The Old Testament often depicts a harsh and often unforgiving God. Is this depiction incompatible with the New Testament's depiction of a merciful and protective God who loved humanity enough to surrender his only son?
The God of Christianity is often perceived as the creator and protector of the universe. He is a righteous, merciful, omniscient and eternal god. This is the God of Sunday school educations and childhood prayers, yet the Old Testament portrays a very different God. The acclaimed aspects of modernity’s Christian God are often unrecognizable in the harsh and unforgiving YHWH of early Israel. Dr. Seibert, in his book Disturbing Divine Behavior: Troubling Old Testaments Images of God, explores accounts where God acts “unfairly, deceptively and even abusively” (p. 16). The Old Testament portrays a God who is a cruel condemner, an orchestrator of mass murder and an unjust oppressor, but He is the same God of the New Testament depicted in a different time and context. Throughout the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, God, with Moses as a mediator, lays down the laws for the nation of Israel to obey. The punishments for these laws speak to a retributive God, a God who goes far beyond the principles of Hammurabi’s ancient principle “an eye for an eye”. In Exodus, it is written; “whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death” (Exod 21:15) and “whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death” (Exod 21:17). Seibert describes these punishments as “disproportionate and morally questionable” (p. 17) where the crime ought not merit “such extreme and irreversible measures” (p. 19). Indeed, there is at first glance little similarity between a God who decrees this and a God who recognizes the inherent fallibility of humanity and forgives the sins of an adulteress (John 8:1-30). Cursing or striking one’s parents, while being a rude rejection of their personal sacrifices, does not deserve the death penalty even in Hammurabi’s twisted and vengeful “eye for an eye society”, yet it is the punishment allegedly decreed by God. One immediately questions how the kind and merciful God of today could in the past decree such a disproportionate punishment, but the circumstances of the time must be taken into account. These laws are received shortly after the great Exodus from Egypt. The nation of Israel has spent the past 430 years enslaved under the Egyptians (Exod 12:41), enslaved under a nation that that followed a different set of gods. Despite God’s recent efforts with the plagues and parting of the Red Sea, the Israelites still have 430 years worth of slavery to reconcile. God’s laws require authority, or rather encouragement for the Israelite’s to adhere to them. One might not believe in the legitimacy of the laws of God, but the threat of death makes one more inclined to follow the law regardless of personal beliefs. Although the punishments are extreme and portray an apathetic God, they are necessary for the unification of Israel under a single set of laws. God is also portrayed as little more than a mass murderer on several occasions. In my second year of CCD, I can remember a class play where we all dressed up as animals led two by two onto Noah’s ark. We disregarded the destruction that facilitated the need for the ark. In Genesis 3, God proclaims mass destruction of life on Earth, “I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die” (Gen 3:17). Genesis 3 is a story of “catastrophic death and destruction that, incidentally, results from a divine decree” (p. 20). God becomes exasperated with the corruption of humanity, “the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth” (Gen 3:6), and He turns to a cataclysmic flood to destroy life on earth save one family and a pair of every animal. This destruction is understandably glossed over in educating young children on the Bible. It is difficult to teach children patience and forgiveness when an exasperated God becomes a destroyer. This story, although perplexing for many, makes God appear more human. God too becomes frustrated and lashes out in anger, yet in the end, He learns from his mistake and promises to never again ravage the earth, “never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen 9:11). This does not mean that God ceases to call for destruction, but it is done in a different time, in a different context. God calls for similar destruction in Samuel 15 when He orders Saul to “go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (1Sam 15:3). As in Genesis 3, God orders the destruction of man and animal alike, but here the destruction is targeted at a specific ethnic group, the Amalekites. They are to be punished for “what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt” (1Sam 15:2), an offense that occurred over 300 years ago. The destruction may at first seem to parallel a violation of God’s covenant with Noah, but here the destruction serves a greater purpose than God’s exasperation and impatience. The Israelites