What do we make of blood and violence in the Bible? The so-called 'good book' contains many stories of killing and death and Christians even rejoice over the 'blood of Jesus'. Why is there so much blood in the Bible? We confront some of the most confronting parts of the Bible with sensitivity and wisdom and even find some good news.
Our guest: Mike is Director of the Centre for Biblical Preaching based in Melbourne. He is an in-demand speaker across Australia and around the world.
This show was recorded in partnership with Darebin Presbyterian Church.
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Bigger Questions asked in the conversation
Now Mike today’s big question is about blood. Do you get squeamish at the sight of blood?
Now we want to acknowledge that today’s topic is a confronting one dealing with potentially disturbing issues as we confront violence and blood in the Bible. But Mike, whilst confronting, is it important to talk about?
I thought we’d test you on how much you know about blood in the Bible.
Old Testament violence (05:00)
Now Mike, these numbers seem shocking for the so-called Good Book by a so-called loving God, there seems to be a lot of blood in the Bible. Atheist Richard Dawkins claims the God of the Old Testament is a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser. So doesn’t God have a lot of blood on his hands?
There are many stories in the Old Testament about large scale killings, but one is found in Deuteronomy 20 where it starts,
When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: ‘Hear, Israel: today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be faint-hearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. 4 For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.’
It’s pretty clear that God is endorsing this. He is a fighter endorsing the violent actions of his people? Does that make you feel uncomfortable?
Then later in Deuteronomy 20, God encourages the Israelites to kill almost indiscriminately, in verse 13,
When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves.
Kill all the men and enslave the women, how can this possibly be justified?
One non-believer said that “Christians never cease to amaze me in how they go to such lengths in rationalizing and justifying god's murderous nature.” So are you just trying to rationalise and justify a bloodthirsty and violent God?
Why blood for sacrifice?
So we’ve reflected on the violence and blood of the Bible, but there is also the concept that God desires sacrifice - and blood sacrifice - to appease him. For example in Genesis 8, God is pleased with the aroma of burnt sacrifices and then in the book of Leviticus, blood is required as an atonement for sin. So isn’t this all a bit primitive? Offering blood to placate a god?
But why specifically blood? Why can’t he just be happy with a fine, or a community service, or the bucket challenge or something? Why not some other form of punishment?
Jesus blood: the final sacrifice
The final killing event which Steve Wells at Dwindling in Unbelief recorded involved the death of just one person - Jesus. How is this killing or this blood significant?
It says in a book of the New Testament, in 1 Peter 1:18-19 it says,
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
How can a loving, ethical God put his own Son through the horror of the cross?
How can the blood of Jesus be precious?
But why there needed to be Jesus’ precious blood shed in atonement for sin or to provide redemption? Why not a bull or lamb or goat like in the Old Testament? Doesn’t it seem a bit over the top?
It goes on to say that this was even planned before the creation of the world - where it says in verse 20, so the killing of Jesus wasn’t accidental?
How can this possibly be good news?
It also says in 1 Peter that Jesus’ blood redeemed people from an empty way of life’ so how does Jesus’ blood offer something to people feeling a sense of emptiness in our world today?
Mike, you direct the Centre for Biblical preaching - so do you train preachers to speak about violence and blood in the Bible with relish, enthusiasm or another way?
How is Jesus’ blood precious to you?
The Big Question
So Mike, is God bloodthirsty?