The Hypocrisy of the Old Testament

One of the names of the primary Judaic god is El Shaddai. According to Exodus 6:2, 3, Shaddai (שַׁדַּי) is the name of the god known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The name Shaddai is again used as the god’s name later in the Book of Job. The root word “shadad” (שדד) means “to overpower” or “to destroy”. This would give Shaddai the meaning of “destroyer”, representing one of the aspects of the god, and in this context it is essentially an epithet. Ēl is a Northwest Semitic word meaning “god” or “deity” and it is used as the name of major Ancient Near East deities, including the God of the Hebrew Bible. El is a generic word for god that could be used for any god, including Hadad, Moloch, or Yahweh. Thus El Shaddai means “God the Destroyer.” The Septuagint and other early translations usually translate “El Shaddai” as “God Almighty.” However in the Greek of the Septuagint translation of Psalm 91.1, “Shaddai” is translated as “the God of heaven.” “God Almighty” is the translation followed by most modern English translations of the Hebrew Scriptures. The following article looks at some examples of the “destroyer” attributes of the Christian Triune God that are found in the Old Testament. Orthodox Christian theology teaches that the accounts of God speaking in the Old Testament are the Logos of God, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, Who would later incarnate, namely Jesus Christ.

The Septuagint does not transliterate the names of God. They are usually rendered Kurios or Theos.

And now go, and thou shalt smite Amalec and Hierim and all that belongs to him, and thou shalt not save anything of him alive, but thou shalt utterly destroy him: and thou shalt devote him and all his to [destruction], and thou shalt spare nothing belonging to him; and thou shalt slay both man and woman, and infant and suckling, and calf and sheep, and camel and ass.” (1 Samuel 15:3)

“Samaria shall be utterly destroyed: for she has resisted her God; they shall fall by the sword, and their sucklings shall be dashed against the ground, and their women and child ripped up.” (Hosea 13:16)

“And he went up thence to Baethel: and as he was going up by the way there came up also little children from the city, and mocked him, and said to him, Go up, bald-head, go up. And he turned after them, and saw them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And, behold, there came out two bears out of the wood, and they tore forty and two children of them.” (2 Kings 2:23-24)

“Blessed [shall he be] who shall seize and dash thine infants against the rock.” (Ps. 137:9)

“Behold, I will stir up against you the Medes, who do not regard silver, neither have they need of gold. 18 They shall break the bows of the young men; and they shall have no mercy on your children; nor shall their eyes spare thy children.” (Isaiah 13:17-18)

“And if any man has a disobedient and contentious son, who hearkens not to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother, and they should correct him, and he should not hearken to them; then shall his father and his mother take hold of him, and bring him forth to the elders of his city, and to the gate of the place: and they shall say to the men of their city, This our son is disobedient and contentious, he hearkens not to our voice, he is a reveler and a drunkard. And the men of his city shall stone him with stones, and he shall die; and thou shalt remove the evil one from yourselves, and the rest shall hear and fear.” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

“And God told Abraham, Take thy son, the beloved one, whom thou hast loved– Isaac, and go into the high land, and offer him there for a whole-burnt-offering on one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” (Genesis 22:2)

The Sacrifice of Isaac, from the pavement of the Beth Alpha synagogue (6th century)
The Sacrifice of Isaac, from the pavement of the Beth Alpha synagogue (6th century)
  1. God permits the taking of little girls and women as “wife plunder”

“Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But keep alive for yourselves all the *young* girls who have not known a man intimately.” (Numbers 31:17-18). The Hebrew word for “young” used here means “children.”

“But if they will not hearken to thee, but wage war against thee, thou shalt invest it; until the Lord thy God shall deliver it into thy hands, and thou shalt smite every male of it with the edge of the sword: except the women and the stuff: and all the cattle, and whatsoever shall be in the city, and all the plunder thou shalt take as spoil for thyself, and shalt eat all the plunder of thine enemies whom the Lord thy God gives thee.” (Deuteronomy 20:12-14)

“All their little ones and their wives they took captive; and they plundered even all that was in the houses.” (Genesis 34:29)

“And if when thou goest out to war against thine enemies, the Lord thy God should deliver them into thine hands, and thou shouldest take their spoil, and shouldest see among the spoil a woman beautiful in countenance, and shouldest desire her, and take her to thyself for a wife, and shouldest bring her within thine house: then shalt thou shave her head, and pare her nails; and shalt take away her garments of captivity from off her, and she shall abide in thine house, and shall bewail her father and mother the days of a month; and afterwards thou shalt go in to her and dwell with her, and she shall be thy wife.” (Deuteronomy 21:10-13)

Yahweh prefers killing the innocent children of sinners over the sinner.

“And I will kill her children with death” (Revelations 2:23)

“Who smote the first-born of Egypt, both of man and beast” (Psalm 135:8)

“Prepare thy children to be slain for the sins of their father; that they arise not, and inherit the earth, nor fill the earth with wars” (Isaiah 14:21)

“The Lord…bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and to the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7)

“For I am the Lord thy God, a jealous God, recompensing the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation to them that hate me” (Exodus 20:5)

Drowned corpses during Noah's Flood (Basilica of San MArco, Venice)
Drowned corpses during Noah’s Flood (Basilica of San Marco, Venice)

Rape victims must marry their rapists

“And if anyone should find a young virgin who has not been betrothed, and should force [her] and lie with her, and be found, the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the damsel fifty silver didrachms, and she shall be his wife, because he has humble her; he shall never be able to put her away” (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)

If the rape occurs in the city, the victim must be stoned to death

“And if there be a young damsel espoused to a man, and a man should have found her in the city and have lain with her; ye shall bring them both out to the gate of their city, and they shall be stoned with stones, and they shall die; the damsel, because she cried not in the city; and the man, because he humbled his neighbour’s spouse: so shalt thou remove the evil one from yourselves” (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)

Top: Jacob negotiates the purchase of the field in which he had pitched his tents. Bottom: Jacob told of the rape of his daughter Dinah.

Polygamy and sex slaves (concubines) okay for men, but females are said to be “defiled” if not found virgins on their wedding night

“And if any one sell his daughter as a domestic, she shall not depart as the maid-servants depart. If she be not pleasing to her master, after she has betrothed herself to him, he shall let her go free; but he is not at liberty to sell her to a foreign nation, because he has trifled with her. And if he should have betrothed her to his son, he shall do to her according to the right of daughters. And if he take another to himself, he shall not deprive her of necessaries and her apparel, and her companionship [with him]” (Exodus 21:7-10)

“And if anyone should take a wife, and dwell with her, and hate her, and attach to her reproachful words, and bring against her an evil name, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her I found not her tokens of virginity: then the father and the mother of the damsel shall take and bring out the damsel’s tokens of virginity to the elders of the city to the gate. And the father of the damsel shall say to the elders, I gave this my daughter to this man for a wife; and now he has hated her, and attaches reproachful words to her, saying, I have not found tokens of virginity with thy daughter; and these [are] the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall unfold the garment before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man, and shall chastise him, and shall fine him a hundred shekels, and shall give [them] to the father of the damsel, because he has brought forth an evil name against a virgin of Israel; and she shall be his wife: he shall never be able to put her away. But if this report be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel; then shall they bring out the damsel to the doors of her father’s house, and shall stone her with stones, and she shall die; because she has wrought folly among the children of Israel, to defile the house of her father by whoring: so thou shalt remove the evil one from among you.” (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

“But a widow, or one that is put away, or profaned, or a harlot, these he shall not take; but he shall take for a wife a virgin of his own people.” (Leviticus 21:14)

“And if a man have two wives…”(Deuteronomy 21:15). Polygamy was originally permissible in the Bible. Jacob (who becomes God’s chosen people, Israel), has two wives (Rachel and Leah), who are both sisters (Genesis 30)

God commands Jacob to leave.  He announces his departure to his wives Leah and Rachel.
God commands Jacob to leave. He announces his departure to his wives Leah and Rachel.

“And whatever number of men-servants and maid-servants thou shalt have, thou shalt purchase male and female servants from the nations that are round about thee. And of the sons of the sojourners that are among you, of these ye shall buy and of their relations, all that shall be in your lands; let them be to you for a possession. And ye shall distribute them to your children after you, and they shall be to you permanent possessions for ever: but of your brethren the children of Israel, one shall not oppress his brother in labours” (Leviticus 25:44-46)

“And if a man site his man-servant or his maid-servant, with a rod, and [the party] die under his hands, he shall be surely punished. But if [the servant] continue to live a day or two, let not [the master] be punished; for he is his money” (Exodus 21:20-21)

“Because these are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; such an one shall not be sold as a [common] servant” (Leviticus 25:42)

Young Joseph sold by his brothers into captivity in Egypt. Byzantine mosaic, 14th c.
Young Joseph sold by his brothers into captivity in Egypt. Byzantine mosaic, 14th c.

“For the wrath of the Lord is upon all nations, and [his] anger upon the number of them, to destroy them, and give them up to slaughter” (Isaiah 34:2)

“…and I will overthrow the thrones of kings, and I will destroy the power of the kings of the nations [Gentile, non-Hebrew]; and I will overthrow chariots and riders; and the horses and their riders shall come down, everyone by the sword striving against his brother” (Hag. 2:22)

“Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen [for] thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth [for] thy possession. Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces as a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:8-9)

“For thou art a holy people to the Lord thy God; and the Lord thy God chose thee to be to him a peculiar people beyond all nations that [are] upon the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6)

Daniel in the lions' den, Roman mosaic from Bordj El Loudi, Tunisia, 5th Century AD.
Daniel in the lions’ den, Roman mosaic from Bordj El Loudi, Tunisia, 5th Century AD.
  1. Killing people to confiscate their land (covetousness):

“And the Lord said to me, Behold, I have begun to deliver before thee Seon the king of Esebon the Amorite, and his land, and do thou begin to inherit his land. ” (Deuteronomy 2:31)

“And he brought us into the land of the Amorites that dwelt beyond Jordan, and the Lord delivered them into our hands; and ye inherited their land, and utterly destroyed them from before you.” (Joshua 24:8)

“Thus shalt thou do to all the cities that are very far off from thee, not [being] of the cities of these nations which the Lord thy God gives thee to inherit their land. 16 [Of these] ye shall not take any thing alive; 17 but ye shall surely curse them. ” (Deuteronomy 20:15-16)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace of Nebuchadnezzer. Byzantine Mosaic, 11th CE.3
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the 3 Youths in the Fiery Furnace of Nebuchadnezzer. Byzantine Mosaic, 11th CE.
  1. Gold, silver and other goods

“But [every] woman shall ask of her neighbour and fellow lodger, articles of gold and silver, and apparel; and ye shall put them upon your sons and upon your daughters,– and spoil ye the Egyptians.” (Exodus 3:22) The lord reiterated this in Exodus 11:2.

“…We left no living prey. Only we took the cattle captive, and took the spoil of the cities. ” (Deuteronomy 2:34-35)

“And ye shall divide the spoils between the warriors that went out to battle, and the whole congregation.” (Numbers 21:27)

“And they took captive all the persons of them, and all their store, and their wives, and plundered both whatever things there were in the city, and whatever things there were in the houses.” (Genesis 34:29)

“All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them… The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:8, 10)

The Conquest of Jericho. Early Christian Mosaic.
The Conquest of Jericho. Early Christian Mosaic.

“And it shall come to pass that as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you, so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you; and ye shall be quickly removed from the land, into which ye go to inherit it.” (Deuteronomy 28:63)

“For behold! the day of the Lord is coming which cannot be escaped, [a day] of wrath and anger, to make the world desolate, and to destroy sinners out of it.” (Isaiah 13:9)

“And ye shall smite every strong city, and ye shall cut down every good tree, and ye shall stop all wells of water, and spoil every good piece [of land] with stones.” (2 Kings 3:19)

“Now consider these things, ye that forget God, lest he rend you [literally, ‘tear into pieces’], and there is no deliverer.” (Psalm 50:22)

The Return of the Explorers; Rebellion of the Israelites against Moses. Early Christian mosaic. 5th CE

“So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.” (Psalm 95:11)

“I will slay in my anger and my fury” (Jeremiah 33:5)

“Therefore thus saith the Lord; I will even cause to burst forth a sweeping blast with fury, and there shall be a flooding rain in my wrath; and in [my] fury I will bring on great stones for complete destruction.” (Ezekiel 13:13)

“And my wrath and mine anger shall be accomplished upon them: and thou shalt know that I the Lord have spoken in my jealousy, when I have accomplished mine anger upon them.” (Ezekiel 5:13)

“I saw, and, behold, Carmel was desert, and all the cities were burnt with fire at the presence of the Lord, and at the presence of his fierce anger they were utterly destroyed.” (Jeremiah 4:26)

“For the heaven shall be enraged, and the earth shall be shaken from her foundation, because of the fierce anger of the Lord of hosts, in the day in which his wrath shall come on.” (Isaiah 13:13)

“And I trampled them in mine anger, and brought down their blood to the earth.” (Isaiah 63:6)

Drunkenness of Noah (narthex, entrance bay vault). 1220-85. Byzantine mosaic.
Drunkenness of Noah (narthex, entrance bay vault). 1220-85. Byzantine mosaic.

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Go in to Pharao: for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that these signs may come upon them.” (Exodus 10:1)

“Ye shall hear indeed, but ye shall not understand; and ye shall see indeed, but ye shall not perceive. For the heart of this people has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. And I said, How long, O Lord? And he said, Until cities be deserted by reason of their not being inhabited, and the houses by reason of there being no men, and the land shall be left desolate. And after this God shall remove the men far off, and they that are left upon the land shall be multiplied.” (Isaiah 6:9-12)

“And Seon king of Esebon would not that we should pass by him, because the Lord our God hardened his spirit, and made his heart stubborn, that he might be delivered into thy hands, as on this day.” (Deuteronomy 2:30)

NOTE: Abba Dorotheos of Gaza writes in his 5th Instruction, That We Should Not Trust Our Own Understanding, “But if one does not sincerely wish to do the will of God, then though go to a prophet, God might place in the heart of that prophet an answer corresponding to the man’s corrupt heart, as the Scripture says, And if a prophet should cause to err and should speak, I the Lord have caused that prophet to err (Ezekiel 14:9).”

