Did Jesus endorse atrocities?

Deutsche Version: Hat Jesus Greueltaten gut gehiessen?

Youtube Version


 Arguably, two of the favorite verses of fundamentalists and antitheists alike are:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).

It is generally thought that Jesus agreed with everything standing in the Old Testament, like the genocide of the Amalekites, the wives of dead soldiers being killed by the Israelites being forced to marry the murderers of their husbands, adulterers being put to death, and so on and so forth.


I don’t view the Bible as a set of truths having fallen from Heaven, but as a human book describing the experience (or lack thereof) of real people with God. But they wrote down their thoughts and experiences using their worldview and their Ancient-Near-Eastern understanding.
Without denigrating these people, it is a fact they were both materially and morally primitive. Before judging the moral character of an individual, it is always indispensable to study his or her worldview and to delve into the historical context she led her life. Many self-righteous indignation about the deeds of Mahomed stem from the unwillingness to follow this basic principle.

Now, back to our present concern. I believe that in Jesus, God lived, died and rose from the dead. But in order for him to be fully human and not some kind of super-spirits like many Gnostics thought, he had to give up his all-power, his omniscience (all-knowledge), also with respect to spiritual and moral issues. I know this might sound blasphemous to quite few of my readers, but asserting the contrary would turn Jesus into a super-human.

As a human being, Jesus shared the worldview and presuppositions of the conservative Jewish society where he was raised.
This is why his treatment of women, while quite normal for our modern minds, was truly revolutionary in his particular context.
When trying to judge Jesus’s moral character, most Skeptics tend to interpret literally what he said in order to make it sound as negative as possible, even if it contradicts other verses.

Let us assume, for the sake of the argument, that Jesus really said these very things mentionned at the beginning of the article. Some theologians think the passage might have been added by Mattew to fit the needs of the early Jewish Christian communities, but I think this text is at home in the context of the sermon on the mount.

According to most antitheists, the litteral interpretation is the right one, and Jesus wished adultery women and disobedient children to be stoned, and thought genocides could be great.
But why did the same Jesus also say:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44″But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.…”

After all, he was referring to the very same Mosaic tradition he allegedly considered to be inerrant.

One possibility is certainly that Jesus was inconsistent and contradicted himself: he didn’t realize the consequences of holding fast to the Torah as he preached.
To my mind, a better interpretation is that Jesus saw the love for God and for one’s neighbor as being not only the highest command of the law, but its fulfillment, its very reason of being.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Matthew 22:37-39


In that respect, Jesus was very progressive if he thought that certain aspects of the Law didn’t promote this high goal.

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.
Matthew 19:8

When all his sayings are considered, it seems likely that Jesus meant that higher purpose as the accomplishment of the law.
Of course, it is also probable that the conservative Jewish context he grew up in prevented him from entertaining the thought that the Torah (and other non-canonical traditions) contained mistakes, but this is debatable.

9 thoughts on “Did Jesus endorse atrocities?

  1. Fear not that which can (only) destroy the body, but rather that which drags both body and soul into Gehenna. And do not think that the God Who knows the future and sees clearly into the heart of man took these decisions lightly, were they not have been the lesser of two evils. (You don’t know what attrocities the people in question might have done if they would’ve been alowed to live, in which case you and others alike would’ve said: If God knew that such attrocities would happen, why did He do nothing to stop it ?).

    • Hello Lvka, God being almighty, he would have lots of more moral ways at His disposal to stop the evil going on than employing the same methods as the gods as the neighboring pagan nations.

      You’re right it’s generally a problem for Christians that God does so seldom intervene to keep evil at bay. To my mind, the best solution to this problem is thinking at the infinite joy in heaven, for what are 10 years of intense suffering when compared with 1000000000000000….. years of bliss?

      Lovely greetings from Germany.
      Liebe Grüsse aus Deutschland.
      Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

      • Like beam people into non-existence ? There’s no need to: soldiers and warriors exist since times immemorial.

        Physical death is not a sin. On the other hand, sin destroys the mind. That sensation, severe clinical depression, born of either addiction, or a wounded conscience, or both, is unbearable to the mind. Having to choose between death and the latter is a no-brainer. Even the choice between life-long physical torment of the most unspeakable kind, and depression, is a no-brainer. It is utterly uncomparable to any other pain or discomfort, whether physical or psychological, no matter how deep or awful. So do not be afraid of that which destroys only the body, but does not destroy the mind and the soul. I’m not a stranger to severe pain, both physical and psychological, but depression cannot be compared to either. Death is nothing, and pain and suffering are nothing. Or, if they are `something`, they are like a speck of dust compared to the Himalayas. This is NOT an exaggeration. So do not doubt that God had only the best interest in mind, both of those whose lives He cut short, directly or indirectly, as well as of those whom He spared.

      • P.S.: A single moment of engodment is more than enough to wipe out all previous experiences, good or bad… Even if people were to live 1,000 years in the most unbearable physical and psychological torture possible or imaginable, and then only experience a few seconds or minutes of engodment at the end of their lives, and then cease existing for all eternity, it would still be an “injustice”, since engodment, as depression, is also without end, and utterly beyond comparison to anything else… I’m not being “poetic”, and there’s no exaggeration in anything I just wrote.

  2. Hello Lvka, I’ve the feeling you’re being a bit too mystical for me to fully comprehend you.
    This isn’t a reproach, everyone is different and should develop his or her own spirituality.

    “Death is nothing, and pain and suffering are nothing. Or, if they are `something`, they are like a speck of dust compared to the Himalayas. This is NOT an exaggeration. So do not doubt that God had only the best interest in mind, both of those whose lives He cut short, directly or indirectly, as well as of those whom He spared.
    “Death is nothing, and pain and suffering are nothing. Or, if they are `something`, they are like a speck of dust compared to the Himalayas. This is NOT an exaggeration. So do not doubt that God had only the best interest in mind, both of those whose lives He cut short, directly or indirectly, as well as of those whom He spared.”

    I agree this is the case for those who will live eternally with God.

    Alas I think there are also people who will prefer oblivion to an eternity with a perfect being.

    “Our true enemies lie elsewhere.”
    My true enemy is INJUSTICE everywhere, in politics, in the society and in my own heart.
    Or did you mean malevolent spiritual beings which are incredibly deceitful?
    They’re not very important, tough they seem to be torturing some people.

    My priority is increasing my love for ALL my fellow human beings, however hostile they might be.

    • As I probably said on a different ocasion (or perhaps only meant to): the error lies in thinking that these acts have a human passion at their root, when in fact they do not. God is devoid of human passion, knowing only selfless loving-kindness. It’s not a lack of love, nor a presence of hatred, nor something else (like desire for spoils, pride, glory, and victory) which determined them. Read the 18 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita: though written by pagans, it shows that even they came to similar conclusions, since all human beings are made in the image of God. (Romans 2:14-15).

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