Genocides in the Bible? An interview with Matt Flannagan.


Regular readers of my blog know that I’m no big fan of Biblical inerrancy and think that while there is much beauty to admire in the Bible, you’re going to find heinous things too.


Still, I want to give a fair hearing to people I disagree with. Therefore I was delighted to have had the opportunity to interview Conservative Evangelical theologian Matt Flannagan from New Zealand about this topic.


In the following interview, we touched on a number of issues while exploring the morality of the conquest of Canaan as described in the Old Testament.


DailyMotion version: Click here.


Since this is my very first audio-interview, the quality of the sound is far from being optimal. So I hope you can forgive me that, along my lack of professionalism and terrible accent.


If a sufficient number of people find that really unbearable, I’ll start out painstakingly writing down the whole dialog.

You can complain at or even write a comment here (if you want to have the satisfaction to publicly humiliate me 🙂   ).


A small personal tip: I generally listen such long interviews while having to accomplish repetitive tasks besides.


6 thoughts on “Genocides in the Bible? An interview with Matt Flannagan.

  1. Marc – good interview old chum. Matt’s quite an open minded Conservative Evangelical Marc – hardly a fundamentalist.
    Interesting that he should say that the violent passages in Judges are perhaps there not to endorse violence but to sicken us by the violence – hmmm that sounds almost Girardian.
    I think Matt’s use of an eye for an eye as being a spur to honour feuds is off beam, An eye for an eye is about proportionate justice as a means of constraining uninhibited vengeance. Also in the Torah – unlike the Code of Hammurabi – the eye for an eye’ law of tallys’ is not based on class – in Hammurabi if a noble takes out a peasant’s he is to pay a fine, but if a peasant takes out a noble’s eye he is to be executed. So ‘an eye for an eye’ is actually a progressive principle enshrining equality before the law. Jesus’ command that we should love our enemies and those who harm us is an intensifier in the spirit of the original command – yes don’t take unrestrained vengeance but also seek the wellbeing of the person who wrongs you.
    Matt is sensitive to issues of genre and modes of ancient expression and in mitigating the sever texts in the light of the less severe ones regarding the conquest of Canaan. I don’t think he grasps the nettle fully – but this is praiseworthy of him.
    The problem with the Canaanite massacre texts is that, when taken literally, they have inspired acts of indiscriminate massacre by Christians. Also when Calvin reinstated their literal validity this overturned centuries of Christian tradition regarding Just War theory – and Christian Just War Theory is actually the underpinning of the current Geneva convention.
    The killing of non-combatants in war can only ever been an extreme form of necessary evil. In the Canaanite massacres some Christians have seen massacre as a positive God and an act of worship. Matt is actually reading his Bible with the lenses of moral revulsion at cruelty – the fruit of the Gospel and a very good thing.

    • Hello Dick, thanks for your answer!

      Do you enjoy the weather in London? 🙂

      Yeah Matt is not by any means a fundy, he’s definitely an open-minded Conservative evangelical. It was very pleasant for me to have interviewed him.
      Why do you personally think that he cannot fully grasp the nettle?

      I should begin reading Girard, for he was my landsman after all 🙂

      I think it is extremely challenging to attribute very sub-optimal laws in the OT to God, because as Thom Stark argued, he could very well have given them far better commands which would have considerably reduced human suffering at that time.
      This is, of course, the problem of divine hidenness I struggle with: why does God not directly speak to us?
      Why did He allow Christians during the course of history to act so wrongly and to slaughter countless innocent persons in His Holy Name?

      How do you grapple with this problem? To my mind, the problem of divine hideness is an important part of the problem of evil.

      Otherwise, to what kind of Anglican Church do you go? Is it fair to say you’re mildly protestant? 🙂

      Lovely greetings from the far-north (of England!).

      • I go to Quaker meeting and to High Anglican Churches (in the radical tradition rather than the conservative one). So I am a weirdo 😀

        I think Matt cannot fully grasp the nettle of shifts in moral intuition. The Church has dealt with these offending texts by allegory the in the past responding to their moral intuitions about how the revelation of Christ has illuminated the shadows, and is continuous beyond the pages of the Bible. Biblicists by way of contrast have tried to defend the literal truth of the Bible – some of them becoming hate filled maniacs into the bargain’ starvelings ever licking at and fondling the dead letter of the Word. But Matt is doing his weighing and balancing act with texts because of a universalising shift in moral intuition that he’s part of. History is a dialogue between present and past – we bring the concerns of our present to the past; this seems undeniable to me. But Matt is a good man

        As for the problem of divine hiddenness – I’ve no answer to that old fruit. It just is, and it’s mystery. But I do see the key to it all in the risen and forgiving victim.

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