Pendentif with the Joseph's dream about the seven fat and the seven lean cows. Detail from the dome with the story of Joseph of Egypt. Byzantine mosaic.
Pendentif with the Joseph’s dream about the seven fat and the seven lean cows. Detail from the dome with the story of Joseph of Egypt. Byzantine mosaic.

“And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.” (Leviticus 26:29)

“Therefore the fathers shall eat [their] children in the midst of thee, and children shall eat [their] fathers; and I will execute judgements in thee, and I will scatter all that are left of thee to every wind.” (Ezekiel 5:10)

“I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons, and the flesh of their daughters; and they shall eat every one the flesh of his neighbour in the blockade, and in the siege wherewith their enemies shall besiege them.” (Jeremiah 19:9)

“And thou, son of man, say, Thus saith the Lord; Say to every winged bird, and to all the wild beasts of the field, Gather yourselves, and come; gather yourselves from all [places] round about to my sacrifice, which I have made for you, [even] a great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel, and ye shall eat flesh, and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of mighty men, and ye shall drink the blood of princes of the earth, rams, and calves and goats, and they are all fatted calves. And ye shall eat fat till ye are full, and shall drink wine till ye are drunken, of my sacrifice which I have prepared for you. And ye shall be filled at my table, [eating] horse, and rider, and mighty man, and every warrior, saith the Lord.” (Ezekiel 39:17-20)

“And they that afflicted thee shall eat their own flesh; and they shall drink their own blood as new wine, and shall be drunken: and all flesh shall perceive that I am the Lord that delivers thee, and that upholds the strength of Jacob.” (Isaiah 49:26)

“And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.” (Revelations 19:17-19)

Mosaic of ancient women dressed for sports - Roman villa near Piazza Armerina - Sicily
Mosaic of ancient women dressed for sports – Roman villa near Piazza Armerina – Sicily
  1. LYING

“Thou saidst, I will give them flesh to eat, and they shall eat a whole month… The flesh was yet between their teeth, before it failed, when the Lord was wroth with the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.” (Numbers 11:21, 33)

“Fury is not in Me.” (Isaiah 27:4)

“I will not act according to the fury of y wrath, I will not abandon Ephraim to be utterly destroyed: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One within thee: and I will not enter into the city. (Hosea 11:9)

Moses and the daughters of the Pharaoh. Early Christian mosaic, 5th CE.
Moses and the daughters of the Pharaoh. Early Christian mosaic, 5th CE.
  1. Lying is condoned if it accomplishes God’s goals

God instructs Moses to lie to the Pharaoh: “And thou shalt say to him, The God of the Hebrews has called us; we will go then a journey of three days into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to our God.” (Exodus 3:18)

God instructs Samuel to lie: “And Samuel said, How can I go? whereas Saul will hear of it, and slay me: and the Lord said, Take a heifer in thine hand and thou shall say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 16:2)

“But [every] woman shall ask of her neighbour and fellow lodger, articles of gold and silver, and apparel; and ye shall put them upon your sons and upon your daughters,– and spoil ye the Egyptians.” (Exodus 3:22)

“They have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into my mind.” (Jeremiah 19:5) Now compare with Genesis 22:2 “Then He said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar, disguises herself as a prostitute in order to become pregnant by her dead husband’s brother, after his failure to marry her, and is justified by Judah in the narrative. Tamar is rewarded for her subterfuge by the birth of the twins Perez and Zerah, through whom the tribe of Judah is established (Genesis 38:27–30).

Jehu lies to the worshippers of Baal, aimed at killing all the prophets of Baal. (2 kings 10:18-28)

Joseph accused by Potiphar. Byzantine mosaic, 13th c.
Joseph accused by Potiphar. Byzantine mosaic, 13th c.

NOTE: In Orthodox Christianity, there are also times where it is permitted to lie if it will benefit the salvation of someone, such as in case of St. Dionysios of Zakynthos, who lied to protect his brother’s murderer from being lynched by an angry mob of Christians. In monasticism, if the Abbot or Abbess instructs their disciples to lie about something, it is not considered a lie, but rather a virtue, namely “blind obedience.” Lying is permitted in all cases to protect the reputation of the Church, or its representatives. This is called “guarding your brother’s conscience.” Thus, pedophilia and other scandals are kept silent, and criminals go unpunished, for the “benefit of the lay people.”


“Vengeance is Mine” (Deuteronomy 32:35)

“The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.” (Psalm 58:10)

“Therefore the Lord says…”Ah, I will rid myself of My adversaries, and take vengeance on my enemies.” (Isaiah 1:24)

“It now must be said of Jacob and of Israel…a people rises like a lioness, and lifts itself up like a lion; It shall not lie down until it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain.” (Numbers 23:23-24)

“O LORD our God, you were to them God-Who-Forgives, though you took vengeance on their deeds.” (Psalm 99:8)

“I will feed those who oppress you (Israel) with their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine.” (Isaiah 49:26)

Joseph's Bloodstained Coat. Mosaic.
Jacob lamenting over Joseph’s bloodstained coat mosaic.

“I am he that prepared light, and formed darkness; who make peace, and create evil; I am the Lord God, that does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

“And the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (1 Samuel 16:14)

“And now, behold, the Lord has put a false spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord has spoken evil against thee.” (1 Kings 22:23)

“And now, behold, the Lord has put a false spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord has spoken evil against thee.” (II Chronicles, 18:22)

“And if a prophet should cause to err and should speak, I the Lord have caused that prophet to err, and will stretch out my hand upon him, and will utterly destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.” (Ezekiel 14:9)

“Shall the trumpet sound in the city, and the people not be alarmed? shall there be evil in a city which the Lord has not wrought?” (amos 3:6)

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth.” (II Thessalonians 2:11-12)

The Construction of the Tower of Babel. Mosaic
The Construction of the Tower of Babel. Mosaic

Also see Fr. Antonios Alevizopoulos, The Orthodox Church: Its faith, Worship and Life:


Orthodox Christian Canons Concerning Jews (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: The following article contains only a few of the numerous Orthodox Canons in The Rudder concerning the Jewish religion and peoples. The canon forbidding Christians to go to Jewish physicians is now considered to be anachronistic, according to various monastics at Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries for two reasons: “they don’t use black magic in their remedies anymore” and, as one Geronda stated, “Most of the doctors today are Jews. If we followed that canon strictly, we’d never be able to get medical treatment for anything.” When the monastics receive various accusations of being anti-Semitic, they sometimes respond with an air of triumph, “Geronda Ephraim’s personal physician is Jewish.” 

The Jewish priest Athonios about to have his hand severed by an angel of God (Dormition icon detail)
The Jewish priest Athonios about to have his hand severed by an angel of God (Dormition icon detail)


If any Clergyman, or Layman, enter a synagogue of Jews or of heretics to pray, let him be both deposed and excommunicated.86 (Apostolic Canons VII, XLV, LXXI; Canon XI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canon I of Antioch; Canons VI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXVII, XXXVIII of Laodicea.)



The present Canon considers it a great sin for a Christian to enter a synagogue of Jews or of heretics in order to pray. “For what does a believer share with an infidel?” (II Corinthians 6:15), according to the divine Apostle. For the Jews themselves violating the Law by going into their synagogues and offering sacrifices, in view of the fact that the offering of sacrifices anywhere outside of Jerusalem is forbidden, according to the Law. This is testified by divine St. Justin in his dialogue with Tryphon, and by Sozomenos in his Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, Chapter 21, and by St. Chrysostom in his second discourse against the Jews. Then how much greater violation is that of the Christian who prays together with the crucifiers of Christ? But it also must be emphasized that any churches of heretics, or any of their meetings, should not to be given honor or attended, because they believe things contrary to the beliefs of the Orthodox, but rather ought to be rejected. Thus it is that the present Canon ordains that if any clergyman or layman enters the synagogue of the Jews or that of heretics offering gracious prayers, that clergyman shall be deposed and at the same time excommunicated because that he has committed a great sin; but as for the layman he is only to be excommunicated, since, because being a layman, he has sinned to a lesser degree than has the clergyman, and as a layman he is not liable to deposition and cannot be deposed. Or more correctly, as others interpret the matter, the clergyman that enters a synagogue of Jews or heretics to pray shall be deposed, while any layman that does the same thing shall be excommunicated. Read also the Interpretation of Apostolic Canon VII and that of Apostolic Canon XLV.

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If any Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, or anyone at all who is on the list of clergymen, fast together with Jews, or celebrates a holiday together with them, or accepts from them holiday gifts or favors, such as unleavened wafers, or anything of the like, let him be deposed. If a layman do likewise, however, let him be excommunicated. (Apostolic Canons VII, LXV, LXXI; Canon XI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canons XXIX, XXXVII, XXXVIII of Laodicea; Canons LX, LXXXI, CXVII of Carthage)



In case anyone prays in company with excommunicated persons only, he is excommunicated; or if he does so with persons that have been deposed only, he is deposed: then how much more is it improper that any clergyman who fasts in company with the Christ-killing Jews or celebrates any festival with them ought to be deposed, or if any layman do the same, should he be excommunicated? Hence it is that the present Apostolic Canon ordains that if any bishop or priest or deacon, or anyone else at all that is on the clerical list fasts along with the Jews or celebrates Pascha along with them, or any other festivals or holidays, or accepts any strange gifts from them, such as unleavened wafers, 100 which they eat during their days of Passover; and on all their feasts and on the occasion of every sacrifice where they offer unleavened wafers, let him be deposed. If, on the other hand, any layman does the same, let him be excommunicated.

For even though those who accept such things and join in fasting or celebrating are not of the same mind as the Jews and do not entertain the same religious beliefs and views as the latter (for if they did, they ought not only to be deposed or excommunicated, as the case might be, but also to be consigned to anathema, according to Canon XXIX of Laodicea), yet, as a matter of fact, they do afford occasion for scandal and give rise to a suspicion that they are actually honoring the ceremonies of the Jews, a thing which is alien to Orthodoxy. I omit mention of the fact that such persons are also polluting themselves by associating with Christ-killers. To them God says: “My soul hates your fasting and your idleness and your festivals.See also the Interpretation of Apostolic Canon VII.


If any Christian conveys oil to a temple of heathen, or to a synagogue of Jews, in their festivals, or lights lamps for them, let him be excommunicated. (Apostolic Canons VII, LXV, LXXI; Canon XI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canons XXIX, XXXVII, XXXVIII of Laodicea; Canons LIX, LXXXII, CXXIII of Carthage.)

Postcard of 1905 Odessa Pogrom
Postcard of 1905 Odessa Pogrom


This Canon too, like the one above, excommunicates any Christian who should offer oil to a temple of heathen or of idolaters, or to a synagogue of Jews, when they are having their festivals, or should light their lamps. For in doing this he appears to believe that their false ceremonies and rites are true, and that their tainted mysteries are genuine. Read also the Interpretation of Apostolic Canon VII.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III (2015)
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III (2015)


Let no one enrolled in the clerical list, or any layman, eat the unleavened wafers manufactured by the Jews, or in any way become familiar with the Jews or call them in case of sickness, or take any medicines from them, or even bathe with them in public bathing beaches or bathhouses. If anyone should attempt to do this, if he is a, clergyman, let hint be deposed, or if he is a layman, let him, be excommunicated.


The present Canon commands that no person in Holy Orders and no layman may eat any unleavened wafers sent him by Jews, nor indeed be at all friendly with Jews nor when he finds himself ill may he call them and take their remedies18 or even bathe with them in baths and bathing places. In case anyone should do this, or any of these things, if he is a clergyman, let him be deposed; but if he is a layman, let him be excommunicated. Read also Apostolic Canon Canons VII and LXX.


That is why St. Chrysostom says in agreement herewith for no one to go to Jewish physicians to be treated (page 360 of Volume VI).

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow with the Chief Rabbi of Israel (2012).
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow with the Chief Rabbi of Israel (2012).

NOTE: The above Canon is interesting considering the Wisdom of Sirach instructs Christians to honor doctors and physicians.

