Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem, Edited by Heath A. Thomas and Jeremy A. Evans and Paul Copan
Holy War in the Bible
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: April 05, 2013
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 3995
  • ISBN: 9780830839957

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The challenge of a seemingly genocidal God who commands ruthless warfare has bewildered Bible readers for generations. The theme of divine war is not limited to the Old Testament historical books, however. It is also prevalent in the prophets and wisdom literature as well. Still it doesn?t stop. The New Testament book of Revelation, too, is full of such imagery. Our questions multiply.

  • Why does God apparently tell Joshua to wipe out whole cities, tribes or nations?
  • Is this yet another example of dogmatic religious conviction breeding violence?
  • Did these texts help inspire or justify the Crusades?
  • What impact do they have on Christian morality and just war theories today?
  • How does divine warfare fit with Christ?s call to "turn the other cheek"?
  • Why does Paul employ warfare imagery in his letters?
  • Do these texts warrant questioning the overall trustworthiness of the Bible?

These controversial yet theologically vital issues call for thorough interpretation, especially given a long history of misinterpretation and misappropriaton of these texts. This book does more, however. A range of expert contributors engage in a multidisciplinary approach that considers the issue from a variety of perspectives: biblical, ethical, philosophical and theological.

While the writers recognize that such a difficult and delicate topic cannot be resolved in a simplistic manner, the different threads of this book weave together a satisfying tapestry. Ultimately we find in the overarching biblical narrative a picture of divine redemption that shows the place of divine war in the salvific movement of God.

"The articles, on the whole, are in dialogue with salient scholarship, and the footnotes will serve as fertile ground for additional research. . . . the book moves the discussion forward."

William L. Lyons, Theological Studies, Vol. 75, no. 3

"[T]he book serves as a valuable resource on this difficult issue. . . . it has definitely advanced the discussion."

Guenther "Gene" Haas, Review of Biblical Literature, February 2014

"[A] series of thoughtful essays. . . . Given that the contributors do not always agree with one another, no one should expect to treat this volume as the last word on this complex subject. However, fresh light is shone on the major issues and one hopes that it might at least be a step on the way."

David G. Firth, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 38/1, 2014

"While God does not need to be rescued from false caricatures, his followers do need reinforcements to withstand the faith-shaking attacks from New Atheists and others. This book provides helpful biblical, historical, theological, and philosophical reinforcements."

Stephen J. Lennox, Bulletin for Biblical Research, 24.2

"This is an excellent resource for the scholar, student, pastor, or Bible student who seeks to know more about the concept of holy war in the Bible."

Matthew James Hamilton, Bible Study Magazine, September/October 2013



Part One: The Challenge of "Holy War" for Christian Morality
1. Orientation Amidst the Diversity: An Introduction to the Volume
Geth Allison and Reid Powell
2. Joshua and the Crusades
Douglas S. Earl
Part Two: Old Testament Perspectives
3. Martial Memory, Peaceable Vision: Divine War in the Old Testament
Stephen B. Chapman
4. A Neglected Witness to "Holy War" in the Writings
Heath A. Thomas
Part Three: New Testament Perspectives
5. The Rhetoric of Divine Warfare in Ephesians
Timothy G. Gombis
6. Vengeance, Wrath, and Warfare as Images of Divine Justice in John's Apocalypse
Alan S. Bandy
Part Four: Biblical-Theological Perspectives
7. Compassion and Wrath as Motivations for Divine Warfare
David Lamb
8. Holy War and חרם: A Biblical Theology of חרם
Douglas S. Earl
Part Five: Ethical and Philosophical Perspectives
9. Crusade in the Old Testament and Today
Daniel R. Heimbach
10. The Ethics of "Holy War" for Christian Morality and Theology
Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan
11. The Prophets' Call for Peacemaking Practices
Glen Harold Stassen
12. "Holy War," Divine Action, and New Atheism: Philosophical Considerations
Robert Stewart
Part Six: Theological Perspectives
13. The Unholy Notion of "Holy War": A Christian Critique
Murray Rae
14. "Holy War" and the New Atheism: A Theological Response
Stephen N. Williams

Afterword: Old Testament "Holy War" and Christian Morality: Where Do We Go from Here?
Jeremy Evans and Heath Thomas
Selected Biography
Names Index
Scripture Index


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