The Bible Sure Can Be Nasty

With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.

Acts 1:18

For being the all-important text of a religion considered pure and gentle, the Bible sure can be nasty.

Seriously, the writers of Scripture pulled no punches in describing scenes of violence. These range from morbidly amusing, such as the death of Absalom, to sickeningly brutal, like the death of Sisera and the suicide of Judas mentioned above.

Heck, even some of the stories we consider kid-friendly are really violent. Noah’s Ark and David’s duel with Goliath are tales we tell children in Sunday school, which is odd considering the flood snuffed out nearly all humanity and David cut off Goliath’s head.

The Bible also has some disturbing stories about sex. Not halfway through Genesis, the Bible’s very first book, we get attempted gang rape and drunken incest. Absalom, whose violent death I mentioned in the preceding paragraph, had sex in public with his father’s lovers to make a political point before his grimly humorous demise. Absalom’s sister Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon.

Even the holy prophets had off-putting things to say about sex. The sixteenth and twenty-third chapters of Ezekiel describe the lewd idolatry of Judah and Israel using strong sexual language.

There’s also a lot of drunkenness in the Bible, not to mention demon-possession and other satanic elements. Seriously. If the Bible were a film, it would have a stiff R rating. This is the book we teach in Sunday school.

I think that’s a good thing.

Granted, we should probably spare kids the most graphic bits of the Bible until they’re old enough to handle them. The Bible itself, however, needs to be taught as it is. God didn’t give us the sentimental, fluffy, family-friendly book some people believe the Bible to be. He gave us a book that describes war and death and sexual assault.

Why?

In the end, I think the Bible is honest. Its historians don’t idealize its history and its prophets don’t tone down their prophecies. This dark, broken world isn’t perfect, and God’s Word doesn’t paint it that way. Even the nasty parts of Scripture have a purpose, and that purpose is pointing humankind toward the grace of God.

After all, how can we appreciate grace and peace and beauty until we’ve seen the alternatives?

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