Killing and Mayhem in Holy Books

I was reading the comments to a blog post on Pharyngula and a couple of commenters included some really interesting links.
Here’s one that lists a whole lot of exhortations to violence from the Bible, and here’s a Boston Globe newspaper article comparing and contrasting violent passages in the Bible and Qur’an.

From the latter:

The Bible also alleges divine approval of racism and segregation. If you had to choose the single biblical story that most conspicuously outrages modern sentiment, it might well be the tale of Phinehas, a story that remains unknown to most Christian readers today (Numbers 25: 1-15). The story begins when the children of Israel are threatened by a plague. Phinehas, however, shrewdly identifies the cause of God’s anger: God is outraged at the fact that a Hebrew man has found a wife among the people of Midian, and through her has imported an alien religion. Phinehas slaughters the offending couple – and, mollified, God ends the plague and blesses Phinehas and his descendants. Modern American racists love this passage. In 1990, Richard Kelly Hoskins used the story as the basis for his manifesto “Vigilantes of Christendom.” Hoskins advocated the creation of a new order of militant white supremacists, the Phineas Priesthood, and since then a number of groups have assumed this title, claiming Phinehas as the justification for terrorist attacks on mixed-race couples and abortion clinics.

Modern Christians who believe the Bible offers only a message of love and forgiveness are usually thinking only of the New Testament. Certainly, the New Testament contains far fewer injunctions to kill or segregate. Yet it has its own troublesome passages, especially when the Gospel of John expresses such hostility to the Ioudaioi, a Greek word that usually translates as “Jews.” Ioudaioi plan to stone Jesus, they plot to kill him; in turn, Jesus calls them liars, children of the Devil.

Various authorities approach the word differently: I might prefer, for instance, to interpret it as “followers of the oppressive Judean religious elite,” Or perhaps “Judeans.” But in practice, any reputable translation has to use the simple and familiar word, “Jew,” so that we read about the disciples hiding out after the Crucifixion, huddled in a room that is locked “for fear of the Jews.” So harsh do these words sound to post-Holocaust ears that some churches exclude them from public reading.

Commands to kill, to commit ethnic cleansing, to institutionalize segregation, to hate and fear other races and religions . . . all are in the Bible, and occur with a far greater frequency than in the Koran.

2 Comments

Filed under books, language

2 responses to “Killing and Mayhem in Holy Books

  1. Pingback: Arabists Anonymous, Racists T-Shirts and a Cute Parrot « Mantiq al-Tayr

  2. Are there any holy books that teach there was a time when there was nothing, and someone changed it into everything – that do not tell Moses to kill humans?

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