God of the Old Testament

by unsure 48 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • unsure

    To those on these forums who are Christian AND OR to those who believe in the God of the Old Testament; how does one overcome many of the questionable actions God took or allowed to happen in the Old Testament?

    Many if not most of us have heard of criticisms of the God of the Old Testament. You can find these criticisms on many websites.

    How do you explain to an honest hearted person why God acted the way they did?

    The Old Testament and New Testament are almost polar opposites.

    This is not a challenge but an honest question. I'm looking for a different viewpoint; please do not copy and paste from other sites.

    Those who may know my short posting history know that I want to believe, but there are many things that cannot be overlooked.

  • stuckinarut2

    He could get away with such atrocities and genocidal actions because...well...because he is God.... yer, that should cover it.....

  • Crazyguy

    After one really reads all the stuff in the Old Testament that god of these writtings allowed or did himself, its no wonder that so many people around the world are becoming non religious. Someone else said this but man has moved beyond the morality of this god and therefore no longer needs him.

  • pleaseresearch

    Had God said to the Israelites don't look because I've given these people a chance time and time again and so have to punish them. But come back in an hour and the disabled, young children and the very very old will be hear for you to pick up and look after. Had I read something like that in the bible, I may be open to "God is love" But when I read kill everyone, blah, blah, except those young untouched virgins. Then you know were dealing with sick and twisted men.

  • tor1500


    God was a hard task master back in the OT. Plus his son was with him so he could create all the havoc he wanted here on earth.

    But, then his son Jesus came to earth and suddenly we see God calm down. Reminds me of how cold and unsympathetic some are until they have a child... different person now, even more tolerant.

    You don't read too much fire and brimstone much in the NT.

    Another theory, maybe God is Jesus and while he came to earth he couldn't destroy and have a ministry and preach the good news.

    I am making this all up. But it sounds good. Maybe the God that man wrote about is not really who God is. God can explain things but man cannot.


  • Bungi Bill
    Bungi Bill

    How do you explain to an honest hearted person why God acted the way they did?

    I have never seen it satisfactorily explained; furthermore, I don't I expect I ever will, either!

  • David_Jay

    Part of the problem is that Christians tend to want to fit God into their ideal of what it means to be a "God of love."

    So when a Christian reads something in the Hebrew Scriptures that does not match their expectations, they use expressions such as "questionable" to describe what they are reading.

    Apparently these types of readers skip over the narrative in Exodus where many of the Israelites, expecting Moses to come down sooner from Mt. Sinai with the Law, construct a golden calf and call it YHVH. The narrative ends with these Israelites being severely punished.

    You cannot expect God to fit your expectations or your definitions of what God should be. You cannot force an image you have of God, even if you get it from Jesus of Nazareth, and use that predetermined image as a rule for how God must act. That's what idolatry is, making God into man's image. God is defined by no man.

    Lastly, you have to let go of the Christian idea that the Jewish Bible is literal history, describing literal actions taken by God in the past. Jews don't do this, then why should anyone else? The reason God often seems "questionable" is often because your reading of the Hebrew Scriptures is with conditions that the Jewish narratives must fit Christian theology. They don't and won't.

    In a nut shell: Jews don't recognize the Scriptures as an historical document, but a liturgical one. The stories within are much like American legends about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree or Paul Revere being the hero who warns of the British invasion--neither event happened, but the people are real. Legends are merely built upon them and their place and time in history to preserve cultural mores for future generations. The same is true of Jewish Scripture and it's mention of wars, and of God sending a flood upon humanity. They are not talking about literal wars or an historical act of the God of Abraham.

    While you could use a volume like "The Jewish Study Bible" to explain what these texts really mean, mainstream Christianity has also adopted the Jewish interpretations by the end of the 20th century. Get a copy of the Catholic NABRE Bible or the Oxford Annotated NRSV or the CEB Study Bible. These Christian translation editions contain footnotes and essays that explain what the Jews meant when we wrote these things.

    Like Bungi Bill states, you won't always find an explanation that always satisfies the human mind. But that's the way Jews wanted their Scriptures to be. We don't blindly accept God and vice versa, ergo the Covenant. The Jewish Scriptures are not about the Jews listening to and blindly accepting and obeying God, but like Jacob (who was named "Israel" for doing so) they are about the Israelites wrestling with God.

    If you want a religious text where you don't have to wrestle and disagree with God, you best avoid the Hebrew Scriptures.

