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My friends and I had a lengthy discussion last night about what you do with certain passages of the Bible which are a little harder to swallow than “Love one another.”

We kicked it off reading Isaiah 13. Here’s an excerpt from verse 16:

Their children will be smashed [to death] before their eyes; their houses will be looted, and their wives raped.

Mmm. So uplifting. The book of Joshua depicts Israel’s conquest of the “Promised” land, as they commit genocide at “God’s command.” Then there’s always Judges, where a man turns over his concubine to be gang-raped to death, who he then cuts up and sends the pieces of her body to the corners of the nation.

Which leaves us about where we found ourselves last night… scratching our heads and saying, WTF? What do we do about passages like this? We came to three possibilities:

  1. God wanted people to commit genocide, murder, kill babies and rape women.
  2. The author grossly misunderstood God and was dead wrong when he wrote it.
  3. There is some cultural, historical or textual nuance that we’re missing that changes everything.

I’m not willing to accept the first one. I hold out and hope that the third one is what we’re dealing with, but my rational doubt is nagging. Ultimately, I think I realistically land on option 2.

What do you think? What do you do with such passages?