Selective Christocentrism: A Critique of Old Testament Errantists

by J. Luis Dizon

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” . . .

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver “ . . . Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

– C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Note: The material contained in this article was originally planned to be part of a forthcoming article exploring different approaches to the Israelite Conquest in the book of Joshua. However, as I read the arguments presented by the authors cited in these texts, I realized that their approach was relevant not just for Joshua, but for the Old Testament as a whole. Furthermore, in order to do full justice to their arguments, I needed to discuss these issues in a separate article all on its own.

In the past two decades, a distinct approach towards difficult Old Testament texts has developed in some of the more progressive circles within Evangelical Protestantism. In this approach, the morally troubling portraits of God in the OT are regarded not as accurate portrayals of God, but as providentially errant portraits which, although divinely inspired, nevertheless present us with a flawed perception of divinity on the part of its authors and characters. This viewpoint may be called a “Providential Errantist” approach, a term coined by Randal Rauser in his book Jesus Loves Canaanites[1] (for simplicity’s sake I will be shortening this to just “Errantist”). He names Gregory Boyd as one of the main proponents of this view, and is himself sympathetic to this approach, although he modifies it considerably via his own methods and conclusions.

This Errantist position posits that, in order to properly understand the OT, we must be willing to critique the morally problematic texts which we find in it, such as those which appear to endorse violence and genocide. This position further argues that, having engaged in such a critique, we will inevitably find that the OT presents us with a flawed picture of God, which God nevertheless inspired, with the goal of presenting a better picture through His self-revelation in Christ. Thus, the Errantists propose to give us a more “Christocentric” approach to reading the text, as Jesus becomes the main portrait of divinity against which we judge all other portraits. Insofar as the OT portraits fail to conform to God’s revelation in Christ, we must judge them to be flawed.

The main problem with this approach is that, despite their claims to the contrary, Errantists do not present us with a truly Christ-centred hermeneutic. Instead, they have allowed their own agendas and preconceptions to colour their reading of the text, and use carefully chosen scenes from the life of Christ to justify their preconceptions. In this article, I argue that these authors are guilty of “Selective Christocentrism.” By this, I mean that they choose only some parts of the life and teachings of Christ to form their hermeneutic, and ignore the rest. In order to do this, I will first present the main arguments presented by Greg Boyd and Randal Rauser, in order to explain what methods they use to arrive at their conclusions. Next, I will explore various aspects of Jesus’ life, in order to highlight those aspects which these authors downplay or neglect in their analysis. In so doing, I will demonstrate that, applied consistently, their methods do damage not just to the OT, but to the NT as well, and especially the four Gospels and Revelation.

In keeping with the Christocentric theme of this argument, I will be focusing as much as possible on the words and actions of Jesus as found in the NT Gospels and Revelation. Doubtless, I could strengthen my argument by appealing to other NT voices, such as the book of Acts, St. Paul, or the author of Hebrews. However, I will be limiting myself as much as possible to the direct words and actions of Christ. Other texts will be mentioned sparingly, and only insofar as they shed light on the life of Christ.

Approaching the Old Testament Errantly

One of the most prominent proponents of the OT Errancy view is the author Greg Boyd in his massive two-volume work, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, as well as his more compact single-volume summary Cross-Vision. In his major work, he explains the conundrum that he was faced with as he attempted to preach through the Bible in his church: On the one hand, he feels compelled to say that the Old Testament is inspired, because Jesus taught so. On the other hand, he cannot accept the Old Testament’s portrait of God as accurate.[2] Thus, he has set out to harmonize these two seemingly contradictory affirmations.

In setting out to develop his arguments, Boyd is influenced by two major factors. The first is his Anabaptist background, which as he explains it, has a long history of questioning traditional interpretations rooted in the notion of “Christendom,” as well as promoting non-violence and pacifism.[3] The second is his rejection of classical theism, which he regards as “one of the greatest missteps in the history of western philosophy.”[4] These two factors colour most of the methods Boyd uses and the conclusions he arrives at, which will be readily apparent once one reads between the lines of his arguments.

In his books, his main thesis is that all of Scripture must be given a Christocentric interpretation. Thus, the words and actions of Jesus become the controlling factor in how we view Old Testament texts. As Boyd puts it, “the NT presents Jesus not as one revelation among others but as the revelation that culminates and supersedes all others. . . . [furthermore,] Jesus not only supersedes all previous revelations, he is the ultimate focal point of these revelations.”[5] The challenge, as he sees it, “The challenge, I now realized, is about how we can disclose how these portraits, together with all Scripture, actually point to Jesus.”[6] Thus, the life and teachings of Jesus become the paradigm by which we determine whether any given divine portrayal is authentic or not. And as he sees it, the portrayals of the OT fail because they do not fit this Christocentric paradigm. Although God did not command them to engage in the Conquest, He allows them to portray Him as doing so, with the hope of presenting them a better picture later on in the person of Christ.

Of all the events in Jesus’ life, Crucifixion is of particular importance to Boyd. He writes, “the cross forms the thematic center of everything Jesus was about, from his incarnation to his resurrection and ascension . . . everything Jesus was about was orientated around the revelation that God is other-oriented, self-sacrificial, agape-love (1 John 4:8) as defined by his all-surpassing sacrifice on the cross (1 John 3:16).”[7] The significance of the Crucifixion is that, just as Christ taking the sins of the world upon Himself becomes the model by which we must understand God’s bearing of the flawed perceptions which the Israelites project upon Him. As Boyd states in his conclusion:

Since the crucified Christ is the perfect expression of how God wants his authority and power used, we must conclude that Elisha’s use of this authority and power to have forty-two young men mauled by two bears does not. Nor does Elijah’s lethal reign of fire, nor Samson’s murderous rampages, nor the deadly displays of power from the ark. The obedience of Jesus to the point of the cross exposes the sinfulness of these uses of divine power while revealing that the same noncoercive God who humbly entrusted his authority and power to Jesus has always been humbly entrusting his authority to his people, and this same obedience to the point of the cross is what makes possible the revelation of the God who bore the sin of these misuses of power, together with the sin of the world.[8]

