I’m hoping someone can assist me on this question, because it is one that I feel I can’t deliver a good answer to critics of Christianity on. So often critics of Christianity or the Bible will point to old testament violence as a reason to disregard the Bible as being inspired by God. And in my study of Catholic teaching and the Bible I am finding it hard to reconcile Catholic teaching with certain acts of violence in the old testament.
Let’s start with a portion of the catechism says concerning killing:
2261 Scripture specifies the prohibition contained in the fifth commandment: "Do not slay the innocent and the righteous."61 The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule, and to the holiness of the Creator. The law forbidding it is universally valid: it obliges each and everyone, always and everywhere.
Now, this passage from my perception seems to prevent the excuses of people justifying the killing of innocents due to whatever reason. But taking this passage into account, how do we reconcile this with certain details among old testament passages such as these:
17Slay, therefore, every male child and every woman who has had intercourse with a man. 18But you may spare and keep for yourselves all girls who had no intercourse with a man.
13 and when the LORD, your God, delivers it into your hand, put every male in it to the sword;14but the women and children and livestock and all else in it that is worth plundering you may take as your booty, and you may use this plunder of your enemies which the LORD, your God, has given you.
(does this mean killing elderly or sickly men as well?)
16But in the cities of those nations which the LORD, your God, is giving you as your heritage, you shall not leave a single soul alive.
21They observed the ban by putting to the sword all living creatures in the city: men and women, young and old, as well as oxen, sheep and asses.
[Pasted these verses from the Vatican website which has the New American Bible]
How does one reconcile Catholic teaching on killing, specifically the prohibition against taking innocent life with elements among these old testament verses? One of the answers to these passages often rests on the notion that not all of the Bible is inspired, something we reject as Catholics. Proponents of this idea would most likely argue that these aspects of the text aren’t inspired and perhaps it was just the Israelites attributing to God something they wanted to do to justify their actions or to encourage readers that God was on their side. But as I just said, Catholic teaching on Biblical inspiration would reject such a view I believe. Another response is tailoring what is meant by “innocent” but I just don’t know how that argument unfolds, and if such an argument is in line with Church teaching.
I’m hoping someone can provide me with a good apologetic response here.
One of the things that contributed to my making of this thread was the recent Boston bombings, and they got me wondering because although we Catholics would consider such bombings evil, it’s disconcerting to me, because the two bombers (if indeed motivated by religious reasons) thought themselves as doing something righteous in the eyes of God and that they were justified in targeting innocent people. But when it comes to a certain instance in the old testament where children are killed for example are we not supposed to consider it awful, but justified because God approved it? I just find it very hard to reconcile a prohibition against killing innocents which the Church upholds with certain actions going on among these verses. Moreover, it’s also disturbing to me in another way, like when I get a bit discouraged spiritually and someone may try to comfort me by reminding me that God is love and loves me more than I can ever imagine, I think about this, but then these verses in the old testament that startle me come to mind leaving me feeling confused at times. Hoping for some good answers!