I believe that Genesis should not be read literally as it conflicts with our current scientific models such as the dating of the universe and Evolution. As a result I believe that we must read Genesis as a theological poem not a scientific textbook. Thus I see that we were created and we fell from grace through adam and eve (theological "stereotypes" of man’s greed and foolishness  

If we take these as metaphors in genesis then should we also take Abraham as a metaphor rather than a historical figure? Should Abraham represent a people that God called rather than a single person who created an entire society through his wife?

My second question is about God and his violent character. This of course causes problems for me as my God is represented in Jesus. He is the God of peace, love, mercy and justice. However the God of the OT has these qualities but also other qualities such as rage and wrath (I read an interesting article suggesting that Gods wrath actually means God giving up on people rather than directly punishing them.) This Characteristic is especially apparent in Joshua as he supposedly helps them kill and win battles to extend their land. This is remarkably reminiscent of medieval times when victory was attributed to God. Even in WW1 the German army had stenciled on their belts "Gott mit uns" (God is with us). This is what I assume is happening in Joshua and other accounts where God supposedly destroys neighbouring coutries. The Israelites won and so God must have helped them to win. I also assume that this is the same with the massacre of the Amalekite Children in that the leaders rather than God ordered their massacre. Jesus certainly wouldnt have allowed this.

I respect the OT for the historical content and I know that many hidden ancient cities have been discovered by study of the OT. But I believe that God of the OT is justice, he is mercy and love just like Jesus. and I believe that some writers of the OT have put their own beliefs in the text. An enemy of Israel is the enemy of God sort of mentality. I believe that if any killings were condoned by God they were in fact condoned by man. I am not sure what this sounds like theologically but I am confident that the God of the NT would not have condoned the killings and massacres and deaths that were attributed to him in OT. This God to me sounds too different and too primitive.Primitive only in the war sense, but in the wisdom and peace sense I believe the OT is dead on and fits well with the NT)

What are you thoughts?


First of all, I do not agree fully with the stand taken by the author at biologos.  I am a good friend of Daryl Falk who runs the organization, but I do not agree with all he posts at his site.   Your question about Abraham being a metaphor (in other words a mythical person who never lived) is based on the assumption that Adam and Eve are purely metaphorical.  I simply do not agree that Adam and Eve are metaphorical.  I believe that God create man, and that Genesis 2 and 3 is the story of how he did it.  It is tempting to take  an all-or-nothing view.  In other words, some take every single detail of Genesis 1-3 fully literally.  Others take the entire story fully metaphorically and believe there is absolutely no actual history there at all.  I believe both views are unbalance.  Obviously, I agree that Genesis 1-3 is not a scientific treatise.  I also agree with biologos authors that the "days" in Genesis 1 are not literal days, but instead they represent progressive periods of time over which God did his work.  Nevertheless, I do not agree that the story is absolutely without any valid information.  The story correctly gets the creation of the universe and the earth by God, followed by water on the earth, followed by land from the water, then life in the water and later life on the land, and last of all people.  Similarly, I do not deny that there are tremendous metaphorical implications of the life of Adam and Eve.  Just like God used Joseph and Moses and Abraham and David as prefigures, he uses Adam and Eve to represent us and our fall from God.  However, just because Abraham is a prefigure of those who are saved by faith (Romans 4) does not mean he was not a real person.  Just because Moses is a prefigure of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10) does not mean he was not a real person.  I believe that there really were two first humans, created in the image of God, with a soul and a spirit.  Whether or not they were creations ex-nihilo, or whether God took previously evolved intelligent homo sapiens and put a sould and spirit in them, does not matter much to me.  However, I strongly reject the claim that the entire Genesis creation story is a metaphor with absolutely not scientific or historical value whatsoever.
So, I reject the premise of your question–that Adam and Eve are merely metaphors for the human condition and that the first two homo divinus were not real people.  This makes your question about Abraham moot, in my opinion.  Nevertheless, let me tell you what I think about Abraham.  Yes, I absolutely do believe his was a real, historical person.   What is so amazing, and what provides such great proof for the inspiration of the Bible is that Abraham, David, Moses, Joseph, Isaac, Lot, and so many others are really inspiring prefigures of New Testament realities, yet they were real people.  There is a lot about this in my book From Shadow to Reality (  The Old Testament is by far and away the most accurate history we have from the ancient world.  There is no close second.  Yes, I believe David, and Moses and Abraham lived.  I will admit that to some extent I believe the biblical accounts by faith, but I also believe them by the evidence.  There is a lot of material on this in my book "Reasons for Belief."  I strongly suggest you get a copy at   There is also a lesson in the efc store on history, archaeology and the Bible you can get.
Anyway this person at biologos says we must read Genesis 1-3 as a mere theological poem.  Who says so?  I disagree.  It is a theological poem, for sure, but it is much more than that.
About your second question, I have already answered this extensively more than once at the web site.  Let me ask you a favor.  Will you do some searching around in my web site for some of the several articles on this subject, and if you still do not have an adequate answer, reformulate or resend that question and I will be happy to answer it.  I am copying and pasting one of the articles on the subject below.  I believe your comments are heading in the right direction.  It is about God’s justice.  The God of the OT is the God of the NT.  The God of the OT is unbelievably patient, kind and loving (Jonah 4:1-3), but he is also willing to judge those who choose to abuse the free will he gave them to rebel against him.  What was physical in the OT becomes spiritual in the NT, but in the end, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."  God does not have a "violent character," but he will judge those who sin and who refuse to come to him–rejecting his offer of forgiveness and a relationship with him. God does have wrath in the New Testament.  Those who say differently have not read the New Testament carefully.  You say that Jesus would not have allowed Joshua to destroy the Amelekites.  I disagree.  Jesus did not come to the earth to judge, but to save (John 12:47), it is true, but when he comes back, it will be judgment time! 1 Pet 4:17, Revelation 20:11-15.   Jesus, while in the body here on earth, was amazingly gentle and patient.  God is also amazingly gentle and patient, but God will judge those who rebel against him.  Those who picture Jesus as a soft person who never got angry or who will not ultimately judge the world are creating a false picture.
Article below.
John Oakes