What this means is that many of the flaws contained in the OT reveal that its authors and characters did not really know God. As Boyd puts it, “whenever the Israelites wielded the sword or envisioned Yahweh acting violently or commanding violence, it was only because they lacked knowledge of God’s true character.”[9] He even goes so far as to suggest that some of the acts attributed to God were really demonic activity! He suggests this, for example, of the Ark of the Covenant. Whenever the Ark slays people for improperly handling it, this is inconsistent with a non-violent God. Therefore, Boyd argues, “if we hold that God is nonviolent, we have no choice but to understand this aspect of the ark to be demonic. . . . insofar as the ark slew people, I submit we should view it as manifesting demonic power.”[10] The implication of this view, as Boyd himself admits, is that God “was acquiescing to working through, and even to being identified with, something that was inherently demonic.”[11]

The implications of this viewpoint are noted by Colin Cornell, in his review of Cross Vision. He notes that this approach may be seen as a form of Sachkritik (“Content Criticism”), which he says, “pivots on the notion that scripture is not wrong just in chronological detail or historical incident, but wrong theologically – bent awry from telling truthfully about the living God.”[12] Thus, he states, “he [Boyd] charges an entire testament of the Christian Bible with pervasive theological deficiency – the Old Testament.”[13]

A similar approach to what Boyd argues for here is presented by Randal Rauser in his recently published book, Jesus Loves Canaanites. What sets his presentation apart from Boyd’s is the emphasis on moral intuition as a basis for determining which OT portraits are accurate, and which are not. As he describes it, “the primary distinctive of this book resides in my commitment to identify and defend the central role of moral intuition and moral perception in theology and hermeneutics along with the determination to apply these insights to one specific case: the Canaanite conquest.”[14] Thus, he argues, we may know that the Conquest was not the command of God, because our God-given moral intuitions are repulsed by such a notion.

In order to determine the correct interpretation of any given Biblical text, Rauser argues for five principles: 1) The Perfect God Principle, 2) the Two Authors Principle, 3) the Canon Principle, 4) the Jesus Principle, and 5) the Love Principle.[15] Of these four, the Jesus Principle is most relevant for purposes of our discussion. He summarizes this principle as follows:

For the Christian, Jesus is the key to unlock the whole of Scripture. The Jesus Principle is predicated on the assumption that Jesus is the final and ultimately authoritative locus of divine revelation. He is the one in whom the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form (Colossians 2:9). He is the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). As Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) As a result, Jesus is the guide for understanding who God is and what Scripture demands of us.[16]

Rauser’s hermeneutic is thus very similar to Boyd’s, in that both seek to promote a Christocentric approach to reading Scripture. One notable difference is that whereas Boyd is especially focused on the Crucifixion as the lynchpin of Jesus’ life and work, Rauser tries to capture a more general picture of Jesus’ teachings, and thus focuses on His parables and personal interactions with other people instead. However, although they approach Christocentrism slightly differently, their conclusion is the same: Read in light of Christ, the OT presents an inadequate portrayal of divinity.

It should be noted that while Boyd’s and Rauser’s approaches are quite similar, Rauser is evidently the more radical of the two in his methods and conclusions. We see this in his comments regarding Boyd. While he shows sympathy for Boyd’s presentation, he criticizes him for still holding that God passively allowed the Israelites to hold to a mistaken view of God’s commands. For him, even this is not an acceptable thing to say about God. As he puts it:

Boyd agrees with the Genocide Apologists and Just War Interpreters that God actively desired to punish Canaanite society in toto and to expulse them from—or vomit them out of—the land. On the view of the Genocide Apologists and Just War Interpreters, God did so by commanding the Israelites to invade the land, violently slaughtering and driving out the civilian population as they advanced through the territory. On Boyd’s view, he did so by allowing the Israelites to believe he had commanded them to invade the land, violently slaughtering and driving out the civilian population as they advanced through the territory. To be blunt, I simply don’t see a sufficient difference here. Thus, while Boyd goes quite far in addressing the problem of divine violence, in my view, he does not go far enough.[17]

Having summarized these two authors’ methods and conclusions, we proceed on to the main question that concerns us: Is their approach truly Christocentric? Or have they created a Christ in their own image, and projected this onto Scripture? To answer this, we must look at key Scriptural evidence concerning Jesus’ relation to the OT, and see where they lead us.

Jesus and the Law

The first step in developing a properly Christocentric view of the OT would be to answer the question, “What did Jesus think of the Old Testament?” In order to do this, we must first look at Gospel texts where He quotes from or alludes to the OT, and look discern Jesus’ Bibliology from these.

Perhaps the most important text for our understanding of Jesus’ view of the OT is Matthew 5:17-20 (and its parallel in Luke 16:16-17). Here, Jesus teaches:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.[18]

Throughout history, various traditions have emerged around this text, seeking to solve the question of what this entails for the continuity of Old Testament law in the New Testament. These traditions range from those that emphasize maximum continuity between the Testaments (e.g. Theonomy and Adventism) to those that emphasize maximum discontinuity (e.g. Dispensationalism). What all of these traditions hold in common, however, is that they hold that Jesus here is upholding the divine origin of the Jewish Scriptures. Perhaps there were some Jews who thought that when the Messiah comes, He would abolish the Torah. Here, Jesus is declaring that to be a misconception, and lays it to rest.

