I have to address the ‘eye for an eye’ passage. I know a lot of people have used this passage to present the ‘two different characters’ view of the Bible, the idea that the image of God presented in the Old Testament is drastically different than the image presented in the New Testament.
This has always upset me on a deeply literary level. This isn’t even bad theology. This is annoying literary criticism. This is poor reading, missing the whole point, or taking isolated passages into consideration.
To begin with, this isn’t about violent retribution. This actually about limiting retribution, ensuring that the punishment never exceeds the crime.
And all those instances extreme justice? The genocide and captivity and wholesale destruction? It is all justice. Actual earned justice. The rules aren’t changed in the New Testament. God doesn’t suddenly become soft and squishy after always being stark and mean. The big judgments are never positive, never enjoyed. Yes, God is angry, but he’s also mournful, hurt, betrayed. He isn’t suddenly less angry in the New Testament. Christ steps in and intercepts the anger and the consequences. The judgment is still there, still happening. We just no longer have to face it ourselves.
Believe the Bible is a work of literature if you must, I implore you to accept it as a divinely inspired guide, but however you approach it, please consider it as a whole. Please listen to the scholars who have studied the history, the translation efforts, the original contexts. But if you can’t be bothered to do that, at least understand that many parts of it are told in several different ways, that doesn’t mean they supposedly happened more than once. Multiple incomplete records don’t disagree, they just emphasis different elements. Numbers can be figurative. Language can be poetic. Someone else’s misinterpretation or misapplication doesn’t mean the Bible itself was wrong.
A bit of a rant. I’m sorry. But you if you don’t want people to take the overly strict and literal word of their teachers without challenge, don’t accept the overly dismissive and derogatory evaluation without considering other possibilities either. And that goes both ways. If you don’t want people dismissing the entire Bible because of some argumentative and selective criticism they heard from very loud and angry opponents, than don’t accept every conservative and judgmental assertion made from a pulpit without taking to the Scripture in prayer and asking if maybe it’s been misunderstood or misapplied.