“Honour a physician with the honour due unto him for the uses which ye may have of him: for the Lord hath created him. For of the Most High cometh healing, and he shall receive honour of the king. The skill of the physician shall lift up his head: and in the sight of great men he shall be in admiration. The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them. Was not the water made sweet with wood, that the virtue thereof might be known? And he hath given men skill, that he might be honoured in his marvellous works. With such doth he heal men, and taketh away their pains. Of such doth the apothecary make a confection; and of his works there is no end; and from him is peace over all the earth, My son, in thy sickness be not negligent: but pray unto the Lord, and he will make thee whole. Leave off from sin, and order thine hands aright, and cleanse thy heart from all wickedness.  Give a sweet savour, and a memorial of fine flour; and make a fat offering, as not being. Then give place to the physician, for the Lord hath created him: let him not go from thee, for thou hast need of him. There is a time when in their hands there is good success. For they shall also pray unto the Lord, that he would prosper that, which they give for ease and remedy to prolong life. He that sinneth before his Maker, let him fall into the hand of the physician. My son, let tears fall down over the dead, and begin to lament, as if thou hadst suffered great harm thyself; and then cover his body according to the custom, and neglect not his burial. Weep bitterly, and make great moan, and use lamentation, as he is worthy, and that a day or two, lest thou be evil spoken of: and then comfort thyself for thy heaviness. For of heaviness cometh death, and the heaviness of the heart breaketh strength. In affliction also sorrow remaineth: and the life of the poor is the curse of the heart. Take no heaviness to heart: drive it away, and member the last end. Forget it not, for there is no turning again: thou shalt not do him good, but hurt thyself. Remember my judgment: for thine also shall be so; yesterday for me, and today for thee. When the dead is at rest, let his remembrance rest; and be comforted for him, when his Spirit is departed from him. The wisdom of a learned man cometh by opportunity of leisure: and he that hath little business shall become wise. How can he get wisdom that holdeth the plough, and that glorieth in the goad, that driveth oxen, and is occupied in their labours, and whose talk is of bullocks? He giveth his mind to make furrows; and is diligent to give the kine fodder. So every carpenter and workmaster, that laboureth night and day: and they that cut and grave seals, and are diligent to make great variety, and give themselves to counterfeit imagery, and watch to finish a work: The smith also sitting by the anvil, and considering the iron work, the vapour of the fire wasteth his flesh, and he fighteth with the heat of the furnace: the noise of the hammer and the anvil is ever in his ears, and his eyes look still upon the pattern of the thing that he maketh; he setteth his mind to finish his work, and watcheth to polish it perfectly: So doth the potter sitting at his work, and turning the wheel about with his feet, who is alway carefully set at his work, and maketh all his work by number;  He fashioneth the clay with his arm, and boweth down his strength before his feet; he applieth himself to lead it over; and he is diligent to make clean the furnace: All these trust to their hands: and everyone is wise in his work. Without these cannot a city be inhabited: and they shall not dwell where they will, nor go up and down: They shall not be sought for in publick counsel, nor sit high in the congregation: they shall not sit on the judges’ seat, nor understand the sentence of judgment: they cannot declare justice and judgment; and they shall not be found where parables are spoken. But they will maintain the state of the world, and all their desire is in the work of their craft.” (Wisdom of Sirach, 38:1-34)


Pagan Reaction to Early Christian Women in the 2nd Century Part 3: Lucius Apuleius (Margaret Y. MacDonald, 1996)

NOTE: This article is taken from Early Christian Women and Pagan Opinion: The Power of the Hysterical Woman, pp. 67-73.


From about the middle of the second century comes an account which may reflect the charge that Christianity led to the immorality of women. Lucius Apuleius (123—?), the well-known poet, philosopher, and rhetorician from North Africa, was educated in such important ancient centres as Carthage, Athens, and Rome. He wrote a work which reveals a hostile pagan reaction to the activities of a woman who may well be a Christian. In his Metamorphoses (or The Golden Ass) he tells the colourful tale of one Lucius, who was transformed by magic into an ass for a time. As part of his adventures when he is in animal form, Lucius finds himself sold to a baker. Here he finds himself in an opportune position to observe what might otherwise have remained strictly between husband and wife:

The baker who purchased me was otherwise a good and very modest man but his wife was the wickedest of all women and he suffered extreme miseries to his bed and his house so that I myself, by Hercules, often in secret felt pity for him. There was not one single vice which that woman lacked, but all crimes flowed together into her heart like into a filthy latrine; cruel, perverse, man-crazy, drunken, stubborn, obstinate, avaricious in petty theft, wasteful in sumptuous expenses, an enemy to faith, and chastity, she also despised the gods and instead of a certain religion she claimed to worship a god whom she called ‘only’. In his honour she practiced empty rites and ceremonies and she deceived all men and her miserable husband, drinking unmixed wine early in the morning and giving her body to continual whoring.

Asinus aureus
Asinus aureus

The reference to the worship of ‘a god called only’ means that Apuleius’ description of the wicked woman could refer to either a Jewish proselyte or a Christian woman. It calls to mind for example, Juvenal’s satirical description (offered in the midst of an attack on the religious corruption of Roman women) of an old Jewish beggar woman who is paid to interpret dreams and is called can interpreter of the laws of Jerusalem, high priestess with a tree as temple, a trusty go-between of high-heaven’. However, the possible reference to the Eucharist (‘unmixed wine’) suggests a Christian context.

The fact that the unfortunate baker suffered ‘miseries to his bed’ leads us to question whether what lies behind Apuleius’ description is the refusal of sexual favours, inspired either by asceticism or by an unwillingness to be intimate with someone who is not a Christian. Although the picture painted is overwhelmingly one of sexual immorality, we will find that Apuleius likely is drawing upon a series of stereotypical vices which are associated with too frequent absence from the home. The depiction of a woman as a whore in fact might be due to the woman’s behaviour that is ascetic, not promiscuous. As I will discuss in detail in Part 3, in his ‘Second Apology’, Justin tells of a Christian woman from Rome who was married to a pagan and was repulsed by the thought of intercourse with one who belonged to the unbelieving world.

Lucius Apuleius

However we understand her actions, the woman’s problematic sexual behaviour in Apuleius’ account is depicted as extending beyond the walls of the household. The accusation of sexual immorality of the woman (she is man-crazy, an enemy to chastity, and a whore) is in keeping with Fronto’s comments about Christian women being involved in immoral acts. However, Apuleius’ text is far more specific about the nature of female vice and about female culpability. While in Fronto’s polemic the attraction of women to early Christian rites is the result of their inherent credulity, in Apuleius’ description the woman is depicted as bold, uncontrollable, and capable of deception. She is completely lacking in shame, the very basis of her husband’s honour.

Apuleius’ description, which might represent a popular assessment of a husband who was unlucky enough to find himself sharing his house with a Christian wife, is similar to a later text which speaks in general about the consequences of the illegitimate religious activities of women. Here damage to husband, bed, and house are also in view. The early fourth-century CE author known as Pseudo-Lucian spoke of wives who ‘leave the house immediately and visit every god that plagues married men, though the wretched husbands do not even know the very names of some of these . . .’ Their return is not characterized by the resumption of normal wifely duties. Rather, the moment they arrive, wives choose to have ‘long baths, and by heavens, sumptuous meals accompanied by much coyness towards the men’. As in Apuleius’ account we find here a description of the illegitimate religious activities of the woman, coupled with disdain towards the husband. One of the most interesting features of Pseudo-Lucian’s text is that it makes explicit what is often implied in other writings: the suspicious comings and goings of women for dubious religious reasons are an assault on the social order which separated the female or private sphere from the male or public sphere and, ultimately, a threat to the core values of honour and shame.


When read in relation to the text from Pseudo-Lucian, Apuleius’ description of the woman who worships ‘the god called only’ offers valuable insight into the nature of public opinion concerning marriages between pagan husbands and early Christian women. I will examine these marriages in detail in Part 3. It is important at this point to consider the kind of women’s behaviour which would elicit criticism, including a barrage of accusations of having stereotypical vices. Given that early Christian women lived in a world which believed that women were inclined towards religious fanaticism and which accused unauthorized cults of leading women to behave immorally, we would expect that pagan members of a household and neighbours of a Christian woman would be sensitive to even the subtlest signs of illicit behaviour. In fact, the texts we have been considering do alert us to some of these signs. Scruples about food or curious feasting, suspected extravagance or laziness with respect to household duties, a lack of interest in relations with one’s husband or in family matters generally might lead to questions. One early Christian text reminds us that something as simple as a sudden preference for plainer, more modest clothing could be noted by outsiders as significant. When Tertullian exhorted Christian women on the importance of avoiding luxurious clothes, he recorded the objection made by some women that the Christian name should not be blasphemed on account of a derogatory change in their former style of dress.

The most obvious and suspicious signs of Christian activities which are alluded to both in pagan critique and in early Christian literature are intrusion within the house by mysterious visitors, and/or frequent absences from the home. The departure of a woman to attend an early morning rite could lead quickly to an eruption of rumours about her adulterous behaviour, however innocent her intent. One fascinating early Christian text from the fourth century CE illustrates that early Christians were aware of the possibility of dangerous shifts in public opinion. The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles tells of the special ministry which the deaconess has to women who are part of unbelieving households: ‘sometimes thou canst not send a Deacon, who is a man, to the women in certain houses, on account of the unbelievers. Thou shall therefore send a woman, a Deaconess, on account of the imaginations of the bad.’

Psyche in the grove of Cupid, 1345 illustration of the Metamorphoses, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
Psyche in the grove of Cupid, 1345 illustration of the Metamorphoses, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

It appears that rumours of sexual promiscuity were hovering over relationships between believing men and the daughters and wives of non-believers. In light of the possibility of scandal, it would be prudent to send out a woman minister, whose entry into the non-believing household would be less likely to be noticed. One of the most fascinating aspects of this text is that it admits the need for discretion, even secrecy, in Christian groups. In fact, the Christian woman in view here seems bound to remain in the house and requires discreet visitations. Such precautions are hardly surprising when one considers that a woman’s marital infidelity (implicit in her decision to join the church without her husband) could have life-threatening repercussions. Early Christian sources indicate that marriages between believing women and pagan men could lead to persecution.

Apuleius’ description of the woman who worships ‘the god called only’, the text from Pseudo-Lucian on the suspicious religious activities of women, and the instructions concerning the duties of the deaconess in the Constitutions all reflect a phenomenon that has been observed by anthropologists of Mediterranean societies: intrusions into the house and/or frequent absences from the house can be potent signs of a woman’s infidelity and general unsuitability as a wife. The remarks of anthropologist Juliet du Boulay about modern Greek village life seem equally applicable to ancient society: absence from the home or irregularities in customary activities which cannot be minutely and indisputably accounted for in society, will almost inevitably be taken as evidence of surreptitious liaisons . . . since, according to the conception of feminine nature, a woman’s shame is the seat of her virtue, lack of virtue in aspects of life completely unrelated to sexuality may, if occasion arises, be referred back to a woman’s basic moral nature.


If we allow Du Boulay’s remarks to inform our understanding of the consequences of public censure for the life of marriages between pagan men and early Christian women we arrive at the following picture: a woman’s mysterious comings and goings for religious purposes, and/or her entertainment of secret visitors were a sign of her lack of restraint, probably promiscuity, and they ultimately meant that the woman was shameless and immoral. Such actions could have serious repercussions. Harsh laws would punish the Roman woman if rumours of her behaviour became actual charges of adultery, although if her husband was unfaithful he incurred no legal punishment unless the other woman was married. It was the wife’s sexual purity which determined the household’s reputation and legal standing in the community.

With the help of cultural anthropology, we see how easy it was for women who joined new religious groups to be depicted in the contemptuous fashion of Apuleius’ description of the baker’s wife. Moreover, we realize that the role of women in the speculative world of impression, rumour, and stereotype could have had serious consequences for their lives. Suspicions about vices of various shapes and sizes quickly become charges of sexual infidelity and immorality. In both Apuleius’ account and the similar text from Pseudo-Lucian, husbands are portrayed as objects of pity and wives are accused of deceit. But there is another side to these negative portraits. If we recall the remarks in the Introduction to this book about the tendency to attribute the quality of cunning or deviousness to women in modern Greek society, we will be able to consider how such negative presentations actually may function as cultural acknowledgments of the ability of women to ‘get their own way’. Thus, when ancient women are said to be sneaking out of their homes to attend mysterious early morning rites or to worship strange gods about whom their husbands have never even heard, we are, in a sense, reading an acknowledgment of their power, even if it is clearly illegitimate power according to those who are in positions of authority. As we consider the early Christian material in subsequent chapters we will probe the shape of that power. In fact, the next text may already provide us with some understanding of such power. The remarks of the following author return us once again to the particulars of history and prevent us from concluding too quickly that pagans only thought they saw a women’s religion.

Review: The Joshua Delusion? Rethinking Genocide in the Bible (Thom Stark, 2010)

NOTE: This book is an attempt to rationalize the atrocities committed or commanded by God in the Old Testament for the New Testament Christian. The early Orthodox Church Fathers had a similar approach when dealing with passages that seemed irreconcilable with the Christian Faith and Orthodox Theology. The mosaics used in this article are from the 5th century and found in the Nave of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome.

Recently there has been a new wave of biblical apologetics that seeks to defend the account of the Canaanite conquest and genocides depicted in the Book of Joshua in one or both of two ways:

 Top: The waters of the Jordan flow backward so that the people can cross, carrying the Ark.  Bottom: Joshua sends spies into Jericho. See Joshua 2:1-22.
Top: The waters of the Jordan flow backward so that the people can cross, carrying the Ark. Bottom: Joshua sends spies into Jericho. See Joshua 2:1-22.

(1) The language of total destruction, which depicts the wholesale slaughter of men, women and children, is a common motif in ancient Near Eastern war literature and is hyperbolic in nature—it is not meant to be taken literally. The accounts are exaggerated, and we should not read into them literal historical claims that women and children were in fact slaughtered.

Top: the visit of the
Top: the visit of the “prince of the host of the Lord” to Joshua before the conquest of Jericho(5:13-15). Bottom: Rahab the Prostitute helping an Israelite spy climb down the wall (Joshua 2).

(2) The book of Joshua is hagiographic in nature, which means that its intention was not to recount literal history so much as to make a moral point using the literary devices of warfare literature in order to encourage a certain type of orthodox religious behavior among the faith community who gathers to hear the book as sacred scripture. Both of these strategies have been taken up by Evangelical biblical scholar Richard Hess as well as by Christian apologists specializing in philosophy of religion such as Nicholas Wolterstorff, Paul Copan, and Matt Flannagan.

Bottom:  the Ark of the Covenant is carried around the walls to the sound of trumpets. Top: The Israelites take the city, helped by Rahab, who is seen on the battlements ( Joshua 6:12-19).
Bottom: the Ark of the Covenant is carried around the walls to the sound of trumpets. Top: The Israelites take the city, helped by Rahab, who is seen on the battlements ( Joshua 6:12-19).

Douglas S. Earl’s new book, The Joshua Delusion? Rethinking Genocide in the Bible, should be seen within the context of this new wave. It is by far the most sophisticated attempt to defend the biblical narratives along these lines, as it should be since Earl wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Book of Joshua.


The hyperbolic reading of the Joshua genocides (the first of the aforementioned strategies) is wholly untenable for a number of reasons…Proponents of the hyperbolic reading will find no help from Douglas Earl. Earl argues that the book of Joshua is not about genocide; rather, it is a myth written to challenge the assumption of Israelites that their favor with Yahweh was owed to their ethnicity as descendants of Abraham.