Genocide and the Old Testament
There is one question which comes up repeatedly, both as I travel and teach
for Christian groups and at the web site.  The question takes different forms, but
in general it goes something like this:  If God is such a loving God, how can we
explain the fact that he commanded the Israelites to wipe out entire nations
of people, including innocent children?  If God commanded ?do not kill,? how can you
explain that God commanded genocide on a whole nation?  A corollary question is why
did God show favoritism toward the Israelites and relative disfavor to other
nations?  Isn?t this bias, which the New Testament forbids?


This question is not answered easily.  The theological implications are great, as are
the implications for biblical consistency and infallibility.  It is not hard to see the apparent
contradiction between the God who is defined as love in the Bible and the God
who asked Israelto wipe out whole peoples; men, women and children.  As it says
in 1 John 4:16, ?God is love.?  Add to that the sayings of Jesus about how to treat
our enemies.  He prescribed, ?But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who
persecute you.? (Matthew 5:44)  It does not take a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic of Christianity
to find an apparent contradiction here. The view of God as very loving combined
with his commandments to love everyone, including our enemies seems to be in
stark contrast, perhaps even contradiction with God?s command to his people to wipe out
whole populations of peoples, especially during the time of the Jew?s conquest
of Canaan.


My answer will involve a few arguments, but let me say that even at the end
of this argument, I am still left somewhat troubled by the biblical accounts
of what the Jews were asked by God to do to the inhabitants of Canaan.  In other words,
I can make a fairly strong logical argument for why a loving God would call
on Israelto do this, but in the end, my emotions struggle to follow my logic
on this.  I am left uncomfortable with the idea, even if I can explain it.  I am
?guessing that most or all of my readers are in the same place on this.


With that qualification to my answer, let me proceed to explain why I believe
that the scenario above (a loving God and his command to kill whole communities)
is indeed a contrast, but not a contradiction.  First of all, we, as humans,
assume that death is an inherently evil thing.  God does not see it that way.  Sin is
evil.  Rebellion against God is evil.  Selfishness, greed, sexual immorality and violence
as well are all evil.  However, physical death is not evil.  From God?s perspective,
the death of a human being is not an end but a transition. Death is not inherently
evil because it is not the end of existence for a being with a soul.  It is
difficult for us as humans who instinctually fear death to understand, but it
is not inherently evil for the lives of the Canaanites to be ended, even in
warfare.  It is sinful to take a life in anger or out of selfishness or greed, but to
take a life because one was commanded to do so by God is not sinful.


Having said that, it is not reasonable to deduce that it is just fine for us
to go around killing people.  Far from it.  However, it is not an absolute that the taking
of a life is evil.  Consider the situation in Canaanat the time the Israelites
were about to enter to take possession of the Promised Land.  The religious practices
of the Canaanites were absolutely despicable.  Worship of Chemosh included ?sacrificing?
of babies in the fire.  Imagine how God felt about people killing their babies in
a vain attempt to manipulate a god who did not even exist!  Other gods were worshipped
by performing sex acts with prostitutes in the temples.  Idolatry and sexual immorality
were common practice of Canaanite religion. There was essentially zero chance
of anyone raised in such a culture to become a righteous person or to end up
with God for eternity.  Children born into a Canaanite family were virtually certain
to be corrupted by the violence and sexual degradation they were born into.  Suc
h cultures were abominable in God?s sight.  As bad as things seem to us in our own
cultures today, Canaanin the fifteenth millennium BC was far worse.  


