothing to do with a holy and righteous God, He gave them enough rope to hang themselves, morally speaking.
As the pagans turned to the worship of various fabricated gods and goddesses, their forms of worship centered on the specific aspects of each deity. Some of these deities were fertility gods and goddesses, those responsible for ensuring bountiful crops, healthy childbirth, and the perpetuation of love in its various (and usually erotic) forms. Thus, the forms of worship associated with these fertility gods and goddesses involved sexual activities, which were meant to arouse the deities with passion and encourage them to do whatever it was they were supposed to do.
The worship of these pagan idols occurred in temples dedicated to specific deities, with priests and priestesses serving the worshipers. In essence, the worshipers would enter the temple, give their offerings to the priest or priestess on duty, and then engage in sex acts with them. As most depraved activities go, this spiraled downward and became more outrageous as time went on. Eventually, the male shrine prostitutes (priests) engaged in self-castration and began dressing as women. The female shrine prostitutes (priestesses) began dressing like men and even went so far as to wear satyr pants equipped with replicas of male genitalia. This cross-dressing was quite functional, since it allowed the priest or priestess to have sex (literally or symbolically) with any worshiper, regardless of gender. This type of activity was not limited to one-on-one encounters, either, since groups of worshipers and prostitutes were just as likely to engage in wild sex orgies. ..."
The Leviticus passages clearly don't condemn homosexuality itself, but anal sex between men. It has been argued that this was also a practice done in the worship of fertility gods and this is why it was condemned. Perhaps this is so, but there may be another reason, the hygiene aspect. In the desert of Sinai where the law of Moses was given, sanitation would have been very basic, and so there especially, anything that had the potential to endanger family health significantly had to be stopped. The law even went so far as to say that houses with mildew on the walls had to be pulled down!
From an article called An Anus is Not a Vagina by Bill Weintraub:
"... In addition, the presence of fecal material -- and there is no way to completely rid the anus and rectum of that material prior to penetration -- insures that even more pathogens are available to wreak various sorts of havoc.
These central facts bear repeating: The exceptionally fragile anal lining, thinner and less substantial than an onion skin, as Agnew observes, "cannot withstand the friction associated with penile penetration, resulting in traumas that expose both participants to blood, organisms in feces, and a mixing of bodily fluids."
In addition, as we discussed above, if fecal material and / or rectal secretions have contact with blood, mucosa, or open sores, any viruses or other pathogens in the excretia will be transmitted.
Fact is, fecal material is dangerous, and human beings are universally taught, at an early age, to avoid contact with fecal material.
Yet it is *impossible* to avoid contact with fecal material during anal penetration.
Fecal material is *always* present during and after anal penetration
within the anus and rectum
on the insertive partner's penis
on the exterior of the anal sphincter
on sheets and other bedclothes
on underwear and other clothing
In addition, following anal penetration, the anally receptive partner has to have at least one and usually more bowel movements, which leads to more contact with fecal material.
And the use of "personal lubricants," a necessity during anal penetration, means that afterwards these leak through the anal sphincter, carrying with them fecal matter.
Moreover, over time, the anal sphincter stretches, and leakage of rectal secretions and other fluids from the ano-rectal area is the result.
Rectal secretions are particularly dangerous. ...
Thus, the anus is not a vagina, and penetrating the anus brings with it severe health risks, both infective and mechanical. ..."
It has to be stated that not all gay men engage in anal sex.
The Bible says:
Deuteronomy chapter 22 (TEV)
13 "Suppose a man marries a young woman and later he decides he doesn't want her. 14 So he makes up false charges against her, accusing her of not being a virgin when they got married.
15 "If this happens, the young woman's parents are to take the blood-stained wedding sheet that proves she was a virgin, and they are to show it in court to the town leaders. 16 Her father will say to them, "I gave my daughter to this man in marriage, and now he doesn't want her. 17 He has made false charges against her, saying that she was not a virgin when he married her. But here is the proof that my daughter was a virgin; look at the bloodstains on the wedding sheet!' 18 Then the town leaders are to take the husband and beat him. 19 They are also to fine him a hundred pieces of silver and give the money to the young woman's father, because the man has brought disgrace on an Israelite woman. Moreover, she will continue to be his wife, and he can never divorce her as long as he lives.