Also important for our understanding is the fact that Jesus’ mission involves “fulfilling” them (Gk. πληρῶσαι). This is a multifaceted verb as Catholic biblical scholar Donald Senior rightly points out in his commentary on Matthew:

Used in reference to the Jewish law, the term plēroо̄ can have the meaning of “keeping” the law, underscoring Jesus’ obedience. However, when this same verb is used by Matthew to introduce an Old Testament citation, as in the fulfillment quotations, it takes on a “prophetic” nuance. Thus the connotation in verse 17 would be that Jesus has not come to invalidate the law and the prophets but to bring them to their intended purpose. Matthew seems to use the word here in this more comprehensive sense. The words and actions of Jesus the Messiah are not only completely in accord with the law but reveal its God-given intent and bring its purpose to completion.[19]

Protestant scholar D.A. Carson agrees with this understanding in his commentary on the same passage:

As in Luke 16:16–17, Jesus is not announcing the termination of the OT’s relevance and authority (else Lk 16:17 would be incomprehensible), but that “the period during which men were related to God under its terms ceased with John”; and the nature of its valid continuity is established only with reference to Jesus and the kingdom. . . . . Of course, if Jesus fulfills the law and the prophets in this eschatological sense, such fulfillment brings with it both continuity and discontinuity. The authority of the older revelation is not called into question, but its continuing power lies not in unchanging legal prescription but in that to which it points, its fulfillment.[20]

Errantists might at this point retort that their views are in conformity with these observations, since they assert that it is precisely by revealing the flaws in the divine portrayals in the OT that Jesus fulfills them. In fact, Boyd spends a good amount of time trying to argue that this is precisely what the fulfillment passages mean.[21] However, notice that nowhere does Jesus say that this is what He means by fulfilling the OT. Rather than attempting to engage in exegesis to discern what Jesus means by fulfilling the Law and the Prophets, these authors are taking their preconceptions of what fulfillment means and reading it into the text (i.e. eisegesis).

With regards to the following verses (Matthew 5:21-48) Boyd argues that Jesus is contradicting some of the OT laws,[22] yet such a conclusion goes far beyond the evidence, since many commentators have noted that Jesus’ exposition of the Law never denies their divine origin,[23] and that when Jesus gives a new command, it harmonizes with the spirit of the Law, thereby affirming their intent, if not their precise application.[24] Furthermore, he misses the point that Jesus never criticizes these laws or denies that God commanded them, and no exegete has ever ventured to suggest that this is what He is doing.

Furthermore, when we see Jesus use Scripture, we never see Him criticizing it or saying that its portrayal of God is somehow less than ideal. He may call His opponents out on their misuse of the OT, but He never lays the fault on the OT itself. For example, in the wilderness temptations (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13), Jesus appeals to the Scriptures three times. Once, Satan tries to argue back by quoting Psalm 91:11-12), but Jesus responds to this with a quotation of His own, thereby exposing Satan’s argument as quoting Scripture out of context. Furthermore, He masterfully uses the OT many times to refute the arguments of his interlocutors. At one point, He goes so far as to say that “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). This is certainly not the attitude of someone who thinks the OT’s theology is substandard or deficient.

Finally, if we take this Errantist interpretation, it actually undermines Jesus’ mission, since fulfilling the OT involves acquiescing to its legal prescriptions, hence why He had to be “born under the law” (Galatians 4:4), as well as bringing the redemptive story arcs contained in the OT to their climax. Yet, the divine portrayals that Errantists wish to distance themselves from are an integral part of these OT laws and story arcs. We see this from how Jesus regards the major characters of the OT, as well as how he co-opts OT imagery in His own self-portrayals. This will become clear as we proceed further with our study.

Jesus Praises His Forefathers

One other factor that needs to be taken into consideration is how Jesus approaches the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus refers to Abraham, Moses, David, and many other Biblical protagonists. In so doing, He affirms that they all walked with God, and were guided by the Holy Spirit. He never criticizes their portrayal of God or suggests that they misunderstood Him. In fact, as we shall see, Jesus’ description of them shows that they knew God better than anyone else, including those He is speaking to.

A few examples are worth noting. In John 8:39-59, Jesus argues with the Jews over who the true children of Abraham are. At one point, the Jews accuse Jesus of setting Himself up over Abraham, saying: “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be?” (v. 53). Rather than put Abraham down, Jesus argues that He has a closer relationship with Abraham than anyone else alive that day. He replies to them: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad” (v. 56).

Various commentators note that in contemporary Jewish traditions, Abraham was given a vision of the future of Israel, which included the coming of the Messiah.[25] Another suggestion is that this passage is a reference to the binding of Isaac in Genesis 22. As the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible puts it: “When Abraham nearly sacrifices Isaac as a holocaust, only to receive him back alive, the patriarch witnessed a preview of the Father surrendering his Son to death and receiving him back in the Resurrection (Heb 11:17–19).”[26] If we accept this view, this means that Jesus is directly approving of the Binding episode. However, regardless of which interpretation we take, it is clear that Jesus is placing Himself inside Abraham’s story,[27] indicating that He is quite comfortable with it, and does not see it as problematic at all.

Another noteworthy example is the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8). Here, we see Jesus conversing with both Moses and Elijah. The significance of these two figures should not be missed. Moses was the giver of the Law, and Elijah was the archetype of the prophets. As Senior points out, “the phrase ‘Moses and Elijah—equivalent to the ‘law and the prophets’—harmonizes with Matthew’s way of referring to the Scriptures (5:12; 7:12; 11:13; 2:40). From Matthew’s perspective the full sweep of salvation history is in view: Moses, Elijah, and the eschatological fulfillment of the Scriptures in Jesus (see especially 5:17).”[28] Jesus, by appearing next to the two figures, affirms their authority, and shows that His mission is in continuity with them. He does not, as Boyd brazenly insinuates, suggest that they might not be considered children of the Father.[29]

Now, read these passages again in light of the charges made by Errantists against these OT patriarchs and prophets. Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac is a major point of criticism by both Boyd and Rauser, as well as Moses’ slaughtering of the Midianites, and Elijah’s slaughtering of the priests of Baal. If the Errantist position is to be accepted, these people are guilty of the worst crimes against humanity. Yet this never comes up in any of Jesus’ mentions of, or interactions with them. Was Jesus simply unwilling to criticize them for their flawed portrayals of God? More likely, Jesus did not criticize them simply because He saw nothing to be critical about. These men walked with God, and Jesus’ words and actions are an affirmation of that.

