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A Theology of Genocide?

Fr Tony Writes

I am now a published author! Quoting from my preface: “As a seminarian on placement, I gave a Bible … to a parishioner who did not have one. Some weeks later she came up to me and said, “That is a horrible book!” This set me thinking. The second stimulus was the terrible stories that came out of Rwanda in 1994, just a year after my ordination. The stories reminded me of the stories of slaughter in the book of Joshua. “How do we read such stories in the Bible after events such as that?”

I mulled over that question on and off for several years, and it eventually became the subject of my doctoral dissertation, which I defended in 2015. I have now revised and updated that, and it has been published by Sheffield Phoenix Press. Seeing the first printed copy was quite a thrill!

As an essentially ‘academic’ work, the list price is rather high. However if you go to the publishers website, individuals can get it at the ‘scholars price’ which is half the list price.

War, of course, features very frequently in the Bible. The Old Testament contains many stories of war and conflict, and even in the New Testament military images are used quite frequently. We in the 21st century are not the first to be troubled by this. In the third century, the great biblical scholar, Origen of Alexandria, when writing about the book of Joshua observed that, “Unless those physical wars bore the figure of spiritual wars, I do not think the books of Jewish history would ever have been handed down by the Apostles to the Disciples of Christ, who came to teach peace.”

In fact once we explore the background to the writings, we find that most of the OT books reached their final form generations after the events they speak about, and were read in much the same way as we might read them today—as a metaphor for the spiritual struggle. Further, the sweep of the Old Testament seems to tell us that any attempt to establish God’s kingdom by force will ultimately fail.

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