20 "But if the charge is true and there is no proof that she was a virgin, 21 then they are to take her out to the entrance of her father's house, where the men of her city are to stone her to death. She has done a shameful thing among our people by having intercourse before she was married, while she was still living in her father's house. In this way you will get rid of this evil.
Apparently, the reason it was so important that a woman could guarantee her virginity on marriage was because in the days before a welfare state, when the literal survival of a family could depend on their ability to farm their land, it was essential that the paternity of any future head of an extended family who were all relying on that land for support could not be contested by greedy people who would claim that they had no right to the land because the head of the household might not be a legitimate heir, because his mother hadn't been a virgin when she married. If someone contested the family's rights to their land and succeeded, they could be forced off it, and become destitute, and potentially starve. Thus, it was vitally important for family survival that women remained virgins until marriage, and faithful to their husbands afterwards.
From an article called Are the Laws in the Old Testament About Rape and Virginity Unfair to Women? by Glenn Miller:
"... Secondly, we need to understand that Israelite law was not applied ‘blindly’ and ‘superficially’ to cases that came up. ...
Although we don’t have any records of court cases going back to OT Israel, the rabbinic writers-often demonstrating significant continuity with ancient practice-certainly didn’t apply the ‘bloody sheet’ test in an unreasoning fashion:
“Several rabbinic sources shed light on the legal aspects of the problem of virginity. In various cases brides are accused of having already lost their virginity but the sages invalidate the accusation. All these cases appear in two collections of baraitot, one in the Palestinian Talmud and the other in the Babylonian Talmud, and the sages who appear in them, with the exception of R. Ishmael b. R. Yose, are all from the house of the nasi. In the first story, in which the protagonist dates from the Second Temple period, a man went before Rabban Gamaliel the Elder and claimed that he failed to find the signs of virginity in his wife, but Rabban Gamaliel believed the wife, who claimed that she came from the Dorkti family, which was a family in which women were known not to bleed when they lose their virginity (bKet. 10b). The same claim was twice brought before Rabbi, who accepted the wife’s explanation and rejected the husband’s complaint in both cases: in the first, the wife attributed her failure to bleed to years of famine (Ibid.), and in the second the wife maintained that her hymen fell from the rigor of climbing the steps of her father’s house (yKet. 1.1, 25a).R. Ishmael b. R. Yose, when he heard the case of the woman ‘whose signs of virginity were no larger than a mustard seed,’ ruled in her favor and even said a blessing over her…” ...
But the most important thing to understand about ANE virginity (and marital fidelity, also) is its socio-economic function, in inheritance-based cultures. ...
But, almost universally, adultery carries the death penalty in the ANE-because of the criticality of being able to prove paternity…it was a major foundation of community existence and stability.
Now, what this creates is an interesting socio-economic dynamic. The larger the household and landholdings, the more important to the community and to the family for the absolute certainty of paternity. This places a tremendous value on (1) demonstrable virgins and on (2) women with the ‘promise of fidelity’ (i.e., from a “good family”). The managing parents of a ‘rich’ household would diligently try to find a mate for a son that could satisfy these two criteria.
From the other side, the parents of a daughter would obviously seek the best possible future for her. This would generally mean trying to arrange a marriage into the most economically-stable family in the community, to provide the girl with every possible advantage for the future. This would primarily entail protecting her ‘demonstrable virginity’ to ensure that she would find a home in the highest-strata families. Needless to say, if the girl was deprived of her virginity via a rapist or seducer (and didn’t marry said individual), her probability of being sought out by families in desperate need for a demonstrable virgin (in other words, the families with the most inheritable property and land!) would drop to zero. This would make the task of providing for/ensuring the long-term welfare of the daughter that much more difficult. ..."