Jesus and the Chosen People

Next, we must situate Jesus’ mission against the backdrop of Jewish nationalism. While going through Jesus Loves Canaanites, I noticed that, while Rauser talks a lot about Jesus, he doesn’t spend a whole lot of time exegeting any of the Jesus stories in the Gospels (drive-by prooftexting notwithstanding). There are two episodes that he does latch onto, however. The first is the parable of Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. Rauser begins his book with a modified version of this story,[30] and argues for what he calls the “Good Samaritan Intuition,” which he describes as “it is intrinsically wrong to allow heinous evil to occur if you could have prevented it.”[31] Later on, he concludes that the lesson of the parable is, “if you want to be like Jesus and find his Kingdom, then you must love others the way that man loved his injured neighbor, and remember that means loving people from the outgroup, from your equivalent of the Samaritans, as readily as you love anyone else.”[32]

The second story that he focuses on is Jesus’ encounter with the Phoenician (i.e. Canaanite) woman in Matthew 15:21-28. According to Rauser, Jesus’ actions here have greater significance than most exegetes are willing to admit. For him, Jesus is effectively reversing the condemnation of the Canaanites in the Old Testament:

So here is the question. Is Jesus signaling a change in policy where Canaanites are concerned? They needed to be slaughtered in the past, but they’ve since improved sufficiently that at long last at least some of them may be fitting subjects for healing. Or, more radically, is Jesus signaling that particular attitudes about Canaanites and their collective irredeemability were wrong all along? To put it another way, is Jesus ennobling this particular Canaanite woman? Or is he ennobling an entire people, a people that, like the Samaritans, had long been despised and mistrusted?[33]

He then concludes the chapter by suggesting that the real purpose of the story is to show that Jesus loved the Canaanites all along (hence the title of the book). He writes:

The lesson is not simply that the Canaanites can, at long last, be included as part of God’s plan. Rather, I would submit the real revelation is that the Canaanites have always been a people who were part of God’s benevolent care. The lesson is that Jesus truly loves all people: Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, and yes, Canaanites too. So perhaps the next question is this: who are the Canaanites in our time and place? And how can we begin to read from the margins with them?[34]

Similarly, Boyd argues that Jesus’ actions in this story represent a reversal of Joshua’s actions in the OT. He reverses the extermination, and shows that it was never part of God’s will:

It confirms, once again, that Jesus placed his authority over that of the OT. Indeed, this episode suggests that Joshua, like Elijah and other violent heroes in the OT, would not have met Jesus’s precondition for being considered “a child of the Father.” And if we consider Jesus to be the embodiment of God’s true character and will, then Jesus’s subversion of the “show no mercy” command implies that this command did not actually express either God’s true character or God’s true will.[35]

The problem with this use of these two passages, however, is that he divorces them from the larger context against which they are situated. While Jesus is no doubt pushing back against Jewish nationalism in these texts, He is not thereby contradicting the OT. In fact, Jesus is here latching onto themes that have deep OT roots. Recall that, from the first moment in which God called Abraham to be the father of a new nation, He intended the creation of the nation of Israel to be for the end goal of blessing everyone on earth. As Genesis 12:1-3 puts it:

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that, by calling Abraham and promising him descendants, God is paving the way for Jesus to come into the world. In its words:

Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit. In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself, in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit … [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”[36]

The significance of this passage should not be understated. If Genesis 12:1-3 truly gives us God’s words to Abraham, then we must believe that everything that happens in Israel’s history thereafter is a fulfillment of God’s plans to bless all the families of the earth, even if it doesn’t look like it from our perspective. This includes all those dark and troubling episodes which Errantists wish to distance God from. After all, if God had not miraculously intervened to save Israel from Egypt, and afterwards give them the land of Canaan to dwell in, God’s divine purposes would have been thwarted, and the Messiah would not have come into this world to bless all nations.

Even the Mosaic Law, which Errantists criticize for its seemingly barbaric commands, must be seen in this light. Rather than reflecting an imperfect view of God, the Mosaic Law must be seen as the means by which God exposes human sinfulness, so that their need for Jesus as Saviour may be revealed. The Catechism teaches us how to view the Law and Israel’s subsequent failure to keep it as pointing towards Jesus:

This divine pedagogy appears especially in the gift of the Law. God gave the Law as a “pedagogue” to lead his people towards Christ. But the Law’s powerlessness to save man deprived of the divine “likeness,” along with the growing awareness of sin that it imparts, enkindles a desire for the Holy Spirit. The lamentations of the Psalms bear witness to this.

The Law, the sign of God’s promise and covenant, ought to have governed the hearts and institutions of that people to whom Abraham’s faith gave birth. “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, … you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” But after David, Israel gave in to the temptation of becoming a kingdom like other nations. The Kingdom, however, the object of the promise made to David, would be the work of the Holy Spirit; it would belong to the poor according to the Spirit.

The forgetting of the Law and the infidelity to the covenant end in death: it is the Exile, apparently the failure of the promises, which is in fact the mysterious fidelity of the Savior God and the beginning of a promised restoration, but according to the Spirit. The People of God had to suffer this purification. In God’s plan, the Exile already stands in the shadow of the Cross, and the Remnant of the poor that returns from the Exile is one of the most transparent prefigurations of the Church.[37]

Now, it is true that later on in the OT, God through His prophets pushes back against the Jewish nationalism that had developed among His people. However, this should not be misinterpreted. These prophets never deny that God chose Israel as His to fulfill His own special plans, nor that Israelite history is also a history of God’s intervention in the world to bring these plans about. What they are denying, however, is the mistaken notion that God’s election of Israel was an end in itself, rather than for the purpose of blessing the whole world. We see this in the book of Jonah, where God calls Jonah to preach repentance to Nineveh, and rebukes him when it is revealed that Jonah’s reluctance to obey God has to do with his refusal to see them be saved. We also see this in a number of texts, which simultaneously uphold the special status of Israel, and teach that Israel’s election is for the blessing of all nations:

On the holy mount stands the city he founded;

the Lord loves the gates of Zion

more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.

Glorious things are spoken of you,

O city of God.

Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;

behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia—

“This one was born there,” they say.

And of Zion it shall be said,

“This one and that one were born in her”;

for the Most High himself will establish her.

The Lord records as he registers the peoples,

“This one was born there.”

