But today I have a more serious proposal: If Christian religions wish to survive in the 21st century they need to dump the Hebrew Scriptures (“Old Testament”) from their canon of “God-inspired” works. In other words they need to drop the OT from the Bible and stop trying to defend it as true or revelatory of God’s nature. (Some publishers of the Bible evidently came to this same conclusion, paring down the OT to just Psalms and Proverbs in some editions.)
The OT has been a constant source of embarrassment to Christianity ever since the first skeptic read it:
- We know that plants did not exist on Earth before the Sun shone on its surface.
- We know that humans have been on this planet long before 4026 BCE.
- We know there was no Earth-wide flood that covered the highest mountain peaks.
- We know there is no great fish or whale capable of swallowing a man whole and keeping him alive for three days in its stomach and then vomiting him up on shore as good as new.
- We know the Earth never stopped or reversed its rotation.
- We know that 70 people did not become millions of people in 400 years or that these millions of people “left Egypt” in one day.
In short, we know that the OT is not true.
We also know that the God of the OT bears little if any resemblance to the one depicted in the Christian Greek Scriptures (aka the “New Testament”).
|Personality Trait||God of OT||God of NT|
|Compassion for animals and the desire/efficacy of animal sacrifices||And you must slaughter the bull before Jehovah, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And you must take some of the bull’s blood and put it with your finger upon the
horns of the altar, and all the rest of the blood you will pour out at the base of the altar. It is a sin offering.
“Then you will take the one ram… And you must slaughter the ram and take its blood and sprinkle it round about upon the altar… And you must make the entire ram smoke upon
the altar. It is a burnt offering to Jehovah, a restful odor. It is an offering made by fire to Jehovah.
If, though, he cannot afford enough for a sheep, then he must bring as his guilt offering for the sin that he has committed two turtledoves or two young pigeons to Jehovah, one for a sin offering and one for a burnt offering. And he must bring them to the priest, who must present first the one for the sin offering and nip off its head at
the front of its neck, but he should not sever it. And he must spatter some of the blood of the sin offering upon the side of the altar, but the remainder of the blood will be drained out at the base of the altar. It is a sin offering. And the other one he will handle as a burnt offering according to the regular procedure; and the priest must make
an atonement for him for his sin that he has committed, and so it must be forgiven him.– Lev 5:7-10
|‘I want mercy, and not sacrifice.’
for it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away. Hence when he comes into the world he says: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not want,
but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of whole burnt offerings and sin offering.’
Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses; still YOUR heavenly Father feeds them.
Do not two sparrows sell for a coin of small value? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without YOUR Father’s knowledge.
|Regard for Children||If his master should give him a wife and she does bear him sons or daughters, the wife and her children will become her master’s and he will go out by himself…
And in case a man should sell his daughter as a slave girl…
I will send the wild beasts of the field among YOU, and they will certainly bereave YOU of children
then Jehovah our God abandoned him to us, so that we defeated him and his sons and all his people. And we went capturing all his cities at that particular time and devoting every city to destruction, men and women and little children. We left no survivor.
Finally he turned behind him and saw them and called down evil upon them in the name of Jehovah. Then two she-bears came out from the woods and went tearing to pieces forty-two children of their number.
–2 Ki 2:24
“In case a man happens to have a son who is stubborn and rebellious… all the men of his city must pelt him with stones, and he must die.
Every one that is found will be pierced through, and every one that is caught in the sweep will fall by the sword; and their very children will be dashed to pieces before their eyes. Their houses will be pillaged, and their own wives will be raped. “Here I am arousing against them the Medes, who account silver itself as nothing and who, as respects gold, take no delight in it. And their bows will dash even young men to pieces. And the fruitage of the belly they will not pity; for sons their eye will not feel sorry.
Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you… deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword; and let their wives be bereaved of their children, and be widows; and let their men be put to death; let their young men be slain by the sword in battle… And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them.
