Philip Jenkinsís challenging new book Laying Down the Sword shows that the Bible contains incitements not just to violence but also to genocide. He argues that Christians and Jews should struggle to make sense of these violent texts as a central element of their tradition, rather than hurry past them or ignore them altogether.<quoted text>
This is about as harsh as it gets.
New International Version (NIV)
ďDo not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a manís enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it."
In other words, the source comes first - above all else.
But nothing about killing infidels who choose otherwise.
The most painful passages come in the books of Joshua and Judges, which Jenkins describes as an ďorgy of militarism, enslavement, and race war.Ē The Israelites, emerging from the desert after their escape from Egypt, attack Canaanite cities, whose people are described by the biblical narrator as very wicked. God commands the Israelites to exterminate the inhabitantsómen, women, children, and animals alike, until nothing is left alive. Likewise in the Book of Samuel, King Saul eventually loses Godís favor not for his bloodthirstiness in war but for his restraintóhe fails to annihilate his enemies. The prophet Samuel denounces him for sparing some of the Amalekites, takes up a sword, and personally hacks the captive King Agag to pieces. To make matters worse, says Jenkins, God sometimes deliberately ďhardens the heartsĒ of other peoples, using them to chastise the sinful Hebrews. Then He raises up Judges, righteous Israelites, to smite and destroy them in turn. Itís almost as if He wanted the highest possible body count.