The 10 Worst Old Testament Verses by Dan Barker - Freedom From Religion

In this article are some verses, which alot of Christians seem to overlook or at the very least are seldom mentioned, especially in study groups (mostly ones that I have been apart of), is God really just some psychotic bully or is there more to these verses than that which is mentioned?

I know that some of the old laws especially mosaic law is outdated, but I can’t seem to get over the idea that God, whom I presume would make these laws, would allow or even promote (depending on who you ask) such atrocities even if they were attributed to ancient times.

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This is a subject that goes beyond the time I’m willing to dedicate. But I will say I doubt the author of the article actually
Understands what he is reading. Each passage would have to be addressed. There are dozens of books by scholars out there that addresses these.

Take Job. It’s fiction. None of that happened at all. Often these verses are making a theological point or employing hyperbolic war speech.

But there are dozens of answers to these verses. I really like the work by Pete Enns on it through his podcast.


All of these are lacking in any context, ignoring relevant passages, and ignoring prophesy and figurative language.
To paraphrase the conclusion, anyone who claims that that these are reasonable arguments has not read the Old Testament, at least not with any intent to understand what it actually says.


It says all those vile things and more. ‘God breathed’.

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Can you send me a link to the podcast?

Can this also be attributed to those who say they have read the Bible cover to cover and have come to the conclusion that it is an atrocious and disgusting book?

(At least I have heard similar things said about it, though often more expressed in a vulgar kind of way)


The Bible doesn’t make sense outside of a community of faith that disciples a person into the understandings and practices of God’s people. People who expect its theological message to be clear on a “plain reading” are making the same mistakes as creationist. Yeah, we already agree with the skeptics that when a lot of Scripture is decontextualized and taken at face value, it’s offensive and impossible to apply to modern life. That hasn’t not stopped millions of people from encountering God in the Bible and entering a redemptive relationship with him. There is not a one to one correspondence between what a given Christian believes and other people’s ideas of “what the Bible says.”


Some of your terms are a bit confused. Some Jews think the Torah has 613 commands or Laws. None of what Dan Barker references are “Laws” as far as I can tell. Also, you are correct that some Christians have no idea what is in the Hebrew Scriptures but some of us do study it intensely and have had to come to grips with the divine violence and warmongering we find there through belief in accommodation and dispensing with inerrancy.

Job is a literary story. It teaches a point and a good one.But yes, parts of it do not withstand the tests of time. Job just magically getting a new family at the end as if it makes everything better is something we should rightly raise our eyes at. Maybe at a time when a family was viewed as male property that might make more sense to people. It is grotesque to me, however.

Most Christians do not relate to those passages or stand by those types of actions, That is why they don’t come up routinely in Sunday school.

Barker’s article is firing shots at fundamentalists and some evangelicals.



Can you explain what hyperbolic war speech is? Maybe with an example of one of them explaining what is means.

I still have trouble with Job just getting a new family at the end like that fixes things. Even if fictional, which it is, who on earth thinks that’s an acceptable turn of events? It almost ruins the story for me.


The New Testament also has some disturbing, violent stories.


I know that when some read the Bible mostly the old testament they discard the Bible as just another piece of fiction and that it should not be taken literally, which I cannot blame them afterall, there is some pretty outrageous claims in the Bible, many which I have trouble even considering to have actually happened.

It should be noted that we don’t simply disregard things. It’s not a matter of cherry picking what we like and what we don’t like. It’s just a massive process of deconstruction and reconstruction, or maturing in the faith and biblical wisdom. As mentioned it has more to do with placing things in a more Christ focused context and not a literalist or fundamentalistic context.

Some things to consider.
Look at the book revelation. It’s full of all kinds of terrible imagery. It says stuff like death riding a pale horse and killing 1/4th of this or that. Most people know that it’s not actually death given physical form and it’s not really a horse but then then try to say but whatever it is literally kills billions. Which makes no sense because the entire statement and scenario is highly symbolic. It’s making theological connections and not some gloom and doom global massacre.

Look at hell. We see symbolism of hell being a eternal fire, people tortured forever and ever and lakes of fire and so on. It’s what fundamentalism turned into a concept called “ eternal conscious torment”. But we can see how annihilationist using the work of conditional immortality shows how it’s just war language. The wages of sin is death ( not eternal life plus torture ) and the lake of fire is interpreted as the second death which means to die a second time. We see hades and death tossed into the lake of fire along with Babylon. But we know those things are not given personhood anymore than death on a horse was. So it means those concepts are destroyed.

