It seems many people, in my circles at least, are often conflicted by and even turned off from the Bible and it’s many narratives because it sometimes depicts God, to our modern sensibilities, as a self absorbed genocidal tribal diety that is more concerned with his (because God is mostly depicted as a guy) “glory” and reputation than his creation. I get it, because I’ve been there and still wrestle with it and I’m sure I always will.
As I currently see it, the problem happens mostly because of a flat literalism that ignores the literary genre’s of the text. This wasn’t such a big deal, say, 1000 or even 500 years ago. However due to modern thought, scholarship, and the information age that we live in, we should be able to read the Bible and realize that in antiquity, the writers and it’s interpreters weren’t even asking the same questions we ask now.
For instance, when we read the Canaanite conquest and the great flood story, we now know that tribes wrote these stories of God destroying entire civilizations because that’s just how people in antiquity wrote stories back then.
There were literally tons of flood stories circulating by the time the Isrealites recorded theirs. Of course they put their own twist on it, depicting their God different than those around them. The fact that God “drowned the entire earth”, to them, was just a small aspect and really just what god’s did. It wasn’t even the point of the story. The God of the Hebrew bible flood story was extremely subversive compared to the other tribes flood stories though. Click here for more of my thoughts on the flood story.
The Canaanite conquest is regarded by most modern scholars as polemic against rival tribes and part of a larger origin story, not a historical event. In their view, if a war happened, it’s because god or the gods commanded it. That’s just how people thought thousands of years ago. The conquest story, in my opinion, is less about God destroying an entire civilization and more about God being on the side of the oppressed and with those that have nowhere to lay their head. It’s a story for those that have nothing that says “God is on our side and is for us and provides for us.”
All I’m trying to say is that I know a lot of people hate the Bible, and for good reason with the way many have been taught to read it. Alot of people think the old testament specifically has nothing to offer, and depicts a God that isn’t worthy of worship or following or believing in. I get it. I just want to suggest that it isn’t what it seems.
There are so many resources out there besides the bland big box store brand readings and interpretations of the text. From the modern liberation and feminist/womanist readings, to Jewish commentary, to the most recent historical criticism. There is so much available now days that don’t choke the Bibles many narratives down to some fundamentalist doctrinal agreements.
The stories are timeless and full of wisdom. If only we realize it isn’t a history book or a literal treatise of what was. It’s a theological text that used the ancient literary tools, devices and genre’s of its time (a span of at least a thousand years) from a specific tribe to record their story, with differing voices and opinions and we are all invited into that story to participate and interpret and interact with it to help bring justice and hope for a better tomorrow. Personally, I wouldn’t even read the Bible anymore if I didn’t view it this way.