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August 2018

The Old Testament god?

The Bloodthirsty Warrior God of the Bible


Old Testament God vs. New

We just cannot avoid the fact that parts of the Old Testament depict God as a bloodthirsty warrior.

This is one of the reasons why Andy Stanley wants to unhitch from the Old Testament, and why Richard Dawkins has irreverently described God as “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Now I have little time for Richard Dawkins’ tortured logic and misguided faith in humanism, but I cannot ignore the biblical grounds for his indictments.  

Here are just two of the many troublesome passages of scripture:

A case of mass murder, kidnapping, and sex trafficking

Judges 21:1-23 records a disturbing event in the life of the people of God. Some of the men in the village of Gibeah, in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin,  raped and killed the concubine of a visiting Levite. Warriors from the other tribes gathered and decided to punish the offenders. However, the people of the tribe of Benjamin refused to hand them over and instead declared war on their fellow Israelites and massacred 25,000 of their warriors. The other tribes also lost many men and were so outraged that they swore an oath that in future they would not give any of their daughters in marriage to a man from the tribe of Benjamin. But, it wasn’t long before they realised that their oath would eventually result in the extermination of one of the 12 tribes, so they gathered to discuss the problem. All cities in Israel sent representatives to this meeting except Jabesh-Gilead and because of this, the others decided to send soldiers to that city to kill all its men and non-virgin women. They did this and then took the remaining 400 virgins and gave them to the men of Benjamin to have sex with.

Now they committed this unjust and barbarous act in the name of the God of Israel. They met together, prayed, offered up sacrifices and then came up with their macabre solution… so surely God had willed it.  There is nothing in the biblical record to suggest that God had spoken to them, but this was their obvious conclusion. This is typical of several Old Testament accounts of apparent divine ‘evil’.

A sinister version of pick-up-sticks

Numbers 15:32-36 records a more clear-cut case, which reads: ‘While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.”  So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD commanded Moses’.  We don’t know why the man was violating the commandment to do no work on the Sabbath. Perhaps he needed to make a fire to cook his food and had been too sick to gather the wood the day before – we just don’t know. However, it seems that Moses enquired of God what to do and believed that God’s answer was that the poor man should be stoned to death! Now, what are we to do with this?

Is God really petty and harsh?

Perhaps He was setting an example of what would happen to defiant Sabbath-breakers? But hang on a moment, didn’t Jesus Christ later say; “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath”? (Matthew 12:7-8) Moreover, to make it even clearer He said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).

Some theologians try to justify God’s apparent Old Testament ‘atrocities’ by claiming that He was righteous and judicial in ordering slaughter, mayhem, and stomach-wrenching barbarism. These atrocities include the slaughter of half a million Israelites at the hands of their fellow ‘children of God’ (2 Chronicles 13:17), the eradication of everyone (including children) living in Heshbon (Deuteronomy 2:32-35), and 42 children mauled by bears for calling a prophet ‘baldy’! (2 Kings 2:23-24)

When we encounter these incidents in scriptures, we can respond in one of three ways.

  • We can reason that God must have had a good reason for acting no better than a pagan deity of the nations surrounding Israel;
  • OR that we must just accept these portrayals of God because they are in the infallible scriptures and must, therefore, be true depictions of aspects of God’s nature;
  • OR that something else is going on here that we need to understand.
I believe that the scriptures are inspired and trustworthy, but that something else must be going on here. Why? Because Jesus Christ presented a portrait of the Godhead that is radically at odds with the sort of portrayals I have been describing. Jesus is ‘the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. (Hebrews 1:3). He is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1:15) for ‘God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him’ (Colossians 1:19).

So, ask yourself the question: ‘Would Jesus say and do the things attributed to God in the problematic Old Testament passages?’ No, He would not! Therefore, something else must be going on here.

There is plenty of evidence in the Old Testament that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is good, loving and righteous, so we need to seriously interrogate the passages that appear to contradict this. Dr Gregory Boyd is the latest Christian scholar attempting to do just this. He recently wrote a two-volume, 1 492 page, book titled ‘The Crucifixion of the Warrior God’. Here is a link to a video of Greg summarising his book for us. Fortunately for us ordinary folk, he condensed his Magnum Opus down into a much smaller book called ‘Cross Vision: How the Crucifixion of Jesus Makes Sense of Old Testament Violence’. His main thesis is that the Old Testament characters, such as Moses, were so influenced by the gods of the ancient near east that they projected their characteristics onto the God of Israel. He also believes that the scriptures are the result of a cooperation between selected men and God and that any barbarism portrayed is the result of the human author’s limited understanding of God’s true nature. He holds that God allowed these misrepresentations to stand in the sacred text because of His compassionate accommodation of human frailty and because He wanted the Bible to be an accurate record of how His people saw Him and the world. For Dr Boyd, Jesus is the final revelation of God’s character and nature and so His disclosure of the Godhead trumps all other disclosures.

