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Old Testament Laws

Introduction to Problems and Issues with Ancient Laws in the Bible


There are a lot of really awful things in the Old Testament. This seems like a simple and obvious statement, but there are two slight problems with it. First, although nonbelievers and skeptics will superficially agree with it, many are unaware of what some of the specific laws and events actually are. This is particularly true when it comes to the laws because, lets face it, reading those lists of ritual laws can be quite boring.

The second problem lies with believers: some agree that there are awful things in the Old Testament, but like skeptics and nonbelievers, they can be quite unaware of what and where they are. Others, however, flatly disagree that there is anything wrong with any of the events or laws appearing in the Old Testament. They assert that the Bible — all of the Bible — stems from their god, is infallible and/or inerrant, and represents just as good a moral guide for modern life as it ever did.

Now, as awful as much in the Old Testament can be, it isn’t significantly worse than what we can find in cultural documents from the same eras. Life and religion were commonly cruel and barbaric — why should the ancient Hebrews have been any different? From the skeptical and even liberally theological position, there is simply no reason to imagine otherwise.

Only if we are expected to believe that the ancient Hebrews really were supposed to be the “chosen” tribe of a real and all-loving God might we hope for them to rise above everyone else. Certainly the laws this allegedly all-loving God was handing down should have represented that love, even if we accept that the people weren’t quite able to follow them very well.

But that isn’t what we find. The laws and commands from this god aren’t particularly representative of an expansive and eternal love of the god’s alleged creation, humanity. They don’t give any indication of having a divine origin. Instead, they look every bit like the attempts of typical tribe of a barbaric age doing the best they could with what they had.

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