Deuteronomy chapter 22:
28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
Here is a clear case in which the rapist has (1) stolen the girl’s ability to guarantee paternity, and by doing so has greatly limited her future options; and (2) has limited her father’s options of arranging a good marriage for her.
The rapist is now forced to become what he has cheated the girl out of-a ‘well off’ husband. The fifty shekels bride-price (see below on the Exodus 22.16 passage) is five years worth of average wages, and is the price paid by the Pharaoh Amenophis III for the women of Gezer destined for his harem.
The girl’s future is now assured-she has a guaranteed support source (he cannot divorce her)-and she has a ‘big’ bride-price on deposit. ...
What was this mohar or bride-price all about?
It can be thought of as a ‘pension’ or ‘social security’ for the woman. It was kept by the father (out of the clutches of her husband!), but not ‘owned’ by him:
Furthermore, it is probable that the father enjoyed only the usufruct of the mohar, and that the latter reverted to the daughter at the time of succession, or if her husband’s death reduced her to penury. ...
There is some evidence that this was a variable amount in Israel, and that it was negotiated by the parents. In some of these cases of rape and/or seduction, the price being paid is typically higher than what would normally have been paid, so this was both a disincentive for would-be rapists, and a compensation for ”lost opportunities” for the woman. ..."
Some sceptics ask why Christians don't stone women to death for not being virgins on their wedding nights nowadays, assuming that it must be because "even Christians" can understand the "stupidity and barbarity" of the Bible's laws! They clearly misunderstand the place of the Law - that it was meant for the people of Israel to last until Christ died.
In letters that were put in the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote to Christians:
Galatians chapter 3 (NLT)
19 Well then, why was the law given? It was given to show people how guilty they are.
21 If the law could have given us new life, we could have been made right with God by obeying it. 22 But the Scriptures have declared that we are all prisoners of sin, ... 23 Until faith in Christ was shown to us as the way of becoming right with God, we were guarded by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until we could put our faith in the coming Savior. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us until Christ came. ... 25 But now that faith in Christ has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.
Galatians chapter 4 (NLT)
4 When the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father. 7 ... And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you.
Corinthians chapter 9 (TEV)
21 This does not mean that I don't obey God's law; I am really under Christ's law.
Romans chapter 13 (TEV)
8 Be under obligation to no one-the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law. 9 The commandments,
"Do not commit adultery;
do not commit murder;
do not steal;
do not desire what belongs to someone else" -
all these, and any others besides, are summed up in the one command, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." 10 If you love others, you will never do them wrong; to love, then, is to obey the whole Law.
The issue of what punishments should be given under the new system of authority didn't arise, because Christians were a minority when the New Testament was written, so they were not in a position to influence the making of laws by governments. Thus, when they are, they have to decide themselves what should remain or become illegal, and what penalties are appropriate.
One of the laws of Moses commanded that if a husband became jealous of his wife and thought she might have been unfaithful, he was to take her before a priest, and she was to be made to drink bitter water, and the priest would pronounce a conditional curse on her, whereupon it would be decreed that if she had been unfaithful, the water would make her infertile, but if she hadn't, it wouldn't.
On the face of it, that sounds a revolting and disturbing procedure. But a little investigation into the culture of the times reveals that it was actually a protective measure.
In an article called Wasn't there a HUGE double standard in biblical sexual ethics?--weren't women supposed to be 'good', but men didn't have to? Glenn Miller writes:
"... The Sotah trial turns out to be a PROTECTION for women!), not a double standard:
Num 5.12--the trial of bitter waters (Sotah) is a an amazing provision by God for a woman to publicly clear her name (and indict a dysfunctional husband in the process). This is the procedure invoked by a jealous and/or paranoid husband who suspected his wife of infidelity. God gave this law to protect the woman from physical and economic abuse from a capricious and petty husband. In many of the cultures of that day, men had absolute dictatorial rights over their wives. If they suspected adultery, they were allowed to kill the woman without any appeal on her part. There was not a process of justice, or process where they BOTH had to appear before a higher authority. In fact, in the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1720 BC.), CH 132, women who were suspected of this type of infidelity were required to throw themselves into the Euphrates river--if they drown, they were guilty; if not, they were innocent! (Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 171). God would instead provide a public vindication process, before His leaders, his people, and the couple. If the woman was vindicated, the man would bear the stigma of unfounded and paranoid jealousy, and slanderous accusation before his friends/family (with possible legal consequences). Her rights were protected by this very ceremony. This was a very, very advanced pro-women procedure for those times. ..."
