Like many Christians, I've always found many parts of the Old Testament to be quite disturbing. It's a truly violent book, and it covers the history of a people who often seem to be led by a violent God. The Old Testament is often one of the biggest hurdles for a skeptic to get over. It seems like there have been many books that seek to address this issue. HOLY WAR IN THE BIBLE from InterVarsity Press is one of those books. I picked up the book because Paul Copan is one of the editors, and I've greatly appreciated his work on properly interpreting the Old Testament.
This book looks at the issue from many different perspectives. For example, how have the violent texts of the Old Testament inspired violence by Christians in events such as the Crusades? Can the wars in Israel's history be properly called "holy wars"? Do the biblical texts endorse the use of violent action by believers? There are also the questions of whether or not to take the Old Testament texts as authentic pictures of God. Personally, I think the Old Testament is an accurate depiction of Israel's history with God, but we must be careful what we deduce about God just from these texts.
Not all of the authors in HOLY WAR IN THE BIBLE are in agreement, but the book is a good exploration of the issues involved. Christians often live as if the Old Testament is irrelevant, but it's important to face the difficulties head-on and hopefully come to understand the God who the New Testament describes as "love" better.
Review copy provided by InterVarsity Press
Photo Credit: InterVarsity Press