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December 5, 2011

Laying Down the Sword  

Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses
by Philip Jenkins

Book Review

An imperative introduction

Philip Jenkins is professor of religions at Pennsylvania State University and he also teaches at Baylor University.

However we will see that by the simple act of authoring one of the greatest insults to both Christianity and rigorous historical research, Jenkins placed himself outside of the scholarly community.

Jenkins ignores three fundamental realities of human society. Those basic realities are the following: the universality of conscience, the universality of guilt and remorse, and the universality of sacrificial offerings in view of soothing guilt and remorse.

Here is a sample of how conscience worked in ancient Egypt. The words are on a well known tomb inscription of Nefer-seshem-re called Sheshi, 6th dynasty, Saqqara[i]

I have come from my town;
I have descended from my nome;
I have done justice for its lord;
I have satisfied him with what he loves.
I spoke truly; I did right;
I spoke fairly; I repeated fairly;
I seized the right moment,
so as to stand well with people.
I judged between two so as to content them;
I rescued the weak from one stronger than he
as much as was in my power.
I gave bread to the hungry, clothes …
I brought the boatless to land.
I buried him who had no son;
I made a boat for him who lacked one.
I respected my father; I pleased my mother;
I raised their children.
So says he whose nickname is Sheshi.

Even great philosophers like Aristotle, although he did not believe in God, could not help it but write a lot about ethics. Aristotle is known for the Nicomachean Ethics [ii] , which in fact prove the existence of conscience, and which in turn give a testimony for God the Creator of conscience.

The most logical implication of the existence of conscience is the reality of a higher authority to which human conscience bows down. What Quentin Laver says is relevant: Conscience makes anything right; it cannot be questioned: its prerogatives are ‘divine’. When Jenkins accuses God in his book for exterminating the perverted Canaanites, he ignores the fact that their own conscience already condemned them. The Canaanites knew what they had done and they expected that terrible end. Jenkins portrays himself as more righteous than God and more ethical than the human conscience. He is just a preview of Antichrist himself.

Charles D. Warren[3] an author of the 19th century, is able to assess the universality of conscience in surprising way:

But, indeed, in every quarter of the globe, where the missionaries have held converse with savages, even with the rudest of the nature’s children-when speaking on the topics of sin and judgment, they did not speak to them in vocables unknown. And as this sense of the universal law and a Supreme Lawgiver never waned into total extinction among the tribes of ferocious and untamed wanderers-so neither was it all together sifted by the refined and intricate polytheism of more enlightened nations.

When the guilty Emperors of Rome were tempest-driven by remorse and fear, it was not that they trembled before a specter of their own imagination. When terror mixed, which it often did, with the rage and cruelty of Nero, it was the theology of conscience which haunted him. It was not the suggestion of a capricious fancy which gave him the disturbance, but a voice issuing from the deep recesses of a moral nature, as stable and uniform throughout the species as is the material structure of humanity, and in the lineaments of which we may read that there is a moral regimen among men, and therefore a moral governor who had instituted, and who presides over it. Therefore it was that these imperial despots, the worst and haughtiest of recorded monarchs, stood aghast at the spectacle of their own worthlessness. This is not a local or geographical notion. It is a universal feeling- to be found wherever men are found, because it is interwoven with the constitution of humanity.

Did Jenkins forget one of the most convicting testimonies given by one of the greatest monarchs who ever existed, about God’s absolute authority?

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”
(Daniel 4:34-35)

Philip Jenkins’s argument is fatally flawed in the areas of philosophy, logic, anthropology, ethics, epistemology, theology, and history. Atheists have a better excuse than him.

His arguments are carbon copied from anti-Christian Soviet propaganda of that defunct era. Jenkins proves to be a neo-Stalinist, as his book brews with hate. His work can comfortably be called a piece of hate speech.

He is partner in blasphemy with another failed scholar from Yale, namely Miroslav Volf. You can read my essay on Volf’s book here.