Singers and dancers alike say,

“All my springs are in you.” (Psalm 87)


It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the LORD

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be raised above the hills;

and all the nations shall flow to it,

and many peoples shall come, and say:

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob;

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

and shall decide for many peoples;

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:1-4)


And now the Lord says,

who formed me from the womb to be his servant,

to bring Jacob back to him,

and that Israel might be gathered to him,

for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord,

and my God has become my strength—

he says:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob

and to restore the preserved of Israel;

I will give you as a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:5-6)

Therefore, given the deep OT roots of Jesus’ divine mission, it would be undercutting Jesus’ mission if we were to relegate these to being flawed portraits of God. Errantists may object that their arguments do not pertain to these texts in particular, but only the violent and morally problematic ones. However, such an objection misses the point. These passages which express God’s plans for His Messiah are intricately bound up with those other texts that Errantists find problematic. Therefore, to criticize one part of the text is to criticize the whole. Or, to put it another way, you can’t put a hole in one part of the ship without sinking the whole ship!

Also, the texts cited above undercut the assertion, made by Boyd, that by affirming those strands of the OT that have a universal focus, Jesus is repudiating those other strands that present a more nationalistic picture. He argues:

By inaugurating this transnational kingdom, Jesus fulfilled that strand of the OT that taught that Israel was raised up by Yahweh for the purpose of blessing the nations, most profoundly by being used to reconcile these nations to God (e.g., Gen 12:1–3; Isa 2:2–4, 5:26). Yet, by fulfilling Israel’s call to bless all nations while revealing a God who loves indiscriminately, Jesus was setting aside the strand of the OT that depicts Yahweh as a nationalistic deity whose favor toward his people is expressed in his use of violence on their behalf. And this again presumes that Jesus possessed an authority that allowed him to repudiate foundational aspects of the OT when he deemed it necessary.[38]

The flaw in this argument is that it is impossible to separate the national from the universal in the OT texts. The very same passages that teach that God intends to bless the nations also teach that God showed a special favour towards Israel and chose them to fulfill His plans. Thus, Boyd’s reading of the OT passages he cites as universalistic prove to be myopic.

Going back to the Gospels, we see a progression from an Israel-centric ministry to a global one throughout the course of Jesus’ career. Early on, Jesus expresses the primacy of Israel in God’s plans when He tells the Samaritan woman: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:23). We also read that Jesus initially commanded His disciples to preach the Gospel to the Jews only. In sending them out, He instructs them: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6). However, towards the very end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He gives them completely different marching orders: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Matthew 28:19, Acts 1:8). Jesus did not change His mind when giving them these orders, for it was always God’s plan for the Gospel to go out to all the world. It was simply not yet time.

Against the backdrop of this progression, we can make better sense of both the parable of the Good Samaritan, as well as Jesus’ encounter with the Phoenician woman. In the former, we are being taught that God has His people among all nations, and that they will be known not from their ethnicity, but from their righteousness. In the latter, we see how, although Jesus is not yet ready to bring about the blessing of the nations, He imparts a blessing to the woman as a firstfruit of that eventual global harvest that He planned to bring about. In so doing, He is undercutting that type of Jewish nationalism which sees Israel as an end in itself.

The point should not be lost on us that we must read Jesus’ words and actions in these texts in continuity with Israel’s story in the OT, not in discontinuity with it. Yes, Jesus eventually blesses all nations, including the Canaanites, but that to happen, everything that happened in Israel’s history had to happen first. This includes those troubling stories such as the Conquest.

Jesus’ Violence

Another problem with the Errantist approach which exposes its selective appeal to Jesus is that it ignores the fact that Jesus Himself uses what may be considered violent words and actions. According to the Errantist thesis, the violence of the OT is evidence that they present a flawed portrayal of divinity. However, it is quite telling that not only does Jesus never sees this violence as evidence of deficiency, He often speaks and acts violently Himself, if we define violence the way Errantists do.

We see Jesus’ use of violent rhetoric, for example, in the many ways that he rebukes those who oppose Him or cause others to stumble. He refers to the Scribes and Pharisees as a “brood of Vipers” (Matthew 12:23, 23:33) and “sons of Hell (Matthew 23:14), among other colourful language. He further declares of those who cause little children to stumble that “it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Curiously, Rauser cites the Millstone passage, but doesn’t dwell on it,[39] which is a glaring omission given how it doesn’t fit well with his “Jesus Principle.”

Not only that, but Jesus also doesn’t shy away from using violent imagery in His parables. For example, in the parable of the Tenants, where the landowner (representing God) punishes the tenants who murdered his son by killing them (Mark 12:9). A stronger example is the Parable of the Minas. After describing what happens to the man who misuses his mina, the nobleman (representing Jesus) gives the following command: “But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.” (Luke 19:27). This forecasts for us that, in the endtimes, Jesus Himself will engage in divine violence (see below for an elaboration of this point). Perhaps the most instructive example for us, however, is the parable of the Wedding Banquet, where the king (representing God) responds to those who kill his messengers by sending his army to destroy the murderers and burn down their city (Matthew 22:6-7). Readers cannot help but notice how close the language is to the war texts in the OT. This certainly cannot be coincidental.

Finally, we move from violent rhetoric to violent actions. The first example of note is when Jesus curses the fig tree, where Jesus pronounces destruction upon the tree for not bearing figs (Matthew 21:18-22, Mark 11:12-14, 20-25). We read that the purpose behind this story is so that Jesus can use this as an object lesson to demonstrate the power of faith. Boyd, feeling the impact of this passage, tries to defuse it by pointing to Jesus’ use of the cursing of the tree as an object lesson to show that this wasn’t a petty fit.[40] Fair enough, but the fact that Jesus uses this as an object lesson doesn’t change the fact that it was nevertheless an imprecatory act.

And then, we have the cleansing of the Temple, where Jesus overturns the tables and drives out the moneychangers and dove sellers with a whip (John 2:13-17). Some may wish to quibble over whether or not Jesus actually harmed anyone physically, but this is missing the point. This story often shocks readers of Scripture, because it contradicts the gentle and mild image of Jesus we are accustomed to. The quotation of Psalm 69:9 is significant here, as it teaches us that Jesus regarded zeal for God’s holiness as an appropriate motivation for engaging in this act of violence.