Joshua and the Israelite people, Karolingischer Buchmaler, c.840
Joshua and the Israelite people, Karolingischer Buchmaler, c.840

Earl begins his first chapter with a statement of the historical problem of the Canaanite conquest: If Jericho was not razed, is our faith in vain? Earl points out that the majority of biblical scholars have concluded based on the archaeological evidence that a conquest of Canaan such as that depicted in the book of Joshua could not have occurred historically. He does not go into many of the details of the archaeological record, citing primarily Kathleen Kenyon’s excavation at Jericho, which concluded that no destruction took place anywhere near the time the conquest of Canaan is purported to have occurred (by either the conservative or critical dating of the emergence of Israel in Canaan). But his focus here is to state that if the conquest did not occur as described, our faith is not in vain.

Bottom: God tells Joshua to destroy the city of Ai. Top: Joshua does so. See Joshua 8:1-29.
Bottom: God tells Joshua to destroy the city of Ai. Top: Joshua does so. See Joshua 8:1-29.

Earl then proceeds to show that some early Christian theologians saw these texts to be morally problematic, and therefore opted for non-literal, metaphorical or allegorical readings. He quotes from both Origen and Gregory of Nyssa in this respect.

Origen explicitly states that the genocidal nature of the conquest narratives make it “impossible” to interpret the text literally. He opts instead to read them as allegories for Christ’s conquest of the soul. The Canaanites become symbols of the internal vices that Christians must overcome as Christ makes his conquest within us. Other interpreters did similar things, reading the conquest of Canaan as a metaphor for the Christian mission to the Gentiles. Gregory of Nyssa takes the same approach to the tenth plague of Egypt, the slaughter of the first-born sons. Gregory rightly contends that such a slaughter, if taken literally, would be morally intolerable. He therefore interprets the killing of the first-born as the Christian’s killing of personal vices early, before they can blossom into serious sins.

For Earl, Origen and Gregory show that morally problematic texts serve as “cues to the reader of the text to seek the significance of the text in a ‘spiritual sense’”. He rightly notes that the reading strategy of Origen and Gregory stand in counter-distinction to that of Marcion, who insisted on a literal reading of the conquest narratives.

Top: Joshua routs the Amorites. Bottom: God's hand casting hailstones on them. See Joshua 10:1-11.
Top: Joshua routs the Amorites. Bottom: God’s hand casting hailstones on them. See Joshua 10:1-11.

He summarizes: “The Church Fathers suggest to us that historical and ethical difficulties in a narrative might be indicators to us that we misread an Old Testament text if we read it primarily in terms of historical or ethical description via the ‘plain sense’ of the text. The Fathers mapped out a whole other way of reading the texts in a theologically faithful scheme, but a scheme that is perhaps unconvincing in a number of its details today. One could, therefore, reject the scheme, or one could ask if whether the fact the instincts of the Church Fathers were basically correct in moving towards reading some texts ‘non-literally,’ but in a non-literal sense that needs to be constructed and understood in another way today.”

So the battle can go on to its successful conclusion, Joshua orders the sun to stand still. See Joshua 10:12-14.
So the battle can go on to its successful conclusion, Joshua orders the sun to stand still. See Joshua 10:12-14.

Earl insists that the proper way to understand Joshua is as a myth. By “myth,” of course, Earl does not mean, “something that is not true.” The question of whether the text is historically true or not is irrelevant to its categorization as “myth.” He uses myth in the anthropological sense of a narrative that is used to bring a sense of coherency to a community.

Top: Joshua is ordering the execution of the 5 Kings that attacked Gibeon. Bottom: The order is carried out.
Top: Joshua is ordering the execution of the 5 Kings that attacked Gibeon. Bottom: The order is carried out.

Earl urges us to understand Joshua as such a “myth” that was composed in order to shape the identity of Israel, but the question of Joshua’s historicity is irrelevant, according to Earl, to understanding what the book of Joshua was trying to say and do. All of this leads Earl to conclude that “the historical and ethical difficulties [in the Book of Joshua] point us not necessarily to an allegorical or spiritual sense of a text, but rather to a symbolic sense that has theological and spiritual implications

The 28 page review can be read below:

Joshua's Tomb in Kifl Haris.
Joshua’s Tomb in Kifl Haris.


How the Church Fathers Interpret God’s Killing Campaign in the Old Testament

There aren’t many Orthodox commentaries on the Old Testament. The commentaries in existence are not complete commentaries; i.e. the Fathers did not interpret the books verse by verse. The Fathers have three methods of interpreting the murders committed or ordered by God in the Old Testament.

1) An allegorical method where the incidents are reduced to “spiritual metaphors.” Whether they accept the events as actual historical events or not, they are rendered as typologies of Christ and the New Testament.

2) The Fathers who accept the historical reality of events criticize those who feel God is cruel for commanding genocide and other atrocities.

3) They ignore the incidents: emphasis is placed on another aspect of the story or the story is skipped altogether.

Origen uses this “spiritual metaphor/typology” method of interpreting the Old Testament stories because: “I myself think it is better that the Israelite wars be understood in this way, and it is better that Jesus [Joshua] is thought to fight in this way and to destroy cities and overthrow kingdoms. For in this manner what is said will also appear more devout and more merciful, when he is said to have so subverted and devastated individual cities that ‘nothing that breathed was left in them, neither nay who might be saved nor any who might escape’” (Homilies on Joshua, 13.3).

A depiction of Origen's self-castration.
A depiction of Origen’s self-castration.

Church Fathers who accept the historical reality of these events, such as St. Augustine of Hippo, say, “One should not at all think it a horrible cruelty that Joshua did not leave anyone alive in those cities that fell to him, for God himself had ordered this. However, whoever for this reason thinks that God himself must be cruel and does not wish to believe then that the true God was the author of the Old Testament judges as perversely about the works of God as he does about the sins of human beings. Such people do not know what each person ought to suffer. Consequently, they think it a great evil when that which is about to fall is thrown down and when mortals die.” (Questions on Joshua 16).


One of the arguments to justify ignoring or not interpreting God’s atrocities in the Old Testament can be found in a New testament passage: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” (Romans 11:33-35). This is called “circular reasoning.”

One can ask many contemporary monks and nuns who are considered sanctified in the Orthodox Church–or at least considered as such by their blindly obedient followers–about such things. One may receive a slew of different responses that don’t exactly answer the question of why God acted this way in the Old Testament. The following are brief examples of responses given over the years by both monks and nuns at different monasteries under Geronda Ephraim:

  • “Questions like that can lead to blasphemy. You shouldn’t focus on these things. Be more simple.”
  • “Well, if there’s nothing in the Fathers, it’s obviously not that important. If it was something important, they would have written more in depth about these things.”
  • “Knowing the answers to questions like that are not necessary for salvation. You should focus more on the positive things God did.” (Followed by a whole slew of miracles by Christ for our salvation and contemporary miracles by orthodox saints).
  • “People always focus on the concept that God is love but they forget that he is also a righteous judge. This should make us fear saddening or angering him through our disobedience lest we suffer something similar.”
  • “The Old Testament isn’t that important; it’s the New Testament you should focus on. Anything important or crucial for our salvation in the Old Testament is found in the New Testament, the Synaxarion and the Church Services. It’s very easy to become deluded reading the Old Testament. Some Elders even recommend not reading it because it can incite warfares of the flesh and blasphemy.”
  • “Many saints of old were illiterate and they didn’t become sanctified by reading and studying or satisfying vain curiosities for idle knowledge which puffs up the ego. They didn’t need the answers to such questions because they knew Jesus Christ was the true God through direct experience.”
Bishop Anthony (center). Bishop Maximos of Pittsburgh on his left, Bishop Sotirios of Canada on his right. Geronda Ephraim and Gerondissa Ephraimia (Thassos) are beside Bishop Sotirios.
Bishop Anthony (center). Bishop Maximos of Pittsburgh on his left, Bishop Sotirios of Canada on his right. Geronda Ephraim and Gerondissa Ephraimia (Thassos) are beside Bishop Sotirios.

The numerous vague answers given over the years all seem to come down to one thing: critical thinking is demonic; using reason is “Luciferian,” and this line of questioning stems from egotism. As St. John of the Ladder advises in the Ladder, the Shepherd should attempt to make intricate men simple: “I beg you, do not instruct the simpler sort in the complexities of deceitful thoughts, but rather, if possible, make complex men simple—a marvelous thing indeed!” (To the Shepherd #95).

Using biblical numbers alone, the Old Testament states God murdered 2,821,364. Many of the killings recorded do not give numbers of the death tolls. Based on populations and other Biblical trends of counting numbers, the total number of God’s murders in the Old Testament is estimated at 25,000,000.  This high number is for a 4500-5500 year time period (the LXX has an extra 1000 years in the genealogical list found in Genesis 11).

The Orthodox Church Fathers state that natural disasters are punishments from God for the peoples’ sins. The Old Testament total is a very low number compared to all the murders God has committed in the New Testament period of Grace. In the period from 1900 to the present, 115 years, God has greatly exceeded His Old Testament death toll by punishing sin through natural disasters:

[Also see Demetrios Panagopoulos’ Homilies on Earthquakes #18- & 181. Demetrios also relates a miracle from June 20, 1978. Geronda Epraim was being driven to Thessaloniki. On the way there, he ordered the driver, Ioannis, to turn around immediately. He did, and they avoided the great 6.2 earthquake that occurred that day in Thessaloniki. ( περί τών σεισμών )


The following article contains a few excerpts from the Fathers. It is by no mean an exhaustive list.

Icon of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church who used the writings of the Theologian Origen of Alexandria.
Icon of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church who used the writings of the Theologian Origen of Alexandria.


St. Justin Martyr writes: Accordingly, when the prophet says, ‘I saved you in the times of Noah,’ as I have already remarked, he addresses the people who are equally faithful to God, and possess the same signs. For when Moses had the rod in his hands, he led your nation through the sea. And you believe that this was spoken to your nation only, or to the land. But the whole earth, as the Scripture says, was inundated, and the water rose in height fifteen cubits above all the mountains: so that it is evident this was not spoken to the land, but to the people who obeyed Him: for whom also He had before prepared a resting-place in Jerusalem, as was previously demonstrated by all the symbols of the deluge; I mean, that by water, faith, and wood, those who are afore-prepared, and who repent of the sins which they have committed, shall escape from the impending judgment of God. (Dialogue with Trypho, 138).

St. Ephraim writes: If they did not repent because of the signs done in those seven days, it was clear that they would not have repented in the twenty years in which there would have been no signs. Therefore God sent off, with many fewer sins, those whose lives He had shortened by twenty years… (Commentary on Genesis).

13th century CE, Ark of Noah, Byzantine Mosaic
13th century CE, Ark of Noah, Byzantine Mosaic


St. Augustine writes: “Sins against nature, therefore, like the sin of Sodom, are abominable and deserve punishment whenever and wherever they are committed. If all nations committed them, all alike would be held guilty of the same charge in God’s law, for our Maker did not prescribe that we should use each other in this way. In fact, the relationship that we ought to have with God is itself violated when our nature, of which He is Author, is desecrated by perverted lust…Your punishments are for sins which men commit against themselves, because, although they sin against You, they do wrong in their own souls and their malice is self-betrayed. They corrupt and pervert their own nature, which You made and for which You shaped the rules, either by making wrong use of the things which You allow, or by becoming inflamed with passion to make unnatural use of things which You do not allow” (Rom. 1:26). (Confessions, Book III, chap. 8)

Destruction of Sodom Mosaic, Monreale Cathedral.
Destruction of Sodom Mosaic, Monreale Cathedral.


Origen writes: But let us return to Lot, who, fleeing the destruction of Sodom with his wife and daughters after he had received the command from the angels to not look back, was proceeding to Segor. But his wife became negligent of the command; “she looked back”; she violated the imposed law; “she became a little statue of salt.” Do we think there was so much evil in this transgression, that the woman, because she looked behind her, incurred the destruction which she appeared to be fleeing by divine favor? For what great crime was it, if the concerned mind of the woman looked backward whence she was being terrified by the excessive crackling of the flames? But because “the law is spiritual” and the things which happened to the ancients “happened figuratively,” let us see if perhaps Lot, who did not look back, is not the rational understanding and the manly soul, and his wife here represents the flesh. For it is the flesh which always looks to vices, which, when the soul is proceeding to salvation, looks backward and seeks after pleasures. For concerning that the Lord also said: “No man putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” And he adds: “Remember Lot’s wife.” But the fact that “she became a little statue of salt” appears to be an open indication of her folly. For salt represents the prudence which she lacked. (Homilies on Genesis, 5.2)



St. Clement of Alexandria writes: “Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted” (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2).

St Ephraim the Syrian writes: After these things, Judah took a wife and by her begot Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er, his firstborn, took Tamar as a wife. But because he was evil before the Lord, that is, because he was wicked before the Lord, the Lord slew him. even though his brother took Tamae out of love for her, because of his hatred towards his brother, Onan did not wish to raise up offspring for his brother. When God also slew the second son because of the cruel stratagem that he contrived, it was thought that it was due to the sins of Tamar that her two husbands had died. (Homilies on Genesis, 34.2)

GOD’S 7 YEAR, WORLDWIDE FAMINE: The Fathers teach that Joseph, in providing for those suffering from the seven year famine, is a figure of Christ, who provides for all those suffering from spiritual famine. They don’t really focus on anything else.

Collecting the dead in the streets of Athens during  the Great Famine (1941–1944).
Collecting the dead in the streets of Athens during the Great Famine (1941–1944). According to Orthodox Teaching, this Famine was God’s punishment upon Greece for their iniquities.