  • EverApostate

    "The road to Atheism is littered with bibles, read cover to cover". Sorry to post this quote from an atheist website but this has been very true in my life. The more you read the Bible with an open mind, the more faith you lose.

  • David_Jay

    There is also the problem within Western society, even among a few atheists within, never letting go of the Christian claim that the Bible is both factual and the basis of religion. Merely applying the most basic of critical thinking methods show this cannot be.

    The Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament were composed around the time of the Babylonian exile by Jews in an attempt to preserve our religious culture. This means that the religion of the Hebrews had already existed for quite some time before the Tanakh (the Jewish word for the "Old Testament") was developed. The Hebrew Bible was not written to prove to Jews or anyone else that there was a God.

    In other words, a religion has to come first before it can compose its own religious texts. Watchtower publications did not come first and then get discovered by Russell and Rutherford, and then a religion came forth. That would be silly to think that. But many Westerners, even those who are not theist, still think of the Bible in similar terms: a basis for religion.

    Not only does this cause a person to read it with preconceived notions and expectations that will never be met, it also is the cause of the conclusions both Christians and some (not all) atheists who come from a Christian background make about the Old Testament.

    There is also the problem few discuss, namely that the problems of misunderstanding occur mainly because of not leaving Jesus of Nazareth out of the picture. In order for Jesus to be the Messiah, Christians hold that the testimony of the written gospel accounts must be fact. Since Christians hold their texts as fact, they must attempt the same with the Tanakh. Why?

    If the Tanakh is not meant to be read as factual then the claims of the New Testament fall apart. Jesus of Nazareth is only the Messiah because he supposedly fulfills prophetic forecasts of Jesus written in the Tanakh. But if these texts aren't really forecasting anything, then there are no prophecies about Jesus in Hebrew Scripture. No prophecies, no Jesus Christ. No Jesus Christ, no Christianity.

    Therefore the Jewish take on the Tanakh gets ignored by Western society at large. Being exposed to such information occurs almost never due to influence from a dominant Christian population that would rather not have such things discussed. Thus some who leave Christianity to become atheists get labeled as "narrow atheists" by other non-theists due to limited exposure to philology caused by Christianity.

    Not that atheists need to become religious or accept the Bible. Jews find atheism a very good and intellectual life choice. Even many practicing Jews are atheist.

    But the problem remains that many, religious and non-religious, have an inaccurate view of Hebrew religious texts due to the lack of exposure to the Jews' own understanding of their own book. Some are made so thick with ignorance by Christianity that one woman told me: "Why would I listen to what you have to say? What do Jews know about the Bible?"

  • Cold Steel
    Cold Steel

    How do you explain to an honest hearted person why God acted the way they did?

    The Old Testament and New Testament are almost polar opposites.

    What particular way did God act that you find questionable or objectionable? Try to be specific because the Bible is full of stories. Also, in which ways are the Old and New Testaments "polar opposites"?

    David_Jay ยป Jews find atheism a very good and intellectual life choice. Even many practicing Jews are atheist.

    Yes, and I've never understood it. I had a Jewish friend who believed the entire story of Moses was a collection of fairy tales, yet he drove sixty-five miles to go to a kosher restaurant on travel. He lived it at home, too. And also, the law that Moses received and the works of other Jewish scholars and theologians are some of the most moral and sensible writings ever written. Compared with the surrounding cultures and religious beliefs, Jewish law stood head and shoulders above them. The Greeks can boast of their great philosophers (and I'm a huge fan of the Greeks), but they had nothing on scholars like Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides). His works were so thorough and garnered such great respect that there's a saying which goes, "From Moses to Moses, there's no one like Moses!"

    The judicial code, the treatment of animals and the wisdom and compassion of the law belies the idea that it was just the manmade ramblings of shepherds and Bedouins. And though atheism may be "a very good and intellectual life choice" may be true for some, the debate on that will continue to rage. I would be more inclined to agnosticism that the absolutism of atheism. To say, I don't know makes more sense to me if someone were to just drop me on this planet and have me choose a belief system.

    Jews can be as diverse as anyone else, but I never understood why my friend would live kosher and eat kosher if he was an atheist. Yet he did. He said it was a cultural thing.

    What good is any religion if it doesn't address the afterlife or the judgment of man?

    I believe there's great wisdom in the so-called Old Testament.

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