Thomas_Holy-War-in-BibleI am reading Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem edited by Heath A. Thomas, Jeremy Evans, and Paul Copan. (It is one of three IVP Academic publications I am trying to read and review, so I’m moving slowly, a chapter at a time!) In Chapter 3 “Martial Memory, Peaceable Vision: Divine War in the Old Testament” the author, Stephen B. Chapman, makes the following statement (p. 64):

 “…in order for Christ to appear in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4) it was necessary for God to elect and preserve the people of Israel. And apparently–this is the hard part–God was not able, given the violence of the world, to preserve Israel purely nonviolently although, even so, Israel’s history witnesses to and moves toward nonviolence as it moves toward Christ.”

Now, let me be clear, I share this quote not to reflect or comment on Chapman’s essay (which I found thought provoking). Often, when I share quotes from books I have had commenters berate the author (something that is not fair if the chapter itself has not been read) with no knowledge of the broader argument, so I am cautious about short excerpts like this one (i.e., I am not asking comments about Chapman’s essay as a whole), but I wanted to share it because it does present a common view among those who both recognize (1) Christ seems to have taught his disciples nonviolence (to some degree, even if one doesn’t affirm complete pacificity) and (2) YHWH engages and even commands warfare. Many solutions to this problem are seen as too close to Marcionism or more critical of the theology of the Hebrew Bible than even Jesus himself. Chapman’s statement seems to be an attempt to hold together a view of the Hebrew Bible as theologically authoritative alongside the acknowledgment that Jesus called his disciples to a higher ethic (maybe this falls under the paradigm of “progressive revelation”?), so it is worth sharing to hear your thoughts.

Again, the basic idea is this: does it satisfy to propose that YHWH did command violence and warfare in order to preserve Israel, but not as a basic affirmation of war in general, since Jesus (his Son) both taught peace and lived sacrificially or do you think this explanation is insufficient?