Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses
Philip Jenkins delivers a fearless examination of the dark and violent verses of the Bible—and a call for us to read them anew in pursuit of a richer, more honest faith. From “one of America’s best scholars of religion” (The Economist), this daring exploration of the Scripture’s most difficult passages forces us to confront and accept the violence that was as integral to the formulation of Christianity’s message as it was for many other of the world’s religions, and shows us how a full understanding of the Scripture will allow us to finally move towards a more peaceful, spiritual world. Readers of Bart Ehrman’s God’s Problem, John Selby Spong’s The Sins of Scripture, and Jenkins’s own The Jesus Wars, as well as every Christian eager to square the recurrent violence of the Scripture with Christianity’s enduring message of peace, will find these difficult questions explored in full in Laying Down the Sword.
Commands to kill, to commit ethnic cleansing, to institutionalize segregation, to hate and fear other races and religions—all are in the Bible, and all occur with a far greater frequency than in the Qur’an. But fanaticism is no more hard-wired in Christianity than it is in Islam. In Laying Down the Sword, “one of America’s best scholars of religion” (The Economist) explores how religions grow past their bloody origins, and delivers a fearless examination of the most violent verses of the Bible and an urgent call to read them anew in pursuit of a richer, more genuine faith.
Christians cannot engage with neighbors and critics of other traditions—nor enjoy the deepest, most mature embodiment of their own faith—until they confront the texts of terror in their heritage. Philip Jenkins identifies the “holy amnesia” that, while allowing scriptural religions to grow and adapt, has demanded a nearly wholesale suppression of the Bible’s most aggressive passages, leaving them dangerously dormant for extremists to revive in times of conflict. Jenkins lays bare the whole Bible, without compromise or apology, and equips us with tools for reading even the most unsettling texts, from the slaughter of the Canaanites to the alarming rhetoric of the book of Revelation.
Laying Down the Sword presents a vital framework for understanding both the Bible and the Qur’an, gives Westerners a credible basis for interaction and dialogue with Islam, and delivers a powerful model for how a faith can grow from terror to mercy.