St. Ephraim the Syrian writes: “Hail and fire” together; neither did the hail extinguish the fire, nor did the fire melt the hail. Rather, it burst into flames in the hail as in a thicket and turned [the hail] as red as iron in the fire, blazing in the hail, and careful of the trees. The force [of the hail] “splintered the ancient trees,” but the fire [in the hail] protected the hedges, seed beds and vineyards.” (Commentary on Exodus 9.3)


St. Basil the Great writes: “He that has opened a pit and dug it.” We do not find the name of “pit” (lakkos) ever assigned in the divine Scriptures in the case of something good, nor a “well” of water (phrear) in the case of something bad. That into which Joseph was thrown by his brothers is a pit (lakkos). And there is a slaughter “from the firstborn of Pharaoh unto the firstborn of the captive woman that was in the prison (lakkos).” (Exegetic Homilies 11.8) [Ps. 7:15; the Greek word for dungeon in Ex. 12:29 is lakkos].

That night, God sent the angel of death to kill the firstborn sons of the Egyptians.
That night, God sent the angel of death to kill the firstborn sons of the Egyptians.


St. Clement of Rome writes: Pharoah and his army and all the leaders of Egypt, “the chariots and their riders,” were drowned in the Red Sea and perished for no other reason than that their foolish hearts were hardened, after the working of signs and wonders in the land of Egypt by God’s servant Moses (Letter to the Corinthians 51).

St. Gregoy of Nyssa writes: “Again, according to the view of the inspired Paul, the people itself, by passing through the Red Sea, proclaimed the good tidings of salvation by water. The people passed over, and the Egyptian king with his host was engulfed, and by these actions this sacrament [i.e. Baptism] was foretold. For even now, whensoever the people is in the water of regeneration, fleeing from Egypt, from the burden of sin, it is set free and saved. But the devil with his own servants (I mean, of course, the spirits of evil) is choked with grief and perishes, deeming the salvation of men to be his own misfortune.” (On the Baptism of Christ) Elsewhere, St. Gregory writes: “But after that the surface of the sea became one again, and the temporary gap was flooded over. So this remains a unique event which occurred in such a way that the marvel did not lose credibility because of the passage of time, since it continues to be testified to by visible traces. That is the way the affair of the marshy lake is both described and shown.” (The Life of Gregory the Wonderworker 7.55)

Santa Maria Maggiore, nave mosaic, Crossing of the Red Sea,
Santa Maria Maggiore, nave mosaic, Crossing of the Red Sea,

Paulus Orosius writes: The Hebrews proceeded safely over the dry passage, and the masses of stationary water collapsed behind them. The entire Egyptian multitude with their king was overwhelmed and killed, and the entire province, which had previously been tortured by plagues, became empty by this last slaughter. Even today there exists most reliable evidence of these events. For the tracks of chariots and the ruts made by the wheels are visible not only on the shore but also in the deep, as far as sight can reach. And if perchance for the moment they are disturbed either accidentally or purposely, they are immediately restored through divine providence by winds and waves to their original appearances, so that whoever is not taught to fear God by the study of revealed religion may be terrified by his anger through this example of his accomplished vengeance.” (Seven Books of History Against the Pagans 1.10)

GOD’S PERPETUAL WAR WITH AMALEK: The Church Fathers usually focus on the name Amalek meaning “a sinful people” and Moses’ raised arms as a typology of the Cross.

St. Justin Martyr writes: In truth it was not because Moses prayed that his people were victorious, but because, while the name of Jesus was at the battle front, Moses formed the sign of the cross. Who among you does not know that prayer is most pleasing to God which is uttered with lamentation and tears? But on this occasion Moses (or any after him) did not pray in such a manner; he was seated on a stone. And i have shown that even the stone is symbolical of Christ…Besides, the fact that the prophet Moses remained until the evening in the form of the cross, when his hands were held up by Aaron and Hur, happened in the likeness of this sign. For the Lord also remained upon the cross until the evening, when he was buried. Then he rose from the dead on the third day (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, 90, 97).

moses aaron hur


Salvian the Prebyter writes: Thus it is written: “The lord therefore struck the people for their guilt on the occasion of the calf which Aaron had made.” What greater and more manifest judgment could God have made regarding sinners than punishment immediately follow their sins? Yet, since all were guilty, why was not condemnation visited on all? Because the good Lord struck some with the swords of his sentence in order to correct others by example and to prove to all at the same time, his judgment by correcting, his love by pardoning. When he punished, he judged; when he pardoned, he loved. His judgment and love were unequal: his love was more evident than his severity. (The Governance of God 1.11.48)

Fresco of the worship of the Golden Calf, from a synagogue in Syria, 244
Fresco of the worship of the Golden Calf, from a synagogue in Syria, 244

THE JERICHO GENOCIDE: The Church Fathers focus more on the Fall of Jericho and the trumpets, as well as Rahab the prostitute, and overlook the genocide aspect. There are also many allegories made, but none of the Fathers really explain or interpret the fact that God ordered and sanctioned the genocide of an entire nation; “And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.”



St. Jerome writes: Achan sinned, and the entire nation transgressed. And the Lord said to Joshua, “The children of Israel will not be able to stand before their enemies but shall flee from their adversaries, because there is a curse in the midst. And I shall no more be with you unless the anathema is destroyed out of you.” And when they made search for the guilty person and the lot discovered him hiding, Achan, and his sons and daughters, and his asses and sheep are killed; his tent and all his possessions are destroyed by fire. Granted, that he himself committed a sin. What sin did his children commit, his oxen, his asses, or his sheep? Reprehend God, why one man committed a sin and a number of people were put to death; why even he is stoned to death and all his possessions are destroyed by the avenging flame? Let us also quote the other testimony: “There was not a city,” he says, “that the Lord did not deliver to the children of Israel except the Hivites who dwell in Gibeon; they took all by fight, because it was the sentence of the Lord that their hearts should be hardened and they should fight against Israel and be killed, and that they should not deserve any clemency and should be destroyed, as the Lord commanded Moses” (Josh. 11:19-20). If it was done by the will of God that they should neither make peace with Israel nor obtain peace from Israel, let us say with the Apostle: “Why then does he find fault? For who can resist his will” (Rom. 9:13)? (Defense Against the Pelagians, 1:37).

Achan & his family stoned to death, Maciejowski Bible, 13th c
Achan & his family stoned to death, Maciejowski Bible, 13th c

St. Basil the Great writes: Accordingly I find, in taking up the Holy Scripture, that in the Old and New Testament contumacy toward God is clearly condemned, not in consideration of the number or heinousness of transgressions, but in terms of a single violation of any precept whatsoever, and, further, that the judgment of God covers all forms of disobedience. In the Old Testament, I read of the frightful end of Achar (Jos. 7.19-26) and the account of the man who gathered wood on the Sabbath day (Num. 15.32-36). Neither of these men was guilty of any other offense against God nor had they wronged a man in any way, small or great; but the one, merely for his first gathering of wood paid the inescapable penalty and did not have an opportunity to make amends, for, by the command of God, he was forthwith stoned by all his people. The other, only because he had pilfered some part of the sacrificial offerings, even though these had not yet been brought into the synagogue nor had been received by those who perform this function, was the cause not only of his own destruction but of that also of his wife and children and of his house and personal possessions besides. Moreover, the evil consequences of his sin would presently have spread like fire over his nation and this, too, although the people did not know what had occurred and had not excused the sinner unless his people, sensing the anger of God from the destruction of the men who were slain, had promptly been struck with fear, and unless Joshua, son of Nun, sprinkling himself with dust, had prostrated himself together with the ancients, and unless the culprit, discovered thus by lot, had paid the penalty mentioned above.

Perhaps someone will raise the objection that these men might plausibly be suspected of other sins for which they were overtaken by these punishments, yet the Holy Scripture made mention of these sins alone as very serious and worthy of death. (Preface on the Judgment of God)



Origen writes: You see that these things that follow truly pertain more to the truth of a mystery that that of history. For it is not so much that a piece of land is forever uninhabitable, but that the place of demons will be uninhabitable when no one will sin and sin will not rule in anyone. Then the devil and his angels will be consigned to the eternal fire with our Lord Jesus Christ sitting as ruler and judge and saying to those who overcame before and afterwards, “Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom that was created for you by my Father.” But to the others he will say, “Go into the eternal fire that God prepared for the devil and his angels,” until he takes care of every soul with the remedies he himself knows and “all Israel may be saved.” (Homilies on Joshua, 8.5)

You will read in the Holy Scripture about the battles of the just ones, about the slaughter and carnage of murderers, and that the saints spare none of their deeply rooted enemies. If they do spare them, they are even charged with sin, just as Saul was charged because he had preserved the life of Agag king of Amalek (1 Sam. 15:9-24). You should understand the wars of the just by the method I set forth above, that these wars are waged by them against sin. But how will the just ones endure if they reserve even a little bit of sin? Therefore, this is said of them: “They did not leave behind even one who might be saved or might escape.”

Do you perhaps not believe me that the battle is joined against our sin? Then believe Paul as he says, “Not yet to the shedding of blood have you resisted against sin” (Heb. 12:4) Do you see that the fight proposed for you is against sin and that you must complete the battle even to the shedding of blood? Is it not evident that the divine Scripture indicates these things, even as it habitually says, “Sanctify war” (Joel 3:9), and, “You will fight the battle of the Lord” (1 Sam. 18:17)?

When the Jews read these things, they become cruel and thirst after human blood, thinking that even holy persons so struck those who were living in Ai that none of them was left “who might be saved or who might escape.” They do not understand that mysteries are dimly shadowed in these words and that they more truly indicate to us that we ought not to leave any of those demons deeply within, whose dwelling place is chaos and who rule in the abyss, but to destroy them all. We slay demons, but we do not annihilate their essence. For their work and endeavor is to cause persons to sin. If we sin, they have life; but if we do not sin, they are destroyed. Therefore, all holy persons kill the inhabitants of Ai; they both annihilate and do not release any of them. These are doubtless those who guard their heart with all diligence so that evil thoughts do not proceed from it, and those who heed their mouth, so that “no evil word” proceeds from it. Not to leave any who flee means this; when no evil word escapes them. (Homilies on Joshua, 8.7).



St. Jerome writes: For if the armed host of the Lord was represented by the trumpets of the priests, we may see in Jericho a type of the overthrow of the world by the preaching of the gospel. And to pass over endless details (for it is not my purpose now to unfold all the mysteries of the Old Testament), five kings who previously reigned in the land of promise and opposed the gospel army were overcome in battle with Joshua. I think it is clearly to be understood that before the Lord led his people from Egypt and circumcised them, sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch had the dominion, and that to these, as to five princes, everything was subject. And when they took refuge in the cave of the body and in a place of darkness, Jesus entered the body itself and killed them, that the source of their power might be the instrument of their death. (Against Jovinianus 1.21).

amorite kings


Joshua Conquers Libnah

Origen writes: But if we examine the very meanings of the names more eagerly and more diligently, it will be discovered that the significance of the names can have an interpretation at one time of a wicked kingdom, and at another time, of a good kingdom. For example, I think Libnah means “whiteness.” But whiteness is understood in different ways, for there is a whiteness of leprosy and a whiteness of light. Therefore, it is possible to indicate diversities in the meaning even of the name itself, and of either condition. Thus Libnah had a certain whiteness of leprosy under the wicked kings, and, after those are destroyed and overthrown, when Libnah comes into the Israelite kingdom, it receives the whiteness of light; because whiteness is mentioned in Scriptures as being both praiseworthy and blameworthy. (Homilies on Joshua, 13.2).

Joshua Conquers Lachish

Origen writes: And again, Lachish is interpreted “way.” But in the Scriptures, a way is both a laudable and a culpable thing. That is not difficult to demonstrate, as it says in the Psalms, “And the way of the impious will perish;” and in another place, on the contrary, “Make straight the way of your feet.” Therefore it can also be understood here that the city of Lachish was at first the way of the impious, and afterwards, when it was destroyed and overthrown, it was won over to the right way with the Israelites reigning. (Homilies on Joshua, 13.2).

Joshua Conquers Hebron

Origen writes: In like manner, there is also Hebron, which they say means “union” or “marriage.” But the union of our soul was at first with a wicked man and a most evil husband, the devil. When that one was destroyed and abolished, the soul was “freed from the law” of that former wicked man and united with a good and lawful one, him about whom the apostle Paul says, “I determined to present you a chaste virgin to one man, to Christ.”

Thus even the understanding of names themselves agrees with this twofold condition of every city.

The Whole Land is Defeated

Origen writes:

I myself think it is better that the Israelite wars be understood in this way, and it is better that Jesus [Joshua] is thought to fight in this way and to destroy cities and overthrow kingdoms. For in this manner what is said will also appear more devout and more merciful, when he is said to have so subverted and devastated individual cities that “nothing that breathed was left in them, neither nay who might be saved nor any who might escape.”

Would that the Lord might thus cast out and extinguish all former evils from the souls who believe in him—even those he claims for his kingdom—and from my own soul, its own evils; so that nothing of a malicious inclination may continue to breathe in me, nothing of wrath; so that no disposition of desire for any evil may be preserved in me, and no wicked word “may remain to escape” from my mouth. For thus, purged from all former evils and under the leadership of Jesus, I can be included among the cities of the sons of Israel, concerning which it is written, “The cities of Judah will be raised up and they will dwell in them.” (Homilies on Joshua, 13.3).

Likewise, it is especially the work of the Word of God to pull down the diabolical structures that the devil has built in the human soul. For, in everyone of us, that one raised up towers of pride and walls of self-exaltation. The Word of God overthrows and undermines these, so that justly, according to the apostle, we are made, “the cultivation of God and the building of God”, “set upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself the chief cornerstone, from whom the uniting edifice grows into a temple of God in the spirit.” And thus at last we may be entitled to be included in the inheritance of the holy land, in the Israelite portion. Then our enemies will be abolished and destroyed so “that none of them remains who may breathe in us,” but only the spirit of Christ breathes in us, according to the teaching of Christ Jesus our Lord, “to whom is the strength and the power forever and ever. Amen!” (Homilies on Joshua, 13.4).


On Jabin

Origen writes: But let us attempt, as God grants, to investigate certain individual kings of the opposing army; and through the meaning of the names of each one, let us consider also the work he performs in malice.