Clearly, if we are to castigate the OT characters for violent words and actions, we must inevitably castigate Jesus for the same. However, Errantists would never venture to go this far, which is Special Pleading, and shows the selectiveness in their application of their own criteria.

Jesus the Conquering King

This brings us to the final line of evidence exposing the Errantists’ Selective Christocentrism, and that is the Biblical image of the Messiah as a conquering king. To begin with, we must note that in the OT, two pictures of the Messiah emerge. The first one, which most Christians are very familiar with, is the picture of the Messiah as a suffering servant. We see this in Psalm 22, as well as in the servant songs in Isaiah. This image is very prominent in the NT, since it forms the backdrop for Jesus’ death by Crucifixion. Indeed, we see Isaiah 53 quoted in the NT more than any other passage of the OT, showing just how important this image of the Messiah is for informing Jesus’ mission.

Besides this, there is a second picture of the Messiah, however, and that is the picture of the Messiah as a conquering king. We see this, or example in Isaiah 9:6-7. We are accustomed to translating the title El-Gibbor (גִּבּ֔וֹר) as “Mighty God.” However, there is another shade of meaning to this title, as Hebrew words with the g-b-r root often have connotations of warriorhood. As the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes: “The Hebrew root is commonly associated with warfare and has to do with the strength and vitality of the successful warrior.”[41] In fact, there is a direct connection here with the warriorhood of God and the warriorhood of the Messiah, as is further explained:

God is the true prototype of the mighty man, and if an earthly warrior’s deeds are recounted, how much more should God’s be. Thus the psalmists recount God’s mighty acts (106:8; 145:4, 11, 12; etc.) and in various places those attributes which a warrior-king might be expected to possess—wisdom, might, counsel and understanding—are attributed par excellence to God (Job 12:13; Prov 8:14). Isaiah (9:6; cf. 10:21) indicates that these will be the attributes of the Coming King, whose name is the Mighty God as well as the Prince of Peace, but he also makes it plain that justice and righteousness will accompany his might (cf. Ps 89:13–14).[42]

The Psalms also present the Messiah as a conquering king. There, we read that God will install His anointed one as King, and expects the nations to obey Him or perish:

Why do the nations conspire

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the LORD and his anointed, saying,

“Let us burst their bonds asunder,

and cast their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;

the LORD has them in derision.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

and terrify them in his fury, saying,

“I have set my king

on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will tell of the decree of the LORD:

He said to me, “You are my son,

today I have begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

and the ends of the earth your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron,

and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;

be warned, O rulers of the earth.

Serve the LORD with fear,

with trembling rejoice,

lest he be angry, and you perish in the way;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2)


The LORD says to my Lord:

“Sit at my right hand,

till I make your enemies your footstool.”

The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.

Rule in the midst of your foes!

Yours is dominion

on the day you lead your host in holy splendor.

From the womb of the morning

I begot you.

The LORD has sworn

and will not change his mind,

“You are a priest for ever

according to the order of Melchizedek.”

The LORD is at your right hand;

he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.

He will execute judgment among the nations,

filling them with corpses;

he will shatter chiefs

over the wide earth.

He will drink from the brook by the way;

therefore he will lift up his head. (Psalm 110)

One of the common misconceptions regarding these images of the Messiah is that Jesus renounced these Messianic portraits and declared them to be false. We are told, for example, that Jesus did not want to be King because when the Jews tried to force Him to be king, he went away from them (John 6:15). However, this text is not a renunciation of His kingship, but merely of a worldly notion of kingship wherein Israel’s special status is divorced from God’s divine mission. Boyd rightly points this out when he says, “Jesus never endorsed people’s expectations of a nation-restoring messiah.”[43] Elsewhere, we see that Jesus affirms that He is indeed a king, just not in the manner of worldly kings. As He teaches in John 18:36-37: “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.”

It should be noted that Boyd argues that the point this passage is that Jesus’ followers will be characterized by non-violence.[44] However, this is missing the point. The point isn’t that Jesus’ followers will not rescue Him because they are committed to non-violence. Rather, they will not rescue Him because His death is a necessary part of the inauguration of God’s Kingdom (as Boyd recognizes elsewhere),[45] and therefore they must not interfere to prevent it. Also, as we shall see shortly, Jesus, far from advocating total non-violence, will someday take up the sword Himself in order to bring about the final consummation of the Kingdom.

Elsewhere, we see Jesus fully embracing the conquering King motif in His self-description. We already saw in Jesus’ parables how He uses these kingly motifs to represent Himself. When Jesus gave these parables, He doubtless had the imagery of Psalm 2 in mind, along with its attendant threat to bring destruction upon those who reject His kingship. Furthermore, we see Jesus quoting approvingly of Psalm 110 (Mark 12:35-37, Luke 20:41-44). We see from this that He does not shy away from this Psalm as a true depiction of what the Messiah should be like. Jesus is not renouncing the kingly motif. He is merely postponing its full realization.

Perhaps the clearest embrace of this motif, however, is found in the book of Revelation. Curiously, Boyd interprets Revelation as supporting his non-violent interpretation of Jesus, arguing that the book, St. John “masterfully subverts the violence of the OT imagery he uses,”[46] and presents a vision of the Lamb of God that “wages war not by shedding the blood of others, but by shedding his own blood on behalf of others.”[47] And yet, when we read the book in its entirety, nothing could be further from the Truth. In Revelation, God unleashes divine violence in much greater ferocity than He ever did in any book of the OT. Most significantly for our purposes, towards the end of the Tribulation, Jesus is shown returning to the earth at the head of an army, armed with sword and rod and ready to make war against those who’ve rejected His kingship. We read:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to strike the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone. And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11-21)

Here, we see Jesus engaging in the ultimate act of divine violence, by taking part in the last great battle before the end of time, and right before He judges everyone, and condemns those who have rejected Him to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).[48] Thus, the image of the Warrior God that was allegedly cast off by the NT comes back with a vengeance. This shows the greatest problem with the Errantist thesis, for it proposes that we must renounce the image of the Warrior God in the name of a Christocentric hermeneutic, yet we see Christ portrayed as the Warrior God par excellence. It would seem that, if we follow the arguments to their logical conclusions, we would be forced to renounce Christ Himself!