were wronged by the Amalekites, and 300 years have passed without an offer of appeasement from the Amalekites. They have been given plenty of time to make up for their misdeeds; God cannot allow this injustice against his people to stand any longer. The wholesale destruction of child and beast is tragic, but in God’s eyes, He cannot afford the temptation of an outside culture to threaten Israel’s already wavering allegiance to both him and his law. In practice, the destruction of the Amalekites was not carried out, in fact Saul is severely reprimanded for this failure later on in Samuel 15. The order of destruction places outside cultures beneath the Israelites discouraging them from going astray and abandoning the one true God. Mass murder, or the idea of it, becomes the only way to insure the survival of the Israelite nation. The hardest portrayal of God to reconcile with modernity’s perception is that of God as an unjust oppressor. The Israelites great Exodus from Egypt occurs only after Pharaoh releases them, an action seemingly prolonged by God’s own hand. After the Egyptians suffer from a plague of boils, God prevents Pharaoh from listening to Moses’ pleas, “the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he would not listen to them”( Exod 9:12). As God has gone through great effort in convincing Moses to beseech Pharaoh to free his people, it is shocking to see God explicitly act against this. In hardening Pharaoh’s heart, God forces his people to continue suffering in the bonds of slavery and forces the Egyptian people to endure more and more plagues. “Hardening hearts seems counterproductive and uncharacteristic of how God typically behaves”, and it makes “God seem unjust and malicious” (p. 28). God unjustly and maliciously oppresses Pharaoh and consequently the Egyptian people and the Israelites. Similarly, God brings great trials and tribulations to his most faithful servant Job. Job is noticeably unique in his righteousness, “there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8). Instead of rewarding the righteousness of this most faithful man, God chooses to wager with the devil and allow everything to be stripped from Job. “In rapid succession, Job loses everything: his wealth, his property, his servants and all of his children”; “it is a tragedy of epic proportions” (p. 31). God allows Job to lose everything, becoming little more than an unjust oppressor. How can the just and righteous God of modernity be the same God who instigates Job’s affliction and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart? In the instance of Pharaoh, God must prove his power to the Egyptians, remember that the Israelites have been under their control for 430 years. A few magic tricks, the plagues that many of Pharaoh’s magicians themselves are able to imitate, will not convince the Egyptians of the awesome power of Israel’s God. God needs to escalate his works to wholly prove himself. Unfortunately, hardening Pharaoh’s heart is the method by which he chooses to do so. Forcing Pharaoh to be relentlessly stubborn is an unjust act, but it can be understood as a necessity of the times. The affliction of Job is harder to reconcile. It is disheartening to realize that one can spend one’s entire life faithful to God and all his works only to have everything stripped away in what might appear to be an unwarranted test. But the test is warranted, God needs to see if Job worships him solely because his life has been blessed with favors. If Job’s faith cannot withstand a turn of fortune, regardless of how dismal his new fortune may be, he does not have true faith in God. Unfortunately, the only way to fully test Job’s faith is through actions befitting those of an unjust oppressor. When Job passes his test without straying from his faith, “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21), God grants him a just reward; “and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). In returning twice as much as he took, God recognizes the wrong that He has done Job in doubting his faith and appears to beg forgiveness. The need to test faith and the recognition of the wrongfulness of God’s act allow one to reconcile the image of God as an unjust oppressor with modernity’s current portrayal. The Old Testament can be shocking in the darkness of the manner which it chooses to portray God. God is readily perceived as a cruel condemner, an orchestrator of mass murder and an unjust oppressor. Only by looking more closely at the historical context and the need for the preservation of culture and true faith is the God of the Old Testament reconciled with current portrayals. In order to cement a concrete faith with the nation of Israel, God resorted to drastic measures. Humanity’s current strength of faith in the Christian God would not exist without the decisions and actions of the Old Testament God.
Perform a close-reading of an excerpt from a piece of Victorian literature that demonstrates the author's desire or call for societal change.
