Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can't Ignore the Bible's Violent Verses

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Philip Jenkins delivers a fearless examination of the dark and violent verses of the Bible—and a call for us to read them anew in pursuit of a richer, more honest faith. From “one of America’s best scholars of religion” (The Economist), this daring exploration of the Scripture’s most difficult passages forces us to confront and accept the violence that was as integral to the formulation of Christianity’s message as it was for many other of the world’s religions, and shows us how a full understanding of the Scripture will allow us to finally move towards a more peaceful, spiritual world. Readers of Bart Ehrman’s God’s Problem, John Selby Spong’s The Sins of Scripture, and Jenkins’s own The Jesus Wars, as well as every Christian eager to square the recurrent violence of the Scripture with Christianity’s enduring message of peace, will find these difficult questions explored in full in Laying Down the Sword.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
That the Bible contains texts commanding the wholesale slaughter of people is at the heart of this most recent book by the high-profile author of Jesus Wars and The Next Christendom. Jenkins, who holds a joint appointment at Penn State University and Baylor University, is a Christian who tackles the challenge of how believers might take seriously the Bible’s most explicitly violent texts without committing the atrocious acts they seem to promote. To get there, he discusses the history of the most problematic, genocidal texts, especially those in Deuteronomy and Joshua, as well as their history of use. This is the book’s main strength. His comparison of the Bible with the Qur’an on the issue of violence seems more apologetic (everybody’s got ugly texts) than instructive, though it may serve to correct modern assumptions that Islam is uniquely violent. Suggestions for how believers should acknowledge and discuss such texts include a review of methods of interpretation as well as parameters limiting the options. He finds no silver bullet, but Jenkins’s frank admission is itself disarming. (Oct.)
Thomas S. Kidd
“A provocative and timely comparison of the legacies of violence in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. With verve and sweeping insight, Jenkins challenges all of our stereotypical assumptions about religion, bloodshed, and terror.”
Patrick Allitt
“This book is a wonderful example of the kind of rigorous work Christians must do if they are to retain intellectual credibility.”
Tony Campolo
“Jenkins has outdone himself. This is by far the best piece of work he has ever done, dealing with one of the most controversial issues Christians struggle with day-in and day-out.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061990717
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/25/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Jenkins, the author of The Lost History of Christianity, Jesus Wars, and The Next Christendom, is the Distinguished Professor of History and a member of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He has published articles and op-ed pieces in The Wall Street Journal, New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe and has been a guest on top national radio shows across the country. He divides his time between Pennsylvania and Texas.

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Table of Contents

Definitions vii

Introduction: Motes and Beams 1

Part 1 Scripture as Problem

1 Everything That Breathes 29

2 Truth and History 49

3 Words of the Sword 73

Part 2 The Inheritance

4 Sons of Joshua 99

5 Warrant for Genocide 123

6 Amalekite Nightmares 143

Part 3 Truth and Reconciliation

7 Judging God 167

8 Coming to Terms 183

9 Historians and Prophets 209

10 Preaching the Unpreachable 227

11 Scripture Alone? 243

Acknowledgments 253

Notes 255

Index 297

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