Many believe that Jesus is the “loving and peaceful” side of God, while God in the Old Testament is the wrathful and vengeful warrior God.
But, as I discuss in my book, The Atonement of God, if Jesus truly and perfectly reveals to us what God is like, then the only “side” of God that exists is the side revealed in Jesus Christ.
Is God a Violent Warrior?
To put it another way, if Yahweh was a warrior God, and Jesus revealed this type of God to us, Jesus would have stepped down off the cross, and called a legion of angels to His defense. He would have slaughtered the Romans, and set up His throne in Jerusalem to rule the world with an iron fist (Yes, we will get to the Book of Revelation in later posts). He would have commanded the entire world to bow before Him, to pay homage, and offer tribute. He would have crushed all who rebelled against Him, and set up ways to control every living thing.
His disciples were looking for just such a Warrior King. They were waiting for it. Many times they asked Jesus to act upon what they thought He should be doing (cf. Luke 9:54). I believe that Judas, in betraying Jesus, was trying to goad Jesus into just such an action. Judas wanted Jesus to be King, but grew impatient with the way Jesus was going about it, and so betrayed Jesus as a way to force Jesus’ hand. But Jesus didn’t rise to the challenge. Instead, He died. When Jesus died, all of Judas’ hopes and dreams died as well, and so Judas went out and hung himself. As a result, Judas died without ever knowing the full truth about Jesus.
What is the truth?
God is Not Violent
On the cross, Jesus shows us what kind of God Yahweh is, and how Jesus came to rule and reign, not by might, nor by power, but by self-sacrificial service and taking the sins and guilt and blame of the entire world upon Himself.
This is the kind of God revealed in Jesus Christ. This is the kind of God Yahweh truly is.
It is on the cross that Jesus put to death the violent portrayal of God in the Old Testament and revealed once and for all that God is not like that. It is on the cross where Jesus revealed what God is really like: He is loving, kind, forgiving, and would rather take the blame for the sins of His children than accuse and condemn them for misusing and abusing the freedom He gave.
By taking the sin of the entire world upon Himself, Jesus revealed that this is what Yahweh has always been doing throughout time and history.
He has been taking the sin and guilt and blame of the entire world onto Himself. See my book, The Atonement of God, for a longer explanation of this idea.
By inspiring the human authors to write what they did, God made it look like He was the one responsible for the actions of Israel, the destruction of the flood, the murder of the firstborn males of Israel, and the slaughter of Canaanite women and children. All of these things were going to happen no matter what, but God took the blame for all of them by inspiring the biblical authors to write what they did about Him. God takes the blame. He accepts the guilt.
This is what we see in Jesus Christ. God, when standing before a court of human sinners who have set themselves up to judge and condemn Him, accepts their sentence. He nods His head in agreement with every angry accusation. When the charges are read, He enters a “Guilty” plea. “Christ, in His sinlessness, took responsibility for our wrongdoing” (Martin, 2 Corinthians, 144).How can a God who says "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44) be the same God who instructs His people in the Old Testament to kill their enemies?
These are the sorts of questions we discuss and (try to) answer in my online discipleship group. Members of the group can also take ALL of my online courses (Valued at over $1000) at no charge. Learn more here: Join the RedeemingGod.com Discipleship Group I can't wait to hear what you have to say, and how we can help you better understand God and learn to live like Him in this world!
Jeremy Myers on Facebook says
Thank you in return, Clif. I think that God wants us to know Him better, which is one reason Jesus came… to reveal Abba to us. None of us have all the answers to our questions, but as we journey with Jesus together, hopefully we all come to a better knowledge of who He is and how much He loves us!
Justice is sometimes violent in action. God is just. I find no reason to state that God is violent in a malevolent way. However violence can be a means to justice. Violence was administered to Jesus in our place- so Gods justice would reign. It had to be. At the second coming violent men will be overcome and the means are violent. So NO GOD is NOT violent per se- but He uses violence. The God of the OT is the same as the God of the NT. His justice MUST be adhered to- violence is a means. Jesus even states to carry a sword. Defensively of course but possibly utilizing violence. This debate reminds of the gun debate wherein a means is juxtaposed with a TOTAL character trait- in other words “If you Joe citizen have a weapon for protetction you are somehow evil and wrong”. By the same token if God uses violences He is unjust and wrong. Both are wrongheaded concepts.
Jeremy Myers says
I see what you are saying. Yes, it all depends somewhat on how violence is defined. Certainly, discipline can be viewed as violence, especially by the one being disciplined.
As for Jesus and the sword text, there are alternate ways of understanding what Jesus was saying there, and note that when Peter actually uses a sword, Jesus tells him to put it away. All of that is fodder for a future post though.