For those who do not have a good understanding of the God of the Bible, his
justice and his love can at times appear to be in contradiction.  In the case of Canaan, bo
th his justice and his love dictated that something radical be done.  We do not have
the God-given right to judge or take vengeance on others. Period.  ?Do not take
revenge, my friends, but leave room for God?s wrath, for it is written: ?It
is mine to avenge; I will repay?? (Romans 12:19)  But God does have that right. 
To quote Hebrews 10:30-31 (which is in the New Testament, by the way) ?Vengeance
belongs to Me, I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge His people.  It is a terrifyin
g thing to fall into the hands of a living God.  The God of the Bible is both loving
and just.  In the case of Canaanin the fifteenth century BC, the time for judgment
had arrived.


            God had a chosen people.  Israelwas chosen, not because God is prejudiced
or cold and heartless.  Israelwas chosen because of a promise as the result of the faith
of Abraham.  God made a promise to Abraham that through his descendents all people would
eventually be blessed (Genesis 18:18).  It was God?s plan to give Abraham?s descendents
a place?a Promised Land.  This was an act of love, as was the final working out of
that promise when God allowed his one and only son to be killed on the cross
in Jerusalem. There was no way for Israelto receive that land without driving
out or destroying those who occupied that land.  In ancient times, it was also impossible
to control and live in an abundant and fruitful land without an army and without
willingness to use that army to defeat one?s enemies.  Israellived in a very violent
world.  They were to rely on God for deliverance, but they were also commanded to
fight battles with weapons of war.


It is disturbing to me and I assume that it is disturbing to you that God asked I
sraelto destroy the peoples in Canaan.  However, given the loving promise by God
to bless all people through Israeland through their occupation of the Promised
Land, what appears difficult for us to understand begins to make sense.  I assume
that the children killed in this sad affair are with God in heaven.  I assume that
all or virtually all of the adults killed by the Jews had the same eventual
fate that they would have had by virtue of the fact that they lived in a deeply
corrupt and perverted society. They are separated from God for eternity.  G
od?s justice was served by the military action of Israel.  I will admit that
it is harder to see this, but I believe God?s love was also served by what


Bear in mind that God did not give Israelcarte blanch to go around killing whomever
they wanted to.  Their charge was for a specific and limited area, for a specific
and limited amount of time.  They were never given encouragement or permission to
build up an empire or to lord it over other peoples.  Their charge was to occupy the
Promised Land as a special and chosen people of God.  If one studies the law, especially
in Leviticus, one will discover that God?s commandments were to avoid every
kind of unwarranted violence, abuse of outsiders, outbursts of rage and so forth.
To live as a foreigner in Israelwas to live in more humane circumstances than
most people experienced in their native lands.  God commanded his people to very humane
behavior in general.  However, this did not preclude the people using violence to occupy
the Promised Land or to defend Jerusalemand the templeof God.


To summarize, it is not unreasonable to find an apparent contradiction in the
Bible due to the historical accounts of God?s people destroying entire cities
in order to occupy the Promised Land. This certainly does not seem to jibe with
Jesus? commandment to love our enemies. However, the contradiction is apparent, but not
real.  God is just and God is love.  If one considers the intent of God to bless all people
through the descendants of Abraham and if one considers the irretrievably corrupt
lifestyle in the ancient Near East, the command to occupy the Promised Land
and to drive out or destroy its people becomes a reasonable one.  I list the premises
of this little essay below.





1.  Our assumption that the death of a human being is inherently an evil thing
is not correct.


2.  What is evil is that human beings rebel against God and sin against him.


3.  There exist situations in which God?s justice trumps his love for individuals
and for peoples

     with the result that God will bring physical judgment on both individual
people and peoples.


4.  Although humans do not have the right to judge others as deserving of life
or death, salvation

     or damnation, God does.


5.  God?s plan to bless all humanity through Abraham and his descendents is
the greatest good

     possible for humanity.


6.  If it were God?s plan to send his messiah/savior through a special people
with a definite

     political and religious history, this could not be done in the ancient
world without the use of

     violent force.





Despite appearances to the contrary, the decision to destroy the peoples of
Cannan?men, women and children?was an act of both love and justice.


John Oakes, PhD

Comments are closed.