Is Yahweh An Ogre?

Excerpt from Chapter 7 of Beyond Blind Faith, copyright 2017, 2019

He utterly destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, killing all of the inhabitants of both cities (except Lot and his family). [i] He ordered Moses to slay the leaders of the Israelites when they worshiped the Moabites’ false gods. [ii] He prescribed the death penalty for sorcery, [iii] idolatry, [iv] and false prophecy, [v] as well as for adultery, [vi] murder, [vii] rape, [viii] and many other offenses. [ix] Early Christian heretics—such as the Marcionites, [x] the Paulicians, [xi] and Gnostic Christians [xii]—believed that He was evil, and that this world, as His creation, was also evil.

In the Old Testament, God at first seems much different than He is portrayed in the New Testament. Certainly, the Old Testament can be difficult to understand. When I first tried to read it after becoming a Christian, I struggled through the early books before finally abandoning the effort somewhere around Deuteronomy. Yet as I have grown in my faith, I have come to understand that the Old Testament’s Yahweh is the same loving, compassionate, and merciful God we see in the New Testament. God did not change—we did. . . .

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[i] Genesis 19:24-25

[ii] Numbers 25:1-4

[iii] Exodus 22:18; see also Leviticus 20:27

[iv] Exodus 22:20, Deuteronomy 13:1-10, 17:2-7

[v] Deuteronomy 18:20

[vi] Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22-24

[vii] Exodus 21:12-14; Leviticus 24:17, 24:21; Numbers 35:16-21, 35:30-31; Deuteronomy 19:11-13

[viii] Deuteronomy 22:25-27 (note that only the rapist is punished—the rape victim is considered innocent of any sin, and therefore she is not to be punished)

[ix] For example, death is ordered for the following offenses, among others:
violating various rules regarding the priests and the Tabernacle (Exodus 28:35, 28:43, 30:20-21; Leviticus 8:31-35, 10:6-9, 16:2, 16:13, 22:9; Numbers 1:51, 3:5-10, 3:38, 4:15, 4:19-20, 18:2-3, 18:7, 18:22, 18:25-32);
        cursing, striking, or persistently disobeying a parent (Exodus 21:15, 21:17; Deuteronomy 21:18-21);
        kidnapping (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7);
        bestiality (Exodus 22:19; Leviticus 20:15-16);
        homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13);
        certain types of incest (Leviticus 20:11-12);
        premarital sex when betrothed to another (Deuteronomy 22:20-21);
        child sacrifice (Leviticus 20:2);
        profaning the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14-15, 35:2; Numbers 15:32-36);
        allowing a dangerous animal to kill someone (Exodus 21:29);
        cursing or blaspheming God (Leviticus 24:15-16);
        refusing to abide by the decision of a priest or judge (Deuteronomy 17:12)

[x] Marcionism, an early Christian heresy, taught that Jesus had only the appearance of an earthly body, and thus denied His humanity. The Marcionites forbid both marriage and sex, and required married couples to live apart and practice celibacy.

[xi] Paulicians first made their appearance in the 7th century A.D., south of Armenia. Believing that flesh is evil and that spirit is good, they denied Jesus’ humanity, and thus claimed that his life and death were illusory.

[xii] Gnostics believed in a “Gnosis,” or Truth, revealed in all religions. Gnosticism was really a separate religion, rather than part of Christianity, but many early Christians attempted to blend elements of Gnosticism with Christianity. These Gnostic Christians taught that the flesh, with its desires and lusts, was evil, and that salvation required freeing the spirit from these fleshly desires. Since flesh was regarded as evil, most Gnostic Christians denied that Jesus had existed in the flesh, and thus denied or minimized his earthly life, death, and resurrection.