First of all, the one who is designated the author of this war, who collects the others and summons them to a conspiracy of wickedness, is named Jabin, who was king of Hazor. For he is the one who is said to have called the others together. But Jabin means “thought” or “prudence.” What,, then, is this “thought” or “prudence,” if not that which the prophet Isaiah calls “proud thought?” For he says, “And moreover, I shall strike out the proud thought of the prince of the Assyrians who said, ‘I shall bring it to pass by my power, and by the wisdom of my perception, I shall remove the boundaries of the nations and plunder their power.’”

Therefore, the one who is called “proud thought” in that place is this king of the Assyrians. But here, Jabin is “thought” or “prudence.” For it is written that in paradise the serpent was “more prudent than all the beasts” who were upon the earth. And even that “steward of iniquity” is said to have “done prudently” that which he did. This Jabin, then, is king of Hazor. But Hazor means “court.” Therefore, all the earth is the court of this king, the devil, who holds the supremacy of the whole earth as though one court. But do you wish to verify that the court is itself the earth? In the Gospels it is written that the strong one sleeps unconcerned in his own court until a stronger one comes, who may both “bind” him and “carry away what he possesses.” The king of the court, therefore, is “the prince of this world.” (Homilies on Joshua, 14.2).

On Jobab

Origen writes: This one sends word to Jobab; for he himself is the one who sends word to all nations and summons them to battle. He sends word to the king of Merom. Jobab means “hostilities,” but Merom means “bitternesses.” Therefore, the devil sends word to another hostile power, doubtless from among the fugitive angels, and this power is the king of bitternesses. All bitternesses and difficulties in this world that are inflicted on wretched mortals issue from this author and what he does. There are diverse kinds of sin. For nothing can be more bitter than sin, even if it seems somewhat delightful at first, as Solomon writes. “But in the end,” he says, “you will find what seemed sweet in the beginning to be more bitter than gall and sharper than the edge of a sword.” But the nature of righteousness is the opposite: In the beginning, it seems more bitter, but in the end, when it produces fruits of virtue, it is found to be sweeter than honey. Therefore, the devil sent word to the hostile Jobab, the king of bitterness. (Homilies on Joshua, 14.2).

 Below are some images of various massacres and attempted genocides against Christians (primarily Eastern Orthodox) during the 20th century. One wonders if, in the spirit and tradition of the Church Fathers, they will be allocated to “allegories” and “metaphors” and “hyperbole” by future writers who deny their historical reality.

In 1915, the decaying Ottoman Empire launched a pogrom against eastern Turkey's Armenian population, falsely accusing them of supporting a Russian invasion.
In 1915, the decaying Ottoman Empire launched a pogrom against eastern Turkey’s Armenian population, falsely accusing them of supporting a Russian invasion.
Greek civilians mourn their dead relatives, Great Fire of Smyrna, 1922
Greek civilians mourn their dead relatives, Great Fire of Smyrna, 1922
Victims of Soviet NKVD in Lviv, June 1941.
Victims of Soviet NKVD in Lviv, June 1941.
Ustasha soldiers hold the head of a Serbian Orthodox man they decapitated during the Serbian genocide (1941-44)
Ustasha soldiers hold the head of a Serbian Orthodox man they decapitated during the Serbian genocide (1941-44)
Vynnytsa, Ukraine, June 1943. Mass graves dating from 1937–38 opened up and hundreds of bodies exhumed for identification by family members.
Vynnytsa, Ukraine, June 1943. Mass graves dating from 1937–38 opened up and hundreds of bodies exhumed for identification by family members.
Katyn exhumation, 1943
Katyn exhumation, 1943


God’s Killings in the Deuterocanonical Books Part II – 17 Acts of Murder in the Books of the Maccabees (Steve Wells, 2013)

Deuterocanonical is a term coined in 1566 by the theologian Sixtus of Siena, who had converted to Catholicism from Judaism, to describe scriptural texts of the Old Testament considered canonical by the Catholic Church, but which are not present in the Hebrew Bible today, and which had been omitted by some early canon lists, especially in the East. The deuterocanonical books are considered canonical by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and the Church of the East, but are considered non-canonical by most Protestants. The word deuterocanonical comes from the Greek meaning ‘belonging to the second canon’. The original usage of the term distinguished these scriptures both from those considered non-canonical and from those consideredprotocanonical. However, some editions of the Bible include text from both deuterocanonical and non-canonical scriptures in a single section designated “Apocrypha”. This arrangement can lead to conflation between the otherwise distinct terms “deuterocanonical” and “apocryphal”. The Greek Septuagint English translation used in this article can be found here:

The books in the Apocrypha (aka the Deuterocanonical books) add another 20 killings to God’s list. The first three involve Susanna and Judith, the rest are told in the Books of the Maccabees. This article is about the murders in the Books of the Maccabees, it is taken from Drunk with Blood: God’s Killings in the Bible, 2nd revised edition:

Tombs of the Maccabees, Modi'in, Israel
Tombs of the Maccabees, Modi’in, Israel

MATHATHIAS’ DOUBLE MURDER: The first chapter of I Maccabees tells about the trials and tribulations of the Jews after Alexander the Great conquered Judea. His successor in the region (a century and a half later), Antiochus, desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and forced the Jews to abandon their religious traditions. That’s when Mathathias appears.

“Now when he had left speaking these words, there came one of the Jews in the sight of all to sacrifice on the altar which was at Modin, according to the king’s commandment. Which thing when Mattathias saw, he was inflamed with zeal, and his reins trembled, neither could he forbear to shew his anger according to judgment: wherefore he ran, and slew him upon the altar. Also the king’s commissioner, who compelled men to sacrifice, he killed at that time, and the altar he pulled down. Thus dealt he zealously for the law of God like as Phinees did unto Zambri the son of Salom.” (I Maccabees 2:23-26)

The Zeal of Phinehas, 15th c.
The Zeal of Phinehas, 15th c.

[Note: Mathathias was showing his zeal for the Law just like Phinehas did when he threw a spear through an interfaith couple. The double murder pleased God so much that He stopped killing Israelites with a plague—after killing 24,000. For being so “zealous for his God,” Phinehas was given God’s covenant of peace” and the “covenant of an everlasting priesthood.” Mathathia’s double murder was as pleasing to God as Phineha’s].

Phinehas followed the man into his tent, and drove his spear through both of them, through the man of Israel and into the woman's belly. (Children's Illustrated Bible)
“Phinehas followed the man into his tent, and drove his spear through both of them, through the man of Israel and into the woman’s belly.” (Children’s Illustrated Bible)

MATHATHIAS AND HIS FRIENDS SLAY THE WICKED SINNERS, CIRCUMCISE THE UNCIRCUMCISED AND YIELD NOT TO THE HORN OF THE SINNER: So they joined their forces, and smote sinful men in their anger, and wicked men in their wrath: but the rest fled to the heathen for succour. Then Mattathias and his friends went round about, and pulled down the altars: And what children soever they found within the coast of Israel uncircumcised, those they circumcised valiantly. They pursued also after the proud men, and the work prospered in their hand. So they recovered the law out of the hand of the Gentiles, and out of the hand of kings, neither suffered they the sinner to triumph. (I Maccabees 2:44-48)

Circumcision in the Bible, with flint blade for ancient knife.
Circumcision in the Bible, with flint blade for ancient knife.

[NOTE: According to the story in I Maccabees, Antiochus had made circumcision illegal so there were lots of uncircumcised boys running around in Israel. Mathathias and his men inspected every penis in Israel to make sure it was properly circumcised, and if not, they cut off the offending foreskin themselves].

Tomb of Mattathias ben Johanan, Israel
Tomb of Mattathias ben Johanan, Israel

GOD KILLED ANDRONICUS (THAT SACRILEGIOUS WRETCH): Andronicus was an official of King Antiochus who got involved in a dispute between two rivals for the Jewish high priesthood. One claimant was Onias, God’s favorite; the other was Menelaus, a cruel tyrant and savage beast, who stole gold out of the temple and gave it to Andronicus. Menelaus asked Andronicus to kill Onias, which he did. Then, God inspired Antiochus to kill Andronicus (the sacrilegious wretch) as his deserved punishment.

“Now Menelaus, supposing that he had gotten a convenient time, stole certain vessels of gold out of the temple, and gave some of them to Andronicus, and some he sold into Tyrus and the cities round about. Which when Onias knew of a surety, he reproved him, and withdrew himself into a sanctuary at Daphne, that lieth by Antiochia. Wherefore Menelaus, taking Andronicus apart, prayed, him to get Onias into his hands; who being persuaded thereunto, and coming to Onias in deceit, gave him his right hand with oaths; and though he were suspected by him, yet persuaded he him to come forth of the sanctuary: whom forthwith he shut up without regard of justice. For the which cause not only the Jews, but many also of other nations, took great indignation, and were much grieved for the unjust murder of the man. And when the king was come again from the places about Cilicia, the Jews that were in the city, and certain of the Greeks that abhorred the fact also, complained because Onias was slain without cause. Therefore Antiochus was heartily sorry, and moved to pity, and wept, because of the sober and modest behaviour of him that was dead. And being kindled with anger, forthwith he took away Andronicus his purple, and rent off his clothes, and leading him through the whole city unto that very place, where he had committed impiety against Onias, there slew he the cursed murderer. Thus the Lord rewarded him his punishment, as he had deserved” (II Maccabees 4:32-38)

Bust of Antiochus IV at the Altes Museum in Berlin.
Bust of Antiochus IV at the Altes Museum in Berlin.

A JEWISH MOB KILLS LYSIMACHUS, THE SACRILEGIOUS FELLOW: In the last apocryphal killing, God killed Andronicus (the sacrilegious wretch) for supporting the wrong candidate (Menelaus) for Jewish high priest. The next high priest was Lysimachus. There were rumors among the Jews that Lysimachus followed after his brother’s sacrilegious ways:

“Now when many sacrileges had been committed in the city by Lysimachus with the consent of Menelaus, and the fruit thereof was spread abroad, the multitude gathered themselves together against Lysimachus, many vessels of gold being already carried away. Whereupon the common people rising, and being filled with rage, Lysimachus armed about three thousand men, and began first to offer violence; one Auranus being the leader, a man far gone in years, and no less in folly. They then seeing the attempt of Lysimachus, some of them caught stones, some clubs, others taking handfuls of dust, that was next at hand, cast them all together upon Lysimachus, and those that set upon them. Thus many of them they wounded, and some they struck to the ground, and all of them they forced to flee: but as for the churchrobber himself, him they killed beside the treasury.” (II Maccabees 4:39-43)

GOD HELPS JUDAS MACCABEUS DESTROY THE WICKED: After Mathathias died, his son, Judas Maccabeus, replaced him as the leader of the Jewish terrorists. His first act was to burn “them that troubled his people” (with fire). Judas went through the cities of Judah, destroying the wicked, making himself famous all over the world. He killed Apoloonius and many of his soldiers, and he took the sword of Apollonius and fought with it for the rest of his life. Seron, the captain of the Syrian army, heard about Judas (as had everyone on earth). He collected a large army of wicked men to fight Judas. When Judas’ smaller army saw the Syrians, they were frightened. But Judas told them not to worry. Because success in war depends on God, not on numbers. “The Lord Himself will overthrow them. Immediately after his speech to his soldiers, Judas attacked Seron’s army, killing 800 men which made Judas even more famous and feared. And Judas was just getting started (I Maccabees 3:1-5; 8-26)

[NOTE: The same story, more or less, is told in II Maccabees 8:5-6).

JUDAS AND HIS UNARMED MEN KILL 3000 OF GORGIA’S SOLDIERS: In Judas Maccabeus first set of God-assisted slayings, he told his men not to worry about large opposing armies because success in war depends not on numbers but on God: “The Lord Himself will overthrow them.” This time, though, Judas and his men didn’t have a single sword among them. They didn’t need any; God did it all for them.

Judas and the Israelites prepare for war by putting on sackcloth, putting ashes on their heads, rending their garments, blowing trumpets, and crying together with a loud, long prayer to heaven:

“What shall we do with these, and whither shall we carry them away? For thy sanctuary is trodden down and profaned, and thy priests are in heaviness, and brought low. And lo, the heathen are assembled together against us to destroy us: what things they imagine against us, thou knowest. How shall we be able to stand against them, except thou, O God, be our help?”(I Maccabees 3:44-54)

And the war rituals worked like magic: Judas and his completely unarmed valiant men defeated 5000 well-armed soldiers. He told his men not to do anything; God would do the killing for them—and He did! Judas blew the trumpet and God killed 3000 Gentile soldiers. Then Judas and his men enriched themselves with the booty. As they left the bodies of God’s victims, they sang a hymn to God praising him for his mercy and they prepared for God’s next killing. (I Maccabees 4:1-11, 13-15, 23-24).


