Daily Meditations

Bashing Heads

Troublesome passages of the Old Testament

By Abbot Tryphon, November 17, 2019 

It is important when reading the Old Testament, to remember that it was written as an account of a peoples’ journey to God. As the Israelites journey continued, they came to know God, little by little, through God’s self-revelation to their prophets, and their understanding of God expanded. Christ, as the Logos (the Word of God), was from the very beginning, and identified Himself as the Alpha and the Omega. Thus, the Old Testament can only be properly understood in reference to Christ’s resurrection.

The God of the Old Testament can only be understood in light of the New Testament, so we should not take too seriously the troublesome accounts of God telling His people to kill their neighbors, and bash their enemy’s children against the rocks. Alleged historical accounts of the wrath of the Old Testament God should not be an issue with us, for it is only in light of Christ’s revelation that we can truly comprehend Truth.

Various Church Fathers saw the dashing of infants in these Old Testament accounts as representing the passions, and the rock representing Christ. As believers we dash our thoughts on the Rock, as the way of making sure our passions do not return to overwhelm us. Many of the psalms have similar allegories as an invitation to guard the walled city of our hearts and preserve the spiritual treasures we have received from Our King and Our God.

Historical literalism is not important when confronting the revealed true nature of God, and our turning from a literalism in our interpretation of Scripture, is not a capitulation to modernism. The Church has always known how we should read the Scriptures, for the Truth of the biblical account can only be known in light of Christ, as revealed by His Church.

The Fathers of the Church recognized the human component in the Scriptures, since the Holy Spirit enlightened the human authors without them ever losing themselves, as a sort of trans-medium. These writers of the Scriptures were not some sort of conduit of the Holy Spirit, for they wrote within the context of their human experience of God, within the context of their cultural and tribal experience.

There was a certain synergy happening, as they attempted to cooperate with God. The Old Testament writers were speaking to the people of their times, and their tribal culture, all within their own identity as people of their age. Accounts of a brutal and angry God, as perceived by these writers, must be taken into account as reflective only of the age in which they lived.

“God did not invent death, and when living creatures die, it gives Him no pleasure. He created everything so that it might continue to exist, and everything He created is wholesome and good. There is no deadly poison in them. No, death does not rule this world (Wisdom I:12-14).” This God of the Old Testament did not command governments and armies to kill, otherwise He would be contradicting the Ten Commandments, wherein He told His people they should not kill.

References to capital punishment say nothing of His people killing anyone, but only that consequence of sin was death. The accounts of stoning sinners, bashing the heads of children against rocks, and slaughtering their neighbors, originated in the sin and darkness of a people who were only beginning to receive the revelation of God’s love. This love had its crescendo in the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, and the banishing of the power of death, once and for all.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

~Abbot Tryphon, The Morning Offering, https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/morningoffering/2019/11/bashing-heads-4/


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