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Bible Caught in Violence

by Cezary Korzec (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 224 Pages

Summary

The presence in the Bible of texts (i.e. Exo 21; Num 25; Deu 7) about violence and pointing to God as its direct agent raises many doubts in the contemporary reader. These texts understood literally can be read as an encouragement to aggression and hatred.
A closer study of this type of texts based on modern research methods (i.e. historical criticism) allows a deeper understanding of their meaning and loosens their relation to God. The study of texts points that the Bible or any part of it cannot be a pretext for any kind of aggression or hatred.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • List of contributors
  • Introduction
  • Part I
  • Numbers 25: violence in the Yahvistic faith
  • Ḥērem – the Curse of God. Specific use of the idea of ḥērem in Deu 7:1–6 and 20:15–18
  • Contradiction between the laws “Thou shalt not avenge” and “An eye for an eye”
  • God of Israel and child sacrifice. From Jephthah to Abraham (Jdg 11:29–40; Gen 22:1–19)
  • I-the strong man in the face of His wrath (cf. Lam 3:1). A man in face of divine violence
  • Wis 11:15–12:27: the action of God between violence and mercy
  • Jesus and the law of talion (retaliation). A socio-rhetorical analysis of Matthew 5:38–42
  • “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” – Does God use violence? An exegetical-theological analysis of Luk 13:1–9
  • Part II
  • Biblical symbols of violence in ancient and medieval Christian interpretation
  • Jihād and crusades: blessed violence in the Divine Comedy
  • The theme of God’s violence in the Bible in the light of the approach through belles-lettres. An example from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s literary anthropology
  • Gen 34 in the light of modern international legislation on resolving conflicts between nations
  • Biographical notes

List of contributors

Sebastiano Pinto

Theological Faculty of Apulia, Bari

Piotr Briks

University of Szczecin, Institute of History and International Relations

Mirosław Rucki

Kazimierz Pulaski University of Technology and Humanities in Radom

Janusz Lemański

University of Szczecin, Faculty of Theology

Cezary Korzec

University of Szczecin, Faculty of Theology

Luca Mazzinghi

Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome

Piotr Goniszewski

University of Szczecin, Faculty of Theology

Łukasz Łaszkiewicz

University of Szczecin, Faculty of Theology

Krzysztof Bardski

Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University, Warsaw

Pontifical Faculty of Theology, Warsaw

Marino Alberto Balducci

University of Szczecin, Department of Italian Faculty of Theology

Daniel Dzikiewicz

Vilnius St. Joseph’s Seminary, Theological Institute

Dominika Muńko

University of Szczecin, Theological Faculty

Introduction

The term of the violence can be considered in many different ways. For the person who is familiar with the theological issues it can be another thematic biblical theology. Its synthetic studies can be found in the modern dictionaries of biblical theology, e.g. in the popular dictionary written by X. Leon-Dufoura (Vocabulaire de teologie biblique, see the term violence in: Słownik teologii biblijnej, Poznan 1990, 808–813) or equally well known multi-volume works: E. Jenni/C. Westermanna (por. np. “hamas” w: Theologisches Handwörterbuch zum Alten Testament, Münichen-Zürich 1971–1976, t. 1, 583–587), G.J. Botterweck/H. Ringgren (Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament, por. np. “chamas” w: Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Michigan 1990, 478–486), G. Kittela (Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament, por. np. “biazo” w: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Michigan 1993, 609–614) czy L. Coenen (“Kraft” w: Theologisches Begriffs Lexikon zum Neuen Testament, Wuppertal 1986, 810–816). However, in these publication this issue is treated as a challenge. In this way it is understood in the document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Inspiration and Truth of the Sacred Scriptures (Vatican 2014, see points 104 and 124). This challenge stems from the fact that “in the Old Testament, we meet the commandments and moral commands that are contrary to the teaching of Jesus” (p. 104). It can be said that it is actually a problem of internal incoherence of the biblical message. This attitude, however, neglects the historical sense of Old Testament’s texts and ignores the presence of such texts in the New Testament, i.e. Luk 13: 1–9 or Acts 5:1–11.

Developing its reflection on the following pages of the document, the Commission presents another, equally important aspect, the presence of texts “talking about definitely immoral behaviors, hatred and violence and promoting social solutions considered unfair today” (p. 124). Appreciating the sensitivity of the contemporary recipient of the Holy Bible it states that these texts “outraged and confuse themselves Christians”, and also set them to different accusations coming from non-Christians. Thus, it points to the real existing tension that appears between the holy text and its contemporary believer and the unbelieving recipient. “The difficulties of the contemporary reader should not be marginalized. Some of them have made some kind of condemnation of these Old Testament texts, already considered obsolete and unsuitable to arouse and promote faith” (p. 125). Therefore, the Commission proposes certain lines of interpretation that “will be the approach that is most appropriate to the biblical ←9 | 10→tradition contained in these texts”. In the implementation of this task there was adopted the methodology, which is based on reading these texts “in the general context of the Holy Scripture” (p. 125). However, a closer examination of subsequent pages (see 127) indicates that literary and historical criticism is becoming one of the key tools. Their importance is recognized by the document earlier.