I agree with much of what Dr Boyd says and I have written along similar lines several times in the past. See for instance HERE and HERE .
The fact that God revealed His true nature in and through Jesus Christ is important to all of us.

Decoding the Bible through a Jesus-centred lens is the only satisfactory way of making sense of Old Testament ‘blood and guts’ passages and the equally bemusing New Testament accounts such as the killing of Ananias and his wife (Acts 5:1-11).

It also helps us realise that there is no darkness in God and that we can trust in His loving-kindness towards us. We can love God for who He truly is rather than fearing Him because of who others think He is. A Christocentric interpretation of scripture also helps us appreciate the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments, as God-breathed and reliable.




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TruthTalks (Sermons): Connecting the dots

People who doubt the authenticity of the Old Testament or the divinity of Jesus should listen to this message.

The Lord Jesus connects the dots between His life and key Old Testament events. By doing this He is in effect saying, “Yes, it is true, and I AM the one who did it!”

Click HERE to read the article on which this sermon is based or press play below to listen or download the sermon.

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Connecting the dots

The expression, ‘Connecting the dots’ has become quite popular in South Africa as a way of suggesting areas of corruption without actually being explicit. However, in this article, I want to use the expression very explicitly to connect the dots between the Old and New Testaments. Jesus is of course the dot-connector in chief, but I will use only some examples from His life and teaching in this short article.

Some well-known connections between the two Testaments are the 40 days in the wilderness, the 12 apostles, and the 70 other evangelists Jesus sent out. Just as God led Moses and the Old Testament people of God into the desert for 40 years to be tested, so the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-2). Twelve tribes represented ancient Israel and 12 Apostles (Mark 3:14) represented the people of people of The Way (Acts 24:14). Perhaps not as obvious is the reason Jesus chose 70 representatives (Luke 10:1 HCSB) to match the original 70 chosen by Moses to represent him (Numbers 11:16).

Somewhat less obvious ‘dots’ that make for exciting connections are when Jesus fed the 5,000 and then succeeded this by walking on water.

Matthew 14:15-21 records how Jesus fed well over 5,000 people with just five loaves and two fish. Oh, and don’t forget the detail that the disciples then picked up 12 baskets of left-overs. What’s this miraculous bread all about? Well Jesus explained later that while the ancient Jews ate manna from heaven, so He had come to feed His people with the true bread from heaven … himself (John 6:48-51). And, of course, the 12 baskets represented the Old Testament tribes of Israel.

Immediately after the miraculous feeding of the 5000, Jesus told His disciples to go by boat to the other side of the lake where He would later join them. The wind and waves were against the disciples and they were making heavy weather of it when suddenly Jesus appeared walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). Now why on earth did He choose to do this?  Well He was joining the dots for them. God parted the sea in the time of Moses (Exodus 14:21-22) so the people could cross over, and now He was controlling the sea once again before His startled disciples so that they could cross over.

The connections are clear once you see them – Jesus was graphically declaring that He is the same God that led His people through the Red Sea and into the desert where He fed them for 40 years with bread from heaven!

OK, now let’s connect the dots at a slightly deeper level – The Sermon on the Mount and the Transfiguration.

Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew’s Gospel are devoted to what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus delivered this comprehensive address from what was most probably more of a hill than a mountain, but Matthew called it a mountain for a very specific reason. God delivered the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai and here Jesus Christ was delivering His ‘law’ from a mountain. In His sermon, Jesus referenced at least two of the Ten Commandments and then explained to His listeners their true meaning. He was connecting the dots between Old Testament and New Testament and positioning himself as the divine lawgiver.

Matthew 17:1-8 records the dramatic event when Jesus went up a mountain, probably Mount Hermon, and gloriously transfigured before three of His disciples. Here is how the first three verses of this passage read:

‘After six days, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then, there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus’.
Now what were Moses and Elijah doing there? They were representing the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) and ‘the law and the prophets’ was shorthand for the whole of the Old Testament.  And Matthew 5:17 records Jesus’ famous saying; “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them”.

Once again, Jesus was connecting the dots between Old and New Covenants and unmistakably displaying His divine glory.

I find all of this fascinating and exciting and I hope you do too. Old and New are joined inextricably together and the one who joins them is the Lord Jesus Christ. If anyone doubts either the value of the Old Testament or the divinity of Jesus Christ, then a suitable response would be, “Just connect the dots my friend, connect the dots’.


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TruthTalk: Andy Stanley – Unhitched, Unhinged, or Misunderstood

Should we be concerned when Andy Stanley, the leader of the biggest church in the USA, says that it is time for us to ‘unhitch’ from the Old Testament? Is he unhitched from truth, unhinged, or just misunderstood?

This TruthTalk seeks to answer these questions and explores the relevance of the Old Testament and the nature and purpose of the whole Bible.

Click HERE if you want to read the article, or simply listen to or download the audio below.



TruthTalk: Andy Stanley – Unhitched, Unhinged, or Misunderstood Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.