Is Old Testament Errancy Marcionite?

To close this discussion, I would like to shift gears a little bit, and make a brief note of the history of the heresy of Marcionism, and whether the Marcionite charge applies to the adherents of the Errantist approach.

Briefly described, Marcion was a second century heretic who rejected the inspiration of the OT, and taught that the God of the OT was not the one true God, but an imperfect demiurge. Interestingly, Marcion arrived at his conclusions by introducing a “Love Principle” of his own. By subjecting the OT to his Love Principle, he came to regard their divine portrayals as deficient, as noted in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church:

Marcion’s central thesis was that the Christian Gospel was wholly a Gospel of Love to the absolute exclusion of Law. This doctrine, which he expounded esp. in his ‘Antitheses’, led him to reject the OT completely. The Creator God or Demiurge, revealed in the OT from Gen. I onwards as wholly a God of Law, had nothing in common with the God of Jesus Christ. Study of the OT indicated that this Jewish God constantly involved himself in contradictory courses of action, that he was fickle, capricious, ignorant, despotic, cruel. Utterly different was the Supreme God of Love whom Jesus came to reveal. It was His purpose to overthrow the Demiurge.[49]

Marcion had a problem however: Many of the books that would later form the NT consistently affirmed the divine portraits of OT. Because of this, he rejected most of those books, and only accepted the Gospel of Luke and ten of St. Paul’s epistles. Not only that, but he made sure to edit the books he did accept, since traces of OT affirmation yet remained within them. Thus, Marcion became the first Selective Christocentrist in church history, and by far the most radically consistent in his methods.

It would appear, based on the parallels between Marcionism and the approach that has been critiqued throughout this article, that we may charge the Errantist approach of a kind of Neo-Marcionism. This is a charge which Errantists would never accept. For example, Rauser is quite adamant that his view is not Marcionite. In his book, he rejects this charge, and accuses those who attempt to level at him of poisoning the well, and arguing that his approach cannot be likened to Marcion’s because he affirms the inspiration of all of Scripture:

Today, it is common to find Christians denouncing fellow Christians like myself who question established readings of biblical violence as “Marcionites.” That charge is simply inappropriate polemic run amok, a bald case of attempting to poison the well: Christians like myself are not rejecting the Old Testament at all, but simply seeking an alternative reading of violent texts within the total canon. And that is indeed the point: I affirm the critical importance of accepting the entire canon as plenarily inspired and I remain committed always to read each part in light of the whole.[50]

And yet, as I have argued throughout this article, the Errantist approach championed by Boyd and Rauser does precisely what Marcion did: By selectively editing their portrait of Jesus to only include those elements which comport with their worldview. We can go further, and argue that when Boyd reinterprets acts of God in the OT as instances of demonic activity (as in the case with the Ark, see above), he is positing another form of Demiurge. The only appreciable difference, as I see it, is that Marcion was more honest and consistent in his approach and the conclusions it leads to. He did not attempt to find some sort of pretext for keeping the OT as some sort of inspired foil against which God hopes to present a better way down the road. Instead, he took the argument that the OT divine portraits are unworthy of God to its logical conclusion, which is to de-canonize the OT altogether.

Furthermore, Marcion was also more consistent in his approach to the NT, and only canonized those parts of the NT which conformed to his preconceptions of what a “Christocentric” approach to theology should look like. Although the Errantists do not directly criticize the NT, their sidelining of key NT passages that relate to the OT do appear to be a softer form of the same tendency. This highlights a critique by Cornell in his review of Cross Vision. He notes that any theological critique of the OT will inevitably lead to a similar critique of the NT as well:

Boyd’s proposal also casts a shadow over God’s faithfulness to New Testament promises. The fires of theological criticism, once kindled, will hardly stay contained to one testament. Boyd realizes this. He writes: “Since we are dependent on the NT for our knowledge of God’s definitive revelation in the crucified Christ . . . one [might] question how we can be assured that God did not have to accommodate aspects of the NT authors’ fallen and culturally conditioned worldview.” In fact Boy admits in principle that God could have made such accommodations: perhaps the New Testament, too, falls into theological error, which God endures with Christlike silence. But Boyd does not in actuality think that this occurred, and he apologizes vigorously for New Testament texts that appear to promote chauvinism or violence.

These defenses have a rearguard, ad hoc quality. I say, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander: theological criticism cannot be set loose on one testament and muzzled for the other. Rather we must acknowledge that in whatever ways the Old Testament is caught up in human fallenness and cultural specificity, the New Testament is also. At the same time, I would urge that both testaments are trustworthy in that which counts the most: each in its own distinctive voice testifies to the same living God. True, the New Testament preaches Christ by name while the Old does not. But the Old knows God no less – and is no less capable of nurturing trust and spiritual vitality.[51]

In conclusion, the Errantist approach espoused by Boyd, Rauser, and others like them betrays a Selective Christocentrism, wherein elements of Jesus’ life and teaching are highlighted, while others are downplayed or outright ignored. This betrays several fundamental flaws in their approach, namely, that they do not present a truly Christocentric approach to reading the Bible, and that methodologies, if applied consistently, would lead to the conclusion that Jesus Himself gives us a deficient portrait of God. Such a conclusion is unacceptable to anyone who wishes to call themselves Christian and have that appellation still be meaningful, but I see no other way out of this conundrum, other than to reject this approach and admit that, in order to embrace Christ, we must embrace all those parts of Scripture which Christ affirms, even if they strike us as ugly or troublesome. After all, as Jesus said, Scripture cannot be broken.

Excursus: Why Catholics Should Care About This Debate

One question that someone might ask me is “Why would a Catholic apologist care about this issue? After all, no Catholic theologian or apologist of note promotes this approach, so it is largely a Protestant in-house debate.”