“They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory Which is brighter than the sun. They know the grief of man, without its wisdom; They sink in man’s despair without it’s calm; Are slaves, without the liberty in Christdom, Are martyrs, by the pang without the palm:” -Elizabeth Barrett Browning, The Cry of the Children, l.139-144 In the eleventh stanza of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s haunting poem, The Cry of the Children, the speaker of the poem continues to paint a haunting picture of the lives of children in Victorian England. The speaker is a third person observer of the children’s plight. The anaphoric repetition of “They” at the beginning of the first three lines points a condemning finger at the audience. The speaker establishes a clear line between the audience and ‘“they”, the children. Behold the suffering of the children, here is what they are enduring; with the addition of every “they”, the speaker forces the audience to look at what they themselves are doing. This is the life of your child, how are you living your own life? Here they are, where are you? The lives of the children are dark. “They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory, which is brighter than the sun”. The sunshine marks the start of day at sunrise and the end of the day at sunset. The absence of sunshine from the children’s lives implies that the children are forced to work long hours, waking before sunrise and returning after sunset. The leisure of the Victorian era does not apply to the most vulnerable and innocent in society. They are hidden from the breathtaking beauty and warmth of the sunlight. The children are obscured from both the natural and the supernatural light; the glory is emphasized as being the glory of God through the enjambment of its description. The only thing “brighter than the sun” is the glory of God. The enjambment of the phrase “which is brighter than the sun” works as a visual for the further separation from “they”, the children. This idea of separation from God is heightened throughout the rest of the stanza with an allusion to Genesis, the freedom of the afterlife and the removal of true martyrdom. “They know the grief of man, without its wisdom”; here the narrator compares the children’s plight to Adam and Eve’s original fall from innocence. Both parties experience grief in their loss of innocence, yet unlike how Adam and Eve gain the knowledge and awareness of their surroundings, gain wisdom, the children are left with nothing of consolation. They experience the grief and suffering of a loss of innocence, yet they know not why or to what end. They suffer for an unknown purpose, for an unknown end, and they do not receive the “liberty in Christdom”. Again the narrator reiterates how the children are isolated from God. The children “are martyrs, by the pang without the palm”. The symbolism of the children as martyrs is a powerful one. They are suffering the pain of martyrs, a pain that results in death. The Christian martyrs are infamous for the violent manners in which they were executed, but in the end their names are remembered. They are known and glorified for dying for their faith, for dying as witnesses to an end greater than themselves. The inclusion of “the palm” invokes images of the most famous Christian martyr, Jesus Christ himself, and the celebration of his glory on Palm Sunday. The Victorian children however, receive none of this glory; they suffer without being witness to anything of meaning, suffering without “wisdom”. Amid the religious references, Browning includes a very potent historical one. The speaker calls the children slaves in an era where the abolition of slavery is still fresh. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in the 1830s, and Browning writes in the 1850s. Although slavery has officially been abolished for twenty years, the children are reduced to working in a state comparable to slavery. Now the children are the slaves upon which the British Empire grows and pushes itself upward. This idea of the children being pushed down is present within the eleventh stanza through the words “they sink” and the removal of “they” at the beginning of the last two lines. The children are described as“sinking” into “man’s despair”, a sharp deflection from the general acceptance of a rising improving Britain. The speaker makes the audience question, what is the force that pushes the children down? What is causing the children to sink? The children become associated with attributes of man, grief and despair, not through an increase in experience or a rising understanding of the world but through a downward plight that strips them of their innocence. Besides a loss of innocence, the children become stripped of any form of identity. The first three complete lines begin with “they”, a removal of individual identity into a group collectively separate from the audience. In the fifth and sixth lines, the children are stripped of even this collective identity; they simply “are”. The removal of their personified existence suggests a further level of degradation and represents another shift to the margins where the children’s cries remain unheard. Browning employs mesodiplosis, the repetition of the same word in the middle of successive sentences; the repetition of “without” throughout the stanza highlights how the children are suffering, how little they have. In fact, as mentioned above, the children are given the darkest components of humanity’s history without any form of hope -no wisdom, no calm, no Christdom, no palm. The only thing the children do receive is grief, despair, slavery and an incomplete martyrdom. The rhyme scheme of A-B-A-B, wisdom and Christdom, calm and palm, provides an underlying cadence to the growing exploitation of the society’s innocent. In the eleventh stanza of Browning’s poem, The Cry of the Children, the suffering of the children is further solidified to prove the depravity of a society that exploits its innocents so fully and completely.
The mean time for college students procrastinate before beginning their homework is 75 minutes with a variance of 25 minutes. Suppose you take a random sample of 10 college students. (A) What is the probability that the sample mean time is >80 minutes?
*Note: The sample is made up of 10 people n=10, the mean is 75 M=75, and the variance is 40 v=40. We need the sample standard deviation which equals the square root of the variance divided by the number of people in the sample: Sample Stdev= (40/10)^.5 Therefore the Sample Stdev = 2. Next we need to calculate the Z-score (the distance between the mean of the sample and the actual mean, measured in standard deviations). The Z-score equals the sample mean minus the actual mean all divided by the standard deviation. ( X - M) / (Stdev) For this problem, we need to calculate the probability of having a sample mean time >90 minutes, so we will assume the sample mean time is 90 minutes. Z-score= (80-75)/2 And we get a Z-score of 2.5. This means that if the sample mean was actually 80, it would be 2.5 standard deviations away from the known mean (75). The probability that 80 is the actual mean is 0.6%. **This can be derived from a Z-table (or calculator) and double-checked with the 68-95-99.7 rule, which states that 68% of all sample means are within one standard deviation of the mean in a normal distribution, 95% are within 2 standard deviations of the mean, and 99.7% of all sample means are within 3 standard deviations of the mean.