Philip Jenkins delivers a fearless examination of the darkand violent verses of the Bible—and a call for us to read them anew in pursuitof a richer, more honest faith. From “one of America’s best scholars ofreligion” (The Economist), this daring exploration of the Scripture’smost difficult passages forces us to confront and accept the violence that wasas integral to the formulation of Christianity’s message as it was for manyother of the world’s religions, and shows us how a full understanding of theScripture will allow us to finally move towards a more peaceful, spiritualworld. Readers of Bart Ehrman’s God’s Problem,John Selby Spong’s The Sins of Scripture, andJenkins’s own The Jesus Wars, as well as every Christian eager to squarethe recurrent violence of the Scripture with Christianity’s enduring message ofpeace, will find these difficult questions explored in full in Laying Downthe Sword.
That the Bible contains texts commanding the wholesale slaughter of people is at the heart of this most recent book by the high-profile author of Jesus Wars and The Next Christendom. Jenkins, who holds a joint appointment at Penn State University and Baylor University, is a Christian who tackles the challenge of how believers might take seriously the Bible's most explicitly violent texts without committing the atrocious acts they seem to promote. To get there, he discusses the history of the most problematic, genocidal texts, especially those in Deuteronomy and Joshua, as well as their history of use. This is the book's main strength. His comparison of the Bible with the Qur'an on the issue of violence seems more apologetic (everybody's got ugly texts) than instructive, though it may serve to correct modern assumptions that Islam is uniquely violent. Suggestions for how believers should acknowledge and discuss such texts include a review of methods of interpretation as well as parameters limiting the options. He finds no silver bullet, but Jenkins's frank admission is itself disarming.