The Evidence Of Faith’s Substance Looking for a good R-rated Book to read this Summer? How about the Old Testament
June 7, 2014
By Ed Croteau
Jeremiah 8:12 “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed, nor did they know how to blush.”
‘Warning: This book contains scenes of murder, sexual content and strong violence’. In his lecture series on ‘Violence in the Old Testament’, Professor John Dickson, PhD in Ancient History at Macquarie University in Australia and director of the Centre for Public Christianity, explains that if we rated literature like we rate movies, the Old Testament would easily get at least an R-rating.
Consider just a few of the many R-rated biblical accounts. First, Cain murders his brother Abel out of jealousy and shows no remorse at all (Genesis 4). Second, the Philistines burn Samson’s wife and her father alive because he burned up their fields (Judges 15). Third, Sennacherib, King of Assyria, is murdered by his own sons while he is worshipping back in Nineveh in the temple (Isaiah 37).
And for a fourth example, there is the account of the origin of the nations of Moab and Ammon. Both the Moabites and the Ammonites are relatives of the Israelites, with their father being Lot, the main character in the famous biblical narrative of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The R-rating comes in as we read the details in Genesis 19:30-38. The two daughters of Lot get their dad drunk and each takes turns sleeping with him. Each of the daughters ends up pregnant by their father, and the resulting children are named Moab and Ammon. Skeptics of the authenticity of this story can be convinced by the historical evidence of the close ethnicity of Moab and Ammon, while their kinship with the Israelites is proven by the linguistic evidence of the Moabite Stone (aka Mesha Stele).
Why would we have so much violence, bloodshed, and just plain wickedness in God’s Word? Because these accounts are true. The Old Testament is not science fiction. God tells it like it is. When we examine the authenticity of any piece of ancient literature, we apply two tests: 1) the Correspondence Test (do the recorded events have a strong basis in fact?), and 2) the Coherence Test (when all the facts and events are put together, are they consistent?).
There is a consistent theme throughout the Old Testament that is based in reality, that anyone reading it cannot miss: humans by their nature are wicked. We are all capable of the most wicked things imaginable. And we are unable to fix this condition ourselves. Why is this easy for us to grasp? We see it today being played out in our own culture. Nothing has changed. The Bible conforms to the truth about ourselves.
But then Jesus Himself said something remarkable in John 5:39 – “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” When He said this, there was no New Testament yet. He was referring to the Old Testament! So Jesus was emphasizing that mans’ hope that there is a better life that transcends the man-made wickedness of this life can be found by studying the Old Testament, because this book testifies to a Person who is coming, who will on His own solve the sin problem and free man from the guilt of his wickedness. But Jesus, of course, goes further and offends everybody – because He says this Person who is the hope of mankind is Him, standing in front of them!
In Isaiah 53:6, it says “All we (mankind) like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the sins of us all.” That was written around 730 BC. In John 1:29, as John the Baptist sees Jesus approaching him by the Jordan River, look how John describes Jesus to the crowds surrounding him: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
Yes, the Old Testament is great reading if you are hooked on R-rated literature. There’s enough blood, sex and gore to satisfy you. But the point of the Old Testament is much more than just to show mankind for who they really are. If you are honestly seeking how the guilt of that same R-ratedness in your own heart can be forgiven, and how you can start over and leave your past behind, Jesus Christ invites you to apply those tests of correspondence and coherence to Himself.
He promises He has the power and authority to not only forgive and cleanse you of your sin, but in His own words, to give you a new life that lasts for eternity: “I have come that they may have (eternal) life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence”. He can be reached with your questions through the Lee's Summit Tribune, and you can friend him on Facebook.