The book review

Why we can’t ignore Philip Jenkins’ militant fallacious rhetoric against God, the Bible, Judaism and Christianity,
And why we can’t allow Phillip Jenkins to intimidate Christians

Philip Jenkins starts his book with a brutal subtitle: “Why we can’t ignore the Bible’s violent verses”. His approach is atavistic and reminds one of the hatred against Bible and Christianity during Stalin’s era.

The endorsers on the back cover of the book are Eboo Patel, a Muslim; Diana Butler Bass, a feminist and postmodernist; Ben Witherington III, a postmodernist; and Thomas S. Kidd, a liberal historian.

The dust jacket preview prepares the reader for what will be discussed in the book. Jenkins wants to criminalize the Bible, God, Christianity, and by default Judaism. He falls short of calling Christianity a terrorist religion. Jenkins’ un-confessed goal is to make Christians feel guilty about their faith and come under the authority of the ecumenical leaders to be “re-educated” by people like Jenkins on how to yield to Muslim demands on Christian faith.

“Laying down the sword” starts with a criticism of Islam for the first five pages. This is just a deception technique; the rest of the book is a relentless virulent attack on Christianity. Jenkins views the Bible as racist (p.9) and overflowing with “texts of terror” (p.6).

A significant part of Jenkins’ work here is simply an enumeration of historical events of the Bible or of the Church, but with no understanding of how the historical cultural background played into those events.

Jenkins deems Christians incapable of understanding Old Testament passages, but supposedly he is there to “teach” them (p. 13). This is yet another technique that he will use throughout the book, portraying Christians as incompetent, gullible, living in denial, and editing reality.

He lectures believers on willful amnesia on certain Biblical texts which for him are problematic, but he is ignorant of the fact that believers do take all the texts in context, and for that reason they are comfortable with the biblical content (p.13). He delegitimizes the Jewish holiday of Purim, (p. 15). Netanyahu is seen as a hardliner on his firm stand on Iran, while the Iranian nuclear program is excused (p. 19,20)

He repeats ad nauseam the story of Joshua and the Amalekites. In order to level unfounded accusations against Old Testament heroes like Moses, Joshua, and Phineas, he resorts to aggressive atheists such as Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins (p. 22, 167).

He has an ecumenical goal in mind and he suggests “a broader scheme of faith” where Christians will go alongside with followers of other faiths (p. 25). The question is, whose scheme of faith? Jenkins’? He paints parts of the Biblical text as “dark passages” (p. 22), and God is portrayed as the “dark father” (p.169). Many times Jenkins is a mocker and a blasphemer of the person of God (p.34).

He brazenly says that massacres are foundations of later Biblical faith (p. 27) and that parts of the Biblical texts are beyond redemption (p. 30). He positions himself as the grand ethicist of the Universe, above God and any authority, but is very tolerant with Muslim shortcomings (p.40-41).

Ancient Israelites are presented as annihilators of other nations to a level that no other people had done in antiquity (p.43).

To further discredit the Bible, Jenkins ineptly chooses abandoned theories of higher criticism. He cites Jean Astruc, a doctor turned “theologian” whom Jenkins calls “scholar” (p. 51). Jenkins also denies the history of Israel (p.60-64) in his attempt to disgrace the Bible. God is compared to the Taliban (p.69). Ezra and Nehemiah are labeled xenophobic books (p.70).

The Bible is viewed as more violent than the Koran and accused of ethnic cleansing, institutionalizing segregation, and promoting hate and fear of other religions. Phineas is cast as the racial assassin, leaders such as Ezra and Nehemiah are portrayed as being in quest for racial purity. “What we call multicultural, Ezra calls abomination” (p.70-71).

He sees Bible passages as justifying genocide and multigenerational race war. The Koran is seen better, ethically, than the Bible (p.76). Again, all these furious accusations are made to intimidate Christians into joining the ecumenical cause of Jenkins and his associates.

Jenkins makes an apology for Islam (p.70-79) and excuses the Islamic anti-Semitism (p.85-93). He even goes to the extent to say that texts of the Koran derive violence from the Roman Christian world.