“God” is not violent? It allegedly killed every living thing on the Earth, except for those on the Ark. How is that not violent? He killed Lot’s wife. He killed the first born of Egypt. He advocates mass killing. It created Hell, to torture for ETERNITY those that didn’t bow down to its wishes. The biblical god is a psychotic sociopath. If a human demanded the things it demands and treated you as god of the bible treats you, you’d take out a restraining order against it. And let’s not mention all the wonderfully painful maladies that it created that afflicts mankind.
Jeremy Myers says
I agree with you, and have written similar posts on this blog.
But as dozens upon dozens of other blog posts on this blog say, the violence attributed to God in the Bible is not violence that God actually carried out or commanded. It is the same today when Christian leaders tell us that God wants us to go to war against the Muslims (or whomever). God never said this, nor commanded it.
Anyway, the God revealed in Jesus Christ is absolutely non-violent.
Brendan Matulis says
Also, Hell is not biblical. Jesus spoke of total death, not life in a bad place.
Dylan Cromhout says
I have heard and read about this perspective before in the work of Andre Rabe from https://alwaysloved.net/. Are you familiar with his work? I know John Crowder is also of this opinion.
I however am not convinced by it yet. There are too many references in the NT which make mention of God’s wrath to deny that God has, does, and will act in violent ways again sin.
My question however is connected to the OT. The premise of your article is that God inspired the writers of the OT to attribute all the violent acts to Him because this is a picture of how Christ takes responsibility of all our violence on himself at the cross.
According to Exodus it was the angel of death (God’s angel) that killed the first born. There are also other times where God supernaturally acted in violent ways. Are you suggesting that these events did not happen the way they are recorded but that the story was changed in order to attribute human violence to God?
If that is the case, then was it God’s intent for the Israelites to take the promised land by force? And if they did not take it by force, and destroy all the pagan nations, how do you then imagine God intended for them to inhabit it? Given, that much of the OT hinges on them taking, living in, losing, and reclaiming the promised land.
Elizabeth Wolf says
Man is forever carnal in mind, these are questions I asked as a non-believer-If God wasn’t violent then how come he told them to go into a city & kill every man,woman & child, But when I became a christian I asked the Lord to open up his Word through the Holy Spirit, as Christ said that things must be all in Spirit & Truth. As things opened up to me He revealed that “killing” in the Bible meant Killing the Flesh to the world & living in the Spirit, so in the old testament I noticed too, that those they had supposedly “killed” would be there in a different book of the Bible,one must pay strict attention,to His Word & ask for interpretation through the H.S. so in that time Joshua led them all back to God, not killed outright as we think. that is also why the Leaders of War still today, think they are fighting for God, & should following Christ example of going into all the world to Preach the Gospel, That is are only duty, since Jesus Died on the Cross. I could write a lot too when it comes to the people who believe end time prophesy ,they are not Spiritual.
I believe strongly that Jesus revealed the true nature and character of God. He dispelled all the false beliefs that God is bad, violent, vengeful, wrathful. But I must disagree with the way you explain why these false statements of God are in the OT. God cannot deceive on purpose. Through research I have come to believe that the OT prophets wrote only portions of what God spoke to them and added there own understanding of how those things were to come to be based on their own world view and understanding. When Christ says you have heard it said eye for eye…but I tell you…he is correcting Scripture. It comes down to a willingness to allow your understanding of the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture to change. It is not inerrant and infallible because every word is true on its face, it is those things because God allowed those false statements to remain. Not that He inspired or approved of them. This was actually necessary so the distinction could be realized. As if God was saying “You humans needed to see how your minds would invision Me. That you would make me your enemy in your own mind due to your own evil behavior.” But now, in the fullness of time I have become flesh to set the record straight. The ancient Hebrews also viewed the destroyer, the killer, the accuser, as an agent of God. His right hand angle that does all the dirty work. So whether it was good or evil, it was all Ordered by God. That was their lens. So it was not an issue for them to attribute good and evil to God. To our Christian 21st century lenses this creates the dualistic God. In order to try and reconcile these obvious problems we have engaged in deconstructing term like violence. Violence is ALWAYS evil. It is the essence of violence. If God can be “violent” in a different way than humans then it is not “violent”. There are much simpler ways to explain these issues.
But Jesus IS the full expression of the invisible God. God is not violent. The violence attributed to Him in the OT was blasphemy. “Even the Gentiles blaspheme my name because of you”. The Jews were presenting a false picture of who God was. They were misrepresenting the character of God. God knew this would happen. It didn’t matter if it was the Jews, Greeks, Roman’s, etc.. whoever it was would have been doing the same thing, so no judgment on the Jews for doing what was inevitable.
I just have a problem with the part you you are saying God inspired the prophets to deceive
Thank you though. I love the rest of the article