THE HANNUKAH KILLINGS: A year after God’s slaughter of Georgia’s army, Lysias attacked Judas with an army of 60,000. Judas asked God to deliver the Syrians like he did the mighty strangers to David and Jonathan. He asked God to scare the hell out of them and kill them with the sword of those that love him and it worked. God helped Judas kill another 5000:

“The next year therefore following Lysias gathered together threescore thousand choice men of foot, and five thousand horsemen, that he might subdue them. So they came into Idumea, and pitched their tents at Bethsura, and Judas met them with ten thousand men. And when he saw that mighty army, he prayed and said, ‘Blessed art thou, O Saviour of Israel, who didst quell the violence of the mighty man by the hand of thy servant David, and gavest the host of strangers into the hands of Jonathan the son of Saul, and his armourbearer; Shut up this army in the hand of thy people Israel, and let them be confounded in their power and horsemen: Make them to be of no courage, and cause the boldness of their strength to fall away, and let them quake at their destruction: Cast them down with the sword of them that love thee, and let all those that know thy name praise thee with thanksgiving.’ So they joined battle; and there were slain of the host of Lysias about five thousand men, even before them were they slain.” (I Maccabees 4:28-34)

After God “discomfited” the Gentiles, Judas and his brethren went up to clean up the Temple:

“Then said Judas and his brethren, Behold, our enemies are discomfited: let us go up to cleanse and dedicate the sanctuary. Upon this all the host assembled themselves together, and went up into mount Sion. And when they saw the sanctuary desolate, and the altar profaned, and the gates burned up, and shrubs growing in the courts as in a forest, or in one of the mountains, yea, and the priests’ chambers pulled down; They rent their clothes, and made great lamentation, and cast ashes upon their heads, And fell down flat to the ground upon their faces, and blew an alarm with the trumpets, and cried toward heaven.” (I Maccabees 4:36-40)

“Then they took whole stones according to the law, and built a new altar according to the former; And made up the sanctuary, and the things that were within the temple, and hallowed the courts. They made also new holy vessels, and into the temple they brought the candlestick, and the altar of burnt offerings, and of incense, and the table. And upon the altar they burned incense, and the lamps that were upon the candlestick they lighted, that they might give light in the temple. Furthermore they set the loaves upon the table, and spread out the veils, and finished all the works which they had begun to make. Now on the five and twentieth day of the ninth month, which is called the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and eighth year, they rose up betimes in the morning, And offered sacrifice according to the law upon the new altar of burnt offerings, which they had made.” (I Maccabees 4:47-53)

When the Gentiles found out the Jews had cleaned up the temple, they were exceedingly angry and began to persecute and kill the Jews—which got Judas (and God) into a killing mood again. He slaughtered tje children of Esau, burned to death the children of Bean and smote the children of Ammon:

“Now when the nations round about heard that the altar was built and the sanctuary renewed as before, it displeased them very much. Wherefore they thought to destroy the generation of Jacob that was among them, and thereupon they began to slay and destroy the people. Then Judas fought against the children of Esau in Idumea at Arabattine, because they besieged Gael: and he gave them a great overthrow, and abated their courage, and took their spoils. Also he remembered the injury of the children of Bean, who had been a snare and an offence unto the people, in that they lay in wait for them in the ways. He shut them up therefore in the towers, and encamped against them, and destroyed them utterly, and burned the towers of that place with fire, and all that were therein. Afterward he passed over to the children of Ammon, where he found a mighty power, and much people, with Timotheus their captain. So he fought many battles with them, till at length they were discomfited before him; and he smote them. (I Maccabees 5:1-8)

After the slaughter of the Gentile and the rededication of the Temple, the Jews established the annual eight-day festival, which we now know as Hanukkah:

“Moreover Judas and his brethren with the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, with mirth and gladness.” (I Maccabees 4:59)

THE MACCABESS BROTHERS SLAUGHTER THE HEATHENS: After the Hanukkah killings, the gentiles gathered together to fight the Israelites, who sent messengers with “their garments rent’ to ask Judas for help. Judas and his brothers (Simon and Jonathan) attacked the Gentiles in Galilee and Galad. Simon killed 3000 Galilean heathens and took their wives and children captive. Judas and his army went to Bosor and “slew every male with the edge of the sword, took all their spoils, and burnt it with fire…killing almost 8000.” Then Judas burnt the city of maspha to the ground after killing every male “with the edge of the sword.” Judas then went and did likewise to Casbon, Mageth, and Bosor, and the rest of the cities of Galaad.” Next, Judas commands his soldiers to akkack the great city of Ephron, kill every male, and then burn it. To thank Him for helping them slaughter the Gentiles, Judas and his brothers killed some animals for God. Then Judas and his brethren attacked the children of esau, burned walls and towers in Chebron, destroyed the altars and statues in the land of the aliens and strangers, and took the spoils of their cities:

“Now unto Simon were given three thousand men to go into Galilee, and unto Judas eight thousand men for the country of Galaad. Then went Simon into Galilee, where he fought many battles with the heathen, so that the heathen were discomfited by him. And he pursued them unto the gate of Ptolemais; and there were slain of the heathen about three thousand men, whose spoils he took. And those that were in Galilee, and in Arbattis, with their wives and their children, and all that they had, took he away with him, and brought them into Judea with great joy.” (I Maccabees 5:20-23)

“Hereupon Judas and his host turned suddenly by the way of the wilderness unto Bosora; and when he had won the city, he slew all the males with the edge of the sword, and took all their spoils, and burned the city with fire, From whence he removed by night, and went till he came to the fortress. And betimes in the morning they looked up, and, behold, there was an innumerable people bearing ladders and other engines of war, to take the fortress: for they assaulted them. When Judas therefore saw that the battle was begun, and that the cry of the city went up to heaven, with trumpets, and a great sound, He said unto his host, Fight this day for your brethren. So he went forth behind them in three companies, who sounded their trumpets, and cried with prayer. Then the host of Timotheus, knowing that it was Maccabeus, fled from him: wherefore he smote them with a great slaughter; so that there were killed of them that day about eight thousand men.” (I Maccabees 5:28-34)

“This done, Judas turned aside to Maspha; and after he had assaulted it he took and slew all the males therein, and received the spoils thereof and burnt it with fire. From thence went he, and took Casphon, Maged, Bosor, and the other cities of the country of Galaad. After these things gathered Timotheus another host and encamped against Raphon beyond the brook. So Judas sent men to espy the host, who brought him word, saying, All the heathen that be round about us are assembled unto them, even a very great host. He hath also hired the Arabians to help them and they have pitched their tents beyond the brook, ready to come and fight against thee. Upon this Judas went to meet them. Then Timotheus said unto the captains of his host, When Judas and his host come near the brook, if he pass over first unto us, we shall not be able to withstand him; for he will mightily prevail against us: But if he be afraid, and camp beyond the river, we shall go over unto him, and prevail against him. Now when Judas came near the brook, he caused the scribes of the people to remain by the brook: unto whom he gave commandment, saying, Suffer no man to remain in the camp, but let all come to the battle. So he went first over unto them, and all the people after him: then all the heathen, being discomfited before him, cast away their weapons, and fled unto the temple that was at Carnaim. But they took the city, and burned the temple with all that were therein. Thus was Carnaim subdued, neither could they stand any longer before Judas.” (I Maccabees 5:35-44)

Reconstruction of Medieval Mural Painting, Battle of Judas Maccabeus with Timotheus and the Fall of Maspha
Reconstruction of Medieval Mural Painting, Battle of Judas Maccabeus with Timotheus and the Fall of Maspha

“Now when they came unto Ephron, (this was a great city in the way as they should go, very well fortified) they could not turn from it, either on the right hand or the left, but must needs pass through the midst of it. … Wherefore Judas commanded a proclamation to be made throughout the host, that every man should pitch his tent in the place where he was. So the soldiers pitched, and assaulted the city all that day and all that night, till at the length the city was delivered into his hands: Who then slew all the males with the edge of the sword, and rased the city, and took the spoils thereof, and passed through the city over them that were slain. (I Maccabees 5:46; 49-51)

“So they went up to mount Sion with joy and gladness, where they offered burnt offerings, because not one of them were slain until they had returned in peace.” (I Maccabees 5:54).

Afterward went Judas forth with his brethren, and fought against the children of Esau in the land toward the south, where he smote Hebron, and the towns thereof, and pulled down the fortress of it, and burned the towers thereof round about. From thence he removed to go into the land of the Philistines, and passed through Samaria. At that time certain priests, desirous to shew their valour, were slain in battle, for that they went out to fight unadvisedly. So Judas turned to Azotus in the land of the Philistines, and when he had pulled down their altars, and burned their carved images with fire, and spoiled their cities, he returned into the land of Judea. (I Maccabees 5:65-68)

NICANOR’S ARMY—THE ALMIGHTY BEING THEIR HELPER, THEY SLEW ABOVE 9000 MEN: It’s hard to sort out God’s killings in First and Second Maccabees. The same stories are often told, but the details are so different that it’s hard to believe they are the same story. This is the account from II Maccabees:

King Philip (Demetrius in I Maccabees 7:4) sent Nicanor and Gorgias with 20,000 soldiers “to root out the whole race of the Jews.” When Judas found out about it, he gathered 7000 men “to fight manfully.” Telling them to trust in God who “at a beck” can destroy all of Nicanor’s army—along with “the whole world ,” if he wants to—like he did to Sennacherib’s 185,000 sleeping soldiers and when 6000 Jews and Macedonians slew 120,000 Galatians “because of the help they had from heaven.” For such a great slaughter, “they received many favors.” The speech had the desiring effect, inspiring the troops to die for their country. After Judas concluded his speech by reading Esdra’s book and giving them the watchword “The help of God,” his soldiers went off to fight Nicanor. And with God as their helper, “they slew above 9000 men.” Then they asked the “merciful God” to help them kill some more. And with God’s help, they killed more than 20,000 in Timotheus and Bacchides’ army. They killed Philarches (a wicked man) and they burned to death Callisthenes, as “a worthy reward for his impieties.” (II Maccabees 8:9-33).


JONATHAN AND SIMON DESTROY THE WICKED OUT OF ISRAEL: Jonathan Maccabeus encouraged his company to fight Bacchides, but they were divided by the Jordan River. So Jonathan told his troops to ask God for help. Jonathan and those that were on his side of the Jordan swam to the other side and together they killed 1000 men in Bacchides’ army. A little later, Jonathan struck the brethren of Odares and the children of Paseron, while his brother Simon discomfited Bacchides, and killed many wicked men that had asked him to come to their country. Thus, Jonathan and Simon destroyed the wicked out of Israel. (I Maccabees 9:44-73).

FIVE HEAVENLY HORSEMEN CAST DARTS AND FIREBALLS AT THE ENEMY: When Timotheus and his army threatened to attack, Judas and his companions sprinkled dirt on their heads, girded their loins with haircloth, and begged God to help them kill some more Gentiles. And the dirty heads and hair-clothed loins worked like a charm! God sent from heaven five men on horses, who cast darts and fireballs at the Gentiles, confounding them with blindness and filling them with trouble, and killing 20,500 soldiers and 600 horsemen. Timotheus fled to a stronghold, where he and his companions “blasphemed exceedingly, and cast forth abominable words.” Twenty of Judas’ young men were especially offended by their bad language, so they burned the blasphemers alive. Then they blessed the Lord “who had done great things” and given them the victory. (II Maccabees 10:24-38)

Coin with portrait of Antiochus IV. Reverse shows Apollo seated on an omphalos. The Greek inscription reads ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ (King Antiochus, the divine Epiphanus, Bringer of Victory.
Coin with portrait of Antiochus IV. Reverse shows Apollo seated on an omphalos. The Greek inscription reads ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ (King Antiochus, the divine Epiphanus, Bringer of Victory.

GOD KILLED ANTICOHUS WITH AN INCURABLE BOWEL DISEASE: Antiochus was a Seleucid king who, according to II Maccabees, mistreated the Jews. So God paid him back by giving him “an incurable and invisible plague” that caused “a dreadful pain in his bowels…and bitter torments of the inner parts.” While Antiochus suffered from his God-given bowel disease, worms swarmed out of his body, “his flesh fell off, and the filthiness of his smell was noisome.” No one could get near him because of the “intolerable stench.” It got so bad, in fact, that Antiochus couldn’t even “abide his own stench.” Then Antiochus became a Jew and begged God to stop tormenting him. But God did not stop. Antiochus, “the murderer and blasphemer, being grievously struck…died a miserable death” from his God-given bowel disease. (II Maccabees 9:5, 9-17, 28).

There’s another story about Antiochus’ death in the same book. In this one, Antiochus is smashed with stones as he entered the temple in Jerusalem. His head is cut off and his body chopped into pieces—all with God’s help and blessing:

“Which when the priests of Nanea had set forth, and he was entered with a small company into the compass of the temple, they shut the temple as soon as Antiochus was come in: And opening a privy door of the roof, they threw stones like thunderbolts, and struck down the captain, hewed them in pieces, smote off their heads and cast them to those that were without. Blessed be our God in all things, who hath delivered up the ungodly.” (II Maccabees 1:15-17)

IDUMEANS, TRAITORS, AND JEWS IN TWO TOWERS: After God killed Antiochus with a bowel disease, Judas Maccabeus restored the temple and “by the protection of the Lord” destroyed the altars of the heathens. Then they all got down on the ground and begged God to never again deliver them into the hands of barbarians and blasphemous men. After the prayer, Judas returned to killing people. He hunted down the Jews that had not supported his previous killing campaigns, by allying with the Idumeans. Then he asked God to help him attack the Idumeans. And together, God and Judas killed more than 20,000.But some Idumeans escaped to two towers. When Judas found out, he killed the men who allowed the escape and killed more than 20,000 in the twin towers. (II Maccabees 10:1-4, 15-23).

Nicanor died after being defeated by Judas Maccabaeus. His head and arms are cut off. Mosaic. Sant'Evasio Cathedral. Casale Monferrato. Piedmont Region.
Nicanor died after being defeated by Judas Maccabaeus. His head and arms are cut off. Mosaic. Sant’Evasio Cathedral. Casale Monferrato. Piedmont Region.

NICANOR’S HEAD—A MANIFEST SIGN OF THE HELP FROM GOD: Apparently Nicanor and at least some of his army survived the previous massacre, because a while later they attack the Jews on the Sabbath day. But Judas trusted in God, telling the people “a dream worthy to be believed.” Then Onias prayed for the people and Jeremiah the prophet showed up, delivering to Judas a gift from God: a holy, golden sword. The people were inspired by Judas to fight—not to protect their families and friends, but for the sake of “the holiness of the temple.” Judas reminded the people of how good God is at killing people and prayed:

“O Lord, thou didst send thine angel in the time of Ezekias king of Judea, and didst slay in the host of Sennacherib an hundred fourscore and five thousand: Wherefore now also, O Lord of heaven, send a good angel before us for a fear and dread unto them; And through the might of thine arm let those be stricken with terror, that come against thy holy people to blaspheme.”