"honour" killings are still fairly prevalent today in Middle and Near Eastern countries.
In an article called Case Study: "Honour" Killings and Blood Feuds by Gendercide Watch, it says:
"Honour" killings of women can be defined as acts of murder in which "a woman is killed for her actual or perceived immoral behavior." (Yasmeen Hassan, "The Fate of Pakistani Women," International Herald Tribune, May 25, 1999.) Such "immoral behavior" may take the form of marital infidelity, refusing to submit to an arranged marriage, demanding a divorce, flirting with or receiving phone calls from men, failing to serve a meal on time, or -- grotesquely -- "allowing herself" to be raped. In the Turkish province of Sanliurfa, one young woman's "throat was slit in the town square because a love ballad was dedicated to her over the radio." (Pelin Turgut, "'Honour' Killings Still Plague Turkish Province," The Toronto Star, May 14, 1998.) ...
According to Yasmeen Hassan, author of The Haven Becomes Hell: A Study of Domestic Violence in Pakistan, "The concepts of women as property and honor are so deeply entrenched in the social, political and economic fabric of Pakistan that the government, for the most part, ignores the daily occurrences of women being killed and maimed by their families." (Hassan, "The Fate of Pakistani Women.") ...
According to Goldenberg, "Those who kill for honour [in Pakistan] are almost never punished. In the rare instances [that] cases reach the courts, the killers are sentenced to just two or three years. Hana Jilani [the Jahore lawyer who witnessed Samia Imran's murder] has collected 150 case studies and in only eight did the judges reject the argument that the women were killed for honour. All the other [perpetrators] were let off, or given reduced sentences." (Goldenberg, "A Question of Honour.") ...
It is unknown how many women are maimed or disfigured for life in attacks that fall short of murder. Pamela Constable describes one such case:
Zahida Perveen's head is shrouded in a white cotton veil, which she self-consciously tightens every few moments. But when she reaches down to her baby daughter, the veil falls away to reveal the face of one of Pakistan's most horrific social ills, broadly known as "honour" crimes. Perveen's eyes are empty sockets of unseeing flesh, her earlobes have been sliced off, and her nose is a gaping, reddened stump of bone. Sixteen months ago, her husband, in a fit of rage over her alleged affair with a brother-in-law, bound her hands and feet and slashed her with a razor and knife. She was three months pregnant at the time. "He came home from the mosque and accused me of having a bad character," the tiny, 32-year-old woman murmured as she awaited a court hearing ... "I told him it was not true, but he didn't believe me. He caught me and tied me up, and then he started cutting my face. He never said a word except, "This is your last night." (Constable, "The Price of 'Honour'," The Gazette (Montreal), May 22, 2000.)
Perveen's husband stated in court that "What I did was wrong, but I am satisfied. I did it for my honour and prestige."
Often burning or scarring with acid are the preferred weapons of the men committing such crimes. ...
Lawyer and women's activist Nahida Mahbooba Elahi states that "We deal with these cases every day, but I have seen very few convictions. The men say the wife didn't obey their orders, or was having relations with someone else. The police often say it is a domestic matter and refuse to pursue the case. Some judges even justify it and do not consider it murder." (Constable, "The Price of 'Honour.'")
Such crimes are also rife in Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, where some 2,200 women are disfigured every year in acid attacks by jealous or estranged men. (Ellen Goodman, "How Long Before We Take the Honor out of Killing?," The Washington Post [in the Guardian Weekly, April 6-12, 2000.) ...
... [Amnesty International] also states: "Reports abound about men who have killed other men in murders not connected with honour issues who then kill a woman of their own family ... to camouflage the initial murder as an honour killing." (Amnesty International, "Pakistan: Honour Killings of Girls and Women", September 1999.) ...
