Sanitizing the Bible

JerichocoloringOut of curiosity, you ever hear the story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho? Or the story of a young boy named David who went up against a giant named Goliath? Or The prophet Elijah on top of a mountain proving God to be the one true God to 400 prophets of Baal? Or the one about where God compared Israel to a woman lusting after a man with gonads the size of donkey’s? Or where it’s said to give poor people beer so they’ll forget their troubles? Or when Jesus cursed a fig tree for not having fruit out of season? The last three might have thrown you a bit I’m thinking.

In many ways, the Bible has been washed through by a giant spiritual thing of Purell. The life and scenes of the Bible are Purelled. The children’s books, the Sunday school flannel board lessons, and even from the pulpit. It seems we don’t like talking about certain things in the Bible, both Old Testament and New.

Last night I was going over my son’s homework with him. He goes to a very good top notch Christian school (I’m not bashing this school at all, he has amazing teachers and it is very academically sound in so many ways and also very Christ centered). He has a quiz coming up on Moses and the first part of the book of Exodus. You have Moses being born (we skim past over the fact that Pharaoh ordered all male Israelite boys to be killed upon birth). You have him floating down the Nile. You have him killing an Egyptian (something my son brought up but wasn’t on his review sheet). Then Moses flees to Midian and marries and tends sheep. God speaks to Moses through a burning bush. Moses confronts Pharaoh with “Let my people go!” and then you have the 10 plagues which hit Egypt.

I’m glad that the review sheet doesn’t gloss over the final plague–the death of all the first born in Egypt. What frustrated me is how it shifted the focus of who did it. The review sheet said the Angle of Death. I looked at it twice. That was incorrect. I told my son that this was the answer his teacher was looking for but it wasn’t the right answer. God did this, not an angel. My son said that his book said it was the Angel of Death.

So I took him to Exodus 12:29 and had him read it

At midnight the LORD struck down all the first born of Egypt, form the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the first born of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well.” Exodus 12:29

I then pointed out to my son that whenever you see in the NIV the word “Lord” in all capitals like that, that means in the Hebrew text, God’s name is used. It doesn’t just say that God did this but that Yahweh did this. The God who gives his name to Moses, who uses this name to create an everlasting covenant with the people of Israel did this, not an angel.

My son was perplexed. Could God actually do this? Not just God, but the God who rescued the people of Israel out of slavery do such a thing?

The Bible has been Purelled.

In Joshua and the Battle of Jericho, the city is brought to the ground. All men, women, AND children are killed along with livestock. The only ones to survive were Rahab and her family.

In David’s battle with Goliath, he knocks him in the head with a stone. That doesn’t kill Goliath per se. What shows that Goliath is dead is that David chops off Goliath’s head with Goliath’s own sword and then presents it to King Saul.

Elijah on top of the mountain with the prophets of Baal and proves that God, the LORD, is the one true God, then slaughters all 400 of the prophets.

And the list goes on.

Budy JesusEven Jesus is Purelled. We don’t mention in the Gospel of Mark that one morning when Jesus was hungry, he went to get a fig from a fig tree which was out of season for figs. Which means it had no fruit. Jesus curses it and it whithers (Mark 11:12-14, 20-21). When Jesus enters into the city of Jerusalem all victorious, he then goes into the temple and beats the snot out of money changers and people selling stuff in the temple courts. When I brought this up once in an adult education class, I was told that it was righteous indignation. Indignation means really really cheesed off.

We gloss over Jesus’ very mean and viscous attacks on the Pharisees and those who don’t follow Him. He isn’t Jesus meek and mild that we want him to be.

The Bible is filled with real people. Really really messed up people. The Bible is filled with graphic sexual situations of rape, of prostitution, and just down right sex (the 2011 NIV has in Genesis 4:1 that “Adam made love to his wife Eve”…cue the Barry White music please). The Bible is filled with violence. It is filled with wars. It is filled with people being killed.

And it has God, the LORD, Yahweh, going forth as a warrior fighting for his people.

Now, I’m not going to wrap this blog post up in a nice little bow and try to make God and the Bible seem all nice and utsey cutsey bringing back the flannel board of Sunday school days gone by.

As a preacher of God’s Word, I am to bring all of God’s Word to His people, both the good and the bad. As followers of Jesus, we are to read all of God’s Word un-Purelled. The Old Testament is filled with sex and violence. Its where all the fun stuff is at. The New Testament does show a God of grace and love but also a God of justice who won’t put up with the crap of people who are into themselves instead of into Jesus.

It ain’t pretty sometimes. Life’s not pretty sometimes. God’s grace is always messy and His message to us is sometimes hard to swallow. But to dismiss the bad and only glean out the happy feel good stuff or to Purell it is to do a disservice to the Word of God and the ultimate message of grace, salvation, and reconciliation offered to us by God through Jesus.

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One Response to Sanitizing the Bible

  1. lambutts says:

    Josh: I’ve always had a problem with the “slow to anger” part. From what I remember of The Bible readings when I was younger — perhaps it’s because I’m also a bit precocious — when God got mad, he didn’t waste any time meting out his anger on whoever cheesed Him off. I don’t know if you saw the movie “Noah” with Russell Crowe, but I kind of feel that depiction of the flood was pretty accurate. Had it just been “the rains came down and the floods came up,” I think a lot of the people would have had time to grab on to pieces of wood or whatever, much the same way Jack and Rose did in “The Titanic.” Genesis 7:11 reads, “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” Key words: “the fountains of the great deep were broken up.” Reading The Bible was an integral part of each meal in the Lamberts home and I’m sure there were many passages dad either glossed over or skipped completely. Yes, the laws in the OT books were boring, but they were also very graphic in detail. Nice post!!

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