Why avoid negative side of Old Testament?

Sr. Louise Zdunich


November 17, 2014

QuestionI am puzzled by your column on the Old Testament (WCR, Sept. 22). It is unfair and inappropriate to quote only positive statements and to say the whole document is sacred or the emphasis is on God's glory. No doubt that is present but your explanation is not complete and "spins" the truth of the Old Testament.

There is the traditional teaching of the Church on homosexuality. Church leaders never comment on the idea of a father offering his daughters for whatever the townspeople want to do with them. What an atrocity!

Further in the passage, the two daughters conspire to have sex with their father. You offer not a word about this disgusting plan, carried out. If the story requires that the reader tune out the immorality of how this parent respects his offspring, then the story is worthless. To focus on one shallow aspect of this story is anti-intellectual.

There are many more examples, including "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and go the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you."

No amount of explaining how "take your son and burn him to death" can dull the pain of such a command. Today, we would assign that instruction to mental illness and the devil.

Today, a priest would say that you are imagining criminal activity and ask the complainant: "Is your child at risk? If that is true, I must call the authorities."

I don't doubt that these stories are properly attributed. What I am upset about is the avoidance of the reality of many Old Testament stories. Many are dreadful examples and to fail to acknowledge that is one of the major reasons youth shun the Church.

It's like reading half of Harry Potter, even though everyone knows about the other half, the half that features the evil Lord Voldemort.

AnswerI question attributing the negative Old Testament stories as one of the major reasons youth shun the Church. If youth knew that much about the Old Testament, all of us would be delighted.

Your criticism of my response is valid as I did neglect the negative and focused only on the positive aspects, especially on the Old Testament's value to Jews and Christians.

It seems to me that drawing out these terrible negatives would not be helpful to someone wanting to learn more about the Old Testament in general. So I gave a response that would tend to encourage reading and study of the Bible.


We need to remember that the Hebrew mentality is one of the religious human being, the artist in touch with life while the Greek mentality (ours too) is concerned with the world of ideas, of the rational or scientific where the mind is sovereign.

Where the Greek is abstract, the Semitic is concrete; where the Greek is perceptive, the Semitic is reflective, contemplative. The Semitic is intuitive rather than logical, passive rather than active. The Semitic person prefers to live the truth rather than analyze or express it.


As for homosexuality, the Church has always condemned its practice as do the Hebrew Scriptures. However, the Church does not condone the enslavement of women by men's sexual practices as does the story of Lot (Genesis 19.11-38) who is willing to send out his daughters to these men searching for sexual gratification rather than having them abuse other men.

It shows that women were treated as of much less value than men for they could be abused at will. Although the destruction of Sodom is usually attributed to its homosexual behaviour, Ezekiel (6.50) blames the lack of hospitality as responsible for the destruction of Sodom.

The story of the daughters getting their father drunk and then having sex with him and bearing his children/grandchildren is truly dreadful.


Usually, the story of Abraham and Isaac is treated as a test of Abraham's faith in God. Mistaken or not, Abraham believed he was being asked to do this.

True, today we would report him to authorities as planning to kill, murder, his own son. But we have to remember the intent of the story is not to show Abraham killing his only son in spite of a multitude of descendants God had promised him.

Yes, many of the Old Testament stories do jar our sensibilities. However, we can't judge these historical issues as if they are happening today. Whether they are fact or fiction, they are "dreadful" examples told of a primitive culture, of a primitive people who were forged in their seemingly 40-year desert journey.

(Other questions? Email: zdunich@telus.net)