God’s sovereignty is seen as arbitrary (p.108). Evangelicals are accused of defending genocide (p.118). The Bible lends itself naturally to the concepts of holy wars, he argues. The Maccabean Revolt is also condemned.

Jenkins ignores the theological foundation of the Bible, the fallen human nature, and the complexity of life in an imperfect world. Yet he is somehow sympathetic to Adolf Eichmann the war criminal, and instead portrays President Yitzhack Ben Zvi as being cruel (p.150). Yasser Arafat, the notorious terrorist, is seen as simply a political leader, and the Iran nuclear threat is downplayed (p. 162-3).

Jenkins blasphemes God by painting Him as “an inferior and capricious deity”. Then he argues against the Old Testament with ideas from the Gnostics, the worthless heretics and perverts. Marcion, another notorious heretic, is also cited as support (p. 170, 1).

He poses Grotius’ natural law as being above God (p.175). Nature is also mentioned as a reference in Jenkins’ lawless judgment, and the Bible stories are accused of grossly violating the course of nature (p.175).

Natural religion and deistic supremacy of reason are viewed as greater than God (p.175-176). Jenkins’ “helpers” are rebel deists such as John Toland, Thomas Paine, and Matthew Tindal. Thomas Paine was a Quaker excelling in arrogance and revolt against God. The Israelites committed crimes against humanity by conquering Canaan, Tindal claims, and Jenkins agrees. Obsoletes of higher criticism are mentioned, those such as Herman Samuel Reimarus (p.178). Moses is called “mass murderer” (p.179).

Jenkins blasphemes the Word of God (p.179). The ancient Hebrew society is deemed as blood thirsty (p.180). Marcion, Voltaire, Paine, Harris, Dawkins, ask “excellent questions” about the Bible, he contends (p.181). The Bible is a book of blood (p.182).

Believers are accused of living in denial and justifying evil (p.184-187), and Jenkins gives some psychological advice outside of his expertise, but he does it anyway. Jews and Christians are blamed for editing and censoring the biblical accounts or spiritualizing war in the Bible. He uses a blasphemous term such as “castrating the Bible” (p.199).

Then Jenkins promotes an ecumenical liturgy based on the Revised Common Lectionary “to purge” church services of offending Biblical texts (p.201-208). Again, Christians and Jews are viewed as self deceived concerning the genocidal passages of their faith.

Jenkins mocks God, portraying Him as “learning and evolving” (p.212). Again annihilation, genocide, sadism, are charges leveled against the Biblical text. He questions the validity of the Jewish nation, Christianity, and the whole Bible (p.225).

He acknowledges that archeology gave us a firm idea about the atrocities practiced in the Canaanite societies, but still he calls them “supposed atrocities” (p.231). What a brazen manipulator Jenkins is! He “counsels” believers and pastors on how to approach the “bloody texts” (p.223-238). Again he accuses the Bible of “terror texts” (p.237).

Muslims apply violent verses from the Koran today, but Jenkins finds an excuse for them (p.248-9). He intends to excuse Arab terrorism to the extent that others bear guilt by inspiring the Muslims in their acts of terror (p.250, 257).

Paul Dan




[3] Warren Charles D. The Book of Eloquence. Crandall and Moseley, 1853

Burkert, Walter. Creation of the Sacred: Tracks of Biology in Early Religions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.

Dobbs, Archibald E. Philosophy and popular morals in ancient Greece. London: Simpkin, Marshall & CO. Ltd, 1907.

Dowden, Ken. European Paganism: The Realities of Cult from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. New York, NY: Routledge, 2000.

Feldman, Karen S. Binding Words: Conscience and Rhetoric in Hobbes, Hegel and Heidegger. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2006.

Strudwick, Nigel and Leprohon Ronald J. Texts from the Pyramidal Age. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005.


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One Comment
  1. Truth Unites... and Divides permalink


    Ya know, this is the first time I’ve ever read something that argued against the value of Professor Jenkins work. His research is usually highly lauded.

    Thanks for writing your review.

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