In Jordan, "honour" killings are sanctioned by law. According to Article 340 of the criminal code, "A husband or a close blood relative who kills a woman caught in a situation highly suspicious of adultery will be totally exempt from sentence." Article 98, meanwhile, guarantees a lighter sentence for male killers of female relatives who have committed an "act which is illicit in the eyes of the perpetrator." ...
"Honour" killings are also regularly reported in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. ...
"Honour" killings of women (and occasionally their male "partners in crime") reflect longstanding patriarchal-tribal traditions. In a "bizarre duality," women are viewed "on the one hand as fragile creatures who need protection and on the other as evil Jezebels from whom society needs protection." Patriarchal tradition "casts the male as the sole protector of the female so he must have total control of her. If his protection is violated, he loses honour because either he failed to protect her or he failed to bring her up correctly." (Armstrong, "Honour's Victims.") ...
Genesis tells the story of how a woman called Tamar was married to one of the sons of the man Judah, but he was killed while they were still childless. In accordance with the custom of the day, she was then married to one of his brothers. His name was Onan. He used the withdrawal method so she wouldn't get pregnant. This passage has been used by some to try to argue that sexual behaviour that doesn't lead to procreation is bad; but the Bible doesn't say that at all. It says Onan didn't like the idea that Tamar's firstborn son would have been raised as the son of his older brother, as tradition decreed he would be. If he was, he would have inherited a large share of his father's property. Without a child raised as his older brother's, the property would go to Onan himself on his father's death.
Also, in depriving Tamar of a child, he would have been potentially depriving her of security in her old age. Before welfare benefits, parents would have relied on their children to look after them when they were no longer able to earn a living because their health was failing. The same thing still applies in some developing countries today.
From an article on the Tektonics.org website called Was Onan unjustly killed?:
Was God unfair to Onan? One Skeptic regards it as "almost too ridiculous to discuss" that God would kill Onan for refusing to impregnate his sister-in-law.
Indeed it would be, for a modern with an air-conditioned house, and living in comfort and in no need of corporate survival benefits. ...
If Tamar had no heir born to her, guess who got the family's inheritance?
In the Book of Deuteronomy, the Bible says:
Deuteronomy chapter 21 (NIV)
10 When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, 11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. 12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails 13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. 14 If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.
On a web page written by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz, it says:
... Let us read the rest of the Torah passage:
When you bring her home, she must shave her head. ... She must remove her garments of captivity (seductive clothing, worn for the express purpose of making her attractive - Rashi’s commentary) and remain in your house for a full month, crying for her father and mother. Only then may you come to her and live with her, making her your wife. If you do not desire her, however, you must send her away free... (Ibid. Verses 12-14)
This seems to make the situation even worse! Not only is the soldier permitted to intimately violate his prisoner. He degrades her in other ways as well! She can’t wear her own clothes; he forces her to shave her head. She sits in his home and cries. WHAT’S GOING ON?!
I believe that this Mitzvah was never meant to be carried out.
Rashi, in his commentary on the Talmud, explains that the soldier is not permitted to be intimate with his captive until the end of her first month of captivity. In his commentary on the Torah, he explains the shaving and clothes change.
In the heat of battle, the soldier came across a beautiful, attractively dressed woman. He may be tempted to sin. The Torah says, “No! Keep your hands to yourself! Do you find her attractive? Are you sure? O.K., if you REALLY want her, you can have her. But let’s first make sure you want her.
“Take her home. Get rid of the fancy clothes. Say good-by to the alluring hair-do. When the make-up is gone ... and her eyes are red from tears, take a good look! Is THIS what you want?”
Rashi points out that this section comes right before the section dealing with a person who has two wives, one whom he loves, and the other whom he despises. The next section deals with the rebellious son. The Torah’s message is clear: Think very clearly about what you are doing. If you marry a woman because you found her attractive on the battlefield, you will eventually hate her. If you have children with a woman whom you hate, don’t expect them to be wonderful and well-adjusted. In other words, think very carefully before you act. ...
