In this weeks hangout Dr. Lester pushed back against a fairly commonly held idea that the God of the Old Testament was violent and lacked grace, while the God of the New Testament is full of grace and peaceful (or as a God who is a big meanie and a God who takes people out for ice cream). Part of this discussion had to deal with intentionally reading the grace found in the Old Testament (like the freeing of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt before the Law was given) and acknowledging the images of a Christ standing in the blood of his adversaries found in the New Testament Book of Revelation.
However, there is an obvious reason why this thought is so prevalent. The violence in the Old Testament is plentiful and real and in contrast to the prophetic violence found in Revelation. Perhaps it is cynical of me, but with all texts one must be cautious of author biases. When Israel conquers a people and kills everybody in the city and burns it all is this really God’s command or is this the people’s understanding of what God wants? Basically, do the people read God into their own actions when things work out in their favor, and read reasons for God’s punishment into their failures?
Perhaps this is a mixed bag of answers. From literary techniques to make certain points long after events actually happened, to God’s actual ordaining of events and actions. No matter what you believe, we must struggle with both Testaments and ask hard questions about why the authors wrote what they did.