In preparation for my conference session next week, I came across this piece in the Journal of Religion, Conflict and Peace. Entitled, The Letter Killeth, it is essentially 'A Plea for Decanonizing Violent Biblical Texts'.
Given that we already are removing violent texts from various aspects of our lives, then I simply propose the next step: the principled decanonization of violent texts. That is to say, our omission cannot be passive, but rather one based on a resounding affirmation of a theological principle that will not tolerate any endorsement of violence in our scriptures.
I'm not actually sure that it's necessary to de-canonise the texts that we reject, but the piece makes some very interesting points.
Even a cursory glance at the history of biblical interpretation shows that violent biblical passages have been used to justify violence in every significant period of Christian history we can document. Despite her emphasis on the peaceful uses of the Bible, Lydia Harder, the feminist Mennonite theologian, admits the following concerning the Bible: “It has legitimized and justified oppressive institutions and practices.” The reason is simple: violent texts are present in the Bible.
Indeed, the same texts that were being cited to commit violence in pre-modern times are the same texts that are being used to commit violence today.
You can read the rest here.
Wouldn’t a more consistent theology of pacifism simply affirm outright that such commands cannot be part of God’s message? Violent passages deserve to be expurgated as much as any other part of our scriptural tradition that we have already omitted for other reasons. What is there to lose by this detoxification? Here we might even paraphrase Barry Goldwater’s famous dictum: To decanonize for the sake of peace is no vice, and moderation in our rejection of violent texts is no virtue.