Even look at the “giants” created by angels and mankind from genesis. It never mentions any of those giants on the boat and so taking the story literally we would assume they died but yet they turn up a few more times.

Or what about the Canaanites. How many times does the Bible say they were destroyed. Yet they keep coming back.

We also see many things that does not work together.

Such as in the Old Testament it says “ Yahweh liked the smell of sacrifices “. That’s saying this creator God liked the smoke created by burning the flesh if animals”. Which is pretty crazy. Don’t you think it probably means these nomadic priests enjoyed the smell of their meal? Because as the story goes we see this. In Isaiah 1 it mentions Yahweh hates and grows tired of the burden of offerings and festivals. He does not want them. He wants the people to not oppress their neighbors and to be merciful. In Hosea 6 it says he rather his people be so loyal to him and know who he is rather than them offering sacrifices and burnt offerings.

All of this further gets summed up in the New Testament. He wants us to love God and out neighbor and in order to love our neighbor we must love ourselves. He wants our fruits to be those of the spirit. I mean if Yahweh really wanted sacrifices he would have kept doing them and prevented the temple from being destroyed.

It’s not just “ I don’t like this and think this is gross and so I’m choosing to pretend it’s fake”. It’s digging down and spending months and years going back again and again and again working it out.

What’s easy to do is to just find a article , or find a verse, read it and get mad and bounce. What work is studying it out.

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Well I imagine by taking it as non literal, it tunes us into the fact that the story is symbolic for something else. I really like it. It’s a lot like a supernatural horror tale where you can’t tell who is truly your friends and your enemies and in the end everything resets and is better than before. If it mess literal it would be terrible. But it’s not and so I don’t have to try to make it work with reality. The plot holes are not a big deal because it’s not a history book or a real mystery needing to be solved.

Ever watch Looper? If that was like a real persons life it would be so upsettingly gross. I don’t want to spoil the film for anyone. But because it’s fiction, it allows me to see the beauty in the story. Now I’ve not actually watched Saw, I could not get into it. But just like with Superman ( another series of movies and shows that I’ve never seen ) I understand it because of pop culture references. If Saw was real, the victims would be mess. It would be a horrible story of torture. But it’s fictional, and so we can accept the survivors walk away now feeling more than ever grateful to be alive and enjoy every moment of it.

So in the same way Job is essentially a horror story of a man being tortured as he loses his entire life , except for maybe his wife survives. But in the end he’s happier than ever and feels more blessed than ever with kids and more wealth. It’s full of plot holes and would paint god as essentially just as evil as Satan if it was all literal. But it’s not.

It doesn’t make sense in it either. One has to go in secret to the Holy of Holies to actually talk openly. One cannot question damnationism publicly.

Aye, the assassinations of Ananias and Sapphira, Herod by the Spirit of Peace and Understanding in Love.

I agree with you all that the story of Job is not a real life story. I interpret it like a parable. It contains some key points the writer wants to lift up but, like parables, all details of the story are not ment to be interpreted too far.

As far as I have understood, the key point in the story is an attack against a prevailing view that only bad people suffer from serious adversity. It seems that the text was written in a culture where most(?) people believed that life ends in death; no posthumous rewards. If there were no rewards after death, then the rewards for good life must come in the current life. So, the good prosper and the bad are punished with adversity and premature death - an extreme form of prosperity theology. When Job’s friends saw that Job suffered, they tried to force the case within the frames of their worldview. If he suffers, he must have done bad things. In the story, that made God angry.

More points can be found from the story but the key point described above is not bad. I would say that it was a great lesson, although it was told in an extreme form.

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Maybe, but I haven’t encountered any of them, so I don’t really know.

I enjoyed the movie analogy and I did watch looper a while ago. Things aren’t always taken as seriously when we know the genre. A valid observation insofar as that goes. However, we know what’s happening in Saw is bad and when I play call of duty I know shooting people is also bad. Does the Biblical story know all of these things are bad? Especially the ending for me. I think Job sort of gets a happily ever after type ending and I can’t for the life of my see how a family can be replaceable in such a fashion. Clearly, the author of Job thought that it was suitable but for my it kills a wonderful tale right at the end.


The story is a child of old times when the worldview and the value of humans was a bit different than today. So lets not judge the writer too harshly.

The end is another key point in the story. If you face adversity despite your good deeds, have hope because life may turn to something better. Maybe the way how the writer illustrated it does not get applauses from the modern audience but in the context of the story, it was a way to write a happy end.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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