I have three answers to this question. First, just because these ideas have not yet penetrated Catholic circles doesn’t mean someone in Catholic circles might not be tempted to adopt them in the future. Like the Coronavirus, ideas such as the ones being examined in this article can be quite infectious, and are not easily contained within just one theological tradition. Think of this article as a form of theological quarantine, to break the transmission of these ideas lest more people are tempted to adopt them.

Second, this analysis is a good teaching moment to look at what sorts of approaches are being adopted in theological and apologetics circles in the broader world of Christian academia, as well as how to think about them from a Catholic worldview. It is particularly useful for showing what sorts of ideas are and are not compatible with our view of inerrancy. As I have argued elsewhere,[52] the traditional Catholic viewpoint is that Scripture is fully inerrant, and that inerrancy cannot be limited to matters of faith and morals. However, even if we were, for the sake of argument, to adopt a “Partial Inerrancy” position, we would still have to rule out this approach because, as Cornell noted in his review above, it requires us to posit that the OT is errant even on matters of faith and morals. Once one adopts such a position, I do not see how one can be said to hold to inerrancy in any meaningful sense.

Finally, I believe that, as a Christian apologist, I believe that the principle “Iron sharpens Iron” applies across denominational boundaries, as far as defending the Christian faith is concerned (by this, I mean those beliefs that all Christians hold in common regardless of denomination or tradition). I have many friends and colleagues who do apologetics and are non-Catholic, with whom I regularly exchange new ideas and information with, and analyses such as these are useful for sharpening our collective knowledge of the relevant issues and challenges facing us.

In short, there are many reasons why Catholics should be involved in this debate, and I hope that this little contribution will help to show what direction such involvement could take.


[1] Randal Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites: Biblical Genocide in the Light of Moral Intuition (2 Cup Press, 2021), 238-268.

[2] Gregory A. Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Old Testament’s Violent Portraits of God in Light of the Cross, 2 vols., (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017), xxviii-xxix.

[3] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 15-16. As we shall see later, Boyd reads non-violence into the text of Scripture even when Scripture at face value seems to be saying the exact opposite. Although it is not directly stated, we can infer that this is his Anabaptist lenses at work.

[4] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 660-673, esp. 670. In its place, he holds to Open Theism, which he defends in his other books. See God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000).

[5] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, xxx.

[6] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, xxxii.

[7] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, xxx.

[8] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 1248.

[9] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 739.

[10] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 1241.

[11] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 1242.

[12] Colin Cornell, “A Testament of Violence?,” Christian Century, November 8, 2017, 32-33. Emphasis mine.

[13] Cornell, “A Testament of Violence?,” 33.

[14] Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites, 13.

[15] Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites, 119-146.

[16] Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites, 139.

[17] Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites, 263-264.

[18] Unless otherwise stated, all scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version: Second Catholic Edition.

[19] Donald Senior, Matthew, Abingdon New Testament Commentaries (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998), 74-75.

[20] D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 175, in-text citations omitted.

[21] See Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 43-46, 75-78, 95-98, among others.

[22] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 75-78.

[23] One of the subtle tricks that Errantists use to argue their point is to go from saying that the OT Laws are provisional, to saying that they are merely human. This is a non-sequitur. A law can be provisional and temporary and still be given by God.

[24] See, e.g., Carson, “Matthew,” 180-196. For a more concise treatment, see Senior, Matthew, 76-82.

[25] Colin G. Kruse, John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003), 215. See also Robert H. Mounce, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 486–487.

[26] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 179.

[27] This is not the only place where Jesus enters OT stories. For example, 1 Corinthians 10:4 affirms that Jesus was the Rock which gave the Israelites water in the wilderness. Likewise, Jude 4-5 identifies Jesus as the God who led Israel out of Egypt (with all that entails, including the plagues and drowning Egyptians in the Red Sea), and subsequently destroyed those Israelites who disobeyed Him. It seems that the NT authors had no problem identifying the “vengeful tribal god” of the OT with Christ.

[28] Senior, Matthew, 196.

[29] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 80-82.

[30] Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites, 7.

[31] Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites, 74.

[32] Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites, 144.

[33] Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites, 267.

[34] Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites, 267-268.

[35] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 83.

[36] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §706.

[37] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§708-710.

[38] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 90-91.

[39] Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites, 54.

[40] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 564-565.

[41] John N. Oswalt, “310 גָּבַר,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 148.

[42] Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 148.

[43] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 545. What Boyd gets wrong, however, is his assertion that Jesus is downplaying the Israelites’ status as chosen people (545-546). As we have already seen, Jesus takes the election of Israel for granted in His understanding of His own mission.

[44] Boyd, Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 89.

[45] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 179.

[46] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 200.

[47] Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 201.

[48] Rauser attempts a weak justification for the violent imagery of the book of Revelation. He states: “As disturbing as these nightmarish images of rhetorical and eschatological violence may be, one can at least appeal to the fact that such language in the Psalms and Revelation is heavy with symbol.” (Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites, 11). However, this simply will not do as an explanation. First of all, rhetorical violence is still violence, since it evokes the same response from the reader as the Old Testament passages Errantists criticize. Second, the final battle described in Revelation 19 is no mere symbol, but a forecast of a very real battle that will happen in the future.

[49] F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1040.

[50] Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites, 138. Curiously, Boyd also accuses Rauser of Neo-Marcionism, as Rauser notes with much annoyance in footnote 193. See also footnote 194, where he points to Marcion’s truncating of the Biblical canon as one of the chief areas of difference between Rauser’s approach and Marcion’s.

[51] Cornell, “A Testament of Violence?,” Cornell, 36. For a good example of Boyd applying double standards in his exegesis of OT and NT texts, I can think of no better example than the appendix to vol. 1 where he discusses the violent imagery of the book of Revelation (Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, 593-628). If Boyd had applied the same hermeneutic that he uses for Revelation in his exegesis of OT texts, then he wouldn’t have to resort to the Errantist hermeneutic that he applies to them to begin with.

[52] See my article, “Does the Catholic Church Teach ‘Partial Inerrancy’?,”

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