— Jer. 18:11,21; 19:9
|So, calling a young child to him, he set it in their midst and said: “Truly I say to YOU, Unless YOU turn around and become as young children, YOU will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens. Therefore, whoever will humble himself like this young child is the one that is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens; and whoever receives one such young child on the basis of my name receives me also.
Then young children were brought to him, for him to put his hands upon them and offer prayer; but the disciples reprimanded them. Jesus, however, said: “Let the young children
alone, and stop hindering them from coming to me, for the kingdom of the heavens belongs to suchlike ones.” And he put his hands upon them
|Attitude Towards Enemies||And you must consume all the peoples whom Jehovah your God is giving to you. Your eye must not feel sorry for them;
|However, I say to YOU: Continue to love YOUR enemies and to pray for those persecuting YOU; that YOU may prove yourselves sons of YOUR Father who is in the heavens
|Mercifulness||I shall certainly be hostile to your enemies and harass those who harass you. For my angel will go ahead of you and… shall certainly efface them.
And Jehovah went passing by before his face and declaring: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God… bringing punishment for the error of fathers upon sons and upon grandsons, upon the third generation and upon the fourth generation.”
” ‘Now shortly I shall pour out my rage upon you, and I will bring my anger against you to its finish, and I will judge you according to your ways and bring upon you all your detestable things. Neither will my eye feel sorry nor shall I feel compassion.
And Jehovah went on to say… “Pass through the city after him and strike. Let not YOUR eye feel sorry, and do not feel any compassion. Old man, young man and virgin and little child and women YOU should kill off–to a ruination.
|continue to love YOUR enemies… and YOU will be sons of the Most High because he is kind toward the unthankful and wicked. Continue becoming merciful, just as YOUR Father is merciful
Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy… “Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God.’
“For if YOU forgive men their trespasses, YOUR heavenly Father will also forgive YOU;
|Primary personality type||Jehovah is a God exacting exclusive devotion and taking vengeance; Jehovah is taking vengeance and is disposed to rage. Jehovah is taking vengeance against his adversaries, and he is resentful toward his enemies.
|God is love.
–1 Jn 4:8
Who could honestly say that column two refers to the same person as column three? Arguing for a “progressive revelation” doesn’t begin to cover the discrepancies between these two characters.
Most of the OT is nothing more than the writings of a barbaric time which depict a war-mongering tribe’s petty, vindictive, and often pathetically stupid god of war.
If there is a God, then attributing to him the actions and personality of the God of the OT would be the biggest insult one could hurl at him.
The OT is filled with all sorts of impossible nonsense and cruelty. Its laws are largely inhumane, its morality largely immoral. It is pointless to continue to argue otherwise. It just makes Christians look foolish.
So, I say: drop the OT from the canon. Treat it like the “Book of the Wars of Jehovah”, which no longer exists, though the Bible refers to it. Treat it like the Book of Enoch which the Bible refers to yet was never made part of the canon (even though it still exists). Let the OT be just a footnote. Where Jesus reputedly refers to the Jonah and the whale story, treat it as if I were to say “I want to play Beethoven on the piano as badly as Schroeder did [Schroeder being a fictitious character in the Peanuts cartoon strip].” It’s not that I believe Schroeder ever existed, rather he’s just a convenient fiction: a well-known character used to make an analogy. So too we can imagine Jesus referring to Jonah simply as a well-known legend without assuming he believed the story was factual.
What about all the OT prophecies about Jesus?
What prophecies are those, exactly? The so-called “messianic prophecies” were debunked over 200 years ago by Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason. The most famous of these “prophecies” (regarding the “virgin birth”) was shown in my article on the Major Prophets to be not a prophecy at all but a trick that the false prophet Isaiah played on a King. The idea that it referred to a “virgin” giving birth was the result of a gospel writer having read a bad translation of the Hebrew word for “maiden” during his quote mining. Hardly something you’d want to base a religious doctrine upon.
So: out with the Old! Then we can all breathe a sigh of relief with that great weight off of our shoulders.
That’s step one. In the next article in this 3-part series we’ll look at what we need to get rid of from the NT canon.