St. Anthony Messenger

God the Warrior?

Our faith teaches that peace overrides force. In the Old Testament, however, there are passages that describe how God cleared a path for the Hebrew people through war and displacement of other people and cultures. Isn’t that a contradiction?

Yes, some passages speak in those terms, especially the Book of Joshua and some of the psalms. The Scriptures forbid any physical representations of God, but they are full of mental images applied to God (king, father, mother, warrior, builder, etc.). Any one of those images can be mistakenly absolut-ized to the exclusion of all the other mental images. The Bible as a whole takes a both/and approach where some people would prefer an either/or style.

When the Hebrew people crossed the Jordan River into the land God had promised, they did not find the land empty. By war and other means, they established themselves among several gentile groups. The Book of Joshua may give the impression that the Hebrews wiped everyone else out.

If that were true, the Book of Judges would make no sense because God sent the Hebrews judges as temporary leaders to free them from oppressive pagan neighbors.

The Bible needs to be accepted as a whole, as God’s best self-revelation except for the person of Jesus Christ. We cannot enlarge whatever suits our preferences and minimize the parts that challenge us.

Ask a Franciscan


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