The soldier has come into town, just having defeated the enemy. He is intoxicated by the thrill of victory. He has showed the enemy how powerful he is; he can do anything! He sees a beautiful woman among the captives. ...
The Torah provides a means to dealing with his passion. The Torah tells him to wait. If he can just get past this momentary attraction, he’ll think things through logically.
There are no statistics on the frequency of captive wives in Jewish history. I don’t know how many women were taken home from battle to be married. I doubt that there were many. And further, among those who were brought home, I doubt that many of them ended up being married after the month-long cool-off period. ...
The Old Testament was written for people who were supposed to be under God's rule, though many of them wouldn't have experienced a personal conviction about following him. Thus, they wouldn't have had such an incentive to obey his commands as the people the New Testament was written for, people who were personally committed to following God. Thus, the Old Testament commands, unlike the New, sometimes threatened harsh punishments to keep the people in line, and sometimes compromised with man's natural instincts because a command that was too extreme wouldn't have been obeyed at all.(See Matthew 19)
From an article called Is Original Sin "Fair"? Why are we Punished for Adam's Sin? from the Tektonics website:
"... In other words, Adam's sin, and the resultant punishment of spiritual and eventually physical death, was a pattern-connection that was established and set the legal precedent for death to be inflicted as the penalty for all sins. A loose parallel may be found in the incidence some years ago of the crime of carjacking. There was no specific definition of, or remedy for, this crime when it first became popular. When it became more popular, it was defined out as a specific crime (where before, prosecutors had to select from and cobble together charges from existing laws) and given a specific punishment. The analogy breaks down because there was no previous sin with the original sin, but the point to be drawn is that Adam's sin and punishment was an original example as well as a case of original sin. We pay for, and are punished because of, Adam's sin, only in the same sense that present-day carjackers experience their specific punishment because of a precedent set by their criminal forebears, which engendered a more specific legal reaction. ..."
Is it fair that the Bible says people can get into heaven by simply believing in Jesus, when there might be some far better people around who might go to hell simply because they didn't believe in him?
This question derives from a misunderstanding. When Jesus said that anyone who believes in him will have eternal life, the implication of his word believe has been lost in many Bible translations; it actually had the connetation of not only believing, but also obeying. The Jews would have understood that actions would automatically follow from true faith, and it wouldn't be true faith without them. (Though the true meaning of the word believe has been lost in many translations, the principle is spelled out in so many New Testament verses that it doesn't matter.)
From an article called The Law and the Christian from the Tektonics.org website:
"... And now we plagiarize our own work again to explain our meaning, The Semitic Totality Concept means that "a man's thoughts form one totality with their results in action so that 'thoughts' that result in no action are 'vain'." [Dahl, Resurrection of the Body, 60] To put it another way, man does not have a body; man is a body, and what we regard as constituent elements of spirit and body were looked upon by the Hebrews as a fundamental unity. Applied to the role of works following faith, this means that there can be no decision without corresponding action, for the total person will inevitably reflect a choice that is made. ...
Thus, what we would consider separate actions of conversion, confession, and obedience in the form of works would be considered by the Hebrews to be an act in totality. "Both the act and the meaning of the act mattered -- the two formed for the first Christians an indivisible unity." [Flemington, New Testament Doctrine of Baptism, 111] ..."
From an article called Why Didn't God Stop the Process Before it Started, if He Knew of the Massive Amounts of Suffering That Would Befall Many of His Creatures?? by Glenn Miller:
"... 1. The first 'long-term judgment' verse in the Bible:
“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Dan 12.2)
This is the first verse in the bible that refers to post-death, post-resurrection, long-term effects of this life, for those who actively reject God’s goodness. Notice that the 'quality of life' is described as 'disgrace' and 'contempt'--hardly mind-numbing torture terms! If the hell-experience had been understood as the intense suffering commonly attributed to it, then this verse has focused on very minor aspects of that--to the point of being misleading perhaps.
2. The "weeping and gnashing of teeth" passages: ...
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (matt 13.40)
Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt 13.47) ...