So the Jews prayed with their hearts and fought with their hands, killing 35,000, while “being greatly cheered with the presence of God.” When the Jews found out that Nicanor had been killed, “they made a great noise and blessed the Almighty Lord.” Judas commanded that Nicanor’s head, hand and shoulder be cut off and carried to Jerusalem. Judas showed everyone Nicanor’s head and “wicked hand.” Then he had his tongue cut out and fed piece by piece, to the birds. Finally, he hung his hand and head over the temple and castle, respectively, as “an evident and manifest sign of the help of God.” (II Maccabees 15:1-3, 7, 11-35)

ALIENS AT CADES: Until now, everything went well for Jonathan and his brothers. They slaughtered gentiles, heathens, wicked sinners, and traitorous Jews wherever they went. When an army of strangers attacked Jonathan’s army and his army ran away, Jonathan rent his garments, cast dirt on his head and prayed. Having done that, his army returned and together they attacked the aliens at Cades, killing 3000 of them. (I Maccabees 11:68-74)

JOHN BURNS TO DEATH 2000 IN THE TOWER OF AZOTUS: Simon Maccabeus was getting old so he gathered his sons around him and made a speech, encouraging them to fight in holy wars, as he and his brothers had done their entire lives:

“I, and my brethren, and my father’s house, have ever from my youth unto this day fought against the enemies of Israel; and things have prospered so well in our hands, that we have delivered Israel oftentimes. But now I am old, and ye, by God’s mercy, are of a sufficient age: be ye instead of me and my brother, and go and fight for our nation, and the help from heaven be with you.”

Simon’s speech had the desired effect. In the next verse, Simon’s son John enlisted 20,000 fighting men to attack Cendebeus. And after sounding the holy trumpets, John and his army routed Cendebeus’ army. John pursued the fleeing soldiers and, with God’s help, burned 2000 of them to death in the Tower of Azotus. (I Maccabees 16:1-10)

Tomb of Simon the Just, Jerusalem
Tomb of Simon the Just, Jerusalem

[NOTE: Though the original book of I Maccabees was written in Hebrew, as can be deduced by a number of Hebrew idioms in the text, the original has been lost and the version which comes down to us is the Septuagint. Origen of Alexandria gives testimony to the existence of an original Hebrew text (as cited by Eusebius, Church History, vi. 25). Jerome likewise claims “the first book of Maccabees I have found to be Hebrew, the second is Greek, as can be proved from the very style” (per Prologus Galeatus). The book’s author is unknown. The author interprets the events not as a miraculous intervention by God, but rather God’s using the instrument of the military genius of the Maccabees to achieve his ends.

Unlike 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees was written in Koine Greek. The author of 2 Maccabees is not identified, but he claims to be abridging a 5-volume work by Jason of Cyrene. This longer work is not preserved, and it is uncertain how much of the present text of 2 Maccabees is simply copied from that work. The Greek style of the writer is very educated, and he seems well-informed about Greek customs. 

2 Maccabees demonstrates several points of doctrinal interpretation deriving from Pharisaic Judaism, and also found in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology.

Doctrinal issues that are raised in 2 Maccabees include:

  • Prayer for the dead and sacrificial offerings, both to free the dead from sin
  • Merits of the martyrs
  • Intercession of the saints (15:11–17) (at least as seen from a Christian viewpoint) 
  • Resurrection of the dead
  • Specific mention of creation ex nihilo (II Maccabees 7:28)

Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox regard 2 Maccabees as canonical. Jews and Protestants do not. 2 Maccabees, along with 1 and 3 Maccabees, appeared in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible completed in the 1st century BC. In Jamnia c 90, according to one theory now largely discredited, rabbis endorsed a narrower canon, excluding deuterocanonical works such as 2 Maccabees. This had little immediate impact on Christians, however, since most Christians did not know Hebrew and were familiar with the Hebrew Bible through the Greek Septuagint text of Hellenistic Jews, which included 2 Maccabees and other deuterocanonical works. 

God’s Killings in the Deuterocanonical Books Part I – 3 Acts of Murder in the “Apocrypha” (Steve Wells, 2013)

Deuterocanonical is a term coined in 1566 by the theologian Sixtus of Siena, who had converted to Catholicism from Judaism, to describe scriptural texts of the Old Testament considered canonical by the Catholic Church, but which are not present in the Hebrew Bible today, and which had been omitted by some early canon lists, especially in the East. The deuterocanonical books are considered canonical by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and the Church of the East, but are considered non-canonical by most Protestants. The word deuterocanonical comes from the Greek meaning ‘belonging to the second canon’. The original usage of the term distinguished these scriptures both from those considered non-canonical and from those consideredprotocanonical. However, some editions of the Bible include text from both deuterocanonical and non-canonical scriptures in a single section designated “Apocrypha”. This arrangement can lead to conflation between the otherwise distinct terms “deuterocanonical” and “apocryphal”. The Greek Septuagint English translation used in this article can be found here:

The books in the Apocrypha (aka the Deuterocanonical books) add another 20 killings to God’s list. The first three involve Susanna and Judith, the rest are told in the Books of the Maccabees. This article examines the first three murders; it is taken from Drunk with Blood: God’s Killings in the Bible, 2nd revised edition:

Part of the Septuagint text of the Susanna story as preserved in Papyrus 967 (3rd century).
Part of the Septuagint text of the Susanna story as preserved in Papyrus 967 (3rd century).


Susanna’s husband owned an orchard near his house where a couple of old judges liked to hang out, just to get a glimpse of Susanna. Once, when Susanna went to take a bath, the two judges ran to her and said, “We’re in love with you, let’s have sex.” If she refused, they would claim to have witnessed her having sex with a young man. Susanna started screaming, everyone came to see what was wrong, and the old men accused Susanna of having sex with a young man. They all believed them and condemned Susanna to death. At the last minute, the Lord raised up the holy spirit of a young boy, whose name was Daniel, and he interrogated the two old men separately. Their answers were different and contradictory.

Daniel told the first liar: “Very well; thou hast lied against thine own head; for even now the angel of God hath received the sentence of God to cut thee in two” (13:55). He then told the second liar: “Well; thou hast also lied against thine own head: for the angel of God waiteth with the sword to cut thee in two, that he may destroy you” (13:59)

“With that all the assembly cried out with a loud voice, and praised God, who saveth them that trust in him. And they arose against the two elders, for Daniel had convicted them of false witness by their own mouth: And according to the law of Moses they did unto them in such sort as they maliciously intended to do to their neighbour: and they put them to death. Thus the innocent blood was saved the same day.” (13:60-62)

Susanna and the Elders, 5th century fresco, Thessaloniki
Susanna and the Elders, 5th century fresco, Thessaloniki

[NOTE: Sextus Julius Africanus did not regard the story as canonical. Jerome (347–420), while translating the Vulgate, treated this section as a non-canonical fable. In his introduction, he indicated that Susanna was an apocryphal addition because it was not present in the Hebrew text of Daniel. Origen also noted the story’s absence in the Hebrew text, observing (inEpistola ad Africanum) that it was “hidden” (compare “apocrypha”) by the Jews in some fashion. There are no known early Jewish references to the Susannah story.]

The Righteous Judith, commemorated December 17th.
The Righteous Judith, commemorated December 17th.


JUDITH IS BLESSED ABOVE ALL WOMEN (FOR CUTTING OFF A SLEEPING MAN’S HEAD): The Book of Judith confirms what is already conveyed from the story of Jael in Judges: it is a most blessed thing for a woman to kill a man while he sleeps:

“Blessed among women be Jael wife of Chaber the Kenite; let her be blessed above women in tents…  She stretched forth her left hand to the nail, and her right to the hand workman’s hammer, and she smote Sisara with it, she nailed through his head and smote him; she nailed through his temples.” (Judges 5:24; 26) (Some translations say “Blessed above women be Jael”).

Mosaic of Jael at the Dormition Church, Jerusalem
Mosaic of Jael at the Dormition Church, Jerusalem

Judith was a beautiful widow who fasted all the time (except on the Sabbath) and wore haircloth on her loins (8:6-7). She asked God to help her kill her enemies the way he helped Simeon slaughter the newly circumcised Hivites (9:2-3). God answered her prayer and made Judith even more beautiful so she could seduce and murder the Assyrian general, Holofernes (12:16). She lied to him about her intentions, partied with him in his tent; then, after he fell asleep in a drunken stupor, she cut off his head:

“And Holofernes took great delight in her, and drank more wine than he had drunk at any time in one day since he was born… And Judith was left alone in the tent, and Holofernes lying along upon his bed: for he was filled with wine… Then she came to the pillar of the bed, which was at Holofernes’ head, and took down his fauchion from thence, And approached to his bed, and took hold of the hair of his head, and said, ‘Strengthen me, O Lord God of Israel, this day.’ And she smote twice upon his neck with all her might, and she took away his head from him. And tumbled his body down from the bed, and pulled down the canopy from the pillars; and anon after she went forth, and gave Holofernes his head to her maid; 10 And she put it in her bag of meat: so they twain went together according to their custom unto prayer: and when they passed the camp, they compassed the valley, and went up the mountain of Bethulia, and came to the gates thereof” (13:6-10).

Judith Mosaic at the Dormition Church, Jerusalem
Judith Mosaic at the Dormition Church, Jerusalem

And for that act, Judith is declared to be blessed above all women upon the earth:

“Then said Ozias unto her, ‘O daughter, blessed art thou of the most high God above all the women upon the earth; and blessed be the Lord God, which hath created the heavens and the earth, which hath directed thee to the cutting off of the head of the chief of our enemies.’” (13:18)

THE JUDITH MASSACRE–HANG YE UP THIS HEAD UPON OUR WALLS: When Judith returned to the Israelites, she took Holoferne’s head out of the wallet, and showed it to them, assuring everyone that no sex was involved in the murderous deed (13:19-20).

“And Achior [an unbelieving Ammonite], being called for, came, and Judith said to him: ‘The God of Israel, to whom thou gavest testimony, that he revengeth himself of his enemies, he hath cut off the head of all the unbelievers this night by my hand’” (13:27)

“When Achior saw the head of Holofernes in a man’s hand in the assembly of the people, he fell down on his face, and his spirit failed. But when they had recovered him, he fell at Judith’s feet, and reverenced her, and said, ‘Blessed art thou in all the tabernacles of Juda, and in all nations, which hearing thy name shall be astonished.’” (14:6-7)

Achior was so impressed with the whole thing that he decided to become a Jew right then and there, cutting off his own foreskin to seal the deal: “And when Achior had seen all that the God of Israel had done, he believed in God greatly, and circumcised the flesh of his foreskin, and was joined unto the house of Israel unto this day.” (14:10)

Righteous Judith Prayer Cards
Righteous Judith Prayer Cards

Judith told the Israelites to hang Holofernes’ head on the wall and wait a bit until the Assyrians see the headless body of Holofernes wallowing around in his own blood. Then, while they’re freaking out about that, attack them while they’re running away. God will help them kill them all. (14:1-4)

The entire Assyrian army was so shook up by the whole thing that they all ran away. The Israelites chased them as they ran, killing them all (with God’s help, of course) with the edge of the sword. (15:1-6)

“Then Joacim the high priest, and the ancients of the children of Israel that dwelt in Jerusalem, came to behold the good things that God had shewed to Israel, and to see Judith, and to salute her. And when they came unto her, they blessed her with one accord, and said unto her, ‘Thou art the exaltation of Jerusalem, thou art the great glory of Israel, thou art the great rejoicing of our nation: Thou hast done all these things by thine hand: thou hast done much good to Israel, and God is pleased therewith: blessed be thou of the Almighty Lord for evermore.’ And all the people said, So be it.” (15:8-10)

Judith and Holofernes, trictrac checker. Ivory, Western France, 12th century, found in Bayeux in 1838.
Judith and Holofernes, trictrac checker. Ivory, Western France, 12th century, found in Bayeux in 1838.

[NOTE: Although early Christians, such as St. Clement of Rome, St. Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, read and used the Book of Judith, some of the oldest Christian canons, including the Bryennios List (1st/2nd century), that of Melito of Sardis (2nd century) and Origines (3rd century), do not include it. Jerome, when he produced his Latin translation, counted it among the apocrypha, (although he changed his mind and later quoted it as scripture, and said he merely expressed the views of the Jews), as did Saints Athanasius Cyril of Jerusalem and Epiphanius of Salamis. However, the influential Church Fathers Augustine, Ambrose, and Hilary of Poitiers, considered Judith sacred scripture, and Pope Innocent I declared it part of the canon. In Jerome’s Prologue to Judith he claims that the Book of Judith was “found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures”. It was also accepted by the councils of Rome (382), Hippo (393) and Carthage (397) and finally dogmatically defined as canonical by the Roman Catholic Church in 1546 in the Council of Trent. The Eastern Orthodox Church also accepts Judith as inspired scripture, as was confirmed in the Synod of Jerusalem in 1672].

Judith slaying Holofernes, 1349-1354, by Guariento
Judith slaying Holofernes, 14th c., by Guariento

GOD SENT WASPS TO SLOWLY DESTROY PEOPLE: In Exodus and Deuteronomy, God promised to send hornets to help the Israelites destroy their enemies:

“I, and my brethren, and my father’s house, have ever from my youth unto this day fought against the enemies of Israel; and things have prospered so well in our hands, that we have delivered Israel oftentimes. 3 But now I am old, and ye, by God’s mercy, are of a sufficient age: be ye instead of me and my brother, and go and fight for our nation, and the help from heaven be with you.” (Ex. 23:28)

“And the Lord thy God shall send against them the hornets, until they that are left and they that are hidden from thee be utterly destroyed.” (Deut. 7:20)

There is no record of Him actually doing it except for this verse in Wisdom of Solomon 12:8-9: “And the Lord thy God shall send against them the hornets, until they that are left and they that are hidden from thee be utterly destroyed.”

God sent wasps to slowly destroy people “by little and little.” He could have killed them with war, or cruel beasts, or with just a “rough word,” but he decided to use wasps instead.