Before discussing the challenge of violent texts, the Commission pays a lot of attention to biblical passages that pose historical problems. It is based on “inaccuracies and historical discrepancies” found in various texts and “the presence of unreal narratives in the Bible” (pp. 106–124). This seems to be the first challenge for the authors of the document. The order of presentation of the challenges chosen by the Pontifical Biblical Commission is not due to their significance or importance, but is rather a pedagogical choice. One of the key aspects for the interpretation of the biblical texts which talk about violence, encourage and even assign it to God Himself (p. 125) is proper understanding of their historicity.

The strength of this statement is disclosed in point 127 entitled The Law of Curse. There are considered fragments of the three books of the Old Testament: Deuteronomy (7:2–20; 20:16–18), Joshua (6–12) and First Samuel (chapter 15). In their context, there is made some radical statement: “these narratives are not historical in character” (p. 127). After pointing out the reasons for supposing the above statement, there is made the methodological proposition “forces us to think carefully about the literary genre of these narrative traditions” (pp. 127 and 128). At this point, the Commission refers to the model developed in the last century which is about the study of historical texts based on the proper discernment of literary genres (see Pius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, 558–560). The radicalism of above statement and the importance of the methodology that takes into account the literary genre of the particular phrase is especially important from the perspective of a co-operative reader of inspired texts. It opens him to the still little-understood and absorbed aspect of the historicity of biblical texts. The connection between the text that relates the event and the historical event only seems to be broken suddenly. The “suspension” of the direct relationship of both: the text and the event allows the discovery of the mediator, which is certainly the text itself, but also the process of its creation. This is what the inspirational action of God is associated with. Only in this way can one speak of the Bible as an inspired text.

Monograph The Bible caught in violence respects the indications of the document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in the part devoted to the study of specific biblical texts: Numbers 25 (see S. Pinto, Numbers 25: Violence in the Yahvistic Faith), Deuteronomy 7 and 20 (see P. Briks, Ḥērem - the Curse of God. Specific use of the idea of ḥērem in Deu), Exodus 21, Leviticus 24, Deuteronomy ←10 | 11→19 (por. M. Rucki, Contradiction between the laws “Thou shalt not avenge” and “An eye for an eye”), Genesis 22, Judge 11 (compare J. Lemański’s article, God of Israel and the sacrifice of children), Lamentations 2 and 3 (see C. Korzec, God-warrior: figure silent), Sophia 11 and 12 (see L. Mazzingi, Wis 11:15–12:27: The Action of God between Violence and Mercy), Mat 5:38–42 (see P. Goniszewski, Jesus and the law of talion (retaliation). A socio-rhetorical analysis of Matthew 5:38–42) Luke 13 (see Ł. Łaszkiewicz, “If you do not convert, you will all die in the same way” - or God uses violence - exegetical and theological analysis of Luke 13: 1–9).

The second part of the book includes chapters dealing with the reception of biblical texts about violence. They fit into this line of the document, which recognizes the sensitivity of the contemporary lector of the Bible, and they pay attention to the texts which may be outrageous or confusing (p. 124), and even lead the reader to denying the meaning of the Bible as the Word of God (see 4). In this part there was used a chronological key: from antiquity and the Middle Ages (see K. Bardski, Biblical symbols of violence in medieval and Christian interpretation) through the Italian revival (see M.A. Balducci, Jihad and crusades: blessed violence in the Divine Comedy) and modern Russian literature (see D. Dzikiewicz, The theme of God’s violence in the Bible of the approach through belles-lettres. An example from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s literary anthropology) to the contemporary legal reflection (see D. Muńko, Gen 34 in the light of modern international law on resolving conflicts between nations).

Considering this perspective opens the way to the elaboration of certain guidelines that “would allow the believers to assimilate today, as was done in the past, all the riches” of the Word of God. This task appears to be extremely urgent. At the same time, the experience acquired in the past in solving other “difficult sides of the Bible” indicates that this perspective, the human’s lively contact with the Word, is the most inspiring for the biblical scholars themselves; Searching for not only academic solutions and confronting them with the desires of the hungry of the Word of God people is the source of first-rate inspiration and hope for every researcher of the Holy Scriptures. At the same time, it is the closest to the nature of the Holy Scripture, which, being a living word of God who communicates Himself, is addressed to a specific contemporary man and invites him to communion with the Word (see p. 4).

Part I

definitely immoral behaviors, hatred and violence

and promoting social solutions considered unfair today

Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Inspiration and Truth of the Holy Scriptures, p. 124

Sebastiano Pinto

Theological Faculty of Apulia, Bari

Numbers 25: violence in the Yahvistic faith

Details

Pages
224
ISBN (PDF)
9783631787151
ISBN (ePUB)
9783631787168
ISBN (MOBI)
9783631787175
ISBN (Hardcover)
9783631782330
Language
English
Publication date
2019 (July)
Tags
God’s curse YHWH’s wars divine wrath mercy Bibel interpretation
Published
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 224 pp., 1 fig. b/w, 2 tables.

Biographical notes

Cezary Korzec (Volume editor)

Cezary Korzec received his DD (Doctor of Divinity) in Biblical Theology at the Faculty of Theology in Poznań and his SSL (Licentiate in Sacred Scripture) at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He is a professor of the Old Testament and Biblical Theology at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Szczecin.

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Title: Bible Caught in Violence