But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (matt 24.48ff) ...
There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13.28ff)
The discomfort described here is weeping/sorrow, NOT screaming/pain--contrary to most of the popular images of hell used for this question.
Notice that a few of these passages have the 'darkness' and 'fire' images, but the effects are cast in terms of sorrow ('weeping') and anguish/regret/anger ('gnashing of teeth', cf. Acts 7.54, Ps 37.12). Notice especially that in the Lucan passage the weeping occurs "when they see" their own exclusion--it is due to the separation issue, not some torture or pain. ...
Hell is thought by many to be eternal. But an examination of the original Greek words apparently sheds a new light on it, and according to some, it turns out that hell is a process of punishment meant to refine and correct faults, to bring people to feel sorrow for their past behaviour so they sincerely seek forgiveness and wish to change their ways, at which point, they can be allowed into heaven.
From an article called Is It All GREEK to You? by brad edwards:
"... While on the topic of "FIRE," let's consider another strong passage from Revelation.
REV 14:10"...he will be tormented with burning SULFUR in the PRESENCE of the holy angels and the Lamb"
In this verse we see the word "SULFUR" used for "tormenting" (punishing) those who follow the Beast. Also note that this is done in the PRESENCE of Jesus and not in some subterranean fire pit away from God. It is this PRESENSE of our holy God that causes their pain to be sure. So what is SULFUR? Well, in some Bibles it is translated "brimstone," but the Greek word here is "THEION" which can also be translated DIVINE as in something from God. Places that lightning touched were called "theia" and left a sulfurous smell. Also sulfur was used in purification ceremonies in that day by some outside of Judea. The real key here is that THEION is derived from THEOS which is GOD! Yes, THEOS is God in Greek and the word THEION comes directly from this Source. Consider this passage from Acts:
Act 17:29 "Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the DIVINE Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man."
The word translated here DIVINE is THEION which has been translated sulfur in other passages like in Revelation. The lake of Fire has a direct connection to the Divine because it comes from God. Not only is this a Divine Fire, but it is one that PURIFIES whatever it comes in contact with. Are we to suppose that our God and Father has no purpose in this Fire that torments those He created in His image and likeness? All that God does has purpose, we simply can't comprehend it yet. ...
The next word to look at is "AION" and its derivatives- "AIONION" and "AIONIOS." That ugly doctrine of "eternal" hell greatly depends on this word meaning forever. ...
There are many passages I could cite showing that AION or OLAM doesn't mean forever, but concerning an AGE or AGE-LASTING. The many derivatives of AION are relating to an age or of the ages. Aionios is rendered "age-lasting" in better translations. The corrective punishment God uses is only for as long as it takes to bring godly sorrow and repentance. Many literal translations of the Bible have corrected this mistake as to bring back loving harmony to God's word as you will read later in this study. To reiterate, aion means an age- a limited period of time and NOT eternal, forever nor forever and ever. ...
The word for punishment here is "KOLASIS." The meaning is to punish, but for CORRECTIVE purposes and not out of vengeance. God is correcting those nations on His left with "aionion kolasis" which is translated this way in these Bibles:
"And these shall go away into age-abiding CORRECTION" -Rotherham's Emphasized Bible ..."
From an article called Honor and Pain - A Refocus on the Atonement and Eternal Punishment from the Tektonics.org website:
"... The 'logic' of hell in the bible is surprisingly simple: You receive back the treatment/effects you gave other agents (including God and yourself) with some kind of multiplier effect. [The bible is full of images of this reciprocity concept: reaping what you sow, being paid back, suffering loss as you had despoiled others, unkindness for unkindness shown, apathy for apathy rendered, 'eye for an eye', proportional judgement, etc] This is suited as well to what we have said of honor debts and shame as a response. You dishonor God; you receive dishonor in return. Appropriately your required response is to acknowledge your own need -- in effect, giving up your "honor" -- by admitting that you need God's help to pay the debt. ..."
All these quotes should indicate that God is not the mindlessly savage, egotistical maniac he is often portrayed as.
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